picture take from static.pexels.com
by Charlotte O
Missionary is a word I don’t always feel comfortable calling myself, but living overseas and seeing missions enacted in various forms gives me a lot of things to think about. Hence this series.
Do you ever think about the missionaries of old and how they did it? Maybe it’s not on the forefront of your mind every day, but I think about that a lot. Perhaps that’s because I’m faced with the reality in some small way every day that where I live is not where I was born, grew up, and had a set of rules ingrained into me. If you dig a little deeper, you see both a good and a bad side: there was the issue of sometimes abandoning families to do ‘God’s work’ which I kind of have a problem with, and the questions of whether they were bringing much more than the good news and wrongly imposing cultural imperialistic values on others à la The Poisonwood Bible. But those are topics I’ll save for other days and discussions, because today what I’m thinking about is how hard they had it, and how they managed in pioneering situations without giving up.
I know there are still plenty of places in the world where cross-cultural workers are facing very real challenges as they learn a new way of life. But I know that I have it pretty good. Taiwan is one of the most technologically connected countries in the world, and I can video chat or text my loved ones anytime for free. After being here for 10+ years, I can reminisce how I once had to use expensive and confusing phone cards to get in touch with my family, about how Western-style brunch was very difficult to get, and how few people around me spoke English. But at the same time I know I am so blessed that I get to go home almost annually, and that it doesn’t involve a 6 week+ boat trip.
I heard a true blue old school missionary share some of her story recently. She arrived in China in the inauspicious year of 1948 and had to flee from the communists not 1, not 2, but 3 times before finally landing in Hong Kong, from where she chose to come to Taiwan even though many of her peers were choosing to return home. And why wouldn’t they? It seems like a pretty natural response to the circumstances: Ok, well, I thought God was calling me to China, but there’s a civil war going on, so I guess that’s it. For me, when I heard the retelling of this story, I was challenged by how quick I can be to give up when things get hard. How at the first hints of opposition or things going less than perfectly I start to doubt whether or not that’s what I should be doing at all. Who am I to call myself a minister of the gospel? And how should I define success?
MAYBE HOW THEY DID IT DOESN'T MATTER AS MUCH AS WHY, AND MAYBE WHAT I DO DOESN'T MATTER AS MUCH AS HOW. LIVING OUT A CALLING, ANY CALLING, REQUIRES ASPIRING TO GREATNESS IN THE EYES OF GOD, WHICH LOOKS A LOT LIKE BECOMING LESS.
Joseph had to be sold into slavery and put into prison before he was allowed a position of leadership. Moses had 40 years as an exile, public ridicule, and unappreciative followers. David's struggles while waiting for God's promise of kingship to be fulfilled are well documented in the Psalms. And what did I have to do? Nothing more difficult than survive a couple of failed relationships, 4 Saskatchewan winters, and several hours of classroom instruction. Did that mean I was qualified to lead? Perhaps not, but lead I did, classes, discussions, bible studies. So maybe the lesson for me is a reminder of humility. Even though I'm living out my calling, and doing something that perhaps in the eyes of others is special, or noble,that doesn't mean I have all answers, in fact, I may not even have started asking the right questions.
Maybe how they did it doesn't matter as much as why, and maybe what I do doesn't matter as much as how. Living out a calling, any calling, requires aspiring to greatness in the eyes of God, which looks a lot like becoming less. This is the best thing I can do as a missionary. And sometimes, oftentimes, things ARE hard—not fleeing from war hard, but exhaustion, temporariness of relationships, people who don't respond the way you'd like, rejection, self-doubt, missing out on important family moments back home, wondering if there's any meaning or lasting fruit to all your time and effort—hard. And when I'm there, it's encouraging to look to the example of those who have gone before, but most of all, I need to look to God and remember that his ways, his works, are not mine. I have the privilege of being a part of it, but it's so much less about me and so much more about Him. I am not the savior.
I think of all the characters in the Bible who had very long gestation periods between the initial call and the birth of the dream, the freedom of a nation, the ascent to the throne, the return to a city. Maybe those stories are there to remind us, as the saying goes, that anything worth having is worth fighting for. When things are hard, that doesn’t mean I’m not in God’s will. In fact, it may mean exactly that. So instead of giving up, I can orient myself toward growth. Instead of questioning my mission, I can look around to see how what I’m experiencing can speak hope into the lives of others. When I have the eyes to see, it all becomes much clearer.
picture taken from scstylecaster.files.wordpress.com
by David Ritz
Is it OK to date non-Christians, or will it just lead to heartache down the road when either I’m trying to convert them or they me? What about raising children of a different faith?
“No”, because the next answer is “yes”, and it will make the third answer, “complicated”. I’m always curious as to why this question is asked. I honestly think that at some level, it is a matter of not believing the Gospel, because God does and can satisfy all of those desires. Is there a quick desire to get into a relationship? Is there a belief that there are no good Christian options out there?
I understand anxiety over wanting to be in a relationship (if this is the case), it wasn’t until I was 25 till I met my spouse. My spouse was turning 26 and both of us felt as though “it would never happen to us”. I felt doomed to be a bachelor, my spouse an old maid forever. But when I finally let go of this part of my life, God allowed me to meet my spouse. When I finally submitted this particular area to Him, days later I literally met my future spouse. To caveat this a little, this is not a formula to meet someone, “ok let it go, and I will meet someone right away.” It happened for me, but that may not be your story, but the goal is indeed to learn to rest and trust in God for our relationships.
SUPPORT ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH, MY HEART WENT OUT TO THEM, BECAUSE IT A BEAUTIFUL THING TO EXPERIENCE GOD TOGETHER AS A FAMILY THROUGH WORSHIP.
Here is what I have observed in 34 years of being alive, and seeing many different friends, family members who have gotten into intimate relationships with people who do not believe, as a believer. It often goes in the direction of believers walking away from their faith, or they find themselves in extremely difficult, and messed up situations. I understand that two professing believers can also make a mess of their relationship, that may also result in an abandonment of faith, but that is not the subject of the question.
Usually, I have heard from believers who date non-believers, “they are so supportive of my beliefs”. When I was a youth pastor, I saw many mothers come to church alone, with their kids who had “supportive” spouses. I rarely saw their husbands except maybe on Christmas. But often the mothers were alone in bringing their kids to church. They were unable to be involved in anything else outside of the Sunday service. More often then not, when those kids hit the age of 12, we stopped seeing them altogether. Support alone is not enough, my heart went out to them, because it a beautiful thing to experience God together as a family through worship.
The problem is the lack of the deep encouraging and spurning one another to Christ that cannot happen in a relationship where the boyfriend/girlfriend does not believe in God. We as Christians believe (or should believe) that the Gospel transforms our lives, our very core being, and on this side of eternity, we push our significant others to be more like Christ. Take it from someone who has been married for 7 and a half years, my spouse pushes me to be more like Christ, and has to remind me of my identity as a believer when I don’t feel it. Her prayers, her support, her encouragement pushes our relationship to be more deeply intimate.
IF I WERE TO SIMPLY SPEAK PRACTICALLY. BECOMING ONE FLESH IS HARD WORK. THE MORE YOU CAN DO TO ELIMINATE BARRIERS TO BECOMING ONE, THE BETTER THIS PROCESS IS.
Often the verse we use is 2 Cor 6:14, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” It sounds so harsh. Yet it is the truth. In another letter, (Ephesians 5:22-33) Paul exhorts husbands to love their spouses as Christ loves the church, and for wives to submit to their husbands as the church submits to the headship of Christ. This is a mystery of love, what you want in a spouse is someone who can push you into a deeper relationship with Christ. This is not possible with someone who does not believe the same as you.
The kids question becomes important too. Church may be important to you, but may not be to a non-believer, or they may just be indifferent. How do you discipline? If they are part of a different religion, to which church or faith will you bring them up in?
Even outside of child raising; how do you deal with finances, how do you direct financial giving? How do you practice generosity? If you have a deep desire to see your neighbours, co-workers, family members come to faith in Christ, who intercedes with you for them?
If I were to simply speak practically. Becoming one flesh is hard work. The more you can do to eliminate barriers to becoming one, the better this process is. Because being a follower of Jesus goes down into the intrinsic person we believe we become, it is so important that the person who will share life with you, be on the same page. Having a cheerleader from the side, is not going to push you to Christ in the darkest, and hardest moments of life.
Believers dating believers is not a guarantee to a messy free relationship, it is not a guarantee to stress free living, perfect child-raising, or even purity. But when two people can recognize their brokenness, and how much they need the Gospel, and speak that into each others lives, they have really good tools to work through the pain of becoming one flesh.
There are rare circumstances when a non-believer comes to faith in Christ through or because of the relationship with the believer. But honestly this is so rare, and rarer still is seeing this happen through a healthy relationship process. What I have seen speak powerfully, is when the believer turns down the relationship and explains why. I have seen that spark a journey to faith in Christ in the non-believer.
picture taken from cbc.ca
I think the only thing I found more discouraging than the slew of attack ads coming from all three parties, was the onslaught of insults by the populace that followed the results of our election. For anyone outside of the Country of Canada, we had a federal election this week and it was a huge one. When the campaigning started, we had a close three way race between the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democratic Party. But when the dust settled, the Liberals came out with a majority government.
Now, I voted Conservative, and I had my reasons. I listened to all sides and though I didn't find any party that I could agree with every point and policy (I felt that any decision was a compromise), but when you get behind that ballot box, you need to make a choice, and I made mine. As we watched the results roll in, I don't think anyone expected that the Liberals would have won with such a majority, let alone anyone having a majority at all. But surprise aside, what I saw unfold on social media and in person, in reaction to this win, broke my heart.
The outrage towards anyone who voted Liberal were harsh, to say the least. A peppering of personal insults and attacks ensued, with comment after comment, calling the rest of Canada 'idiots' for voting anything but their party. People claiming the country would burn to the ground because it was now led by a Liberal Prime Minister was a bit much for me. You would almost think we entered a fascist regime. Now, don't get me wrong, people have every right to be disappointed, frustrated and even concerned about a government they feel don't line up with their values and convictions. I know I have some major concerns of my own, but I think the reaction I saw online was borderline dehumanizing. Of course, the Liberals are not innocent in this crime either. Reading comments being flung to those who didn't vote Liberal, as being 'ignorant' or living in the dark ages was not exactly a shinning example of civility .
The first thing that troubles me, about this, is the attitude of utter certainty that underlines this reaction from all sides. To claim someone who sees potential/value in a different view or political party is an 'idiot' or 'ignorant' simply by the fact that they see things differently is seriously lacking in basic human interaction. I probably shouldn't be surprised, it would seem every election this reaction happens, but what worries more, is that it doesn't surprise us. Why has this become the common manner in which we dialogue? Honestly, the claim that everyone else is so stupid that they can't see the clear plain truth that their political party or worldview is the only truth to be held is borderline fascist. You basically make the claim that their worldview, values, policies and political party have nothing to offer, other then wrong answers, and anyone who can't see that is an 'idiot' or 'ignorant'.
The second thing that troubles me is that this attitude denies or at least tries to avoid the fact that their worldviews, values, policies and political party has any holes or blind spots. When I voted Conservative, it wasn't because I liked everything about them, or that I think their platform and policies were iron-clade. But I had to make a decision based on the information I had and the issues I saw as most important at this time. But the reaction of claiming anyone who voted Liberals are blind idiots that obviously made the wrong decision or that anyone who didn't vote Liberal is living in the past or ignorant is quite harsh. Don't you think? These kind of claims are never based on reason or logic, but are knee jerk emotional reactions. Since we cannot attack the position anymore, we feel we must go towards the person holding them. Attacking their character and actual personhood. This actually dehumanizes that person.
"People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring." (James 3:7-12)
Now, not everyone I know responded like this, there was a few shinning lights in the midst of all the hate filled reactions. I will share two that I think really hit it home and brings a much better balanced response. It doesn't deny their disappointment (as they didn't vote Liberal), but highlights the reality that they see hope and wish to stand side by side with those they disagree with to work towards a better future and a better Canada.
"I am not a fan of the Federal Liberal party and have not warmed to Justin Trudeau, but that said, I'll be cheering for their success. The partisan says 'I root against his or her success', the patriot says 'no matter who wins, I want them to succeed.' PM Trudeau and the rest of our new government, I'm rooting and praying for you to keep my country and my province awesome." // Anonymous
We have a choice in the end. We can choose to fuel our country's future with hatred or hope. Maybe you don't like the results of this election, but I hope you can resolve to believe that the Liberals and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau love this country as much as you and bleed for it. Some may disagree with some core and essential issues and we all should still fight to see what we believe stand true (I know I will). But let us do it in a way that creates real dialogue and change. We can react, cut down and simply make our points, or we can band together and make real change.
I wrote this the week before the election and many people liked and shared it. I think it rings even truer today and hope you still find it true now. No one ever won an argument or won anyone person over by reacting or getting angry. Let us never forget to be "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19). Canada is still great!
Let the words of Stephen Harper himself ring true:
"Well, tonight is not the outcome we had hoped for. Yet, the people are never wrong. The Canadian people have elected a Liberal Government. A result we accept without hesitation. I have spoken to Mr. Trudeau and offered him my congratulations... To all Canadians, or every strip, in every corner of our country, victorious or not, I salut you. Your efforts keep our democracy strong."
As a diverse people with a variety of understandings, beliefs and convictions, we can make this country great. And it is in those differences that we can keep each other and all side vigilant to stay on course as being one of the greatest countries to live. Let us keep fighting the good fight, but do so with grace and civility and never lose the humanity in all of it. Let us be a people who are a part of this reality, making our country great and walking arm and arm with other Canadians. And yes, even those we disagree with and see things differently than we do. That is the Canada I believe in.
by Dan Parker
So I’m not entirely sure if I should blame it on my ADD(SAIL!) or if it is legitimately just me being phonetically friendly, but I realize how many languages I can greet people in. The problem with that is once the hello-how-are-you parts are emphasized, they immediately assume that I am possible fluent in their native tongue. Clearly the deer in the headlights look corrects their assumption and I have to laugh, but I kind of enjoy awkwardness through my actions, as long as it is in a positive vein. People that know me can understand that I’m different. There is a reason that I am bring this up, though. I believe that we should wholeheartedly practice the adoption of love, in all of its facets.
1. People Don’t Care How Much You Know, Until They Know How Much You Care.
I think that is true. Unless the person doesn’t have a soul, but that would be impossible. I have seen first hand how a person sharing or taking time to get to know the little things. Walk, talk and give the two paths. Empathy and sympathy. Unless it is pity. No one needs pity, yet some want it even if it will make scenarios more melodramatic. I have had people pity me when I shared parts of my past. I didn’t want it. I didn’t need it. It didn’t help. I showed that people to them weren’t equals. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” - Hebrews 10:24
2. Empathy. Empathy. Empathy.
I cannot stress that point enough. People will share things or allow you a look into the window of their life. Maybe they are grieving the loss of loved one. Or maybe the favourite brand of toothpaste had been recalled and forced the company into chapter 11. The biggest thing is trials of life. If you give your time, then you show love in action. The human condition causes us to feel as though we cannot handle the stresses of life or pain that may come with it. But we, whether we believe it or not, are never given more than we can handle. Even in death. The human spirit becomes stronger when given hope. Hope can prescribe simply by taking the time to share your time, even if it’s just to listen. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” - James 1:2-3
3. Love Can Be Shared in the Form of Trust.
Trust given, trust received. Especially to younger generations, specifically children. I know that my kids trust me, but I have made it a point to not make empty promises. Or any promises for that matter. I don’t want that to be taken out of context. Hear me out on this. Imagine being a kid again, being told that you are getting a treat or going to Disneyland. Day after day you don’t receive. You ask about it but eventually stop asking. Were you not worth it? Trust breeds a sense of worth, not entitlement. Safety, not fear. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind.” - Numbers 23:19
4. Love is the Ultimate Gauge of Relationship.
As said in 1 Corinthians 13: it is patient, kind, does not boast or envy, etc. Love is an act of self sacrifice. By allowing ourselves to love, to give love, we open a new way of seeing. Selfless. Giving. Vulnerable. We exemplify a Godly trait by doing such. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” - 1 John 4:8
Creating an environment that focuses on adoption of love is not a new idea in any means. It's simple, but a lot of times seems like in goes against our “Self-care”. But when we love others, we love ourselves. This is who we are created to be. Unique, and loved.
picture taken from forbes.com
I just finished having a conversation with someone closed to me who endured an onslaught of anger and insults from a costumer who was unhappy with the experience they were having and not getting the answer they wished to hear. All my friend could do was sit there and take it. With her anxiety rising and the adrenaline of fight or flight pumping through her system, she was unable to either fight nor flight and wait for the whole experience to end.
Maybe you have witnessed something similar to this, sitting embarrassed and feeling terrible for the person being attacked so fiercely. I remember, on two occasions especially, where I was waiting in line to pay for a meal and watched the person serving them being verbally and even physically harassed. I remember the the state of the person when we walked to pay. They would be shaking, unable to think and ready to break down. I have had my own fair share of these experience as well, as I spent many years in retail and sales before pursuing full time ministry. On one occasion, while working at a famous coffee chain, someone actually threw their coffee back through the drive thru window at us, solely because it didn't meet the standards they wished.
Of course, this kind of behaviour isn't isolated to the service sector, but is something I am sure we have seen in all areas of life. Some of it comes down to people having a bad day and projecting that frustration onto the next un-expecting victim, but it makes me wonder what drives people to resort to this kind of dialogue? Or more importantly, what is lacking when people react and choose to lose control? It would seem to me that two key ingredients of healthy and helpful dialogue are missing in these kind of situations: Understanding/Clarification and Empathy/Respect.
In a lot of heated interactions between people, most of the conflict could have been avoided, I would argue, if clarity was brought to the conversation. Over and over again, when I witness two people arguing, in person or online, I usually see an issue of misunderstanding. I would be so bold to say that if we spent as much time trying to understand, ask good questions and really listen to the answer given, we would avoid the majority of our arguments. So often, people don't listen to understand, they simply listen to respond and conversation is simply each person restating their previous position in different words or simply louder. Once we fully understand a person's perspective, it is then that we can start to have real dialogue and have healthy disagreement.
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
In the first story I mentioned above, my friend had explained that this customer was so angry due to misinformation. If she were to have simply asked a question of clarification and was willing to listen to the answer instead of reacting, she would have been informed very quickly that the concern she had was not fully accurate and the solution to the issue was actually quite simple. Problem solved, conflict avoided. Well, except that this person also lacked the second ingredient as well: Empathy/Respect.
While standing in line at a fast food chain, I witnessed a gentleman tearing a strip off this young lady, solely because they got his order wrong. He was yelling and using profanities to convey his point and gave the impression that this mix up ruined his entire life. From what I could tell, this was not the first time this had happened and he was fed up with the results he was getting. Now, in this case, there was no misunderstanding from the costumer, but the reaction was neither respectful or effective in getting the result he wanted and lacked a loads of empathy.
Honestly, if he were to have come to the situation calmly and respectful and explained the issue, I would dare to say that the establishment would have bent over backwards to fix the mistake, in a timely fashion, because they would have realized their mistake and the respect he could have given them as humans would have heightened the willingness to fix the issue. While the opposite is true. As one who has worked in the service industry, if someone bring an attitude of disrespect and yells, your motivation to help that person drops drastically. Not only that, but it should be common understanding that every person deserves basic human dignity and respect and such behaviour is honestly harasment if not abuse.
I have seen similar tactics in dialogue online and in person. In one occurrence, I witnessed someone begin every one of his interaction with an insult to those he disagreed with. Not only is this simply rude and dehumanizes people, it is ineffective. It becomes the quickest way to shut down dialogue and for anyone to actually hear out what you are trying to convey. Think about it, when witnessing a debate and one side chooses to be rude and disrespectful and the other stays calm, cordial and pleasant, who are you more likely to want to take sides with. More times then not, I have wanted to side with the person I disagree with, solely because the other person is being a complete jerk.
Our human interactions should never be boiled down to the smaller denominator and devoid of humanity. We need to remember that the other person we are speaking with has value, is created in God's image and and has a story, otherwise we dehumanize them and we devolve ourselves, becoming more like 'the accuser' than we do the Father. When we take the time to put ourselves in someone else shoes, we can find common ground, see the person we are dialoguing with and though we may disagree with what they believe, we can better understand why they do and if anything not forget their intrinsic value.
People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!
If we are to see healthy and helpful dialogue, we need to see greater effort to the return of understanding and respect, clarity and empathy. When this occurs, a funny thing happens, peoples guards come down and become more responsive to what we are trying to say and we actually communicate and not simply proclaim. Because we are willing to give respect/empathy and because we make an effort to understand/clarify the person in turn is willing to give back in kind. Why not give it a try... when you read something or hear something you disagree with or frustrates you, start with seeing that person as, well... and person. And instead of simply responding with your thoughts, start with asking good questions to better understand. Let us be a movement that sees healthy and helpful dialogue in a world full of conflict and disagreement.
picture taken from www.mellowdramatic-lifetothefull.com
This post is intensely personal for me. I feel vulnerable posting it but I hope that it can provide me with some catharsis. I was completely unaware until after writing this but, coincidentally (divine providence?), it is mental illness awareness week (Oct. 4 - 10) so, even though I know that I will hesitate to publish this, I feel compelled to share it. #miaw #stigmafree
I have spent much of my life wondering why my mind doesn’t behave the way I want it to. Many people have simply labelled me as ‘shy’ or ‘quiet’ and I have never been able to make friends easily. I bought into that as well, to the point that, at one time, I would have claimed to enjoy being alone and not having many friends. I would have said that, but, that is only because I didn’t want to admit the truth or put in the the work to maintain relationships because, frankly, they were too exhausting. The truth is that I miss the connection of having people in my life and I regret not building relationships with people I can trust.
Over the years many people have tried to ‘get me out of my shell’ but those efforts have all failed. I have been invited to attend many social events but most people have stopped asking because I would always refuse and I can't blame them for that.
WHEN I DECIDED THERE WAS SOMETHING MORE THAN MERE SHYNESS, I DID SOME RESEARCH AND FOUND THE PSYCHOLOGICAL IDEA OF INTROVERSION.
I find social situations hard to handle, and it is magnified by the number of people and the context of the situation. I have often described feeling overstimulated by the situation, that there is literally too much going on for my brain to keep up. My mind feels like a blur and I can’t seem to concentrate on anything, or anyone. The best way to explain it is that my brain is in a fog and It’s hard to have a conversation when I can’t even think of anything to say because my brain is pre-occupied with other thoughts.
This may surprise a few people because they may not see me this way because I have somehow managed to figure out that particular social context, and I feel comfortable enough to be myself. These situations are few and only occur around people I have known for a long time or in a place that is familiar to me.
When I decided there was something more than mere shyness, I did some research and found the psychological idea of introversion. I wanted desperately to better understand my behavior and thought that understanding introversion would be the key to unlocking it. It wasn’t enough, yes I am an introvert (according to the myers-briggs test I'm INTP) but it’s more than that. Introversion simply explains the way that I expend energy (Introverts lose energy in social situations and extroverts gain energy). It explains some of the ways that my brain is wired but it doesn’t explain the anxiety that I feel in social situations. That’s something different altogether.
SO, HERE I AM: AN INTROVERT WITH SOCIAL ANXIETY AND THE RESULTING SELF CONFIDENCE AND CONSCIOUSNESS ISSUES. A GREAT COMBINATION, THE ANXIETY EXPELS MY ENERGY QUICKLY AND GIVES ME AMPLE REASON TO ABSTAIN FROM SOCIETY.
WebMD defines social anxiety as “an anxiety disorder in which a person has an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations. Anxiety (intense nervousness) and self-consciousness arise from a fear of being closely watched, judged, and criticized by others.”
So, here I am: an introvert with social anxiety and the resulting self confidence and consciousness issues. A great combination, the anxiety expels my energy quickly and gives me ample reason to abstain from society.
This all manifests in an inability to be vulnerable – actual or perceived – so it is hard to put myself in a situation that could I perceive could end badly. I find it hard to examine a new situation and act appropriately because I am worried that I might do it wrong and look foolish. It is unreasonable, and I know that, but, it's hard to overcome in the heat of the moment.
Social anxiety is like a voice inside your head that constantly tells you that you are doing something wrong and everyone will know that you are worthless. It tells you that you are going to humiliate yourself in front of people you like and respect and they will no longer like you. In essence, this disorder constantly tells you that other people are going to judge you but what makes it worse is that you end up being the harshest judge.
THIS IS A HARD SUBJECT TO WRITE ABOUT, MENTAL ILLNESS DEFINITELY HAS A STIGMA. PEOPLE DON’T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND THAT A DEPRESSED PERSON CAN’T JUST DECIDE TO BE HAPPY. LIKEWISE I CAN’T CHOOSE TO FLIP A SWITCH AND NOT FEEL ANXIETY ANYMORE.
I have been to a psychologist that specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which teaches that we can, over time, change the fundamental ways that our brain thinks by recognizing our thoughts and changing them. My brain has been conditioned through repeated exposures to freak out when faced with a social situation and I have only reinforced it by accepting and indulging that behavior. I think the therapy has helped.
I’m not too sure whether the devil is a physical being or only a personification of our own evil pathology but I have realised that the negative thoughts I have about myself are simply accusations from Satan. I am reminded that, in scripture, the devil is described as a deceiver and a liar so part of my therapy involves recognizing the negative thoughts from the accuser and replacing them with what God says about me.
This is a hard subject to write about, mental illness definitely has a stigma. People don’t seem to understand that a depressed person can’t just decide to be happy. Likewise I can’t choose to flip a switch and not feel anxiety anymore. I do believe that, over time these symptoms of a fallen world that we experience as mental illness can be made better with God through therapy.
THIS IS WHY MORE PEOPLE NEED TO BE AWARE OF WHAT MENTAL ILLNESS LOOKS LIKE. PEOPLE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT THOSE THAT SUFFER FROM ANXIETY, PHOBIAS, DEPRESSION AND OTHER ILLNESSES AREN’T JUST BEING RIDICULOUS...
In the legion of mental illnesses, social anxiety might seem like a small thing. That is what I thought anyway, I actually felt anxiety about seeing a therapist about it because I felt that it wasn’t a big deal and the therapist would think that I was being foolish for seeking help. Such is the nature of the beast, I guess.
I only experience mild to moderate social anxiety and I have never had a panic attack. I can only imagine what those with severe anxiety must feel like; trapped inside their own heads with constant negative thoughts. In many cases relegated to living alone for all of their lives without any friends or lovers. They would constantly feel ostracized and will never know what it’s like to be a part of a community.
This is why more people need to be aware of what mental illness looks like. People need to understand that those that suffer from anxiety, phobias, depression and other illnesses aren’t just being ridiculous, lazy or trying to get attention. Many people just don’t understand the nature of these illnesses. 20% of Canadians will suffer from mental illness during their life, so, if you know someone suffering please just love them and have patience.
picture taken from 7-themes.com
by Charlotte O
This weekend marks a holiday in both of my homes (Taiwan and Canada). If you’re like me, there’s a good chance you’ll be traveling somewhere. If so, you’re probably familiar with being in a ‘caravan’ where you’re either leading or following as part of a group going to a common destination.
This was the case for me recently on a scooter trip in Northern Taiwan. In my opinion, scooter trips are the perfect introvert excursion. You’re with other people, but you get plenty of reflection time as you drive alone on your scooter, stopping every now and then to reconnect. So as I was driving through some incredible mountain scenery, I started thinking about how driving a scooter taught me about following Jesus. The word “follow” occurs more frequently in the Gospels than anywhere else in the Bible. Moreover, it comes with a sense of mission, requires sacrifice, and assumes close relationship.
1. If You’re Going To Follow Someone, You Need To Trust Them.
On that particular day, this meant not trying to get to the front of the pack, because I knew the person ahead of me knew the way. There are often many ways to one destination, but choosing to follow someone shows that you are choosing their way, even if you know other ways, because you find value in traveling together. This principle has far-reaching consequences for things like church and community, which we have talked about before here and here. In our relationship with God, this means choosing HIS way, even when the path doesn’t always seem clear.
In human relationships, this means clear communication and trust built over time so that you can follow someone with assurance that they have all the facts, and that they are, in fact, invested in getting you to the goal. There’s really no point in following someone if you are continually second-guessing the decisions they make. That’s just as bad as following someone who didn’t ask you to.
2. Don’t Follow Someone Who Isn’t Leading.
Just because someone is on the same road as you, doesn’t mean they’re going to the same destination. It’s important to have a clear idea of who you’re following and where you’re going. It can seem great to follow that BMW all the way home, but he’ll probably get creeped out when you pull into his driveway. Following implies relationship, not just blind obedience. And following the wrong person could lead to danger. Jesus talks about this in John 10:4-5: "After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
3. If You Get Too Far Behind, You Might Forget You Were Following.
There’s kind of sweet spot when you’re driving a mountain road, just before you go around a corner perhaps, when you have the feeling that you’re the only one out there and the world is yours. But fall too far behind, and you could miss an important turn.
In our quest for independence and individuality, let’s not start deceiving ourselves that we are leading when we are meant to follow. Selfishness is a major obstacle to following. Is it any wonder Jesus’ stipulation for followers is that they must be willing to die to self? There is a quiet security that comes from truly knowing the one you follow, and that brings so much more freedom than our own insistence on going our own way ever will. Following does require sacrifice, but what we gain is so much greater.
Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. //JOHN 12:24
4. Following Doesn’t Mean Turning Off Your Brain.
With all this talk of sheep and following, there is a danger here, and I know that it’s a real problem for many. God gave us free will for a reason. In life, we may sometimes think all we need to do is let “Jesus take the wheel.” But in many ways, this is not the case. I’m in charge of my own vehicle at all times, and even though I’m relying on a leader to point me in the right direction, I still need to be fully present in order to respond to things as they happen in real time on the road. There might be a passing car, a branch on the road, or a bus taking a wide corner. Hopefully I’ve trained my reflexes through experience to deal with whatever happens on the road so that I can continue on the right path.
In actuality this looks a lot like cultivating helpful habits through the rhythms of life so that your faith isn’t shaken when something bad or unexpected happens. Hopefully this also means not being thrown off by every fork in the road. Being a follower doesn’t mean being docile. In fact, it should instill you with confidence.
5. You Can Still Be A Leader Even When You’re Following Someone Else.
On my most recent drive, there were four vehicles who switched between first and last place throughout the day. In many ways it’s easiest to be the last one. Someone else can set the pace, make the decisions about where to stop, and choose which routes to take. But as I mentioned above that doesn’t mean we have to be passive. Others around may still be looking to our example.
Being a follower of Jesus in particular, should make us into even better leaders as we learn from his example. When we look at how he interacted with others, we can see so many valuable lessons about strength within humility. When some followers chose to leave him, Jesus was disappointed, but it didn’t shake his assurance of his own mission, or his sense of self. Often when Jesus asked his disciples to follow him, he was offering them purpose and giving them key roles in declaring the kingdom of God to others. It was anything but passive. It required them to leave something, and to embrace a future that was unknown. But they trusted Jesus, and they saw that the cause was worth it, and that their leader would never ask them to do something he himself wasn’t willing to do. He spent three years investing himself in them so that they would go on to be the kind of leaders who changed the world. If following Jesus doesn’t turn me into a leader, how can I expect to lead anyone to Him? Personally, it’s a journey that I’m truly thankful to be on.
picture taken from hafbc.com
Recently an article was shared, by our team, on the topic of worship. After reading the article, I started to respond to the post on our facebook page, when quite a few paragraphs in, I realized that this would probably be better delivered as an actual blog post. So here it is.
The main thesis of the original article could probably be summed up in this quote:
"While contemporary worship seemed to take the listener on an exciting and emotional rollercoaster, the old hymns engaged the mind with deep and glorious truths that when sincerely pondered caused a regenerated heart to humbly bow before its King."
Though I don't necessarily disagree with the sentiment or heart of what the author is trying to convey, and there may even be some good points to be made, I do have some concerns (with the overall tone of the article) and cautions for people who read something like this and wish to jump on the band wagon because the article begins to resonate with where they are at. So here are four things to keep in mind when thinking about how worship should be done:
1. Life Is Never As Simply As This
I think to pit one idea against the other, in a black and white paradigm, is never that simple and honestly is probably not very helpful or healthy. The issue here is that we are dealing with the subjectiveness of art and the human reaction to that art. What is challenging with this article is that it reads as though a certain style of music or art can, in all cases, have a particular effect.
For example, I have both seen people become emotional interacting with hymns and engage intellectually with modern worship. I know I have. So much more is at play in how a particular congregation or group of people will react to style and form than simply if it is a hymn or not. What culture do they belong to? What is the temperament or style of the church? What is the demograph of the people involved? What is the skill set of those leading people into worship? What is the occasion of the gathering? For example: Amazing Grace is a very powerful Hymn, that when played at a funeral has a much different effect on someone than when played in a concert hall or a Sunday morning service.
Not All Art Is Created Equal
Can certain modern worship songs be shallow and have bad theology? Absolutely! But so can certain hymns. I have seen deep theological richness in many modern worship songs and making the claim that choosing a hymn over a modern worship song would always be the better choice is quite narrow. The style of music, form and structure of the song that houses the lyrics have little weight to the actual theology trying to be conveyed. It may deliver that song in very drastically different ways, and should be considered, but it isn't a guarantee that a hymn will always be a better choice.
There has definitely been seasons in our church history that have seen a flooding of shallow worship music and some of that was seen in the contemporary worship movement. That doesn't mean it has always been or always will be the case. You can find both good or bad theology and both deep or shallow lyrics in both genres. To blanket any genre as only having one or the other is probably not as helpful as the author would wish it to be. I think the danger here is that it paints a picture that sees only one side of the story and, I wonder, possibly only wishes to see that one side.
Are Emotions All That Bad?
I find the tone of the article towards the idea of emotions a bit jaded. As the human race, we are both logical and emotional (and so much more). I don't believe we should be unbalanced in either sphere and to assume emotions, in themselves, as negative or that God would not use emotions, for his glory. This negates a entire facet of a person. Can emotions be manipulated? Of course. That is why we should use wisdom and discernment in how we lead people into worship. But, it can also be said, that logic can be manipulated and deep logic without emotions could lead to dead doctrine with no passion. I say could, because that would be a huge generalization as well.
The reality is that people experience God and His divine interventions through a variety of different ways. The number of spiritual pathways to God are as diverse as those who hold them. I love to read, write and dialogue with people. I find my greatest growth and digging deeper in my faith by interacting through His word, other people and intellectually stimulating things (while I am definitely not limited to this), so I get the logical side of things. That being said, I would never negate the fact that others find their greatest connection to God through other avenues (not that it negates the former either). For example, my wife finds her greatest connection to God through nature and solitude.
Some people are much more tactile, while others are logical, or visual, or aural, and so on. Even further, some people are much more social, while others thrive in solitude. We are creative beings who are attempting to connect and interact with an infinitely creative God, and so we need to be careful to not demonize another's experience or form solely because it doesn't resemble ours.
We Are All On A Journey
I don't doubt the author's experience is genuine, brought a great deal of richness to their walk with God or has been tremendously helpful for them. But as the title of his article suggests, this is his journey. I hope others can be encouraged by his story and would lead them to a greater and deeper understanding and relationship with their creator. But, like most things, this cannot and should not be blanketed onto the whole Christian movement.
Like most expressions of faith and life, there is not one voice that speaks on all things or to all people. I am always on guard when I see language that would imply this. Though, it is possible the author does not mean this, let us be careful of the idea of one size fits all. That idea can negate entire movements and expressions of the same faith, simply because it doesn't resonate with our story/experience or look like the form we have chosen as sacred.
I choose to listen to a variety of voices that speak into and on the great story of faith. I have come to realize the richness found in those who worship, think or live out their faith different than myself. This includes hymn signing churches. Though, I do not regularly attend services like this, I deeply appreciate and find great beauty in the liturgy as I do with many different expressions.
My main point is this: Let us continue to be people who attempt to see and understand the beauty and reasons of why people choose the spiritual expressions they have and not narrow the great faith we have experienced to one voice. Let us embrace the mosaic of creativity of the church that is attempting to connect and interact with the divine through the variety of the forms that deliver the truth and story that we all share.
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