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February Essay- Look Up.

We live in a world that is communicating more than ever before, yet we have more isolation and anxiety caused by disconnection.

Everybody communicates, yet few connect.

Empathy is one of the ways that we understand the language that we are communicating with one another. Yet we spend so much time with our heads looking down into our phones, seeking out the connection, we so deeply desire.

This month, our city went into lockdown for the second time across the last year. It was the first time however, that we were required to wear masks. Something stark happened to me as I encountered many people wearing masks each day. I was confounded by the beauty of humanity’s eyes.

We were created as human beings to connect with one another, and our ability to make meaning from these connections is what sets us apart from other animals. Humans synchronise with one another when we are in proximity to one another, especially when we look into one another’s eyes.

We were created to transmit emotions with one another on a physiological level; this is the immersive experience of humanity. We are hardwired to connect; through the transmission of electrochemical information that we get from one another when we engage in each other’s personal space.

When the brain couples together with another brain, we connect with each other and empathy is enacted. Communication is not just the art of speaking, writing or feeling; it is the capacity to be able to transfer ideas and emotions to another human being through connection.

How connected do you feel currently?

One of the most effective ways that a human being can connect is through eye-to-eye contact. When we meet face-to-face, the change that happens within our capacity too not only understands but to move towards the person who is speaking with empathy. This is the capacity to communicate and connect.

3.4 Billion people currently use Social Media platforms daily to communicate with each other. That is more than half of the world’s population. Social Media is any online space or technology that creates social power through communication. Culturally as we have increased our online connectivity exponentially and studies have proven over the last 50 years that the rate of disconnection socially has been significant.

Studies have also shown an increase in interpersonal distrust, a decrease in unified public opinion and a drastic impact on levels of family connectedness. Social Media is a powerful tool for communication, but it is impacting the way that we as a society, connect.

Language requires social connection so that one can be understood. We cannot just communicate and think that the people who are reading, listening or observing our behaviour are connecting with empathy so that they can interact with us. Communication is more about the interaction than it is just the expression of words.

When was the last time you got lost in the eyes of another?

Verbal communication and non-verbal communication are essential elements of the connection process. Written communication on Social Media platforms removes the emotional connection to the expression and therefore compromises the level of connection for the consumer.

The empathetic connection needs to be a two-way engagement rather than a one way broadcast. This is the capacity to be able to be understood and to understand.

As I reflect on the month of February here in my little seaside town of Rockingham, I am reminded of the importance of listening to those closest to me and looking directly in their eyes. Laying down my phone, asking questions and allowing connection to be the importance of my presence.

What have you been learning over the last month?

Will you join me, in the endeavour to look up and intentionally listen with every part of my being to those who are in my company. This may just be the greatest legacy we will ever live.




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Essay: January

2021 essay january

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

Luke 5: 16

The world is so noisy right now. Platforms, apologies, righteous anger and sinfulness.

And I have withdrawn to lonely places and prayed.

Amid these awkward desert places, I have questioned what answers can be found in a culture that seems to be splitting at the seams. How can we recover from a year where everything changed?

And, I don’t have any answers, really. When I try to fix all the broken pieces together, my brain struggles to comprehend the complexity of it all.

But He does.

He calls freedom in the desert places. He shouts purpose amid loss. He draws us to lonely places, to remember the sacrifice that changed this tidal surge.

Freedom shouts at the doorways of hope beckoning a listening ear, but can we perceive its call. Can we hear its song?

Freedom whispers at the school gates and in the council office corners. Can we understand the beauty of its surrender?

The sound of freedom is a voice that is emancipated, a story free to be told. Friendships that remember the best in one another and bounty shared across each divide. The sound of freedom is seeking out the truth, rather than sharing another conspiracy theory. The sound of freedom is children singing, unaware of the cacophony of hatred being spun around their playgrounds.

What does it mean to withdraw and pray?

Each night there is a liturgy that draws me to questions that help refine the noise that bombards our modern life, called the Daily Examen

It is a place of safety and quiet, that brings perspective and peace. It is where I feel most known, understood and cared for. This serenity is hard to explain and is often mocked by those who misunderstand my intention. It is where answers come quickly some days and others feel like they slowly unravel across a lifetime.

It is a dance filled with playful desire and longing.(It feels naughty to write that out loud.) Who made desire a sinful thing?

The one who made the deepest parts of our hearts, created our longing to be the missing puzzle in finding peace and solitude. Rather than a place to feel shame and misrepresentation. Playful surrender in the way that we pray and live in relationship with a spirituality birthed in pain, pleasure and satisfaction.

This dance that calls me towards those quiet places, moments where time stands still. Remembering the beauty of humanity and the grounded-ness we all seek.

What if I told you there was another way?

There is a new rhythm emerging that laughs in the face of hustle culture. To Embrace Slow as a lifestyle, where we honour the everyday moments, right in the middle of the muddle. The messy, ordinary moments of being human. To notice those who swim alongside us in the pool. To breathe deeply, when comparison becomes our only measure of success. To find friendship with the most unlikely of companion and smile deeply at the gap between both our lived experiences.

What about living in a new story?

A quiet revolution is happening, as there is an unmuzzling of voices, who are determined to sing their song. A growing company of women and men, who are discontent to live the way their childhood held them captive, rewriting the story of their lives. Living wide AWAKE.

I learnt throughout January, the beauty of living a quiet life of contemplation and prayer. Learning that living a life of success and surrender often means the most satisfying things we experience don’t need to be broadcast to the world.

My Journalling prompt for January:

What does success in 2021 feel like for you?

“The most convincing sign that someone is truly living their best life, is their lack of desire to show the world that they’re living their best life. Your best life won’t need validation”

Steven Bartlett.

So this year, 2021, from my writing desk, it is going to be a little quieter. I will be publishing one essay per month, emailed out to my inner circle email list only. I will be hosting very limited, private events and for the first time since the advent of social media, I have made all my pages private.

My word for the year is PLAYFUL and my scripture from the process I did through REFLECT is…

1 Thess 4: 11.

Tell me in the comments below, what is your word for the year or a scripture/ quote that has inspired you from the reflect process?

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My Annual Christmas Movie Challenge

Christmas Movie Lists

Each year I create my Annual Christmas Movie Challenge and this year I am ready more than ever! This year I am just creating a family version, but at the bottom of the list, I will list my Mum recommendations as well.

(please check the ratings and the cultural practices that are important to your family.)

FAMILY CHRISTMAS MOVIE LIST

  1. Polar Express
  2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
  3. The Littlest Reindeer
  4. Fred Claus
  5. A Christmas Prince
  6. Arthur Christmas
  7. Angela’s Christmas Wish/ Trolls Holiday
  8. Christmas Break-in
  9. Holiday Home Makeover
  10. Klaus
  11. 48 Christmas Wishes
  12. Alien Xmas
  13. Broken Sleigh
  14. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  15. Unaccompanied Minors
  16. Holiday Classics
  17. The Grinch (2018)
  18. The Knight Before Christmas
  19. Shrek the Halls
  20. Spirit Riding Free
  21. Christmas Chronicles
  22. Christmas Chronicles 2
  23. Jingle Jangle
  24. The Star

THE GROWN UPS NETFLIX CHRISTMAS MOVIE BINGE

  1. Dash and Lily
  2. Holidate
  3. A Christmas Prince
  4. A Christmas Prince The Royal Wedding
  5. A Christmas Prince The Royal Baby
  6. Hometown Holiday
  7. The Holiday Calendar
  8. A Very Country Christmas
  9. The Holiday
  10. My Christmas Inn
  11. Holiday Rush
  12. Operation Christmas Drop
  13. A Cinderella Story Christmas Wish
  14. Christmas Inheritance
  15. Four Christmas’
  16. Christmas Catch
  17. Santa Girl
  18. Holiday in the Wild
  19. Let it Snow
  20. The Princess Switch
  21. The Princess Switched Again
  22. New Years Eve
  23. The Star
  24. Jingle Jangle

RANDOM FAVOURITES

  1. Last Christmas ( Prime Video)
  2. Elf
  3. The Santa Clause 1, 2, 3 (Prime Video)
  4. The Nutcracker and the four realms (Disney)
  5. Love Actually
  6. Lethal Weapon
  7. National Lampoons Vacation
  8. Mariah Carey All I Want for Christmas (Prime Video)
  9. While You Were Sleeping
  10. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (Disney)
  11. Home Alone
  12. Die Hard
  13. Muppets Christmas Carol
  14. Christmas Eve
  15. Christmas with the Kranks
  16. Deck The Halls
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His word is firm

“What you say goes God and stays as permanent as the heavens.”

Psalm 119: 89 (the message)

The recent days have shaken me a little. If I was really honest I would admit they have me questioning a lot.

What is true?

Who can I trust?

What voices am I listening too?

I’ve heard God’s name used many times in recent days, with many polarising comparisons.

“God said this…”

“God has declared that…”

However, the God I read about and have come to intimately know doesn’t change His mind and also doesn’t propel or project his beliefs onto another. His truth never goes out of fashion.

Somedays, in those wobbly moments, I wonder “maybe he does change his mind”. Those days when I double guess what I have sensed and heard. Those are the times when I wonder whether I have misrepresented his truth and character.

Politics and platforms shouting at me, saying He supports this, He is that. And I have to come away and remind myself of what the gospel actually embodies. Truth, character, honesty, accountability and the list goes on.

You see I have come to learn, the way we represent the character of God in our writings, prophecy’s and declarations, needs weight and measure. We live in a moment in history, with many platforms, influence and undertakings with many ways to express our views.

As I wander through the late-night aisles, of Instagram and Facebook, I am reminded of the strength of our own projections. Those moments, when we all have an agenda and that becomes the strength of the voice of our advocacy.

Accountability and feedback, bring the weight and measure, to quick proclamations that have become in vogue of late. There is always another side to a story, there is another way and I believe when we represent the voice of someone else, we must take the time, to truly reckon with the consequence.

MEASURES OF ACCOUNTABILITY

  1. Give friends permission to speak freely into our lives and beliefs. Lately, I wrote on the whiteboard in my office, in big black texta, “FEEDBACK IS NOT PERSONAL”. I think sometimes the walls we put up to protect us from feedback, is the greatest set back to true freedom. Being able to listen and apply the wisdom that surrounds you, gives great context to the things we cannot see in our own lives.
  2. Listen to voices that you disagree with. Are you surrounding yourself with all the same voices, people and belief systems? That could be a big problem in truly sitting with empathy to learn from others.
  3. Read widely. As you read thoughts and inspirations that are counter to your own worldview, your muscle for understanding grows.
  4. Reference your beliefs by scripture. The anchor that holds us taut lasts way beyond our own generation and its musing.

I have been writing each week across 2020, from the one Psalm 119, recently I haven’t been publishing those writings here, because I was a little hesitant from all the shouting going on online.

The greatest lesson I have learnt from this Psalm written so long ago is the enduring nature of God’s word. I have been reminded that His word is permanent. His word is faithful. His word is unfailing. And even though it feels like across this year, that everything has changed, one thing I know that is true, is that

His word, His character and His truth will always endure. Beyond campaigns, beyond failure and beyond the circumstances of the year of so much challenge. His word is firm!

“What you say goes God and it stays as permanent as the heavens.”

Psalm 119: 89

At the end of every year, I publish a personal retreat booklet and this year’s offering is ready to launch really soon on December 1st.

Click here to find out more: Reflect; End of Year Journaling Questions.

“This is not a book, it’s an experience”

What are you doing to reflect on 2020 this year? Join me in setting time to reflect for more insight this December.

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homesick

“I’m homesick—longing for your salvation. I’m waiting for your word of hope”

Psalm 119: 81-82 (the message)

When I settle into the couch, after a long day, with a moments silence, there is a discomfort I sense, that cries eternal. This morning I woke at 4am with anxious thoughts swirling the drain. I tried to go back to sleep, but I have learned in such times, it is useless to try and tell my already tired mind what to do. I have learned it is best to move one emotion, with another emotion and to get up and walk around the house, even though my legs betray me.

So I walked and with a quiet whisper I asked the darkness “God what is it that you are wanting to whisper in this moment of darkness?”

A digging on ancient wells, to sacred places, that my mind has walked over and over across many decades. A quiet place of contemplation that allows his perspective to mark mine. Often it is not one of clarity (although sometimes the direction is starkly evident), mostly its just a knowing and a comfort that reminds my soul not to worry once again.

There is a place within us all, that is rarely talked about at coffee shops or school canteens, it is a depth of knowing that once dug into cannot be contained. There is a ocean of peace awaiting discovery.

And the longing that sits within the veil of success and performance, just behind the nods of approval from loved ones and friends, it is a homesickness that calls us deeper. It draws us again and again if we dare to listen.

“I’m homesick—longing for your salvation. I’m waiting for your word of hope”

As I dive into these places of longing, I remember the birthright of my salvation. It is a place of peace and authority, strength and fortitude.

At the beginning of 2020 I wrote three sentences from this sacred 4am secret place and yesterday once again I was reminded of the courage God was inviting us into for a strange and complex year.

Seek his presence over perfection.

Seek courage over certainty

Seek his ways over the worlds.

1st Jan, 2020

With a little perspective I now know why these words were whispered into my heart at a 4am, digging wells moment. A place of clarity and peace, amid the rubbles. You see 2020 has carried with it the birth pains of a world in chaos, but my personal world has been ravaged, by the diagnosis on May 25, that my Dad has a terminal illness.

He has motor nueron disease, and although this disease can be slow for some, its path cannot be mapped or measured. And his path is a ferocious one.

In three months he has lost the use of his legs and arms. Moving him from his 5 bedroom home, close by his favourite coffee shops and the beach, was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

This week I took him out for a day date for churros and indian curry, but sitting surrounded by crowds of people feeding my 69 year old Dad, was both a privilege and deeply painful.

Every day, there is a new challenge, whether it’s the COVID season and the complexity of caring for our elderly, or managing his bills, pain medications and frustrations. My parents are divorced, so there is another layer of difficulty and the list continues.

And then I come back to Psalm 119, as I have been across this season.

I am drawn back to this ancient well to search out the artisan spring of peace and comfort awaiting.

I remember the words of CS Lewis when he sings to my soul reminding me that…

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.

CS LEWIS

Dig again my dear friend.

Even if the season is a tiring one.

Dig again my fellow sojourner.

Even if the task seems insurmountable.

Dig again.