Our culture at the moment is playing a worldwide game of dominos. Each movement creates movement in another piece of the chain reaction. Comments wounding, decisions with ramifications and how do we personally respond?
We each have moments of connection and personal revelation and we want to find a way to stumble and articulate the truth of our own story.
It’s easy to share something that others have written. Especially when it resounds deeply within your soul and you know there is something about the words that compel you to respond. You even get rounds of applause from the people in your online groups, who think the same thoughts as you, whom the algorithm has joined together in perfect synchronicity.
Then you find another thought, story and follower.
Another person just like me, someone who believes the same things, has similar experiences and deeply set worry paths in their minds. It is this belonging and commonality that propels your conversations forward and suddenly you have the kind of friend you have always hoped for.
Until you don’t.
The scariest propellant in this season is the commonality of offence that draws groups of information together into a swirling riptide of emotion, is that it takes brave thinking to apply the information in a way, that swims against the tide. We are in an era of more information than ever before and who do you believe has the wisdom required that applies those concepts into brave living.
Bravery is a word that is easily written in a farewell card or the screen saver to our phones but what does it truly mean to explore a new way of living, that says goodbye to popular opinion, to truly understand the bias of the communicator. This means having a critical and analytical approach to things in order to provide an objective judgment.
It’s not a well-taught skill at school. Universities thrive on it, but somehow, somewhere along the way, we lose the capacity to remove ourselves bravely from the writhing culture around us.
Our world swarms with information. Often many facts are published in a way that people accept the validity and authority of the person proposing them but brave thinking empowers us to question those propositions in a way that helps us to make our own choices.
To live bravely we need to understand these five things…
Firstly think about the problem you are solving and its context. We cannot make decisions that help us to live with courage if we don’t understand the true context and situation that we are facing. Fear can often back us into a corner where we are unable to see the true nature of the problem, we only believe the one that is presented by the most compelling force. Understanding the smaller parts or the problem makes it easier to return to the big picture and identify the core question that needs to be answered in order to improve the situation.
Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Do your own research. Do your own fact checks the statistics, look up the original person who posted the information, find the original artist/ author/ scientist. Question the authority of the person who has shared the information. Question assumptions. The bravest thing you can do is ask great questions!
Identify Bias. Self-Reflection is one of the greatest tools for identifying your understanding, beliefs and bias. This is why I am so passionate about journaling and the power of unpacking the emotions surrounding our own stories. We can easily surround ourselves with people who don’t allow us to move from these invisible boundaries that hold us to our past beliefs and upbringing.
Reframe Your Relationship with Authority. I grew up in a family that had a healthy respect for authority. All adults were called Aunty and Uncle and we were raised to do what we were told. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when you outsource your authority in a way that you don’t question the brave thinking they are partaking in on you allow others to steer your life’s direction. The interesting thing about self-authority, is you have the permission to truly unpack what it is you believe and make your decisions accordingly.
Find friends who allow you to free your thinking! Friendship for me has never been about similarity, I have always gathered a diverse group of people along my life’s path. Women who are older than me, girls who are younger. People from different heritages and cultures. Storytellers, scientists, politicians and entrepreneurs.
Next time you lunch/ brunch/ hang out with a group of your friends, check one thing… Do you eat the same? look the same? order the same coffee/ tea? Do you follow the same people online? Do you watch the same shows?
This practical application of brave thinking brings the refreshing moment where you are able to thrive within diversity but also receive feedback, insight and perspective from people who free your think!
Having friendships that hold opposing points of view on topics is one of the greatest gifts life can ever give your future if you have the humility to step bravely into the beauty of allowing others to think differently from you.
Beauty and grief co-exist in a way I have never understood till the last season. Moments of transition and awakening feel a little like the promise of a new year that will bring greatness. Then we move into year three of a global pandemic and the fall out of fear across the world. This ever-present challenge has moved us towards a quick realisation that growth is always preceded by challenging circumstances. Corporately our year already has provided difficult circumstances that promise to build resilience. And in some ways I also wonder if it will break us. Then I stumble upon this scripture from the book of Acts in the Bible…
The time of prayer was about three o’clock in the afternoon, and Peter and John were going into the temple. A man who had been born lame was being carried to the temple door. Each day he was placed beside this door, known as the Beautiful Gate. He sat there and begged from the people who were going in.
The man saw Peter and John entering the temple, and he asked them for money. But they looked straight at him and said, “Look up at us!”
The man stared at them and thought he was going to get something. But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold! But I will give you what I do have. In the name of Jesus Christ from Nazareth, get up and start walking.” Peter then took him by the right hand and helped him up.
At once the man’s feet and ankles became strong, and he jumped up and started walking. He went with Peter and John into the temple, walking and jumping and praising God. Everyone saw him walking around and praising God. They knew that he was the beggar who had been lying beside the Beautiful Gate, and they were completely surprised. They could not imagine what had happened to the man.
Acts 3: 1- 10 (CEV)
BEAUTY AND ASHES CO-EXIST
We can attribute the idea of beauty, as being a place of perfection. However, as I read this story and reflect upon my own experiences, I see that everyday, ordinary places are the moments where miracles precede the manifestation of the Spirit. This is a gateway of beauty, that holds the pain and transition. We can get stuck because we believe that either our year, our month, our days are either all good or all bad.
But God crowns difficult places with provision that comes from the community in a way that brings transformation. (Psalm 65: 9-12)
THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS FOUND IN OUR NEIGHBOURHOOD
An interesting reflection from this story is that he asked for the provision from his neighbourhood. We need each other. I need you and you need me.
I am terrible at asking for help or even accepting it. I sometimes find myself struggling with the realisation that I cannot do it all alone. It is a weakness, that my independence stops others from having an answer that I am asking God to provide. God always moves through neighbourhoods. He is always supplying our needs through the hands of another and when we stop others from meeting those needs, we stop the miracle in motion, as we together grow. This is a beautiful gateway towards our common union as humanity together. I need you and you need me —we together bring transformation and hope.
The difficult part of this realisation, is we live in a season within the global landscape where we are more suspicious of one another. To face the difficulty of these days, we need each other and the beauty that comes from the ashes of this season in the world, is the way we meet one another in the spaces between.
Although I may be seen as somewhat an optimist, although the year looks like it is a cascading shadow, found in the aftermath of a big few years of loss, I believe miracles are breaking out. On the streets and corner corridors, there is a new way that is being announced. Recently I wrote this poetic kind of picture and it inspires me to look towards the beautiful gateways that draw us into new days. Those high mountain places where we remember our worth together once again.
Go up to the high mountain O Zion and hearald that of good news.
Lift it up, fear not. “Behold you God” He comes with might.
Isaiah 40: 9
“Herald good news, daughter of Zion. Don’t be drawn into corridors of belonging that ask you to play small, to fit within its confine. Herald a song and conversation of hope.
A hidden path, a moment of vulnerability, the potential loss in the promise of fame.
There is a company of women who are united in love.
We are united but far from uniform in the way we stand alongside. Called by name, strengthened by the might of His power. Not one missing, no one is excluded, not one the most important, not one holding all the keys.
A craftsman casts her strength overlaid with gold.
Go up to the mountain, Oh Zion, herald that of good news.
Lift up your voice with strength.
He taught you the path of justice.
He brings good news alongside knowledge
He shows paths of understanding.
There is a heralding in this season, a company of women who delight in the sound of his voice. Who bring everyday miracles of peace and adoration. Good news for the brokenhearted and healing that sets multitudes free.
Who have carried burdens from other generations… With confidence and courage that comes from the experience of His presence. Go up top the high mountains. O Zion and herald the good news. “
Beauty co-exists in those charred places friend. Have the courage to seek out the everyday miracles again.
As I turned the corner on my Dad’s back porch I saw a green leafy plant overwhelm its pot with size and character. I could sense his care taken in the beauty of its folds. Each time I see it now on my front porch, I imagine him caretaking, pottering around and watering it on the evening shifts dusky haze.
The plant elephants its pot size and I knew this day would sometime come, but the leaves don’t look as emerald anymore. I’m not a plant whisperer as my Dad once was, but I have carefully tended this plant as a living memory of something he once held. The browning of the leaves this summer has felt like a jarring, a remembering of the pain of saying goodbye. I knew I needed to tip over the pot and have a look at its sustenance sought out by the irrigation system, that keeps it fed.
Every potted plant will reach an age, where its root system becomes bigger than the pot that contains it. The dangling nerve system of the plant stretches and reaches out beyond its confine searching for nourishment to continue to grow and seek out the food it requires for sustaining health. The interesting thing about my favourite plant, rescued from my Dad’s garden, is that it is now too large for the pot which in the past has protected it. Reminding me of the human condition and each of our growth cycles that measure creation in our need for more.
You were designed with a similar soul structure as that of a plant. We naturally seek out inspiration, wisdom and help from others to feed the system of growth that holds and contains us for our future endeavours. You see, you were not designed however to live within the containment of a pot, like a plant. Humankind is designed to grow inwardly in such a way, that the depth of our roots, matches the height of our internal disposition.
The groundedness of your soul structure in the beauty of community, nourishment and the capacity to grow and stabilise the height at which you are designed to live. Jeremiah the prophet describes it this way…
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17: 7-8
This week I have been once again impacted by the rhetoric of fear that plagues our society in this season. After seeing friends houses surrounded by bush fires, and a message from my husband woken by an earthquake in New Zealand, this week one could easily allow fear to overtake our trust in the news that tickers across our screens daily.
Yet scripture reminds us where the blessings lie, not within the potted plant containment, where the root structure is bound by the safety it provides. But the emancipation that comes from deeply being rooted in places of community, worship and faith draws out the best fruit in us all. Psalm one reminds us of the impact of nourishment through our soul structure, the fruit that grows from this nourishment and the protection from withering of leaves, no matter the season.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1: 3
You were not designed to live root bound, by a pot of containment. Although it feels safe, a place where you know the boundaries and limits of the season and times, there will come a day when your soul structure requires greater pasture. This year, allow the water found in the deep streams and rivers below, give you nourishment and the sustenance to branch out into the beauty of purpose, that requires stability.
Allow friendships to gird you in ways, that you have trusted in yourself to meet the needs of the season. Allow the community to grow your capacity to love in ways you were unable in the past to. Let the daily practice of growth come from prayer, a meditation on things yet unseen and reaching out to places in the past that felt uncomfortable because you were living contained.
And lastly, the book of Ephesians reminds us to be strengthened by the love that grounds us rather than fear that holds us contained…
That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3: 16- 19
Is it time to allow yourself to be repotted this year, into a ground that is fertile and full of nourishment for the coming days? Allowing water and nutrients to flow once again. This is the beauty of our internal disposition, one which never stops growing and creating ground for others to flourish alongside also.
There is a word that impacts us all, hiding in corridors of shame. It is uttered in the heavenlies, smoothed across airwaves and published online, yet many don’t realise that they are being influenced by its riptide.
It is a spirit that whispers in the late-night hours and trembles as we awaken at the light of the first morning. A chinese whisper of untruths, heralding its authenticity. It is kerned, shifted and moulded by the algorithms of our generation.
It is the zeitgeist (the spirit of the age) that publically declares its reputation in a manner that seeks out approval. The overwhelming narrative of our current era speaks to the fear, that tells us we should shrink away from the terror awaiting.
The defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time. The general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era.
It shouts a new year, a period of reckoning, stay close, don’t move, more challenge is on its way. This fear holds us captive. It speaks untruth as it sits at our dining table. Fear shuns the possibility of the coming generations. It tells us to hoard and look upon another with suspicion. This fear masquerades as our personal control over situations.
However, there is a different secret pathway, that shuns this megaphone blaring. It is one that I personally subscribe to in the quiet of the evening light. This alternate narrative is beyond the zeitgeist of the age. It is one of hope, expectation and it draws us towards wide open spaces. It is our promise of tomorrow. Holding us firm with hope to a not yet narrative.
This narrow road I speak of is one that allows prayer, meditation and faith as our captain. It is reminded of the challenges many have faced, who have gone before us and their overcoming expectation met by a God who moves mountains despite our fear and trembling.
As I read scripture, I see this meta-narrative of hope over and over again. It is not a shouting of condemnation. It doesn’t link to podcasts full of knowledge, platforming statistical authority. It shows another story, one that speaks to the beauty of ordinary moments, and stories that have inspired generations. It annuals moments of confusion and miraculous moments of provision, despite the public outcry. It speaks of care that is shown to one another. It whispers stories from the power of common unity. Asking that we see the best in one another, calling out our potential. Bringing light, love and empathy to the dark corners of fear and trepidation.
This possibility is not a new narrative. It asks us to reflect on a different path forward. Holding hands with hope for the future, allowing wisdom to edge its sword. A wide-awake message of redemption, that promises that each and every need will be met, with manna each morning. Speaking life into those places we have allowed death to hallow.
This ancient pathway of the belief that there is another way, a possibility asks us to believe in the provision of the supernatural, tiny little miracles in our every day. This is when we believe in a mighty and powerful provider, One who cannot ignore our pleas for help and intervention. One who loves our contemplation and understands the difficulties we face.
It is possible to swim against the tide of the narrative, that humanly seeks out the surety of our unmet needs for tomorrow. It is possible to seek out a golden thread of presence for those moments of anxious waves of emotion. It is possible to slow to a different heart rate amid the flurry seeking firm foundations. This possibility is found when we allow our trust to be found in uncommon places. Seeking out the beauty in the midst of messy conversations. Listening to the pain of those who want to know we will all be okay.
I read ancient poetry with this lens of possibility, breathing in the comfort my heart so desires.
Do not fear- I am your shield and very great reward. (Genesis 15:1)
Do not fear- I am with you. (Genesis 26:24)
Do not fear- You will have another son. (Genesis 35:17)
Do not fear- I will provide (Genesis 50:21)
Do not fear- I will deliver you (Exodus 14:13)
Do not fear- for judgement comes from God alone (Deuteronomy 1:17)
Do not fear- Do not fear- for God will give you the land. (Deuteronomy 1:21)
Do not fear- the Lord will fight for you. (Deuteronomy 3:22)
Do not fear- for I will go with you always (Joshua 1:9)
As we face this new period of time together, can I ask one small favour? Before you tell me all the stories you have collected online, heard whispered in corridors and believed from unclaimed sources, can we look into one another’s eyes and speak with the possibility, that together we can face anything if we hold hands with hope towards the future together.
Ps- Take some time this year to use my guided journal to find insight for your Future Self. Click here for a limited price of $9.95 that sends the download straight to your inbox.