Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Home Authors Posts by David Webster

David Webster

Happiness isn’t wholeness

0

Let’s dance the night away. Party ‘til the break of dawn. DJ turn the music up. We just want to have a good time. We own the night. And then we do it again.

Just a few generic pop lyrics that are strewn through every song that people say, “I just like the beat” about. But as much us people think they can switch off and let the music rock their bodies – the message stands firm and is way more exposing than one thinks at first. We have been sold the lifestyle of ‘chasing the moment’ – a dogged chase for the thrill and the high. We have been told to allow ourselves to let go and be free of our troubles. But ignoring the debilitating problems in our own lives and communities cannot be seen as right… Yes, ‘letting your hair down’ once in a while is important. Fun is a crucial part of life – even God says so. But there is something way greater than living for the moment.

I have found this in my own life. You chase the moments that are fun and exciting – while hating the moments and processes in between. And after living like that for a few years, it turns out I was more exhausted and empty than ever. This way of living doesn’t only pertain to night-life and weekend parties. It can just as much be found in extensive trips away for weekends, obsessively working for the euphoria of achieving, chasing the next big event or conference and even going from Sunday to Sunday in church. We were not made to live for moments we were made to live in every moment.

If we approach life by trying to imitate the happiness of people who are truly living, you will have a chain of Pyrrhic victories – where it looks like you’re living your best life, and you are able to fool yourself for short periods of time, but your soul is actually deteriorating. Happiness is the by-product of a whole person. It is the overflow of a satisfied soul – not the fuel to keep you going when times get tough.

The process

We are basically looking for the fruit in life all year round, when there are three seasons that are crucial in actually producing good fruit. It’s chasing down what is sweet, when what is bitter, what is salty, what is stinky and slimy are all part of the process to reach that point. The poop in the manure in this season will be the intense flavor of your fruit in the next. The barren cold time, when all you can do is endure, is actually the season that strengthens you enough to grow and extend your branches, which enables you to carry more fruit in the next year. The peaceful, quiet seasons might be frustrating but Spring – where you need your soul to thaw out so that the hope of your dreams coming true can blossom – is coming.

I know I have got extremely agricultural, but I hope you understand. If we don’t weather every season well, we will end up with limited fruit. And it won’t be as sweet. In fact, the less we engage with every part of our life and deal with it head on, the more the quality of our happiness will deteriorate. I work with young adults and I have seen the result of living like this constantly – it could very well be the reason depression is rife in our generation.

It’s not ‘chicken or egg’

Many people think that happiness automatically means wholeness. But you don’t get happy first and then become whole. In essence, happiness can give you a false sense of wholeness for a time. But if you want the real thing, you are going to have to be willing to be unhappy and uncomfortable for a while first.

Your whole life could be better all the time. You can find yourself living full and increasing every day. The hard stuff still weathers you but your core conviction that is built on the experience and credibility will be strong enough to take it. Is it harder to chase wholeness than happiness? Yes! Of course. But if you are whole you won’t have to chase good times. They will be a natural part of your life.

Increased wholeness = Increased in quality of happiness

Ways to chase wholeness

There are many things that I have found that helps you nurture wholeness in your life. Many of them are unpleasant and could even seem ridiculous. But I can guarantee that they will result in fuller life. I confess there was a time when I completely failed in all of them but over time and out of immense frustration I have learnt these things are key to living whole.

  1. Delayed gratification. Yup – there is no way to go around this. The only way you grow internally is by exercising self-control. You might not see how they are linked in theory, but in practice I can tell you it is extremely clear. You might think it impossible to stop eating sugar cold-turkey or to only look at your phone once you are done eating breakfast. But starting small. Say ‘no’ to one nice thing today: that tempting Facebook stalk or that nosecond helping of dessert. Maybe it’s not looking at your phone while driving – or turning your phone off for half an hour and seeing what life is like without it.
  2. Brutal honesty. No one can get through any issue they aren’t able to address head-on. The only barrier between you and your wholeness is your willingness to be honest with yourself and others who are around you. If you want to be whole, you are going to have to start addressing the areas where you’re empty and asking ‘why’: not settling for the surface level answers, but going to the uncomfortable truth that lies beneath the years of insecurity that is fracturing your identity.
  3. Chase Jesus. Ultimately Jesus came to reinstate us with God. Without a relationship with God, we cannot truly be all we are. We were made with an inbuilt dependency on God for a reason. His love and His joy, as well as His counsel and guidance are all final cogs in the engine room of our souls. If you would like to find out more about how you can chase wholeness by knowing the God who made you, click on the link below.

‘Look what you made me do’

0

Taylor Swift recently launched her first single from her upcoming album – and it has all the fire and drama of an E! News report. But just before you dive into layers of speculation and blame – games, check out the music video below.

 

Is it different? Yes. Is the music groundbreaking? As always – not really. But there is a degree of raw vulnerability that makes this new direction very interesting. Taylor Swift built an empire on being the ‘good girl’ and this new music video is almost a declaration of war against her public image – most recognizably by mocking different ‘versions’ of herself throughout her most popular music videos. All the while repeating the words, “look what you made me do…”

No one but Swift will really know what she means by this all. But I find the vulnerability hits a nerve that plagues this generation: blaming others for your actions. As the most entitled generation to ever exist, there is an inherent sense of innocence that makes us fall victim to things around us. Are we naive? Definitely. But that does not excuse the way people are treating each other – whether it be around race, politics, age or sex.

Just because something happens to you does not mean it has to outwork through you. 

Now I know there was a stage in my life where I would be offended by that statement. ‘You don’t know how horrible people have been,’ or, ‘how dare you judge me – you haven’t experienced what I have been through’. And the world justifies that offence. But you are in no way going to grow if you keep playing ‘victim‘ in those areas. Yes, I was bullied growing up. Yes, I had some horrible things happen to me that resulted in addiction. But instead of letting them rule me now, I have to be able to draw the line between what happens to me and what happens through me. Your actions are not justified by your history. You have the power to decide what is going to affect you to the point of action.

The only way I can share my story with others and live completely free of the complicated struggles of my past is by taking responsibility for my emotions in those moments. No matter how things went down, I am still responsible for my own emotions. There is a point where you have to decide how the events of life are going to affect you moving forward. You cannot change the past. But you can change how you feel about it.

My dad works with sexual offenders in prison – helping them understand why they did what they did. There are thousands of people in prison with very valid reasons for doing what they did. But that does not justify the actions. No one can ever make someone do something, unless they enslave them. And we can enslave ourselves to the past by not dealing with our issues up-front.

So how do you even begin to unravel all of the bitter twisted emotional mess? God. He’s the most relevant to your past – because He bought it with blood when He died on the cross. At that moment, He made things personal – He died so that you don’t have to. If you would like to know more, click on the link below.

Taylor Swift is geared to take the world by storm – and the way she is candidly addressing herself is something that I respect intently. It is clever and extremely profitable in this age of tabloids and ideals. But I am saddened at the realization that many won’t see this as the dramatic parody it actually is. It is not real life. At least, it doesn’t have to be. The ball is in your court.

Others

I have to admit I have found myself writing about myself a whole lot. And I’ve been put off writing because of it. Not only that – I’ve been so frustrated reading other people’s writing that is all just one long public self-obsessed confession. We are all guilty of it. How many selfies are posted each second on Instagram and Snapchat? How many half-baked opinions lie strewn through Twitter and Facebook timelines? All of them pointing directly at one thing – yourself.

I think it’s time we change this pattern. Focussing on yourself can not only be annoying and arrogant, but it can also be extremely destructive. Comparison only takes place if you are considering yourself. Insecurity is an unhealthy obsession with your flaws. Identity crises only happen when you focus too much on who you are. It’s time to look beyond your own feelings and situation. Focussing on others is the key to getting out of the prison you have created.

These days the world is becoming overwhelmingly competitive. There is a mindset that there is only one place ‘at the top’ (wherever that is) and that the only way you will be happy is if your voice is the loudest. It may seem far more subtle, but let’s be honest – there is a vicious civil war raging for attention online – not to mention in real life. It is almost as if we are stuck in a time warp – where someone pressed pause during the immature Junior High stage of life, but everyone is aging and more stressed than ever. No – this is not how life has always been. As terrible as the World Wars were, they did bring a sense of reality to life and a simplicity to appreciating it.

So let’s not get so caught up in ourselves. Let’s not get tangled in this frenzy of self-promotion and self-degradation. God has more for us. In the Bible, Paul wrote a letter to the Roman church that was struggling with self-obsession. Here’s how he put it:

Obsession with self in these matters is a dead-end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. 
It’s like the analogy of the person who has lost control of their bicycle as they are pelting down a hill. They see a tree up ahead and start freaking out about not hitting it, but the more they focus on it, the more likely they are to hit it. If we keep on focussing on ourselves, there is no favorable direction forward. Could you ever be more ‘yourself‘? There are definitely many ways you can improve, but being obsessed with that results in an endless cycle of achievement and insecurity. Focussing outwards is the only true way forwards – focussing on God will lead to you focus on others and forget about the multiple details of your own imperfections.
Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what He is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.
Jesus literally died the most brutal death imaginable to get your attention – to help you take your judgmental eyes off of yourself and find relief in the grace He bled for.
“But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells – even though you still experience all the limitations of sin – you yourself experience life on God’s terms.” – Romans 8:6-16 (MSG)
One of the most alarming things I have seen among Christians recently is their preoccupation with their own voices. Instagram might be a great place to confess your problems, but how are we different to anyone else then? If you search #others it is alarming how many of the posts are actually selfies. For real, people – there is a world out there crying for attention and we can use our voices to celebrate others without having to even mention yourself in your posts. Life on God’s terms is way bigger than any one person. Yes, there is victory for yourself – but God’s plan for you is so much more than just for you to be happy. It’s for you to be part of the greatest story life will ever know – to experience the wonder and glory of God and witness it transform not only yourself, but the world around you.
If you are tired of yourself, if you are sick of the pressure to be better than everyone else, can I encourage you to turn your attention to God? Click on the link below to find out more.

Jesus is for real

0

Jesus is real.

You might say, “you’re using the wrong tense there… Jesus was real.” There is enough historical evidence to prove that. You can accept a cold, hard fact and use scientific conclusions to back it up. But I believe He is real. He is present today – as dynamic and life changing as He was when He walked the earth around 2000 years ago.

You might disagree with me. And to be honest, that doesn’t really phase me at all. You could try argue with me on the point (as many have tried) but I know what I have experienced and in the end experience always trumps opinion.

The experience factor

Image you lived in a town that was in the middle of an inland desert. You were able to Google pictures of the sea, you were able to read up about it and had even spoken to other people who had seen it. But there were other people who had never left the town who did not believe that the sea existed. They could claim that those were photoshopped images online. They could say that what you were reading was fantasy fiction. They could label those who talked about the sea as madmen and irrational – going as far as ridiculing them for being so excited and passionate about the wonder of this non-existent ‘large mass of water’. Some of them would have claimed that they tried to find the sea, but couldn’t find it and returned disappointed.

If that was the case, the only way you could find out the truth is by going in search of the sea yourself. And, upon finding it, you would be able to feel the cool foam lap at your feet and smell the salty sea breeze. After that there would be no question in your mind whether the sea was real – no one would be able to convince you otherwise.

That is what it is like for me, and millions of others, when it comes to Jesus. I have had a personal, tangible, life changing experience that I cannot deny and will never let go of for any amount of reasoning. Jesus is meant to be experienced, not just understood – and it is my life’s mission to be like a ‘tour guide to the sea’ for anyone interested in experiencing Him.

Relationship goals

Everyone has that dream partner in their mind. You may have goals to have the best looking, smartest, dynamic life partner, but I want to encourage you to think a bit bigger than the crush you stalk on Instagram. The whole reason Jesus came into this world was so that we could have a personal relationship with the smartest, dynamic, most fun and kind person to ever exist – Himself. That’s why He didn’t simply die – He came back to life – so that we know that He is available to us for the rest of eternity.

The cheesy ‘Jerry McGuire’ movie “you complete me” line is a terrible attitude to relationships. God completes you. He made you – He can fill in the gaps where you have messed up or lost hope. If your relationship goal is first to know Jesus, He will show you who you were truly made to be – before you ever consider sharing that with someone else.

Try it out

It won’t cost you anything to try. It will completely change everything when you find Jesus. He may not be a physical being that you can see with your own eyes, but He is definitely present and accessible. All you have to do is be open to the reality that He is alive and interested in the details of your life. Click on the link below to find out more. I can tell you finding Jesus was the greatest decision I will ever make. It changed the trajectory of my life. I wouldn’t be alive today without Him. I pray you find out first-hand what that’s like.

The ‘Resistancy’ of Consistency

I know… ‘Resistancy’ isn’t a proper word. But I’m not just trying to sound clever. In my short experience of life I have found that there is a very clear connection between being consistent and being resistant. As the millennial demographic starts stretching way past the 30 milestone, it has become very apparent that longevity is something of a white elephant to us. Just look at some recent statistics:

  • 44% of millennials want to be in a new job within the next two years or less. (The Conference Board)
  • 71% of millennials are actively seeking a new job. (ICIMS)
  • 93% of millennials left their companies after they changed roles in their jobs. (Gallup)

Kind of crazy, but so true. Now just before you think I’m jumping on the ‘hater’ bandwagon, I believe many of these statistics are great – as it forces employers to consider how they are treating their employees. Intentional environment creators are flourishing with a younger workforce. But I do see the trend of ‘easy change’ going far beyond the workplace and that is where things get concerning.

In the Bible, we are instructed to ‘resist the Devil and he must flee’. But society has taught us – through bad parenting, hugely diversifying markets and ‘social consciousness’ that excuses rather than engages with issues – to not resist anything. The motto of Western culture especially seems to have become: “If it looks good to you, try it.” Imagine telling that to a toddler. Yet there seems to be this ‘coming of age’ that marks you exempt of any kind of discipline (whether from yourself or from others).

If we are going to last (let alone create anything that lasts) we are going to have to change the narrative. These days stocks rise and fall, empires are built in a day and crash down in seconds – but we don’t have to be the same. It’s time to get resistant. When last did you consciously resist something? I’ve been eating healthier for the last three weeks and it was extremely hard in the beginning to resist the urge to reach for the KFC my housemates were eating in front of me (thanks guys…). I’ve had to resist the urge to run to coffee first thing in the morning, and have had to resist sleeping in so that I’d have enough time to make and eat breakfast. Without the tight elasticity of discipline, there is no way we could become consistent people in society.

“And why would you want to be consistent?” you may ask.

1: For yourself

Be honest – it’s exhausting being a mercurial emotional mess. Flopping from one whim to the next is not only expensive financially, it costs your soul and it also costs you credibility with those around you.

How would you define true success? Being rich? Being comfortable? Being ‘happy’?

I would like to propose a better definition: being whole.

Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes you have to fall on your face to change who you are. Sometimes you have to be uncomfortable in order to get what you truly want. An overnight success can become a split-second failure. The longer you take to build yourself, the stronger and more durable your life will be. Don’t wish for the ‘magic moments’. Pray for the power of process.

2: For others

I have found that trust is an endangered concept among my peers. How many people can you truly rely on? If you left the country for a year, who would you entrust your plants to? If you had to leave work for a few days, who would you trust to maintain your portfolios without taking them on as their own? Consistency is a sorely scarce and vital quality that is needed everywhere: from the home to the head office.

Consistency is not only to do with showing up, it’s also shown in your attitude. Are you consistently hopeful? Consistently critical? Consistently encouraging? You have the ability to set the atmosphere when you walk into the room. People will always want to be around you if they know you will be consistent. I work with a whole lot of young people who desperately want to know that there is a stable place where they know they can come and be accepted. Consistency of character and a reliable schedule when it comes to my leadership is key to helping them find hope in their situation.

3: For the future

Our generation is drunk on the phrase, “you’re the future”. It’s an ideal that may seem aspirational, but is definitely not helpful. The only way any of us will amount to anything worthy of looking forward to is by focusing on what we have right now. Consistency is the secret ingredient to success in your future and in the future of the world. What are you investing into these days? Where do you use the currency of time? Where does your money go first? Where is your energy being focused? If you consistently invest into things that are good, your future will be respected.

But let’s be honest – we are way better at being consistently bad. We can be consistent in our inconsistency: we can consistently be moody, hotheaded, prideful, argumentative, flippant and disrespectful. Just as consistently choosing honorable things in life will result in respect, consistently choosing selfish, shortsighted options will result in mistrust and disrespect. It’s your choice which one you choose. I would encourage you to resist – to fight the norms of today and choose to be consistently dedicated to things that are good, pure, honorable and just.

The only way I believe this is completely possible is in the love of God. His love for you is the most consistent truth you could ever know – and if we choose to receive that love, we are enabled to be consistent in everything we do. If you would like to know how you can know this love, click on the link below to find out more.

Valerian: an interesting behemoth

Incredible CGI, substantial ethical messages, fresh faces and the ability to make time go slower than it ever has before. I cannot think of any recent sci-fi film funded from Europa on this scale. As you endure the length of the film, I have to say that it is an interesting notion. The backstories are strong and believable – where Sci-fi is normally fantastical and sporting a squeaky sheen, Valerian is definitely more ‘real life’ in character. The opening sequence is testament to this more than ever – showing multiple nations and species meeting each other diplomatically, building a galactic community that is the main setting for the storyline.

 

From the mysterious teasers that played in cinemas a year ago through to the Instagram spams and overt cinema punts, Valerian had a lot to live up when I walked into the cinema and, in terms of CGI, it delivered bountifully. The incredible breadth of alien species were all believable (although the central alien species did look like the lighter cousins of Avatar). The different planets and spacecraft were also believable – less grungy than Star Wars, but definitely more weathered and substantial than any Marvel installment. From the creatures to the supporting characters, there is a magnificent stage set for a dynamic, interesting story.

The only sad thing is that the film takes so long convincing you how incredible the CG artists are that the pace is almost ground to a halt. And it is here, unfortunately, that the actors fail to sustain any emotional narrative. Not that it is their fault at all! Dane Dehaan is definitely convincing in his performance and Cara Delevingne does an impressive job for a relative newbie. With a veteran like Clive Owen involved, I had hoped that it would be an acting triumph, and Rihanna was extremely convincing in her minor role as well. Had the editor had been more severe, I think this would have been a totally different movie – but I must admit that it would be incredibly hard to strike the right balance between story, character development and incredible imagery.

There are some great ethical lessons to be salvaged from this monstrously long and weighty project. The nature of love is a running theme that is developed more than any character has the chance to (despite the fact that the main characters look more like siblings than lovers). The argument that living under a constructed protocol is harmful to life itself is outworked well – showing how procedure would end up killing all life. A slight nod towards freedom is touched on through Rihanna’s character – who is a trafficked alien that doesn’t have a true identity. Diplomacy is also an arc that is introduced in the first few seconds and lasts till the very end.

The most powerful of all subjects tackled, however, was forgiveness. I don’t know if you have noticed, but many current film narratives are driven by the underlying theme of revenge and justice. Valerian, however, introduces a completely new approach – one that is so disarming it completely throws the modern-day cinemagoer. Affronted with the purity of real forgiveness topples the expectation for revenge and, as noble and incredible as it is, causes everything to be anticlimactic. The message itself rings loud and clear, however, and there are some satisfying punches thrown at the main villain. I think it is just strange to witness a peaceable, prosperous outcome without an emphasis on ultimate justice.

This above observation is not a bad one, however. Watching Valerian is ultimately like tasting a new culture’s food. I just haven’t developed a palate for it. If you are looking for something along the lines of Star Trek meets Marvel, you will leave a little puzzled. But go in ready for a different kind of immersive experience and you will be able to appreciate the absolute intricacy of the world you will witness.

Where dreams go to die…

Flip – that’s a heavy title. Don’t worry I’m not going to be all morosely poetic about life. This is a practical post about fighting for your dreams – but it’s important to mark out things that might just kill your dreams. Life is hard and it requires a degree of stubbornness to stand up and charge through when you get knocked down. So – here are 5 ‘dead zones‘ I have learned to avoid in my journey.

Comparison

It’s a blog cliché these days to talk about comparison. But it is seriously one of the most slippery slops to fall down. In a day and age where we are made aware of people’s successes and good fortune by the minute on Facebook and Instagram, Forbes and reality shows, it is hard to stay in-touch with reality. The reality is – if it needs to be edited (whether by a filter or a whole team of professionals), it is not real life. The honest truth is that success only comes through hard work, tough situations and maturity. Do you want to do well in life just to show other people on Instagram? Or is there a greater influence and sense of purpose that you are made for?

Distraction

This was a big pitfall for me especially while at university. There was always another awesome series, a more exciting conversation, a prettier girl, than the logistical process I had to engage with to move my dream forward. You can be distracted by pretty much anything – discouragement, tiredness, entertainment, the wrong influencers and advisors, your own emotions… All of these things are ultimately your responsibility, however. If you become ruthless at doing what is needed rather than just what feels nice, you’ll steer clear of this deathtrap.

External responsibilities

Now this may be an interesting one to navigate. The harsh truth is that we don’t always get everything we want straight away. If you have a dream, you better hope that it is going to take time to process – otherwise you aren’t dreaming big enough. But as you work towards what you feel you’re called to, the responsibility of paying your own bills and ‘adulting’ will rear its head. Family can also pressurize you into doing things that feel completely opposite to what you are dreaming of – and you will have to navigate the tension of honouring those you love while still being unapologetically passionate about what you know you need to do. For me it looked like working 3 part-time jobs for two years instead of waiting around at the place I would have rather been full-time. It meant paying students loans and honouring my parents while doing everything I could outside of those responsibilities to still do what I loved. Don’t give up on your dreams simply because you have more responsibility. ‘Adulting’ might seem like a delay to your ultimate purpose, but life is about the people you do it with and the state of your soul. God promotes and if you trust Him and stick to it, at the right time things will start gaining momentum.

The all-or-nothing mindset

You wouldn’t believe how many times I have heard young people say, “if I’m going to commit, I want to be all-in”. It is an honorable intention, but a terrible excuse as well. If you are waiting for the perfect moment when you can do only what you have dreamt of and nothing else, I’m sorry to say you will never reach your dreams. There needs to be a degree of ‘hustle’ – burning the midnight oil, juggling the expectations of others while still being able to give time to your own. Nothing enduring will ever be established without sacrifice. And if you aren’t willing to sacrifice for your dreams, then it’s worth asking whether you believe in yourself at all.

Impatience

This is the kicker. I know that everyone wants to do everything they can to achieve what they want, rather than do what they need to. I remember battling crippling frustration – doing tasks that others love but I couldn’t stand, while there were things I knew I had the skillset for that weren’t being done somewhere else. Impatience will lead you to trying to make things happen prematurely. As I wrote before: God promotes. If you want your life to be fully beneficial, there is no way that God cannot be involved. He has the best for you and if you trust Him to do what you cannot, you will find yourself further than you ever thought possible in a short amount of time. The only way you can battle impatience and not fall prey to your demise is by trusting God once you have done everything you can. If you would like to find out more on how you can do that, click on the link below.

Understanding story

Have you ever watched something on film or read a book, and by the end you feel like you completely wasted your time? I have. Especially when it comes to films, there are some really sad moments when it hits me how I could never get those two hours back… ever.

In many ways, I am a story nerd. I see storylines in everything and love drawing them out. I don’t know if you’ve heard about the term semiotics – it’s a study of signs and signifiers: basically, what does this image, sound, lighting or tone signify to the audience? For example – when you see a magazine ad of someone walking from left to the right of the page, the direction signifies that he is walking forwards because we read from left to right (it would be the other way around in the Middle East where they read right to left). But you can go even further – asking why the character is walking from the right to the left. What does he see that he is walking towards? What is he leaving behind? When will he reach his destination? There are endless elements of story in that simple image.

But as much the small details tell the story, there are also overarching themes that help drive a story forwards. Here are a few elements that are crucial – drawn from the study of the best stories written. I don’t know what your story looks like so far, but there is power in understanding what a good story consists of. I know it has helped me work through struggles – knowing I will at least have a great story to tell one day.

Crisis

Yup. If there is no crisis, the storyline will be weak. Think about Mufasa dying in the Lion King, Belle’s dad being imprisoned in Beauty and the Beast, Harry Potter’s parents dying and his horrible aunt and uncle. But crisis doesn’t have to only be personal. The enslavement and persecution of the Israelites in Prince of Egypt, the feud between families in Romeo and Juliet, World War II in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and the Death Star in Star Wars. Crisis does a few things to a storyline:

  1. It makes the audience sit up and engage – it’s not an everyday occurrence
  2. It places the audience in the main character’s shoes – it evokes emotion
  3. It makes the audience want to find out what happened – drives the movie forwards

All of us have some level of crisis in our lives. If you haven’t yet, just wait a little. But when it comes, don’t despise it. Don’t allow yourself to be lost in the emotion of it for too long. Your story is going to encourage others and help them commit to getting through their struggles as well.

Character development

This is where many stories struggle. They either are all about the storyline or all about the characters – something that is very hard to balance. But I can tell you, strong characters are way better than strong storylines in the end. One classic example today is Suits: the names Donna, Harvey Dent and Jessica Pearson are part of modern pop culture – but the storyline hasn’t changed much and only does in the interest of developing the character. It’s the same in our own lives. We can have the most adventurous storyline in life but have nothing to show for it. It’s not about how many countries you have been to. It’s not about the highs and lows of experience. Yes those things are valuable, but only if your character is developed through it. You need to be changed in order to have a story. You need to allow experience to shape you and your opinions. Your story is all about your character – your grit and tenacity.

Tension and climax

Think about the Titanic movie. Throughout the whole story, the audience is in a state of tension – knowing that the ship will sink. And the introduction of characters and love only heightens your dread for what is to come. It builds all the way until the ship hits the water and visually when the ship cracks in half and Jack dies. In The Sound of Music the tension of the Nazi’s invading Austria builds masterfully – climaxing to the point where the Von Trapps have to hide from the army behind convent tombstones while the soldiers bang on the gates and search for the family with flashlights.

The fact is: tension is your friend when it comes to your story. It helps you to keep moving and not get comfortable. One of the most powerful motivators you will ever have is frustration. Conflict – whether it be within yourself, with others or with society – is the fuel for your story. But unlike the entertaining moments on-screen or in a book, you can control the final outcome. You cannot decide what happens to you in life, but you can decide what to do with it. This is where character becomes crucial – would you be Rose and not let Jack on the raft? Or would you be Simba, getting over your guilt to save your land? It’s up to you.

Resolution

Yup – there is always a resolution. Whether it’s justice and peace – in almost every Marvel movie you find it; or ‘happy ever after’ wedding scenes – present in most of the princess Disney movies as well as Lord of the Rings. But just like every series storyline and most movies today – there is an open-ended suggestion that there could be more. In the same way, there might be a resolution to tension in your life now, but there is still a whole lot more story to come. These days especially, we live our lives striving for a moment where we will ‘arrive’ at our ‘happy ever after’. But if we only live for those moments, we will be sorely disappointed when the reel keeps on playing. You cannot live for those select small frames of footage in your life. There’s more adventure to be had!

One of the greatest catalysts for a good life story is Jesus. In fact, when you have a personal relationship with Him you find strength to make the right decisions during crisis. He helps you manage and navigate tension and frustration, and ultimately gives you the best resolution to life on earth: life in heaven. Click on the link below to find out more.

Oh Wonder: Ultralife

0

It’s very rare to have a duo that writes, produces and masters their work themselves these days – not to the standard these guys do it at least. If you haven’t heard of Oh Wonder before, they are a British duo who ‘fell’ into making music together professionally. Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West respected each other’s music and got together to write a few songs. What resulted was a homegrown sound that is internationally celebrated. They have admitted that it definitely started as an experimental fusion of musical tastes, but the result was a cohesive and complex sonic tapestry: layers of frequency that all dance in a dynamic yet elegant synergy.

There aren’t many successful duo’s in the industry at present. The ‘Sonny and Cher’ rapport died a horrible death in the late 80’s and the dislocated end to the Civil Wars doesn’t bode well for the idiom. But groups such as Alex & Sierra and Johnny Swim have shown that there is still a market. But where other duos may have relied on their relationship dynamic or good voices, Oh Wonder is convincing on a much deeper level. Theirs is a collaboration of mutual genius. Their love of music and the craft of songwriting is apparent in their recent ‘making of’ documentary and their ‘relationship’ has developed from there. They have not been very open about their private relationship – their first interviews had a distinct emphasis on their professional connection (justified by the clichés mentioned before). But there is a small moment during a photo shoot where they almost kiss – whatever it looks like, these two definitely have chemistry.

Speculation aside, there is no denying that they have worked extremely hard over the past two years – almost consistently on tour and writing whenever they had time off. But the new album is a very clear progression of their first album – which they recorded on laptops and in home studios. But this time they had full reign of top-class studios and mastering suites – and the end product is extremely impressive.

Their first track, Solo is a comforting ‘welcome back’ to their sound. With tight percussion and complex ‘wahing’ chords, it feels punchy and fresh. While their octave overlay of vocals (a musical signature) is still present, there is a fracturing into vocoder brilliance during the chorus that helps express the tension of the subject matter – wanting to be alone but not lonely.

The title track holds a pop feel that could be described as a combination between Coldplay in their ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ writing space combined with an Imagine Dragons drummer and an expressive synth player. Have a listen and judge for yourself.

 

Another stand out track for me was ‘High on Humans’ which addresses how people live past each other, while their interaction could actually bring a better sense of connection. It is probably the most upbeat song they have ever done, with some refreshing live drums and incredible synth hits that highlight points of the vocal melody – adding a third octave above the guy, girl combination.

 

I could literally go through every song and tell you why it’s worth listening to, but if I had to choose one last song to review it would be ‘My Friends’. Stripped back to piano with an acoustic approach it is definitely the melancholic song you’ve always been looking for. Think rainy days a concrete and warm thoughts of elsewhere. Check it out:

 

There are many things to appreciate about Oh Wonder, but I think the main thing is that both Josephine and Anthony are making music because they love to. It’s not a vehicle to get famous or even just to be successful. There is a genuine commitment and passion for music itself. Great lyrics, imaginative instrumentation and excellent producing – let’s hope they come to Africa soon!

As for me

Many people believe that we end up being products of society. You can view yourself as a product of your family, your economic demographic, your generation or even your body type. In their panic to make sense of life, people will categorize you to put themselves at ease. And the repercussions of this are devastating. It’s easy to identify generational patterns – from addictions to mindsets. Everyone can look at where they have come from, what they have done – and tied to the sense of duty to family, you can end up being a lesser version of the previous generation.

In a faithless world, the only way out would be to fight to be ‘self made’. But that also leads to living fixated on proving your original status quo wrong, which is just another way of living under the same oppression. That’s not what God wants.

In the Bible Joshua makes the statement:

“but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

As young people in Africa, I believe that this kind of decision is more powerful than ever. The world is changing extremely quickly and there is so much pain and injustice that haunts our past. But instead of living in the bitterness of our past, I know God can empower us to make the constructive decision to stand up and say, “this may be where I come from, this may be what happened, this may be what my family says, but AS FOR ME things will be different.”

I know many people who have made such a decision – drawn the line in the sand and have decided to change the narrative of their legacy. It’s a proactive, selfless response to a passive, self-pitying mindset. But without God, this decision could ruin your life. Stress, drive, self-righteousness and frustration will take over and make you end up despising where you came from. That’s not what God wants. He does not want you to despise your origin.

“Do not despise the day of small BEGINNINGS.” – Zechariah 4:10

Where you began has value to where you’re going. It’s just a factor of learning from the past instead of dredging it up and living in the emotion of it. What would happen if today you drew a line in the sand and said, “AS FOR ME, my financial situation is going to look different.” Or, “AS FOR ME I will choose to forgive and build my own life instead of judging others.”

Please hear me – this might seem like a betrayal of family or culture, but in truth it is actually a celebration of both. Children have the ability to inspire their parents – to show them what is actually possible outside the bounds of how they have had to live and think. But in the end the question is this: do you value the future more than the past?

I know in many traditional contexts, the past is honored with huge reverence in belief that that will ensure a good future. I will respect that cultural belief, but I have seen a different result. We need to value the future generations more than what has happened in the past. If you ask the question, “What will make my children’s life better” rather than, “what would please my family now”, you will be willing to make the right decision – even if it is much harder than the alternative.

You might say that this is too much to ask. You might think you have tried for too long and haven’t seen anything as a result. You might be burnt out and tired – having tried to change your life in your own effort. I want to encourage you to look to God. He is the only one that can truly transform and bring lasting change to your life. Yes, it includes you doing your part. But God takes everything you do and blesses it with so much more. If you would like to know how a personal relationship with God sets you free from your past and empowers you to live your best life, click on the link below.

Connect with us

131,149FansLike
52,400FollowersFollow
1,230SubscribersSubscribe