Tuesday, April 20, 2021
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Eden Myrrh Toohey

Heavy Habits?

Even though it’s a term that tends to be used quite loosely and cheaply (especially if you live in a place like Cape Town), I’d consider myself a creative.

The kind that, enjoys the act of creating new things (think, innovation and fresh!); enjoys putting their thoughts into motion and turning the intangible into something that they can feel; moves themselves towards their purpose of ‘being’ daily (Gina-Alyse).

In real life that means that I find it hard to force myself to create anything if I don’t feel inspired to create – in fact, I find it hard to force anything – be it authenticity, work, inspiration, etc.

But, let it be known that I am a force of nature once I have set my mind on doing something. Once I have set my mind on something, it consumes me. I will not rest until it is done. Don’t dare ask me to recreate that work. I can never do it again. I cannot recreate the feelings or the experience.

I am incredibly protective over my work. I sleep, eat, sing, dance, shout at weird times. I come alive for the first time at 10pm and then for the second time at 12pm (the point of no return – read an interesting article about that here!), and all of this works quite well for me.

Except sometimes. Sometimes, like yesterday morning.

Yesterday morning was the type of morning that makes one want to set a whole page full of the good-unattainable kind of New Years resolutions, like, set one alarm instead of five with death threats attached to them.

I woke up around the same time I wake up every day. The same time that I wake up if I’ve worked through the night – which is most nights. I opened one eye. Threw my hand up to pull open the curtain behind my bed, and turned – groaning. My body was rebelling against me – full rebellion. Every muscle screamed, and it wasn’t because of an intense exercise session the day before, no, it was probably because of the lack of one for a while, the mountain of things that I had been worrying about, trying to sort out during the last week, all the work I was trying to put through on time, and just the lack of a much needed private worship session. If I had to be honest with myself, I’d say that much of my pain was because of a lack of discipline, or, good habits that allow my body to function properly within the time set for the specific action – muscle memory, you know?

I wasn’t always like this. There was a time when I was a control freak. I woke up like clockwork every day and did a whole lot of potentially OCD things that caused a few very real panic attacks – Jesus had to teach me to calm down and operate out of rest and peace. And, I did it. I learnt. I shed some of my ‘bad’ habits and adopted new ones, only to, in turn to find myself here: with a ton load of other ‘bad’ habits that I can’t blame on being creative, or find a reason for in research.

An unknown wise man said the following:

“Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most.”

Regretfully, a lot of creative people (and I’m sooooo guilty), blame their ill-discipline on what they’ve found that they are by nature, and sometimes, without even thinking about it, chose what they want now instead of what they want most. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still SO committed to the big dream and they visualise it all the time, but they detach the big thing from the small thing, unable to see that the small thing is what makes the big thing.

I feel like I can also relate my newly established theory to a lot of my generation. We neglect a ton of godly wisdom, like purity, because we can’t chose between what we want now and what we want most (maybe it’s because we don’t know what we want most, or, that view has been distorted?)

Whatever the case, I can never truly change or make a mark on culture if I don’t stay true to the first and most important discipline: spending time with Jesus – allowing him to fill me every day after being drained by an incredibly DRAINING world who consumes both art and opinion as fast as the people tasting Krispy Kreme for the first time in Johannesburg the other day.

The day goes so fast, and we forget – I know. And, then another day goes past and very soon it’s a week and you’re left wondering why you’re feeling so broken, in body and spirit as well. Well, my friend, it’s probably because of those heavy habits that you’ve chosen as your ‘want now’ and eventually your ‘want most.’

Today, I woke up and threw myself into Jesus. My most important habit, one that makes me light rather than heavy. I ran around the house screaming about how good He was, and I laughed with Him as well. The pain wasn’t gone immediately, but now I held joy – and how light joy is. Today, and every day, I choose Jesus as my ‘want most’.

When There’s Drought

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The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development have set aside about R114 million to assist the farmers in KwaZulu- Natal, South Africa, as thousands of farmers have been reporting critical crop losses, and there is an estimated 40 000 cattle that have died in the drought so far.

The Department for Economic Development in Gauteng is asking for more money to better give assistance the farmers, as the emergency fund that was set aside by the government isn’t enough.

In October, KwaZulu-Natal was declared a disaster area because of the ongoing drought and officials have put the cost of the ongoing drought as R2.1 billion. (Read the rest of the article here)

What is going on here is very reminiscent of our personal lives.

Drought is interesting because a lot of us who are living in the cities are rather oblivious to the stuff that is going on in other parts of the country, oblivious to the crisis on our hands, and carry on using water like normal. We don’t see it, and therefore it’s harder for us to believe it and do something about it.

Just like drought costs us a lot of money in the natural, it costs us a whole lot in our personal (spiritual) lives as well. A lack of the word of God in our lives, as well as a lack of the Holy Spirit will leave us feeling high and dry with nothing to draw on when times get tough. Most times, we have no idea what’s been happening inside us until we start feeling the restrictions in our lives (i.e. water restrictions). The decline comes when we get too busy doing everything else but looking out for our spiritual growth.

Isaiah 58:11 says, (MEV), ‘And the Lord shall guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.’

Another version says,

(NET) ‘The Lord will continually lead you; he will feed you even in parched regions. He will give you renewed strength, and you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring that continually produces water’

Today is Monday, the beginning of a new week and the perfect time for us to all just take a moment for introspection. If you’ve been finding it increasingly hard to make decisions and move forward, if you’ve not ever come into a relationship with Jesus and never asked him to become Lord and King in your life, allowing you to drink from the stream that will never run dry, won’t you click on the box below:

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Super…Girl?

In continuation with my obsession over superheroes, I’d like to mention one of the more recent additions to our screens by CBS – Supergirl.

Glee’s Melissa Benoist acts as Kara Zor-El (on earth her surname is Danvers aka. Supergirl) the cousin of Clark Kent (aka. Superman) who was sent to look after him when their home planet, Krypton was destroyed. Although Kent’s pod reached earth safely, hers got knocked off course in space and by the time she reached earth, Kent had already become Superman. So, she hid her powers until a near catastrophic accident in her hometown that forced her to reveal herself to the world. To most people she’s just an assistant to Cat (Calista Flockheart), the resident media mogul at CatCo. who is the most loveable meanie. Yes, we’re only five episodes in, but I am so enjoying the ‘refreshing realness’ of it all – which might translate into cheesiness for the Daredevil aficionado – and feel like we can learn some amazing lessons from FINALLY having a female superhero who isn’t hyper sexualised and it just, well… normal…

THREE SIMPLE YET PROFOUND LESSONS FROM SUPERGIRL

Attention: I’m about to be a spoiler. If you think that you want to watch it, I’m more than happy to wait for you here until you’re done, if not, lets carry on.

  1. Just before the big accident that forces her to reveal who she is, she goes through a period of frustration. She’s frustrated that she’s kept who she really is hidden deep down inside her for so long. She hasn’t used her powers for twelve years, she’s forgotten how to fly, then this accident happens and suddenly…
  2. Once she started walking in her real identity she needed guidanceSuddenly she’s Supergirl. No expert at saving the world, but she knows that it’s her calling – and she’s giddy, she’s normal but super, she makes mistakes, and she loses sometimes. She eventually figures that she needs her family and supportive people around her to guide her…
  3. The other people (peripheral’s) around her fail to see her “super”… It’s quite remarkable really, how it happens. She reveals her super to the world and works as an assistant for Cat Grant (head honcho of media conglomerate, CatCo.). There is a point in time when Ms. Grant demands an audience with Kara/Supergirl by attempting to fire Superman’s long standing friend (potential love interest) and photographer, James Olsen from his position. Kara goes to James scared that if she does the interview Ms. Grant will know who she really is and he says that she could never, because people refuse to accept that super could reside amongst them. Lo-and-behold, Ms. Grant looked into her eyes and couldn’t see who she really was… She was convinced that the girl who got her coffee could never be a hero.

It’s been so refreshing because I relate to this story so much. Especially in the area of pursuing my dreams or what I feel is my innate calling.

  1. Prior to doing what I’m doing now – where every single effort I make in my life feeds itself into the fulfilment of what I feel I was made for – I felt extremely unfulfilled, as if there was something huge stuck inside of me and waiting to come out. I remember the first time I lead worship and played piano at the same time for three services at my home church. I was fourteen years old. I will never forget the feeling. It was this overwhelming sense that I could never not do this again, because I was made for this…
  2. Starting is the easy part. Finishing or continuing well is the absolute hardest. We have incredible ups where we feel we’re so amazing and then stuff happens that seems to completely knock the wind out of our sails – we need a support system around us. I’m always saying this, and it’s quite true that if I didn’t have the group of people when I started, doing it alongside me, I might never have been where I am today. I might never have even gotten off of the ground. Because walking in your calling is one of the most liberating things and yet one of the hardest things ever – you need that support system…
  3. And one of the most baffling things ever: As soon as she starts to shine her community fails to see who she really is, even though they walk with and around her daily, ESPECIALLY because of being around her daily. And while it’s true that a prophet isn’t respect in their hometown, I feel that it is so healthy – to a certain extent. It’s a strange contradiction, because ‘home’ should be where the banner is flying the highest, and yet, there are countless times, when all Supergirl needed was for Ms. Grant to speak to her as Kara – not being afraid to speak into her life. Her delivery might have sucked but she gave and continues to give Kara valuable truths because she sees her has her assistant. I know it can be mildly frustrating. But, you, and me we need them – People who aren’t going to be perturbed to by any success we might have fallen into as a result of walking in our dreams, people who’ll speak to us anyway, people who’ll keep us on the ground – even when we’re Supergirl. 

The Watchmen

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I think the strongest memory that I have of my late grandmother of thirteen years is when she used to make us lunch and we would sit eating and drinking tea on the green couch while we watched the midday Larry King first and then Batman comics. Everyday.

I am enamoured for life and I blame her. I don’t think she would mind though because I am not a lone fanatic, how could I be? Superheroes sell, and I’m not sure of the number, but I’m sure that billions are made whenever a new movie is released, not to mention when a new comic is released. People are fans, and it was because I was a fan that I went in search of all DC-made movies and found Zack Snyder’s 2009 film Watchmen. As always I researched the film’s background, plot, cast and went through a ton of reviews. In one of the main reviews done by Roger Ebert I read the following:

Watchmen focuses on the contradiction shared by most superheroes: They cannot live ordinary lives but are fated to help mankind… that level of symbolism is coiling away beneath all superheroes. What appeals with Batman is humanity; despite his skills, he is not supernormal.”

Roger Ebert (for rogerebert.com) in a review of the 2009 film Watchmen by Zack Snyder, DC Comics and Warner Bros.

The reason that all of the Watchmen became the Watchmen (other than Dr. Manhattan who is the only ‘super’ in the film) was because they felt the call to promote justice and equality. They were normal, but they each had something that gnawed at their hearts and so could never live ordinary lives – even if they tried really hard.

If you are reading this you are probably privy to all of the stuff going on in the world right now: bombs, earthquakes, mass terrorism and more.

Just yesterday, about twelve French aircrafts (including 10 fighter jets) carried out airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria, bombing a number of ISIS sites, and my first response was – too soon. The retired Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks, a CNN military analyst, says that the attack was very visceral (instinctive)… because from the French perspective, “something has to be done” in retaliation against the attack on their nation said Marks.

Read this morning’s updated article here:

It’s easy to watch war and violence when it’s been carefully scripted into well played out fight scenes where the good guys (mostly) always win. We even gauge and compare the fights scenes against each other but when this stuff is happening – that’s when things get real. Now, now is when real decisions are affecting real people’s lives, and I foresee the airstrike as just the beginning, and if you’re like me, then you feel a gnawing at your heart to make some type of a difference.

Yes, this the time for us as Christians and non-Christians alike to wake up to who we really are: Watchmen. Yes, there might be no Tony Stark, Falcon, or Black Widow but there is a you and me: we have been called as guards who keep watch over our fellow brother and sister, not just ourselves and use our greatest superpower: prayer.

We are normal, we are ordinary, we have faults and we make tons’ of mistakes, but we’ve all been fated to help mankind. Jesus was our main example: he was an ordinary man doing ‘super’ stuff because he walked in the will of his Father. Jesus wants to show us how to walk in the ‘super’ and make the extraordinary, ordinary but we have to accept him as Lord and Saviour of our lives. Only once we’ve done that will we be able to truly exercise our gifts as children of the ultimate ‘super!’ This is especially helpful for all of us who can’t figure out where our place is in the world. If you feel like you want to know more about what I’ve been saying, you’re welcome to click on the black box below:

Escaping the Social Culture of Shame

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“And yes, I quit all of social media. With 570, 00+ followers on Instagram, 250, 000+ subscribers on YouTube, 250, 000+ on Tumblr and 60, 000+ average views on Snapchat. Tumblr and Snapchat are gone forever. My Instagram is left to expose the harsh and often humorous reality behind the #goals #instafamous culture and YouTube for purely vegan education. Deleting all those apps from my phone was one of the most empowering and freeing things I have ever done.

These are the words of Instafamous 19year old Essena O’Neill who recently decided to ‘rebel’ against Social Media, and create a website called, Lets Be Game Changers in order to explain her decision and to shed light on the ‘fantasy world of social media’ (Read more about Essena’s decision here)

I first found out about O’Neill through a few of the people who I follow on Instagram, and as with everything that blows up – I usually wait until the dust has settled to find out what the huge commotion is. Yes, I agree, it’s not particularly stellar behaviour for someone who blogs about ‘culture’ but this whole thing smelt of pretension for me. I was frustrated. I mean people selling their ‘souls’ to keep their visual aesthetic going already frustrated me. I had already steered clear from accounts that would make me feel like I needed to buy – that means that all online shops. I unfollowed people who took too many selfies or who were clearly airbrushed on the daily, all models (with the exception of a few who knew Jesus) because of the provocative pictures that I frankly think are unnatural and the women that I followed were eighty percent made up of mothers who are also creative because, one – I’m a creative, two – mothers don’t feel the need to sell their soul, they were already validated, and a heck-load more secure than the motherless population.

As opposed to O’Niell, I do not think that social media sucks. I have not built my life and validation around it (although many have). I think that the shame associated to social media sucks.

I’m going to employ the help of author, ‘Shame’ researcher and speaker, Brene Brown, to explain this. She says some great stuff in her book Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead.

WHAT IS SHAME?

  1. We all have it. It is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame lack the capacity for empathy and human connection. We are faced with the choice of experiencing shame or admitting that we’re sociopaths… (HAHA! Rather you admit it);
  2. We’re all afraid to talk about shame;
  3. The less we talk about shame the more it has control over our lives.

You see, shame is the fear of disconnection. We are psychologically, emotionally, cognitively and spiritually hardwired for connection, love, and belonging. Connection, along with love and belonging (two expressions of connection), is why we are here, and it gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Shame is the fear of disconnection – it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection. Shame is an intensely painful experience or feeling of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. Shame is something we all experience and go through.

THE 12 SHAME CATEGORIES, AS IDENTIFIED BY BROWN:

  • Appearance and Body Image
  • Money and Work
  • Motherhood/Fatherhood
  • Family
  • Parenting
  • Mental and Physical Health
  • Addiction
  • Sex
  • Aging
  • Religion
  • Surviving Trauma
  • Being Stereotyped Or Labeled

Shame is real pain! The importance of social acceptance and connection is reinforced by our brain chemistry, and the pain that results from social rejection and disconnection is real pain.

In 2011 a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that, as far as the brain is concerned, physical pain and intense experiences of social rejection hurt in the same way.

Research also shows that shame corrodes the part of our brains that believe that we can change and do better, and that shame is highly associated/correlated with addiction, violence, aggression, depression, eating disorders, and bullying.

WHAT IS SHAME RESILIENCE?

The ability to practice authenticity when we experience shame, to move through the experience without sacrificing our values, and to come out on the other side of the shame experience with more courage, compassion, and connection than we had going into it… Moving from shame to empathy. Because you see a social wound needs a social balm, and empathy is that balm.

Sharing something that you’ve created is a vulnerable but essential part of Engaged and Wholehearted living. It is the epitome of daring greatly. But because of how you were raised or how you approach the world, you’ve knowingly or unknowingly attached yourself to how your product or art is received (on things like Instagram, it is sometimes how YOU are received – if you’re a blogger). In simple terms, if they love it, you’re worthy, if they don’t, you’re worthless, and one of the two things happen at this point in the process:

  1. Once you’ve realized that your self-worth is latched to what you’ve produced or created, you don’t want to share it, or if you do, you strip away one or two layers of the juiciest creativity and innovation to make the revelation less ‘risky’ – there’s too much on the lines to put your ‘wildest creations out there.’
  2. If you do share your work in its most creative form and the reception doesn’t meet your expectations – you’re crushed. Your offering is no good. The chances of soliciting feedback, re-engaging, and going back to the drawing board are slim. You shut down. Shame tells you that you’re not good enough and that you should have known better.

You’ve handed your self-worth over to people.

However, with a strong awareness of shame and strong shame resilience skills this is a different story. You want people to like and respect your work, but your self-worth isn’t on the table. You understand and know that you are far more than that painting, innovative idea, effective pitch, that amount of likes and followers. Regardless of what happens, you have already DARED GREATLY.

 If you’re a female (and MALE) go and read this book because there is much more that Brene Brown delves into.

I personally, identified early that I needed to build up shame resilience and while I am not perfect BY ANY MEANS, I was frustrated that it took a highly strung teenager for the people around me to suddenly move into action.

I think we all (myself included, time and time again. Even after all I’ve said) have to look at ourselves introspectively and ask quite seriously (because the future of our children depends on it): how am I helping to fuel a shame filled culture, where things like self-hate, mammon (on steroids) and just plain down shallowness are given first place? Where I spend my time trying to make a nice picture that means nothing?

And, will I wait until someone gets frustrated with what I already know, or will I try to make a difference NOW in the circle that I am in?

Really, especially if you are a female and reading this today, I encourage you to walk in your god given identity. You are beautiful and more than enough. All of this other stuff is an intense distraction from the stuff that Jesus has really called us to, and if we never see it that way, we can spend a long time having lost purpose. Don’t do it. Build up that resilience by building yourself up in the promises of Jesus and who he says you are!

Being Aware: Mental Illness

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I remember the days following the passing of dearly beloved actor Robin Williams. The world mourned for the funny man who had fathered many of us through the big screen. The global fight to end the stigma of mental illness resurfaced after the world lost yet another celebrity to suicide with troubles that were rumoured to have been routed in depression.

Conversely, in her first interview since the passing of her husband, Susan Williams, the actor’s widow explained why it was not depression that lead Williams to take his life and opened up about Williams’ battle with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) – what she feels took his life – and their living nightmare in the months before he passed on in a recent interview with ABC’s Amy Robach that was aired last Tuesday.

Just like its better-known counterpart Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body Dementia’s symptoms include cognitive problems (behavioural) such as confusion, reduced attention span and memory loss. It is the second most common type of progressive dementia but unlike Alzheimer’s also affects the patient’s movement and mood. There are about 1.4 million Americans who carry the disease at the moment.

Even though it’s been just over a year since and the rumours of depression have at last been put to rest, our increased awareness of the seriousness of mental illness should not be.

Over the last three years, I have walked alongside family members suffering from mental illness and have seen friends all around me open up slowly but surely about their lives. All of these experiences have taught me the following:

  • Any preconceived notions were shattered (e.g. that only people who are visibly sad are depressed etc.). In fact, Mr. Williams was insightful in saying the following: I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that. This means that a lot of times the saddest people are laughing the loudest;
  • My friend or family member suffering from mental illness sees the world very differently to me who doesn’t, and so one must walk in patience and love all the time (we don’t always do good there);
  • Never to use words like “Depression” and “Nervous Breakdown” lightly again;
  • It’s okay to take the pills prescribed and still be a Christian. For a long time a lot of the church did not want to bring up the issue of mental health, and in some cases things like depression have been called evil spirits and demons, and so people battling with such find it hard to open up in church about either their sickness or taking the medicine because of guilt or fear of rejection;
  • There is always hope. I don’t think Williams had a relationship with Jesus, but let me tell you, once we have accepted new life in Christ our lives and all control is given over to Him and the greatest thing is that there is ALWAYS HOPE – He is our treasure! None of us can do it without Jesus.
  • You are not alone! Be encouraged – whether you’re the family member of someone battling with mental illness or you are the person struggling, there are people out there going through the same, if not worse than you! Community is important!

Cultivating a Healthy Personal Culture

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A close friend of mine is an executive coach and I recently had the pleasure of sitting and listening to her talk about what coaching is and how it can benefit one’s life. She described coaching as a partnership (coming alongside and walking) with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their professional and personal potentials (ICF).

She said one thing that really stuck with me, “Sometimes our minds want to be happy with the bad things that people say to us…”

You see, each of us lives life and see the world through the filter of our past experiences and a worldview built on something and sometimes we need to step back, think and take a look at stuff going on in our lives.

Jesus gave us the ultimate coach and helper, the Holy Spirit, who comes alongside us and helps us along the way happy to share our burdens and lead and guide us. In John 14:26-27 (THE VOICE), Jesus says to his disciples, “The Father is sending a great Helper, the Holy Spirit, in my name to teach you everything and to remind you of all I have said to you. My peace is the legacy I leave to you. I don’t give gifts like those of this world. Don’t let you heart be troubled.”

PERSONAL ‘FAITH’ CULTURE

Now, one of the concepts that have been riding around on my train of thought for a while is the use of language within a culture, particularly the cultures we cultivate within and around us. Because you see, even with the awesome gift of the Holy Spirit, we can carry on living powerless and tormented, emotionally draining lives if we haven’t cultivated a daily relationship with him where we allow him to coach us… I call this developing one’s personal ‘faith’ culture.

WHAT IS CULTURE?

To grow in a special preparation (i.e. to culture something, e.g. a plant)
The tastes in art and manners that are favoured by a social group;
All the knowledge and values shared by a society;
The attitudes and behaviour that are characteristic of a particular social group or organisation.
I’d like to think that sometimes we’d like to accept and believe the bad things that people say to us about us because of the culture that we’ve cultivated inside and around us, and that culture is cultivated by HOW WE SPEAK or the language we use on the daily.

Language forms the parameters of any particular culture. The use of language (i.e. vocabulary found) describes and indicates what is valuable, of interest, and/or of concern within every culture – humans basically learn their culture through their language and transmit their culture through their language as well – and it’s important to note that every single time a language becomes extinct, an entire way of thinking becomes extinct along with it.

This got me thinking…

… Jesus (God’s son) offers us a new way of life – along with His helper, Holy Spirit, he gives us his peace and guidance through his word. Peace is definitely not cultivated through the cultures that we’ve cultivated in our lives from birth: i.e. we live in the world where personal cultures of insecurity, depression, fear, anger and other things are cultivated.

I think that the reason that Christians sometimes fail to be successful in life is because they want to still hold on to the language of their previous inner cultures and that thinking/talking is depraved. That’s why we sometimes really want to believe the bad things that people say about us or to us because we still ‘use that language’ to speak to ourselves.

But, like I said above, if no one uses a language or it dies off, then it becomes extinct, and if a language becomes extinct, then a whole way of thinking becomes extinct along with it. So, if we’ve cultivated a culture that is formed by a biblical worldview and live our lives speaking in the language that is taught to us by Jesus through the Holy Spirit, that negative stuff won’t even register with us when it’s thrown at us.

Romans 15:13 (THE VOICE), “I pray that God, the source of all hope will infuse your lives with an abundance of joy and peace in the midst of your faith so that your hope will overflow through the power of the Holy Spirit”

If you’ve read this whole blog and realised that your way of thinking and believing has been all wrong and because you have not accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour and have not accepted his gift to us and our personal life coach, The Holy Spirit, won’t you take the next step by clicking on the black banner below!

DARE YOU TO MOVE… and, THINK – for yourself.

Friday the 23rd of October 2015. I don’t think I’ll forget that day or the week that I lived afore, easily.

I climbed into my friend’s car to join her while she did errands and it didn’t take long for our conversation to turn to the most recent topic on everyone’s lips: #FeesMustFall.

“What do you think about this whole thing?” I asked her.

“Oh, I think a lot. I’m just not going to say much – I’m scared that I’m going to get blasted for my opinion, you know? Social media is scary,” she said back to me.

Just before being with her I was surfing the extra news channels on DSTV waiting for our president’s address in Pretoria and scouring Twitter for reliable information about what was really going on at Wits University. Things were tense. Students were waiting to see if the President had taken the cries of their movement seriously: a movement started by South African students to resist the impending fee increase that many (many) South Africans cannot afford; a movement started to guard their rights and education as a citizen of this country.

I don’t blame my friend for responding the way she did. In fact, how she responded was pretty normal. I mean, when things initially started happening and I saw a few of my other close friends responding and posting very passionately for the movement on social media, I still hadn’t formed an opinion yet, and I had no intention of jumping on bandwagons unless I had informed myself. So that’s what I set out to do: educate myself and will myself into feeling something, understanding something and standing for something. Because this, this affected my future (I am still a student) and the futures of my children.

The country’s elections were not so long ago and I find that a lot of young people – or just people for that matter, either chose to hold their vote or make an uninformed voting decision. It always feels like it’s easier that way.

At the back of our minds we feel that if we don’t know, we don’t have the responsibility to care, and we feel that if we don’t know, then we don’t have to feel bad for the minuet difference we’re making (we think we are only making a minuet difference).

This #FeesMustFall episode was not going to be one of those times when I chose to stay uninformed because it was easier not to form an opinion of my own, and easier not to know because there ‘really wasn’t anything I could do about it.’ No, this time, I was going to actively take part in history being made in my country – and speak out.

So, yes, you may be asking: How can my small voice make a difference? 

And, I’m going to save you the cliché but true, ‘every voice counts’ – because every voice does count, but sometimes we don’t want to hear that – because it’s something we’ve all heard tons of times before.

I’ve recently been reading through 2 Samuel and was amazed once again at the story of Absalom, King David’s son. Absalom had a whole lot of thing’s going for him – and was very rebellious, but very clever. He knew that the people wanted someone to hear their petitions. So, he stationed himself and about 50 other men at the city gates (Jerusalem) and they said to all the people coming through the gates with petitions:  “I’m sure your claims are truthful and have merit, but the King has not appointed anyone to hear your case. If only I were appointed the authority in the land! Then anyone with a petition could come before me, and I would give him justice” (2 Sam 15: 3-4, THE VOICE)

The people eventually voted him into power while his dad was still king and he overthrew his dad – Which is not GOOD (but, I have something good to say, so just hear me out)! I mean, David wasn’t even a bad king – he was a great one! If anyone knew the petitions of his people, it was David, but… he had one disadvantage to Absalom: He wasn’t at the city gates.

To me the city gates speak of accessibility. Absalom understood one principle: If he was going to reign like he wanted, it was not going to happen from sitting in his palace, it was going happen by him meeting the people as they brought their needs, hearing them out and offering them comfort.

To me, my home represents ‘comfort’: where I can carry on thinking about myself and my dreams and my things and things that concern me, and be totally frustrated by anything that happens outside of my walls. Or, if I really want to rule and make a difference in culture around me by infiltrating with a godly standpoint (biblical worldview), I can sit at the proverbial gates and hear people out.

Psalm 72: 4 (THE VOICE) says, “May the king offer justice to the burdened and suffering, rescue the poor and needy and demolish the oppressor.”

Anyone who wants to rule in their respective field, has to first serve. There’s no way that you’re going to get to the top without serving someone else. Your service (whatever that service may be) is a gate for you to get to another level.

In this case, service is justice offered to the burdened and oppressed.

I’ve learnt a lot from all of this. The main lesson being: We’ve all been given ears, we’d better use them – and if you’ve been given a voice, then YOU SURE AS LIFE, BETTER USE IT!

I’ve been given a voice and I dare you to move with me this week. The first way to move towards using your voice is finding it, and the first place you can find your voice is by finding your identity when you accept the new life that Father God offers to anyone who’s willing.

Click on the banner below to find about the God gives a voice to the oppressed and who gives us strength to dare greatly and move greatly! 

When Light Is Loud

“What advice would you give to a Christian who is doing art or anything else outside of the church but who still wants to be ‘relevant’ to the world we live in today?”

This was a question I was asked on a recent radio interview and I thought I’d address it here for anyone struggling with this.

Ever since Eskom started enforcing load shedding my family has been trolling me about switching off lights when I don’t need them or am not in the room. In the beginning, it was really hard for me because I am incredibly absent-minded when it comes to stuff like that but I made a concerted effort. Even with my concerted effort, however, I still managed to leave the lights on.

It got a bit interesting when I moved house. The main bathroom of that house has a really loud extractor fan that comes on as soon as one switches the light on.

“Brrrrrrr…”

“Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr…”

That’s the drone-like noise that reminds one to get up and switch the lights off if one ever leaves them on. My brain started associating ‘lights left on’ (or, ‘light’) with that noise really quickly, and so I got a whole lot better at remembering to switch lights off.

“Yus, that light is loud…” I said to myself last week – it triggered a series of revelatory thought patterns and it was like I suddenly understood a few things that Jesus said, in a new way.

And you, beloved, are the light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden. Similarly it would be silly to light a lamp and then hide it under a bowl. When someone lights a lamp, she puts it on a table or a desk or a chair, and the light illuminates the entire house. You are like that illuminating light. Let your light shine everywhere you go, that you may illumine creation, so men and women everywhere may see your good actions, may see creation at its fullest, may see your devotion to Me, and in turn may praise your Father in Heaven because of it.”

(Matthew 5:14-16 The Voice)

As an adjective, the dictionary describes loudness as ‘being characterised by or producing sound of great volume or intensity.’ Light, is ‘the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible,’ and to stimulate is to ‘encourage or arouse interest or enthusiasm in.’

Once we have accepted Jesus and allowed him to take control of our lives there is something miraculous that occurs and he starts working inside of us, changing us. When Jesus (who is pure light) resides inside of us, it is almost impossible for other people not to see Him. Our light should stimulate other’s interest or enthusiasm for Jesus, or even just for more in life – and it will if we are walking with the Holy Spirit.

I’ve gone through all of the stages of guilt as a Christian because I thought that maybe I should have said more, or done more, but I was wrong. Me just living out who Jesus made me and not underestimating the work of the Holy Spirit in and through my life, makes everything that I do LOUD and STIMULATE interest in him.

I would like to pair what the Bible says about light with sound. In a dark room, even just a bit of light is loud. It shouts. When someone’s wearing really bright clothing we say that they’re dressed loudly, and in both those cases/scenarios, not a word was spoken. It’s not so much a case of trying to be relevant as it is a case of just living your life.

Now, I’m not suggesting you never speak out about truth (please do, in every and any occasion possible), but I am saying that because of the state of the world right now, as soon as you switch your proverbial light on you can’t do anything but shine out loud. 

Form And Function

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“Where you start’s not where you’ll end,

You strain to see more clearly –

Like being led by blending lights.

I thought I saw,

I thought I knew

You made it sound so certain

How did all these lines become so blurry?

Won’t you hold my hand in the darkest night?

Won’t you hold my hand till the morning light?

Won’t you hold me now when I’m weak inside?

Will you hold me through these blurry lights?

What we want and we mean – my body’s tired and broken

Nothing’s ever black and white.

I thought the years would make me wise –

When was I mistaken?

When did life become so blurry?

Won’t you hold my hand in the darkest night?

Won’t you hold my hand till the morning light?

Won’t you hold me now when I’m weak inside?

Will you hold me through these blurry lights?

… Love make us stronger… ”  

 – From Blurry (song no.3 in Gang of Ballet’s new Form And Function EP)

Pop sensibility, interesting drum machine patterns, the ebb and flow of a fantastic deep bass, and genius lyrics that are both conscious and catchy are just a few of the reasons why I’ll continue to rate Gangs of Ballet as one of my five most favourite South African bands (I am still putting that list together, it just seems unfair to say they are number one – I’m just trying to remain objective here…).

In Nylon and Blurry we hear the band embrace a refreshingly minimalistic sound (quite popular in music today) without robbing us of their deliciously complex arrangements and trademark chord sequences (more pronounced in songs like, I Can Hear You and Seven).

Not everything is perfect though. I’m a serial “Never-Listen-To-Singles-Wait-For-The-Full-Project” person, and with good reason: I constantly get disappointed by the singles that artists choose to put out but end up liking them when I’ve listened to them within the context of the full project. I feel that I proved myself right again with the first single released from this project, Always. I felt the same way about Always as I did about the first single, Don’t Let Me Go, from Gangs of Ballet’s debut album Yes-No-Grey – I don’t like it singularly, and will argue that it is one of the weakest tracks on the project, but the project itself is still mind-blowing and the amount of collective quality that it delivers as a South African product is tremendous.

As a lover of Jesus, I am continuously encouraged and particularly edified by the common themes of love, faith, hope in the Gangs of Ballet songs that are, for the greater part, written by band front-man and guitarist, Brad Klynsmith – the band also includes Brad’s younger brother, Josh Klynsmith and Jonathan Rich, the drummer and pianist respectively. The songwriter regularly asks questions and talks about the struggles one might have in life – particularly when one has to make good decisions or hold onto truth. I am even more encouraged by knowing that the band knows and loves Jesus and that their message is so widely accepted on our local Radio Stations and such.

It’s Monday today, and I understand that your day might be off to a rough start. If so, grab yourself a coffee and some encouragement in the way of new music that’s good for your soul from the “African Coldplay” Gangs Of Ballet (that comparison didn’t come from me – promise).

Buy the album here: http://gob.lnk.to/FormAndFunction1

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