Expectations and Faith

For the longest time, perhaps as long as I can remember, my usual go to for conflict resolution has been shoot first and ask questions later, and when that doesn’t work burn the bridges and walk away. And for whatever reason that has served me thus far. I can think of some horrific events in my life where those strategies have indeed served me well.

But now I’m 32, and I’m a husband and a father, I am a leader in my community and these methods aren’t going to cut it anymore.

You see, for nearly my entire adult life I’ve been living under a shadow, and not unjustly I’d say. The expectations I’ve placed on myself (and on others) are so heavily based upon this cloud: I need to be the best before I can be accepted; I need to prove that I am worthy of your adoration and praise so I can live in peace without your approval. If I can just be holy enough or spiritual enough then God will accept me, when I don’t need God’s help, then I’ll have met His standard. I’ve been asking God to help me live my life without His help. This has not served me well.

You can see the paradox that this situation causes, and you might think I’d have seen it all a long time ago; I wish I had. But it’s only really been in the last few months that it’s come to light. It’s only been in the last few months that I’ve been given the grace to see this for myself, not for the lack of trying from others to graciously show me, or rather help me to see it for myself. The chief among these gracious and loving people of course is my wife.

But I wonder, perhaps I am finally ready to see it for myself. Perhaps now things are in place where this fortress I have built for myself can finally be dismantled from the inside out.

I must be honest, I’m scared. I’m confronting negative patterns of behaviour and thinking. So often (daily) I dwell on negative things and assume the worst. So often I have situations (often entirely fabricated) play over and over again in my head like a movie on repeat. I’ve been meditating on the bad and reinforcing a mindset that is based on fear, not love, for at least the last 14 years. And perhaps one of the scariest things is that I don’t know how to change these things. And with that statement you can see how early this journey is (I am still relying on me). I am currently facing a situation where my old MO is not actually bad or wrong, to leave the situation is not necessarily wrong I believe, but I know it’s not the better option, I can choose to push in to this with God and see some change.

I have been wondering how this mindset has affected my marriage, my children, my family, my friends, those I work with, those I have met along the way… I wonder if they could see how far I have come that they would allow me some kind of concession, if they could see the weight I carry would they be lining up for life advice? It doesn’t matter because those people cannot see those things, I’ve hidden them for the most part because strong people don’t have massive failures in their lives… And these weights and distance I have come, I have only managed to do so because of God’s grace and mercy. There are doors that have opened for me that should be shut, there are opportunities I have taken a hold of that should never have been within my reach. I need to stop pretending that this has been my doing.

At church this week we had a guest speaker, Shannon Riley, come and share. It was a great message (link here for iTunes or alternatively search for “Beyond Church Australia” in you favourite podcast app/website, believe it or not there are 2 Beyond Churches, our logo looks like mountains). In it he very candidly shared about some of the hardships and trials he had faced. The point is he spoke at one point about letting God turn a test into a testimony and turn a mess into a message. I think it’s time I allow myself to stop hiding and use my life as His canvas, not my own anymore.

I’ve been looking to other people for my value, and it has brought hurt and pain to cover my hurt and pain. I’ve been striving to be the best to prove I am more than my failures, and it’s only proven I cannot achieve this.

It’s time to forgive myself, just as Jesus has done. It’s time to let Holy Spirit be my strength just as He has been for countless believers for millennia. It’s time to be OK with not being the best, but sure of my mission, sure of who I am, who God says I am. It’s time to dismantle the prison I built to keep myself “safe”.

I realise that I actually must do some work here, but I’m not going to do it by myself anymore. It would be easy (and not wrong) to blame the institutions and cultures of the world in which we live for some of these failings but God is bigger than all of those things. I hope one day He’ll use me to help others dismantle their own prisons with His help.

I don’t know how long it will take but I don’t want to give up. For starters I am going to stop asking God to help me become the best version of myself without Him, and start asking for Him to be enough. I am going to have faith that God has got this, and more than that, He has got me.

Advertisements

Doing the dad thing

Recently my eldest daughter watched the Disney movie Frozen. I won’t bore you with all the things I think are wrong with that movie, suffice to say that Disney really blew it marketing the magically-gifted Elsa as the protagonist rather than her not-magically-gifted sister Anna.

If you’ve been anywhere with small children in the last few years I am sure you have noticed many more children dressed as Elsa, rather than Anna. Now this, is something that really can’t be helped. I know because I’ve seen it with my own kids.

Let’s rewind a little for some context though. Sometime ago my daughter was wearing a princess costume and began giving her mum some attitude along the lines of “I’m a princess and I don’t have to!!” (the request was something simple like using her manners). Now my wife is a brilliant lady and responded with:

“Princesses are wise and kind and brave. Until you can be those things you cannot wear this costume.”

Now that was a quick solution to an immediate problem. But it has since become something we teach our girls to be, how to act. To be kind and wise and brave in all that they do. Personally I think it’s a really great motto for anyone to live by in our day and age. We have made it part of our family and spirituality and try to keep it at the front of what we do.

Anyway, back to Frozen. Now we didn’t like the movie to begin with, and avoided showing it to her, for starters we don’t have a TV in the house, plus the movie is terrible… But my mum decided to buy a copy and my daughter saw it at parents’ house. Not a big deal. Not a big deal until my daughter decided she wanted to be Elsa. Now Elsa is not kind, nor wise, nor brave. And yeah sure, maybe it’s not her fault, probably her parents’ can be blamed for such horrid parenting right? Maybe; but it doesn’t matter. The hero of the story is Anna!

Anna is the one who is selfless and acts only out of love, Elsa on the other hand does not.

Cue months of explaining that Elsa is not wise or kind or brave. Cue months of explaining that Anna is kind and wise and brave (OK maybe not entirely wise, but more wise than Elsa). My daughter still doesn’t want to know about it though. Then all of a sudden something changes, with no warning she puts on her Frozen dress and says “Dad my name is Anna, she is kind and wise and brave”.

AMAZING!

“Dad, Elsa is naughty!”

“Well, not really my love, she just isn’t kind or wise -“

“She is naughty, like my sister, my sister is Elsa!”

Close enough…

Pursuit of Accuracy Part One

This post may be offensive to some, particularly Australians, where shooting is viewed rather poorly. That said it is geared towards shooters. It deals with hunting and the realities of our diet. If you find you’re offended allow me to encourage you to honestly reflect why, especially if you buy meat from a butcher or supermarket. I wonder if you are reading this in a friendly or aggressive tone? If you are vegetarian or vegan you have already made the conclusion that you want nothing to do with eating animals, the reasons for which are entirely yours to own. I applaud you for tapping out, most people I have spoken to do this because of the ethical concerns inherent in our meat production system. I have chosen to tap out of the same system, but I have chosen to keep eating meat and I am going to and get it myself and have gone to great lengths to ensure I can do it legally, ethically and sustainably. I see this as a step towards limiting the meat in my diet and limiting my global footprint, while undertaking pest control at a local level.

For the past 18 months I’ve held a firearms license. There are strict conditions around holding a firearms license in Australia; each state and territory issues their own licenses based on conditions set out in the National Firearms Agreement so the requirements are nearly identical, this is one area where states and territories are phenomenally in line with each other, but that’s another series of posts entirely.

The point is that since this time I’ve been interested in accuracy, as all shooters are. Specifically rifle accuracy; though I enjoy shotgunning too.  My interest in accuracy stems from the ultimate goal of firing a shot: to hit your target, whether it is an animal you have been hunting, a piece of paper from a bench at a range or bottles and cans set up on fence posts. You squeeze the trigger with the goal of hitting a target.

It cannot be denied that rifles are tools for killing, that is their purpose, or rather tools to  direct a bullet, which is the mechanism that kills. As humans we have spent millennia perfecting the way we kill. Our hunter-gatherer roots, attested to through vast archaeological records, have been improving the way we hunt and harvest our food, to deny this is simply to deny who we are. We are so proficient at it presently that most of us (in the West) have likely never killed an animal (at least not intentionally, and most certainly not intentionally for our consumption), yet we consume vast quantities of meat, more meat than our planet can sustain.* Yet all this aside, the rifle is the natural evolution of the rock, the spear and the arrow. What humans lack in brute strength and natural weapons like claws and fangs we have made up for in our large brains.

The purpose of the spear and the arrow were to kill, and the faster they do this, the better it is for the quarry and the hunter. The quarry’s death is fast and clean, the hunter’s dinner is not tainted with adrenaline and there is no long chase to find an animal that is wounded. The bullet has this same purpose. The bullet is designed to end the life of the animal by destroying the vital organs causing a swift death.**

I would suggest that target shooting is simply practice for killing, either in war or hunting. That said, many target shooters utilise skills and equipment which cannot be transferred to hunting contexts. You may think this is barbaric but many sports have their origins in training for killing and hunting like discus, javelin, wrestling, shot put plus most track sports. Target shooting is practice to perfect the shot when the time comes to end the life of another animal. Practice to ensure that once the bullet leaves the barrel, it connects with its target properly; a fast, clean death.

And in reality, this is the foremost concern for the hunter. As outlined above if there is no other motivation beyond selfishness, the hunter who kills their prey instantly does not need to track a wounded animal, nor do they risk meat taint from cortisol or adrenaline. But there exists a far greater motivator: compassion.

You may baulk at the idea of a hunting being motivated by compassion. You could simply say “go buy your meat where hunting is removed from the equation entirely”, though you’d need to ignore what animals endure to get to the supermarket to suggest this as being a better alternative. Alternatively you could suggest to go vegetarian/vegan, you may choose this, but it is quite presumptuous to suggest others also do the same. This again is not the point.

Compassion is a massively strong motivator for hunters. Anyone who has seen any animal suffering knows the feeling that comes as a witness to such an event. Your desire becomes the welfare for the animal. To end its pain by helping it or ending its life if it is beyond help. When you have the potential to cause immense suffering or none your choice is none. To ensure you cause none you must have the skills and knowledge to place the bullet so it can complete its job, to rapidly end the life of your quarry.

This means ensuring your rifle is capable of a certain amount of accuracy so you know with confidence that when you squeeze the trigger, your bullet’s point of impact is the same as your rifle’s point of aim. If your rifle cannot do this, it is not accurate. If your rifle cannot do this repeatedly, it is not accurate. If the tools you have are not up to the standard of work, then the standard of work will fall, and there will be consequences. In the case of an inaccurate rifle, we simply cannot risk wounding animals because we didn’t care enough in our preparations. As a hunter, if you do not value the life of your quarry to ensure you can end it swiftly, the fruit and vegetable aisle is waiting for you.

I’ll follow this up some more soon.

In the meantime head to Terminal Ballistics Research for more than I could ever hope to offer you.

*This is not to suggest we are eating the planet of its species, rather the amount of land and resources we are pillaging and destroying in the pursuit of creating the animals we consume is not sustainable, not to mention the by-products of such processes.

** This is of course a simplified version. There are many bullet designs entirely inappropriate for hunting because they cannot cause a rapid death.

Exploring Theological Themes in the Music of Singer-Songwriters

This post is simply to serve as a link for an article I wrote for Crucis.

Crucis is an academic outlet if like for Alumni of Alphacrucis College. AC is the college of my denomination, Australian Christian Churches. It is a Pentecostal movement with over 300,000 members and growing quickly.

The link is here, I hope it provokes some thought:

Exploring Theological Themes in the Music of Singer-Songwriters

The Art of the Shave.

I like to let my beard get a little long. In fact I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of letting it happen. There are only 2 people I’ve come across that have in anyway objected to it, vocally at least. One is the woman I married, I do love my wife and if my life were a boxing match, I’m punching well and truly above my weight class, even if she doesn’t love the beard.

If you’re like me you probably hate shaving, in-grown hairs and rashes, no thanks…

That said there is something quite nice about a proper shave. In fact shaving with a straight razor has made me look forward to a shave. A wet shave with a blade that is at its very youngest is 53 years old (likely much older, the company closed in 1965), means no more in-grown hairs or rashes.

Here is the very razor I use regularly:

photo 1

It’s a Bengall. It’s also a spike point, the left hand edge is square rather than round.

I have also got a lovely brush, it’s a silver tip badger hair brush with a maple and jarrah burl handle. You can check out it’s creation process here. A big thanks to Harrywally for making it.

A good shave for me starts with a nice hot shower. A shower? Yep. Opens the pores right up, cleans away the oil/dirt and you’re going to have one anyway right? Then a quick strop of your razor on some leather (newsprint also does wonders). Soak your brush in hot water, lather up with some quality shave soap.

Now on that note, not all soaps are the same. I am sure you will see many people selling soaps at markets or artisan shops (why is everything artisan these days?) and they will tell you their soaps are great for your skin, work as shampoo, get rid of bad breath and make you successful, they also try to tell you there are great for shaving. My experience is that this is not the case. If you want a proper shave soap, get a real shave soap! Proraso brand soap is quite cheap and works excellently. Other brands like Mitchell’s Wool Fat shave soap are really nice. Razorock is also good and Mama Bear soaps are great too. The point is, not all soaps are equal. If you have found a goat’s milk soap or other brand that is not specifically for shaving that works well let me know. I’ll post a link to a youtube vid I made a while ago using Dove soap for a lather. It’s the best I have found so far, but it’s still not a proper shave soap.

Back to the shave, there are many ways to create a lather, some use bowls, some use scuttles, some use their hands. I like to lather up directly on my face. I load my brush with the right amount of soap and water then create a nice dense lather on my face.

With a white soapy face I then get my razor, down my cheeks then up the opposite side of my neck, swap hands and the same same for the remaining sides. Afterwards I will take care of my moustache and chin. For a second pass I will go down my neck. The feeling of the razor cleanly cutting those hairs away is one that is hard to describe, but it’s good.

It may sound a bit convoluted and involved, and in truth it is, but I think the ritual of it is part of the appeal. I’ll make a video soon of a full shave.

To finish I’ll get a hot towel and wipe off and remaining shave cream then apply a balm or lotion. Lately I’ve been using Aesop’s Moroccan Neroli Post-Shave Lotion, it was a gift my brother-in-law and it’s great.

Don’t forget to clean up any stray whiskers that have not made it down the sink and give your razor a good wipe down and a quick strop.

And lastly, enjoy the feeling of a proper shave, without the in-grown hairs or the rash.

Some Goal Setting

This year I’d like to achieve some goals. Nothing ambitious, but I know it’s going to be hard because it’s going to involve breaking old habits and making new ones.

If indeed I’m going to do it, it’s going to take some real stamina. The first goal perhaps is the simplest, as all it requires me to do is persist in my studies for another month. After that I’ll have completed the requirements for a Bachelor of Ministry through Alphacrucis College. I’ll need this join the Australian Army as a Chaplain. So if I can stick it out, I’ll graduate in April. This doesn’t sound too hard but I’ve got a baby due in early February (about 2-3 weeks).

The second goal I’d like to achieve is getting back on top of my health and fitness. I’ve let it slide over 2016. I’ve achieved a lot in 2016, but I lost control of this aspect. I’m not overweight, but I’m not healthy. So I’ll need some pretty heavy commitment. As part of this, I’d like to really limit myself to drinking alcohol once a month, or maybe just weekends. It’s gotten to the point that my body just feels terrible when I drink, not drink excessively, just when I drink.

Third one is strive at my job and church. I’m a chaplain in a high school, and I look after the college side of things at our church. I’d really like to see a whole heap of growth in both these areas.

Fourth is just simply to spend more time connected to God.

The last thing, and most important, is to be the best husband and dad that I can be. I don’t know what that looks like at this point but I know that unless my mind and body are in a good place, I’m going to struggle with the added complexity of another tiny human to care for.

I know these sound like New Year resolutions, and I suppose they are in essence. But I think if I can keep myself on track along the journey, it’ll be better for everyone.

A walk in the forest

I went for a walk yesterday with a friend. The plan was to go fishing but the weather was very windy so we decided to head into the forest where we could find some shelter from the wind among the trees. We ventured into the Watagans for a hike.

The area itself is an interesting mix of sub-tropical rainforest, and wet and dry sclerophyll forest. The Watagan forest bounds the southern end of the Hunter Valley (where I live) and as such is quite mountainous and receive most of the rain that comes down the lower side of the Hunter Valley. This creates a perfect environment for fungi; a lot of moisture and a lot of substrate for them to grow in.

IMG_3472
A photo from above the canopy as we walked down into a valley.

As a fungi enthusiast, a mycophile if you like, and after a very disappointing fungi season, I was incredibly happy to find quite of lot of fungi. Some very small, some growing on trees, some growing in clusters, others standing alone rising up from the leaf litter. I think more than anything else I was quite taken aback that these environments existed so close to my home and I was blissfully unaware the entire time.

Most exciting for me was the finding of a particular species: Cortinarius rotundisporus, commonly known as the Elegant Blue Web Cap.

IMG_3487
3 specimens quite obvious and 2 on the left. The white “fluff” on the left is the mycelium of the mushrooms.

This is was one of the species on my bucket list of fungi. The photo above does not do it justice but the colour of these fungi is quite striking. Blue with a rusty orange/brown centre on its cap. I’d been searching for this particularly species for a while but they are abundant in the area we hiked.

IMG_3482
Turkey Tails (Trametes versicolor)

There were also Turkey Tails (Trametes versicolor) in the area. These are an edible species that I haven’t personally tried but would like to someday soon.

There was also this pretty little one. I’d have loved to get some better shots but that would have required me pulling out the tripod and setting it up but we were on the move and the slope was quite slippery and muddy.

IMG_3467
Reaching for Life

 

But the real gem of the hike was a waterfall  located on Dora Creek. I often fish in Dora Creek at the point it reaches Lake Macquarie. This spot was very far from that however. To get to the bottom of the falls we had to climb a crack in the cliff face. Once we had made it down we were welcomed by a flight of stairs that had been constructed, but looked as if they hadn’t been used in decades. They were very sturdy and looked like they were part of some ancient ruins. They seemed very out of place but were clearly intended to be used regularly.

I’m not going to give away the location of these falls, because if you really want to visit, they’re not that hard to find. You already know they are on Dora Creek, that should be enough for anyone with Google Maps.

 

DPP_0003DPP_0002DPP_0001

Please feel free to use these images, but throw me some love in the credits if you do.