Love is…..

There are few words more powerful than the word Love. It is a word that is essentially overused in the English language. We use it to just about describe anything that comes across our path that we find favour with, we even use it in ironic or sarcastic circumstances too, just to prove we really do overuse the word. But Love isn’t just a word, it is something which carries far more power than we often realise.

Often love is associated with the idea of simply loving someone or something. We show affection towards it. It becomes important to us. We believe that it carries more weight or for a better word……significance, than the things around us. We hold a value in this that far outmatches other things. But the truth is that love means many different things and it’s value to some will be far greater than it is to others.

Sadly love will not always represent what you hope for.  To some it will be a hard place. A bitter memory, a painful loss. But these places remind us of the power of love and what it carries, or did carry and how it doesn’t always work out the way it was intended. People are human, they’re aren’t faultless. People will have their own battles and you may not get a say in it. We as people are far from perfect and sadly people do get hurt inside places where love should’ve existed.

Perhaps Love’s greatest asset is the action and reasoning behind it. As an action it is powerful. It has the ability to connect one person with another where circumstances otherwise may not have done so. It takes only a moment to connect people. As simple as helping a mother lift a pram on to a train, yet the action remains in that mother’s mind for longer. Why? Because you showed something of your heart towards her in helping. To love by action is to commit towards something. You show a focus toward it. You have a reason for which you want to be in that moment. There is a value in giving your time to that moment.

Your friends and family are perhaps your best example of where you can show love like this. Growing up i had plenty of friends but there was always a core group, much smaller in number that were your true friends. You know the ones that you would literally stop for and be there for? This was them. They’re the friends that matter the most. Often, like with family, there isn’t anything you wouldn’t have done for them. Their situation was almost always more important than your own.

It’s a selfless love.

It’s never been about impressing others. Or wondering what you could get back in return. It’s a feeling that comes from within, like an extra sense, that channels you in to acting this way. This kind of relationship goes deeper than most. It means something far more significant than other relationships. You could go long periods of time without connecting with these friends or family and things still don’t seem to change. When you catch up it feels like you never drifted apart. These are bonds that we’re lucky to have. These are the bonds most people wish they could have. These are the bonds you should never take for granted.

But what about the world we live in today? It feels often like everyone is out to look after themselves. It can feel like everything has a price and that in order to step out and give someone your time would be at the expense of your own time.  Our time is precious, perhaps more so than ever? We live in a world now that leaves us short on time. It feels like work takes up 70 % of our lives, that sleep takes up 20%(probably less for some) and that the final 10% gets divvied up among ourselves, our partners, friends and family. Time has almost become like currency. We value it more than perhaps ever before.

What i see in the world today is that it is very important to look after yourself. It’s crucial to develop your path. Whether that be through your career, your family or even simply your future. There’s never been more importance placed on those things than there is today. All of this kind of feels a little out of line though. This type of world focuses a lot on looking out for ourselves and not to worry about the other guy, securing our own futures which in one sense is all well and good.  But is that really what we’re here for? Surely there’s more to life than this?? There has to be!

I think one of the greatest things you can give someone is your time. Earlier this year i felt God telling me that i needed to invest more time in those around me. I’ve always had time for friends and family but i haven’t always been the most open of people. Being introverted doesn’t help. You tend to come out of your quiet little corner every so often. It can feel like an effort to simply invest your time in people. But i’ve tried harder at it this year and its been a valuable experience.

What it’s taught me is that there is value in all of us. We’re all so different. So unique! We think differently. We believe different things. We hold different things closer to our hearts. However when we come together and chat, or listen, We’re not all that different afterall. What i once would’ve considered weird about someone, i now kind of view that as them simply being them and there’s nothing wrong in that. It what makes them unique.

It’s taught me that these experiences we share have a way of growing us.  We open our hearts, we share our stories, but perhaps more importantly we are actually showing value in them by investing our time. We show them that they matter and that who they are means something. It also reminds me that we people need other people. Not just to coexist but to remain sane. Trusted friends or colleagues have a good way of understanding us and keeping us on the right track. They have a way of picking you up if your a little down and pushing you towards the direction you should be heading in.

In all this though the question remains.

Love is…..???

Well, love is still the most powerful force on the planet. Love reaches in to places where others would fear to go. Love casts aside all fears, it breaks down barriers that seem unbreakable. Love is offering coffee and your time to someone. Love is respecting the beliefs of others despite what you may believe yourself. Love is positive action in a situation that cries out for help. It’s stepping in to a place where love is missing and offering exactly that, love.

We’re all in the world together, and it’s no accident. There are lessons to be learned for all of us, not just in love but in life. As much as we navigate this life ourselves we should embrace those around us. Learn from them. Listen to them. Encourage them, encourage each other because that’s how it should be. It really is that simple. Love is what you make it to be. If you invest in something or someone, do it with love. Do it because your heart tells you it’s the right thing to do and remember that acts of love are like gifts of kindness. They’re meant to be received.

 

 

 

Travellers

I’m on a train to Melbourne. It’s getting late at 10:27pm. We’ve just left sleepy old Moss Vale roughly 90 minutes south of Sydney. A few people get aboard a train that is full as we journey further south. I could easily have caught a plane down instead. Heck! It would’ve been easier with a 90 minute flight up against a near 12 hour train ride overnight but there was something slightly attractive about taking the long route……oh and i’ve flown down more than enough times now to justify alternate routes.

I guess it’s more of a journey this way. Not just in duration of time but also in how you do it. You see more (even in the dark), you watch people come and go as the train seems to stop around about every hour. Part of you feels like more of a wanderer when you do it the slow way. You just have to be willing to accept the path in front of you.

Travelling is always something that peaks our interest. We take in new surrounds. We experience the feeling of being in a state of disorientation without actually being lost. I believe they call this exploration! Travelling reminds us that there is a whole world outside of what we know and call home. It reminds us that people anywhere and everywhere also have their own routines, that their version of life could be vastly different to what we would consider normal but none the less, it’s their version of a normal life.  It reminds us that we are all indeed different. I find that fascinating!

Sometimes we think we know all there is to know and all we need to know but travelling has a way of teaching us. We experience new things, be that culture and history for example and as a result our knowledge of life increases. We experience things that open our minds in ways it wasn’t open to previously.For that reason i think it’s important to travel, whether that be domestically or internationally.

Travel has a way of giving us perspective. It challenges the way we think. Relaxation is probably the most desired thing about holidays, followed by the desire to simply have fun and to feel as though we’ve satisfied our expectations. But it also offers us the chance for perspective if we look for it and perhaps that itself is a little under valued. Perspective has a way of reminding us that we make up a small minuscule part of this world. It is found in places where our way of living is challenged by what we see and what we learn . A lot of times these experiences are ones that stay with us.

Travelling also has a way of allowing us time to evaluate our own lives. When you’ve got 12 hours on a plane, bus, ship or train there’s only so many movies or songs you can exhaust. At some point your going to find yourself in a quiet moment where you’re likely to think about yourself, your friends, your family, your job and pretty much evaluate what it all means to you.

Travelling also has a way of  helping you evaluate your life upon your return. When you return you can feel a sense of continuing what you already know and be determined to do even better at life.  Sometimes though it works the other way. It can lead to a feeling of change. As if the person you were has changed whilst away. You can feel like a stranger returning to your old life, especially if you’ve spent a significant period of time away from home.

The thought of that is a challenging one. How and why is it possible to feel like a stranger in your own life? How is it possible to feel out of place in the things you once called your home comforts, the things that once were your home and safe place? These things were what made you, you! I believe it’s simply down to the fact that you’ve grown as a person in your travels. The things you’ve experienced in that time were of greater value to you now than the things you once knew. It’s not to say that things previously are of no value to you anymore but more likely it’s a sign that your season has changed and that’s it’s probably a good chance to evaluate and reconsider where you are and what you’re doing. It’s a moment where perspective is gained!

As for my perspective,  what did i learn out of a 12 hour train ride?? Well, a few things. First. I’m now officially done with overnight train rides, unless i get a sleeper cabin. Seriously though? What did i gain in those 12 hours?? More than anything i think i learned that it’s important to keep going. Just as the train did. It will stop along the way, things will change from time to time but there is a journey and an end destination and we need to keep moving with it in order to get there. Trust the process, have faith in the journey you’re on no matter how long it may take. In the end you will arrive where you plan to.

The funny thing is that when i arrived in Melbourne i’d forgotten i was actually arriving at the Southern Cross terminal and not Flinders Street Station (as i had imagined). The lesson there? You may arrive in your end destination but it may not necessarily look the way you imagined. Trust the process though because it will be exactly where you’re meant to be at exactly that moment in time.

 

Encouragement

Since sharing my writing in recent times two things have been made obvious. First, i have had a lot of friends and family who encourage me for what i have shared. One of the things about writing on your thoughts is that quite often many of these thoughts never become verbalised. They just store themselves up in a store room inside your head. A little like the spare room most families seem to have that simply fills itself with odds and ends. So to put them in to words……..that means something, to share those words with people then takes on another meaning all together.

 
It’s very much like offering people a portal into your mind. Which could be dangerous depending on what’s inside that head. Thankfully for me i would consider myself pretty sound. Pretty cool, calm and collected. Down to earth and level headed. So my mind is kind of a safe place to hang out inside of……i think???

 
The second thing that has become obvious for me during this writing process is that Encouragement seems to be the common theme in what i’m sharing. In no way was it a topic i sat down and said “Yeah you know what? i’m going to write some stuff on encouragement!”.

 
Nope. Simply didn’t happen that way.

 
It’s been a case of encouragement has been the path my mind has taken me down. I touched on it earlier that i seem to be this guy who’s always got others in mind even when i should probably worry more about myself. I love to remind others that they are important. That their story matters. Encouragement is something that simply comes naturally for me.

 
Encouraging people is a pretty simple and selfless act. It doesn’t take much. But the impact you can make on someone with a positive word can be anything. The possibilities are endless. It’s something that has been prominent in my own life in probably the past 7-8 years, probably longer still.

 
My church Pastor Matt has been in to me for a good chunk of this period, offering words of encouragement and affirmation. Not just to me, but to many of the people who call our church home. However actually receiving this encouragement is one thing. Making something of it is another all together. What these words do is allow you to grow. You see something of what is being said and realise there is truth in it. You build it up piece by piece and you benefit from it. That’s what encouragement should be. You should be able to use it for your own personal growth.

 
These days we live in a world that is as brilliant as it is stupid. A world that is as dangerous as it is safe. We live in a world that also is as inspiring as it is demeaning. Social media is a hotbed for much of this stuff. Social media is probably the most fascinating modern day gimmick, yet at the same time it represents all that is wrong with the world.

 
In my quest to write more i decided to use social media as an outlet to positively affect my mindset. How in the world could i achieve this?!?!

 
Instagram. Yeah, you heard right!

 
So i decided to use arguably the third or fourth most maligned social media app (behind Facebook and Twitter, though Tinder probably is close behind) to positively affect people?? Yeah i did. How? Well thank God for the hashtag! Because you can find a hashtag for basically anything and everything. Search words like hope, love, faith, encouragement and follow those tags and what you begin to find is inspiration. The world ain’t such a bad place after all!

 
What these Instagram posts do is affect your mindset. You start to see, read and think along the same line. Once it’s inside your mind you have a place that you can begin to expand your mind from.
What i have found since sharing my work is that there is a place for it. People need words that remind them of the good. They need words that resonate with their own minds. People need words that uplift them. They need words that remind them that we are all not so unalike. We all have issues. We all have concerns which plague us. Circumstances that challenge us. We all feel things, positive and negative. It’s life and what we feel or think isn’t unique to just ourselves.

 
We people need a reminder that we are all in this together and that we feel something. That is the beauty with sharing words. Words have a habit of connecting people to their own situation. Sometimes it can be a sentence, or maybe just a general theme of writing, but in this moment it can connect us. For me, being able to use my words and thoughts to encourage anyone is something that is not lost on me.

 
What’s also not lost on me is the power that words carry. Words when used incorrectly are like weapons. They can destroy a person in the wrong environment. However when words are used to encourage someone they carry a very different type of power. I’ve learned over the time that words are valuable. When they’re used to encourage their impact can be great. Never ever underestimate the power they carry and never ever underestimate the effect they can have on someone. And importantly never underestimate the impact your words can make on those around you.

 
Encouragement can be more than just words that are spoken. The fact that you took the opportunity to speak it in to someone will hopefully not be lost on them. Encouragement is as much about what you do as what you say. If you give people a reason to stand beside them it shows them purpose. It shows them you care enough to be in that place. People need other people and we need to be examples to others whether they be family, friends or colleagues. There is definitely a role we can all play.

The art of being a lifesaver

There’s something i have discovered in recent years about myself. It takes years to grasp the identity of who you really are, we’re constantly learning things about ourselves. We do it from a young age, through our teenage years it becomes intense but we struggle to process it properly for the most part. Over time we begin to realise there are certain things which we hold true and care about more than others
One of the best things i have learned is to uncover the identity of who I really am. What do I mean by that? Yes, i know who I am, but i’m talking more about the things that make me — Me. For me the journey to this has two parts. First, the life experiences that I’ve gone through. The experiences, the lessons, the people who have influenced me all form part of the identity that I’ve become. People are probably the biggest influence on who you become in life. You are essentially what you practice.
I consider myself a loyal friend, an honest friend. The kind that will be there when others desert you. It all sounds ideal but life is never that straight forward. Things happen, circumstances change and time can go by and relationships take on different foundations. But part of who i am is that i want to be the guy that puts others ahead of myself. I will literally drop what i’m doing if a friend needs something.
The other side to my identity comes from God. As a Christian this identity evolves over time. This one forms more mysteriously and can be even harder to understand. Some struggle with this their entire lives. It’s possible for a Christian to go their entire life and fail to work it out. What I’ve discovered is that i’m stronger than i ever give myself credit for. I’ve got a faith in God that could probably have broken several times now but arguably it is stronger now than it’s ever been.
I like to think that another area this has served me well in is in those things that mean the most to me. I’ve discovered that compassion is something that is important to me. Part of me has always tried to play the art of a lifesaver. Understanding the need for and showing empathy is just something I’ve always thought was important. I guess you could say I’ve adopted a mantra where if everything is under control for me then i should be looking out for those around me who mean something to me.
 
This year I decided to do two things that i felt were overdue. I decided to financially support some non profit organisations. Organisations which i had long endorsed and supported but never financially. The first was Save The Children. They are a humanitarian group who do terrific things world wide supporting kids in marginalised, war torn, famine effected lands. In a world where it seems you either have, or you don’t. I think it’s important to remember there are others out there with little control over their circumstances, and they rely on non profit’s like Save The Children to just make it through the day.
About a 2 months ago i started supporting another non profit. Love 146. I’ve endorsed their work for many years now. Love 146 represent the kids of this world who are affected by slavery and trafficking among other things. Their story starts with a man named Rob Morris who 16 years ago was haunted by a little girl he met who was saved from the trafficking system. She was given the number 146 and it started from there.
What they do is beautiful because at it’s simplest action it is an act of love. It’s reaching out a hand and saying “i got you, don’t be afraid, let us show you a better life.”. It’s a life that everyone deserves but too many seem lost in a web of deceit, sinister motives and rotten hearts.
Being a lifesaver isn’t about putting on a cape and wearing a lycra suit. It’s simply about recognising a need and doing something about it. It’s about having a heart that sees the need to intervene. Life is both a choice and a gift. I wonder what would happen if we started giving to lives on a more regular basis? I’m not just talking financially, but rather the idea of investing yourself in someone or something requires your thought, your time and a commitment. It could be sharing coffee? It could even be something as simple as making an effort to talk to someone.
That seems to be the problem these days. We as people are too invested in the wrong things. We focus too much attention on ourselves and often on things that really matter little. That reminds me of a quote from one of my favourite writers/speakers today. Jamie Tworkowksi is the founder of American non profit — To Write Love On Her Arms. TWLOHA exists to support and love anyone who is struggling. Whether that struggle is depression, the pain of losing something or one of life’s many other social taboo subjects, they exist to remind people that love can move and that hope most definitely exists.
Jamie has an amazing heart, he also has an amazing way with words and i often find myself in awe of his ability to say the right things for the right time. In this particular blog Jamie wrote of the responsibility we all have to those we come in to contact with, especially the ones we consider our friends, family or even colleagues. He said;
“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and roadtrips, airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else YOU WILL NEED OTHER PEOPLE, and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living breathing, screaming invitation to believe better things” – Jamie Tworkowski
I loved that quote so much that i bought a t-shirt with it printed on front of it. I connect with it because in my role of seemingly wanting to play “the lifesaver”, I want those closest to me to be encouraged by the same things. I want them to know that i get it. I get that life isn’t just about me. It’s about all of us. It’s about leaning on each other. Sharing the good times and softening the blows when the tough times come. We are not alone in this. We never were and we never will be.
We all have roles to play. Roles which require us to think outside our own square, or step outside of our comfort zones. The challenge in this is far outweighed by the reward though. It all starts with a simple action — just let it go from there.

Life

Life.
Life is mysterious in the same way it is predictable. For every path that is unknown it feels as though there’s a path of predictability or routine about it too. I guess that’s why they call it “the great wide open” because as i see it, some things are familiar yet the horizon is always changing. There’s a lot that can happen. Sometimes you see it coming, other times it comes out of the blue and surprises you.
It seems we’re always chasing something in life. We’re determined to achieve things and when we achieve that goal we move on to a new goal. It’s funny that we are rarely satisfied or content with what we have or where we are in life? Why is that? Is contentment a sign of stopping? Of not caring enough? Of losing your determination to succeed? It kind of feels like the world will tell us perhaps it is, because striving towards something is often linked with success, or at least the lure of success.
Chasing things in life is definitely part of the plan. It’s not just the chase to succeed however that occurs. Chasing success will leave you feeling accomplished but will it ultimately leave you feeling complete? It may for some, but i’m guessing for most the answer is — No.
The other day i read an Instagram post by Jon Foreman. Jon is the front man for the band Switchfoot, one of my favourites. In this post he spoke about life and things that make us feel alive, and what it means for us.
“When we come alive we are stretched to become more than we are. When we come alive we are thankful for what we have. When we come alive we are bold in our love. When we come alive we gain a perspective that was lacking before. Because life is both a choice and a gift — We seek after it and it comes to us. “
The post resonated with me not just because i respect the things that Jon says, but because I’ve found that he’s pretty accurate with his thoughts on this issue. I’ve found them to be true. Life is full of moments and scenarios in which have left us feeling alive.
You feel alive in the special times you’ve shared with friends growing up, even when the years separate the now distant memory the emotion you feel to that past memory is a reminder that you’re alive, because you feel something.
You feel alive in the moments you connect with people on an intimate level. It could be something as simple as a gesture of goodwill, like offering a seat up to the elderly, or sharing a joke with a friend that leaves you both laughing. These moments are the moments we remember, the moments we look back on fondly. These are like moments where life has breathed in to us.
The happy moments leave us feeling alive, but i’m reminded that it’s not always this way. When the moments are more sombre and depressive it is a reminder that life can give and life can take away. But, it’s okay to feel this way. It is after all another reminder that you are alive — because you feel something.
What I’ve found is that the things in life that most make you feel alive are the things you should chase. Perhaps it’s an activity or environment that leaves you feeling this way? Perhaps it’s a relationship? It may even just be a place that for what ever reason connects with you? Either way, it’s important to you because it does something positive for you.
When you’re in “that place” you gain a new perspective of something. You gain an appreciation for something when a new perspective is learned. It can open your mind or change your heart to the matter. That there is life breathing in to us. And when life breathes in to us we grow into something more than what we were before that moment.
Chase it! Hold on to it…..and don’t let it go.