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.

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.

Seasons

Seasons generally reflect a period of time. Most commonly referred to when speaking of weather cycles. In that respect it means there is a change, a change from one season to the next. Life too is about seasons. There are periods in life which seem to endure for a while and bring about a constant theme, feeling or circumstance before things change once again, like the saying about the “winds of change are in motion”, a new season begins to form before you know it.
I got thinking about these seasons in recent days as i recalled the last time i wrote something. You see, in this past week I’ve written twice. In the two years prior to that i would guess i’d probably written twice as well. I know that time played a role in me not writing in these past two years, but it also occurred to me that it felt like the season had changed and it was time to move on for now.
Then this week that same feeling came back over me, however this time it felt like the winds of change were moving back in. It feels like writing is a vessel in which i am to be used. What does this mean for me? I have no idea, but i feel that i need to be writing and keep writing and that at some point things will become clearer.
I’ve learned in life that people come and go, circumstances they come and go as well. Good and bad habits likewise. All these things seem to have a way of becoming the basis of the season we’re in. These things can be positives and negatives but there’s almost a non-negotiable fact that these are things that we need to endure.
So what can we learn in these moments where we endure? Some people will say that it’s simply one door closing and another one opening, which can certainly be true. Circumstances do create opportunity. However perhaps there’s more to it?
Perhaps the reasoning behind these doors opening and closing is part of a bigger picture? These seasons of change are most likely moulding you into something, hopefully a better version of yourself. The seasons you’ve gone through become the experience you gain and they become like your tools, equipping you for what comes next.
If those experiences are a negative thing then i believe there’s still very much something to gain from it. Your mindset naturally will dictate how much you take out of the season you’re in. But even in the most desperate of times there is hope of better days ahead and that you can turn negatives in to positives in the long run.
It’s also important to remember that these seasons don’t define your life. They don’t become who or what you are. If the season your currently in is tough then remember that you can use it to build you up and when those better days arrive you will be stronger for getting through what ever it is that you’re facing.
So it’s almost like seasons morph into reflections. For when one season ends you’re able to look back on it and take stock of yourself, and it’s these reflections which tell us where we are, where we’re going and where we’ve come from.
It doesn’t matter what your season is. But i guarantee it’s an opportunity to use it for your own personal good.
 

Journeys

So I woke up one mid winter Sunday morning here at home. Sunday mornings are generally reserved for church, or for a better word, time with the Lord. On this late July morning it was slightly warmer, In fact the idea of walking the 20 mins to the church was awfully appealing. The sun neither warm, nor cool, a gentle breeze without chill made it beautiful. A walk through the park on the way was worth it alone. The birds chirping, singing, on this most beautiful winter’s morning was something I was instantly thankful for. You see sometimes it’s the little things that remind us of how thankful we are for life. This morning felt like one of those occasions.
A cross of the always humming along Parramatta Road left about 5 mins before i hit the coffee shop. The people in here are generally family, it’s a family run business. They are good people worth a good chat. We chat coffee naturally and how easy it was for me to rid myself of sugar in my coffee. The Barista himself is not so fortunate. Generally 4 cups a day, all with some small amount of sugar. Coffee now in hand i walk the last few mins off to Haberfield Baptist Church further down the road.
After greeting a few of the regulars inside, i sit down at a table where i’ll run the data projection this morning. This basically means i’m the guy in charge for the song words you see on the big screen all morning. For me it’s a small role but an important one. Many will rely on you as you guide their eyes through each song that morning.
With still 15 mins before the morning service i pull away from a conversation with two of the guys to text a good friend. I discover on my coffee cup the phrase
“TALK TO ME AFTER COFFEE”.
I send her a photo of this as a joke. Not really thinking much of the phrase other than it’s a cheeky joke at her expense. The phrase though sticks with me and it’s then that it begins to take on a new meaning. The service is probably now 5 minutes away when i realise i could view the phrase on the coffee cup as something more than a cheeky joke. You see in recent months our Pastor Matt has been encouraging us to seek God in new ways. One of those is in the prophetic. Now call it coincidence perhaps but was something prophetic in the words on that coffee cup? Perhaps?
Here i was, the church service about to start with the phrase “Talk to me after coffee” on my mind. Yes, i was thinking that perhaps God had opened my eyes and mind to the expectation that he would be talking to me this morning and that i should be listening.
Preaching this morning was the always insightful and entertaining Lisa. Lisa has a good way with words which always effectively challenges us each time she speaks. This morning’s sermon is on Grace. Grace is a topic we’ve heard plenty about in 2018 at church, and in a good way of course. For me it’s been an effective tool for my own faith. It’s certainly made a telling difference for me.
Grace is a topic that hasn’t always been easy for me to get my head around. I understood the definition of Grace and why we received it but i could never truly believe that i had earned the right to receive it. Sin has a way of making you feel this way. It can feel like Groundhog Day. Like “why am i back at the same place in life, yet again?”. Have i not learned from the countless previous lessons? Feeling like this would always lead me to inevitable questions about weather or not i was truly receiving Grace the way it was intended.
As the service progressed this morning Lisa would say something which resonated with me. Something that for myself i had learned in my own quest to understand God’s Grace.
“For us to truly understand Grace we can’t define it, we need to experience it.”
This is a lesson I’ve learned myself in the past 12 months. Where previously i would struggle with the idea of whether i was deserving of God’s Grace, I’ve found myself in a position today where I have finally understood and now lived the idea of what it means. I don’t feel weighted down by my sin, i don’t carry it any longer and i feel better for it. There’s no one time i can think of where i can say i finally understood it, but over time i know that i began to truly understand it properly and i have no doubt that the sermons in church in recent months are part of the experience of Grace and understanding it the way it was intended.
It’s crazy, yet very cool to see the way God works in our lives. It not always the way you imagine, or the way that makes most sense but when you see the footprint of him in your life it’s all the evidence i need that he’s still very much in control. This particular Sunday was one of those days where being thankful for God is the very least i could be. For it was a reminder that i am on the right path, with evidence to prove it and encourage me to keep moving in this direction. That’s how journeys are intended. There’s a start and end point. But what happens in between is anyone’s guess, except for God. He’s navigating it moment by moment and none of it is an accident.