Men, if you want to help women with their body image, stop weighing in with your opinions.

Most men genuinely want women to feel happy and comfortable in their own skin.

Most decent guys hate the way the media screws with women’s minds, making them feel like they just don’t measure up to the ever-elusive ‘ideal.’

Many men want to help, but as soon as they open their mouths they get it wrong.

scream-mouth-background_23-2147492625The other day I read a great piece of writing by Tina Fey articulating the exact proportions of different body parts that today’s ideal woman is supposed to have. It was refreshing because it enabled women to see how utterly ridiculous and unattainable all of these combined features were.

In a beautiful moment of eloquence, women around the world were united.

Until…

Enter the man.

Bless him. He wanted to be encouraging. He wanted to point out that not all men want that ridiculously unattainable ‘ideal.’ So he picked out two features, named them, and said ‘Ew.’

And right at that moment he stopped being helpful. Because while the complete package is rare, the individual features are not, and all of a sudden, millions of women were told that their ‘rock hard abs’ and ‘narrow hips’ (in this case) were ‘ew.’

Good try.

Let’s get some things straight. Women come in all shapes and sizes. Men like different shapes and sizes. Now let’s stop talking about that, and engage with each others’ minds.

Because it’s not all about the bass, or the treble… it’s about the heart and the mind.

Please teach your children about unconditional respect.

I’m sure that one of the most horrifying moments for a parent is when they hear their children parroting them and suddenly realize what they sound like. I can sympathise.

But there’s one thing I’m hearing from kids that goes beyond simple parroting; it highlights a core issue about what we’re teaching the next generations about respect.

See, they think that in order to give respect, favour has to be earned.

That’s just not right.thumbnail

Last week I was teaching my German students about the formal and informal versions of ‘you.’ I gave them an example: “If Tony Abbot came to our school and needed directions…”

I couldn’t even finish my sentence without yells of ‘elephant ears,’ and ‘we hate him.’

They’re 13 year olds. They can’t vote for another 5 years and I’d be willing to bet they know next-to-nothing about politics. They’re parroting what they’ve heard their parents say.

What I want to know is, can the parents hear themselves? Can we hear ourselves? Those kinds of comments aren’t about exerting our right to have a political opinion; they’re about slander and bullying.

What kind of values are we teaching our children when we publicly malign and disrespect the person in the highest position of power and authority in our country?

Is it any wonder that teachers and police officers and parents themselves aren’t receiving the respect they deserve?

Some kinds of respect are unconditional.

The Pain of an Unfulfiled Life

624265_93192944No matter how awesome your life is, you know the pain of unfulfilment. You know what it’s like to be sitting in that dark, lonely place, with the aching knowledge that something is missing from your life.

It hurts.

Most of the time you get over it. You move on and focus on other things. But it will be back.

Is that a bad thing?

What if this life wasn’t meant to fulfil you? What if the depths of your soul and your personality couldn’t be fulfilled by material things, or even by people? What if your dreams were never going to be in reach?

Could you be ok with that?

I think I could. But only if one thing is true: Only if this is not all there is.

Because if this is not all there is, then my temporal fulfilment no longer matters.

If this is not all there is, then this is not my only chance at happiness, and maybe I can be willing to give up that which I cannot keep, to gain that which I cannot lose.

Should Christians really ‘focus on the family?’

I don’t know the answer to this one, but I do have some questions, and I’m interested to know what people think.

If you’re like me, and you’ve grown up in the western church, you’ve probably noticed a huge focus on the preservation and upholding of the traditional, often nuclear, family model. We consistently have reinforced that Family is important; Family must come first. We even have a conservative political party named for this very idea.dollhouse-family-portraits_2749316

But I’m starting to question it. Maybe it’s because I’m 28 and single. Maybe it’s because I realize that the only reason I’m not alone at Christmas is because I live in the same city as my parents and siblings. Maybe it’s because my heart hurts on mothers day and fathers day and at Christmas when everyone goes off to celebrate with their neat little nuclear families and I see others left to feel the gap; to feel like they don’t really fit in a world made for poster-perfect families.

Don’t get me wrong, family is important. Marriage is sacred and children are a blessing, but somehow I feel like the Bible offers us something better than the nuclear family. I feel like maybe the New Testament wanted to change our focus to the Church family; to turn from the nuclear to the community; to cultivate ‘all together’ rather than ‘us separately.’

If ‘focusing on the family’ means that some just can’t fit in, aren’t we getting something wrong?

It’s not the worship songs that are the problem…

599799_56053393‘Yuck, she’s singing to God as though He’s her boyfriend!’

Have you ever felt this way, or had anyone else say this? I remember some years back going through a stage where my friends were heavily critical of any song sung to God, that could just as easily had the singer’s boyfriend or girlfriend’s name inserted into it.

As I’ve been doing some research lately though, on the messages our world sends to single people through music, I’ve begun to realize that maybe it’s not the worship songs that are the problem.

Here are some lyrics from popular love songs:

Ellie Goulding sings “I need your love. When everything’s wrong, you make it right.”

Alicia Keys croons “nothing in this whole wide world don’t mean a thing
If I ain’t got you with me baby”

And Whitney Houston says: “I have nothing… if I don’t have you.”

The great tragedy that all of these songs have in common, is that they’re putting a human relationship in a position of pre-eminence. They’re worshiping the created rather than the creator. They’re expressing that they have no greater need than the man in their life.

The problem is not that we insert God into this frame. The problem is that He was ever taken out in the first place.

When I don’t get what I want and it feels like an existential crisis.

fussing-crying-complaining_2397598There’s something I want. I don’t need it, but the more I think about having it, the more I want it. It costs a lot of money, but last night, it looked like God was going to let me have it. It looked like I was going to be blessed with a really good deal, and like the spoilt child who suddenly finds a lot of love in their hearts for their parents when they’re getting what they want, I found it easy to praise God for His goodness to me.

Suddenly life was looking good. I felt myself basking in God’s favour. I saw God blessing me even though I didn’t deserve it.

And then this morning, it was all gone, and sadly so was my joy; and tragically so was my trust in God’s goodness.

It reminds me of this quote from the funny clip below by Louis CK, which is sadly far too relevant for my generation: ‘How quickly the world owes us something we knew existed only 10 seconds ago.’

How quickly my hope in God becomes dependent on Him doing things my way.

How quickly I allow material goods to have a defining influence on my happiness.

God has blessed me abundantly. But sometimes I don’t get what I want, even when it does seem that He has orchestrated all the stars to align to give it to me. How long will I allow my relationship with him to be dependent on His gifts to me?

Why prostitutes had an advantage with Jesus

382805_10150412644633143_1558372632_nSome time ago I watched a documentary by Louis Theroux about legal prostitution in America. What surprised me about these women was how broken they were. There were no pretenses. They are who they are and they know it.

Sure they have attitude and sass, and a lot of bravado, but once you get them talking, deep down, it’s not something they’re proud of.
It made me realize what it was that caused Jesus to hang out with them in preference to the religious elite of the time. While the prostitutes were under no false illusion about who they were and their need for a saviour, the rest of us spend so much time thinking of ourselves as good and trying desperately to cover anything that cracks the facade. The prostitutes of Jesus’ time knew they were seen as the scum of the earth, and came to Jesus in humility, recognising their true place before him.

Jesus had a lot of time for these people. And their humility was their great advantage. As He said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” It is our great disadvantage that many of us who think we are morally healthy by the world’s standards, are dying of pride on the inside, while the humble are receiving Jesus’ forgiveness and grace.

Why did God require such strange things to be offered to Him?

straws--straw_19-126743I was reading the other day in the Old Testament about some of the offerings the Israelites were required to bring before God. Not just animals, but bread and olive oil and incense and all sorts of seemingly trivial things. I found myself wondering: ‘Why on earth did God want them to bring bread with olive oil?’

I’m sure there’s a deep theological answer about its significance and symbolism, but just as I was pondering it I was suddenly hit by something profound: it’s not that hard to make bread.

God had many reasons for instituting the sacrificial system. The minute details that had to be executed with perfection emphasized God’s holiness, but I also found within his decrees an amazing degree of grace. His requirements were detailed, but they were all doable.

It didn’t require great skill or wisdom. You didn’t have to be the smartest or the bravest, you just had to obey and be faithful.

God could have required his followers to scale the highest mountain or walk through fire to demonstrate their devotion to Him, but he’s not that kind of God.

He’s the kind of God who sees that we are dust, but wants us anyway. He does not require more than we can give, and He sacrificed himself because He knew that the blood of bulls and goats would never be enough.

He is full of grace, right down to the bread and oil.