Do we even know whom we voted for?

2016-07-04 20.14.47Australia is awaiting the drawn-out verdict of our election. The probable hung parliament is an unsatisfying result confirming fears that Australians either don’t know what they want, or don’t have confidence in anyone to deliver.

A big part of the problem is that most of us don’t really know whom we’re voting for.

This became mind-twistingly clear to me chatting to both my ‘leftie’ and right-wing friends and trying to reconcile all of their opposing views based on contradictory evidence.

It was daunting to think that as an educated person, I had next to no chance of figuring out what would be good for our country. I wasn’t sure there was any information I could trust.

Were the candidates really whom their websites portrayed? Could party policies be taken at face value or were there hidden agendas that I could never support? Was there truth or merit in any media reports? Do any of us have any idea what is actually going on behind the scenes of our country in defence, or international relations or economics or anything?

As I watched the election count ‘barracking’ for the party I thought I wanted to win, a friend jokingly reminded me that it probably didn’t matter anyway:

Whoever the Illuminati want to get in will get in.

Let’s hope that’s not the case, but either way one thing is still true: God knows who will get in, and whether the world goes to pot or not, He’s got the end game covered.

What was Arnott’s really doing?

Original-Barbecue-175g-300-x-240-300x240I am far from an expert when it comes to the world of marketing (my experience is limited to analysing advertising techniques with high school students) but there’s been something that’s been bugging me and I’m surprised that no one seems to be talking about it.

What was Arnott’s really doing when they launched their new Shapes?

Perhaps everything we’ve been reading is true. Perhaps they did a lot of market research and really thought they’d come up with a better product. Perhaps it was a shock to them that the general public hated it. But I find it kind of hard to believe.

It’s not the first time that a market leading brand has screwed up a change. In fact, it happened just recently. Gladwrap changed the location of their serrated cutting strip and the public went wild. I bought a box of it, not knowing what I was in for, and suffered through inconvenient tearing for months. I had an idea of what they were trying to do. Get people used to the change, and then they’ll only want to buy your brand. It didn’t work. Or did it?9-2652612-nat210115wrap2_t620

Glad seemed to turn their mistake around by showing that they ‘care.’ They ‘listened to their customers’ and the original tearing strip came back. Now lots of happy customers return to buying glad brand.

Hot on Glad’s heels, Arnott’s has changed their iconic shapes brand, and not only do people hate it, but they’re publicly raving about it. It’s hard to believe, but The Sydney Morning Herald and The Herald Sun and others have run articles about it, not to mention the slather of social media posts. Arnott’s hasn’t had this kind of publicity since… well maybe ever!

Apart from the fact that ‘any publicity is good publicity’ what is the real value of consumers slamming Arnott’s for ruining their favourite flavours? Well Arnotts’ seems to have an ‘insurance plan.’ They haven’t actually discontinued the old flavour. What?? If a flavour is so new and improved, why would you have the old flavour, in very similar packaging, still on the shelves? Actually it’s brilliant. It’s fear marketing and intrigue all wrapped up in one. The scandal of the ‘inferior BBQ shapes’ has caused hundreds of people to go out and buy said Shapes just for the novel experience. Everyone wants to judge for themselves. Surely they can’t be that bad? Surely Arnott’s couldn’t have ruined our beloved flavours while leaving the less favourite ones the same?

tumblr_nd0ktnttzW1tm0icro1_1280Not only have hundreds tried the new flavour, but I imagine that hundreds have also rushed out to buy the old flavour like squirrels storing for winter. The real BBQ and Pizza shapes have become endangered species, and for the first time in decades we are afraid that our iconic snack could be pulled out from under us at any moment.

Arnott’s have had a market leading brand with iconic flavours for a long time, and the consumer has become complacent. Innovation is a necessity when you’re in business, but what do you do when you’re already nailing it? Looks like you create something new. An epic, newsworthy failure that sends the country into a hexagonal shaped spin. Far from a tragedy, they’ve just bought themselves months worth of free publicity, even if it is largely negative.

Can they turn it around? Of course they can. They are a company made ‘for the people’ after all. They’ll listen to their customers. They’ll repent for their wrongs. They’ll give us what we want like a bogus reinvention, and we’ll be so, so happy. We’ll reflect on how we made it through the Shapes disaster of 2016, how it was such a close call. We’ll look with love and relief on the aisles full of original flavoured Pizza and BBQ shapes, and we’ll buy them with renewed vigour, with the knowledge of what could have been, what almost was, if we had not banded together as the Australian people to save our beloved Shapes.

Oh the irony: It IS the scam…

Scams are dime a dozen these days. There are phone and email scams and social media scams and those that show up in your letterbox promising marriage to a Nigerian prince and more money than you could imagine.

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They’re annoying, but though many of us have been momentarily sucked in, we’ve all learned to be pretty ‘scam-savvy.’ Or so we think.

What does my head in these days is the number of ‘chainmail scams’ people fall for on Facebook. Sure, we all know that if we don’t pass on that letter or email we probably won’t have seven years’ bad luck, and our beloved dog Fluffy probably won’t die (I don’t have any beloved pet, but I’m sure it’s frightening for those who do). But it seems that thousands have missed what modern-day chain mail is.

Our fear has made us quick to warn our friends of any impending scams. What it seems people are missing, however, is: those ‘pass it on’ warning messages on Facebook? That IS the scam!

No, Facebook won’t shut down your account if you don’t share this notification.

No, Facebook is not rife with more hackers than usual, requiring you to ‘copy and paste’ on your wall.

It’s probably not even ‘International Siblings Day’ (for the 10th time this year.)

Share what you like, but share what you like. Don’t share because you’re afraid that life as you know it might change if you don’t. I expect things will be okay for a while yet.

What is ‘life?’

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The other day I was driving along and a large brown planetree leaf fluttered down from its branch at the exact moment that my car drove past. Its detachment from the tree punctuated the end of its life and its final voyage was disrupted by the whoosh of my car as it was swept upwards away from my windscreen, changing direction, finding another place to settle.

A lot of my weird, profound thoughts happen while driving. Driving under a falling leaf is nothing extraordinary, but for some reason, on this day, I was struck with a question about the nature of life.

The leaf was dead. It was once alive. I looked at a flourishing gum tree and wondered, ‘what is it that makes it alive?’ ‘What is life?’

Sure, we know how to distinguish death from life, animate from inanimate, but do we actually know anything about life?

I looked it up in a dictionary. Life is a condition, a distinguishing phenomena, a state.

I think that’s code for ‘we have no idea.’ We know a lot, but we don’t know that. We can create a lot, but we can’t create that.

For the Christian, it’s profound, but not so difficult to understand. Life is the unique, breathed out, creative power of God. He gives it, and he takes it away, and we just exist within it and watch.

 

 

 

 

You’re not as good as anyone thinks

If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be copyI care a lot what people think of me, which is why this quote by Spurgeon hit home so much. When you care what people think, much of your pride can get tied up in having a good reputation.

How often do we find ourselves annoyed, angry or even crushed when we discover that somebody thinks badly of us? It reflects a lot about how we view ourselves.

First, we are all prone to believe that we are, on balance, good people (and we defy anyone to suggest otherwise.)

Second, we value so much what others think that we work hard at portraying an image of ourselves that is even better than what we know ourselves to be.

We are quite happy for people to think more highly of us than they ought, but are indignant if they think less of us.

Spurgeon flings aside our flimsy façade and dashes our misplaced pride. Someone thinks badly of you? Don’t be angry, they’ve got it wrong. You’re actually far worse.

Don’t we forget that this is such a key aspect of the Gospel? Yes we have incredible value, but our standards for measuring our own ‘goodness,’ aren’t even close to the mark. In fact, we fall so far short of the actual standard that it is only by a phenomenal act of grace that we have attained any righteousness at all.

Truly we are not as good as we, or as anyone, thinks. But Jesus is far better, and, praise God, he’s got us covered.

 

 

What kind of man are you attracted to?

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As I was scrolling through Facebook the other day, I came across this picture. It says “The Gospel calls us to ‘man down,’ more so than to ‘man up.’ There is no masculinity without a core of humility.”

I’m not a man, so technically it doesn’t apply to me, but something about this hit me hard. Is that kind of man acceptable to Christian women?

Over the last year I’ve had the privilege of speaking to women on several issues of sexuality. One thing that has often grieved me is the way in which women are afraid that if they don’t dress in a certain way or act in a certain way they won’t be attractive, even to Christian men. Too many men, even in the church, have very secular standards for the type of woman that they want.

This quote, however, made me question things from the other side. As Christian women, what are we attracted to?

Sometimes, when I think about the qualities that make a Christ-like man, I have to ask myself ‘would I have even liked Jesus?’

So many Christian women, myself included, have adopted the world’s standards of what makes a man attractive. Instead of being attracted to humility, we are dazzled by arrogant confidence; instead of respecting dignity, we are obsessed with charisma; instead of godly, we want cool.

How important is it that we do not ask men choose between attracting women and following Christ?

The post that pulled 2,677 views

Today marks 3 years to the day that I’ve been blogging.

Three years ago, when I began, my friend and pastor asked me this: “Sarah, do you really think you can come up with enough content to sustain a blog?”

My response: “Andy, since when do I struggle to find things to say?”

Three years on, it looks like I’ve found stuff to say.

In blogging spheres mine would hardly be considered successful, but I thought people might be interested in some stats.

In the last three years I’ve published 192 posts, had almost 63,000 views and been read in over 130 different countries.

surpriseWhat’s even more interesting to look at is which posts draw the most views. I never would have guessed which posts would become my top 5, let alone which one would take the lead.

 

 

Far and away my most read post is My Anchor within the Veil, with 2,677 views to date.

Following that, here’s the rest of my top 5.

1,681 – What it feels like to jump off a cliff

1,303 – A few things you shouldn’t say to skinny girls

1,237 – How do you know if it’s a date?

809 – Why is the message of Christianity offensive?

 

It’s not the stats, however, that keep me going.

What keeps me going is the individual people.

The people who read my blog every week; those who read it sporadically but take the time to mention that they enjoy it; those people who I didn’t think would have known I had a blog, but suddenly mention that they liked a particular post; It’s the people, and their willingness to read, and the fact that I keep finding things to say.

Thank you.

Here’s to another year!

Hope is a killer

bench-free-photo_385-95Have you ever dwelt in the agonizing wilderness of uncertain hope? A friend and I have discussed this many times. While I have heard it said, that a person couldn’t live even one minute without hope, it has been my experience that hope can also be tormenting.

I came across this verse in Proverbs 13 some time ago, and it resonated with me: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Do you know what that feels like? To feel sick in your heart, even in your whole body, over an unfulfilled hope? A hope that clings on, without closure, deferred week after week? I know what that’s like. Hope is a killer.

But not always.

The pain of unfulfilled hope comes when we put our hope in things that are uncertain. The solution is to hope in that which is guaranteed. Yes, there are things I will wish for that I may not receive, but when my daily, hourly hope is in the promises of God I will experience “fulfilled longings that are like a tree of life.”

If my daily hope is in my salvation; in a God who loves me; in someone who will never leave me; in a future that is secure and a guarantee that all things will work for good; if my hope is in these things, then my heart will not fall sick, because I will discover, daily that my hopes are fulfilled.

Why I hate disappointment

Many years ago, feeling let down by a sudden change of plans, I emphatically said to a friend, “I hate disappointment!”

His response was “Really? I think most people love it,” and his sarcasm put me in my place with the realisation that of course no one likes to be disappointed.

kids-kite-1417233Still, I felt that disappointments and let downs hit me particularly hard. Why is that?

I think one of the keys is how much I can relate to this quote from Anne of Green Gables: “You set your heart too much on frivolous things and then crash down in despair when you don’t get them.”

Even now, well into adulthood, I frequently find myself “flying up on the wings of anticipation,” grasping for things that I think will make me happy, risking and fearing the crash of disappointment.

Today I am reminded, however, that while disappointment is a part of life, it would be greatly diminished if I were finding my joy and security in the One who does not disappoint. If, instead of chasing after frivolous things, I am abiding in Christ, disappointment will not overwhelm me. I would rest with confidence in the deep knowledge that in his love for me, he is working all things for good.

Turn off your lights so you can see

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Do you ever wonder what a person from 200 years ago would think if you just plonked them down in the middle of one of our cities?

Sometimes as I’m driving along I’m struck by the absurdity of the world I live in – a world that would surely be incomprehensible to people only three or four generations before me.

The concrete jungles that fall like a perfectly normal backdrop for our existence have, in reality, only existed in the last 100 years.

As we march forward, proudly carrying the greatest of human progress, I wonder if we have failed to stop and look for what we can no longer see. We’ve replaced so much of what is natural for what is artificial and many of us have lost God in the process.

It does not astound me that atheism’s unprecedented growth has coincided with the industrial revolution. Humanity cannot find God in his creation because they are blinded by the glory of their own creation. As I drive through the city my vision is dominated by cars and roads and buildings and power lines and paths and lights and planes and clothes and shoes and fences and windows… and suddenly man is the creator.

If only we would turn off our fluorescent bulbs for a second, we might be able to see beyond ourselves; to see that before we had covered the earth with our creations, far superior creations existed, and they must have come from somewhere.