Life is more than experiences. The endless chase for the next one won’t fill the ache in your soul…
Life is short. When you see the deterioration of people in old age and you realise that, while you’re not old, you’re not young anymore either, it makes you think about how you want to leave this world.
As I see people wither in old age, people who you’ve always seen as somehow invincible, you realise how fragile life is. We are dust, and to dust we return. It makes you think about the meaning in your life, and that we really haven’t got long to make a real difference. I wonder if it’s impossible for a young person to really realise that. When you’re young, it’s all ahead of you. It’s a young person’s world, it was said to me once.
It’s only the experience that comes from years; either that or great suffering in your younger years, that allows you to see that life really is fragile. A pastor once told a story of a man he visited who had just turned 65. The man wondered how he got to that age so quickly. It was like he woke up one morning and all of a sudden his life was almost over, just like that.
Life is not a dress rehearsal. It is to be made the most of. As I get older and see the frailty of the elderly, I feel anxious about getting old and I feel more of an urgency to leave the world a better place. It’s not about leaving a legacy; whatever people think of you doesn’t matter. It’s what you actually did that matters, whether people think it was good or not.
I think of the great sermon by Martin Luther King, ‘The Drum Major Instinct’. It’s about true greatness. Being great is fine. Be great at serving, be great at loving others, be great at not needing recognition for your good deeds. Just do them, whether people notice them or not. That is greatness. It’s the contribution that matters, not the recognition of it.
We are here and gone in a puff of smoke. But what we do lasts forever. Eternity is in our hearts. It is our destiny to leave a contribution that matters. Nothing else measures up but to have done your bit to improve the world.
A few articles of mine have been published on the web this week. Here they are:
Here is my latest article, published on the Godspace website. In it I try to explain that salvation is not the end of the Gospel. God has saved us for a purpose, and it is not to go to heaven when you die.
By Nils Von Kalm In Christian circles, we generally place primary emphasis on believing in Jesus. After all, Acts 16:31 tells us that whoever believes in the Lord Jesus will be saved. But what are we saved for? And what if God believes in us as well as us believing in God?
The next article is one I posted on Soul Thoughts a few months back. It’s called Cry for Home and was published over at Sight Magazine.
Finally, this article is my first one to be published on Christian Today. It’s another one that has been previously posted on Soul Thoughts. This one is about how to recover from FOMO.
Hope you enjoy them!
Sometimes when I feel the pain of life, whether my own or that of others, I just long for the kingdom of God to become fully realised in this world. I recall the words of the U2 song, Peace on Earth: “Heaven on Earth, we need it now. I’m sick of all of this hanging around…sick of the sorrow, sick of the pain.”
I relate to that. I’m sick of the pain, I just want justice, peace and love to rule the world now.
This morning at church we remembered the passing of a much-loved member of our congregation. He died two years ago today. At the end of the service we sang a song he wrote before he died. The lyrics are as follows:
Hi, my name is Nils and I’m an addict. And so are you.
Most of us don’t have the obvious addictions like drugs, alcohol, gambling or sex. But we all have attachments, certain beliefs about ourselves and the world. Everyone of us is addicted to certain patterns of thinking. If you’re not sure about that, a great book to read about it is Addiction and Grace by Gerald May.
We live in a society that places way too high a value on feeling good. When that happens, especially at the expense of relationship and connection, addiction thrives and shame eventually sets in. We substitute feeling good about ourselves for feeling good.
In our culture, addictions take many forms. We are addicted to our smart phones, to shopping, to making more money, and it is killing our souls. If you don’t think you are addicted, try stopping for a few weeks and see how you feel.
Research is now showing that there is a definite link between the lack of connection in our society and addiction. As the above TED talk points out, in the United States, the number of people who can say they have close friends to call on in a crisis has been diminishing since the 1950s. The same would be true in Australia, as we are a very similar culture which is enormously influenced by the US.
Johann Hari, in the above talk, also says this:
“Wherever you are, be all there.” – Jim Elliott
Do you ever have the attitude that, no matter where you are, you want to be somewhere else? I do.
A friend and colleague of mine has been talking a bit lately about FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. It is the disease of the age. There are so many options in our lives these days, so many things to do, people to see and places to go, that we suffer from choice anxiety.
What this results in is an attitude of “keeping our options open” so we don’t miss out. But in the meantime, we end up not really experiencing anything properly because of our fear of committing. Continue reading
It was when she was 45 that Regina Brett put together 45 lessons of life that she had learned. Since then she has added five more. I first saw these lessons a few years ago and they make me very reflective. Here they are, with a comment of my own in italics beside some of them:
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree. It’s more important to be loving than to be right.
7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.
8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about. A consistent challenge for me.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.
16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.
18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.
19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. Brilliant. I first heard this from Rowland Croucher. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special. I’m not really into wearing lingerie, but I hear you!
22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain. It all starts there.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time. But time only heals if you put effort into the healing.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch. Another consistent challenge for me.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do. Knowing that heals your shame.
35. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
36. Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.
38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion. Yep. Raw, brutal honesty. I love them.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
42. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved. Matthew 22:36-40.
44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
45. The best is yet to come.
46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Even when it hurts like hell.
Sometimes we go through things in life which are painful beyond anything we’ve ever had to go through before. And sometimes we feel like we’ve just had enough. Recently I posted a very good article about the fallacy of believing that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. A few more thoughts about this come to mind:
- We sing a song at church sometimes which has the words of Romans 8:28 – all things work together for good for those who love the Lord. That might sound glib, mainly because this verse has been used out of context, and often in an incredibly insensitive way, but it’s a statement of hope. And hope is what we can’t live without.
- From my devotional book this morning: Leave outcomes up to me. Follow me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out.
- “I know it aches, and your heart it breaks, and you can only take so much. Walk on.” – U2, Walk On
- Suffer well. Depending on your suffering, the temptation to bitterness and self-pity is always there. You will no doubt feel these at times, and if you do, don’t beat yourself up. But don’t stay in those places. Ask God to teach you to surrender and trust. One day you will be able to use your experience for the good of others.
- Surround yourself with friends. Reach out to them. It’s not selfish to say you’re struggling. If you’re anything like me, you will tend to feel weak and a burden on others. That is mainly about fear of their rejection. You may also be too proud to ask for help, believing you should be able to handle these things yourself. Don’t be fooled.
- You will go through a rollercoaster of emotions and you won’t be yourself a lot of the time, possibly for months. Again, depending on the nature of your suffering, your confidence and self-esteem will likely take a battering. That’s ok. Don’t worry about what your friends might think if you’re a bit different around them. You’re still you and they will still love you.
People are there. Rely on them. God is there. Trust in God as much as you are able. Hope is real. Our present sufferings are temporary.
I have had the privilege over the years of seeing some great musicians live. And as someone who is not musical in the sense of playing or singing, I have found that the great artists all have their own unique sound: U2 and Midnight Oil come to mind for me. Another one is Missy Higgins.
When you have that sense that the first time you listen to an artist that there is something special here, it stays with you. That’s what happened when I first listened to Higgins’ first album, The Sound of White, about 10 years ago. The emotion, honesty and vulnerability in the stories she tells through her songs, songs of the everyday joys and pains of life, as well as her unique Australian sound, have had an impact on me that always have me looking forward to her next release.
Seeing her live though was something else. She has a wonderfully quirky, comfortable stage presence, like she is having a conversation with you. She has that wonderful combination of being a self-confessed introvert yet possessing the ability to be a natural on stage, confident and able to just be herself. With Missy Higgins, what you see is what you get.
Her songs generally tell a story of life in all its beauty and ugliness, and of the impact that music and people have had on her. Her latest album, Oz, is a covers album of songs that have had an effect on her young life. Like me, it is the lyrics of songs that have the greatest impact on her. It might be a line or just the way in which the story is told that triggers memories of days gone by when significant events happened to us or when there were turning points in our lives. This is what makes Missy Higgins so easy to listen to.
Higgins’ music over the years has followed the example of those who have influenced her. But, like many quality artists, she is a whole package. It is her lyrics that inspire and take you to another place, but it is also how she sings, in that raw, honest, Australian drawl with a music that is fitting for the mood of the lyrics.
Not many artists are so open about their musical journey, but seeing footage of Higgins’ life as she sang songs that describe her joys and pains, gives you a sense of connection that only the really good artists possess. Again, like artists of true quality, you come away from a Missy Higgins song feeling like you know her just a little bit more. That feeling was amplified seeing her live, as she told of the ways in which the songs from Oz left their mark on her. There was an intimacy about a show like this that leaves you both satisfied at the end yet disappointed that it couldn’t go on for longer.
This was the last live show for Higgins for at least 12 months, due to the fact that, in her words, she has another project coming up next year which involves trying to bring up a human being.
The setting of the Regent Theatre in the heart of Melbourne was fitting for this excellent show. Performing her last show for a while in her home town, in a venue that is such an icon of this beautiful city, just added to the sense of occasion and feeling that was evoked by her presence. When she eventually tours again, be sure not to miss out on experiencing the delightfully ordinary, accessible yet beautiful stage-presence of an Australian icon.
We find that this is true especially when we struggle. It is through struggle that character can grow. In fact I would say that it is only in struggle that character can grow. We can choose to rise above our troubles or decide to be overcome by them. Rising above them doesn’t mean ignoring them and pushing them asunder. It means moving forward regardless of the storms of life that are swirling all around us.
One of my great heroes, and probably the most courageous person I have ever known of (apart from Jesus, who chose to go to the cross knowing full well what it would cost) is Martin Luther King. Check out this quote from King from his sermon, Antidotes for fear (Don’t worry about the gender-specific language. It was written in the language of the day. Of course this quote applies equally to women as to men):
“Courage faces fear and thereby masters it. Cowardice represses fear and is thereby mastered by it. Courageous men never lose the zest for living even through their life situation is zestless; cowardly men, overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life, lose the will to live. We must constantly build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”
Often when trouble strikes, we can feel overwhelmed, even paralysed, by fear. It has certainly happened to me. What I have found is that it is through the growing understanding that we are always ok in God’s sight, and slowly coming to the realisation that we can no longer deny God’s unconditional love for us, that we gain the courage to face whatever is in front of us. This can take years, and in reality, is never fully completed until the day we pass from this earth.
Courage is not the absence of fear though; it is admitting that you might be scared sh*tless but moving forward anyway. That’s where it is a choice. There is nothing wrong with being scared; it is when we allow our fears to overcome us that we never deal with the challenges we are facing.
One of the many examples of Dr King’s courage in the face of adversity is captured in this quote from a sermon he wrote while in jail for civil disobedience:
“Throw us in jail and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.”
This is what love does, love born of the courage to face fear, look it full in the face and say, like Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, “you shall not pass!”.
Life is a choice. God give me the courage to face it on its terms.