Online Influence (Navigating Social Media and Rape Culture)

Join hosts Daron and Andrew as they discuss Andrew Tate, schools struggling with the influence of social media and how parents can speak into their child’s life in the current world.

Resources:
https://disciple.org.au/resources/childrens-ministries-resources/

https://www.collectiveshout.org

Black and White

The christian church has a long history of shooting itself in the foot. From the way the western christian church forced itself upon the eastern church through the early medieval and Middle Ages through to the way christian nationalism and fundamentalism have forced supposed Christian values/morals upon American society. The use of religion as a tool for oppression of ‘other’ has been a part of humanity every since the first murder took place in Genesis 3 and 4. The call to be our brothers keeper is one that we have shoved into a self first mentality that masquerades as righteous religion.

Society has quickly become a hyper polarised experience where one must take an extreme view on one side or risk being labelled as a hypocrite or someone without morals. The latest trend to place people in a box has been the use of the word “Woke/Wokism” to evoke a feeling of shame for positions that care for others. Another word that has become a dog whistle for people to attack over is nuance. It would seem that humanity has once again fallen into the trap of painting each other into a corner and hoping that those that shout the loudest get the right to decide the rules, ethics and morals that everyone should abide by. My point with all of this is that we have become a hyper polarised society where attempting to take a balanced perspective is seen as weak amongst constant jostling for attention that ultimately drives us further from each other than ever before.

The world is not black and white, we live in a world of brokenness where we simply cannot with a broad brushstroke apply bible verses devoid of their context to every situation. Those that may identify as fundamentalist on either side of the spectrum of politics/religion wish to simplify the complexities of the world and humanity to a one size fits all approach. The big problem being that in my view a simplification of the grand problems humanity faces denies a foundational characteristic of God, this is that God is Love.

When God being love is placed at the centre of our religious theological beliefs it becomes very difficult to paint any group as an evil that must be removed entirely or punished. The call to be our brothers keeper or to fulfil the commandments (Matthew 19:16-30) is to love God first and then to love others. Loving others never looks like force, Loving others does not boast in victory, loving others doesn’t celebrate freedom being removed from people. God doesn’t force his moral law on humanity, therefore why should Christianity force its interpretation of God’s moral law upon people? As Adventists we strongly believe in and advocate for the separation of Church and State “At the heart of the Adventist message is our abiding belief that freedom of conscience must be guaranteed to all. Freedom of conscience includes the freedom to believe and fully practice the religious faith of choice, the freedom not to believe or practice religious faith, freedom to change faiths, and the freedom to establish and operate religious institutions in accordance with religious beliefs.” (https://www.adventist.org/documents/church-state-relations/#footnote_9_1614) Therefore, as Seventh-day Adventists we should be deeply alarmed at the sudden move towards enforcing religious ideas moral assertions upon society. To do this would be to deny the very freedoms that we claim to uphold. If we believe that God is Love and that God allows for freedom of Choice then we should ensure that we are consistent in all areas that we advocate in, this specifically meaning that freedom of mind, body, speech and choice is something that all humans are deserving of no matter the beliefs of the individual. Romans 14:10–12 (NRSV) says “10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.”12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.”

We are all ultimately individually accountable to God and therefore this should lead to us operating from a position of love and respect for every individual rather than placing our own beliefs, assumptions and moral conclusions before others. We are to share the Gospel (Jesus’ act of Love for all humanity through his sacrifice on the cross) with all humanity. The gospel isn’t imposed on people, rather people choose life through the gospel through freedom.

Seventh-day Adventists view the book of Revelation as an essential part of our message to the world. We often get sidetracked with all the signs, wonders and beasts in the second half of the book. All of these symbols are present to answer the key question Revelation asks. This key question in Revelation who/what do you give true worship? This driving question has existed throughout the entirety of cosmic history since Lucifer fell, God didn’t force himself upon humanity, nor did he force himself upon Lucifer. Rather the true revelation of love is to offer himself up as a sacrifice, to provide a way for humanity to choose freedom freely. Lets stick true to our roots and to who we are today as Adventists and advocate for freedom of conscience even when we disagree with the choices others are making (we don’t have to agree with all choices.) The past couple of years have shown that when we impose our position on others it only results in divided communities. The fact our God is love should be the ultimate driver for unity despite our often vast differences.

The 2020 Detour!

2020 has been a year like no other, humanity has undergone some of the most rapid shifts since the beginning of the Anthropocene. The Church has shifted along with this and since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic we have seen the need for a new way of doing church evidenced by the realisation that humanity desires relational connection over puffy programs or feel good sermons. As I ministered throughout the pandemic I quickly realised that whilst a polished production is great, if true relational connection is missing then the program is pointless.

The 2020 detour felt a bit confusing!

Fatigue, lethargy and the Netflix church. Brene Brown makes a powerful statement in Daring Greatly “Belonging: Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” With this in mind it is only logical that a cold livestream with no interaction was never going to succeed with the human race in 2020. In fact we would see just a little success in a regular pre 2020 church environment where human interaction and vulnerability could be just as rare. As I journeyed through the pandemic with my congregations I quickly realised that a simple livestream wasn’t enough. People were fatigued by the glut of media, video calls and online content that they were consuming during the early stages of the pandemic. Zoom fatigue quickly set in and many switched off. Couple this with people working from home and all of a sudden church was the last thing on a congregants mind. The reality is that church is competing for attention in an attention starved world. Members are fatigued and have realised that for a long time church felt more like work than fellowship. This has identified a cultural issue at the root of our church experience… Is our core message about consumption or life long change that freedom in Christ offers. Is our message and the way we do church really relevant to families.

At the beginning of the pandemic I heard many assumptions about church post covid.

1. As soon as the pandemic eased we would simply return to what we had prior to the pandemic.

2. People need the traditional (almost oral liturgical) Adventist Church experience so it will still be relevant.

3. People will flock to our Church because of our Last Day Events message.

In Innovative Church Scott Cormode notes (even before the pandemic) that “Church is calibrated for a world that no longer exists.” If this was true before the pandemic it is certainly true as we continue to journey through and out of Covid-19. McCrindle Research notes that in Australia the impacts of Covid-19 have been overall negative on the lifestyles of Australian’s. Whilst many have taken the time to improve their spirituality overall they are more emotionally stretched than ever before(https://mccrindle.com.au/insights/blog/australia-in-the-wake-of-covid-19/). The Church had to stretch in ways unfathomable before 2020, so to the families churches serve have been under extreme stresses. As such humanity and the church has pivoted rapidly throughout 2020 as restrictions were introduced by governments. If the way we do church doesn’t permanently shift after covid-19 I would worry that we are fast tracking the shift to a post Christian world (https://www.churchandculture.org/blog/2020/1/13/the-post-christian-reality?rq=Post%20Christian).

Most authors, demographers and scholars I read seem to agree that we already have the solution to our flagging relevance in our grasp we just need to be willing to search introspectively and take up the challenge that christ has set for us. Jesus came to earth and set about a radical shift in perspective for us. God is not distant, he came to earth as a human and set a new methodology in motion for relating to him and to each other… The radical shift? Love. Love for God and Love for each other unashamedly and without barriers. Ellen White put it like this “If we err, let it be on the side of mercy rather than on the side of condemnation and harsh dealing.” (EGW, 5LTMS, LT16, 1887) The world we are in is desperate for love. Where better to get it from than from our Heavenly Father that came to earth and set an example of how to treat one another.

The most poignant question I am left with at the end of all this is whether we are willing as a church to pivot rapidly towards a future where our churches are able to be relevant to the communities around them. Doing evangelism and missional ministry in a local rather than a global context. Loving people in radical ways that perhaps might even make ourselves a little uncomfortable. After all he who is without sin should cast the first stone. If Covid-19 has taught us anything it is that one size does not fit all when it comes to spirituality.

In the end as we all need to remember that “the Kingdom advances at the speed of relationships” (Caesar Kowlinowski) may that begin with you and me.

Values and the New Life

Growing up I remember often hearing sermons about ‘plastic Christians’ or Christians that were not the real deal and wouldn’t stand up to the tests before us. Within my faith tradition, this often came in the theme of last day events which left me with a feeling of eschatological anxiety (or fear of the end.) How would I know if I was a ‘plastic Christian’ or not? Could I ever be sure I am saved and enough? As I think about the Seventh-day Adventist faith tradition and where our pioneers stood theologically and our current theologians stand theological there are key issues such as salvation that have remained constant. A result of this is being left with a beautiful image of our Christian walk and accepting the new life in Christ that Paul speaks about often.

When writing about what it means to have a new life in Christ it helps to make a couple of things clear from the outset.

1. This is not intended as a strictly theological pice of writing.

2. Our works have nothing to do with our salvation. Works and salvation occur separately to each other. Good works are a response to the gift of salvation that Christ/God has provided us. We as Adventists believe we cannot work our way into Heaven (see Zechariah 3.)

4. Any theological structure that places works at any point a means to salvation is no longer an Adventist belief structure and is instead borrowing from other faith traditions.

The idea of being a plastic Christian came from the lukewarm church of Laodicea highlighted in Revelation 3, the idea being that this church not keeping the teachings of God and not living as Jesus would intend for them. Essentially the teachings, grace and love of God had not changed them. Whilst we could look at this as talking simply about a behavioural change I have always looked at this as a heart change. When one accepts the gift of salvation by God’s grace (and are baptised as a public declaration of this) their heart, mind and desires are changed. I look at plastic (lukewarm) Christians as tradition keepers that have not truly met Jesus Christ. For if we have met Jesus Christ keeping tradition wouldn’t be our focus. Rather doing the will of God in our lives as a witness for others would be the outflow of God’s grace/love from our hearts. This could also be summed up with another cutting question, who are you when no one is looking?

When we meet Jesus and allow him into our lives we experience freedom in Christ and feel compelled to revolutionise the way we live as a witness (or testament) of the gift of salvation that God has provided us. This push for change will not and cannot result in a state of sinless perfection on this earth. After all, what would be the point of Christ’s sacrifice if I could achieve what he did achieve. Romans 3:24 notes that we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. We are freed through our acceptance of Christ and have access to a new life in Christ. Further to this 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that when we are in Christ we are a new creation and the old one has passed away. Ephesians 4:22-24 highlights the fact that we are renewed in the spirit of our minds and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. This isn’t that we are all of a sudden made sinless, but rather we are seen in the eyes of God as righteous and holy, which frees us to live our new life as a new creation. One that desires to live a life that is a witness to others of what Christ has done in our lives and can do in their lives.

We often fail to talk about what this new life in Christ looks like, are we suddenly sinless or do we even change is the two extremes most head towards. Galatians 5:22-23 speaks about the fruit of the spirit which is an important part of a behavioural standard that is brought out in believers by the Holy Spirit. We as Christians are also called into community, you would think a community that if all are experiencing a new life the arguing, bickering and politicking that goes on wouldn’t occur. Rather Churches are a breeding ground for the furthering of personal agendas. Not so unlike the world that many groups preach against. As a leader this reality has challenged me, it has also helped me to realise that the crux of at least that interpersonal dynamics is people failing to live to and understand their values. When reinventing church it is my thought that leaders must provide a structure for members to discover both their values and their spiritual gifting.

We as humans are designed to function best in community, however, the values of a community should overlap or speak into our own core values. This has brought me to a realisation that values are an essential part of experiencing a new life with Christ. When leaders appoint people into roles or make decisions there should be a discerning voice within us working out what their values and where they are best positioned in our church family to serve. Further to that, as a wider church, there must be a process to identify core corporate values and what that looks like expressed as key behaviours. When these steps are occurring the interpersonal dynamics that plague and weigh down churches will be lessened enabling the church to operate to its full potential.

The Case for Face Masks

Covid-19… The catastrophic pandemic of 2020 has changed the face of our relationships, workplaces, economies and churches. Along with this many people now have face masks adorning their face. The wearing of face masks has almost immediately become a victim of the politicisation of everything we do. Conspiracists have also taken this much needed public health measure and misconstrued it into an image of ‘weakness’ and ‘control’. As a Seventh-day Adventist Christian I have spent some time considering what the case for masks from an Adventist perspective.

I’ll be wearing a face mask where possible .

Wearing a face mask is mandated in many jurisdictions to provide an extra layer of defence to protect against Covid-19 transmission, this is in conjunction with other changes to our behaviour such as social distancing. Where I live (NSW, Australia) it has been recommended to wear a mask (even at church) but it has not been mandated yet (I expect it to happen soon) as such the decision to wear a mask would be based on a combination of health concerns, social concerns, and ones own personal beliefs/values. On a basic level, wearing of masks is most effective when the majority of people are wearing masks (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-face-masks-what-you-need-to-know). This plays into the motivation of yourself and others to protect each other from the virus. The messaging from governments reflects this when they stress that we all need to play our part. Playing our part looks like encouraging each other to wear masks outside of the home and following other relevant health advice as best as possible. Despite the clear medical and public health evidence for wearing masks, there appears to be significant resistance amongst some groups. This is often due to misuse of Biblical evidence, a fear of something they don’t understand or denials about the existence of Covid-19.

When it comes to wearing a mask there is many pieces of evidence we can consider from scripture. From a New Testament perspective, we immediately consider the command of God to love our neighbours in Matthew 22:34-40. Further in Luke 10:25-37, we discover the Parable of the Good Samaritan that springs from the question, who is my neighbour? I argue that with the knowledge that everyone in our society is our neighbour, the most merciful/caring thing to do is to simply wear a mask that increases our ability to love and care for all. Caring for our neighbours at this time is as simple as wearing a mask. We should simply do it.

As Christians we are called to not be stumbling blocks for others. I have watched from afar as many self-proclaimed Christians have pushed anti-mask ideologies as wearing a mask is a sign of weakness and a loss of ‘freedoms’. This argument is both illogical and unbiblical. In Romans 14, Paul discusses that when considering our freedom we should avoid being a stumbling block to those that are ‘weak’, as such it is easily surmised that the wearing of masks is an opportunity to welcome people into our communities and to avoid being a stumbling block to them experiencing Christ. In fact, wearing masks is an act of service to others and thus an act of service to God. Vocally denying mask wearing as a Christian can be an act of destroying the work of God (Romans 14:18-20).

For some reason the American political understanding of ‘freedom’ has infected the way we understand freedoms. Putting on masks isn’t a denial of anyone’s freedom. The same as wearing a seatbelt isn’t denying anyone’s freedoms, rather to is an act of service by loving one another. Galatians 5:13 says “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Freedom at its root is service that is pleasing to God. It is logical that we should see the wearing of masks as an act of freedom in christ through service. Living the Christian life in this world is going to look far different than it ever has before (Lev 19:18) We have to be willing to do things in service of others that we would have only dreamt of a few months ago after all we were not set free by Christ so we could serve ourselves, rather christ gave his life to set us free so we could give ourselves in ministry to our neighbours whom we were called to love.

As a Seventh-day Adventist, there is also something else we take from the biblical view. We believe in the health message pioneered throughout the mid 1800s. This is that our bodies are an amazing tool for ministry, love and care of others. As such we want to look after our bodies as though they were the temple of God in order to live a healthy, rich life in service of God. We preach balance and moderation in all, we also believe in proper medical care based on the latest and greatest medical advice. Based on this idea alone those that believe in this message should naturally think the best health advice available is what we should follow. After all, the health message is another way that we are able to be loving neighbours and care for our fellow humans. The health message and Covid-19 is perhaps another post all together.

Conclusion

The call to love our neighbour as ourselves and to not be a stumbling block is a simple one. Yet for many there are extra-biblical or proof texted reasons for speaking against the wearing of masks. It is my sincere belief as a minister of the Gospel that the wearing of masks is not just something that we should think about but also something that we should recover. Our loving response to our communities should be to protect the vulnerable, provide them shelter and care for our physical and metaphorical neighbours. As soon as I can, I will be wearing a mask and I hope you will too!

Go and Do Likewise!

This morning I preached a sermon on the being the best neighbours. I wrote this sermon a couple of weeks ago, long before George Floyd died at the hands of a police officer, someone who is meant to serve and protect the community. I have ruminated for the last couple of days over what I a privileged, white male from a lucky country like Australia can add to the discussion.

The only thing I am reminded about is a story the historical figure of Jesus told the lawmakers of his time. Everyone knows it, it is about the Good Samaritan. But I don’t want to focus on the Good Samaritan tonight, I think we can all agree that we have a moral duty to care for everyone around us no matter what is going on in their life.

I want to focus on the key questions that were asked in this exchange in Luke 10: 25-37. The Lawmaker asked Jesus “What must I do to inherit eternal life?“ Jesus’s reply is perhaps the most well known of his words. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.

Still not being satisfied and being of a prideful heart the lawmaker challenged Jesus again with this important question “who is my neighbour?

Who is my neighbour? After orating the lawmakers with his parable about the Good Samaritan Jesus asked the lawmaker and by extension all of humanity an essential question. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? The response, “the one who showed him mercy!” Jesus commanded them in this moment to “Go and do likewise.”

Go and do likewise.

Photo from Unsplash via Library of Congress

We have been commanded to go and show mercy, to go and stand up for justice in our communities. As we flick through the four Gospels we discover a historical figure of Jesus who stood up for those that were being failed by a societal system that oppressed entire segments of the community. The question I am left with is simple. Why aren’t we standing up for those being failed by a broken societal system? We are at the point where it isn’t good enough to not be racist… the time has come to be anti-racist.

Answers in Coronavirus?

Answers in Coronavirus?

Within the Adventist faith tradition there is a subculture, this subculture is typified by an almost egging on of any apocalyptic event in the hope that it is the end times. This goes a step further with an almost unfathomable fascination with proving the apocalyptic prophecies found in Daniel and revelation. These prophecies are exciting and any Adventist theologian would agree very relevant with the end indeed coming. We have been ringing the bell that the end is nigh for over 150 years, yet we are still here. This is not a denial of the end but a recognition that we can’t look at every disaster or global event as a sign of the end.

The fallacy of the end.

Many Adventists spend much of their Biblical reading looking for reasons, signs and symbols that line up with events that are occurring within the world. This fascination only serves to breed a culture of conspiracy theories and increases anxiety amongst our children, young adults and adults alike. The idea of being ready for the end has been misconstrued with egging on the Latter Rain or End Time events. Throughout the Gospels Jesus makes clear that in order to be ready we just have to accept him and out of that serve our community. John 3:17 notes that Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Throughout most of Paul’s writing (particularly Romans 3 he highlights the fact that the following the law isn’t the primary way to be a follower of Christ. Rather, loving christ and being faithful to him allows us to realise how much we fall short of the glory of Christ, therefore convicting our hearts to choose christ daily.

Our fascination with the end times can definitely be traced back to the failure of 1844 and the Millerites’ conviction that Jesus would return at a set date and time. Perhaps our fascination with apocalyptic timed prophecies is but an extension of this and may not be essential to our Church. From this our minds can be drawn to the current global pandemic that is facing our entire world. Many Adventist’s have immediately been drawn into quoting Revelation and many works of Ellen G White to show that this is a symbol of the end happening soon. For many these words offer shallow hope, and in fact bring about bigger questions of why a God of love would allow his people to experience a pandemic. This is a theological quandary, if prophecies which most scholars agree are meant to provide hope are instead causing mass distress, angst and anger amongst believers there must be another answer that fits better with the overall picture of grace and love present in the Bible.

N T Wright wrote a wonderful piece of writing on March 30 2020 that was released globally to all through Time Magazine. Wright suggested that the Christianity (which included Adventism) is not meant to try and explain away the Covid-19 pandemic. Rather, we are called to lament with our community, lament in our isolation and turn to God for hope and healing.

 “In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell” 

If turning to prophecy right now isn’t going to solve the pandemic and instead only serve to distance our Church from the community Wright points out that we should turn to God and allow the new possibilities of ministry, hope and serving our community to flow out of this crisis.

Where from here?

As yet another disaster passes us by and we hear the inevitable sermons and warnings thrown around from Matthew 24, Daniel 12 and Revelation 12-14 we have an opportunity to change the narrative on what it means to be ready for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Within Daniel 12 it is easy to be distracted by the cataclysmic cosmic battle highlighted throughout the entire of EGW’s Great Controversy. Rather it seems to be hard for Adventists and Christians to believe the simple idea that God wins in the end. Daniel 12:1 notes. God’s people will be delivered and all those that are written in the book of life will be delivered. Ellen White may have said it best in ‘The Great Controversy’

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Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

“It will be seen that he who is infinite in wisdom could decide no plan for our salvation except the sacrifice of His Son. The compensation for this sacrifice is the joy of peopling the earth with ransomed beings, holy, happy and immortal. The result of the Saviour’s conflict with the powers of darkness is joy to the redeemed, resounding to the glory of God throughout eternity. And such is the value of the soul that the father is satisfied with the price paid; and Christ Himself, beholding the fruits of His great sacrifice, is satisfied.” 

(The Great Controversy, Ellen G White. pg 652)

Within our current crisis we need to remember that the end is coming however it was never intended to be our primary focus. Our primary focus, our great commission is to show people who Jesus is, who and what the Gospel is as we continue our cosmic journey with the Godhead towards eternity. Conspiracies, fear and bible bashing aren’t methods that work in a 21st century world plagued by fear. Let’s lament, lets bring hope, lets allow a Spirit of peace to fill us in this time of anxiety, lets reset our eyes upon Him as we walk boldly towards a future where we know our High Priest is working for us just as we are working, standing in the gap for those around us that don’t know Christ.

Do You Have to Know EVERYTHING?

Over the past few months, I have noticed something interesting. It appears that there are a few times in life where people want to know every little detail of your life. These moments are when one gets engaged, when planning for a wedding and when one is pregnant. Apparently, these are moments that everyone has to know every tiny little detail about. However, I would like to propose a different model for these times in life; I believe it is time to put people in our lives on information diets.

I believe in being nice to everyone, however, since getting engaged as joyously discussed in my previous blog post I have found that people love to know my business. Before I was engaged to my fiance, Michaela people simply were not interested in what I had going on. Even now people are not interested in what I have going on,

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The future looks perfect with Michaela!

rather they are interested in what our planes are for the wedding, when are we thinking of having children, where will we live. Lots of these questions we have answers for, others we do not. I am beginning to get fed up with it all as there are some things that I want to keep a surprise for the wedding day. Also, the two of us are both graduating at the end of next year, and we literally have to work out how to operate in the adult world, which is a very scary prospect for two people in their early 20s to have to work out.

I realise what I said above sounds very selfish. However, in life, there are moments that being selfish is allowed. The wedding day will be a celebration of two families coming together, yet I want my beautiful fiance and me to be able to enjoy the day without the pressure of pleasing everyone and having every single person under the son knowing all of our business. This has resulted in me wanting to put people on information diets. By this, I mean that I want to only tell people the essential details. When asked where we have our wedding I just want to respond with “we have found a beautiful location, you will love it.” People want more.

Why do people want more?  I believe that this is a symptom of the society we live in. Our society is becoming more consumeristic every day, everything is available to us inside of a few taps and swipes, we consume information online at a rapid pace, and everyone seems to know everyone’s business. I can find out everything about a person just by stalking their facebook and Instagram profiles. I have reached a point where I want to put myself on an information diet. I want to stop knowing everyone’s business. I want to concern myself with the here and now. Focus on building a life for myself and my fiance. I want to focus on my studies and stop being so concerned with everyone else. Just last week I found myself scrolling down someones facebook feed trying to work out their life and what they are up to… creepy I know. I want to hold myself accountable and stop this damaging behaviour.

I want to challenge you today; lets put us on an information diet. Only know what we need to know and be selfish for a moment, challenge ourselves and push ourselves to be better. Because by doing this we help each other.

Andrew Pratt

I’m Engaged! What Now?

On July 20 this year I did a thing! Not just any ordinary thing but one of those life changing, future altering things. I proposed to my girlfriend Michaela, of course she said yes and now we are planning a wedding to begin the rest of our future.

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So where did this all begin? Well in February of this year I asked Michaela out and since then our lives have been a whirlwind. We are both studying at college and we are in the unique position where before we got into this relationship we both knew where we wanted it to lead. Anyway so the months have gone on and we began to both seriously talk about getting engaged. To start with we both put time limits of 12 months at least on the idea of proposing. However, we are both possibly the most impatient people in the world and so a few months further on we are engaged!

Anyone that is reading this is likely asking one question at this point. How did you ask her? Well there are a couple of different stories I could tell you… So why don’t I start with my version of events. About a month out from popping the question I laid the groundwork. Michaela and I had already discussed possible wedding times (yes we do everything backwards) and we both knew a summer wedding was on the cards. From this discussion Michaela was extremely aware that the proposal would likely be either at the snow (we had a trip planned for July to the snow) or in New Zealand in late July.

So off we went to Thredbo. I had a plan to learn to snowboard as quickly as possible so that I could go on tree runs and harder runs and propose to her in one of those locations. Within a couple of days I was keeping up with Michaela and the friends we were there with. When it came to the proposal, admittedly I was a little mean with this part. Michaela was aware I was planning to propose but she had no idea when, thanks to this little fact she was on an emotional knife edge for the entire week. To the point that one afternoon on the way back to our accommodation she would not talk to me as she had thought that every time we stopped together in the middle of the trees that I was going to propose!

Thursday comes around, this was our final day at the snow before heading over to New Zealand the next day. Michaela by this point had just about given up on me proposing to her at the snow. So we get down to the last few hours at Thredbo and we come across a black run called lovers leap. The perfect opportunity to propose arrived when Michaela stopped to film the snow in the bush next to the run. I decided to ‘fall over’ and then popped the question.  It was and still is the best thing I have ever done! We are both so happy and are already well and truly into the wedding planning. In fact just last week we had our engagement photos taken by Cassie and Co Photography and they are amazing

As we move into a new chapter of our life we are both extremely excited! Who knows maybe I can con Michaela into writing a few posts for the blog!

I encourage all of you to check out the link to the photos and enjoy how amazing they are!

Andrew Pratt

Staying You In A Changing World

The social climate at the moment is suffering dramatic changes that are in many ways more dramatic the physical climate is experiencing through global warming.  Donald Trump is president, xenophobic groups that supported him are feeling empowered, people that are usually peaceful are becoming aggressive and much more. It is extremely easy to get sucked into an argument that has no real purpose. It is even easier to make a throwaway comment without thinking of the implications. If anyone is guilty of these things, it is me. So the question I am left with is how do I stay me despite the changing world full of viewpoints I don’t agree with.

There is a saying that respect should be earnt, I am challenging that with respect is always deserved

The Green brothers of Vlogbrothers fame have a saying which is ‘Don’t Forget To Be Awesome’ of (DFTBA) for short. This saying brings with it many meanings, however for

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Hank Green and John Green have nurtured a culture of acceptance within communities on the internet

me it brings with it acceptance, be being awesome I am willing to listen to viewpoints that I don’t agree with, process them, learn about the other person and then make a decision as to how I treat that opinion. Notice I am treating the opinion, not the person. By being awesome, I am not going to lessen an individual’s human hood just because they happen to hold an opinion I do not agree with be it political or spiritual. I am often pulled into unnecessary discussions that if I am not careful can easily become hurtful to many people. I have realised that another persons opinion while important to who they are does not determine how I should treat them. There is a saying that respect should be earnt, I am challenging that with respect is always deserved. If we claim to be Christian or even a decent person, we should respect everyone always.

So the question remains, how do we stay ourselves in a changing world. The answer to that question is not simple, however, by maintaining a level of humanity between each other I believe being true to oneself will flow naturally. Perhaps we need to take inspiration from bees, they all work together for a goal, the prosperity of the hive, perhaps we all need to work togehter for the posperity of the humanity.img_6044 The question then is how do we create a culture that believes in the reality of humanity rather than the politcal conversations that are present at the moment. For that, I do not have an answer, but I am sure that another person may have a little piece of the puzzle that we are currently trying to solve.

DFTBA

The Self Important Christian

Being a ‘Christian in the age of ‘self importance’

The word Christian has many different meanings to many different people. The word itself has a rough history that is chequered, bloody and at the same time rich. It is a word that has caused great pain to many and great joy to many others. The dichotomy of the word Christian is important and it is something that is naturally maintained. Today being a Christian means different things to different people but I propose that the three main things that the word christian entails are: 1) believing in Jesus, 2) helping out those around you and 3) restoring the oppressed to their rightful place in the community. Christianity is a worldwide movement however I questing the validity of many who call themselves Christian and it is at this moment that I realised. How do we be christian in the age of self importance, of consumerism and of instant gratification?

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Sometimes ‘false’ christianity comes across as a little frosty

For me there are a few things that we can try and do to be Christian in a world where most people are forgotten or ignored. The first of these is to be humble. Being humble is a very hard concept to grasp. Some people are naturally humble people and find it easy to not worry about theirselves and rather engage, encourage and be interested in the people around them. These individuals are quite often extroverts.

Then there are people like myself who find social situations stressful and need to retreat to be alone in order to recharge, this has nothing to do with humility. Being humble is a concept that is difficult to understand however as a Cristian being humble is something that flows naturally when you know Jesus. Furthermore even Jesus retreated to have time alone, to recharge, looking after yourself is an inherently biblical concept and this is something that many fail to understand.

Being humble is a concept that is difficult to understand however as a christian being humble is something that flows naturally when you know Jesus.

Serving others is for me the single most crucial part of being a Christian. When I say or write the acronym WWJD almost every Christian will instantly recognise that as ‘What Would Jesus Do’. The answer to this is that Jesus would serve no matter his circumstance and I am of the firm belief that as Christians it is therefore our job to be likeminded and serve as well. Serving others is an act of humility and you can serve others without

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STORMco Team in Cobar a few years ago.

pushing your beliefs on others. I serve at every opportunity I get and I am not the only person who is like this. For example I purposefully go our of my way each year to serve at an event called STORMco. Which stands for ‘Service To Others Really Matters’.

Being Christian means that I am called to do what Jesus would do, help out those not as fortunate as me with an open mind and without judging. As a human judging comes extremely naturally, this presents a challenge for myself and it means that I have to be intentional in the way I represent Jesus to the world. Being a Christian means that I am likely to be the first or even only example of the love of Jesus in a persons life. Many people call themselves Christian but they miss a key part of being a Christian, they forget to be representatives of Jesus to the world.

So let me ask you, are you a Christian or do you just use the label?

Find me on youtube at www.youtube.com/pratty852

Less is More

 

We live in a society where Australians have been told that more is better.  We live in a society where the mantra that most Australians live by is “Time equals money and money equals happiness.”  This consumeristic picture blares out at us from the multimedia that has saturated our society.  We are told to buy, buy, buy and that money makes the world go around.  Sometimes I wonder if economies of scale, profit and loss, balance sheets and the floating Australian dollar is really what life is all about.  Is there more to life? Is less really more in the long run?

Let me demonstrate.  Just a few years ago our government told us to go out and buy.  We were even given a cash hand out as part of this stimulus package to go and buy our flat screen TVs and other technological gadgets in order to make more jobs.  We were told that we were literally saving the country by spending our money.  Last Tuesday reality kicked in as we were told that it was time to give back to the government.  We now have more debt, more taxes and austerity measures to get our country back into the black. We have been told to pull our belts in and do more whilst receiving less.

The consumeristic lie that we have been fed by our society means that Australians really have less.  We have less time for our marriages, families and our leisure.  In fact, the average Australian father spends only 6 minutes each week with his children, half of our marriages end up in divorce, our health is suffering, even children are being diagnosed with diseases such as heart disease and diabetes that were once seen only in older adults.

In today’s society we are presented with a world that is full of sickness, disease and hate. We as people are more connected than ever with information at our very fingertips. We now have the ability to communicate with a person on the other side of the world instantly. With all of this happening in our world, the question we must ask ourselves is whether more is less and if more is less, less must be more!

As individuals, we have our own set of challenges that must be faced each and every day. At the end of a long day we stop and when we look back on the day, we have not accomplished anything and it was a fools conquest to attempt to achieve anything with the continual barrage of information that our brains attempt to process. Now how can we reduce the amount of information that our brains have to process? On a computer you open the task manager, find the tasks that are using the most processing power and you end them. Perhaps in our day to day lives ending the little tasks that are taking up the most time is necessary in order to allow us to complete more tasks in a shorter period of time.

Less Is More (Rostrum Voice of Youth)

What if less of everything really means more?  What if we don’t need all the stuff that w have built McMansions for?  What if we don’t really have to work in a constant cycle of drudgery all our working life?  What if we took more time for our marriages? More time for our families and more time for our hobbies? Maybe less is really more when it comes to satisfaction, quality of life and what really counts?

No one on their deathbed has ever said,  “I wish that I spent more time at work’, or ‘I wish that I had more stuff. ” They always say that they wish they had spent less time at work and more time with the people and relationships that really matter.

When we take this idea and apply it, evidence shows that with less stimuli affecting the brain, the brain has more resources to apply to other tasks that we normally shirk. For example, spending time with the family after work, which many find too exhausting or taking the time to reward oneself after achievements. Many find that by reducing their apparent workload they find themselves being more connected overall.

Studies show that with less stuff, less stress occurs. With less stress, more time is available and more time means that connection to others is possible. Having a connection to others is one of the most important things in life and this is possible when we take out the societal junk that is cluttering up our lives.

When it comes to what really makes us happy, it is when we have less. Studies prove that service to others really does matter.  Not only does it make a difference to those to whom the service is rendered, but it also leaves us feeling satisfied, happy and contributes to a feeling of overall worth

Bill Gates and his wife Melinda in many interviews have expressed how grateful they are for the privilege of having money and they believe that it is important to give back to community abroad. They say, “Our families believed that if life happens to bless you, you should use those gifts as well and as wisely as you can.” It is with that philosophy that Bill and Melinda set up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with which they have pledged to give 95% of their wealth to the cause of changing health and poverty prospects across the world. However by using philanthropy to lessen their wealth, Bill and Melinda have said that they have already been blessed in that they have found a much deeper sense of connection both with their family and with others. Through their commitment they have encouraged others to give and have less. However, this outpouring of money to a worthy cause is not just for nothing. By lessening their wealth by 95%, they are changing the outlook of people around the world for the better. Polio is being eradicated, HIV and AIDS are being prevented and there is work to destabilise diseases such as malaria the world over. Equal education is being brought about and entire communities the world over are being changed from the bottom up. This all because of two people who are editing their lives so that they have less in order to create so much more.

When we look at the human brain we see evidence that supports the idea that less stimuli is better for the brain, especially when you combine that with the added benefit of health improvements and the formation of communities due to people being available for meaningful connection.

So if taking the time to give, to cut out the nonsense in our lives and to spend more time with the people that matter, less definitely becomes more.

Should I Do A Flip?!

This is My Year

I have decided to make a claim. This year is my year, I have taken to doing things for myself. This includes making youtube videos with the one goal, to improve my self confidence. if you want to support me check out my tumblr and my youtube channel.

 

http://andrew-w-j-pratt.tumblr.com/post/144577866868/this-is-my-year

 

Andrew Pratt 2016 ©

The New and Improved?

Sometimes I ask myself how can I become better? How can a be a better more confident me? Recently this is something that I asked myself and I decided to do something about it, asides from my devoti0nal life, my everyday walk with God and getting more sleep than I do what else can I do. Speaking to people is something I love however I have always had an issue with something. I think it is something that everyone has an issue with but I have decided to do something about it. Listening to my own voice… It is something that everyone has an issue with. If you don’t well you must be weird.

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To deal with this I have taken up doing daily Vlogs, 3 times a week so not exactly daily but close enough right. Some people have questioned me on my motivation for starting Vlogging and whether it is even worthwhile. Here is the thing, I don’t make videos for an audience, I make videos for me. Whilst I do indeed have an audience that watches my Vlogs I believe that the videos I make are an expression of myself that is unique, different and new. Expressing myself is something that I often find diffiult due to the fact that I have Autism, making videos is a way I believe I can overcome or negate this issue. Making videos is an expression of me and who I am. It does not make me weird (though I am weird) nor does it block my ability to actually communicate with people.

Some people seem to think that everything we do has selfish intentions. For once are we able to simply post or do something for our own personal benefit whether it is emotinal, mental or physical betterment. People seem to be able to find a way to belittile everything somone does. The question this leaves me with is. Are they doing anything for themeselves?

You can find my videos at http://www.youtube.com/pratty852

Also you can like my newly minted facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/prattnation/

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Living on the Edge

LIVING ON THE EDGE

The children of today are living on the edge in a society that is moving at warp speed. Our society and culture is constantly evolving and transforming and reinventing itself and in this Global village we now find ourselves in, we; the young of today children are constantly bombarded by a wide range of technology and impacted by cultural change.  Modern affluent societies overflow with a range of goods produced for the entertainment, pleasure, convenience and education of our children.

Children are firmly in the sights of corporations with a barrage of marketing and advertising designed to capture this multibillion dollar market the question needs to be asked what is living on the edge really doing to us? We are living on the edge in the world of technology.  Today’s new inventions are tomorrows trash as our fast paced throw-away technologically convergent consumer society gains momentum.

Media and technological innovations of the modern world command immense power in today’s society.  A time capsule of the early twenty-first century would not be complete without a cache of paraphernalia.

Children could toss any number of technological wonders into the capsule since their pockets, backpacks, and homes are literally stuffed to overflowing with personal TV screens, digital music players the size of a pack of gum, cell phones with incredible technological capacities, satellite radios that beam down multiple channels from around the world, and video games that provide experiences that are ostensibly better than reality.

However todays technology is a pandoras box.  Whilst the world is now at our fingertips and so many gadgets help us in our day to day life the question needs to be asked is living on the edge and having the latest gadgets really worth it?

The average Australian child now spends 40 hours per week in front of a screen.  For a whole generation of children they will never know what it is like to living on the edge using the power of imagination, thinking and creativity the senses have been dulled by our technologically induced sedentary lifestyle.

For a whole generation of today’s children the pleasures of a free-range childhood are missing. Enjoying the pleasures of living on the edge in the great outdoors and the freedom and vitality that brings is sadly no longer a reality for many of today’s children.

For many children, play today is playing violent games, facebooking, twittering, surfing the internet, texting or watching The Bold and the Beautiful, This sedentary lifestyle is pushing our children to the edge when it comes to their health.  Today the current generation of children is more stressed, less content and unhealthy physically, socially, mentally and spiritually than any other generation.

In a world that is on the edge of great medical and scientific break throughs, lifestyle diseases that only a few years ago were only seen in older people are now been seen in our children.  Obesity, Diabetes, Heart disease and stroke are now common amongst our children.

The prevalence of convergent technology today creates many advantages for our youth.   They live on the edge of instant communication Most now own a mobile phone where texting is now the new form of communication.   While instant communication is an advantage, the down side is that many youth are compromised and demoralised through sexting and cyberbullying

In a fast paced society where image is everything, Many of our young are living on the edge in a surreal world where they can be whoever and whatever they like. Children can now create a virtual life or an avatar on screen and live their life in virtual reality.  It is difficult for a child to find community and connectedness with another human being while playing video games alone, watching television, and surfing the Internet.

This brings about individuation separation and a loss of connectedness.  Children are left feeling unloved and valueless and go over the edge into isolation, loneliness depression and suicide.

The loss of connectedness and significance leaves youths searching for something to dull the pain and numb the senses.  Many weekends find youth living on the edge on our streets binge drinking, drug taking and experimenting with all sorts of intoxicating substance.  The result is our youth constantly being driven towards and over the edge

Our school yards are living on the edge with almost daily reports in our news media relating to incidents of aggression and violence in our school yards, classrooms and shopping malls.

There is compelling evidence that repeated exposure to media violence found in many computer games and in other media contributes to aggressive behaviour, anxiety, and desensitization to violence (Kaiser Foundation, 2005).

Youth often arrive at school after spending the much of the night playing online games. Combine aggressive behaviour with sleeplessness and we have a problem.  These young people are then downing one or two cans of highly caffeinated high energy drinks and for breakfast and resulting in many youth living on the edge of who knows where.

The popular media has assumed a major role in the development of youth.  The time school-age children spend with the media exceeds the time they spend with their parents or teachers. The values that are found in much of media are often not the values we would want for our children and so intentional parenting is now needed more than ever

We need to acknowledge that we will always live on the edge when it comes to multimedia and technology so what can we do?

Parents should establish family rules that promote a healthy, balanced use of the technology and media until children learn to do the balancing themselves.

Parents need to be educated and learn with their children what the next big thing in technology is and discuss with their children these advances.

Parents need to monitor and filter internet content and be aware where their children are at.

Parents need to spend time with their children.  Play together, talk, share family meals and be there for their children in the ups and downs that living on the edge brings to our young people today.

Parents need to ensure that media is consumed in public places in our households and that the wireless is turned off and unavailable at night and at significant family times and is never allowed in the bedroom.

When our children are confronted with violent media, the ill-effects of this media is ameliorated when the parent discusses the content with their children.

Today we are living on the edge of a brave new world, an exciting world full of many opportunities and excitement.  This brave new world can be negotiated if befriend, mentor and educate our young.

Will you join me in living on the edge, will your talk to me, spend time with me?  know my name, play with me, eat with me, mentor me and model what it means in life to be living on the edge?

If we do this together then living on the edge will be exhilarating, exciting and a real adventure.  Join me on the edge.

Originally produced in 2011 by Andrew Pratt for Rostrum Voice of Youth and Morisset High School.

Andrew Pratt 2016

 

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