Give Your Best

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Gingerbread House

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the church. Funny that. Now that I’m working for a church again, I’m thinking about how we do church well.

Most churches that I’ve been involved with want to help people know Jesus. They want people to know how good Jesus is, what he’s done for them, and the hope he provides for them. They want this because they love Jesus, they love their friends and family, they love their community, and they don’t want to see anyone they love miss out on Jesus. Which, I think, is excellent.

What seems to happen though is that helping people meet Jesus becomes an extremely convoluted process because Christians are so sure that their friends and family are not interested in Jesus. So the process tends to go like this:

Step One:

Invite person to some kind of social event either church run or informal. The church run events are often things like trivia nights, band nights, gingerbread house making, steak cooking classes, etc. Usually at some point there is a (hopefully) non-threatening talk about Jesus. The idea is we give them something they want (an enjoyable evening) and they give us something we want (10 minutes of their time to hear about Jesus).

The informal events are a bunch of Christians hanging out, with a few non-Christians thrown into the mix. At these event there is generally no discussion of Jesus at all. But everyone is hoping that the non-Christians are enjoying being friends with the Christians so they might be intrigued and want to have more involvement with these Christians.

Step Two:

Once the person has been shown that Christians aren’t all bad and are able to have a good time, you can then invite them to church. This is a big step because church is freaking weird. If you haven’t been brought up in Christian culture then all the singing, Christian lingo, clean jokes and straight living can seem odd. So you need the people you invite to be immersed enough in Christianland that they won’t freak out.

Hopefully, they don’t mind church and are happy to keep coming back when they keep getting invited.

Step Three:

At some point the person will be so involved in coming to church, hanging around with Christians and doing Christian things that they’ll be totally comfortable with the idea of Jesus. Somewhere along the line they will express a desire to become a Christian, this may be because they are given a direct opportunity in church after a gospel message, or because they have just “got it” and so they ask someone how to become a Christian. Alternatively they just pick it all up by osmosis and just start identifying as Christian and living as a Christian.

Tadah. It’s as simple as that.

Yet it’s not that simple. Mainly because we try and get people through the door with one thing (friendship, gingerbread houses, steak cooking) and try get them to stay for another reason (Jesus). I see two problems with this. First, Jesus is our best asset. He is the best and only reason that the church should exist. The other issue is that we aren’t the best at pretty much anything else we do. We aren’t the best at tea parties, or child care, or good clean fun, or anything much really. We aren’t the best live music venue, even on a Sunday. It seems silly that we don’t put our best asset first.

We have this assumption that what we really want people to accept – Jesus – is not what people want, so we have to give them something else while we convince them that Jesus is worth checking out. But this assumes that most people are not spiritual, most people are not looking for what Jesus provides and most people are not interested in Jesus.

If we believe the gospel, that God created us to be in relationship with him and that the only way to relationship is through the saving work of Jesus, then people are going to feel a need for relationship with God even if the feeling is vague and distorted, and Jesus can meet this universal need. If that is true then Jesus is the best thing we’ve got to offer.

When people are looking for spiritual answers, the church has to show itself as a place worth going. Jesus has to be easily accessible, not hidden behind layers of events and jargon. If my car needs fixing, I go to a mechanic, if I need to get fit, I go to the gym, if I need spiritual guidance, where do I go?

I remember a time when I was working as a youth pastor in a previous church and there was a boy killed in a traffic accident in the suburb our church was in. The Sunday after that happened, friends and family of the boy flocked to our church. Word had got around that the church was the place where there would be in impromptu memorial for the boy, the church was a place to start working through the grief. It’s no accident that the church was where everyone ended up. It was just filling its role in the community.

So here’s what I’m saying. The church should do what it’s good at. That is presenting the hope given to us in Jesus. The church needs to make itself known as a place of deep, spiritual answers, where real people are finding real hope, so that when people are looking for these things, the church is the obvious answer.

The church should get good at making their services easy to navigate for those who have never been, and should make the process of meeting and understanding Jesus transparent and readily available. We can still sing, and preach, and pray, and eat food together, and make daggy jokes, but we should do it in a way that is accessible and relevant, not like a club for insiders.

When people want their friends to meet Jesus, they need to be able to say “Hey, listen, you should come to church with me. Following Jesus is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Maybe it could be the best thing that happens to you.” Or something like that which doesn’t make you sound insane. Of course this is about 1000 times more scary that inviting someone to a trivia night, but if you want people to meet Jesus, why are you inviting them to a trivia night?

Jesus never invited people to trivia nights, he never pulled the crafternoon bait-and-switch. In fact when Jesus healed people, he tended to try and keep it a secret because he didn’t want people following him for the healings, but for who he was and what he’d come to do. And when people wanted to make him King because of the free bread and fish, he deliberately spoke in ways to turn them away, because they were following him for the wrong reasons. We should probably take after Jesus and present people with Jesus and nothing less.

All that said I’ve got no problem with the church meeting needs in the community by providing mothers’ groups, counselling, financial assistance, marriage courses, community events, free coffees, car washes, trivia nights, or steak cooking classes if that’s what people want. In fact I think it’s great! But I think we need to provide these things not as an excuse to get people to give Jesus a bit of their time, but because we have been moved by the love of Jesus to give people a bit of our time.

Jesus offers forgiveness of sins, Jesus offers a new and unbroken body after our current one gives out, Jesus offers a way of life that is more meaningful and fulfilling than any other way of living. Jesus is the best we have to offer, why entice people with anything less?

Photo by Stephen Depolo

Bad News Room

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I did the worst thing I’ve ever done as a husband the other day.

Em has been watching The Newsroom recently and got to the end of Season 1 last week. I had bought Season 2 on Quickflix a few years ago and was excited to show it to her. I got it up on my computer, hooked it in with the TV and pressed play.

The episode began and I started thinking back to all the storylines that happens throughout the season. As I watched the episode with Em I was remembering the unconventional way the season is written with a lot of flashbacks and slow-dripped reveals. Quite often a character or incident would be mentioned in the episode and Em would say, “Am I supposed to know what that is?” And I would say “No. It’ll get explained, it’s just setting up the rest of the season.”

This went on throughout the whole episode. As the episode started nearing the end, all these loose ends started getting tied up. I was thinking “This is so odd, we haven’t had one flashback, we’ve had all these unexplained references, and now everything is getting tied up.” Characters were declaring their love for each other, solving problems, and healing differences. I was thinking “If they keep going like this they’re not going to have anything left to show in the rest of the season.” Then about 2 minutes from the end of the episode, as everything is getting wrapped up and the biggest of all the storylines in the show drawing to a close I realised “I haven’t shown her the first episode in the series, I’ve shown the last!”

When I pressed play on the season, it played the last watched episode, not the first in the season. I was so used the the unconventional way that season 2 is structured, and had obviously forgotten many of the episodes, I hadn’t noticed we were in the season finale till the very end! I spoiled the whole season in one go!

Needless to say, I felt terrible. I let down my wife, I let down my country, I let down Aaron Sorkin, I let down humanity. How I can unwittingly spoil an entire season, and not notice I’m doing it, is beyond me.

I have a apologised to my wife, and she has forgiven me because she is wonderful. But she may never allow me to operate VOD streaming services on her behalf ever again. And who could blame her. Our marriage is mostly built on streaming TV shows, I have done a terrible thing.

Trust is built slowly and lost quickly.

Things I Learnt Through Dating

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I wrote a post in September called “Things I Learnt Through Singleness“. This is the next in what may be a long series. This is what I learnt while dating Em from April 2013 till we got engaged on 1st January 2014. (See if you can guess what the next post in the series will be.)

1. Kissing is fun, sex is avoidable

Before I started dating, I was a bit terrified of kissing. I hadn’t kissed anyone for about 13 years. I had no idea how one went about initiating a kiss, and I was pretty sure if I did manage to end up kissing I’d be terrible at it.

The other thing that worried me is that I would end up having sex. Being the guy who always did the sex talk, telling people the importance of saving sex till marriage, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to live up to my own ideals. Lot’s of people said avoiding sex is hard, and I knew many couples who hadn’t managed to wait till marriage. Would I be one of those people too? What if I started kissing and suddenly my hormones were off, and the next thing I knew I’d impregnated Emily? It was a worry, because I had no idea.

Once we started dating I discovered that kissing is fun and sex is avoidable. My first kiss was exactly as bad as you’d expect from a man who hasn’t kissed anyone for thirteen years. But I got better, and we had plenty of fun.

What I discovered too, which I knew intellectually, just not through experience, is that the path from kissing to sex is not automatic. We had very clear boundaries, and we had a clear strategy to get from our first steps into physical intimacy to marriage without crossing any of our boundaries and without losing the fun of the physical intimacy. We had to make a few adjustments on the way, but we got there. It wasn’t magic, it was just honest planning and assessment. How dull. It make making-out sound like a business strategy.

What really struck home for me though was that avoiding sex was less about boundaries (though we had them) and more about service. I knew that seeing as both Em and I were committed to not sleeping together till we got married, for me to cross our boundaries, and to push things further physically was not serving her. Whatever we wanted to do physically, I knew I wanted to serve her and respect her more. There was never even a question of whether we’d sleep together. Not having sex wasn’t always enjoyable, but it wasn’t difficult. Neither of us wanted to be the person who pushed the other person further than they wanted to go. So we made it through fine. We enjoyed the kissing and we looked forward obliterating our dating boundaries at the right time.

2. Dating is expensive

I probably already knew this, many people have said it before, but once I started dating I really felt it. Dating is expensive, for many reasons. Obviously there are the dates. You spend more time eating out, going to movies (well I went just as much), and doing romance things (art galleries, picnics, Maccas, etc). You do all these things, and even if you did them alone sometimes, now you’re doing it more often, in fancier ways and paying for two. That being said, Em would often pay for us too because she was loaded and not into gender roles.

However it’s not just the dates, there are the hidden costs which I never thought about, the random gifts, the more expensive birthday and Christmas presents, the things you pay for “just because”, the petrol to drive to her place and home every other day and the extra tolls while driving, because you’re too excited to see her to take the long way. It all costs money.

In my stingier moments I would sometimes get annoyed that dating is so expensive, not annoyed at Em, just that it costs so much to be in a dating relationship. But then I’d remind myself that this isn’t just fancy food and extra driving for no reason. It’s all investment for a better relationship now and a better relationship later. Also apart from the driving and the tolls, it’s generally fun. It’s worth the investment, but if you want to save money, don’t start dating someone.

3. Dating invalidates your singleness

I was “The Single Guy” for a while. I was the go-to guy when you needed a Bible talk on singleness or someone single to be on your “Sex and Dating” panel at church. And then when I started dating a few people said things like “Now how are you going to do the singleness talk?” While they were joking, it did feel a little to me like once I started dating all my experience of figuring out how to be single was invalidated. It may be that no-body actually thought that, but I remember thinking it about other people who were known for being single when they got partners. Then I became that person.

When you’re with a single people who may be struggling with their singleness, once you’re dating, your advice or support seems somehow less valuable because you’re no longer in the trenches with them and you have the very thing they generally want – a relationship. Maybe I was downplaying my own effectiveness, but somehow singleness doesn’t seem to be one of those experiences that retains currency for very long outside its effect in shaping who you have become.

That may be because there is no guarantee that singleness will end. When you talk to someone who is sick with something you had and recovered from, you can say “It gets easier, you’ll get better.” But with other things, where there is no sure outcome, like singleness, you can only really say “This may end, it may not, it ended for me, maybe it will for you.” There is little comfort in that.

All that said, I don’t see my time being single as being something I needed to be cured of, or escape from. I moved from one good state of relationship status to another, but even that isn’t what you want to hear if you hate being single.

I guess someone else can do the “Living in Singleness” talk now. I’ll do the “Married for Three-Months and Got No Idea” talk. There’s quite a market for that kind of talk I’m sure.

4. Friends are Important

When you are dating, if you like the person you’re dating, all you want to do is hang out with them. If you could spend every moment of every day with them, you would.

When I was younger I used to watch my friends start dating and I’d get sad because I’d think to myself “I guess I won’t see much of them anymore.”

When I got a bit older I decided that it was actually a good thing that they started spending a lot more time with their boyfriend or girlfriend rather than me. It’s good for people to find partners, and it’s good to prioritise them over other people in their life. If they’re heading for marriage that person will become their number one human on earth. To inappropriately use a Bible verse out of context, I thought to myself of the new partner, “they must increase, I must decrease”.

So when I started dating, I didn’t stress too much about making sure I saw all my friends the same amount as I used to. That would have been nice, but time is finite, so you have to prioritise.

But what I found was that even though you saw less of your friends, their importance didn’t decrease, but their role changed.

Friends are good while you’re dating because they’re not in-love with you. It’s important to have people around who don’t think you’re the best thing to ever happen to them. It gives you perspective.

Friends are less intense. When you’re in a relationship, everything is bigger. The good things you do are amazing, the bad things are terrible. In a friendship, the good things are good, and the bad things are bad, but no one cares too much because you’re just friends.

Friends remind you that you are more that your relationship. You are a person beyond your relationship. This is always a helpful reminder.

Most importantly, friends are friends, and it’s good to have friends, whether you’re single, dating, engaged, married, married with kids, de-facto, divorced, widowed or a polygamist. Friends are important because they’re your friends. Simple as that.

5. Jesus is enough

Just as I learnt that Jesus is enough while I was single, I got to learn it in a whole new way while dating. When you’re dating you’re tempted to define yourself by your relationship. If it’s going well, you’re going well, if it’s going badly you’re going badly. But if you can hold on to the truth that your value and strength is found in Jesus, then your dating relationship can have an appropriate space in your life.

Sometimes I would worry that I might not be able to be a very good boyfriend. I would need to remember that Jesus is enough. He shows me how to love, I had everything I needed in him to be a good boyfriend. But if I failed, and we broke up, that’s ok, Jesus is enough, I didn’t need a girlfriend to be whole, I needed Jesus. When you’re holding less tightly to your relationship you’re freer to enjoy it and work at doing it well.

Sometimes it was hard to remember that Jesus is enough when Em was a whole lot more tangible than Jesus. But then when we would strive together to honour Jesus, more than we strived to make each other happy, we found that our relationship was a whole lot more satisfying. Having a focus in your relationship other than each other turns out to be better.

Dating is excellent, but Jesus is more than enough.

Flying Home

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    I finished my last day at my old job today. I’m flying home to Melbourne now after leaving for Sydney this morning at 6am. It’s been the longest work commute of my life.

    That picture above, I just took it.

    I went back for one day after five weeks of holidays. I suspect that this would be a good time for some kind of moving reflection about employment and jobs and vocation, but the flight attendant just gave me a Lindt ball. So I shall eat that instead.

    I hope they’re gluten-free, other wise I just ate some tasty, tasty bowel cancer.

    Speaking of bowel cancer, I got given a cake at work today. It was a chocolate cake covered with strawberries. My boss’ wife baked it. It looked delishious. Unfortunately my boss forgot I was a glutard, so I just ate the strawberries while everyone else ate the cake. Perhaps there’s some sort of symbolism in that.

    I spent my whole day sitting with my replacement telling him everything he needed to know to do my job. It disappointing that it only takes a day to replace me, but at least I wasn’t replaced by a computer. Although I wouldn’t mind being replaced by Siri. I suspect she’s incredibly good looking.

    We just hit turbulence. The seat belt sign went on but the no smoking sign went off. I’m lighting up.

    How do you sum up five years in a job?

    I spent five years, driving all over Sydney and beyond, doing hundreds of talks about Jesus to thousands of kids. That’s pretty super. Plus I even got to fit in a few naps in my car by the side of the road along the ways. Jesus with occasional naps. That sounds to me like the perfect job.

    So Why would I quit? Apart from that personal helicopter I get as a signing bonus from the church, I think I like doing ministry with people instead of to people. A lot of my job was standing in front of a crowd telling them things, I left because I want to spend more time beside people listening to them. My words might have more currency then.

    Certainly my time hasn’t been wasted. It’s been very fruitful but it’s time to swap a wide ministry for a deep one.

    Also I suspect I’ll be able to sleep in a bit later working for the church, it’s Jesus plus more sleep. Hard to argue with that.

    We’ve landed now.

    I’m home.

Arrived

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Lease Signing

We made it to Melbourne. We came down via the Princes Highway, which was beautiful. We left last Tuesday, spent two nights in Merimbula, and then arrived in our new suburb of Mitcham on Thursday night. I’ve never moved to a new city before, so I’m not entirely sure how to do it, we seem to be succeeding so far though. I was worried we would turn up and be really lonely. Since arriving though, we’ve been having dinner with friends, lunch with cousins, and holidaying on Phillip Island with more friends. It kinda feels like we’ve swapped a life in Sydney with too many people to see and not enough time, for a life in Melbourne with just enough people to see and no pressure feeling like we’re neglecting anyone else. It’s quite nice.

On Saturday we spent most of the day at house inspections, looking for somewhere to live. The very first place we looked at was a brand new, third floor apartment right near the shops and station. We were the only ones at the inspection. The place was great. It’s had a large balcony and views of Mt Dandenong. Considering the majestic peak that Mt Dandenong is, towering over Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, I’m surprised there wasn’t a large crowd of locals just hoping to use the inspection as a chance to view the mountain from such a spectacular vantage point. We would have applied for the apartment just for the view, but happily there were lots of other things we liked about it too. On Monday we got a call from the real estate agent letting us know that we got the apartment. We signed the lease that day. This was good because we didn’t really like the other places we looked at. The only other property we applied for a was a two bedroom house which came with it’s own pet redback spider, so you can guess what the rest were like.

Seeing as, by Monday, we had achieved all that we needed to achieve before all our gear arrives from Sydney in a removals van sometime next week, we headed off to Phillip Island. It turns out Phillip Island is more than just some penguins and a race track. There are also some seals, op shops and a town called Rhyll. I’m not sure how you pronounce that, which I think might be one of the most fascinating things about the town.

We’re here on the island to spend time with our friends the Goughs. Two of our friends in this family are young children, so we spend a lot of time doing puppet shows, watching magic tricks, and wrestling. For the first time since I left work in December, I feel like I’m actually on holidays. It’s great.

Next week I start my new job. I get to start thinking about youth group, and sermon series, and whether it’s acceptable to take home leftover communion supplies for a Sunday snack, but for now, I’m just thinking about sleeping in, reading books, when I next get to eat another meal, because that’s what holidays are really about. Or should I say “That’s what holidays are Rhylly about.” See what I did there?

Melbourne

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Melbourne blog

I got married.

I became a coeliac.

Now I’m leaving Sydney.

In two weeks.

If you’re gonna change one thing, change everything. That’s always been my life motto (it hasn’t).

Ever since Recom folded I’ve been on the lookout for a new job. I have very much enjoyed my current job, travelling around to schools, speaking about Jesus. However what I’ve been really keen to do is to get back to church ministry. So I was looking for jobs and found one that looked perfect. A Youth and Young Adults Pastor role where I look after a youth ministry and oversee and regularly preach at an evening service. It was pretty much exactly what I wanted. I get to do youth ministry, which I love, I get to put all the thinking about church I’ve done for Recom into practice, which is great, and I get to preach regularly in a logical, long-term series structure, which I’ve been hankering for since becoming an itinerant preacher. The only downside to all this was that the job was in Melbourne – Cold, wet, hipster, AFL-loving, 900kms from the greatest city in the world – Melbourne.

Still, what can you do? Jesus travelled from heaven to earth, I can travel from Sydney to Melbourne. I chatted to Em and she thought Melbourne could be alright, so I applied for the job.

A few interviews, visits, prayers and discussions later, the church voted to call me to the role and I accepted (I got the job). This means, we’re moving to Melbourne.

To be honest it’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Exciting to do new things, meet new people, build a life for ourselves, do church ministry again. Terrifying because we don’t know many people in Melbourne so we have a much smaller safety net if things go terribly wrong. We might just be lonely. We’re also sad to leave Sydney. We’ll miss our friends and family. We’ll miss knowing how to get places and just generally feeling comfortable.

But all up it seems like a good challenge. It’ll grow us. And I think we’ll get good stuff done. Em’s got lots of new opportunities there to do artisting. I’ve got lots of opportunities to learn to enjoy AFL. It’s gonna be fun. Plus, it’s not like we’ll be on the other side of the world. Sydney is just up the road.

Here’s to adventure.

Glutard

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Glutard

The morning I headed off to get married I went to the doctor first. The weeks leading up to the wedding I had been getting regularly sick. I won’t go into detail – I’ll just say it was stomach cramps and spending quality time with the toilet. Somewhere along the way, there was suspicion that I might be coeliac. Coeliac disease, by my technical definition, means your body can’t absorb gluten (a by-product of wheat, barley, rye and many generally enjoyable foods). If you do eat gluten you can get digestive issues, weight loss, cancer, and death. So you know, it’s not great.

Anyway there had been suggestions that I might be coeliac (technically known as being glutarded) because every second person in my extended family is a glutard, even my adopted sister and some of the uncles and aunties who have married in have the disease. I had always maintained that if I was a glutard, I didn’t want to know, because well, it precludes you from eating so many tasty foods. I would have preferred go to an early grave eating a beer-battered, Krispy Kreme donut than have to spend my life eating bread that has the same consistency as the Great Wall of China.

But when it was getting close to wedding and I was getting sick once a week or more, I realised maybe I should get checked. Plus I thought leaving a widow behind because I love the taste of gluten may be a bit selfish.

So I went to the doctor that morning to find out if I was in fact a glutard. She informed me that yes, the test results were positive. I am a glutard and I’ve been one for a while.

This was difficult, just before I got married my life was thrown into chaos. No more cream-buns, ever. I’m surprised Emily even chose to marry such a diseased man.

There are so many things I can’t eat now. I didn’t have a high gluten diet before, but it turns out they sneak gluten into everything, it’s not just in bread and pasta. Potato wedges, pad see ewe, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, everything worth eating at Maccas (if you can call anything there worth eating), beer, soy sauce and most things enjoyable to eat contain gluten.

Plus now I have to ask when I go to food establishments if they have gluten-free food and I feel like an idiot. I assume they’ll think I’ve just chosen the “gluten-intolerant” lifestyle – which apparently may not be a thing anyway – rather than that I have a genuine life threatening and sloppy-poop generating disease. As a result, I often don’t ask, I just try and figure out what is gluten-free on my own, but then Emily pipes up and asks for me because she takes my safety more seriously, so now, not only do I look like a guy riding the GF bandwagon, I look like the guy whose wife has shoved him on the GF bandwagon perhaps without his enthusiastic consent.

I’m not that guy, Emily is not that wife, I just want to live, just not always at the expense of my image. I’m very conscious of how I come across to people in the hospitality industry.

All that said, now three weeks in, my digestion has never been better, I’m putting on weight, I’m discovering new and less interesting foods to eat and I’m learning how to talk to people who work in Thai restaurants about dietary requirements. I’m growing as a person. I’m learning to own my disability. I’m hoping to get a special disabled parking permit soon.

Sometimes, I feel like I’d be happy to risk a bit of diarrhoea and cancer for some hot wedges and a cold beer. But when I do, I just remind myself that one day, I’ll become a motivational speaker and my ability to cope with my terrible illness will be an inspiration to many.

I’m not just a glutard, I’m also a hero. Let my courage inspire you.

The Last of the Old Life

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Hopefully at around 11:30am today, I got married. I’m not sure because at the time of writing this it’s Friday, 31st October.

Anyway, I went on my first date with Emily in April last year. I had the feeling it might be significant, so I wrote a blog post about it which I never posted. I thought I might share it now. (I showed her this just before we got married, I hope).

There is one paragraph which feels a little negative in all this excitement, but I’m leaving it in because I wrote it, and it’s true. But just so you know, I’m not feeling worried about this, just challenged and excited.

I know Emily properly now, and I love her very much. I’m super excited to love her, and there is so much to love about her. The future is looking bright.

9/04/13

Tomorrow I’m going on a date. And it may mean nothing.

But it’s the first time I’ve been on a date where I’ve liked the girl and she likes me. This I think makes tomorrow a personally historic occasion. So I don’t feel like I can just let it go by with no documentation.

You may think to yourself, dear reader, how does he know she likes him? This is an excellent question. I don’t know, I guess. But I’ve had a lot of experience of girls not liking me, and this is completely different. We message, email, or Facebook everyday. Sometimes we communicate on multiple mediums. Sometimes we use all three.

Our emails started a few lines long. Now they’re thousands of words long, every time.

She likes almost everything I put on Facebook.

She wants to hang out with me.

And she pretty much said it to our mutual friend.

I’m so sure she likes me I’m not even stressed that I might be wrong.

I don’t think about how to get her to like me. I think about what’s the process you go through to move from liking each other to dating. I’m trying to figure out if kissing should come first or the discussion about “Is this God’s will?”

And I’m pretty excited.

I’ve been on so many dates. And I’ve never really looked forward to them. I’ve been looking forward to this for a week. It’s felt like the longest week of my life.

I’m worried I’m gonna get nervous. I’m worried tomorrow I’m going to throw up. I do that sometimes. I’m not planning on eating anything tomorrow till the date. That seems safest.

Of course, all this, is very well and good, but the question is why her? Why not any of the other lovely girls who I’ve been on dates with?

Who knows? Maybe because we picked each other. I saw her at church, I thought “I’ll keep my eye on her”. We sat next to each other at dinner, she was fun, funny, pretty, loved Jesus, made art and was quite willing participate in an absurd scavenger hunt for a month.

I made tentative connections with her, and she responded well to all of them. I didn’t have to try and convince her to like me, I think she just did. I didn’t use moves, or lines, or my magnificent physique. She just seemed to like me. I don’t know why.

Why do I like her now? Cause she loves Jesus. And all those other things I saw on the first night I met her, they just became more real. Plus she’s smart, and assertive, and opinionated. I’m excited about the first time we actually disagree on something. It’s gonna be super fun.

Plus I think she doesn’t like girly movies, or general pop music. Though I haven’t confirmed that yet.

I have decided though, that if we do date, and if we do fall in love, and we do love each other and commit to one another, I have decided not to love her because of her looks, or her artistic skills, or her brain, or her jokes, or her opinions, or her sense of fun, or her forgiveness, or even her love for Jesus. I will not love her for anything that may change or fade, or become hardened with time. I will not love her because of how she treats me. And I will not love her because of how I want her to be.

If I love her, I will love her because she is mine to love. How does Christ love his church? Not for her beauty, though he has made her beautiful. And not for her deeds, though she has achieved much through him. Not because of what she gives him, though all she is belongs to him. No, he loves her because he chose to. Because he sought her out, while she had nothing to offer, only sin and rebellion, and chose to give himself up for her. He chose to love her, and this is why he loves her.

And I will choose to love her. She will not find her beauty, goodness, or identity in me. I cannot be her Christ. But I can do my best to love her as Christ has loved me. She can change, she can fade, can get dementia and become a completely different person. She can sin, she can hurt me, she can refuse to forgive me when I hurt her. All sorts of things may go wrong, one day she may have nothing to offer me. But I will choose to love her, because Christ has chosen to love me.

But really, if it ends up with me loving her because Christ loves me, I think I got the better deal. Because I may not love her because of her looks, wits, brains, jokes, fun, assertiveness, or anything else about her, but I will love them. And it will be great.

Of course I am getting ahead of myself. We are not in love. We are not getting married. We are not dating. All I know right now is this: She is wonderful, and I am going on a date. We both like each other. My life may never be the same again.

I need to figure out what to wear.

Photo of our feet by Averie Harvey

The Chris Morphew Interview

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I had the dinner with world famous, YA fiction author, Chris Morphew, the other night. I took the chance to interview him for the blog. I must say, it was an inspiring experience. Here is some of Chris’ wisdom for the world.

On healthy eating

Do you know the food pyramid? I kinda reimagined it and I follow what’s called the food cube. It’s carbs, that’s the bottom layer, and the top layer is meat. And that’s the cube.

On his hair and beard stylings

People say [I look like] Paddle-Pop Lion and Jesus. Those are my two heroes, so it works out quite well.

On fame, being an author and his recent tour of the United States

It’s about who you are and not what you do. A situation that came up that made me realise that it was much more about character and who I am, than what I produce was when I was at a school. I spoke to the kids, then afterwards all these kids came down and wanted to get selfies because they’ve all got Instagram and stuff. And after every school I would check my Instagram followers and watch them pick up and think about how great it was to be a big shot famous author. And then this photo came up and it was me and some girl who had taken a selfie and it said “Life made! Selfie with an Aussie!” So from that I took away that it’s a lot more about my identity as a whole person rather than just the work that I output. I don’t think that any of them had, or will, read my books, but they were very impressed with my accent and the fact that I was from a different country to them.

Advice for aspiring authors

Be Australian. Or if you can’t do that, find the country where your accent is a novelty. I feel like if you’re anywhere but America, go there, but if you’re American, go to New Zealand maybe? I feel like that would work.

Advice to me for getting married

I’ve heard good things. My observations [of marriage] are mixed but I think just be you. You said that your fiancé is Lebanese, so maybe if you play up your accent maybe she’d be impressed by that. I mean, I met her, and she sounds pretty Aussie so it won’t be a total novelty for her but if we can transfer what I’ve learnt about writing to what I’ve learnt about marriage, and I think we can, that would be my tip. Play up the Aussie larrikin. And, I don’t know, do some dishes?

On what he learned watching “The Equalizer” staring Denzel Washington

I learned that there’s murder, and then there’s “art-murder”. It would have been much more efficient for Denzel to kill people with greater precision with a gun, rather than with a quickly rigged up barbed wire noose, or a drill, or explosives in the microwave, but that’s his art and I don’t want to devalue his art.

You can buy Chris’ books The Phoenix Files in all good book stores (hopefully). He’s also working on some other books and you’ll be able to buy them at some point too. Also you can follow him on Instagram @crispywords.

Absent

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I’m sorry to all my hard core fans out there that I haven’t blogged for the last three days. I’ve been at Black Stump filming and speaking, and there was no easily accessible internet. I’ll try and be back on my game now that I’m back in internet land.

Let me leave you with this photo I took of Mike Frost speaking in the Main Meeting at Stump.

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