Self love and oxygen masks

The whole ‘love yourself’ thing has never sat quite right with me. I understand what people are saying when they suggest we should love ourselves but it often feels a bit self-indulgent to me. You’re probably a lot smarter than me and have figured out the balance.

I’ve heard a lot of Christians promoting the idea of loving ourselves over the years. They base their thoughts on passages like the following where Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment.

…. But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)

The thinking goes that if we’re to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, we first have to love ourselves. What Jesus said presupposes that we love ourselves. I can’t argue with that but I still feel a bit uncomfortable.

So why do I have trouble with promoting the notion of loving ourselves?

Of course I love myself. Too much probably. I feed myself, look after myself, and think way too highly of myself and my needs a lot of the time.

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. – Ephesians 5:29,30 (ESV)

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve seen many people use the concept of loving themselves simply as an opportunity for an unhealthy focus on their own needs and wants. When Jesus spoke about loving ourselves it was in the immediate context of loving others. He said we’re to ‘love our neighbours as ourselves’. Some people get the whole ‘love yourself’ bit but never advance to loving their neighbour.

Maybe I just need to change the way I think about why I should love myself.

I’ve recently been thinking about the airline safety spiel. As well as telling you about how to do up and undo your seatbelt and how count the rows to your nearest exit, they always stress that in the event of a sudden loss in cabin pressure, you should fit your own oxygen mask first before helping others. While I’ve seen others use that idea to talk generally about looking after yourself, I think there’s a subtle but important difference when we use the oxygen mask analogy.

There’s a sense of urgency in the airline mask thing.

Yes, you need to put your mask on first before helping someone else but in that moment, as the plane starts to shake and the pressure drops, when the masks fall from the ceiling of the aircraft, you take the action you need to take for yourself before immediately turning your attention to others. You don’t sit there adjusting the mask until it feels ‘just right’. You don’t have some ‘me time’ with your mask, you grab it, put it on, and then get on with the job of assisting those around you who are struggling.

If someone I loved was sitting next to me in an aircraft emergency I’d get my mask on as quickly as I could so that I’d be best prepared to help them. Even during the act of securing my own mask my thoughts would be about getting oxygen for the person in the seat next to me.

Some people certainly do try to help others without caring for their own needs to their own detriment. They manage to fumble around and get oxygen sorted for everyone else but they’re left gasping for breath. That’s not how it should work.

On the other hand, if we focus on ‘loving ourselves’ until we feel sufficiently ‘loved up’, we’ll spend more and more time looking out for number one.

It’s another one of those times in life where we need to find balance.

We should think well of ourselves without putting ourselves above others. We need to ensure our own oxygen supply so that we can serve others. We shouldn’t think too highly or too little of ourselves. Yes, we should love ourselves but love should never be self satisfying. Love should be bigger than that.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3,4 (ESV)

I’d love to read your thoughts. Leave me a comment or two. Do you think I’m on the right track? Is it about balance? Let me know.

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What’s Your Why?

What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning? We can all find the motivation to do what needs to be done on the good days but is there something that keeps you going when things start getting tough?

Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion. – Simon Sinek

Do you have a passion that drives your actions? If you haven’t yet found your ‘why’ or discovered something that drives your passion, maybe you can share mine.

I’ve heard it said that if you “find something you love to do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Nice idea but not quite true. I love what I do but I really do have to work at it … and that’s OK. I’m happy to work hard at what I do because there’s a lot to be done and it’s something I’m passionate about. My ‘why’ informs everything I do in my job (even the boring bits).

Did you know around 300 million children in our world will go to bed hungry tonight? Did you know that around 17 000 children under the age of five died today from preventable causes and another 17 000 will die tomorrow and the day after and the day after that? And let that word sink in for a while. Preventable. That means it doesn’t have to be this way.

That’s my why right there. My work at Compassion is more that a job. Much more. It’s my driving passion. My why is all about releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

I’ve sat in the homes of the poorest of the poor. I’ve prayed and cried with those in desperate need. I’ve looked into the face of a mother, standing on the dirt floor of her one room, corrugated iron home, as she told me that neither her or her son would still be alive if it were not for the work of Compassion. It’s people like her that I think about when I need to be reminded of my why.

There are things in this world that I find absolutely unacceptable.

I believe the corrupt systems that keep people in extreme poverty are unacceptable. The fact that a child can grow up believing that they are worthless is unacceptable. Most of all, knowing that our world has the resources and know how to not only reduce extreme poverty but eliminate it right now, yet chooses not to, is unacceptable.

I find it completely unacceptable that there is still such a gap between the excess we experience and the complete lack of resources experienced by many, many millions around our world.

Some would throw their hands up and say that that’s the way it will always be and I would challenge them to think again. Over the past few decades we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in extreme poverty around the world, which tells us we can make a difference, but the statistics are still alarming. There’s still much to be done and it won’t be done unless we all play our part in bringing about change.

I work for Compassion because I am convinced that there is no more effective organisation serving the world’s poor. I have seen no other method of working with those in poverty that even comes close to the way that Compassion is working.

That’s not the marketing spin of someone who works for the organisation, it’s the heartfelt conviction of someone who has seen the light streaming in to some very dark corners of this world and wants to be part of seeing more light and hope filling the lives of those around the world who are the poorest of the poor.

I have a why that gets me out of bed in the morning. How about you? Do you have a why? I’m more than willing to share mine. How about making releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name part of your why?

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Soundtrack of My Life – Laughing With

Most of us have heard the quote “There are no atheists in trenches.”

Whether that’s true or not, there is something about difficult times that bring our deeper thoughts and beliefs to the surface. It’s when we’re in the trenches of everyday life people often look for higher meaning and search for something or someone bigger than themselves.

Soundtrack of my LifeThis is one of a regular series of articles highlighting some of the music that has played a part in my life. You’ll find a range of songs from old to new. Whether it’s the lyrics, the music, a time in my life, or a combination of reasons, the songs in my soundtrack are part of who I am.

If you take a good look you’ll probably find music that has been part of the soundtrack of your life too. You can also check out some of the other songs that make up the soundtrack of my life.

Laughing With – Regina Spektor

Regina Spektor is one of my all-time favourite singer/songwriters. Laughing With was the first single from her 2009 album, Far.

In a world where God and faith are increasingly seen as nothing more than objects of ridicule, this song reminds us that there are moments that bring sharper focus to the bigger questions of life.

Spektor also touches on the fact that part of the reason that many people are laughing at God is that some of His supposed followers have twisted his message. She sings about the ‘crazies’ who tell us God hates us as well as those pushing a ‘prosperity gospel’ that imagines God as some kind of genie waiting to grant our every wish.

Her interest in religion and religious themes doesn’t indicate a personal faith but there’s plenty we can take from her music and her observations on faith. Spektor spoke to Spin Magazine about her interest with religion in 2009 when the Far album was released.

I’m always fascinated with faith, religion, and spirituality, and what those things are to each other, or how they come together or don’t come together.”

When I was done with this record I was like, “Whoa, I have a lot of stuff here that’s just about, like, religion.” Which is amazing. It wasn’t planned, but it’s one of those concepts that my mind is just fascinated with, and I’m always mulling over. Sometimes I’m really positive about religion, but, you know, sometimes I’m really sarcastic about it, too. Hey, that’s God, that’s life! – Spin

Lauging With

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late
And their kid’s not back from the party yet

No one laughs at God
When their airplane start to uncontrollably shake
No one’s laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they’re mistaken

No one laughs at God
When the cops knock on their door
And they say we got some bad news, sir
No one’s laughing at God
When there’s a famine or fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke,
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
Ha ha
Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’ve lost all they’ve got
And they don’t know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize
That the last sight they’ll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No one’s laughing at God when they’re saying their goodbyes
But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughing at God in hospital
No one’s laughing at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
We’re all laughing with God

I’d encourage you to get involved too. Let me know about some of the songs that are etched in your mind. What are the tunes that bring back a flood of memories every time their opening notes start cranking out on your stereo? Are there songs you love for their music and others that speak deeply through their lyrics?

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Working on the Stuff We Love

It’s a weird concept but I’ve been thinking again recently about the self discipline we require to do the things we love.

We might imagine that we’ll just get on and do the stuff we love doing and that we only need to discipline ourselves to do the things that we don’t like to do; the things we have to anyway.

It takes real discipline and resolve for me to do any gardening and a bunch of other things that aren’t really my thing but what about the things I really enjoy doing?

Shouldn’t those things come easy to me?

Perth’s beautiful weather makes my city the perfect place for cycling. It’s one of my favourite passtimes yet if I don’t discipline myself to get out there on my bike I’ll miss out on something I love. It’s easy to sleep in on a Saturday morning instead of rising early to ride with my cycling friends but I know that if I put in the effort I’ll get greater benefits from cycling than I would from an extra hour in bed.

When I force myself into the habit of regular cycling I feel fitter and more energised, yet that discipline can slip away so easily. With a ride right across Australia on the horizon next year, I’d better get that discipline happening soon or I’ll miss out on my big adventure.

If I love reading so much why do I need to discipline myself to sit down with a book for an hour?

A week or two can often go past without me sitting down to soak in some words from the pages of a good book yet when I make the time to read I can easily get lost among the words and I thoroughly enjoy every moment of it. Sitting down with a coffee in one hand and a book in the other is one of the most satisfying things in the world yet I can waste my time on the trivial things of life rather than reading.

We need to work on our relationships.

Some relationships are easier than others, but we even need to put in a great deal of effort on our relationships with those we love.

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well. ? Theodore Roosevelt

Do you find the same thing happening?

Are there things that you really love yet you find you have to discipline yourself to invest your time pursuing them?

I find the same thing with my faith. I’m never happier than when I feel that I’m in tune with the Creator yet I can let time slip through my fingers without making the effort to recharge my spiritual batteries.

The simple spiritual disciplines of prayer, reading the scriptures, reflecting and others that are absolutely life giving can be easily crowded out in our busy world.

Why do we let ourselves get robbed of the real stuff of life?

It’s somehow strange that we should have to exercise discipline and self-control to do the things that make us feel most alive but sadly it’s true. I guess that’s where priority setting comes into play.

What are you like at doing the things that you love? Are there things you love, things that truly energise you, that you have let slip away?

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A Day for Australia and India

It’s a little bit cool in Dehli today. The forecast is for a maximum of 18 degrees and a few thunderstorms. I’d be keen to take that over Perth’s forecast 40 degrees today.

There’s another reason I wouldn’t mind being in India today.

While in Australia millions will be celebrating Australia Day, half a world away India will be celebrating their 68th Republic Day. I like the fact that I get to celebrate two countries that I love on the same day. I don’t know if it will ever happen but one year I’d love to be in India for Republic Day.

Though India became a free nation on August 15, 1947, it declared itself a Sovereign, Democratic and Republic state with the adoption of the Constitution on January 26, 1950.

A salute of 21 guns and the unfurling of the Indian National Flag by Dr. Rajendra Prasad heralded the historic birth of the Indian Republic on that day. Thereafter 26th of January was decreed a national holiday and was recognised as the Republic Day of India.

The Constitution gave the citizens of India the power to choose their own government and paved the way for democracy. Dr. Rajendra Prasad took oath as the first President of India at the Durbar Hall in Government House and this was followed by the Presidential drive along a five-mile route to the Irwin Stadium, where he unfurled the National Flag. – Know India

I’ve had the privilege of visiting India three times over several years. It’s a truly amazing place. While I’ll be celebrating at home today I’ll be thinking of friends in India.

I wrote recently about the first of my three adventures in India. It’s an incredible country and I do hope that one day I’ll get to visit again.

Below is a video of that first trip to India in 2003. I was joined by several locals to ride from Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, to Delhi, as well as cycling around Delhi. I was there as a guest of the Bible Society. It’s just a short video and I hope you enjoy watching it.

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