Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nature, Food and God

Once upon a time, in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve wanted something to eat, they picked it off the nearest tree. Nowadays, we pick it off a supermarket shelf. There’s something wrong with this picture.

I think that God designed us to interact with nature. When we do so, there is a spiritual dimension to that interaction. These sound like religious sounding words, but I don’t want to suggest that only people of faith have this spiritual dimension to nature. It can also apply to people without faith – sometimes more so.

One of the ways we can choose to live more natural lifestyles is through the food we eat. Many people in the western world don’t eat nearly enough food that could be considered at all natural. It has been processed, modified and added to. Even fresh fruit and vegetables that we buy from our supermarkets may not be as natural as we think it is.

But it’s not just a matter of what we eat. It’s also how the food that we eat comes to us. When we buy food from the grocery store, we are pretty much removed from the whole food process. However, when we grow food ourselves, we are part of that process. There is something a lot more natural, rewarding and spiritual about getting our food in this way. Stuff that just can’t be bought in a jar.

One of the other aspects of food that we often forget is the cost. No, I don’t mean the total price when you go through the checkout. But the complete costs to the world and to the environment is buying processed, packaged food from supermarkets. There are the costs of transport, processing and packaging (in terms of environmental costs, using up of resources such as oil, carbon emissions). When you pick up a product off the shelves, it is worth asking yourself how much is this costing the world?

Christians are taught to be good stewards. I don’t believe this just applies to how we use our money and whether we use it wisely. Although this is important. It also applies to how we take care of the world around us. We must make the best choices with what we have. We should also be good stewards of our body. When we eat natural foods, we are taking care of our body in the best possible way. As well as this, I think Christians should be people who try to give more and take less. We should think about this in everything we do – and this includes the food we eat.

Growing a vegetable garden or fruit trees is one way that we can interact with nature, eat more natural food and decrease the cost to the world in terms of our consumption. Food grown by yourself doesn’t have far to go before it is eaten. There is far less cost in terms of transport and processing. You also know that the food you are eating has not been modified or added to in any way.

Not everyone can grow their own vegetable garden. However, there are other options. Many communities have community gardens, where people can come and work in the gardens. It’s worth seeing if there’s one near you. Or if not, why not get one started? Farmers markets are also a better place to buy fruit and vegetables than the supermarket. When you buy from a farmers markets, the people selling their products are local. That means the food has not traveled as far. Also, because they were themselves involved in the growing of the food, you can ask them about how it was grown. Try doing that to the checkout operator at the supermarket.

We’re not in the Garden of Eden anymore. And let’s face it, no matter how hard we try, very few of us are going to succeed in leading completely natural lifestyles. But the closer we get to this, the better we will feel – both physically and spiritually. I think it’s worth creating our own little Garden of Edens whenever we can. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Changes to Parenting Payment

I've just been down at Centrelink, learning about how my parenting payments will stop. Yes, I'm one of those people caught up in the 'grandfather' clause. And yes, I'll receive a pay-cut next year - right when there are more expenses and not as much income.

But this isn't a self-pitying post. If anything, I feel lucky. I feel lucky that I am working, so it won't make as much of an impact on me as other people. I feel lucky that I work from home, which gives me greater flexibility. I feel lucky that my children are relatively old (11 and 13), which gives me more ability to find work, without having to limit it necessarily to school hours. And I feel extremely lucky that I was able to be there for them in the afternoons up until now.

Many people aren't so lucky. For a parent who is not working, the changes to parenting payment mean a cut of $130. That's an awful lot of money for someone who isn't earning very much to begin with. And it comes at a very expensive time - right after Christmas and just before back-to-school buying.

Plus, it's during school holidays. If someone is lucky enough to get a job straight away, by the time they pay for holiday childcare, they may end up with less than they were receiving on parenting payment. Some parents may decide they have no choice except to wait until after school holidays to look for a job. And school holidays often involve plans to do things with the children - plans that may now need to be changed. And as any parent knows, changed plans often mean disappointed kids.

Furthermore, many parents (usually mothers) will be forced to take whatever job they can find. Well that's all well and good, you might say, don't we all have to do that? Yes, but single mothers face more barriers in getting work than other people. Firstly, they need to find work that fits in with school hours and available childcare. Also, if they have been raising children for at least the past eight years, they won't have the same recent experience and relevant skills as other people. This makes them less employable.

Many current recipients of parenting payment may be using their 'child-rearing' years to study and/or do volunteer work to help them get the job they want once their children are older. Now, they will be forced into getting whatever job they can. And if they're working full-time, and raising children by themselves, that doesn't leave much time ever to improve their skills or study until the children are older.

Plus, some of that re-training is in the form of volunteer work. Many of our schools would not function if it were not for the volunteer work done by parents. We need volunteers. What happens to school if there isn't the same base of 'volunteer mothers' to draw from?  

And that's not even the most important impact that the changes to parenting payment will have. The most important impact is that many parents will now be forced to spend less time with their kids. And quite honestly, I think that's ridiculous.

I said up above that I am extremely grateful that I have been able to be there in the afternoons for my children. It has often put a strain on the budget. But that time is so valuable. I wouldn't exchange it for anything. And honestly I think the loss of the income I could have made if I was more prepared to put them in childcare and work full-time was a small price to pay.

And that's not saying that everybody should stay home with their kids. I'm lucky. I could work from home - so it's not like I wasn't working at all. Plus the fact that I'm very introverted means I can cope with working alone in a study a lot better than other people could. I don't think everybody can make the same choice I did. But I am so glad I was able to make that choice.

And isn't it better for kids to be with their parents rather than stuck in childcare - if that's what the parent wants to do? The government spends money on making sure childcare is available, when there's expert childcare providers right there in the kids' own homes - who are forced to leave the home to work. It just doesn't make sense to me.

And the kids like being with their parents too. Let's face it, wouldn't most people prefer to be with someone who loves them rather than someone who's paid to look after them? My youngest child is now 11. So he's three years' older than the age at which parenting payments stop. But he's still not too keen on me working in the afternoon. I am looking for another job now. After working from home for so long, I think it's time. And it will mean more money. But I think my youngest child still isn't quite prepared to not see me as soon as school finishes.

And now many, many kids will be denied that opportunity to spend that time with their parents. As soon as they turn eight, mum (or dad) needs to go out and get a job. And I think that's sad. I really do. I think if kids want their parent at home, and if the parent wants to be at home, then we should be doing everything to make sure that can happen - not saying, too bad, your kid's eight, go out and get a real job.

Raising children is a real job - and an extremely important one. We should be valuing the people who do it - not telling them they should be doing something different. Or do we only value childcare when it contributes to the economy?

I do need to point out that many parents have been in this situation for a while. The grandfather clause applies to all people who started receiving parenting payment before 2006. In 2006, the time at which parenting payment stopped was changed to when the youngest child turned eight. Everyone who started receiving parenting payment before then could keep receiving it until their youngest child turned 16. They've now changed it so that everybody on that 'grandfather clause' now stops receiving parenting payment if their youngest child is older than eight.

It makes it more fair - which I suppose is a good thing. But if we do want everybody to be paid under the same rule, I think we should change everybody to 16, not change everybody to eight. (I told that to the guy I was speaking to at Centrelink and he said, no, 18!)

And now that I've mentioned him, just a word on Centrelink workers before I finish. The guy I spoke to was brilliant. He was compassionate and understanding. He didn't like the changes anymore than I did. And I felt really sorry for him, because it sounded like he's been copping a lot of criticism. I think Centrelink workers in particular often receive a lot of criticism for things that aren't their fault.

Anyway, now that's said. This new policy is ridiculous. We should be rewarding parents who want to stay home with their kids. Once upon a time, women had no choice except to quit work once they fell pregnant. That was stupid too. And it needed to be changed. But instead of giving women more choices, it seems now that mothers have no choice except to work. And that's stupid too.

I am lucky. And so are my kids. I am so thankful that I was able to be there for them. I love afternoons when they come home from school. I love the opportunity to play and laugh and talk and occasionally do nothing. I love just the fact that I'm here with them. And I know they've loved it too. Everybody should get that chance.  

And yet so many kids will miss out on that. I don't think that's fair. I don't think it's right. And I think it will be detrimental to kids, to women, to families and to society.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Definitions of God (and how our own definitions change)

Everybody has their own definitions about God. Even if your definition is “something imagined by humans that doesn’t really exist”, that’s still a definition. Those who believe in God may have more complex definitions. They have their own ideas about who God is, what he does and how he has acted throughout history.

There are no doubt some people who have never had those definitions challenged. They go their whole lives believing certain things about God and never experience anything that might suggest those beliefs may not be completely accurate. However I would think that these type of people would be few and far between. Most people have had their definitions of God challenged – sometimes on a fairly regular basis. On a minor scale, it might just be a slight disturbance on the faith radar – a minute or two when you wonder whether you definition of God is really right. On a major scale, it could mean a complete overhauling of your entire belief system.

In Christian circles, we hear a lot about doubt. Everyone has doubts occasionally, we are told. But doubt is not good. When a person has doubts, they should just keep believing anyway. Keep pressing on and our doubts will disappear.

I have spoken to many Christians who have had lengthy periods of doubt – what might be called a time in the wilderness. Their definition of God has been challenged so much that they begin to doubt what they know of him. Does he really love me? Does he answer prayers? Am I really saved? I’ve had times like that myself. As someone who constantly questions and challenges, my definitions of God seems to be under constant attack.

When I’m in this position – or when I am talking to someone who has gone through a similar thing – the presumption is made that a person having those kind of doubts wants to have those doubts removed. They want to leave the wilderness and get back to the faith and belief they once used to have. They want God to fit their old definition again.

But what if he can’t? What if God has failed to do the things we once believed he would do? What if the church’s teachings fail to work out in our lives? What if we can’t reconcile the bible with what we know to be true? What if our definition of God just doesn’t match up with reality?

Some people choose to pray and get prayed for until their doubts go away. Others spend years in the wilderness, never seeing an end in sight. Perhaps on the surface they appear to believe all the things they’re meant to believe, but underneath it all they know that their definition of God no longer makes any sense. Others refuse to acknowledge the doubts the continue to have – even to themselves.

Then there are those who simply leave – whether it’s church, religion or even God. If they can’t believe in a God who fits their definition, then they won’t believe in God at all.

Not that long ago, I had my definition of God challenged in a big way. God failed to act in a way I thought he would. God’s love, compassion and control were all question-marks in my mind. The God of my definition no longer seemed to exist.

But just because the God who fit my definitions didn’t exist, doesn’t mean God didn’t exist at all. And just because I was questioning God’s love, compassion and control doesn’t mean that they were no longer there. It’s just that my definition was wrong. I needed a new definition.

I no longer think of God the same way I did when I was a child. Nor do I think of him the same way I did when I was a new Christian. God hasn’t changed. But my way of defining him has. In another ten years, my definition of God may have changed again. I don’t want to go back to my old ways of looking at God. Doubt, in a way, has been good for me. It has moved me onto new ways of looking at God. And I would prefer to do that than simply have my doubts prayed away until God fits my definition again. 

I don’t imagine I will ever get to a perfect definition of God. In a way, God cannot be defined – even though this doesn’t stop us wanting to define him. But that’s okay. For as long as I am prepared to redefine God – instead of expecting God to fit my definition – then I will continue to grow. And maybe my definitions of God will get closer and closer to the truth. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Moments of Beauty

A young boy trips over and skins his knee. He takes a big breath, fuelling himself for a very long cry, gives his mother a quick glance to make sure she’s watching – and then spots a butterfly. He stares at in wonder, as his pain is forgotten and the opportunity to get attention is missed. He is having a moment of beauty. The mother has her own moment of beauty. On her way to comfort her child, she stops and simply enjoys the look upon her son’s face.

Moments of beauty are like that. You are so caught up in something beautiful that you forget your own worries, your own fears and your own desires. All the thoughts that were fighting with each other inside your head simply disappear. You forget about ‘me’ for a while. You forget about everything. You simply enjoy the beauty.

The best example of a moment of beauty is the mother who looks into her newborn baby’s eyes. Regardless of how many moments of beauty I have in my life, nothing will ever compare to that experience. In fact, I doubt very much whether anyone is ever captivated quite so much as a woman who first looks into her child’s eyes. The pain of labour is completely forgotten. The worries and fears about how she will actually raise her child no longer seem that important. To say you lose yourself is a cliché, but sometimes a cliché best expresses the truth. The new mother really does lose herself. When a mother looks at her newborn, she doesn’t think of who she is or what she wants. There are no thoughts at all, well not in words. Just an overwhelming feeling of love and wonder.

Moments of beauty don’t have to be centred around some amazing experience, like giving birth to a child. They happen all the time. They can be big or small. Sitting on the beach watching the sunset. A flock of birds flying overhead. Looking at a waterfall. Attending a school assembly and hearing children sing. Listening to the solo of a classically trained singer. A moment of silence at the end of a hectic day. Walking into an old church and feeling the impact of awe, magnificence and wonder.

The other day, I was standing outside the shopping centre, when a young couple walked past. I can’t remember what I was thinking about at that moment, but I’m sure I considered it terribly important at the time. But as soon as I saw them, I stopped thinking. Now they were attractive, but I wouldn’t say they were stunning. But there was something about their faces and their body languages that really moved me. There seemed to be an ease there that you very rarely find. They looked at each other as if they really understood the value of the other person. Not stunning, no. But definitely beautiful, even if it’s not the kind of beauty that can be captured in photographs.

I have been calling them moments of beauty, but I most often think of them as moments that touch the soul. Because that’s what I think they are. When something captivates you with its beauty, I believe it’s felt more with the soul, than with the body. They are the times when our spirit finally gets our flesh to shut up for a moment. And it’s when our flesh is quiet, that I think God is mostly likely to tap us on the shoulder and remind us that he’s still there.

There is a passage in the bible that always makes me think of moments of beauty. It is found in 1 King 19:11-12.

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. 

I’m not quite sure why it makes me think of beauty, because there is certainly nothing in there that is beautiful. I think it’s that still small voice at the end. When we do have a moment of beauty, or a moment that touches the soul, we can sometimes hear that still small voice. It’s like God’s gently whispering in our ear. But we have to pay attention or we miss it. And most of the time, we’re not paying attention.

Whether we’re paying attention or not, I think moments of beauty are God’s way of reminding us that this life and this flesh are not all that matters. When we ignore our flesh, we can begin to pay attention to our spirit. When we lose ourselves, we may just end up finding God.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Selling God

When mainline churches are declining in numbers, Pentecostal and Evangelical churches seem to be growing big-time. Many of them have congregations that number in the thousands. Those that belong to these churches would probably claim that it’s all to do with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings them to church and works powerfully in their lives once they get there. People want to go to spirit-filled churches.

There’s probably an element of truth in this. But I think there’s a much bigger reason for the growth in these type of churches. Pentecostal/Evangelical churches know how to sell Jesus.

From the minute you walk through the door of the church, you are treated as a potential customer. You’ll probably be greeted by a friendly face at the door, who will ask whether you’re just visiting. Say you’re not a Christian, but you’re thinking of going to church, and you’ll be bumped up to VIP status. Make a commitment to Christ and you get your own welcome pack – introduction booklet and free bible. Now I’m not criticising this. New members and visitors should be given warm welcomes. And Pentecostal and Evangelical Christians aren’t the only ones who do this. But it is a selling point.

Another selling point is the music. Forget boring organ music and hymns. That’s now the kind of music that will sell a church. For Pentecostals, it’s all about upbeat and loud music and lyrics that are easy to remember and easy to sing along to. This music is supplied by a band, that sits up on stage, so that you can watch them as though you’ve come along to a free live music event. For many churches, you’ll also find that the music itself can be bought on CD, so you can even listen along to the songs at home.

The social aspect also helps to sell the church. I think this is more of an issue for young people – and by young people, I mean anyone under 55. People want to be around people of their own generation. The Pentecostal/Evangelical style churches, with their music and their feel, attract younger church-goers. Then with bible studies and other fellowship groups, there are lots of opportunities to socialise. It’s part of the whole fun package.

Now I don’t have any problems with any of these things. I think they are good things to do and that all churches should be doing them. It makes sense that if churches want to attract people, they have to make church attractive. But I am concerned about how far churches go in selling the church – at the expense of other, more important things. And I definitely have issues in seeing Jesus as a commodity or product to be sold.

Let’s take the message. One strong message that comes across in the evangelical churches is that God wants to make your life better. He will bless you. He will heal you. He will get you that job, answer your prayers, give you what you want. The preacher speaks of how he had absolutely nothing going for him, but God completely turned his life around. Some sermons sound like 30 minute advertisements for God. I’ve seen TV advertorials with less hyperbole. From a selling point of view, it makes sense to focus on this message. The way you sell anything is by drawing attention to the benefits. But Jesus shouldn’t be reduced to some kind of religious product that will solve your problems and change your life. That’s not what Jesus is about.

Jesus did a pretty terrible job of selling himself. He said things that made people uncomfortable. He got on the wrong side of the religious leaders. He asked people to do things that seemed practically impossible to do. He said that people had to be servants. He asked rich people to give up all their money. He told his followers that they would be persecuted because of him. None of the early Christians would have followed Jesus because he was the best religious product on the market at the time. They followed Jesus because, although they knew it would make their life harder, Jesus was someone worth following.

I wonder about today’s new generation of Christians. Are they following Jesus because he is someone worth following? Or are they following Jesus because someone did a good job of selling him to them? And if it’s the latter, what happens if the product fails to deliver? What if God doesn’t bless them, heal them, get them that job, turn their life around? Do they ring up God and ask for a refund? Or do they simply go searching for a better religious product?

Churches should be attractive places. When people go to church, they should get some benefits. But Jesus should never be reduced to a good religious product. He is so much more than that. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The importance of the Sabbath

            Most people would agree that at least some of the Ten Commandments have value. Do not murder. Do not steal. They make sense - whether you belong to the Judeo-Christian tradition or not. But then there are others that apparently seem worthless. And at the top of that list might be keeping the Sabbath. Even Christians often don't do a good job of following that one. And many people would barely give it a thought.
            But there are good reasons why we should start taking this commandment seriously again. I'm not talking here from a religious perspective. Like do not murder and do not steal, it makes sense - whether you're a Jew, Christian, Sikh, Agnostic or Atheist. Keeping the Sabbath contributes to the wellbeing of ourselves, our communities and the earth.
            But in order to understand why we should take this commandment seriously, we need to really understand what the Sabbath was for. Yes, it was for worshipping God. And from a Judeo-Christian perspective, that's important. But as I'm suggesting it's beneficial for everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, there has to be more to it than that. In fact, I think one of the reasons why this is the most neglected commandment is that we have narrowed it down to just worshipping God, which is even narrowed down further to 'going to church'. Christians believe they're obeying the commandment if they go to church on Sundays. People who don't accept the Judeo-Christian God figure they don't go to church and therefore it doesn't apply. But the Sabbath is meant for so much more than that.
            The next thing we can say about the Sabbath is it is a day when we do not work. For some, this meant a whole heap of rules about what could and couldn't be done on the Sabbath. For others, it simply meant not doing paid work. In my opinion, both miss the point. And neither approach actually considers what the Sabbath is for.
            So what is the purpose of the Sabbath? Besides worshipping God, we might also say its purpose is to rest. And this rest is not just something we should do ourselves, but something we must let others do. Exodus 23:12 says that on the Sabbath it is not just we ourselves who must rest, but also oxen, donkeys, servants and migrant workers. And just before that it says that after every seven years, the land itself must rest. The Sabbath is not just about us. It's about letting everyone rest. It's about letting the earth itself rest.
            But what might this mean in a 21st century context, where most of us don't have oxen or donkeys or servants or migrant workers? Well the point is not really about the oxen or the donkeys or the servants or the migrant workers. It's that everyone and everything (including animals and the earth) needs a chance to rest. And if we do want to think about it in a 21st century context, we need to ask what drain we are making on other people and the land? Could we perhaps replace servants and migrant workers for the people we expect to be working in stores on Sundays? Could we replace oxen and donkey for the electricity we are constantly using? Does everything always have to be in production mode for us or are we willing to give things a break?
            Thinking about the Sabbath in this way, rather than just as something we ourselves personally must do, makes us realise that rest is not just the cessation of work. Keeping the Sabbath should benefit everything and everyone. The commandment to keep the Sabbath then is not just a prohibition to work, but a commandment to participate in the benefits that Sabbath-keeping brings.
            To rest on the Sabbath may mean 'not doing certain things', but it also means to do others. We take a break from the type of things that produce goods, make money and drain the earth's resources and instead we participate in other types of activities - the kind of activities that refresh and renew us and that do not put unnecessary burdens on others.
            The inclusion of everything in the Sabbath rest also shows us that everything must have a chance to simply be. In fact, if we go back to the original day that God rested in the creation story, we can see that for seven days God created things and then he rested. This does not just mean that God stopped working. It also means that Creation, which was changing, becoming, progressing, doing, also got a chance to simply be. It no longer had to become something or do something.
            To say what constitutes rest and work is difficult because what is hard work for someone may mean rest and recreation for someone else. But if we are to truly keep the purpose of the Sabbath, we do need a break from anything that stresses us and frustrates us, and we need to choose instead those things that renew and refresh us. We also need to realise that we don't need to be constantly doing something. We just can stop, breathe and appreciate.
            The Sabbath then becomes a time when we stopping putting unnecessary demands on the earth. It becomes a time when we stop expecting so much from other people and simply enjoy their presence. It also becomes a time when we give ourselves permission to take a break from our to-do lists, to relax and laugh and appreciate the world around us.
            Perhaps the reason why the commandment to keep the Sabbath is so neglected is that we don't like simply being. We like to be achieving things, doing things, going somewhere or making progress. And we judge things (and people) on how useful or productive they are. The Sabbath not only gives us a break from this type of mentality, but it shows that people, animals and the earth have value in and of themselves. They don't need to be doing something to be important. And nor do we. Just to be is enough.
            The importance of the Sabbath commandment may not be as evident as do not murder or do not steal, but it is important nonetheless. When we stop making demands on the land, on others and on ourselves, when we value everything and everyone for what they are not what they do, we and the whole earth community flourishes.
            Keeping the Sabbath wasn't just a commandment designed to get people worshipping God. Like many of the other commandments, it would benefit the community and the individuals within it. While we may have different opinions on the importance of the Sabbath, many of us can agree that the wellbeing of ourselves, our communities and our planet is important. Keeping the Sabbath helps us do this - whether we believe in God or not.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Accepting Limitations

We all have limitations or things in our life that we don't like. The general tendency is to try and change these things. Sometimes that's a good approach for some things need to be changed. But often this change is aided by consumer products and services. And consumerism itself fuels our dissatisfaction with our lives. And it is that dissatisfaction that also prevents us from accepting the limitations of the earth.

While listening to a prison chaplain talk about his experiences the other day, the phrase 'life sentence' jumped out at me. The thought of someone who can never get what he wants (freedom), and needs to accept his situation will last for his entire life, seemed quite terrible to me. How would he find joy, peace and hope? The only way he could find any degree of contentment would be if he learned to accept his situation. Fighting against it and wanting to be free would only make him miserable.

Christians often use prison cells as a metaphor for breaking free of certain things in our life. And it can be quite a good metaphor. There are some things we need to break free from. However, if we see everything as a prison cell that we do need to break free from, then maybe we lose our ability to find peace, joy and hope where we are. Maybe we are too busy fighting our cells that we miss the opportunity to appreciate what we do have and work within our limitations.

Nowhere is the dissatisfaction with our lives more apparent than in the area of appearance. Got brown hair and want blonde? Dye it. Got brown eyes and want blue? There's coloured contacts for that. Don't like your boobs or your nose or your face? Get plastic surgery. I could go on but you get the picture.

Consumerism fuels this dissatisfaction with the way we look. The more dissatisfied people are with their appearance, the more consumer products and services they buy. But it also makes us unwilling to accept any aspect of our appearance we don't like - even the ones we can't change. I admit, I've sometimes felt hard done by because God didn't make me tall, blonde, slim and beautiful. When I do that, I not only end up frustrated and discontent, but I ignore all the very good qualities God has given me. I'm too busy looking at what I don't have and what I want to see changed.

Let's look at something completely different - comfort. If we're unwilling to accept anything we don't like, then we must be comfortable all of the time. When we exercise, we prefer to be in air-conditioned, enclosed gyms rather than out in the outdoors. We like outings where all the unpleasantness has been taken away. Our houses must be perfectly comfortable. We don't like to be too hot or too cold. We're no longer willing to accept the limitations of the weather or the seasons. So we crank up our air-conditioner to achieve the desired temperature. All of this uses energy.

And speaking of energy, we are also not willing to accept the limitations of the planet. Our desire to change our life and situation - through the consumer products we buy and the energy we use - often has a detrimental effect on the earth. But rather than limiting our impact, we demand that the earth continue to give us what we want to make our lives as "perfect" or as "easy" as possible. And we pretend that it will always do so.

It won't. The earth is a prison cell. Oh yes, it's a beautiful prison cells. It has wonders and delights and can give us everything we need if we take care of it. And it's not the kind of prison cell I want to break free from. But it's a prison cell in the sense that there's nowhere else to go. Humanity doesn't get to escape from earth. We are stuck here.

And we can pretend that the limitations of this earth don't exist. We can refuse to accept them or fight against them. But none of this will do any good. Those limitations will still be there.

Or we can learn to live within those limitations. We can appreciate what we do have, but realise there are limits to it. And when we do learn to live within those limitations, we are more likely to find joy, peace and contentment. We are also more likely to appreciate what we do have and want to take care of it.

Acceptance is not a popular trait in our society. But for the sake of the earth and our own wellbeing, we must cultivate it. Yes, there will be things in our life that we don't like. Yes, there will be limitations imposed upon us that we want to break free from. But life should be about accepting those limitations, rather than believing we must get everything we want.

I have linked our refusal to accept limitations to consumerism. But while I certainly think consumerism has made this human inclination worse, it is not limited to consumerism. The bible tells us that Adam and Eve were given access to every tree and plant in the Garden of Eden except one. Rather than accepting that limitation, they ate the forbidden fruit.

How many of us have thought, if I was in the Garden of Eden, I'd be happy with what I had? Really? We don't seem so happy with what we have at the moment. We're always wanting more, always wanting to change things, always refusing to accept the limitations placed on us.

And to say we don't live in the Garden of Eden is not an excuse. Yes, the Garden of Eden was filled with good things. But so are our lives now. The world is amazing place. Our lives are filled with so many gifts from God. We have nature and relationships and bodies that are just incredible. We have joy and delight and wonder. There is so much to be thankful for.

Let's not ruin what we do have. Let's appreciate it and take care of it. Let us work within the limitations of the earth. And let us cultivate those traits of acceptance and gratitude. There may be things in our lives and our world that we don't like. But if we learn to accept what we do have, we will also learn that there is much in our lives and our world that we love. There is much in our lives and our world that we should appreciate and preserve.

 This post was also published on my other blog, God and Gum Nuts (http://godgumnuts.blogspot.com.au/2012/11/accepting-limitations.html


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