Away…

We have been gone a bit over a week now and spent a week in Northern Ireland as well as a few days now in Menorca where we are until Sunday.

It was interesting landing up in Belfast again. I left when I was 10, went back once at age 33 and now this time seventeen years later. I was curious as to what I would feel… would it be ‘home’ in some sense? What would I feel at being back in my birthplace?

Not a lot as it turns out… and that’s neither a bad thing nor unexpected. I actually had this conversation with my cousins husband:

‘So what is this for you now? Have you come home?’

image

‘No…  now I’m a tourist. Happy to sniff around, enjoy the country and see the sights, catch up with family (most of whom I hardly know ) and generally do what visitors do. ‘

It’s a reminder that home is more than a physical location. I think it is a physical location, but these days it has more to do with being around my own family, of being where God wants us and of feeling settled in that ‘place’. I find it hard to envisage leaving Yanchep or our church community, of starting again somewhere else…  but I realise these are all possible. And because ‘home ‘ is more than location I’m sure it would work.

It was really good reconnecting with family on both sides,  cousins and uncles /aunts I wouldn’t know if I met in the street, but good people.  I drove the kids past some of the old haunts – my home,  my dad’s home,  my school, my first church and I think we all felt a bit ‘meh’ about it. They lacked the significance they once had.

We enjoyed driving around and being tourists, seeing mountains, oceans, line upon line of dry rock walls, grey skies with fleeting moments of sunshine and a city that was unfamiliar, but curious in many ways.

image

We watched the July 12th marches from a very safe ‘middle class ‘ vantage point (not my preferred location) and took some time to discuss this cultural and theological oddity. (I have more thoughts to come on this when the mood is more conducive ). Sam decided to voice his opinions over dinner with my aunt and we all realised that maybe it wasn’t dinner time conversation.

The cultural and spiritual nature of Northern Ireland is well worth a post on its own and I will do that once I have had a chance to process it better. It is still heavily churched,  but with the complicating issue of the political situation. I wonder if the Irish will ever move beyond the old divisions and be able to live together harmoniously? My ‘outsiders’ take is that given another 500 years they may just do it.

In my rovings I discovered the Corrymeela Community who from their website seem to be a crew doing some good work on this front. If time permits I’d like to drop in and see what they are doing first hand.  I imagine it would be an interesting place to have a sabbatical. I’d be very interested to delve into the issue of reconciliation in this place,  buy I imagine it is long slow and generally unrewarding work.

In other less provocative news I have worn shorts every day since arriving and while it’s been cold at times its also been good weather for exploring.

image

I’ve definitely disconnected and enjoyed places, people,  books and reflection time. We have spent the last few days with old friends in sunny Menorca, a nice little island in the Mediterranean. It isn’t somewhere you would ever venture to as an Aussie usually so it’s been good to hang out off the beaten track. 

11 Blokes You Meet In the Line Up

yano

Most days when you paddle out you get a mix of crew in the water, but there are a few that always seem to be there… at least in a place like Yanchep…

The Grom – paddles out in everything, stays out in everything, catches anything… always believes he ‘just got barrelled’ and comes in stoked even if its 1ft onshore and crowded.

The Angry Bloke – paddles around like a rabid dog on a short leash… Thinks he owns the place and snarls at anyone who looks like catching ‘his’ wave. He probably lives a million miles away, but this is who he is… wherever he is…

The Local – he’s like the angry bloke but not so angry. He treats you like you are are a stranger in his lounge room and calls you off waves like you are drinking his beer. More dangerous than the angry bloke though…

The old fat bloke who sits out the back on a 10ft mal and doesn’t catch anything – ever – he’s been surfing for a long time now so just to get in the water is an achievement in itself. He sits there for a while, paddles and wheezes while trying to catch a few waves then gets rolled and comes in. He’s back out again in 3 months time for more of the same…

The other bloke on the mal who catches everything - just when you think you’re onto that wave you hear a voice and sense the presence of someone who has already been riding it for the last 5 minutes because he caught it further out than everyone else. These blokes are not popular, but they seem to deal with being disliked pretty well…

The bloke who drops in on everyone – its bad manners whether you are a local, a superstar, or just a fool. You can only get away for this with so long before someone will have had enough.

The guy who has just been to Indo – and announces his adventures to the line up as if he had just won the ASP tour. He might have only been once but he can make it sound like he lives there.

The chick – no longer wannabes or eye candy for blokes between sets, a heap of girls can really make their mark in the water. There still aren’t a heap of girls out there, but times are changing.

The Euro bloke – who things ‘oy’ and ‘hey’ mean ‘nice wave – why don’t we share’… They don’t. These guys generally understand expletives pretty well though.

The beginner – amusing – sometimes hilarious – but usually dangerous. You can spot them on the soft-mals bobbing around on the inside or sitting wide. So long as they stay there they are harmless, but you don’t want to get caught inside with one.

The SUP – also a rare breed, but a step up from the bloke on the mal who catches everything. Now he only catches everything if these guys don’t get it first.

I’m sure there are more, but that’s just my reflection after a few weeks of some great waves here in Yanchep. (And yes – that’s a shot of ‘locals’ beach from last week on Thursday just before sunset when it was icy cold.)

 

 

 

On Women

womenIf ever there were a tough gig it would be leading a Christian church as a woman.  The more I have reflected on this the more I shake my head in both disbelief and admiration of those who do it.

As a bloke looking on it appears to me that the challenges are enormous for women seeking to develop and serve in this way.  Obviously I write this as a man and with a limited perception, so feel free to correct me ladies or add your experience of this conundrum.

The first challenge I observe is obvious – finding a church that is willing to take you on as a leader. Some churches see value in a female ‘associate’ pastor,  but very few in my own tribe (let’s call us ‘evangelical’ ) are willing to take the ‘risk’ on a woman as a team leader/senior pastor or whatever language you prefer to use.

If a woman is willing to be an associate then there is a reasonable scope for finding a role.  It wont be as broad a scope as the roles available for men,  as many churches still don’t accept women in eldership / teaching roles, but if the role is purely pastoral, kids or youth then it might be ok.  She might be called the ‘children’s worker’ rather than pastor but then she ought to just be happy to have a position… right?… To find an associate role is definitely possible and often this is as far as churches are willing to go.

But what of those women genuinely gifted as leaders and communicators? What of those women whose best fit is a senior leadership role? Do they simply have to accept that they will only ever serve in a secondary capacity (or be missionaries?… because the same rules don’t seem to apply cross culturally…)

I say ‘secondary ‘ not to lessen children’s / youth ministry but because to be unable  to be who you are is always going  to see you being in a ‘secondary ‘ space.

Again the biggest challenge is to just get a gig.  How many churches have a theology in place that see women as potential senior leaders?  Not many… not many at all. I’ll guess 20% would accept this theologically, but even fewer would be able to accept it culturally. The ‘leadership is male’ paradigm is too strong to break.

So a woman would firstly need a find a church in her tribe,  (or a neighbouring tribe) looking for a senior leader that is theologically and culturally placed to consider her. Already the field has narrowed considerably.

But the challenge continues.

Most churches are institutions and institutions tend to play it safe.  It’s a safer bet to choose a man. Church leaders are more often seen as men so it would be an easier route for most churches to go. When new faces appear on a Sunday morning, ‘church shopping’, some will likely be ‘put off ‘ if they discover the senior leader is a woman, because they have been used to male leadership. Put bluntly if a church chooses a woman as a their team leader then they risk narrowing the ‘market’ they appeal to. (Yeah – I know that’s crappy language but for the sake of the illustration…)

We have been conditioned in this way so its going to be a while before that changes significantly.  A church that simply wants to get more bums on seats will be ‘smarter’ to go with a man as a team leader because the appeal is more generic. Sad but true I’d suggest. Of course if a church is confident and secure enough in its identity then it won’t care and it will move with its convictions, but those churches are few and far between.

My guess is that women will also be under more scrutiny from those on their teams and those in the congregation. ‘Is she really up to it?…’

That has to be ‘wearing’. To have to prove yourself,  time and again… to know that some may not believe in you because of your gender. That can create a sense of insecurity in a leader if they know they are constantly being evaluated in a way a man wouldn’t be. I imagine it would also be hard not to be in ‘fight’ mode often as a woman leader or not to get gnarly at throwaway lines and flippant gender related comments.

Then there’s the challenge of recruiting other staff.  The same problem applies as when a woman is seeking a role.  Some men will have theological objections to female leadership, while others will simply find it too much of a cultural stretch to have a woman in the lead role.  This inevitably means that the staff possibilities diminish and it can then be hard to develop a strong team and a thriving ministry.  If you can’t easily recruit co-workers then what do you do?

I think we have a long way to go before we will see a significant shift in the landscape and I applaud those women who have cut the path in some very hard ground – who must some days look up and wonder if they have actually got far at all. The reality is that the ground has been broken, the moulds are being re-cast and in time we will see this pioneering work bear fruit in churches that are led by the person who is called to the role irrespective of gender.

At the moment Danelle and I share the leadership role in our church and we are the team leaders. Some days that means my communication, leadership gifts come to the fore and some days it means her prophetic, people gifts come to the fore, but we’re able to discern who is best placed to lead as needed. It isn’t a function of gender but rather a recognition that we are gifted differently and we function best when we allow one another to do what we do best.

I only know of a few women in team leader roles across Australia, and they are all women who are certainly very deserving and highly capable in their roles, but I can only imagine it aint easy.

Thanks for your leadership and courage ladies and for not shying away from the challenge.

Coffee Toys

 

bes900_110610

Given the rain is literally pouring down outside I figured I’d take some time off work and give some first impressions of my new coffee toys that arrived recently – a new Behmor 1600 Plus roaster and a Breville Double Boiler coffee machine.

I need to qualify what I say here by stating that there are various degrees of ‘coffee snobs’ and from what I can see I qualify as one of the ‘domestic’ variety. There are many more serious than me, but given its been 10 years since I drank instant I am probably not ‘casual’ about this.

It was my old mate Grendel who I describe as the ‘coffee evangelist’ who led me into the kingdom of caffeine and my life has never been the same… Well… you get the idea.

After my coffee conversion 10 years back in Grendel’s garage I purchased my first machine – a second hand Sunbeam 6910 and it served me well for several years before the steam wand stopped functioning. Since then there have been 2 more ‘Gumtree’ Sunbeams in the family (the last one a $60 purchase because the owner didn’t how to work it) and they have served us well, although both had steam wand issues that I couldn’t justify paying to get fixed. You can see the pattern here right?

When it comes to machines I am a self confessed tight arse. I don’t have a palette that can appreciate the subtle ‘berry flavours and chocolate hints’ that others seem to be able to detect. I can tell if its good coffee, average coffee or bad coffee. Bad is what you get at the Como deli before going there to preach on a Sunday morning. Average is Dome – bland and unoffensive – but equally unappealing and good (or maybe even very good) is what you get in some of the more boutique cafes around the place – but now also at home.

I never forget being out to dinner with friends and discussing whether or not to stay for coffee. I said quite clearly ‘No way! Come back to our place as the coffee back there will be way better than what we get here.’ I didn’t realise the cafe manager was standing behind me listening… I turned around to see her there – smiled and said ‘Sorry – but its true…’

We even have a camping coffee machine… It was the Breville Aroma that did the big lap of Oz with us and served us well and now its a Sunbeam equivalent that hits the road whenever we travel. When the last 6910 passed away I brought the camping machine into the home, but between the pressurised baskets and the simple technology of the machine the coffees were less than great.

I actually opted to buy a brand new machine this time and went to the Good Guys in Clarkson to pick up another 6910, complete with grinder. It turned out the steam pump in the new machine was spluttering and texturing milk was next to impossible, so I took it back and exchanged it. The next machine did the same… so back it went and I asked for a refund. To their credit the Good Guys did this and I was impressed with their service. I didn’t want to get a refund, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know when its ‘not me’, but the machine. I have to add the free grinder that goes with the 6910 is not impressive at all. It spatters grinds everywhere and doesn’t have a simple on/off switch, but only one operated by the pressure of the portafilter. I’ll be happy never to own one of them.

With the Sunbeam 6910s off the radar now I began to look around. The new Sunbeam EM7000 was getting some pretty good reviews, and some folks were suggesting the Breville Double Boiler. At $1400 approx it was not looking likely for this tightarse coffee snob.

But as I read the reviews of this machine it really did come up smelling of roses 99% of the time. The coffee snobs forum thread devoted to the machine (400 pages since 2011) contains some complaints and some sign of the problems you may expect, but this is only a small sample of the owners, most of whom I am guessing are very happy with their machines.

So I decided to gamble.

I saw one of these on evil bay for $999.00 – a big saving on retail as it was a factory second… And then eBay had their 15% off Sunday and I decided to jump. It means that I got the machine for $900.00 with free postage (Yes – 15% of $999 is more than $100 but that was the max discount) and I figured that even if I hated it, I could sell it on for that price with no trouble. I also liked the fact that it was a ‘second’ and had been checked over by a techy, because it (should) mean that it doesn’t have any obvious flaws.

Well, it arrived yesterday and with a lunchtime finish at work I was able to get home and play with it for the afternoon – and it is very very good.

Some stuff I like about it:

- it fires up to temp pretty quick 5-10 mins max

- the coffee quality was excellent. I roast my own beans and haven’t been happy with the stuff coming out of the camping machine. I thought maybe it was the beans… Nope…

- the steam wand is great and operates via a ball valve which means that if like me, you are often heating 100 mls of milk then you can dial it down a bit rather than having huge amounts of steam smashing the bottom of the jug.

- the front fill mechanism is a great idea, as is the swivel foot that allows the machine to be moved easily.

- the shot clock is interesting and novel, but I doubt I will use the pre-set buttons much as I like to control my own shot

So after a day I can say ‘Yes – this one is a keeper!’ Its nice to see a really cool coffee pour again after the month spent with the camping machine. If I had any criticism at this point it would simply be the size of the unit. We now have a coffee station that doubles as a kitchen…

download

As well as the coffee machine I recently bought a Behmor Plus roaster. Again, after 10 years of using a heat gun and breadmaker (popularly called a Corretto) I figured I had earnt my stripes and could graduate to a half decent roaster.

These sell for $450.00 on Coffee Snobs and so far I’ve been very happy with it. You can roast up to 450g in it although I have only gone as far as 350g at this point. It has a whole heap of features to allow you to take control over the roast, but for my use I simply run on the pre-set ‘profile 1′ and use the timer to adjust the roast time up or down. I’ve done several batches of roasts and while it does give a more consistent roast than the Corretto it is not ‘worlds apart’. What you can achieve with a retired breadmaker and heat gun is quite impressive!

The machine looks like a microwave and operates with a heating element and drum. You can pre-heat if you wish by running the cycle for less than 2 mins and re-starting. You can have a max roast time of around 21 mins which is plenty for most of what I do. The downside of the Behmor is the cooling cycle takes place in the roaster and lasts for 10-12 minutes. In this time the beans are inevitably being ‘roasted’ a little longer than intended so this needs to be factored into the roast equation. Or if you roast in a garage like I do, you can simply open the front door and speed up the cooling process. It does allow a bit of chaff to fly around, but if a vacuum is handy you can suck most of it up easily.

So I think I’m good for a few years now and a decent coffee is never far away.

 

 

Whatever Happened to the Emerging Church?

imagesIt depends on who you ask…

It depends on what you mean by emerging church…

This question was asked in the comments section of a recent post by a long time reader and I thought I’d take a few words to offer my thoughts on the subject. This blog began around the time the ‘emerging church’ was becoming a valid topic of conversation – a hot topic in many instances and was a specific focus of what I wrote here for several years.

In its infancy ‘emerging church’ almost became anything that wasn’t traditional. It was definitely more nuanced than that, but the early tone was a breaking away from established modes of church that clearly hadn’t been over successful in engaging the culture. It paralleled the great interest (among evangelical Christians) in the subject of post-modernism and how the church related to the world in this age of relativity and uncertainty.

images (1)

This blog began as part of my own journey into a missionary adventure – one that had overlap with the emerging church scene. But one of the great struggles was always in the defining of terms and ‘emerging church’ became and still is a very loaded term. Recently I listened to someone in our own church who knows nothing my involvement in this movement speak in disparaging terms of ‘Rick Warren and the emerging church’. I said nothing partly because I really don’t care. I don’t care that Rick Warren was never really in the ‘emerging church’ camp (which camp?) nor do I care that my friend sees the emerging church as heretical and off-beat. I found the misinformed comments little more than amusing.

We weren’t long into the ‘emerging church’ conversation when we realised that it meant fairly different things in different countries and to different leaders around the world. Being a grassroots movement that was always going to be both its beauty and its struggle. So in 2006 when Don Carson came to Perth to speak about the his book ‘Becoming Conversant With the Emerging Church’ and Geoff Westlake and I were invited to have a public conversation with him (it was called a debate, but it was nicer than that…) we saw that Carson’s critique might have had credence in some parts of the world but not others. (My old mate TSK gave a write up here and my own notes are here). The Australian scene in particular had taken on the description of ‘emerging missional church’ as a way of giving some focus to the impetus of the movement. At Forge we were about preparing people for mission in the first world and calling the church back to its task of mission, as opposed to simply deconstructing theology and critiquing.

what do we call it now

I have fond memories of many conversations (both on here and in person) that developed as a result of walking down the ‘emerging church’ road – of being with people who now had permission to think differently and question, yet also with a sense of focus and purpose – that of recovering a missional agenda for the church.

So where are we now?

I can’t speak for the rest of the world but my take on where things are at in Oz is that the ‘emerging missional church’ served primarily a prophetic function in the church from around 2000 onwards thru to about 2008/9. It served to poke the church and critique its modes of operation, sometimes kindly, but often with a hot stick. My observation was that the ‘people in the pews’ resonated well with the language and intent, but pastors and leaders often felt threatened. It was after all a critique of the way they were functioning so that made sense.

The influence of thinkers like Newbiggin, Bosch and Guder etc on those of us in leadership was quite significant. I remember feeling like a veil had been lifted over my eyes and permission given to really think differently about how we organised ourselves as church.

What I noticed over time however was both an acceptance of missional language and rhetoric by churches and a softening in critique by those of us deep inside the movement. If I were to sum up much of my focus in that time it was simply ‘lets stop trying to get people in the community into to church and start trying to get the church back into the community.’ Much of what I read in denominational literature is now flavoured with a missional incarnational bent. Churches are encouraged to approach mission creatively and innovatively. There is a move from bigger is better to missionary effectiveness is better. And from my own observations the stuff that was offensive in 2003 is now mainstream in 2014. In fact I’d go further and say its virtually passe.

dcnstrctn

The message has been heard and the energy has shifted. It’d be hard not to find a church these days that takes local mission seriously and that is willing to explore new avenues to connect with those who are in the community.

I don’t know that any of us in the movement knew at the time that its primary role was to be prophetic. I think we hoped we were giving birth to a church planting movement, but that really didn’t happen and many of the communities that were born in that time have since faded out or morphed into more regular expressions of church.

I haven’t written much about ‘missional church’ on this blog for a very long time. Not because I don’t think its important, but more because its like writing about breathing. You just do it. You just get on with it. Oddly enough I doubt many (if any) in our current church would know anything of my time in this space as I rarely speak of it. I don’t ‘hide’ it, but it just doesn’t bear talking about much.

Having said that my own expression of church that I have been part of and leading for the last 5 years is spectacularly unsexy and probably lacking what I would have once considered visible missional energy. I use the word visible intentionally because what happens in people’s everyday lives is generally invisible. If we measure missional energy by the projects we engage in together then we aren’t kicking many goals, but if I listen to the men and women in our community speak of how they live their everyday lives then I hear and see an intent to listen to the spirit and follow him into the places he leads.

As we consider and pray about a church here in Yanchep it isn’t with some sense of starting something new and funky – which was early days ‘emerging church’ form. But it is with the intent of immersing ourselves in this community of people, listening to them, getting to know them and discerning what it would look like for the gospel to take root here, what it would look like for a Christian community to be birthed here and what it would look like if the kingdom of God were to spark here.

So my personal assessment is that the ‘emerging church’ is no longer needed as much as it was. It did its job – sometimes well and sometimes not so well. The language has definitely shifted and some of the practice as well. But for me… I guess I’ve moved on. I don’t mean that either proudly or disparagingly. I can’t summon much energy for the things we once spent hours debating and fighting for and that’s partly because the air has gone out of the ball and partly because I’m ten years older and in a different space personally.

I dunno what others think, but my guess is that even this post won’t garner much in way of response because the topic is dead in the water.

It certainly doesn’t mean seeking the kingdom of God is dead, or missional energy has gone, but I think the energy that once gave rise to these subjects is pretty well dissipated and I think that’s a good thing.

We can pay attention to what God is saying to us now and get on with that instead

 

 

 

The Spectrum

VCYesterday I allocated the whole day to working in the local area for a very nice lady who was an ex UWA professor and a ‘church going’ lady and now retired.  To give me a hand she had hired a local handyman and he was a ‘roughie’.

So I alternated today between discussing Christology and spirituality with R while lamenting the mess that Yanchep has become since all those f@$-in young couples and families had moved in with Z.

It was enjoyable and entertaining. But it also highlighted the diversity of the community we live in.  Z has been in Yanchep renting the same house since 1990 and works as a handyman as little as possible, while R lives on a farm since retiring and comes home to her Yanchep properties on the occasional weekend.

R had identified herself as having ‘church heritage’ and seemed to enjoy discussing faith with me until it got sticky… She was talking to me about the importance of faith, but how all paths lead to God and it doesn’t matter which you take. Up to then we had found common ground, but on this  I disagreed suggesting Jesus definitely claimed to be the only way.  The conversation ended there – very politely mind you  - but when R opened her wallet to pay me I saw her ‘Bahai’ membership card. Of course that explained why any kind of exclusivity would be a problem.

By contrast Z and I discussed the more blokey stuff of life as we worked.  My favourite quote from the morning was him telling me about a conversation he had with tech support trying to fix his computer. The di*&^head said to me ‘Don’t you know how to re-install windows mate?’

I said to him ‘Will a rim off a VG Valiant fit on a HT Kingswood?’ And he didn’t know…  ‘We can’t all know everything mate!’ said Z and I think he made his point pretty well… albeit in a way I would never have thought of…

It was a great day with two good people but it highlighted the cultural differences that exist within this little community.

To Consciously Quit…

greyA couple of weeks back I stood on a hill about a km north of our house and watched the surf roll in on a cold, grey Sunday afternoon. The picture here is from that day.

I had driven there to go for a surf, but every bone in my body was baulking at the idea. It was cold. I was out of shape. I hadn’t surfed properly in months. There was a small crowd. I knew I’d probably get rolled more than I’d enjoy it. It felt much easier to just head home and stay warm.

As I reflected on it later I realised I was actually pondering giving up surfing… I was wondering whether I was still up for the various elements of what makes a surf. The thought rocked me. I would never have thought I’d get to here.

So, while it was cold and grey and the crowd didn’t appeal, I pulled on the wetsuit and stubbornly paddled out, just because I don’t want to quit. Truth be told I didn’t really want to paddle out on that particular day, and I did get smashed around more than I got up and riding, but entering the water was ‘drawing a line in the sand’.

I know plenty of people who unconsciously have given surfing away because they are ‘too old’, ‘too fat’, ‘too …………… whatever’ and I felt myself sliding into that zone. What’s bizarre is that I never have as much energy or zest for life as when I am surfing.

The last time I had an experience like this in the surf was at Indijup carpark when I was about 35. I was out on a big day and I got hammered, held down and smashed around pretty severely. It scared me and I floated into shore to get my bearings and catch my breath. I felt pretty beaten up and began to pack up my things and head for the carpark. Then something in me clicked and I put down the gear and paddled back out. It was that moment of realising that I was about to cross a line I didn’t want to cross.

I doubt I would paddle out in those waves today, partly because my skill and fitness levels would make me a danger to myself and others, but I needed to paddle back out on that particular day, because I was in danger of unconsciously doing something I really didn’t want to do. It was that same feeling two weeks ago.

raftsI imagine sometime in the future I will have to stop surfing. I imagine there will come a day when I simply won’t have what it takes either in skill or fitness, but I hope that day is a long way off in the future and I hope that when it comes I am able to choose to do so consciously and with a sense of knowing that I have found enormous joy in the ocean for the years I was able to surf.

What’s interesting is that since that Sunday I have been in the water 10 times, enjoying the challenge, hanging with the local groms, catching lots of waves, finding my confidence and my fitness again and feeling alive – very alive.

Having turned 50 I am aware that I am no longer ‘on the up’ when it comes to fitness, energy and strength and part of me finds that quite depressing. At the moment I genuinely resent this part of growing older and I do not look forward to 60, 70 and 80. I don’t like feeling my body ache and my muscles weaken. Maybe I will develop an acceptance of this, but for now it just pisses me off.

After 40 years of being in the water I really don’t ever want to leave. I don’t want to be a person who ‘used to surf’. It would be the closing of a chapter – the end of one of my greatest sources of joy and I imagine something inside will die if and when that happens.

For now I will continue to find joy and give thanks for what I can do. And I don’t intend to make any changes any time soon.

 

 

 

The Wrong Question

There is a question I’ve been asking people for many years now as a way of helping them define their sense of vocation and identity. Its not a new one – I’m sure you’ve heard it… But this morning I started considering that maybe it wasn’t the right question – or even a helpful question.

It is: ‘What would you do if money were no object?’

I was watching this cool vid on Vimeo (yeah – another busy Monday…) and as the narrator used the question, something jarred in me. As I pondered it some more I realised that there were two things that I was feeling uneasy about.

The first was the implication that ‘money is an object’ and the second was that it actually has the potential to lend itself to a quite indulgent, maybe even selfish response.

Perhaps my dreams are too simple these days, but for the most part it isn’t money that holds me back. I would love to take off around Australia again in a caravan and do some travelling combined with some itinerant ministry in the various backwater towns we might end up in. I know its hard for some of those towns to get anybody to come for a short time let alone a long time so some folks offering a hand might be helpful. I imagine the experience would be valuable for all of us.

But the factor holding me back isn’t $$, although we would need to scrape together enough to make it happen. Its a wife who really wouldn’t enjoy that life. Its two kids who would lose their connections while their old man gets to indulge some of his wanderlust. Its a community of people both in our church and locally who we would stop connecting with for a period while I go do my thing. Its my business clients who I like to look after and stay connected with.

So in reality its not money that holds me back. Its the complexity of life. Its the sense of responsibility to others – and I think that is a good thing – as well as the knowledge that my personal dreams are not necessarily shared by the rest of my family.

I think the question has the potential to imply that we are sole entities who function as individuals and it doesn’t pay attention to the wider communal impact of our actions. If we genuinely value one another then we don’t simply ‘follow our dreams’ wherever that leads because we consider how it impacts others.

True?

So I am pondering a better question. It needs to be one that doesn’t restrict dreaming and one that helps a person’s imagination fire up, but I wonder if the $$ question is the wrong way to hit it?…

 

 

 

 

 

Revelunacy

blood moons hagee For a long time I have avoided teaching from the book of Revelation mainly because I find it a hard book to read. I don’t resonate with the genre much at all. Beasts, dragons, angels, trumpets and seals all make for rather confusing reading.

While I recognise its epistolatory/apocalyptic genre within scripture, the closest I can get to it, is to think of the fantasy, sci fi stuff, another genre I rarely read if I can avoid it.

But the difference with Revelation is that this stuff is the inspired word of God and therefore a little more significant than Lord of The Rings or the like. So I thought it might be a challenge to overcome my aversion to this book and really dig into it so that we could get a handle on it as a church.

There’s no question it is a significant section of the entire biblical account, but one that either gets avoided or ends up being the domain of nutbags and crazies. My hunch is that most of us end up doing our first reading Revelation through the lens of whatever view we have grown up with. For me that was the world of Left Behind, a movie that scared the crap out of me as a 12 year old and then has come back more recently to haunt this generation of 12 year olds… and Larry Norman crooning ‘I wish we’d all been ready’… So my thinking on the issue was formed by popular (Christian) culture and by the odd sermon that was drawn from that perspective. Although to be honest once I scanned Hal Lindsay’s stuff as a teenager I discovered that even then I had enough discernment to regret wasting money on his book.

So a few days back I sat down to engage this subject again – as an adult – as someone wanting to start from scratch and wanting to make some sense of it. I recognised there were various takes on Revelation and I thought it would be good to begin with one of the ‘counterpoints’ series books entitled ‘Four Views on Revelation’. The introduction went well…

Then came the ‘preterist’ view – that Revelation was written for the people of the time. This is a fair argument. Surely a book that is part letter is addressed to people for whom it will have immediate significance? However I found myself zoning out as I was reading…

The whole interpretative process is laborious and needs careful analysis to do it justice. I went back to reading the book itself again, to try and make more connections. But once you get beyond the concrete first 3 chapters it begins to become obscure and ethereal, difficult to follow and quite bizarre. If we hadn’t been told that John had been sharing a vision and I’m sure it would qualify as some drug induced hallucination.

So I finished the book, went back to the overview and got bogged down yet again. I began to surf the net and observed that as well as four views of the book, there are several views on the millennial issue (depending on how you interpret them) and then within the dispensational view there are three divergent views on the location of the rapture… And having dug into some of those rapture forums for the last hour I can tell you that is feisty stuff. It seems the narrower you draw the lines of interpretation on this book the more fanatical people become and the more they detest each other and their heresies! I’m wondering if post-mill guys are even allowed to intermarry with pre-mill girls? My reading is that the cultural /theological jump might be a bit too big to navigate…

I find myself asking ‘do I really want to keep going with this?’ Will it be in any way helpful?…

What I would like to do is to be able to give people some tools for understanding this book – for reading it intelligently – as opposed to reading it thru the novels of Tim LaHaye. I actually haven’t decided which ‘millennial’ view I would subscribe to yet, but I fear for those who seem to swallow popular culture as facts when there is clearly no consensus on this issue.

So its back into it this afternoon after this short rant and we’ll see if I can make more sense. It’d be nice to be able to:

a) help people understand how our theology gets shaped – I seem to do a lot of this as we all have filters and lenses that we don’t always realise are there and it needs reminding.

b) present people with 4 lenses that they can look thru and help them think critically about the content thru those lenses.

c) help people deal with the popular ideas and assess them in light of other views.

The biggest struggle I see at the moment is that in a very short time I need to get across a mountain of information to be able to do this intelligently. Not sure if I can manage in the limited time I have, but now that I’ve started I might as well push on for a bit longer. We will soon know… And by the way I have no idea what the hell ‘blood moons’ have to do with anything…

Balibo

baliboThe Aussie movie Balibo has been available for view on ABC iView the last few days, so after beginning work at 7.00 am yesterday and being finished by 8.30am I decided to sit down and watch it .

It is set in East Timor at the time of independence and traces the tragic demise of the journalists sent there to cover the story.

After being a Portuguese colony for many years East Timor was granted independence in November 1975, however this was followed by an Indonesian invasion in December of that year and subsequently much bloodshed under Indonesian rule.

The ‘Balibo 5′ were a group of Aussie TV journos who went to the town of Balibo to cover the story and believed they would be left alone because they didn’t pose a military threat. In the end the invading forces simply killed them, burnt their film and moved on.

The story follows the journey of Roger East – also an Aussie journo – who goes to Dili to investigate the disappearance of the men. He is shown in dialogue with the later president Jose Ramos Horte as the invading forces approach Dili. Horte is fleeing the country and calls East to join him and tell the story back in Australia. East’s response is brutal, but captured the truth of the situation. Paraphrased it was : ‘No one cares about a nation full of Timorese people getting slaughtered – that isn’t a story – but if I can uncover the truth about 5 white journalists who have been killed then it will become a story…’

Ouch… but how true. Tens of thousands of brown people getting slaughtered won’t register with viewers, but five of our own people… now that’s a different issue, isn’t it?…

After choosing to stay, East was killed by firing squad a short time later, and the whole episode has been the subject of a war crimes investigation. What was equally disturbing (according to my reading of events) was that the US and Australia by and large turned a blind eye to all that took place because it wasn’t politically expedient to get involved. The US had formulated a policy of ‘silence’ on the invasion. That coupled with fear of a potential communist state developing appears to the reason the US and Australia kept silent.

Balibo is a brutal and disturbing movie on many levels and my brief reading of the history leaves me equally disturbed.