The Sickness Unto Death by Anne Sexton

I can’t say I have experienced this, but maybe it will give us compassion for those who seem to lose their way, ‘stop coming to church’, or just seem to ditch their faith. Its pretty damn gut wrenching and the post script is that the poet actually took her own life in 1974. Sometimes its easy to frown upon people who seem to give up faith and not feel what they feel. If it feels anything like this then its a tough place to be.

Found on Frosty’s facebook via Cruciality

God went out of me

as if the sea dried up like sandpaper,

as if the sun became a latrine.

God went out of my fingers.

They became stone.

My body became a side of mutton

and despair roamed the slaughterhouse.

Someone brought me oranges in my despair

but I could not eat a one

for God was in that orange.

I could not touch what did not belong to me.

The priest came,

he said God was even in Hitler.

I did not believe him

for if God were in Hitler

then God would be in me.

I did not hear the bird sounds.

They had left.

I did not see the speechless clouds,

I saw only the little white dish of my faith

breaking in the crater.

I kept saying:

I’ve got to have something to hold on to.

People gave me Bibles, crucifixes,

a yellow daisy,

but I could not touch them,

I who was a house full of bowel movement,

I who was a defaced altar,

I who wanted to crawl toward God

could not move nor eat bread.

So I ate myself,

bite by bite,

and the tears washed me,

wave after cowardly wave,

swallowing canker after canker

and Jesus stood over me looking down

and He laughed to find me gone,

and put His mouth to mine

and gave me His air.

My kindred, my brother, I said

and gave the yellow daisy

to the crazy woman in the next bed.

– Anne Sexton, ‘The Sickness Unto Death’, in The Complete Poems (New York: Mariner Books, 1981), 441–42.

Culture Eats Vision

My friend Andrew Dowsett has some excellent thoughts here on why we should focus more energy on culture formation and change than on vision.

This has been one of my own learnings over the last few years but Andrew has articulated it much better than I could so go and read his thoughts here and here.

Andrew lived in Jindalee right near us about 5 or 6 years ago and we got to hang out a fair bit. He’s well worth reading (for an Anglican…) Chuckle… 🙂

New Retic & Turf Blog

I’ve made a few changes and launched a whole new blog which will run parallel to my existing one as a way of trying to get back up the google rankings.

If you have a website/blog and can throw me a link then I’m sure it won’t hurt to get things firing again.

I’m not sure all of how to regain the ground I’ve lost but I’m going to try a few things and see what comes of it…

How Do You Stay Inspired?

While we were out surfing yesterday my friend asked me ‘so as a pastor how do you stay inspired?’

That’s an interesting question. As happens when you are surfing I didn’t get to answer it for about 10 minutes as he caught a wave, then I did and by the time we were both sitting back in the line up I had had enough time to reflect on a genuine response.

‘I don’t.’ I said.

I realised he had made an assumption about either me or ‘pastors’, that we live in a constant state of ‘inspiration’ or some kind of fiery passion.

What I could offer was a different perspective on what I believe a mature faith looks like.

‘I don’t live in a constant state of inspiration, but I do live with a deep conviction about who God is, who I am to him and out of that it shapes how I live my life. Sometimes I feel ‘up’, sometimes pretty average and sometimes flat, but the conviction is what sustains me rather than inspiration. I guess the parallel that comes to mind is that of marriage. The buzz of the dating days is gone, and while there are plenty of great times there is also a commitment that goes beyond the ‘rush’ of romance. I can honestly say that I love my wife much more now than I did 20 years ago – more than I ever thought was possible even, but my understanding of love has grown and changed’

I doubt any of us live perpetually inspired lives – not in the sense I refer to it above, but if we stay in the relationship (with God) long enough then we develop enough substance to sustain us through the good and the bad times.

That said I love ‘being inspired’ and I love to see others ‘inspired’. I’m just conscious that sometimes we can hold that up as an ideal and then people can either fake it to make it, or feel inadequate if they are willing to be honest and acknowledge that sometimes life is pretty ordinary.

MIA – My Reticulation Blog Gets Hammered by Google

I regularly check my webstats for my retic blog as its my main source of online hits.

I’ve worked hard at developing the blog over the last year and it was ranking really well with google. If you searched for ‘how to fix a solenoid’ or some other retic issue I would be on the front page every time and even multiple times. That was all part of the plan…

Then yesterday I noticed my stats were down. Instead of 50 0r 60 visitors I had 3… and its 38 degrees in Perth so I’d be thinking people would be searching for this stuff. Today I managed another 3 hits. So I decided to google the common things people search for and discovered that I no longer have the same presence – in fact its like I have ceased to exist.

So then I googled ‘why my web traffic has dropped dramatically’ (ironic hey – using google to find out why I don’t rate on google…) and came across ‘google panda updates’, a period ‘clean up’ of the web by google computers and based on whatever algorithm they currently used I got shafted. If you google this subject you will find plenty of others also shafted – some who have lost jobs because the ‘computer said no’.

A bit more research and I discovered something I did wrong which was to put ‘hidden keywords’ on my main site. I first built it 3 years ago, long before I had the blog and at that time wasn’t too keyed into this stuff – but then I forgot about it… and I am guessing this is why I got hit.

Of course there is no real come back on this stuff. Google don’t owe anybody anything and they can do what they like with their system, but suddenly we realise how utterly dependent on them we are. Clever bastards – and if your computer is reading this then – yes I’m talking about YOU!

So what is my solution?

Well the beauty of my blog was that I eliminated the need for ‘google ads’ and my advertising budget dropped hugely. I was ranking highly organically and getting heaps of calls. But now… well I just upped my google ad budget to compensate for my apparent disappearance off the face of the virtual planet… They have me screwed…

Another alternative I am considering is re-branding and kicking off with a whole new identity. It seems some folks have been forced to do that. Give we no longer live in Brighton it may be a possibility anyway, but its a lot of work…

I reckon I get 60% of my work thru my website so its a big hit to take and one I need to get sorted asap.

Just a bit frustrating…

Pegs and Holes

We were talking this morning about this strange concept of ‘working for a church’ and then even stranger doing it ‘two days a week’.

The longer I am involved in leading a Christian community the less I see it as:

a) work

b) able to classified into designated days & hours.

To be sure, there are days when I have to do some things that aren’t really my forte or passion and in my view that is when it becomes ‘work’, but for the most part it is a calling and a role that flows with my life and that fits who I am. It would be more accurate to say who ‘we’ are, because Danelle and I are together ’employed two days a week’.

It is the ‘two days a week’ bit that feels more and more absurd, because it just doesn’t work like that – and if it did then I think we would have got it wrong anyway. Its like being a business owner and only doing that 3 days/week. It just isn’t reality.

Every day of the week I carry responsibility for my business and every day of the week we carry responsibility for the life and health of our church community. The extent to which we can physically do tasks related to each is limited, but I believe the key here is the ownership of responsibility and the weight that goes with that. Some days it means I have a little to do. Other days it means I have a lot. It doesn’t translate nicely to a two day working week and then of course there is the question of Sundays…

Some say Sundays are not counted because everyone else does Sundays while others ‘count’ Sundays because they have to be there and don’t get the option of a sleep in or a week off because they are tired.

I sense that when we are counting and running the numbers we are missing the point. When we are asking ‘what do we need to do to lead these people well?’ then we are on the right track.

I guess the ‘two day a week’ framing will always stay as long as we need to determine a way to reimburse people for their time spent and their subsequent inability to earn money in other ways. But to imagine that the role of leading a Christian community can be neatly packaged into two days is to try and put a square peg in a round hole.

Perhaps a better framing is for a church to say ‘we are allocating $x to support you and your family as you fulfill the role of leading us’. Thankfully this isn’t an issue where we are, but it is one of the reframings that has taken place in my own mind over the last few years and that helps me function in a more healthy way.

But the Numbers Don’t Add Up…

I went for a surf today.

It was my first day of no work in quite a while, so I decided that rather than stress about it I’d enjoy it.

When I got to the carpark at The Spot there was one other car there and it was a beautiful sunny, offshore day with a very small swell. I sat there for a few minutes and watched some waves roll in. Small… low tide, so very shallow, breaking fast, but ridable and best of all, no one out… That’s a rare find at any break these days so I decided to watch a bit longer.

I hopped out of the car and stood in the carpark and got talking to the other guy.

‘Not much happening’ he says.

‘No – true – but still – a beautiful day and no crowds’ I reply.

He was on his phone checking some data on the net. ‘I’ve been here 30 minutes now. The sets are at 5 minute intervals, the tide is rising… and he went on with info about swell interval etc etc.’ He had every piece of data you could want on what the surf was like today and it said to him that it wasn’t any good. Now I’ll grant you it wasn’t epic Spot, but after he drove off I decided to paddle out.

And it was small, shallow (first ding in the new board!) and fast, but I had a good 15-20 waves in the next hour and a surf that was as good as any I have had in the last year.

The difference was that I paddled out and got into it rather than analysing the data and making a sensible decision.

I think we do this often in life. Look at the data, see that the numbers don’t add up and miss an opportunity. There are times to listen to the numbers and times when you just have to paddle out and take the punt. It doesn’t always pay off but then the numbers don’t tell you everything either.

Whether its business, life, church or whatever let’s not be driven purely by the numbers,and miss the opportunity of the more adventurous path…