July 2012 165

I think I invented a new word last night.

We have two months of holiday coming up in July and August and as of now haven’t been able to decide what to do with it. I normally find that half the fun of holidays is the anticipation and excitement that goes with them as you envisage what you will be doing. Last year when we went to Ireland we felt that growing sense of energy as the dates approached.

But this year its been all a bit frustrating. We can’t seem to agree on where to go and what to do. Its partly a product of having older kids who have different concerns and partly a result of having done a fair bit of travel already. For Ellie being away for two months means she doesn’t get to play netball, go to youth, or see her friends. Sam feels similarly. They no longer see us as cool people they love to hang out with either so two months with parents is a little bit of a drag. We have a good relationship, but that’s reality.

Our traditional mid year break has seen us heading north into red dirt and spinifex chasing some warmer weather and the sense of disconnection that comes with remoteness. But as the kids have got older this has become rather passe and a bit tired. If we had other teenagers their age come along then it might be more interesting, but 8 weeks with just mum and dad sounds like hard work.

I get that. I really do. I began reflecting back to my own teen years and realised we stopped having family holidays when I was about 13, probably because I didn’t want to go. I wanted to play sport, hang with friends and do other stuff that was home based. My parents didn’t push the point and so family holidays ended.

I have a bit of a different perspective in that I want us to do what we can to keep family holidays alive. I don’t think its impossible for us all to enjoy a break together, but we may need to adjust our expectations.

In the absence of friends, we realise our kids need some new activities to spark their energy. I can happily read a book by a river, but they don’t find joy in that kind of a holiday. Ireland was good because we were on the move, seeing new things and meeting new people, but those holidays are expensive… You can’t visit a new overseas venue every year…

So the last few months have been spent tossing around ideas and trying to reach a decision that works for all – that brings a sense of anticipation, but also is doable within the budget.

We have 3 weeks before we hit the road. A week in Exmouth is already booked so that’s going to happen.

After that?…

We’ll see…


Worth a Fight?









Recently my old mate Scott posted this image on his Facebook page and took some heat for it. We had coffee that afternoon and he mentioned to me that he hadn’t seen the words at the top of the image, just the sentiment on the bottom. Maybe he did lose some friends over it. Certainly the comments on his post suggested his views weren’t welcome and a pastor he should know better.








Then just last week another friend posted a link on Facebook to this article with the accompanying disclaimer ‘No I’m not a bigot’. It takes the other point of view and she also copped heat from people who declared her narrow minded.

It seems that whichever side of the debate around gay marriage you sit on, you risk losing friends. You have to face the reality that your point of view on this one issue is going to bring conflict and possibly even the end of a relationship.

What an unbelievably stupid response…

I want to say ‘Really?… Seriously?… You would dismiss me as a friend because on a non essential issue I read the Bible differently to you?’

This is another in a long line of boundary marker issues that seem to be used to decide who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. In times gone by it was inerrancy, as certain people were demonised and harangued for refusing to subscribe to one particular view of scripture, or perhaps you encountered the same shunning over your views on creation, or women…

These are all issues that can still generate a little heat here in Oz, but let me change your perspective for a minute.

My aunt visited from Ireland a couple of years back and I asked her what was the pressing issue for the church in that part of the world. Do you know what she said?


Yep – hats… HATS!

People are fighting one another over whether they keep their heads covered in church… I was speechless, but managed to utter some completely insincere words of concern.

People are losing friends over hats… 

You probably find that sad and absurd. Bizarre even, but in another part of the world that is still more ‘christianised’ than Australia, this is a serious issue.

In 20 years time when the heat has gone out of this debate around gay marriage you will probably view it like you do creation, or inerrancy or gender. Its not that its a storm in a teacup. Its a real question that needs a thoughtful response. We do need to grapple with these issues as Christians, but we don’t need to lose friendships over them.

That is DUMB!

I get the clear sense we would be far more comfortable with a friend suggesting a non-divine Jesus, or many ways to God, than we would be with someone having a divergent view on gay marriage. We could more easily tolerate a compromise to our core convictions than we could someone holding the ‘wrong’ view on a hot topic.

Time to grow up a bit folks.

And – no – I haven’t presented my own view on this issue on here, because I’m not writing for that purpose. I’m more than happy to tell you what I think, but only if you promise not to ‘de-friend’ me…

If that’s too hard it might be time to get a grip of what Jesus said was really important






Living With Vikings








This week I watched season 1 of Vikings, a pretty brutal TV series that follows the early Norse invaders of Britain and their way of life. I can’t vouch for the historical authenticity of the narrative, but I did see one element of the story that fascinated me and spoke to some of where I sense we are at today as Christians in this world.

In their first venture west the Vikings looted a monastery and killed almost all of the priests, with Ragnar saving one for his ‘slave’. He takes Athelstan back to his home where he lives with the family as a servant, while Ragnar milks him for more information on the lands to the west. This monk is forced to live as an exile among these violent, pagan people and slowly – very slowly his faith erodes as they accept him and he accepts them.

In time he finds himself so immersed in pagan culture that his previous identity suffocates. He eventually attends the once every nine years, temple visit, a pagan religious ceremony and an orgy of every kind culminating with sacrifice of both animals and humans.

Athelstan discovers he has been brought as the sacrifice, but as he is examined by the pagan priest to see if he has truly renounced Christ he stumbles. He is asked 3 times – ‘do you still follow Jesus?’ Each time he answers ‘no’, but on the final denial he is caught slyly rubbing his wrist and when his sleeve is pulled up a cross is revealed. He is not acceptable as a sacrifice.

It felt like a metaphor of the faith so often observed today. There has been a slow but observable seeping of pagan culture into the lives of western Christians. We have bought western paganism with its consumer Gods and hedonistic life, where new purchases and new experiences are the focus of worship. And in so doing we have lost sight of the call to die to self and follow with a cross…

But when push comes to shove, when life turns to custard, when we lose all hope and our new gods can’t bale us out, there is still a memory… maybe a distant memory of another way, a way that was once reassuring, that once rang true… and we may even be found ‘rubbing the cross’, praying or returning to church to try and recover what has been lost.

I’m still pondering the implications of this as they are disturbing…

Meanwhile for some fuller thoughts on a similar theme see Steve’s two most recent posts on the challenge of the world we live in here and here. Some brilliant thinking here and resonates with what I was feeling myself as I began to write this post.