As I engage with where I have come from, I find that I can relax a bit about where I am going.

Putting flags in the sand has been a gift in this moment for me.

Putting flags in the sand has been a gift in this moment for me.

I’ve been grateful for “flags in the sand” this week.

Next weekend I will be ordained as a minister in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and this “moment” has been a cause for significant reflection for me.

As I approach ordination I have found myself feeling a bit lost.

The plan, in 2012, was to come to Canada for one year so that I could complete the residential requirements of my Masters of Theological Studies. Things changed.

I think God knows how I work.

He knew this moment would be a complex one for me.

It is not so much about ordination itself, but about the fact that with the Masters done, and now Ordination done, there isn’t another major personal goal on the horizon… and I think that is why I have felt a bit lost.

Without those major external goals, I have to find my bearings in a different way… and my feelings are not a good guide for me. This week I wrote a list of the things I feel powerless about and it was a long list.

I find myself wanting an external change to help set my personal bearings.

There is something confronting that happens when your external world is not setting your internal agenda… you have to face yourself. I am reminded of the passage from Lamentations which I first discovered in my early 20’s:

it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him
Lamentations 3:26-28 (NIV)

There is something actually very important about sitting in silence and having your identity challenged. In this place, I find myself seeing a lot of places where I can grow.

I am also finding myself going back and reading things that have been important for me in the past, and as I do I discover important insights that help me now. Continue reading

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Are you enlightened, a romantic or an existentialist? Take your pick, and you’d still be wrong!

Originally posted 2011-11-26 16:00:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I’ve been listening to a range of lectures by N.T. Wright and lots of times I have found he has brought deep and new insight to my view of the bible and how I approach it.

You can find the podcasts here: http://www.blogger.com/feeds/7177871033466698832/posts/default

I actually typed out part of one address because it was so important in being able to stand back and have a look at where I might have accidently slipped into seeing things in an unhelpful way..

He unpacks the three great movements of thought since the reformation and how they have shaped the churches theology. That might not sound interesting, but I wonder whether you can see yourself in any of the three movements?

Since the reformation three great cultural movements have occured, none of them owing much directly to the bible or the gospel, but all of them providing a new spin for how we hear reformation language, and indeed Pauline language.
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All I want is a couple days off

Originally posted 2010-08-15 19:00:22. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Taking a break

How do you go with taking a break?

Sometimes it feels like the world is divided into two groups: those who don’t know how to rest and those who don’t know how to work.

For many of us who find ourselves in the latter group we have become quite skilled at rationalising why it is that we need to work as hard as we do.

The biblical principal of Sabbath has come to mean lots of things to lots of people but it turns out to be quite simple.

Continue reading

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Taking a breather at half time is working for me!

Originally posted 2011-12-08 12:13:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Today is my 40th birthday.

It feels strange to be writing those words. I remember quite clearly my dad’s 40th birthday and how old he seemed!

I included a photo of me from primary school with todays reflection. The reason I did that is that for the first half of my life I have been on a journey to accept myself.

I remember very clearly the moment when I realised how much I didn’t like myself. I was in Hobart about three months after finishing Fusion’s Certificate IV course and I came across an old photo of myself, just a little bit older than this one.

As I looked at the photo I remember feeling intense embarrassment and kind of a sick feeling in my stomach. I was embarrassed about the snowy haired energetic child that stared back at me.

I had been reading Henri Nouwen’s “reaching out”, and discovering just how much I didn’t like my own company. Continue reading

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Finding life in the middle of nowhere

Originally posted 2014-11-04 16:45:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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There is something special about looking out your hotel window at a view like this. Once a year pastors from all over the Western Canadian District of the Alliance church get together for a Prayer Retreat, and it happens to be here at Lake Louise.

Leeanne and I came last year and now, as I look back, I realise we were still in a level of shock as we were trying hard to adjust to the idea that we were in Canada, and trying harder still to adjust to the idea that I was now a pastor. It was in this adjustment that we arrived at Lake Louise to a hotel that is world famous to a conference of people for whom all of this seemed normal.

Last year’s prayer retreat was actually fairly important for us as we heard the National President of the Alliance share his heart and vision for the movement, and we found ourselves feeling “at home” and relieved that we might actually be in the right place.

This morning we had our first session from our speaker this year, Clyde Glass, and he spoke about Jesus’ command to his disciples, not to leave Jerusalem but “wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” (Acts 1:4)

As he spoke he touched on an idea that I had spent a bit of time thinking about previously but had kind of forgotten about: Liminality. The word liminality comes from the Latin word “limens”, which means literally threshhold.

Liminality is a way of describing the threshold moments in life, when you have let go or lost the security you once had and you haven’t yet moved to a new equalibrium.

As Clyde spoke I found myself resonating with his statement that “The God of the universe is constantly moving his people into Liminal space.” He quoted Richard Rohr who said:

(A liminal space is) a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.

Continue reading

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What is Pokemon Go doing to us?

Article First appeared in the St. Albert Gazette here:

IMG_0395Last weekend there were clumps of people in our city, particularly around St. Albert Place, who appeared to be in engrossed in something very important happening on their phones. They kept muttering things about levels, stardust and poke-stops and every now and then someone would exclaim “Got Him.”

It occurred to me that it has been a long time since there has been a craze like this. I remember Yo-Yo’s, I remember the Rubicks cube, but even these phenomenons didn’t seem to grab people like Pokemon Go has.

Sure part of it has to do with the technology that makes it possible. Another aspect might be that a whole generation of millennials are having their first experience of nostalgia, lovingly reacquainting themselves with Pikachu and their other playmates from their Game-Boys.

There has to be more to the success of Pokemon Go, though, than just these factors.

Undeniably, there is something enjoyable about sitting on a park bench beside the library and catching the same Pokemon that the 30 people around you are also questing after. (Yes I admit it… I’m now level 9). You are together, but you are each individually taking your own journey.

As human beings we long for an experience of community where we can truly be one with others, but also not have to be the same. Unfortunately most of us have learned through pain, to distance ourselves from others and fill our lives with distractions so we don’t ever truly get to know ourselves.

The reason a game like Pokemon Go can be as successful as it has been is that it gives both an experience of pseudo-community and also pseudo-individuality. In the end, though, it is still pseudo. For a moment we can be engrossed in something that takes away the dull ache of loneliness and the painful sense that we are not being true to who we were created to be, but at some point we have to turn the phone off and re-enter a real world where nothing has changed.

The desire for one-but-not-the-same community is deep in all of us, and it is something we need to pay attention to.

Part of the reason Block Parties (check out GoodNeighbourProject.org) are so successful in St. Albert is that our city realized ten years ago that the path to thriving neighbourhoods are neighbours who actually experience one-but-not-the-same community.

On August 28th, St. Albert Alliance church will host a BBQ and Festival in three local parks (check out staalliance.org for more info). Our goal is to be this one-but-not-the-same kind of community.

Christians believe that this desire for one-but-not-the-same community comes because we are created in the image of a one-but-not-the same God. They also believe that the church is meant to be a reflection of that one-but-not-the-same life.

As you put your phone down this weekend, why not make a Poke-stop at a local church and see for yourself.

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Can I really take time off?

Originally posted 2010-08-17 19:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Gods plan for taking a break

Well today is our first day of holidays.

I actually wrote this on Saturday, and most of my blog entries for the next couple of weeks will be scheduled in advance so that I spend time with my family and not my laptop.

The past couple of days I have been reflecting on the Biblical notion of Sabbath. I thought I would continue that line of thinking today:

Continue reading

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Unfortunately it seems to be the difficult stuff in life that produces the growth.

Originally posted 2012-09-22 21:35:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Do you ever feel like your whole world is being turned upside down? I think most of us go through periods of our lives when it feels like everything that was once stable and predictable is all of a sudden shifting and scary. Life has been a bit that way for me over the past 12 months.

It’s really helpful for me to realise that just because it feels like everything is been shaken, its entirely possible that its actually still o.k. God doesn’t promise to give us an easy life, in fact quite the opposite. The other day I was reading the book of Hebrews in the Message and a few of the verses really stood out to me:

This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. (Hebrews 12:4-11)

Continue reading

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Kingdom D.N.A.: the questions

Originally posted 2010-06-28 19:00:26. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

In conclusion

Well this brings to an end my exploration of Kingdom D.N.A.

I started the journey with this idea on a plane to Canada late last year as I was searching for what is the “heart” that must not go missing from Fusion as we manage the significant transition we are now in.

The more I put the bits and pieces together the more they made sense to me and those I shared it with.

I have collated all the questions from the different sections in this post.

I hope that the different questions might be a useful framework for thinking about how to move the Kingdom forward wherever you are.

I would really value your feedback about this series of posts and the Kingdom D.N.A. framework. Continue reading

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Sadly, we have seen Christians on both the left and right wing, being more influenced by their culture than by the gospel.

UnknownEver since I became addicted to the West Wing sixteen years ago, I have been fascinated by American politics.

There is a level of reverence and awe about American Presidents that simply doesn’t exist in Australia.

While almost everyone in the world knows that George Washington was the first President of the United States, probably only 10% of Australians would have a clue who our first Prime Minister was.

As I watched Barak Obama give quite a moving speech endorsing Hillary Clinton, it became clear to me that one of the primary benefits of being an American national leader is the clearly defined national “myth” or story. Theodore White wrote:

A myth is the way of putting together the raw and contradictory evidence of life. It lets people make patterns of meaning in their lives in the context of a larger pattern.

Obama repeatedly drew on the American myth, giving weight to the story he was telling about Clinton.

Myth is a reflection of the spiritual nature of human beings. There are phrases stories and songs that somehow are able to capture our hearts because of the place we were born, and the best communicators understand this.

The words in the American declaration of independence “All men are created equal” and “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” echo through history and have been re-enforced  at key moments in the nations history (think Gettysburg Address, I have a dream speech etc) in a way that has drawn new levels of committment and drawn the nation together. The most effective Presidents have been those who have been able to tap into these impulses.

Every national myth also has a dark side, and in America, there is a deep distrust of government that was established at the same time that the transcendent values were forged. The very same declaration of independence that talks about life and liberty also declares:

“whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government”

Throughout America’s history, political leaders have also tapped into this more negative side of the national psyche. A case could be put that this is exactly what Trump is doing.

It is actually this negative part of the American founding principles that best explains the nations love affair with guns. One of the things that I didn’t fully understand until I talked to a number of American friends, is that the deep commitment to guns stems from the belief that it is necessary to always have the capacity to overthrow the government if necessary. Although this seems crazy to an Australian, it is true.

So within the American psyche is a double edged sword: a veneration of their Presidents and a deep fear of government. It is this inbuilt tension, between the grand vision of “One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” and deep mistrust of government, which has produced America.

Culture really matters. In every culture there are points of transcendence where we see the best of what it means to be created in the image of God. In every culture there are points of darkness where we see the worst of human brokenness.

The service that America does for other nations is that they have taken the time to write down value statements in a way that makes a national myth obvious. Every other country also has a myth, but if there are founding documents, they very rarely capture the true “mythical story” that shapes the nation.

This is particularly obvious in Australia, where the song that captures our heart is not our national anthem but a story about a swagman that commits Suicide (Waltzing Matilida), and the military hero we choose (Simpson) is a guy that never fired a shot in a battle we lost (Gallipoli). These things are not the myth but are clues to what the myth is.

Australian leaders don’t have the same helpful documents that map the positive and negative sides of the myth, they have to feel their way and be students of history. Unfortunately most don’t, so when a speech “works”, it is almost a surprise. Continue reading

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The more we let God take us over, the less we will need stupid car decals and soft drink cans with our names on them.

Originally posted 2012-03-29 16:06:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Have you noticed the number of cars around at the moment with white stick figure decals that are meant to represent the occupants of the car? I am also interested that Coke decided to put peoples names on it’s bottles and cans. I think that marketers are picking up that identity is important at the moment. It’s a kind of safe identity that people are reaching for that brings to mind a Monty Python crowd all saying simultaneously “Yes we are all individuals”.
At a surface level it looks like human beings we are cursed with competing desires the desire to be part of the pack and the desire to be an individual. The result is we play it safe, trying our best to be “normal” and within that normal to be as individual as we dare.
Something else has been bubbling around in my brain since the Arrow residential last week. Continue reading
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A different kind of fight

Originally posted 2010-09-02 20:00:18. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

How do you fight?

I was personally a bit sad when Julia Gillard overthrew Kevin Rudd.

I felt real hope after the last election, the highlight being the apology to Aboriginal Australians.

By contrast this election felt so contrived, safe and devoid of leadership that it has been a relief we ended with a hung parliament so that we can actually start talking about issues that matter.

As I have said in previous posts, I don’t think I am all that skilled politically. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve too much and work out what I think as I’m talking about it.

That tendency hasn’t made life easy for me, and I know that some people draw conclusions about me because of it.

It’s not much fun when it feels people are judging you, and its tempting to want to fight back.

I was struck this morning that the Apostle Paul had people judging him, and his response is quite interesting.

Continue reading

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The nutters create fear because we let them, and in some cases because we encourage it.

Reverend Rob Schenck

Reverend Rob Schenck

As I come to the end of my 3 week vacation and another terror attack unfolds on CNN (this time in Germany), I find myself trying to process the very real battle that is unfolding every night on our television screens.

Battles used to happen “over there”, now they happen on streets that look very much like our own and involve people who look and sound a lot like us.

It was easier, a few decades ago. We heard of places like Rwanda and Bosnia, and felt momentary sadness as images entered our lounge rooms on the 6:30 news. Now, though, news is not limited to 6:30 and the images are not just captured by journalists in war zones. They are live streamed, instagrammed or facebooked by ordinary people. We get instant updates on our phones, and everyone has an opinion.

Sadly though, the world the Cable Networks show us, becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. We are drawn to a drama like a moth to a flame. In the same way an accident on the local freeway causes chaos because we all slow down to look, an act of terror draws us all in. A moment of insanity sets a national and international agenda because it is amplified through the echo chamber of Cable News and Social media.

There is a huge pay-off for the  nutters. So they do it again. And again. And Again. Each incident is tragic, but what it more tragic is the fact that we choose to give them so much more power than they deserve.

The nutters create fear because we let them, and in some cases because we encourage it.

ISIS wants people in the West to feel scared and powerless, but the truth is they are not the only ones with this agenda.

Being scared and powerless is great for CNN. They have developed a standard “crisis mode” programming format, where they flash the term “Breaking News” as often as possible and get one of their panel of paid “experts” to sound knowledgeable while playing grainy, jerky video on endless loop. They know that this kind of television gets ratings.

The N.R.A. want you to be scared and powerless, because they have an answer for you: buy a gun.  It doesn’t matter that objective studies prove that “regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home.”

Donald Trump wants you to be scared and powerless, because he has an answer for you: make him President. It doesn’t matter that we are actually safer now than we have ever been.

What is strangest for me to observe is that Evangelical Christians seem to be at the forefront of creating a culture of fear, and believe that what is needed is a stronger capacity for violence than the terrorists have. Continue reading

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Strategic Mission

Originally posted 2010-07-08 19:00:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

What does it mean to be strategic about Mission?

Too often we as Christians have operated in a reactive way, letting our situation determine the shape and nature of what we called “mission” or evangelism.

Christianity didn’t change the world by accident.

By the 3rd Chapter of Mark we see that word about Jesus had reached right across the middle east.

7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.

Pull out a map of the holy land in Jesus’s time and you can see just what an impact he had.

How did he do it? Continue reading

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Prayer: changing the world

Originally posted 2010-08-05 19:00:15. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Prayer in history

When we read the biographies of William Carey, Adoniram Judson, David Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, or whomever, the initiating thrust of the work of their lives began in prayer encounters. About a century ago, John R. Mott led an extraordinary movement which became known as the Student Christian Movement. It was based amongst college and university students. It supplied 20,000 career missionaries in the space of thirty years. John Mott said that the source of this amazing awakening lay in united intercessory prayer. It wasn’t just that these missionaries were recruited and sent out in prayer; their work was also sustained through prayer.

Hudson Taylor told a story of a missionary couple who were in charge of ten stations. They wrote to their home secretary confessing their absolute lack of progress, and they urged the secretary to find intercessors for each station. After a while, in seven of those stations, opposition melted, spiritual revival broke out and the churches grew strongly. But in three there was no change. When they returned home on their next furlough, the secretary cleared up the mystery. He had succeeded in getting intercessors for only seven of the ten stations. S. D. Gordon (1983:40) concludes, ‘The greatest thing anyone can do for God and man is to pray.’ Continue reading

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