Community

Community

I have spent the significant majority of my life living in models of intentional community. Whether in a former children’s home, on a farm, an old convent, in the suburbs or in the village of Poatina where we now live, these have all been attempts to live faith a practical way.

The strange thing about that is I often find community very difficult. Real community is messy, confusing, painful and sometimes heartbreaking, but I am convinced it is how we are called to live.

You will read between the lines in these reflections, the many layers of complexity that come with an attempt to live life in fellowship with other human beings.

We need to rediscover the self-giving generosity that actually is love, and stop settling for cheap imitations.

We received our postal ballot in the mail today. For those overseas who might not be aware, Australians are being invited to express their opinion on the legalisation of same-sex marriage. While it is not really a referendum, the Government have declared that they will base their policy on the result of what is, in fact, a giant opinion poll. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the whole question and what it means to be a follower of…

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Steve Jobs may have had a bigger impact on the spiritual formation of a generation than any other person in the last 50 years.

As we see the impact of the i-devices on our society I am starting to wonder whether Steve Jobs may have had a bigger impact on the spiritual formation of a generation than any other person in the last 50 years. I used to joke that Jobs was the Anti-Christ, an image he did little to dispel by pricing the Apple 1 at $666.66 and shaping an apple logo with a bite out of it. Of course, I was never…

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This is an important moment for the church to have a long hard look at itself and how it relates to same sex attracted people.

Up till now, I have been avoiding writing directly about the current same sex marriage and homophobia. One glimpse at Facebook will tell you that this is an issue that divides friends and even divides families. The reason this issue is so intense, is that on both sides people feel as though they are fighting a battle that goes to the very heart of their beliefs about themselves and the world. For many Gay and Lesbian people, the question of whether…

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Too many of us live in a two dimensional, colourless world of our own making.

I vividly remember my first Sunday as a Pastor. I was on the platform being introduced to a sea of faces who were completely unfamiliar, and feeling more than a little overwhelmed. The closest analogy I could find to explain the experience was a brand new colouring book, where you can see the outlines but none of the shades or shadows that bring those outlines to life. Four and a half years later, the outlines had been filled in by…

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Our Dogs build our Neighbourhoods.

Article in yesterdays St. Albert Gazette. Two weeks ago we said goodbye to our dumb little dog. We are preparing to head back to Australia to live, and the quarantine regulations Down Under make it almost impossible to justify bringing her with us. We inherited Chica from my daughter’s friend. A mixture of Chihuahua and Pomeranian, the little fur-ball had no idea how small she actually was. A trip to the local dog park would often see her try to…

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Jesus was Un-Albertan

St. Albert Gazette Article published on Saturday In Alberta we like to achieve. We pride ourselves on our ability to push though, to power ahead, to “get ‘er done.” Most of us are busy, and even our time outside of work is full.  We take pride in just how much we can cram into 24 hours. Deep down we all know that living life at this frantic pace is not healthy… which is why we devote so much time an…

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There is no question that women have not been seen or valued by the church in the way that Jesus saw or valued them. #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear

Often in brain-dead moments I will scan my Facebook or Twitter news feed. This morning I came across a post from Michael Frost which linked to the twitter hashtag #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear, and intrigued, I clicked on the tag. If you are not on social media you can look at this blog by Rachel Elizabeth Asproth  where 55 of the top tweets are collated. It is an interesting list, mostly of direct quotes that women report being said to them in the context of…

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The Awkward Truth about Churches in North America: lots of bonding, not so much bridging.

Article published in today’s St. Albert Gazette  As you have no doubt heard and also experienced for yourself, relationships matter. In fact the University of Minnesota published data to demonstrate that having a number of strong relationships significantly increase health, decrease crime and corruption and increase generosity and reciprocity. Relationships are so beneficial that to almost every area of life that they are a real form of capital, in the economic sense of the word. The term “social capital” has…

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I might not love everything that Mike Pence stands for, but I’m impressed at his self awareness and choice to recognize his own limitations.

Apparently Vice President Mike Pence has a policy to never eat alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her either. Pence’s policy is very similar to one adopted by Billy Graham at the start of his ministry (which came to be known as the Billy Graham rule). The revelation of Pence’s strategy in a Washington Post story last week has caused quite a stir. The Post article was simply re-stating something that was…

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I need to share about what this week has actually been like…

This is now the fourth time I have sat down to write this weeks reflection. I have been doing some useful thinking about the place of belief in shaping our behaviour, however no matter how hard I have tried, I simply cannot write about it. Faith Reflections is my attempt to reflect on the real journey of faith, and this week in order for that to be true I need to share about what this week has actually been like… It…

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is the church the moral compass for the world? I hope not.

Last week I wrote about pornography and received a lot of feedback, some of which focussed the question of whether the church should be trying to be a moral compass. In a world where we see different wings of the Christian church lining up against each other on  almost every issue you can name, it is an obvious question. That question though, leads to another… what is “the church”? I think what most people mean by “the church” is the organizational structures that…

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Self Sufficiency is the great lie of Alberta (and the Western World).

This is an article I wrote for todays St. Albert Gazette. You can see it here: John Lennon wrote “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans” in the song Beautiful Boy. It is a lyric I don’t like because it is a little too close to home. As Human beings we really want to believe we are in control of our own destinies. Here in Alberta we place a high premium on the idea of the “self…

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Only people who have suffered, grown, matured and developed real values can actually have relationships of trust.

I caught Obama’s farewell speech, along with the ceremony where he bestowed the Presidential Medal of Honour with Distinction, on Vice President Joe Biden. What has been interesting to watch has been the way that almost no-one has criticized the character of either man. Obama quoted a Republican who said: If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, you got a problem.  He’s as good a man as God ever created. Senior Republicans have almost been unanimous in the…

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Embrace big changes. Both the joyful, and the horrible moments of discontinuity produce life.

There are moments in life when everything changes. We tend to forget that. We think that what we are experiencing now is “normal”, forgetting that our “normal” has changed time and time again throughout our lives. Of course things are actually changing all the time, but because the changes are so small we tend to ignore them until we are confronted with a photo or some other reminder about how things were a few years ago. Today, though, I am…

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A healthy church doesn’t fit into business as usual… it sets an agenda that changes every aspect of life.

I like to read. I’ve read lots of books about church history and moments when it seemed like God was working in a special way. It often seems that these moments all happened long ago. This week I was reminded that is not always the case. This past week I had the opportunity to reconnect with my friend Erion for the first time since we spoke together at Palm Beach Atlantic university. Erion is one of my heroes. Together with…

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What is Pokemon Go doing to us?

Article First appeared in the St. Albert Gazette here: Last 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…

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If we truly want peace, we need to stop dividing the world into “us” and “them”

Media outlets in North America have become experts at this. A tragedy happens, amateur social media videos are lined up one after the other, professional “experts” give their paid opinions and reporters stand in locations they have never been, acting like they know what they are talking about. Everyone is looking for answers, hoping that this will be as simple as the good guys versus the bad guys. It never is. Like normal, people are trying to reduce complex issues to…

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Are we losing our lives to distraction?

I have a confession to make… sometimes I find it hard to say no to things that waste my time and take me away from being healthily present to others. I’ve never really grown out of my capacity to become fixated on computer games. I remember spending long hours in front of a friends Commodore 64 when I was 14, and now I’m 44 I find myself deleting Madden mobile from my iPad for the 3rd time this week. It’s not just computer…

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Every time we give someone a label we make them a stranger.

One of the highlights of my time in Canada was being at Edmonton airport as a little family of four finished their journey from a war zone to the comparative tranquility of Alberta. Sako, Nairy, Nver and Anna-Maria left Lebanon earlier that day, where they had fled after seeing their city of Aleppo destroyed. A group of about 30 of us welcomed them at the airport, which they seemed to be pleased with. Pastor Hany (centre of the photo with the white…

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I love the heart, vision, challenge and pathway that I am seeing.

There was a two week period where I attended two conferences that were quite different but at the same time similar, and influenced by a very challenging author and what I was preaching about at the time. The first conference was the National Assembly of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. That was followed by the Deepening Community conference hosted by the Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement. While I was doing all this I had also been continuing to preach through Ephesians…

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How can I bring my children up in the training and instruction of the Lord without exasperating them?

I am a trained youth worker. I know most of the theories of adolescent development. I have worked with all kinds of youth from all kinds of backgrounds. You would think that being a parent of teenagers would therefore be easy. Its not. Being a youth worker is completely different to being a parent. A few months ago I wrote a reflection on the realization that parenting teenagers is fundamentally about a clash of Kingdoms. My realization  was that parenting teenagers…

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The enemy’s agenda is to kill communities and marriages. We all need to learn what it actually means to stand firm.

I remember fondly my first wedding. As I prepared for Andrew and Pamela’s big day,  I was reminded just how profound a privilege it is to officiate at a moment like that. Marriage is important. It has far reaching implications for our health and that of our kids.  According to the American Psychological Association: Healthy marriages are good for couples’ mental and physical health. They are also good for children; growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational…

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In moments of disaster we are reminded what a good person looks like.

When I was in Canada there was a one week period I spent fixated, watching a whole city go up in flames. Fort McMurray was decimated by a fire that seemed to rage out of control. As an Australian watching the images on the screen there is a strange sense of familiarity in it all. For our family, in particular, it all brought back memories of the King Lake bush fires in 2009. Then, as in there were in Fort Mac, there…

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The Great Commandment is only possible if we allow ourselves to see.

Writing these Faith Reflections is an important part of my own faith journey. They are where I wrestle with what whatever issue seems top of mind in my own life. I hope they might be helpful for you, but they are at least equally important for me. In early 2016 I was reflecting about the implications of the great commandment for me and for our church. I was preparing for another busy weekend and I wrote the following reflection: It’s…

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The six sick practises we have developed to avoid conflict, which eat away at the church like cancer.

Yesterday I sat in a room with a bunch of pastors as we tried to work out what it meant to genuinely be in fellowship. For a number of years we had met and been warm and polite, but yesterday something shifted, just a little bit, and we were starting to be more real than we had ever been. Later in the afternoon I sat with another pastor as we reflected on the Christian church, and together we agreed that…

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It is not the refugees who need us, it is we who need the refugees.

On one day, in Feburary 2016, I was confronted by the dramatic need facing refugees from the Syrian crisis. It was meant to be my day off but two phone-calls I received yesterday changed things. The first phonecall was from a friend who is working with me on supporting one family who are currently in Lebanon after fleeing Syria, to come to Canada. We were expecting that the timeline would be 2-3 months, however we found that they would now arrive…

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The real question of healthy sexuality

I wrote a reflection about how Christianity is not anti-sex and I was blown away by the number of people who responded positively, and by the number of people that read it. In just two days that reflection became the most read item I have written on Faith Reflections. As I wrote last week, we as a church are engaging in a sermon series about Jesus, the bible and sexuality and one of the core things that is coming through in that series…

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Christianity is not anti-sex

I’ve been thinking a bit about sex. I realise that is not a sentence you will see often on a site dedicated to faith, but perhaps it should be. Sexuality is such a big part of our lives and different perspectives about what is, and isn’t, right and healthy are constantly being fed to us through the media and also often through our friendship circle. We need to talk more about sex. Part of the reason I have been thinking…

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For me the battle between the god of commercialism and the baby born in Bethlehem is very personal.

Christmas time seems to be the epicentre of the real spiritual battle in the Western World. On one side of the fight is the god of commercialism who wears a coca-cola coloured suit, rewards people for being good boys and girls and encourages them to use credit. On the other side of the battle is the baby born in Bethlehem whose death on a cross means that love is unconditional. The god of consumerism requires us to be dissatisfied with who we…

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The baby born in Bethlehem invites us to reconsider our whole lives and re-orientate around who (not what) truly matters.

I love Christmas. I know its commercialized. I know that the reason for the season is going missing for many, but I still love this time of year. I love the promise and the idealism of Christmas. I love that for a few days people hum tunes about peace on earth, joy to the world and snow (even in countries where there is no snow). Most of all I love that for a few days, life priorities get rearranged. For a…

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You think you make your own decisions, but actually that is very rarely true.

Last week I posted a reflection that came from my wrestle with what I was seeing ISIS doing. Last weeks posting was one of the most read ones since I started Faith Reflections in 2010, so I guess that I’m not the only one who has been disoriented by the constant wave of violence we are seeing played out around the world. This disorientation is similar to what people felt after the second world war as the nature of the atrocities committed by…

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It is as we reflect on ISIS that we can see just how confronting, and in fact disturbing, Jesus was.

Every week there seems to be a new example of a world descending into new levels of craziness. I have avoided videos and pictures of the extreme violence of ISIS because it revolts and bewilders me. How can one person do that to another? At the moment the news media is picking over the events surrounding a mass shooting in San Bernardino, which seems to have been inspired by ISIS. Whether it was the line of men slaughtered on a…

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To walk alone is possible, but the good walker knows that the trip is life and it requires companions.

I’ve been a pastor for a couple of weeks, and I’m slowly getting used to the idea. One of the things I am appreciating about our church is the way in which we are committed to wrestling with what God is saying to us. Part of that is a current commitment to explore a range of bible passages to see what they might be saying to us as a church. This week we were looking at Acts 2, and as…

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A confronting Punk Rocker challenges me to trust and ask for help

I have been wrestling with what it means to not have a predictable wage lately. A big part of me would like not to have to rely on the generosity of others to support the ministry that I believe God has called me to. In our capitalist society, living without a wage doesn’t make sense and means that I, and my family, are continually in a place of vulnerability. In my quiet time this morning, I was struck by Jesus’s…

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I am grateful for my experiences of people willing to face the challenge and cost of repentance and forgiveness

I have been loving my study with Taylor Seminary so far. I am currently finishing off one subject (Christian Worldview), and neck deep in three others (Church history since reformation, Integral Mission and Ephesians). I am fascinated how four subjects that are ostensibly so diverse seem to correlate so deeply. I had thought that I had a good grasp on the book of Ephesians… turns out I had as much of a clue about the book as I do about ice hockey……

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I am grateful for my history, and I’m grateful for the history of those who have gone before me.

Today is my first day without any kind of agenda since arriving in Canada… It’s snowing outside, the Christmas shopping is done (at least for today) and we are enjoying just pottering around with Christmas movies on the television. There is something about this time of year that is just special. I wrote last year that these couple of weeks are kind of like an annual sabbath… a moment for the world to take a breath and reflect on the…

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The journey of understanding is not easy, but its the only way to fellowship

From time to time I will repost some of the reflections that seemed to get the most positive response from people over the past few years. This one was first posted 27th May 2010…..  I know saying that people are different is like saying the sky is blue.. obvious (unless of course you are English in which case the sky is rarely blue : ) ). But it is this fundamental observation which I think I am only slowly starting…

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“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

A friend wrote this reflection on her experience at the Paralympics this week… It was very touching so I thought I would share it with you…. Last week I saw glory. It wasn’t on the program, not officially anyway. Seated up high in the temporary wing of the London Aquatic Centre we had come to watch and marvel at Paralympians in the pool. And marvel we did, many times over. Race after race was a celebration of the human spirit,…

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Life is more complex than the story we tell ourselves

The school holidays are here again, and we are in Orford, enjoying the chance to relax. This year is one of the most unusual in my life so far. It is a year of change and transition, a year that I know I will look back on as an important one, but in the middle of the experience, I’m not sure exactly why. One of the things that is becoming clear for me is the truth of Carl Jung’s statement,…

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Escaping the Matrix

I remember holding my first baby and already looking forward to the moment when I could start to watch movies other than the Wiggles. We passed a family milestone on the weekend. Maddi, Josh, Daniel and I watched the Matrix trilogy together. It was a moment I had waited sixteen years to enjoy! I remember how impressed I had been with the original movie, and it was interesting to see both how dated some parts of it were, and yet how well…

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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.

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…

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One beautiful, colorful, challenging and confronting picture…..

I’m sitting in the Virgin Australia lounge at Melbourne airport watching planes come in and out and waiting for my turn to board one of them. I have seen again today how important it is to step out of your normal world and engage with others. Missiologist Ralph Winter identified two structures within the body of Christ, the mission group and the local church. Mission groups come in all shapes and sizes. In many ways a mums group is a…

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Because this humiliation is so hard we continually scheme to evade confessing to a brother.

For the last time I will post some of my Auntie Anne’s notes from her reading of Life Together by Deitrich Bonhoeffer. Todays reflection is a bit longer and again has language that is a bit out of date, but if you can take the time to read it, I hope you find it as helpful as I have. Life Together is quite a short book and one I would recommend that anyone seriously interested in fellowship and community read….

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It is nice to have an exhibit ‘A’ of someone managing conflict morally

One of the great challenges with being part of a community is that people are painful. I love the quote from Henri Nouwen: Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives. Sometimes that person can be me. I can be a real mongrel sometimes. Other times though, it is other people who are being the mongrel and what do you do? I’ve had a few disagreements lately so I’ve been thinking a bit…

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At what point will the rich decide they are paying too much tax?

I’ve been thinking a bit about economics lately. There is something at the heart of our capitalist system that makes me feel a bit uneasy. I really enjoyed hearing from Dr. Ian Harper at the last arrow residential conference.  He is one of Australia’s most respected economists, and also a Christian. I asked him a question that I had been thinking about for a while: “Doesn’t capitalism mean the rich will always get richer and the poor will always get…

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Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that.

Our week away came to an end yesterday and as we tidied the holiday house the kids sat down to watch the Super Bowl. I was fascinated as I came in and out of the room to see what a remarkable production it all was. One one of the things that stood out to me was the adulation that the quarterbacks and senior coaches were afforded. Every move was dissected and past greats were referenced with hushed tones. I was…

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There is something important about having the space to be alone with your thoughts

Leeanne and I finished painting my shed yesterday and as I sit inside it writing this I realise that it’s hard to communicate the importance of a shed. This shed was a gift from my wife for my 30th birthday. I was away for a long weekend and she worked with my parents in law to line it and install the massive window. Two years ago, when we returned to Poatina, my shed was in a bad way. It hadn’t…

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Hope doesn’t come cheaply, but there is nothing more precious.

It was Leeanne’s birthday yesterday. I tried to find the words to describe to her what she meant to me in a birthday card but I didn’t do a very good job. At my 40th, a month ago, Leeanne spoke briefly but her words had a profound impact on me. She said that as we were getting married that she knew it would be an adventure but that she was ready to commit herself to taking the ride with me….

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It’s not in their hands – its in God’s hands

I haven’t written a reflection for a few days for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that I have been using every spare minute to try to finish my book on Kingdom Cells.. Its coming along well but still needs some work. The other reason is that I haven’t been sure what to write about. I would love to write more reflections that are resolved and uplifting, but so often my life is anything but resolved. I have…

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Family is a place of grace. The church is meant to be that too.

Its Christmas evening and we are relaxing in front of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. it’s a very deep movie…. (not!) Today has been a special day. Last night we stayed up and watched the carols, and then did the obligatory late shift getting organised for the morning. There was the normal moment of disorientation for me as I heard excited voices from the lounge room at about 6:30 then I remembered what day it was. The kids loved their presents,…

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16,000 people were getting into the Messiah, and as I watched the video I took of the moment, it taught me something I want to remember this Christmas.

On Sunday night I was reminded of something. We were in Hobart catching up with family after spending the week in Orford at my brother in law’s holiday house. After catching up with the family on Saturday we decided to go with some of them to the Hobart Carols by Candelight, which was put on just down the hill from my brother-in-law’s house. It quickly became apparent that lots of other people had the same idea, in fact a record…

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It is always right to strive to love in the midst of the messiness, even when it hurts.

As part of Arrow I have been making my way progressively through the New and Old Testaments simultaneously. As I come toward the end of the New Testamant, I keep being struck at how the bible clearly exhorts us to a communal experience of faith, and how it attempts to prepare us for the fallibility of that community. It is clear that we are called to live in a way that changes the world, but it is also clear that…

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The person who works hard to look good is actually quite dangerous

I am loving my holiday.. I think the way I am wired, getting space is very important in being able to make sense of the world I am living in. One of the things that has most bewildered me has been seeing just how unaware people can be. Things that seem so obvious to me seem to not be seen by others. I am discovering that there are a couple of reasons for that. The first is that we simply…

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Divisions form in the rift of unresolved pain

It was interesting to hear my wife’s response to my reflection yesterday. She said “it sounds like you aren’t going to do anything when anyone does something wrong”. I can see how she would have picked that up from what I wrote, but that was not what I was intending to communicate. We were watching a movie last night and the soundtrack featured a song by the band Sparklehorse called “Revenge”. The song captures the dilemma of dealing with injustice….

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Facing my anger and choosing a different path is the only way to freedom… What a shame!

I am in what is becoming my favourite place. My sister and brother in law have a fantastic beach house in the town of Orford on the Tasmanian South East Coast. Because of their generosity we are able to use it a few times a year and it really is just a great place to relax. We usually try to find a TV series to watch in the evenings, and the mornings are a chance to read, sleep in or…

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If hospitality is so important, why are there so many lonely people?

Last week I visited again the Balcombe Beach Retreat (pictured) It is clear that we are called to be hospitable: Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13) Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2) Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.(1 Peter 4:9) In both Timothy and Titus, being hospitable is one of the key qualifications for…

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Don’t avoid right conflict, but step out of the fight to find real peace

I can see how easily I can get drawn into a fight. I am learning the difference between healthy conflict and being drawn into a fight. A fight is about me feeling justified, about me asserting my view above someone elses. My dad used to say that you never change someones opinion by exerting a stronger opinion and he’s right. Jesus didn’t back off conflict. He was happy to plait a whip, but he didn’t get into a fight.

You can be a gossip or a follower of Jesus but you can’t be both with integrity.

I’ve been reflecting a bit about gossip, having been on the receiving end of a bit of it and trying to make sense of the experience. I think I’m seeing more clearly that those who talk about others behind their backs are generally powerless people, and it is that sense of powerlessness that is the impetus for not going directly to the person you have a problem with. I have lived in a number of intentional communities in my life,…

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George teaches me what actually matters

I was reminded today of a lesson I first learned in my first six months of ministry with Fusion. Have you ever met someone fresh out of bible college? They are usually full of right ideas and full of themselves. As I look back, thats certainly what I was like in 1992. A fellow graduate and I stood on the bow of the boat taking us down to our placements in Tasmania and engaged in a serious discussion about what…

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Two kinds of community

I must confess to some trepidation in posting this next excerpt from Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. When I first read it, I found I had to read over it a number of times to let the words sink in and face truths I didn’t really want to face. I don’t think its quite as simple as Bonhoeffer contends, however he asks some very helpful questions about the nature of community and the nature of faith. Only read this if you are…

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Face the pain of community and be thankful

I live in a Christian community. I have found Bonhoeffer’s Life Together very helpful but also very confronting. This next excerpt puts a finger on what I think the biggest challenge of living in community is: being thankful when it feels like the people you are living alongside are causing pain. Living in community is a really nice idea, until you realize it’s full of people who are incredibly weak, self interested and fallible. If you weren’t also all those…

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Jobs vs Bonhoeffer

I’ve been enjoying reading the new Steve Jobs biography and found it fascinating as I’m also chewing over Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. Steve Jobs gave up on Christianity at the age of 13 and said to his biographer: The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it. I actually like what he is driving at, but the problem is to see the…

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What kind of Love?

As I go back over the parts of Bonhoeffer’s Life Together that I highlighted, I continue to be challenged. One of the themes of the book is the difference between being self centered and Christ centred. I find this following passage very confronting. If you replace the word community with relationship, I think these few paragraphs are relevant to everyone. I find myself challenged and can see where I need to face the fact I am being self centred in…

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Together not alone

I will depart from my series of posts reflecting on Bonhoeffer’s book today as I departed Poatina for the day over to be with our team in Victoria for the day. It was great to be back with the team that I led between 2005 and 2009 and hear a little bit of what has been happening. We had a meeting we call the State Coordinating Group, where leaders from different Fusion centres get together to plan and lead the…

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Thanks but no thanks

How do you go at being thankful with what you have? How many frustrations do you have with the people around you, the place you live or the amount of money you have? I feel like I am often a bit frustrated, which is why the following quote from Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, is so challenging. He is right!

Disillusionment is a good thing

It was nice to be back at the Poatina Morning Tea today and start to see people again. Today I received a call about another person who might like to come into the village to be supported. One of Poatina’s gifts is the way it makes room for people who need an extra hand. Its not always easy though, and sometimes we can get the priorities wrong.

What is Christian community?

It’s so nice to be home. I’m taking it a bit easy today.. Didn’t get heaps of sleep last night as I’m adjusting back to the Aussie timezone. It’s a beautiful day here in Poatina, brilliant blue sky and the plants all have that look about them they seem to get in early spring just before they take off and grow rapidly. Poatina is a unique community. It is a Christian community that is designed to be a model of…

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I need you

I’m back on a plane. This time it is the short flight to Melbourne from Sydney and then the hop across the ditch to make it home finally. As I said yesterday, I find myself quite challenged by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together. I’m struggling to come to terms with the depth of what he is saying, but I know that much of it is important for me in this moment. Up front I need to admit something. I don’t…

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Different but the Same

It’s a strange feeling being back in Cape Town. I am actually in the same bedroom I was earlier this year when I was over here for a couple of weeks so everything is very familiar. A friend told me recently that overseas travel confronts you with two facts: 1) a lot of the things you expect to be different aren’t.. People are basically the same the world over. 2) a lot of the little things that you expect to…

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It’s about the attitude

I’ve been sharing parts of Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together because it has spoken so deeply to me since reading it last week. In my last post I included a passage where he talks about disillusionment being a good thing because it deals with the illusions we bring into community. He then goes on to contrast the two approaches that can be taken to Christian community. I find myself really challenged by this passage because I know how much I can…

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Time Off

I had a great day today. We took the day off and went for a family day. We went for a walk on a boardwalk to a pretty Island and then visited a place called Grindewald where I gave the boys a game of mini golf while Leeanne took Sophie and our visitor to the jumping pillow. My daughter Maddi is on the Uluru Pilgrimage and she is studiously avoiding letting us know how she is going.. I think she…

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Relationships are a pain

Marshmallow doesn’t sharpen Iron I just got off the phone from an interview by my friend Dave Hammond, host of the Conversation. (www.conversation.org.au) and I figured I was thinking so much there was no way I would get to sleep, so I would write a blog. He was talking to me about my new book which is based on this blog. It was a great chat that probably blew his program out of the water because it went so long….

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Fighting for integrity

Conflicting Realities Lately I’ve been thinking a bit about conflict and how it happens. It might seem obvious, but I have realised that most often conflict happens because people are seeing the same set of circumstances from a different perspective. Most of us think we live in reality, however we live in our particular version of reality based on our interpretation of past experiences. Carl Jung said: “The most important question you can ask is: what is the myth (story)…

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Structural Grace

Happy New Year I love this time of year. It’s a time to stop and breathe, to reflect and to plan. It’s a time to try to make sense of all that has been and all that will be. New Year for me is a kind of structural grace. The promise that the past can be over and there is a whole year ahead without any major mistakes, crisis’ or blemishes.

Commitment and Freedom

Commitment is not a dirty word I have been doing more thinking about freedom and in particular what happens to it when you commit to something. Freedom of choice is a wonderful thing. I came to the fairly obvious  realisation this week that when you commit, you lose freedom. Commitment, is by definition, a voluntary reduction of freedom. Apparently my generation, like no other, is scared of commitment.

Who is on the God journey?

Solo or together?? I’ve been enjoying the podcasts I have been listening to from Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings. (www.thegodjourney.com) They are two Americans who have been on significant individual personal journeys with God and each week record a dialogue that bounces off emails they have received, current events or things they have encountered. There is one aspect of their dialogue though, that I am not completely convinced about.

The price of peace

Fighting for peace Peace doesn’t accidentally happen, and it’s not what is normal. Turmoil and conflict are what is normal. It’s also normal for us all to do everything we can do avoid that turmoil and conflict. Most of us live in a world of superficial peace, with a deep undercurrent of pain that comes from that turmoil and conflict that we can never really escape through our normal pattern of avoidance. Thomas A. Kempis said: “All men desire peace, but very few…

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Signs of Soul Erosion

A do it yourself check up A friend send me a link to this article which I found helpful so I thought I would re-publish it here. You can find the original at: http://drbilldonahue.com/2010/10/signs-of-soul-erosion/ by BILL DONAHUE on OCTOBER 5, 2010 My friend Gordon MacDonald has great leadership insights. Some time ago, teaching our Willow staff, he warned of soul erosion and the attendant signs. I used this framework (an appropriately attributed it to Gordon) in a talk I gave this past weekend. It…

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No man is an island

For whom the bell tolls Today I come to the end of my series of posts about my journey with Colossians 3. The chapter ends with what looks like a change of pace.. and this morning I found myself tempted to skip over what simply looks like some practical advice. I lived with it a bit and it slowly dawned on me that the practical advice is actually the out working of all the previous parts of the chapter. The…

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Playing together

So how do we do this? This morning I was woken by my son who was eagerly looking forward to taking a little row-boat out in the bay that is just metres from our house. I have a confession to make. I am not a morning person. It takes me a while to orientate to what is going on. I have a routine in the mornings: Shower, Berocca, Breakfast, Coffee, Quiet Time.  After this routine, my inner world feels able…

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Relationships aren’t complicated – we just make them that way

Understanding takes work A few weeks ago I wrote a series of posts about conflict resolution. At the moment I am really enjoying leading a workshop on Stephen Covey’s “the 8th Habit”, and I came across a part that seemed to both enforce what I was writing earlier and develop it further. One sentence seemed to jump off the page: “My experience is that if people really try to understand each other, they will, in most, but not all cases,…

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Elephants and mice

Sometimes its important to speak up I am working my way through the book of Galatians at the moment and I came across the moment when Paul has to step up to disagree with Peter. Peter was the most significant personality in the New Testament Church but he had started to distance himself from people who weren’t Jews to keep the powerful people happy. (You will find the story in Galatians 2:11-21) It would have taken a fair bit of…

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The second lie

The myth of self-determination We are telling our young people they have to do it on their own..  and its a lie. As I mentioned yesterday, in preparing for the Australian Religious Press Association conference I came across very enlightening research from the Australia 21 foundation, and in particular from a team led by Professor Richard Eckersly. The team looked not just at the challenges facing young people but examined the potential causes of the problem that are endemic in…

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A different kind of fight

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…

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Sometimes its good to be upset

Don’t avoid the hard conversations We are now home and getting ready to re-engage with the world tomorrow. It has been wonderful to have the space to reflect over the past couple of weeks. As I took the time to process the journey of the last year, one of the things that stood out was a little counter-intuitive. I realised that I didn’t upset enough people.

Knowing who your friends are

Life is too complicated to do on your own As you might have picked up, I am loving teaching the book of Ecclesiastes.. The book is basically one mans quest for life understanding (good name for a web site : ) ), but there is one little patch in Chapter Four where it’s like Solomon realises he is going it alone. As probably the richest and most powerful person to ever walk the earth, I am not sure how many…

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Imagine all the people

Thank God its them instead of you I was talking to a friend to relayed the impact of a moment when she was asking for help in an awkward situation and received a beauracratic response. She was left feeling unseen and frustrated. I was then watching a movie with a bit of action and violence in it and reflecting how much I had changed from the little boy who was traumatised by watching the wizard of oz. What is the connection you…

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People who annoy me

If only you saw things like I did… I have my quiet times using “the message’ paraphrase mostly. I find that I have read other versions of the bible so much that somehow I have managed to inoculate myself from the sharp scalpel of truth. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is able to cut through this defence with my N.I.V. (the translation I mostly use for bible study or teaching) but I have found it happens more regularly when I engage…

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Looking beyond

Openness to others I am continuing to put up excerpts from Jean Vanier’s “Community and Growth” every now and then. I love working with Fusion, and I love the heart of what we are about. In this section though, Vanier explores what it means for communities like Fusion to mature. Vanier looks at the challenge for communities to increasingly become open to the gift of “the other””:

Learning from Basil

A man who changed the world It is easy to think that somehow people who didn’t live in the current times are somehow less developed than we are. One person from the very early days of the Christian church (about 300 A.D.) seems to be to be someone who we need to be learning from rather than feeling superior to. Basil of Cappadocia is fast becoming one of my heroes. We in Fusion talk about establishing Basilan Monastic Model communities,…

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I blame the community

Community can be very challenging Living in Poatina, and in Fusion, I realise how easy it is to see the weaknesses in everyone else. Jean Vanier talks a bit about this in Community and Growth, and in the process describes the challenge of community life very well:

Leadership in Community

The founder’s dilemma Leading a community is no small task,  and no one has all that they need to do the job. My Dad was the founder of Fusion and of Poatina. Growing up as his son I saw how he carried the burden of both of these things. I also saw clearly that neither he, nor anyone else has all that they need to do the all of the job of leadership. Vanier talks in his book, Community and…

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South Africa Pilgrimage: Good Fences make Good Neighbours

The Fences of Joburg Driving into Johannesburg I was struck by the extent and height of the fences. Everywhere you look there are barbed wire, razor wire and electrified entanglements. Signs on almost every fence declare “Armed Response”. At Robben Island I was struck with the heroism and hope. In Joburg I am confronted with just how far there is to go. I was reminded of a poem called “Mending a Wall” by Robert Frost

South Africa Pilgrimage: On the road again

Coming home for the first time I’m sitting on a bus again with 30 other pilgrims making our way from Cape Town to Joburg. We left 5 of our number in Capetown including my friend Gerri who is travelling to Kenya to visit her sponsor child. Another person we left in Capetown is Philip a German social worker who is doing his Thesis on Fusion. He tells me that Fusion is unique, and after my first week in South Africa…

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South Africa Pilgrimage: Stella

Hanging on to hope When I arrived in Durban I heard a few of the team members say something like “she could be another Stella” two or three times about different people. I wasn’t sure what they were talking about. As the bus rolled in to Cape Town someone said “Oh Cool Stella is here”. I still didn’t know who they were talking about until a biggish older lady squeezed into the minibus next to me and introduced herself after…

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Its about where you put your eyes

Meeting God in the moment I was on washing up duty the other day at the Poatina motel. One of the unique things about living in this village are the rosters. I regularly find myself doing things that I wouldn’t ordinarily do. As I washed up I had strong feelings of incompetence.. I feel so out of my depth in a kitchen like that. I know that it would be easy to come up with excuses why my time is…

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Young people in Community

Sometimes there needs to be a stepping stone between family and the world. A month or so ago I was talking to Colin Piper, of International Youth Works, in Germany, about Poatina, and he was fascinated by our assumption that the only way you can build a healthy community is if that community exists for something other than itself. At the heart of every Fusion community are young people, and our intentional communities like Poatina, always have a place for young…

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Communities that free young people

Freeing young people to fly In my last post, I included an excerpt from Jean Vanier’s “Community and Growth”. Vanier’s L’Arche communities are focussed on caring for the disabled, in a similar way that Fusion’s communities are focussed on caring for “at risk” young people. I remember a conversation with George Savvides who said to me “In my view Fusion’s main product is creating a safe place for young people to discover themselves and faith”. I remember feeling concerned that if all…

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The scapegoat

Having someone to blame Every few days I have been including excerpts from Jean Vanier’s “Community and Growth” that I have found helpful. This passage talks about what happens when one person is singled out as the scapegoat. As I reflect on the many groups I have been part of, I find this challenging because I realise how easy it is to blame someone else for the situation in which I currently find myself:

Eyes of a child

Looking through the eyes of innocence In my last post I was talking about being like a child and it reminded me of something. My mate, Dave Hammond used to be a musician. He released three albums. My favourite song he wrote was “eyes of a child”. I sent Leeanne hunting through the cupboards for a copy of the tape, and she found it!

Being a kid

Sometimes I skip and dance I don’t tell a lot of people about the skipping and dancing. When I think no-one is watching, or if I’m feeling fairly comfortable, or beyond caring, my feet start to move. A friend in Victoria who I used to work with, Fiona, used to say “Matt must be tired” when I started to bust a move in the office. I love those moments of spontaneity. It reminds me of one of my favourite passages…

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Scary community

Community can hurt A few days ago I shared a little bit from Jean Vanier’s Community and Growth. I intend to put a few excerpts up over the next little while because it is a book that has really helped me understand more of the reality of community. As I have said before, the dream behind Fusion is that little communities of faith can help the big community. The following excerpt shows why making the dream a reality is not…

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Fantasy that hurts

Not all dreams are good I’ve been doing a bit of reflection on my own journey with leadership and have realised something: Whenever someone felt really strongly about wanting to do a particular role, and I let them, it didn’t work. I also see in me, the times I am attracted to a role it is usually when I am feeling most fragmented on the inside. I’m realising that even talking about community can be a bit like that. Dietrich…

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John Wesley’s commandos

Small groups of friends that changed the world Last week I published a list of John Wesley’s small group questions.. they were pretty amazing and it was easy to see why the church grew if people were courageous enough to face questions like that each week. This week I want to introduce you to another smaller list of questions that John Wesley had for a special group of very committed people. He organised those who really wanted to grow into bands. Single…

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People are different

First posted 27th May 2010….. The journey towards understanding I know saying that people are different is like saying the sky is blue.. obvious (unless of course you are English in which case the sky is rarely blue : ) ). But it is this fundamental observation which I think I am only slowly starting to understand. I began my journey with this understanding with my wife. She would say something, and I would assume that she meant what I…

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True Community

I live in a community. It is a village in central Tasmania called Poatina. The dream behind Fusion is that a little community can make a difference in the big community. Community isn’t easy though and I thought I would share some of the insights from a book I have found very helpful called “Community and Growth” by Jean Vanier.

Is it really better to burn out than to fade away?

A friend sent me a quote a couple of days ago about burnout: Burn out comes not primarily from doing too much, but from doing what we don’t really want to do – so that one foot is moving forward and the other foot is trying to run away’. – (from a book: sleeping with bread, holding what gives you life). It got me to thinking and I started talking to other friends about it and looking around.

People who are different

As I write I am sitting in the Poatina Service station doing my twice monthly shift caring for this little business. I am a bit sad today because the Poatina working bee is on and I am missing it because I am sitting here. This is a bit of a shift for me. I actually lived in Poatina five years ago for four years and I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t do one working bee. I had lots…

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