Life

Life

Scott Peck got it right when he said “Life is difficult”, it is. It’s also very messy and not simply explainable in words. I think the very messy,complex, ordinariness that make life what it is though, is the field where the real game of faith is played. I hope some of these reflections are relevant to you.

These five practises that make Church harder are a good thing.

We live in a culture where commitment is not normal. This is not news. The decline in commitment has been well documented.  Social researcher, Hugh Mackay, says that this current generation is… “growing up in a world of ever-expanding choices, they have made a virtue of keeping their options open, and they have adopted “what else is there?” as their general catchcry. It’s a question that comes up whether the topic is a course of study, a job, a sexual…

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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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Social issues really do matter, however they are not the main challenge for the church.

It is interesting coming home into what feels like a highly charged political environment. Things feel very polarised both globally and nationally. There is a strange sense of foreboding at the moment as it looks like America and North Korea are, day by day, inching closer to a cliff and at the same time, a vitriolic debate about same-sex marriage is dominating talk radio and social media. Polarisation is not new, but it does feel like this is different.  It feels like…

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The only kind of church that will actually work here is a Fair Dinkum one.

We’ve been back in Australia for one month. We’ve been surprised at how big the adjustment has been, however it does feel like we are starting to find our bearings. Part of the adjustment has been the different place that the Christian church has in Australian society. The Aussie church is much more on the fringes here than it is in Canada. Our church has a “men’s shed” program, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a shed in someone’s…

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Don’t let the dark side of consumerism rob you of your life. Life is for living now.

Article in todays St. Albert Gazette Next week we are heading back to Australia after being here for four years. We have loved our time in St. Albert. This is a very special place and you are served by some remarkably dedicated and gifted leaders both in the church and in the broader community. The Good Neighbour Project is remarkable (goodniehgbourproject.org) and I don’t think there is any doubt that St. Albert is the Block Party capital of the world. I…

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The moments when you decide your core vales are actually the biggest turning points of your life.

Every now and then life takes a major turning point. Something changes that means every other aspect of your life is affected. From an external perspective, my family and I are in a moment like that right now. In eight days time we will be boarding a Qantas flight to head back to Australia. I will begin my new job as Senior Pastor of Citywide Baptist church, Hobart, a week later. On the surface it looks and feels like a…

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A message to those who Kill us: Thank You, We Love You and We are Praying for you

As the world struggles to come to terms with another senseless bombing, I thought I would post the remarkable words of Father Boules George, a Coptic priest, speaking the day after a bomb killed 49 worshippers in his church in Alexandria. I spoke on Sunday about the paradoxical heart of the Gospel, and the words of this man are the clearest example I have seen for a long time of what it means to be an agent of God’s love…

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Everyone needs an Auntie Anne, someone you know is always in your corner and doesn’t give up when things get tough.

Over the past month I have written about three women who have inspired and influenced me: Wendy Thomas, my wife Leeanne and my mum. Today I need to complete the set by talking about another woman who has shaped my life and continues to inspire and challenge me: My Auntie Anne. Like mum, Auntie Anne grew up on the North West Coast of Tasmania in a middle class family headed up by an entrepreneurial father (Pa) and a mother (Mema)…

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There are two things I wish everyone could say about their Mother.

It is Mothers Day on Sunday, which seems like a great excuse to write about what I’ve learned from the  woman who profoundly shaped the person I have become: my mum. It is interesting to look at this photo, in which I guess I am about eight, Liz is around 6, Danni 4 and Nat is probably 2. Mum is in her mid thirties, about ten years younger than I am now. As I look back on the photo I glimpse…

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I don’t know where the next 23 years will take us but I do know who I will be sharing the adventure with… the bravest person I know.

As we come up to Mothers day in just over a week, I’m going to take the opportunity over the next little while, to reflect on the ways that three women in particular have shaped my life I find myself at another point of transition.  Transition isn’t easy. I wasn’t expecting my life to be so full of change when I left home as a 17 year old. When I was 21 I met someone who would become my partner…

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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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My role in my kids lives is changing, and that’s not easy, but it is ok.

My son Josh will be waking up in Australia for the first time in four and a half years. That is now two of my children living more than thirteen thousand kilometres away. That reality certainly has had me reflecting. I am realizing that there are two distinct phases of being a parent. In the first phase you are completely responsible for the teaching, care and nurture of your child. In the second phase your only responsibility is as a…

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You can have a whole life, or you can regularly watch porn. You can’t do both.

I was reading Proverbs chapter 5 this week, which is mostly about sexual immorality, and it occurred to me that since I started this blog in 2010 I have never written about pornography, despite the fact that it has been something that I personally have had to wrestle with. While I am pleased to be able to say that porn hasn’t had a hold over me for many years now, I am embarrassed to have to admit that I fell for something…

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There are 6 choices you need to make if you don’t want to be sucked in by Trump (or anyone else).

There is a seismic shift underway in how the world looks at the United States, how the United States looks at itself and how everybody understands truth. I used to teach people about Public Relations. I would teach that we have “media” because they “mediate” truth. These days, while that might be the origin of the word, the reality of the function is not so simple. Yesterday I watched one of my favourite journalists, Chuck Todd, reach a point where…

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Lets stop settling for desires far below what we were created for.

Recently I spoke about the fact that words like Peace, Love, Hope and Joy express deep longings we all have, but that we end up settling for “stuff” that promises to deliver these longings but never does. Over the last couple of nights I have been reading a book that has given me new language to understand just how profound that settling for less actually is. Regular readers of Faith Reflections will know how much the books of N.T. (Tom) Wright…

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Are you ready for another trip around the Sun? #HappyNewYear #Plansfor2017

I love this time of year. I love it for two reasons, the first is that it’s not a normal time, it’s kind of a twilight zone, an in-between time where one year is really over and another hasn’t properly started. In a moment like this there is the opportunity to spend some time reflecting. The other reason I love this time of year is the chance to sit down in front of the cricket (I know its not a…

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It is important not to sentimentalise the baby born in Bethlehem, but to recognise him for who he is: the instigator of a revolution of love.

The front yard is blanketed in snow and there is extreme cold weather warning for this part of the world for the next 24 hours. Christmas must be coming. As we come to the end of a year in which politics and power seemed to dominate every news bulletin, we find ourselves again being reminded of a little baby born in Bethlehem who gained more followers than any politician in history, yet never grasped for power. That wasn’t how 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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For the foreseeable future, we cannot just assume that people who proclaim themselves to be authorities are telling the truth.

On October 30, the CBS news in America announced that an invasion had begun. From the moment the broadcast started the audience of about 32 million people was transfixed in horror as they began to understand that the future of the whole world was now being threatened. People started to panic. Once the director of the programming realized the impact of the broadcast, he made the choice to make a public announcement. “This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out…

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The seeds of destruction were planted in the American declaration of Independence. You can thank the founders for Trump and Hillary.

I, like many people, have been watching what has been unfolding in the American presidential debate over the last 12 months with an increasing sense of bewilderment. In July I wrote that, sadly, we have seen christians on both the left and right-wing, being more influenced by their culture than by the gospel. As I wrote in July, at the very foundation of the American dream, the seeds of this tension were sown. The American declaration of independence established core…

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

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…

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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.

Ever 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…

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

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…

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I used to say that annual leave was not biblical… Until I realized how wrong I was.

I used to say that annual leave was not biblical… Until I realized how wrong I was. Taking time out can be a bit like climbing a mountain. It actually takes effort to stop and reflect.  It is so easy to bounce along with life, moving from one major life event to another, without ever taking the time to work out if you are headed in the right direction. I still remember our hike to Grassi Lakes near Canmore in Alberta. They…

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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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I am glimpsing both the kind of family and kind of church I want to be part of

I loved the week I spent with my two eldest children, driving 2,500 km from Edmonton to Vancouver and back in 5 days. My daughter Maddi needed to renew her passport, which must be done in person and at the consulate. 24 hours in a car gives a lot of time for incidental conversation. It also gives a lot of time to listen to music any anything else we happened to have on our phones. I felt old. We caught…

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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 role of faith in the formation of willpower and emotional health is one of the strongest arguments against atheism

One of the core questions I have been wrestling with for the last three years is how a person actually changes. I have been wrestling both for myself and for those I am responsible for in the church. At the core of the question is how it is possible for a person to make choices and not simply be determined by their circumstances or feelings. I agree with Roy F. Baumeister who wrote “Self-regulation failure is the major social pathology of our…

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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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Just because I always have, doesn’t mean I always will. I can change.

For a long time I have been committed to the wrestle of what it means to live faith with integrity. This website is an expression of that wrestle for me. I have spent a fair bit of energy thinking about, writing about, and talking about this wrestle. I have authored two books, gained a Masters Degree in Theology and travelled the world sharing this wrestle. In a new way I have seen that thinking, writing and talking are actually a very…

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Donald Trump spews cliches. The world is more complex than a cliche will ever capture.

It was an interesting experience being an Australian, living in Canada and watching the U.S. Presidential election race. It’s kind of like watching a slow motion car crash, where everyone knows the outcome is going to be horrible, but they continue to watch. I am reminded of the children’s story, “The Emperors new clothes“, where the whole world saw an emperor walking without clothes, but no-one said anything because they were worried about what other people might think. Eventually, a little…

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We need to learn to live from grace, despite the dots.

Leeanne and I spent last Saturday at a Marriage seminar. A year and a half ago we watched a video series called “Marriage on the Rock”, which we found extremely helpful (despite the fact that the guy looked like a used-car salesman). But Saturday was the first specific input on marriage we have received from anyone in real life since we did our pre-marriage counselling. Back then we felt extremely confident about just how uniquely qualified for the business of marriage…

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Raising teenagers is fundamentally about a clash of kingdoms, and its not easy.

I remember two thoughts I have had in my life that now haunt me. The first was when I was about 15. I remember clearly thinking how much better job I will do at raising my kids than my parents did. The other was when my beautiful kids were all under 5 and I was in my late twenties. I remember thinking how complicated little kids were and how much I was looking forward to having teenagers, because as a…

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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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Marriage isn’t easy, but true love is so much richer than the anaemic imitation that we see on the silver screen.

I love teaching about love and sexuality, both because it is such a huge issue that is largely avoided in the Christian church and also because l have spent the last 21 on a journey trying to learn what it means to be married. I have written before about how I love Leeanne.  Loving someone though doesn’t mean that the relationship will be simple. I haven’t yet met a person married for more than 6 weeks who would say their relationship was…

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Moments of inspiration are wonderful, but it is the system I build into my life that determines my actions.

When you have space to think and rest it’s much easier to have perspective. It’s much easier to see how things can change and what forward looks like. When things are busy, it’s easy to get caught in the current of life. I actually have only been back at work since Tuesday, and as I sit here on Friday and reflect on the past few days I can see that one of my biggest challenges in implementing the goals I set…

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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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Do they know its Christmas time at all?

I remember fondly the musical optimism of the mid 1980’s with the two mega singles, “Do they know its Christmas time?” and “We are the world.” Both singles and the ensuing global concert were motivated by a heart response to the crisis of a famine in Ethiopia. Thirty years on, Bob Geldof pulled musicians together to reprise the song,  in response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Sure efforts like this attract criticism, however, I think there is something…

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In a world full of points of view, how can you possibly know what is true?

Its been a bit longer than I hoped since my last reflection. Things have been a bit crazy but it feels like the pressure is finally easing off a bit and I’ll have some more space to do life. I was told last week that I would receive credit for the work I have done with Fusion and Arrow towards my Masters in Theological studies which means the current two courses I am doing will be my last. Its a…

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Re-orientation is a complicated process

Well it’s been almost a year since I wrote my last entry on this blog. A number of times I have thought I would’ve liked to write more but I found that I didn’t know how to communicate complex reality that I found myself living in. The last five years have been a time of profound dislocation for me. Five years ago I was the director of Fusion’s work in the state of Victoria in Australia. Five years later here…

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The life of half-faith, faith mixed with fear and doubt

I’ve been meaning to write a reflection every day for the past couple of months. It’s been such an eventful time. I’ve been learning so much, and I have been stretched so far, but I haven’t found the emotional energy to be able to put fingers to keyboard. I’ve been travelling the journey of the last couple of months in the company of N.T. Wright and his commentary/devotional Matthew for everyone.  For the last few years I have felt like Tom Wright…

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The Question of God is not extrinsic, and if it is, it is unhealthy!

I have just reading four different books for a class I am taking on the Christian worldview. All four were thought provoking but one in particular was both challenging and affirming at the same time. The book is called The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. I think what has been so helpful for me personally is that both Freud and Lewis have been a big part of my…

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Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.

We went to see Les Miserables today. I thought I was doing well in managing my emotions until Jean Val Jean died in the arms of his daughter, and then the final lyrics hit me: Do you hear the people sing Lost in the valley of the night? It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light. For the wretched of the earth there is a flame that never dies. Even the darkest night will end…

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Who will celebrate Christmas correctly?

Yesterday I pre-recorded an interview with Terry Cotter, the host of the Australian talkback radio program “The Conversation.” I’m a regular contributor to the program, chatting to Terry once a month, but this time was the Christmas special, and all the program regulars were chatting about how we celebrate Christmas. The conversation brought home to me just how different this Christmas will be for us. Every year that I can remember, Christmas Eve has been spent watching the Melbourne Carols…

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There is something healthy about coming out of the “normal” and having to re-look at the assumptions that form the basis of everyday life.

Today marks one week since we left our home in Poatina and moved to the cold of Edmonton in Canada. I have done a lot of traveling overseas, however this is the first time I have boarded an international flight with the view of being somewhere for more than a few weeks. This is also the first time that i have boarded an international plane with my wife and family. The trip to Canada has been Leeanne’s first time out…

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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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Learning from people who think differently to us is fundamental to growth as a human being

At the moment I am enjoying listening to Brian McLaren’s book Finding our Way Again which my parents gave me on CD. One of the interesting ideas in the book is what he is calling “spiritual fusion.” As McLaren is looking at what is happening in the Christian world, he sees “I think that’s part of what’s going on in this time of change and transition. Old sectarian turf wars are giving way to a sharing of resources – heroes,…

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The Gospel according to Bono

Regular readers of Faith Reflections will know that one of my heroes is the lead singer of the band U2, Bono. On the weekend I came across an excerpt from the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas. It seems clear that he has both thought and read widely, and perhaps been particularly impacted by the work of C.S. Lewis and Philip Yancey in the way he unpacks what he believes. I found what he had to say helpful, so…

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Leadership that works in Australia

I’ve been busy getting ready for the publication of my new book and the launch of a new website. In conjunction with the new website, I have set up an online bookshop using amazon for the books and dvds that were the source material for the new book.. You can check out the new bookstore at http://astore.amazon.com/faithreflections I have been meaning to share this remarkable piece of research about leadership in Australia for quite a while. A report (you can…

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I’m back…

You probably didn’t even notice but I haven’t been doing many reflections lately because I have been pushing to finally finish the book. We are currently working on the layout and we have a draft of the cover now (pictured), so its all starting to feel a bit more real. I didn’t understand just how much work there would be in getting to this stage! I had a conversation with a glass artist who is a good friend and as…

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Jesus showed up, even in the hell of the most evil place on earth

Last year I travelled with my daughter to Poland where, after having an encouraging time with some very special believers who want to change their nation, we visited what is probably the site of the greatest evil this world has ever seen. I don’t know how to describe the experience of Auschwitz. For the first time I could understand why people would want to deny the holocaust. As I looked at the mountain of gas canisters, the roll of material…

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My wife helps me stay grounded

We arrived home from Hobart last night. Even when I have been away for a holiday, it is always nice to come home. I’ve been in a bit of a reflective mood lately, which may be to do with the amount of chocolate I have consumed in the last week, or perhaps could be related to being forty and in a time of transition. I shared with you how we took the kids up to Mount Wellington and I recounted…

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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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To grow we must confront our own immaturity, selfishness and lack of courage.

We have the afternoon off at the Arrow residential conference so I thought I would take the chance to catch up on a bit of email and record a couple of reflections about what I have been learning so far. Arrow (http://www.arrowaustralia.com.au/) is a program for mentoring and encouraging emerging leaders in the Australian Christian church. I am now into my second year and have found it extremely helpful. The arrow process consists of four 5 day conferences over two…

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The tragic misunderstanding that leads to either arrogance or burnout

I’ve got a little bit of time here at Melbourne airport while I wait for my fellow Arrow participants to arrive. I’ve been looking forward to this week. I have found real encouragement and challenging stimulation through the Arrow leadership program. At the start of the Arrow program they warn participants that normally around 40% of us will be in a different role by the time we are finished. That warning has certainly been true for me, and I come…

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How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives

Well here we are at the end of the week. It has been an important week for Leeanne and I as we have been wrestling with what God is asking of us at the moment. For the first time for ages I have chosen to fast from breakfast and lunch each day and just eat the evening meal with the family. I decided not to fast coffee because last time I tried that I ended up with the only migraine…

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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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In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man. In the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.

Yesterday I posted some of my Auntie Anne’s notes from Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. He was focusing on the impact of sin and confession in community. Because some of his insights are so helpful, and also unfortunately, revolutionary, in terms of what is normal amongst most of us, I thought I would post a little bit more today. Some of the language is now a little dated, but see if you can catch the heart of what he is trying to…

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Death isn’t something to be feared, its a reminder of just how precious life actually is.

I’ve been thinking about my own mortality lately. That has partly been brought on by the fact my grandmother is nearing the end of her life and one of my favorite parts of the days is when Leeanne and I stroll across the road for a cuppa with her and whoever else happens to be there at the time (usually either my Mum and Dad or Auntie Anne). My mum has worked with my Grandmother on the story of her…

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A test is a difficult experience through which the truth about a person is revealed

I hate pain. I hate feeling like something is not right and it is beyond my power to do anything about it. At a lot of levels the last two and a half years have been the most painful in my life, but the truth is that they have also been the time when I have most clearly grown as a person, and I’m still growing. I can understand where the ideas behind prosperity theology come from. It is so…

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The true joy in life is to be used for a mighty purpose, to be a force of nature

One of the questions that Leeanne and I have been talking about is how we live our life. My kids are not used to having me around as much as I am at the moment, and when I took my first overnight trip to Sydney last week, it wasn’t hard to detect a sense of “here we go again”, from them. As Leeanne and I talk about our 18 years of marriage, there is a sadness for me that I…

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Rich people steal lollies from children

I don’t normally do this, but one of my regular readers, Jim Van Ommen, wrote a comment on a recent post about wealth today and I found it so thought provoking that I decided to post it separately so people don’t miss it….. People from wealthy backgrounds are more likely than poorer people to break laws while driving, take lollies from children, and lie for financial gain, a United States study says”,

Divine guidance for many whom are passionate to see change in society

It was encouraging today to receive another commendation for the book from a man I admire very much, Tom Hallas. I will be posting another reflection shortly about what it means to be where I am in life and some of the interesting feelings that are evoked by stepping into new territory and away from the things that help me feel secure. Along the way it feels like God keeps giving me little encouragements at the moments when I need…

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A must read for fellow sojourners looking for “a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

We are in Orford having a week away as a family and this morning I received what felt like a little present from God. Two more Christian leaders have reviewed the manuscript for my book and wrote commendations that were very encouraging. Dr. Joel C. Hunter is the Senior Pastor of one of America’s biggest churches and spiritual advisor to Obama. Moss Ntlha is the General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance in South Africa and a friend of Fusion over…

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Wood, hay and straw are cheap but its the gold, silver and costly stones that matter.

I’ve been thinking a bit about legacy. I’m at a point where I am looking back at 20 years in ministry and looking forward at maybe another 25 years and I am asking myself where do I want to be in 2037? Even writing that date seems ridiculous, as thinking about 2012 must have to my Dad when he started Fusion in 1960. I loved seeing my son Daniel receive his Foundations certificate on Friday. He had done the course…

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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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Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails

I love this time of year. I love it for two reasons, the first is that it’s not a normal time, it’s kind of a twilight zone time where no one is really working (apart from everyone in the hospitality industry) and there is the chance to reflect. I also love it because there is the chance to catch up with family in a way you don’t really have the space for any other time of the year. We had…

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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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We keep making the same mistakes… Because we want to.

I’ve got into the habit of listening to podcasts while I shower and this afternoon after cutting a trailer load of wood, I was listening to N.T. Wright explaining the historical context of the Kingdom of God. He pointed out how all Jews believed that the Kingdom of God was a divine, political Kingdom. He also explained the three main ways the Jewish people responded to the occupying Roman Empire, which as it turns out is exactly the same three…

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Kingdom Cells

The sun is streaming through my window in my shed and the noise of a lawnmower next door is reminding me that at some point I need to take a look at the grass in our back yard which seems to grow a centimeter a minute at the moment. I’m enjoying having a bit more space to think and write. There is a book I am trying to have finished by the end of the year called “Kingdom Cells: The…

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No place like home

I’m feeling a little weary.. As I write I am sitting in the dining room of a campsite in Geraldton. It is a privilege to be here, I have heard so much about this place since Fusion first started work here in the early 80’s. I am here for Fusion Western Australia’s State Conference. It is my job to share a bit from the bible and do my best to encourage the team, which won’t be hard because they encourage…

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Grasping for something that’s just out of reach

We have just come back from a wonderful holiday. Each year we try to get a couple of weeks away in the middle of the year which makes a big difference in how we manage the second half. This holiday featured a lot of fishing, watching season two of ‘the Mentalist’ and lots of reading. I read N.T. Wright’s book ‘Surprised by Hope’ and found it stimulating, encouraging and extremely frustrating.

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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Just walk across the room, but why?

I’ve just finished reading Bill Hybels’ Just walk across the room, a book about evangelism. The book was set reading for my leadership course and was not one I would normally read. I had to face some of my prejudice against the mega churches as I read it, and I found it generally to be better balanced than I expected. However there was one aspect of the book that grated.

Up, up and away

Well here I am, on Delta Airlines flight 16 to Los Angeles, then to Minneapolis and finally to my destination, Edmonton. I am looking forward to connecting with our team in Canada, but I’m not looking forward to the weather. Anywhere that gets to a maximum of -14 should not be habitable! I was watching Bear Grills the other night on Man vs Wild (what kind of parent calls their kid Bear?) and he was explaining why he doesn’t get…

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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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The five commitments

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “Kingdom Cells”. Tell me what you think. You’ve gotta stand for something Books are dangerous. They are full of ideas, and ideas by themselves do nothing. The Pharisees had lots of good ideas, and Jesus counselled his disciples to listen to their teaching, but to be careful to separate their ideology from their practise: The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and…

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Working on the next book

Kingdom Cells For the last year I have actually had three books on the go. Faith Reflections was the simplest one to finish, so I did and its kind of fun to see it on sale at the Poatina Gift shop alongside other great books! I have been working over the Christmas/New Year period to try and finish Kingdom Cells: the Life that changes the world. From my perspective Kingdom Cells is a very important book. It names the dynamic…

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Look for character

How to make this year different I am coming to the end of my week of reflection on the year ahead and there is certainly a theme emerging. One of the things I will be doing differently this year is going back to school.. well kind of.. I have been selected to participate in the Arrow leadership training course. The Arrow website says: Arrow is Australia’s peak body for Christian leadership development. Strategic in its approach, Arrow identifies the nation’s…

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My books arrived today

A strange feeling Quite unexpectedly the first box of my new books arrived in the mail today. There is something both exciting and a little scary as I hold my thoughts in my hand. It is exciting because I have finally published my first book, which has been something I had hoped I might do for many years. It is scary because those pages contain my thoughts. As that book is picked up and read, people are encountering part of…

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Making this year different

I don’t want to get washed away Sometimes it feels I start with plans and those plans are washed away by the tidal wave of the unresolved. As I was sharing, I am spending this week thinking about the coming year and in what ways I want it to be different from last year. As I sat down with my journal this morning, I could sense a level of despair as I could see the unresolved things piling up an…

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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.

No wall protects from a lack of integrity

A friend emailed me this devotional thought, I am not sure where he got it from but I found it helpful so thought I’d pass it on to you. ‘…I have walked in…integrity…’ (Psalm 26:1 NKJV) To protect themselves from the barbaric hordes from the north, the people of China built the Great Wall. It was so high nobody could climb over it and so thick nobody could break through it, so they settled back to enjoy life. During the…

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The grass is very green

Making the choice to play I am sitting in my rather warm office/shed as the sun streams through the huge window that overlooks my backyard. Today I mowed our backyard. Now that’s really not that big a deal, in fact at the moment it seems to need to be mown every 7 days! It’s just that when I mowed it, I took a little extra time when I finished to mow in a practise cricket pitch. As I survey the…

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Im tired

It was a big night I am sitting at the kitchen table while my daughter entertains a bunch of girls who I am told are having a sleepover tonight. After last night that thought takes a bit of getting used to. I had a big week. It wasn’t helped by the fact that Thursday night I went to a late meeting and had a coffee without thinking too much of it.. I am discovering that despite the fact my life…

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Divided we fall

One life Have you ever noticed how somehow we have ended up seperating our lives into the stuff we do with or for God, and the rest? In Australian politics we have formalised this arrangement constitutionally in the separation of church and state. For most of my life the duality of “sacred” and “secular” has annoyed the heck out of me. The more I read, the more I realise that it also annoys the heck out of God. We don’t have two…

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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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Its no sacrifice

How faith matures I am continuing to be challenged and inspired by Eugene Peterson’s “The Jesus Way”. One section that particularly spoke to me was the way Peterson unpacked the story of Abraham. He particularly focussed on the story of Abraham on Mount Moriah, the moment where God asks him to sacrifice his son and then intervenes at the last-minute. In a couple of paragraphs Peterson captures the profound truth of maturity in faith. It doesn’t come from reading a book, going…

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The three temptations of Jesus

They are my temptations too.. As I mentioned yesterday, I have been really enjoying “the Jesus way” by Eugene Peterson. I spoke in church this morning using some insights from the book I found helpful about the three temptations of Jesus. Hebrews 4:15 says: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. I had…

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Its about Jesus

A person not a program My faith started as a 3-year-old as I prayed with my mother, and then really became mine when as an 18-year-old when I left home and moved to Broken Hill. In Broken Hill I chose to be baptized (by my Dad who was visiting) and began my adult journey of faith. As a child I loved the stories of the Old Testament, but as I began my adult journey of faith it was the epistles…

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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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What is freedom?

The battle with myself One of my biggest battles in life has been the battle with myself. Sometimes it feels like everything in me wants to run away from the horrible feelings that are inside me. Sometimes it is so tempting to look for a shortcut to happiness. The challenge we all face is that the world tells us that those urges are what we should be listening to.. and in fact some brands of psychology focus on helping us…

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Stop shrinking your world

How big is your vision? It was great to spend time with our Advanced Diploma students wrestling with ‘the 8th Habit’. One of the things that struck me was a truth that Covey first communicated in his book, “7 Habits of highly effective people”. As we look at the world there are two boundaries that affect what we see and how we experience it. The first is our circle of influence, namely the things we can actually influence or change….

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Is simple possible?

Ten challenges for your life I wrote yesterday about Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, and in particular the discipline of simplicity. At the end of the chapter, Foster gives a list of ten principles for the outward expression of simplicity. I found myself affronted and confronted, so I thought perhaps I might pass them on. I am learning that my regular readers don’t mind wrestling with difficult questions.

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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Live Simply

It doesn’t have to be complicated Bruce Dutton is one of Fusion’s bible teachers. He has studied Biblical hebrew and often seems to have a “right word” for me either when I am chatting to him one on one, or when he is giving a devotion or delivering training. Bruce does a regular devotion at Poatina morning teas, and at the moment he is working through Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline”. Yesterday he focussed on the discipline of simplicity and…

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Anyway

A charter for a paradoxical life I have noticed how so many of the deep truths in life are actually a paradox. In preparing for our Advanced Diploma students to arrive this week I came again across the following list of “paradoxical commandments”, which basically give a template for effective leadership. Each one spoke to me, I hope they also speak to you. The Paradoxical Commandments by Dr. Kent M. Keith People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.

Its time to get angry

Will you let yourself care? I was teaching our students the book of Nehemiah today and came across the part where Nehemiah discovers that some Jews are ripping off their neighbours, forcing them to sell their children into slavery. Nehemiah also realises that he too has been doing the same thing. His response to the revelation? “When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry.” (Nehemiah 5:6) When do you get angry? Nehemiah had been part of…

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The depressing lie

Having the courage to question current assumptions Mental illness is reaching epidemic proportions in my country and whatever approaches we have been taking simply are not working. As I mentioned in the post “Remember the days of the old school yard“, our young people are coping with the worst of it: Just over a quarter (26%) of people aged 16–24 had a mental disorder compared to 6% of people aged 75–85. 1 in 3 young people experience moderate to high levels 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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The lies we are too scared to examine

Can someone tell our young people the truth? As I prepared over the last week for the Australian Religion Press Association’s conference, I came across a fascinating paper. It is called “Success & wellbeing: A preview of the Australia 21 report on young people’s wellbeing” and I think gets to some of the root causes of the issues facing our young people. (You can find more information here) At one point the article points out the two major lies at the heart…

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What’s your story?

Telling stories As I mentioned yesterday I had the opportunity to address the Australian Religious Press association about communicating with youth in the 21st century. In preparing for the conference I came across a lot of research that helped clarify my thinking and really increased my commitment to the work I do with Fusion. One of the insights I came across I have already written about in different contexts, the importance of telling stories. In the article, “The movement I can believe…

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Remember the days of the old school yard

Being a young person today is different. Today I gave an address to the Australian Religious Press Association about communicating with young people in the 21st Century. I have been working with young people since I was a young person. I started youthwork in 1992 at the age of 20. I must admit that it has been helpful for me to stop and realise just how much things have changed in 20 years. My memory of being a young person…

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A different measure

Re-think success and failure At one point in my Christian journey I hit a bit of a crisis. (Actually at a lot of points but I’m only talking about one of them now) I became exposed to people who wore suits, drove B.M.W.s and espoused a gospel that told me faithful people get rich and don’t get sick. I had a good grounding in the bible which saved me in the long run from what I now consider an “evil”…

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Faith Reflections: The Book

A creative process The time away really has been very productive. I am pleased to be able to share with you that my first book is on its way! After a number of discussions with different people, I have compiled 57 of the  posts from this blog that received the most positive reaction. It has been a fascinating process, trawling back over the past articles. For the past couple of years I had been praying that God would help me…

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Shut up and Listen

Prayer means shutting up I continue to be challenged and inspired by Ecclesiastes. I am also really interested to be seeing the parallels between the Apostle Paul’s writing and this book. I have a sense that Paul read Ecclesiastes regularly as a source of inspiration for dealing with all the foibles of the early church. Bruce Dutton shared at the Poatina morning tea this morning about Prayer.  He is going through the book ‘Celebration of Discipline’ by Richard Foster. It’s…

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Give up helping.. its not working

“Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady.” That is currently my favourite line from a U2 song. Its from ‘Stand up Comedy’ off  the album ‘No line on the horizon’. What I love about the lyric is how clearly it speaks to the part of me that wants to ‘help’ God. I have been interested in the correlation between the books of Eccelsiastes and 1 Corinthians. It seems to me that Paul must have been studying…

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Reframing Leadership

Looking from different angles As I was saying yesterday, the organisation I work with, Fusion, is on a journey to name what is needed in leadership. About a week ago I mentioned the passage from 1 Peter that I have been challenged by since discovering it about 15 years ago: 1 Peter 5:2-3 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not…

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What is Leadership?

Which definition is true? The organisation I work with, Fusion, is in the middle of a healthy identity crisis. For 48 years, my father was the dominant personality as the founder and leader. Last year that changed and we are in the process of coming to terms with a different reality. Part of the challenge facing Fusion is naming what leadership actually is.

Even more A-Mazed

My friend Di writes a regular blog and she has been reflecting on my Tasmazia experience in the light of a book she has been reading. Follow this link to have a look at her post regards Matt

Wisdom from Lower Crackpot

Food for thought One of the little houses at Tasmazia’s “Lower Crackpot” was the dissident’s society.. It was covered with quotes. I really liked a few of them. I took a few pictures and rather than my normal blog, I have included some in this post:

Coming home to my wife

Home Sweet home As I stumbled off the plane after what seemed like an eternity I saw Sophie’s face pressed up against the glass. As I walked through the doors I was almost bowled over by a hug from Daniel and Josh. After hugging the kids, I embraced my wife and remembered just how much I had missed her. It was great to be home.

South Africa Pilgrimage: Invictus the poem

Invictus Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.

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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South Africa Pilgrimage: Leaving home

I believe in an interventionist God I am sitting in the Launceston airport departure lounge. The fact I am sitting here feels like a bit of a miracle. I remember a line in a Crash test Dummies song where the lead singer droned “I don’t believe in an interventionist God” in the way that only he could. When I first heard the song I really liked the lyric. It brought to mind images of whacky Christians with lots of make-up…

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Where to start

Real apprenticeship Today I finish my series of posts on Matthew chapter 10, and its fitting that Jesus finishes the chapter with the passage that I found most confronting. I spent much of my life and ministry looking for the big things, the silver bullets, that would make the world a better place. Turns out I was looking in the wrong place:

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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Faith in a bloke

Coming to terms with the person of Jesus. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of teaching our Certificate IV students about the life of John Wesley. As I researched Wesley’s life I came across an article that explained his journey of faith in his own words, I came across one sentence that has been going around in the back of my head since reading it:

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:

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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Faith as a Value base

Walk the talk If you have read other entries on this blog, you will probably already becoming aware that I am a bit suspicious of ideology.  What I mean by ideology is the arrogant assumption that the way you see the world is the way the world is, and the way you see God is the way God is. I love these Lyrics from “Stand Up Comedy” from U2’s album “No line on the horizon”: I can stand up for hope,…

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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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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.

Love and Marriage

I am sitting on the couch and watching my tired wife enjoy some time in front of the television. She has been quite tired lately. Marriage is complicated. We thought that it wouldn’t be.

The movement I can believe in

I have been doing a lot of chatting with people about leadership and how they build teams. One of the things that is getting clearer and clearer for me is that a central missing ingredient when a team isn’t growing, is a vision or a story. I came across a story about Pixar and Disney studios, in H.R. Leader magazine, and what they said I really found helpful:

Grace that doesn't make sense

As I have said, this blog is about the journey of living faith and certainly isn’t written by someone who has it all together. I actually think the idea that you must have it “all together” is the enemy of true faith. Somehow we develop a picture of what a good Christian looks like and start to become judgmental of everyone who doesn’t match up while secretly hoping no-one will truly understand just how messed up we are.

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.

Becoming Yourself

It must just be the circles I have been moving in but I seem to be coming across a lot of people who are spending a lot of time and energy trying to work themselves out. The journey of individuation is a very important one, but its one that the bible takes a counter-intuitive approach to: For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark…

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A call to revolution on the wrapper of a Big Mac

The wrestle with faith has an Irish soundtrack. I realised this morning as I donned my concert t-shirt sent to me by my sister and brother-in-law, that I would need to explain my love for the band U2. Not only that, I would have to create a new category on the blog, because for me the wrestle with faith has a soundtrack.

Bicycles and Faith

I first heard this poem/story when Bob Adams read it to me in 1992. Tim Strange re-introduced me to it a few years ago, and I love reading it. I often use it when teaching about faith.

Advice on information overload from 300 A.D.

Last night I heard an interview about information overload. Starting the journey with blogging has introduced me to the fact that there are thousands and thousands of people writing all kinds of things. Information overload is getting ridiculous. It brought to mind something I had read from 300 A.D.. Basil the great was one of the key figures in the development of the Christian understanding of the Trinity.

Do not judge

A friend printed this out on a piece of paper for me this week: Never judge. The heart of man is so delicate, so complex, only its Maker can know it. Each heart is so different, actuated by different motives, controlled by different circumstances, influenced by different sufferings. How can one judge of another? Leave to Me the unraveling of the puzzles of life. Leave to Me the teaching of understanding. Bring each heart to Me, its Maker, and leave…

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John Wesley's Small Group Questions

I taught our students some of the story of John Wesley and came across a number of the questions he asked his small groups to engage with. Imagine asking these questions in a group of 6-12 people every week! 1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In otherwords, am I a hypocrite? 2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate? 3. Do I confidentially pass…

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2 thoughts on “Life

  1. How do I know that I exist is a question frequently asked on the net. My first response to this question is, boy you would have to have real problems if you are struggling with this concept and give the person a clout around the ears to answer their own question. However in case you do think you are only a figment of your imagination, then here are some thoughts.
    It is an interesting question thou and shows an eagerness to explore our origins, purpose and destination. Am I a mere accumulation of biomass that is so proportioned and articulated as to be able to move around and equipped with a few sensors that leads me to the right foods to eat, protects me from walking off the deep end, or into objects that are too hard or too hot, too sharp or too loud or too smelly , or too unfriendly?.
    OK, we have our five senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste to find our way about on planet Earth and then we also have that central control system with all it’s nerve endings wired into our brain that controls which way we turn to do whatever, but is that all?
    All animals have brains and an instinct that enables them to do most remarkable things we marvel at, but humans have something a bit more sophisticated called a mind and that mind does a bit more than just control our movements, it also has a superior memory, capacity for learning and a conscience to tell right from wrong.
    I look upon our conscience to tell right from wrong and our ultimate willingness to learn and embrace the purpose for which we came into being, as the spiritual or third dimension.
    How do I know that I exist is as a result of the messages that come back to my brain from which ever realm of my existence, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual. Sometimes we say: I get a real kick out of doing whatever, well that more or less sums it up, we expect a response of some kind to whatever we do and usually we do get one. But we need to use discretion as to how we experiment with this “ creativity” and make sure we do not hurt anybody or even ourselves in the process, or the kick may be more than we bargained for or than what is good for us. As in football, there are a large variety of kicks and not all of them are good ones for which we receive recognition, but basically, as long as we keep focused and play the ball and abide by the rules, we will all enjoy ourselves and might even win a game, occasionally. When winning the game becomes an obsession as it invariably does in professional football because of the rewards or the ratings that we might miss out on, the game is no longer a game and many resort to playing the man instead of the ball. In a nutshell, that is not unlike the life we live irrespective of our pursuits.
    For every action there is a reaction we were taught in physics, and it is not hard to see that this applies pretty much so in our relationship with others. Every good deed deserves another; Do unto others as you would have them do to you, are popular sayings that are an indication that life as we know it is more than just existence that is based on self-survival and self-gratification, it is also very much a team-play. There simply is no self- survival, or survival at all, if there is not some interplay, correct?
    OK, before we run with this popular conception, or notion I should say( must not run ahead of ourselves), “ How do I know that I exist? I would say because we have had experiences physically and mentally since birth that we have learned to identify and either utilize to our benefit, or live with, or successfully warded them off,…. so far. But, certain things do have a habit of coming back and back and back and require a certain amount of experience, discipline and courage to cope with .We call this growing up and learning . Most of us have developed some scars along the way to remind us of certain mistakes we have made, whether they be physical or emotional. Even if we were not so sure at that time of our existence, I can assure you that Mum & Dad and the rest of the family were very profoundly aware of your existence as your screams reverberated around the parental home.
    OK, the question was not how do others know that I exist, it is how do I know that I exist. Well the thing is that our actions sometimes are such that our cohabitants may react in ways that send us unmistakable messages. In the extreme situation this message may put an end to our quandary as to whether we do exist. But for those of us who have managed not to be quite that provocative or steered clear of such retaliation, there is another aspect to life that also comes in the realm of actions and reactions that makes us aware that we are alive. The very fact that we think about these things in itself must be a sign that we are, even Descartes was of that opinion, he said…. “I know that I am because I’m thinking”. That does not necessarily mean that we are who we think we are, far from it. There are only so many Napoleons this world can cope with. It is quite healthy thinking to explore who or what we are, but the important thing is to come up with the right conclusion. This process is much more than a harmless navel gazing, philosophizing experience or a kind of ”Take it or leave it” experiment. Most of us may be able to say;” Been there and done that”, but hopefully we all come to our senses to stop playing around and make the most of the time given to us.
    To come to the wrong conclusion can severely limit our quality of life, it can lead from inferiority complexes to under estimating our own worth and abilities on the one hand to an obnoxious over confidence, pride and inability to communicate and make friends on the other. “ Who do you think that you are?” can be a rather intimidating question but it’s not a bad idea to ask ourselves that question occasionally, before somebody else does.
    I often find it helpful to approach a question or a concept such as this from its other extreme and that is, “ On what basis could I assume that I don’t exist and if I don’t exist, then who or what am I . Starting with the “what am I”, other than the fact that we are the result of reproducing humans, we may not know much more or want to know much more about our origins and make-up or even if we do we seem to come up with a lot of controversies. However there seems little doubt that we do agree on one thing, a fairly morbid thing, and that is that to dust we shall return. OK then, if we return to it, that is where we must come from in the first place, that then is the “ what am I”, Dust.
    As for the who am I, that is a bit more complex as it is much more than our physical being that carries us from place to place for about 80+ years if we are lucky. Sciences and research dealing with human biology, physiology, biomedicine, genetic engineering, medicine etc. over the last hundred or more years have made such fast advances that a schoolchild could be forgiven to think that we are just about invincible and can almost produce life from whatever. And so we place increasing trust in man’s ability to increase our physical quality of life and longevity and be masters of our destiny. We know sooooooooooooo much, especially now that we have discovered this illusive “ God Particle”.
    But, how much do we know about the real us, I mean that part that we talked about earlier, that part that distinguishes us from the animal life and has endowed us with a conscience, mind and powers of reasoning. I would suggest that it is these qualities that has caused mankind to have almost an instinctive believe that we have been placed here on planet Earth for a purpose by a supreme being generally referred to as God. Ever since prehistoric days those thoughts have occupied the minds of the majority of people, why? Where does this notion come from? Our present population is about 6.6 billion, that could mean that some 800 billion people who have lived on this planet Earth
    who in one form or another have acknowledged this fact in their behavior, lifestyle or customs, why?

    The question” How do I know that I exist” we cannot answer until we first of all divine who I am, the complete me. This is where the third dimension comes in, Body Mind and Spirit. In this area of our being likewise there has been and continues to be an ongoing exchange of actions and reactions initiated by our Creator God, who has given us a conscience that, if nothing else, causes us to ask endless questions about the how’s, the why’s and the wherefores’. Why this preoccupation ever since the beginning of time? Is that in itself not a pretty convincing phenomena that we are receiving messages on our radar screens so to speak?
    How do I know that I exist and who I am I can only answer for myself as having been at the receiving end of many experiences and love of an interacting Creator God who has revealed himself to me in the person of Jesus Christ, His Son. The Bible says that God is a Spirit and those that worship Him, must worship Him in Spirit and In truth. That spiritual link is our existence and that is the only way to know that we are alive, forever alive . The way I see it is that the fact that we exist is inevitable, however to be alive is the result of our acceptance of the life we are offered in Christ. He said: “ I am the way the truth and the Life” The way is a very important part of our being as life is a journey, a journey that requires a lot of decisions to be made. Somebody once coined the phrase: “ Without the going there is no knowing “, it is not unlike a bike ride, unless we peddle we are bound to come off and what’s more unless we peddle our dynamo is not generating power to light up the way when we need it.

    Get on your bike, it is the only way to dispel your doubts and live life to the full. I hope I’ll run into you one of these days.

    .
    Leave this with you Matt to do with as you think appropriate ,probably a bit too long.
    Cheers, Jim.

  2. Yes,I realize the response to the above by many is; Oh, that’s to do with faith, religious stuff and throw out the baby with the bath water so to speak, because they see science as something that is superior, based on clever thinking and proof.
    But what is proof ? ? ? The definition of PROOF according to the Webster dictionary is: “The cogency of evidence that compels acceptance by the mind of a truth or a fact “…. and the word COGENCY means: “ Appealing to the intellect or powers of reasoning; convincing”.

    I ask you; what is the significance of that which is:

    “ appealing to the intellect of the human mind “
    as compared with
    ” the wisdom of the One who created us and the universe out of nothing?”

    What does the Bible say about the wisdom of the wise?
    What we need to realize is that the word proof is earthbound it has no application or validity in the spiritual realm of eternity. We literally need to trade that word in for the word faith if we want to earn our wings and have any enlightenment whatsoever. You could call it a kind of graduation to higher education, a metamorphosis where the butterfly emerges from its cocoon to spread it’s wings as it flies into another reality, into the life giving light, the Light of the World. Faith in our Creator God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ His Son, who continues to show the way to those who humble themselves and pray and follow Him.
    Ultimate knowledge, truth and wisdom is out of our reach and can only begin to flow when we see ourselves for who we are and who we can be in Jesus Christ our Lord.

I'd love to hear what you think...

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