June 2003 Archives »
30 June, 2003 11:29 PM
Here's an interesting article which makes the observation that while more people are going to the movies than ever before, they're talking about them less than ever before.
Its an interesting observation - not sure if I agree or not. I've been toying with the idea of starting a 'Movie Club' (similar to a Book Club, which is the latest rage here in Aus) where people come and watch a movie and then have some discussion about it over a meal or coffee. Maybe I need to rethink!
30 June, 2003 11:20 PM
J.K Rowling looks like she might be taking legal action against people writing Harry Potter like books. Lucky I've never thought of doing anything like that.
30 June, 2003 10:32 PM
'If Christ is not relevant outside the church, then he is insignificant inside the church. If our faith is bound to the inner chambers of the Christian community, then it is at best a disobedient faith, and at worst, no faith at all.' Susan Hecht
30 June, 2003 10:31 PM
Today I spent the day at a Forge intensive. Forge is a mission training network here in Australia that runs training for people wanting to explore innovative mission and church planting. It was great to sit in a room with 40 people today, many of whom are experimenting with new forms of church across Australia (and one from New Zealand and three from the US), and to share stories of faith and emerging church. The teaching is pretty fantastic also!
29 June, 2003 9:39 PM
'I'm 80 years of age - I grew up in this church. I went to Sunday School here, then Youth Group. I was baptised here and became a youth group leader. I've led worship, I've given testimonies, I've led bible studies and I've even preached. I've held virtually every position you can hold in this church except from that of 'pastor' including elder, secretary and treasurer.
I know a lot about God - but tonight I realised that I don't really know God. For all these years I've 'played the game' - I've looked the part. But I'm a fake, I'm a hypocrite and I don't really understand what people talk about when they talk about how they connect with God. I've wasted so much of my life in pretending that I have it all worked out, I've been too proud to tell anyone that I don't really know God.'
Four yeas ago I was speaking at a youth service in a church in Adelaide about Masks. I had challenged the young people to think about the masks that they wear and to be real with one another, themselves and with God. At the end of the service an older gentleman waited for me and shared the above with me. I've never been able to forget his words and the tears in his old shiny eyes as he shared for the first time in his life how he wanted to 'be real' and 'know God'.
27 June, 2003 10:58 PM
I am really impressed with Apple's i Life software digital hub made up of i Tunes, i Movie, i Photo and i DVD. Also in Apple's range is i Cal, i Sync, i Chat, i Pod, i Sight, i Disk, i Book and i Mac.
I love how the different elements integrate together, I love that using their gear isn't messy. I love the clean aqua design and I love the easy to use nature of each of the components.
I think its time I jumped on the bandwagon and released my new venture on the world. It's a 'Spiritual Hub' I like to call i Church. Its a simple idea really - its a new Christian resource where everything comes nicely packaged together in a smartly designed and well marketed package. When you buy into the i Church program you get a fully working spirituality which integrates every aspect of faith in an easy to use, no fuss and non messy kind of way.
Included in the basic package is i Pray, i Worship, i Sermon, i Fellowship and i Mission. This basic package is fully integrated - nothing more to do or think about - once loaded you're set for life - i Life that is.
How much would you expect pay for this amazing spiritual package? Don't answer that because as a special offer, for the first 100 buyers only, a copy of the brand new i Bible Study will be included for no extra cost. This resource will not only provide you with thousands of easy to answer questions about Scripture, but also most of the answers to all life's tricky questions about life.
The basic package including the free i Bible Study is available at a special introductory price for the next 48 hours only at $195.95 (US$). Be sure to place your order quickly to avoid disappointment.
Other components will be released gradually after the release date allowing people to upgrade and enhance their spirituality. i Alt Worship is one of the soon to be released components that is sure to enhance the basic i Worship package.
A range of i Theology plug ins to suit all points on the Theological spectrum is also available. Just mention you preference to one of our helpful phone operators when placing your order.
Also if you have teens or children that you're hoping to fit out with the latest in spirituality you'll need to check out our cutting edge i Youth Group and i Sunday School resources. They come packaged in bright, easy to swallow, packaging that will keep your kids occupied for many years.
Our operators are awaiting your call on 0055 0342 0943. (calls charged at $14 per 60 seconds, cell phones charged at higher rates)
Update: Alan has most generously volunteered to design another component - i Liturgy (in both full and lite versions depending on the features you want.) Having read his blog for 6 months now I'm looking forward to it. If anyone else would like to design a component please leave a comment with the suggestion - also I'll need a good design person to come up with an aqua like logo. Free versions will be available to those who contribute.
27 June, 2003 4:07 PM
Fellow Melbournian Martin Roth has posted in response to my Where Would Jesus Go? post. He adds to the list that the young people I asked the question to came up with by including:
- the stock exchange
- the local delicatessen
- the Melbourne Club (this city's poshest, members-only businessmen's club)
- Melbourne Park for the Australian Open tennis tournament
- Flemington Racecourse during the Melbourne Cup horse racing carnival
- the Royal Australian Air Force base at Laverton
- the boardroom of National Australia Bank (Australia's largest bank)
Although its a bit of an 'artificial' question to ask it is an interesting exercise to do. I tend to agree with Martin that Jesus would probably show up in some of these places also - but it would be interesting to see what approach he would take in each of them. What would he say - how would he relate to people - what issues would he confront...and how?
The other question that springs to mind as I continue to ponder the question and the two lists is 'where do Churches spend most of their time, energy and resources?' My experience in the churches that I've been involved in is that we tend to spend a fair bit of energy and money upon putting on programs, building buildings and creating worship services that largely focus upon those who are already Christians.
As a minister I was always frustrated that so much of my time was focused upon planning and preparing for Sunday morning and evening. When you add to this the time and energy of the voluntary team putting on these services you find that a vast amount of energy is often poured into a couple of hours on a Sunday. (just a 2-3% of the average persons waking hours per week)
Whilst I'm convinced that gathering together to learn, build community, pray and worship is central to faith, I wonder if perhaps we have our priorities slightly out of line in the church today?
What if we put half as much energy and time into producing Sunday services and instead redirected the rest of the time into resourcing and supporting our congregations to live out their faith in practical ways in the places that they spend the majority of their weeks (work, neighbourhoods, family, school, sporting clubs etc)? I wonder what the impact would be?
27 June, 2003 12:04 PM
Just stumbled on this stress relief tool. My best if 1407 so far....no now 1412....1529
27 June, 2003 12:04 AM
Are You Going To Heaven?
'This game is a fun, and private way for you to compare your beliefs to what the Holy Bible teaches on what is needed to go to heaven.'
According to this I'm somewhere in the 'Maybe' to 'Allowed in' range of going to heaven. (65%) Maybe I really am a liberal! What about you? Source
26 June, 2003 11:55 PM
Click here if you are looking for more links and information on Bells Palsy.
Last year, just before my 30th birthday my world came crashing down. I had been suffering with a mild bout of flu and what i thought was the beginnings of an inner ear infection. Life had been stressful for the previous months in many ways - the senior minister of the church I worked for had just left and the rest of the ministry team was on holidays. I was working crazy hours to keep a church of 300 or so going in difficult circumstances. I had been married six weeks, I was adjusting to a different type of life in a new house in new circumstances and I was also trying to pick up some shifts in a second job, do some study and volunteer time to another ministry.
I woke up at around 10am on a Wednesday morning (the night after an Elders meeting that had gone til 11.30pm) and as I attempted to get out of bed I realised that all was not well. My head swam and my vision began to wobble before me. I took my time in getting out of bed and made my way to the bathroom. All the way down the hallway I found myself walking off to the left - if I'd let myself I would have walked in circles. I was also aware that the left side of my face felt numb.
As I stared into the mirror and tried to focus on the face I saw there I realised that not only did I feel abnormal but that I was looking at a reflection that wasn't quite right. In fact the left side of my face looked like it had dropped half an inch. On further examination I realised that not was I looking rather 'twisted' but that I could not move any part of the left side of my face. My left eye wouldn't blink, my eyebrow wouldn't move and my mouth wouldn't open.
My initial reaction was to laugh (in a lopsided kind of way) - maybe I'd slept on a funny angle and it would take a few minutes to get going. I tried to 'warm up' my left side - but nothing I did helped. As I tried to get things working nauseousness swept over me and I had to sit on the floor to stop myself falling over - my balance was completely out of wack. I began to worry. The week before I had visited an older member of our church who had had a stroke and I began to see some of the similarities between our symptoms.
After vomiting up last nights dinner I managed to walk in a straight line over to the phone to call V. My speech was pretty bad - I think I might have freaked her out a little - and so she immediately booked me an appointment at the doctor at the end of our street. I took my time on the walk down to the doctor - the neighbours must have thought I was drunk. The doctor didn't know what was wrong with me - he suggested that maybe I had had a mild stroke - although my symptoms didn't quite match up. He called V and told her to come get me and take me to the local ER.
After about 7 hours of being poked, prodded, tested, questioned and told to wait I was told that I had Bells Palsy ( in short i had damage to my facial nerves that effected hearing, balance and caused paralysis of the left side of my face) The good news was that it was not too serious and that I had a 80% chance of returning to normal. The bad news was that it would probably take a couple of months of rest and that it was a stress induced condition that would recur under high stress.
The 6-7 weeks that followed was a depressing time for me. The anti viral drugs I was put on made me quite ill for a few weeks - I couldn't drive because my balance was bad, I had to cancel my 30th party, I felt terribly guilty about leaving my church in the lurch (poetic stuff) and about the pressure me being sick put upon V only 6 weeks into our marriage (she never realised how soon the 'sickness and in health' would come into play). I felt very out of control.
Things eventually began to improve. Today (14 months later) I'm almost 100% again - the only lasting impact has been that I tend to speak out of the right side of my mouth now, especially when I'm tired. But there have been other lasting impacts.
The main one was that it was a real wake up call for me in terms of my view of ministry. I came out of the experience realising that there is so much more to life than my position at church. I realised that I had become somewhat consumed by ministry and had allowed it to impinge upon other areas of life.
Diet, exercise, days off, friendships, holidays and a more relaxed attitude towards life in general have become so much more important to me in recent months.
Click here if you are looking for more links and information on Bells Palsy.
26 June, 2003 4:16 PM
Have had a few new (to me) blogs linking me up lately. Thanks if you are one of them. I'm attempting to update my blogroll (alhtough its getting a little out of control.
One that caught my eye was from Pete who encourages his readers to check this blog out with the following description:
'Living Room. A most excellent Christian blog, with a lean towards the more liberal spiritual side of things.'
Thankyou for the link and encouragement Pete. Its interesting to see different people's ideas on where I stand on the theological spectrum. I'd never really seen myself as Liberal before (I've actually tried to avoid labelling myself with such words previously) - of late I've had the 'liberal' word attributed to me quite a bit - its got me wondering how I come across on this blog and where such labels might be coming from? Interested in people's thoughts?
26 June, 2003 3:58 PM
Blogcount's estimate on the current size of the Blogisphere is 2.4 to 2.9 million active blogs. (his stats indicate there is probably twice as many inactive ones!)
I suddenly feel very small!
26 June, 2003 3:38 PM
I'm home from the Year in the Son camp. It was a valuable time for me. I find the 18-20ish age group an amazing group to speak to. This group of 41 students have taken a year out of their lives after high school and before they go to university to spend at bible college. They are being given an excellent introduction to a variety of theology, bible, doctrine and personal development subjects.
This weeks camp was fantastic for me. It was a pity to have to come home Tuesday and miss some of the activities that they did. The studies that I spoke at seemed to go well (its always hard to tell) and I had some amazing conversations over meals and in free time.
Last night after the study on Wonder we had an open sharing time for them to share about what God has been doing with them this year. Without going into details I will say that what was shared was inspiring to me for two reasons.
Firstly they were so passionate about knowing Jesus. To see a group of young people fully going after God is always an incredible experience.
Secondly, amidst the stories of lessons learnt and mountain top like experiences were stories of real pain and struggle. While my heart ached by the end of the night after hearing some of the stories I also went to bed inspired by their brokenness. God uses broken people to do amazing things. Often God has a way of using our biggest struggles, failures and pains to make a difference in the world we live in.
This group of young people inspired me this week - thankyou YITS students!
24 June, 2003 5:21 PM
Just received an email from someone doing research into blogging. He's interested in the 'God Blog' scene and asks a couple of questions which I'd love to get your feedback on so I can pass it onto him.
His questions are:
- Do you think blogging about religion is an English language thing?
- Is it a tool for parish work? For personal discovery? For evangelism? For academic research?
He (and I) would appreciate your feedback in comments.
24 June, 2003 5:10 PM
Just back from camp for a few hours to teach RE class in the local primary school (it went well...those kids are full of life) and for Living Room tonight. (we're looking at Acts 6-8)
There is some meaty conversation going on in the past few posts comments - I'm being challenged as I read which is great. I wish I had some more time today to digest it.
One of the central question that is emerging is 'did Jesus go to the sinners - or did they come to him?' (ok no one actually said those words, but I'm sensing this is one of the things we're exploring) Its an important question to grapple with because it will impact our own approach to interacting with non believers.
I would answer the question by saying YES.
I think both are seen in the life of Jesus and the early church. Yes people did approach Jesus - its no wonder that they did - he was healing, doing miracles and seemed to be an amazingly stimulating story teller/teacher. Of course people were attracted to him.
However I think there were times where Jesus also approached others. For example the day he saw Levi sitting at his tax collectors booth and said: 'Come follow me' (Luke 5:27). To me this seems to be initiated by Jesus.
Another example that springs to mind is his interaction with the Samaritan woman who had had numerous husbands - Jesus approached her for a drink of water and a conversation ensued. (John 4:7)
In John 5:1 he approaches a lame man to heal.
At the very least Jesus put himself in positions to meet people living on the fringe of society. He travelled through areas where Gentiles and Samaritans lived, he went to the pool of Bethsiada and he went into the houses of tax collectors where other tax collectors would be gathered. He did not remain locked away in a cave or an upper room where such people would have to go out of their way to find him.
Its also interesting to see how he sent out his disciples on different occasions to preach, heal and cast out demons. Although not implicitly stated it seems that he's saying to go find people that can receive healing etc.
The early church also seemed to both attract people but also go to people. Paul's missionary trips show someone who sought out people to hear the gospel.
Philip (Acts 8) hears the Holy Spirit tell him to Go interact with the Ethiopian.
If we are only supposed to share our faith with those that come onto our turf then centuries of overseas mission work has been based on the wrong principle.
In my own personal experience I've had times of both people coming to me asking questions and also times where I've sensed God has wanted me to seek another person (or group) out in order to develop relationship and share my faith.
I don't see it as one or the other. Both approaches seem biblical.
However over arching both is the command to 'make disciples' and to 'be witnesses'. We are called to be 'light' and 'salt' - to impact the world around us. Whether others come to us or we go to others the command remains.
Paul encourages us to be careful in our approach. He says: 'Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversations be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.' (Col 4:5-6)
23 June, 2003 10:22 AM
I'm heading off this afternoon to speak at the Year In the Son camp. I'm doing the Holistic Spirituality Series again which is always fun with a group of 17-20 year olds. Its such an important age to be grappling with different aspects of faith.
Have fun while I'm away (and behave in comments!) - I might pop back in on Tuesday when I come home for RE class and Living Room.
23 June, 2003 10:09 AM
'If Jesus was to show up in your town or suburb today to spend a week - where would he go, who would he hang out with and what would he do?' I asked a group of Christian youth and young adults during a workshop to work on the above question.
The list they generated was a fascinating one. It included
- in the homes of single moms
- at the local high school with the smokers
- at the horse racing track
- he'd do a shift on the kids help line
- in the pubs and clubs
- on the streets helping the drug addicts and homeless
- at the hospital healing people
- at the strip club/brothel
- talking to the dorks at school
- in the public housing estate with the refugees and unemployed
- he'd stand up against the casino
- at the gay bar
- he'd confront the prime minister about the way we treat refugees and indigenous people.
- he'd hang around with 'ordinary' people
There were a lot more responses but you get the picture.
Paul's words 'You are the Body of Christ' ring in my ears as I look at this list.
There is a lot that can be said about that verse — it speaks of many things. It is one that often gets pulled out to talk about unity between Christians (and so it should). But I wonder if that's only half the picture.
Bodies give us a physical presence. Without a body we'd be limited in our capacity to do anything. We are the body of Jesus — we are his physical presence in the world today.
We are pretty good at identifying where Jesus would turn up in our culture — the gospels give us a pretty good idea of that — but when it comes to his physical presence in the world today I think the responsibility rests largely upon our shoulders.
If the above list is where Jesus would go — and the Church is his body — why is it not in these places in force? Is the body of Christ suffering from paralysis?
The gospels show us that Jesus also spent time with his community and time in prayer with the Father — we as his body need to do likewise — but so much of the gospel is about him connecting with those outside his immediate circle of followers.
I'm going to the pub again....no....its too early to be open....I'm going for a coffee
22 June, 2003 8:17 PM
I'm unsure whether to post this or not as I think it was written purely to cause a bunfight however this Post disturbs me - (but what's new!?) - Pieter has posted that he is the "Founder/Charter member of the National Society of American Homophobes and Islamophobes."
In comments he says he fears the actions of militant homosexuals and believes that terrorism is the logical result of being a Muslim.
I'm shocked that someone claiming to follow Christ, who ate (and therefore entered into relationships) with sinners and outcasts could make a statement which will only ever put a barrier between him and people who are already ostracized enough by the church.
I don't remember Jesus starting a taxcollecteraphobe or a romancenturianaphobe society. I saw him connect with these people with respect and the intention of building relationships.
Are we not called to engage with people on the fringe of society? How will starting a club for homophobes and Islamophobes help us in our disciple making call?
UPDATE: Peiter has withdrawn his latest post saying it was just 'tounge in cheek'. As Regan says in comments as Christians we should consider the type of 'jokes' we make - especially on the net where our words can be misinterpreted and do more damage than they get 'laughs'.
UPDATE II: Not so sure he's sorry about the post unfortunately as his very next one seems to be heading on the same theme. "What would happen if Spiderman converted to Islam?"
Here's a question - "What would happen if rather than asking questions that will only provoke anger, disrespect and the breakdown of relationships - people asking such questions actually decided to build relationships with and love Muslim people for who they are?"
22 June, 2003 2:26 PM
I know I mentioned this post in my last one but Randall Friesen is spot on the money with his post on HP.
I like this little bit: 'The closed spiritual skies over peoples lives have been opened wide, God is at work, calling speaking, moving. We've been praying for a greater hunger and thirst in the world, haven't we? But when God pulls the lid off our spiritual eyes, it turns into open season on what people move toward. All things spiritual are released and men and women's hearts are just hungry enough to look for answers in ALL the places, right or wrong.'
I cannot remember the amount of prayer meetings I've been in over the years where people have prayed that God would move in our nation and around the globe - that people would have their eyes opened to the spiritual, to God. I've seen people cry, jump up and down, make weird noises and do other bizarre things as they pray for 'revival'.
In recent years I've noticed that a lot of my non churchy friends have begun to explore 'spiritual things', that our society is also fascinated with it, the spiritual/mysterious is in the TV shows and movies being watched, the books being read, shopping way people are exploring their health and in the conversations that they have. Here in Melbourne the 'Mind, Body and Spirit' festival is one of the best attended exhibitions of the year and New Age festivals, Yoga classes, meditation groups etc are springing up all over the city.
People of all ages are searching - they want to dialogue - they are willing to make sacrifices to connect with what is 'out there'.
What an opportunity we have to join people in their spiritual searching and to share our stories and hear theirs. Yet what do we do? We condemn their activities as of Satanic, we withdraw from any activity that we don't understand or that looks suspect and in the process we ostracise ourselves from the people who we are called to love.
It reminds me of this true story that I wrote a while back that still makes my stomach churn today.
I don't understand why we continue to gather together in our little 'holy huddles' praying that God would do something in our world when its so obvious that he's already out there doing it and waiting for us to join him!
Yes - On this Sunday God is at the New Age festivals wooing people to him, God is in the pubs and cafes where people are discussing their latest philosophical ideas whispering in their ears and God holding the millions of children in his arms as they read Harry Potter stimulating their ideas and intriguing them with the wonders of life.
The question is - Where are us Christians on this Sunday and what are we doing?
I'm going to the pub.....
21 June, 2003 4:23 PM
Stumbled upon a Harry Potter discussion that makes me angry. Jake writes
about how it will drive teens to become witches and rants agains parents letting their kids read and watch HP.
I guess Jake comes from a similar camp as the person who just wrote me an email complaining that my Gary Kotter entry was also 'flirting with one of Satan's favourite tools'.
I responded to Jake with this comment:
I think the debate over whether Harry Potter is good or evil is a pretty useless one.
You see I don't think such a discussion will ever stop young people from reading it - there is nothing you can say or do to stop the kids I teach in Religion class in the local primary school from reading the book or seeing the movie.
A more useful discussion to have would be how do we journey with kids who do read and watch Harry Potter?
(which here in Australia is most of them!) If our stance is blatantly standing against something that they love do we cut off an opportunity to talk to them about Spirituality? I think that in each of the books that there are numerous entry points to a fantastic discussion about faith, spirituality and ultimately Jesus.
This doesn't mean we should endorse the occult, witchcraft. However if we spend all our time protesting about the book I suspect we've missed an amazing opportunity - an opportunity to dialogue, to interpret, to tell our own stories and to help the millions of Harry Potter readers to enter into a life beyond anything that the books will ever speak about!
So I say - get out there and read it - look for the Jesus themes - find the entry points for life giving conversation - don't be scared of it - God's bigger than anything it contains - and engage with the children of our world who are currently intrigued by HP but could potentially be obsessed with JC!
All I'll add is that I personally enjoy the books and movies and that as a result of reading them I've had some amazing conversations with the children (and adults) I have contact with. I believe that God can show up in the most unexpected and ordinary places in life - even in a Harry Potter book!
update: Randall says it alot better than me! Nice post mate.
21 June, 2003 2:25 PM
I woke up this morning and logged onto this site and read through the last two entries and comments.....hmmmm
I would like to state for the record that I was not drinking (heavily) yesterday at the time when I wrote either post. A better explanation was that both posts were me letting off a bit of steam that I'd worked up during the week on my previous series on Holistic Spirituality which in hindsight took a lot of energy to pull together.
Anyway - hope I wasn't too wacky yesterday - but ....seeing as we're in the toilet.... I might as well link to this article about a video game for guys while they stand at the urinal. There are plenty of lines I could say about this one but I think I'll leave it at that.
On another more serious note - I'm staggered by the continued interest in the Emerging Loneliness post . It seems to have connected with where a lot of people are at. The private emails I've had have also been interesting. Thankyou for your responses....if you've got time take a surf through the full list of comments there - there is loads of great stuff.
21 June, 2003 12:46 AM
Check out this amazing article on a subject close to my heart. The crux of the article is that New Zealand's government is considering passing a Livestock....flatulence tax in a bid to reduce New Zealand's contribution to global warming. This is because livestock accounts for about half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions.
Sheep will be levied at 9c each and cows at up to 72c under the Government's proposals which should raise $8.4million per year.
I think its not a bad idea - but I have a better one. Rather than letting all that gas loose on our environment where it will do untold damage, perhaps we should harness it and use it for good rather than evil!
I therefore propose that we should attach little flatulence catchers to the rear ends of every sheep and cow on the globe. (we could start with New Zealand cause they are so keen on cashing in on the gas) Farmers would go out into the fields every night at the end of a days work and collect the methane filled bags to come back to a central flatulence processor where the gas could be refined and then piped to a central location to be sold to run cars, make electricity and keep gas ovens going!
Opportunities to tap into the human market would also exist. One study I read a few years back said that the average person farted 14 times per day. (I'd say that is a conservative estimate....not from personal experience of course!) That's 5,110 times a year or 383,250 times in a 75 year life time.
Therefore at the current world population of 6.3billion people we're farting at a rate of 88.2billion farts a day!
Ok - this is gross - its silly - but imagine...just imagine if we could harness it and use it for good!? Maybe I should scrap my children's book ideas and go into the lucrative fart catching business!
Yes it would be a little fiddley, but there would be many benefits.
1. The gas would not be released into the atmosphere and thereby cut down greenhouse emissions considerably.
2. It would be a revenue raiser for individuals and especially farmers world wide.
3. It would mean other non-renewable resources would last a lot longer.
There could be some downsides to it too however.
The biggest of these would be that it could cause war to be launched on countries like New Zealand and Australia which have such high levels of flatulence making livestock. However as an Aussie I propose we work on a strategy for defending our resource by lighting the gas coming out of our cattle at the first sign of a foreign country attacking.
Ok - this needs a group approach. Are there any others out there that would like to put your heads together to think through the logistics of the operation???
20 June, 2003 8:42 AM
A post in anticipation of the release of Harry Potter
I've been thinking of writing a children's book. I'm not sure anything has been done like this before - let me run the basic storyline past you - tell me what you think.
The hero of the book is Gary Kotter - he's a young orphan who's father was a famous TV Evangelist. His parents were killed in an altar call that went horribly wrong. Since then he's been raised by his conservative Aunt and Uncle who haven't allowed Gary to exercise the gifts of the Spirit that like his father he also seems to have.
One day Gary receives a scholarship to attend a school in a parallel universe - a seminary called Godswarts. On arriving at Godswarts he makes friends with Con Beasley and Dermoine Ranger (who has a sparkle in her eye and who he suspects he might be destined to marry one day, after an appropriate courting period where they will only see each other with a chaperone - Seminary rules).
Gary finds the expectations upon him at Godswarts are high due to his fathers fame but he lives up to them by quickly becoming the star of his house's bible verse memorisation team. (His house is BennyHinndeldorff - the house for up and coming TV evangelists)
Gary's nemesis in this adventure is fellow student Derwin Roose from the house called 'Livenrom' (the house for up and coming 'raving Muslim loving liberals' like this who start alternative forms of church).
Gary and Derwin battle in this first adventure of 7 (holy number) to make their theology lectures enter the new millennium. Each tries to outwit the other with their ability to quote from obscure ancient texts and their obsession with writing on a huge array of topics on Godswarts blog.
The climax of the book is an amazing scene in the seminary library where the headmaster (Dumbledork) overseas a titanic dual between our hero Gary and the college's axle of evil! I can't say too much about the ending but I will say that the book will be better than the movie.
Update - Movie rights will be auctioned in the comments section - what am I bid?
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19 June, 2003 10:01 PM
Thanks for your patience with me on this series of posts. I've found it helpful to write it down. I'm doing another camp next week on the topic so its been helpful preparation.
Here are the posts in the series one last time. INTRO - TRUTH - WONDER - ACTION - LOVE
In summing up I'll make a few last points:
- I'm not a 'Spirituality Expert' by any means at all - in fact in looking at the four quadrants I wonder if I've even really got off ground floor yet!
- The model is not perfect. The four areas overlap significantly and on the two dimensional diagram (pictured below) it is difficult to be strong on both Truth and Love or on both Wonder and Action.
- The model does not describe 'how it is' for all - rather its designed as a framework to think about spirituality - to evaluate the status quo and to inspire growth in new areas.
- This model is not only relevant for individuals but churches might also be able to identify their corporate strengths and growth areas on the model. The diagram pictured makes some gross generalisations about where types of churches MIGHT be able to be plotted.
- The hypothesis of the model is that we can all grow in each area and that a holistic spirituality draws on all quadrants (aims for the middle). Each of us will probably be able to identify one or more areas where we feel we are more comfortable, this might be due to personality, upbringing or experiences. Its fine to have a strong area, but the point of the model is to encourage us to not only celebrate our strengths but to spur us onto developing other ways to connect with God.
- There are dangers in going to the extreme in any area of the model. Individuals and communities can get dangerously out of balance at times - balance is so important.
- In looking at my own life I can plot myself on the model at different places at different times in my life. I suspect this is a normal and healthy thing, especially for young Christians making sense of their faith.
Here is the diagram - I have a word doc copy of it if you'd like a larger copy.
I'm very interested in your feedback on this last series of posts. What do you think of the model? Is it missing something? Does it over emphasise something? Where would you plot your strengths and growth areas? What ways do you use to keep balance?
19 June, 2003 8:53 PM
LOVE is the final aspect of the Holistic Spirituality model that we've been looking at this week. Similarly to ACTION the focus is not on the individual in this quadrant but on others — however LOVE is expressed with a narrower focus upon the community of faith. Concepts like 'community', 'fellowship', 'body of Christ' and 'Church' are dominant in here.
People who operate naturally in this quadrant feel most connected to God and alive in their faith when they are journeying with other followers of Jesus. This may mean journeying with others in the areas of TRUTH, WONDER and ACTION but also includes the day to day sharing of life in big and small ways (through meals, pastoral care, shared living and developing friendships with other believers etc).
As with other areas previously explored, Jesus was constantly developing this aspect of Spirituality in his own life and that of his disciples. He calls a diverse group of people to come together to follow him not only as individuals but as a community sharing the ups and downs of life. Together they not only worshipped, learnt and did mission but they also engaged in the normal activities of life including weddings, meals and festivals.
Unity among those he left was of paramount importance to Jesus as we can see in his prayer of John 17 and the topic of LOVE was a constant feature in his teaching.
The early Church recognised early that their only way forward was to continue to journey together. The picture of this dynamic community is an inspiring one (Acts 2:43-47). It is no wonder that this was a growing group that was attractive to those living in the world around them because there was such an emphasis upon caring for those in need and shared life together.
Paul also was convinced that faith was not something for the individual but rather for communities. His language is almost always written in the plural, and his teaching is often focused upon how believers should live together. The Body of Christ imagery(1 Corinthians 12:12-31) paints a wonderful picture of how we are called to operate corporately. Similarly 1 John 3 calls for love to be central.
Likewise the Old Testament is equally as focused with the theme of journeying together. 'Family', 'tribe', 'nation' and 'the people of God' are all central.
My personal journey in this aspect of faith is still developing. As an introvert I sometimes have found it a little difficult to grapple with but recently have felt a growing awareness that the Church is just not cutting it in this area. I wonder if perhaps we delude ourselves that we are in 'community' with our cups of coffee after church and a quick sharing time at the end of bible study. Maybe we're not really willing to risk of getting close to others, maybe we're just lazy or maybe we've just bought into our cultures individualistic obsession!
I think its something we really need to grapple with because in my experience people today are just not willing to believe these days unless they first feel a sense of belonging within communities of faith.
How do you go in this aspect of Spirituality? Is it something you feel you've experienced either in the past or currently? How do you seek to develop community with other believers?
UPDATE: Here are the complete set of links to this series. 1. INTRO - 2. TRUTH - 3. WONDER - 4. ACTION - 5. LOVE - 6. Wrapping it all up.
19 June, 2003 8:57 AM
ACTION is the third quadrant of the Holistic Spirituality model. This is where spirituality extends beyond being purely an 'inner' thing and impacts the world around us. The emphasis leans more towards 'doing' and ones attention comes off the self and is lifted to include others. The two areas of JUSTICE (seeking to stand up for injustices faced by individuals, groups and the environment) and EVANGELISM/MISSION (seeking to share the Gospel message with others whether within or across cultures) generally dominate this quadrant. They are often seen as separate but I feel that they can and should be, where possible, strongly linked.
In the same way that some will find themselves naturally drawn to connecting with God in the areas of TRUTH and WONDER, others will find themselves feeling most alive in God when they are participating in what God is doing in the world they live in. This can be expressed in many ways ranging from as formal missionaries both locally or overseas, to sharing ones faith in a place of study, work or home, to being involved in local community groups.
Jesus was constantly engaged in Action. If you were to tear out every page of the gospels where he didn't heal, cast out a demon, preach, stand up for someone or against some issue you would have very little left, if anything. His mission statement (Luke 4:18-19) should have given those around him a hint at what his focus would be as should his teaching which called people out of a selfish focus to that of service. He was also interested in drawing his disciples into this action frenzy as can be seen from his calling 'I will teach you how to fish for people'. (Matthew 4:19) through to his last words to them 'Go make disciples' (Matthew 28:18-20) and 'You will be my witnesses'. (Acts1:7-8)
The early church was eager to grapple with Jesus' commands to action. Empowered by the Holy Spirit and under persecution they changed the world they lived on baptising thousands and planting churches as they were forced to scatter throughout the known world. Along the way they continued the pattern of healing (Acts 5:12) and preaching that had been established by Jesus.
The Old Testament is also rich with material in this area with many passages showing Gods desire for his people to be creating a just society. The exhortation to care for the widow, orphan, refuge and the poor are repeated again and again. (Isaiah 1:17)
James sums it up as bluntly with the words, 'Faith without works is dead, it is no faith at all.' (James 2:14-17) Billy Graham says faith without works is like inhaling without exhaling (which could be rather messy). Another nice analogy is that faith and works are like the two chemical components of salt, sodium and chloride, both of which by themselves will kill you if you sprinkle them on your steak and chips but when combined as salt they are a life giving property. Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he told his disciples that they were 'the salt of the earth'!?
This is another area that I personally have grown a lot in over the past few years. Growing up I always shied away from it, mainly out of fear that I didn�t have the formulaic evangelism method that I'd been taught in �missions lesson� at church down pat. It might also have been slightly put off by the fact that our youth pastor forced us to go door knocking and street evangelising with him every now and again! More recently I�ve been relieved to find that mission is not just about bowling strangers up in the street with a bible and �selling� them Jesus and that relational evangelism is also a valid and effective approach in the times we live in! I've also felt a growing passion of late for a number of local and international social justice issues and have begun to explore what my personal response might be. Again, I'm no expert in this area, but am loving the recent freedom that I've found to operate within it.
Is ACTION a natural and important way that you connect with God? In what ways have you experienced or struggled with it? Why do you think so many people do struggle with it? (most groups I've taken through this model have identified this as their weakest area) Leave a comment to spur the rest of us onto action!
UPDATE: Here are the complete set of links to this series. 1. INTRO - 2. TRUTH - 3. WONDER - 4. ACTION - 5. LOVE - 6. Wrapping it all up.
17 June, 2003 11:59 PM
In the WONDER quadrant of the Holistic Spirituality model the experiential is important. This way of connecting with God focuses on engaging our hearts, senses and emotions. Prayer is a dominant idea, as is Worship. Interaction and engagement with the Holy Spirit is often a focus for people who connect well in this area. Experiencing God through creation and the mystical methods of reflection and prayer are ways to engage this area of spirituality. Contemplation and meditation are also important. The focus is largely about developing intimacy with God.
While some people will connect with more naturally connect with God through their minds others will be much more comfortable connecting with their hearts. Church comes alive for these people during times of worship and prayer, through story telling, use of image and creative/alternative/ancient forms of worship. They might also be energised by their own personal times with God in prayer and meditation.
Jesus operated out of this quadrant in his life. We often see him in lonely places praying and fasting (Mark 3:13). These times seem to energise and empower him. We also see him interacting with and led by the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 4:1) It is evident that his relationship with the father is one of real intimacy. He not only has knowledge about his 'Abba' (Daddy) but he has oneness with him. We find Jesus not only prays in private but also in public (John 17) and that teaches his disciples to engage in prayer also. (Luke 11:1-13) Jesus style of teaching through parables and storytelling is also a way of helping his followers to engage the wondrous side of their spirituality. His preaching is also filled with challenges to be intimate with God - John 15 (the vine and the branches) is a wonderful picture of this intimacy. 'Remain in me and I will remain in you. This is wondrous language!
The early church also engaged in this sphere of their faith. We find in them constantly meeting for prayer (Acts 4:24) and worship (Acts 2:46) and there is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is an important and empowering focus for them. (Acts 21-13) Paul constantly models prayer for the communities he writes to (Ephesians 1:16-23) and encourages them to do likewise. (Colossians 4:2-4)
The Old Testament is full of wonder - Psalms and Song of Songs have a life time of material for engaging the heart and describing an intimate relationship with God.
I personally have grown a lot in this area over the past ten years. Its been refreshing to discover God in new and refreshing ways through prayer, worship, creation and story telling. In the 90's I began to explore some of this through 'contemporary worship'. My church also gradually began to be more open about the Holy Spirit (and eventually even described themselves as 'mildly Charismatic'!) I found the journey to be wonderfully refreshing although at times wondered if the heavy focus upon 'singing' was perhaps too narrow! I made a concerted effort to expand my wondrous horizons and soon discovered that I could connect with God through creation (bushwalking/camping), through my own creativity (photography) and in more recent years in some more alternative and ancient forms of worship. By no means have I arrived in this area, but I'm loving the journey.
How do you find this aspect of faith? Is it an area you feel you are growing or stagnant in? Does it energise you or frustrate you? What have you discovered on the journey that might inspire, encourage or resource the rest of us in this area?
UPDATE: Here are the complete set of links to this series. 1. INTRO - 2. TRUTH - 3. WONDER - 4. ACTION - 5. LOVE - 6. Wrapping it all up.
17 June, 2003 4:45 PM
Thanks for those of you who have expressed interest in the 'Holistic Spirituality' model that I mentioned earlier. Sorry to those logging on yesterday to get the next instalment - Its been a crazy few days!
As I wrote previously: "The model is pretty simple - and identifies four main ways that people tend to connect with God. We each tend to be strong in at least one area and often are week in one also. Alan's hypothesis is that to develop in one's spirituality they should be growing in each of the four dimensions.
The first of the quadrants of the model is TRUTH.
This way of connecting with God is predominantly through thinking. Here ideas are important and the brain is engaged. Theology is central as is putting words and language to faith. This is where we seek to understand more of who God is, who we are, what belief and faith is. Here Scripture is held onto, and is generally regarded highly and it is studied vigorously. The focus is largely 'God' with the mind.
Some people will naturally be 'thinkers' and love to connect with God in this way. Their favourite part of church might be a good meaty sermon where the Word is expounded and the mind is challenged. People who are strong in this area might be drawn strongly to bible study groups that take an intellectual approach to their activities or to reading stretching books on faith or theology.
Jesus was someone who operated in this way throughout his ministry. We find him as a young boy in the Temple(Luke 2:46) expanding his mind (and the minds of those around him!), we see he has a good grasp of Scripture and that he uses it to resist temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13), he also quotes it throughout his ministry and in his teaching stretches the minds and theology of those listening to him. He also was keen to see his disciples grappling with his teachings - John 8:31-32, "if you hold onto my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."
The early church also developed in this area - we see in the early chapters of Acts that the community was devoted to the teaching of the Apostles(Acts 4:13) and that Paul in his letters was keen to stretch his reader's thinking at times. He writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7 — 'Think about what I'm saying. The Lord will give you understanding in these areas'
Hebrews 5:11 — 6:1 challenges us to move beyond the basics and to get onto the solids of faith. Too often I fear that we don't really grapple with this area of faith. God has given us the capacity to think but do we extend this gift to our faith?
Of the four areas that I'll be covering this week, Truth is probably my 'weakest link'. Whilst I am not interested in putting the guilt's on anyone who struggles in this area, the point of this model is to encourage us all to do some thinking about where we are strong (and celebrate that) and where we are weak (and make decisions to improve in that area). Over the years I've had to force myself to grow in this area through enrolling in a Theology degree (its only taken me 9 years so far), reading some meaty books and throwing myself into conversations and debates I might otherwise have avoided. Every time I do I'm constantly amazed at the way my faith is deepened!
How do you go in this area? Is it a natural and energising part of your faith or do you also struggle with it? What have you discovered that might help the rest of us grow and extend ourselves as we seek to engage our minds? Do you use any exercises or resources that help in this area? Leave your comments below so that we all might benefit from your experience.
UPDATE: Here are the complete set of links to this series. 1. INTRO - 2. TRUTH - 3. WONDER - 4. ACTION - 5. LOVE - 6. Wrapping it all up.
16 June, 2003 8:09 PM
It's been a big few days....I could write a couple of thousand words about it....but I think I'll save us all the effort and give it to you in point form.
* Friday night - Souvlaki at home with V. (nice)
* Saturday day - Spent the day at a Forge seminar with Californian 'John Jensen'. (great stuff...will write more this week)
* Saturday night - We had Andy stay with us overnight. (he's refreshing and exhausting all at once!)
* Sunday first thing - Got in my little car and drove 3.5 hours to Horsham.
* Sunday afternoon - Led a three hour workshop on Holistic Spirituality. (I think it went well....I know I learnt something!)
* Sunday night - Spoke at 'Sunday Night Rock' about Significance. (I never know how my speaking really goes....maybe I should record it and audio stream it sometime! The feedback was positive and I had fun).
* Sunday late - slept at Simon's in Horsham (I was exhausted - best sleep in ages)
* Monday morning - drove 5 hours home. It was a longer trip home because just out of Melbourne I had to pull up on the freeway because a minibus that was 50 meters ahead of me exploded into flames! (no one was hurt - had to call the fire brigade - minibus ended up as a blackened shell - scarey!)
* Monday afternoon - bought an antique dining setting (still not sure why)
* Monday afternooon II - got a parking fine (grrrrr)
* Monday afternoon III - found our August tour of Spain, Portugal and Morocco has been cancelled. (we're still going, but just not sure where exactly)
* Monday afternoon IV - sat on couch in a coma and watched 3 hours of TV. (watched Jo get evicted in Big Brother....at last)
Feeling a bit worn out - little stressed by the amount of work I've got ahead of me this week - but also feeling pretty satisfied at a good weekend.
Bed calls! Night all!
14 June, 2003 5:03 PM
Significance = Others Opinion of You + Your Achievements
Tomorrow I'm speaking at Horsham Church of Christ (which is about 3 hours to the west of Melbourne. I'm doing a 'Holistic Spirituality Workshop' in the afternoon and then in the evening speaking at a youth gathering.
In the evening I'm talking about the messages that our world says to us, largely through the media.
The average Aussie teen is exposed to 600 commercials every day (I'd say that's a conservative estimate). So by the time they are 60 they've seen or heard 13,140,000 ads! Add to that the 8 years of television shows that they watch in a life plus all the time online, in magazines, at the movies and in front of computer games and you've got a lot of messages!!!
We are hearing ALOT of messages. Some are really worthwhile, but I suspect that many may be outright lies! For instance, one study showed that one in four commercials made some direct statement about beauty. Another showed that 69% of women on TV were significantly under the weight of the average weight of women. Another showed that overweight men on TV were always cast as the funny guy who was the butt of the joke, bald men were generally cast as geeks or nerds and that the powerful, romantic and serious roles generally ended up with guys with athletic bodies and full heads of hair!
I think the equation above (which is taken from a course a church here in Melbourne runs) is a pretty good way of summing up a lot of these messages that we hear. To be significant you have to make others think highly over you and be a high achiever. The more I think about it the more I see this as true...both in my own life but also in the lives of those living around me.
Today I asked myself the questions: When do I feel most alive? When do I feel most worthwhile and valuable? When do I feel at my lowest?
The answers surprised me and point to the fact that I often feel most valuable when another person has told me I did or do something well or when I've just done something that I'm proud of...whether it be a good grade at school...buying my latest gadget/toy... writing a good post on my blog ...or standing in front of the mirror and realising that those push ups have been having an effect!
Not that there is anything wrong with being liked or achieving - they are fine things in their own right - however when we base our value and significance upon them we're setting ourselves up for a fall. Its just impossible to always have others like us and to always be successful
There have been two times in my life when I've contemplated ending it all. In hindsight I realise these two times were when I went through times of rejection by others and realisation that I had failed at something I saw as important.
Its a risky equation to buy into! It therefore doesn't surprise me that Australia has the second highest suicide rate in the world per capita and that so many of those ending their lives are 18 -25 year old males. All day every day they are told to achieve, succeed and make sure they are loved. So when the day comes when the rejection of another or a failure inevitably comes the reason to go on living disappears.
The people who came up with the above equation also came up with a second one that they say describes how God views our significance. When I first looked at it I cringed a little, it sounds a little corny...however I can't think of a better way to express where true significance comes from. Its definitely a better 'equation' than the first, but I'd invite your response to it if you feel moved to do so.
Real Significance = Gods Opinion of You + Jesus' Achievements
13 June, 2003 10:30 PM
My Bloginality is INFP!!!
It says this about me: As a weblogger, you have wonderful words to express your feelings because of your idealism. Because you don't like conflict, you may be likely to make one list of links and leave it for a long time without updating for fear of offending.
Hmmmm....not sure about that....although you might notice my blogroll is getting a bit out of control over there....I'm just not sure how to prune it!!!
13 June, 2003 10:21 PM
Today there are a whole heap of people suffering from Paraskevidekatriaphobia
13 June, 2003 4:19 PM
This is the last part of my interview with my Muslim friend, Bilal. Here is Part 1 and Part 2
What social responsibilities does your faith leave you with?
One of the main pillars of Islam is Zakah (or charity) in which we give financially so that those who are less well off. Whilst I do not personally have any involvement with the distribution of this money I believe through my giving that I am having a positive impact upon the wider community.
I also feel I have the responsibility to care for my family as a result of my faith. Family is central to my belief. I did not leave home until I married and even after doing so remain close to my family. As my dad gets older my responsibility for caring for him grows. At some point in the future he will probably move into our home so that we will care for him.
Our Mosque is also proactive about getting involved in the wider community. We annually have an open day where people can come and receive a tour through our buildings, eat our food, hear about our prayer and ask questions. Last year we had thousands of people through over the day. We also take part in local community days, sometimes even working with local churches to put them on. These are very important to us, especially with the current focus on Islam. We try to debunk myths that people think apply to us.
What is it like being part of a minority group here in Australia?
In recent times being a Muslim in this country has become more difficult. I personally have not been persecuted but others from the Mosque, especially some of the women, have been on the receiving end of comments and threats in the street. The media is mixed in their portrayal of Muslim people, it concerns me that at times we are portrayed with sweeping statements and generalisation.
Up until the latest renewed focus on Islam I had not had much feeling of being ostracized from the rest of my wider community.
The other issues for me are the normal problems of finding time and space to pray and a few dietary considerations as living in a society that is so preoccupied with sexually loose morals. This was difficult for me growing up especially as a teenage boy.
What are the main misconceptions people have about Islam and Muslims?
I think the general population does not misunderstand us. There are a few stereotypes that come out in the media from time to time though. The big one is that all Muslims are violent terrorists and extremists. Others are that we oppress women and that we are all Arabs who are intolerant of other people's faiths. In my opinion none of these are true.
What is your view on how Islam values women?
We value women very highly. They are individuals with rights and responsibilities like I have. Both men and women are supposed to dress modestly and behave appropriately. Some of our female friends choose to ear the veil and do so not because they are forced to but rather because they find it actually brings freedom from having to conform to the way our society expects women to behave. My wife makes decisions for herself, she works, she socialises and she is my equal.
13 June, 2003 10:26 AM
What is the number one topic I'm getting to speak about lately?
Developing a more holistic Spirituality.
Before I go any further I'll say that by no means am I an expert in the topic, some days I look at my own spirituality and wonder if I'm kidding myself!
However its something people are really keen to explore and something that I've been thinking about a lot of late.
Whilst I'm not a big fan of 'models' I use one in my workshops as a framework to help people flesh out their current strengths and areas for growth in their spirituality. The model was developed by a guy here in Melbourne called Alan Hirsch (who blogs occasionally at Stinky Convoluted Past). Its something that gives me a framework to think about my own faith and that I've used for a few years now in the communities that I've been involved in - I've found it very helpful. In some ways it reminds me of a simpler version of Richard Foster's Streams of Living Water.
The model is pretty simple - and identifies four main ways that people tend to connect with God. We each tend to be strong in at least one area and often are week in one also. Alan's hypothesis is that to develop in one's spirituality they should be growing in each of the four dimensions.
No one will ever 'arrive' or 'make it' in any one of the dimensions — that's not the point. Rather the encouragement is to not rest on the areas that we might be strong in, but rather to continue to expand our understanding of God and the ways in which we connect with him. This will sometimes mean us leaving our comfort zones, sometimes it might even mean opening out minds to things that we'd previously 'written off' - but in my experience as we do this, we enter into new dimensions of our faith.
It takes a while to unpack the model - but over the next week (starting Monday) I'll attempt to flesh it out a little.
As I do, I'm especially keen for your feedback and also your ideas about how YOU develop your faith in each of these areas - practical ideas would be great as I'm toying with the idea of developing a resource which will be a practical companion to the workshops I do.
UPDATE: Here are the links to Parts 1-6 of this series. 1. INTRO - 2. TRUTH - 3. WONDER - 4. ACTION - 5. LOVE - 6. Wrapping it all up.
13 June, 2003 1:07 AM
I love Fred's latest two posts.
First he posted on the shifting values in approach to evangelism.
And then he posted an honest post titled The Hurt of Who Am I and Where Do I Go which is a great post about the current place he finds himself in on the emerging church journey. Reminds me a little of some of my own recent feelings
They are both well worth the read.
12 June, 2003 4:18 PM
10 Tips on Writing Online.
1. Write for a reason
2. Write often
3. Write tight
4. Make good friends
5. Find good enemies
6. Let the story unfold
7. Stand up, speak out
8. Be sexy
9. Use your archives
There is heaps more detail in the article.
I'm interested if anyone has any feedback on my writing...whether it be using the above criteria or not. I'm so aware that I could improve, but wondering how!? Feel free to comment or email your thoughts.
12 June, 2003 10:31 AM
At Living Room we're up to week 2 of Ignition. Those of you doing it already will know that as part of the process participants identify a 'Missional Exploration' that they will commit themselves to for 12 weeks while they engage with the book of Acts. The exploration can be whatever you like: members of our group are exploring a wide range of things from groups of friends, to a local neighbourhoods, to a local school.
V and I have decided to try to go to one local community activity every week for the next 12 weeks. The suburb where we live (North Fitzroy) is very community focused and there are no end of regular activities to choose from.Our aim is to meet more locals but also its an observational exercise where we want to begin to understand and become a part of the rhythms of our neighbourhood.
So we're going to be getting out and about - bring on the film nights at the local pub, the African drum lessons, the Spanish classes, the poetry readings, the art exhibitions and the men's conversational club! (I still can't find the website....anyone got any ideas!?)
Last night we went to on our first 'exploration' to the local library for a slide presentation by a guy who has travelled in Morocco (where we'll be travelling in August). Whilst no real opportunities to build relationships with others arose, I did find it very interesting to observe the number of people willing to come out on a cold night to their local library to hear an old guy talk about a holiday he took 10 years ago! The presentation itself wasn't that fantastic, yet about 40 people of all ages and stages of life showed up and seemed to enjoy the gathering.
People are obviously interested going to such evenings to hear stories, experience other cultures and to meet other locals....nothing staggering about that observation I know, but an interesting one to put in the mental filing cabinet as we think about how Living Room will interact with its neighbourhood.
11 June, 2003 11:57 AM
Andrew Sullivan is having his second pledge week where he hopes that in one week he's hoping to get 7000 readers to sign up and contribute $20 each (less than a nickel a day).
Wow - if he meets the target (and they are up to 5000 members) that's a total of $140,000....US dollars! Hopefully that's enough to 'assure the site's survival'!
Maybe I need a pledge week too!!! If every reader of this blog was to sign up as a member and donate a one off donation of 5 cents (Australian...so 2.5cents US) we'd be rolling in it (5 cent pieces that is....maybe about 100 of them....) with a grand total of $5! Ok so it won't completely cover my blogging costs... in fact at 5 cents a pop we'll probably need 12,000 members, which is quite ambitious, but I'm up for the challenge!
Or maybe we should all just take our 5 cents over to Jordon's site who is selling space on his site in return for donations to some worthy causes!
11 June, 2003 10:12 AM
In the paper on Sunday I came across this amazing article about a Men's Conversation Club here in my local area.
The club is called 'Reclaim the Pants' and its 'a men's group that meets once a month for a beer, a parmigiana and inconsequential conversation.'
Here is a snippet:
'Getting together to chat is something women have done successfully for years, they say. Now, the men are relishing a chance to meet and talk purely for the fun of it.
"All talk and no action" is one of the mottos of the group that pretends to take itself seriously but doesn't. There is certainly no power talk here.
"It's just five hours of uninterrupted crap talking," says founder Stuart McArthur. "The four topics of conversation, pretty much exclusively, are conspiracy theories, ridiculous money-making schemes, sport and whether Benny Hill was funnier than the Three Stooges."
The group has grown rapidly, through a website and a neighbourhood of local men who had enviously eyed their wives and partners, who seemed to have ample opportunities to meet and talk.'
It sounds like a fun group and something I'd like to check out sometime. I think its definitely something that many guys don't do enough of...ie talking ...about life....about anything!
Only problem is, I can't find the website referred to! There is a free coffee to the first person who can find it for me! (NB: coffee is to be claimed in Melbourne!)
UPDATE their site is: http://www.reclaimthepants.250x.com/
Thanks to Chris for the link.
11 June, 2003 10:02 AM
BuzzMachine has an interesting post on the death of email - it seems that Instant Messaging and ...yes, you guessed it...blogging is having an impact on spam ridden email.
11 June, 2003 12:21 AM
Have you ever wondered how far this blogging thing has extended? How many bloggers are there? Where are they from?
Blogcount attempts to answer some of these questions and more. The results are staggering....here's a taste.
Blogger alone has 1.5million registered users. Their number of users grew 14% in the 60 days after 11 March!
Blogstreet's list of blogs grew 27% in a similar period and Technorati tripled the number of blogs it watched in a recent two month period.
Live Journal has 1,090,084 total accounts, with over half of them presently active. Of these 62.2% are Female users and 37.4% are male! (which is pretty different to the God Blog Gender Survey that I did where I found that at least 54% of Christian bloggers were Male!)
18 year olds are the biggest users at Live Journal
, most seem to fall between the age of 15 and 25 years old.
The median update rate of weblogs.com pingers is every three days.
Poland now has 100,000 blogs, again 62% are written by women, 75% are under 20 years old.
Iran has 12,000 blogs, but here 76% are male.
During the recent War, 4% of Americans got their war coverage from Weblogs.
This Site has crawled 437,986 blogs. In that list 205,898 are written in English. After that the most popular languages were Portuguese, Polish, Farsi, Spanish, German, Italian, French and Icelandic(in that order). 101,831 are hosted with Blogspot, 14,841 are with MT, 14,172 are with Pitas and 13,106 are with Blogger
Wow - those are some amazing statistics....the amount of data that is flying around the net purely from blogs is massive. You've got to wonder how useful alot of the data is, and what impact so many people putting their ideas, dreams, feelings etc out into the datasphere is having on our crazy little world!?
10 June, 2003 4:49 PM
This afternoon I did my usual session of teaching RE again in the local primary school. Today I took a video camera into the class to interview them. I had a group of 8 ten to twelve year olds and we did interviews on the topic of 'What is God like?' I was a little sceptical that we'd be able to get much out of them as most of them are not church kids - but their responses were quite amazing. I wish I could video stream it for you...however for legal reasons (and my lack of technical nouse) I can't. After we finish videoing next week I'll put up some of their responses.
I will say that they were very open to talking about God and very honest in their responses. They didn't feel the need to pretend that they knew or believed God, some expressed that they were not sure. Others had some really great insights on deep topics....somehow we got onto is God male or female?. Others talked about their experience of prayer....it was quite a comprehensive session.
I love the way kids so honestly tell it like it is.
9 June, 2003 11:44 PM
I've been feeling lonely of late - I'm wondering whether it might be something will be effecting others exploring new forms of church?
Its been 3 months since my last Sunday of working at DCCC (my last church). A few people have asked me lately how the transition has been from a fairly sizeable, mainstream type church to Living Room. The transition has been pretty smooth, I'm really enjoying the change for so many reason. However in the past week or so I've begun to notice a change in my emotional state. On a number of occasions in the past two weeks I've found myself feeling very low.
Its taken me a while to be able to put words to my feelings, but after a lot of prayer, some good chats with V and quite a bit of thinking I've realised that one of the main differences between the two ministry roles is that the isolation I now feel. For one of the first times in my life I've been feeling incredibly lonely.
At DCCC and in other positions I have always worked in ministry as a part of a larger team where I had daily interaction with colleagues. We had weekly meetings for prayer, planning and support plus all those inconsequential chats over the photocopier and coffee machine. In addition to that there was a weekly rhythm of meetings, services, bible studies, outreach activities and other programs which thrusts one into relationships with hundreds of people every week.
Living Room is so much different to that. There are only 8 of us in the group, I'm now working from home and our weekly rhythm is a lot less program centred. Whilst I'm enjoying the change from a program based ministry to a much more organic experience of Church, I realised this week that I'm grieving the loss of daily contact.
I guess this is magnified a little by the small numbers of others on a similar journey here in Melbourne. There are hundreds, if not thousands of ministers and pastors in our city, but only a handful that wouldn't stare blankly back at me as I share what we're trying to achieve with Living Room.
Its a strange feeling realising that you're a lonely 31 year old minister.
Anyway, now I know what I'm feeling and why I've started to make some changes in my week. In addition to the amazing people I'm connecting with through this blog, I've also decided to be a lot more intentional with the way I spend my week.
Is this an experience that others are finding also as they explore new forms of Church?
9 June, 2003 11:38 PM
V and I will be heading north for a visit to Europe for four weeks in August/September. At present our itinerary is for a 15 day trip through Spain, Portugal and Morocco and then to spend 12 days in London (with a side trip to Paris...maybe).
I'm hoping to have time to spend with some Emerging Church bods while in London, if you'll be there at around that time I'd love to catch up with you - just let me know! Its very exciting to be planning a trip again.
9 June, 2003 12:26 PM
Which book of the Bible are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
9 June, 2003 9:55 AM
Leighton writes about 3 Fallacies of the EC.
1. The emerging church types are just a bunch complainers criticizing from the sidelines.
2. here is no such thing as perfect church. (Which usually implies, the church has always been like it is today)
3. All we need to do is repackage the gospel for a new generation.
Each is expanded here.
8 June, 2003 9:32 PM
There is change happening in two of the blogs that first got me into blogging.
After two amazing years of blogging Tall Skinny Kiwi is going through some blog changes at the moment. There is talk of new blogs and the old one becoming a museum. I can't wait to see what will emerge happen for him next - Andrew is one of the most amazing bloggers out there - he's hugely popular yet remains down to earth and happy to keep in touch with the ordinary folk via email.
The other changes are happening over at Urban Onramps where the blog has gone altogether for the time being. Instead Rudy has put up a great collection of articles and links.
Also the Gospel According to Mark has moved to a new home with a new look. Great to see him blogging again!
8 June, 2003 9:24 AM
Pentecost is here and I'm excited!
I'm looking forward to a great celebration with two other local churches this morning. I've just finished a practice run through my input and am feeling personally challenged by the message. (I almost went forward for Salvation in my own lounge room....but then who would have prayed for me as I knelt at the alter....I mean couch!?)
Seriously - I love Pentecost. What an amazing transformation of 120 pretty ordinary people, who must have been pretty confused and unsure of their future. They must have been somewhat overwhelmed by the last words of Jesus which laid before them a world wide mission! How could they possibly fulfil that!? What I love about it is that they go from being a church in hiding (locked away in some room) to being on the streets communicating the gospel in ways they never would have imagined previously! The before and after shot is an amazing study in contrasts.
I think this is a very important message for the church today. We too live in a crazy world - we too have a world wide mission given to us. This week I've been chatting to a number of church leaders around the globe, in New Zealand, Canada, America and the UK. One thing I notice is that we are all asking questions about Church and that a lot of the questions I suspect are pretty similar to the questions that Peter and the other 119 might have been asking as they gathered to pray that day.
Who are we? Where are we going? What does church look like in this changing world? How do we do mission? How do we communicate the gospel to our world when we don't speak its languages? Its amazing to see how so many of us are asking the same questions at the same time at all corners of the globe.
I come away from the first few chapters of Acts with real hope. We worship a God who is into transformation big time! God is interested in change and in bringing wholeness. He does it on an individual level (take a look at a before and after shot of Peter if you want proof), he does it on a communal level (check out Acts 2:42f) and he does it on a world wide level (that 120 people became 3120 in a day...and just look at the numbers today in 2003!). There is hope. In fact as I think about it, if there is one day in the year that us Emerging Church type people hold onto, learn from and celebrate the most — I reckon Pentecost should be it!
There is so much we can take from this passage, I feel like I've got about 3 or 4 sermons in me!
- This is a community of prayer, even before the fire and wind - this has to be key for us today!
- This is a group who see the importance of community, again even before Pentecost they are meeting together, they understand that God desires us to do faith together.
- This is a community that is willing to be moved, reshaped and refined. They are willing to let God move them, even in very sacrificial ways. Some of them sell all their possessions, others end up in international mission and others give up their lives. Are we willing to be moved by God? Are we willing to let him reshape us as individuals and as communities so that we can be better suited to serve him?
Ok - now I've 'warmed up' on you I'm going to go to church... Have a happy birthday Church!
7 June, 2003 10:49 AM
(6th June - permalinks not working?)has an interesting review of a TV expose on Hillsong
an Aussie Pentecostal church which has attracted alot of criticism over the past years.
You can get the transcript of the program here
"There's a lot I could say about this church. Of course I respect people's right to express their spirituality in whatever way seems appropriate to them, but as far as I'm concerned Hillsongs as an organisation embodies the worst of consumerism and sexism while denying its members the full range of human experience (God wants you to be happy all the time!). For outsiders, the Hillsongs phenomenon is fascinating, as well as an annoying tax scam. For thousands of church-members, it can be close to abuse. "
Update: Eddie has a rant on a similar topic.
Thanks for the discussion that is going on in comments below - lets remember to treat each other with respect as we discuss. On the topic of prosperity - I highly recommend the book 'Praying like Jesus' (pictured above/right).
Update 2: I'd like to thank all that have contributed to this conversation - we've had around comments left over the past 13 months - its obviously a hot topic that people feel very deeply about on both sides.
I have deleted a few comments left on this thread from people taking both sides who were unable to contain their anger to a point where their comments got to a stage of personal attacks and crude language.
After a lot of thinking about it I've decided to close comments to this thread as I feel we've probably achieved as much as we can with the discussion. I'm not sure that anything anyone can now say would add much to the conversation or change too many people's minds either way.
I've appreciated all those who've participated in this discussion - valid points have been made from numerous perspectives. I see validity in both sides of the conversation personally but feel that the conversation is perhaps heading in a direction where it could be seen as more destructive than anything else. As a result I'm closing comments as of now. I'll allow the comments already post to remain as a record of our conversations and hope its a useful resource to those thinking through the issues discussed.
6 June, 2003 8:28 AM
Something I've written for Sunday:
As I stood up to speak to those that had gathered, his words still rang in my ears.
He'd said, �Go, make disciples of all nations!�
He'd said, �You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.�
I looked around at those who had gathered — the 'witnesses' — and my heart sank.
There was John, James and Andrew — simple fishermen. Sitting with them was Matthew the Tax Collector and Simon the Zealot. Then there was Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, James, and Judas (son of James). They were just simple guys, average in so many ways. We had lived with and loved him for three years yet after all that time had deserted him when he most needed us.
His mother Mary and some of his brothers were with us also as well as Mary and Martha and some of the other women. Lazarus sat on the window ledge talking with Nicodemus.
Then there were the other nameless faces scattered throughout the room.
There were those he had healed — who were once blind, lepers and lame. There was the woman who had bled for most of her life. There were even one or two that he'd raised from the dead.
There were widows, beggars, prostitutes, Samaritans, adulterers and tax collectors. There were the old, the children and the poor.
And then, there was me. Simon Peter — the Rock! Yeah Right! More like Simon Peter 'Mr foot in mouth'. I'd disowned him too. I couldn't even admit I knew him to a servant girl. What kind of witness was I!?
We had gathered together because he had told us to wait in Jerusalem — but we were scared and confused. Our leader had gone and we felt alone. We were unsure of who we were and what our place in the world was.
I looked out the window at the world we had been called to go to and I was afraid. The streets were filled with people of all nations yet we were not equipped to communicate with them. Our own nation was living under oppression — these were troubling times — how could we make a difference?
He'd told us we would be his witnesses to the world yet we were so few, so uneducated and so powerless. We had little money, influence and no real social standing. In fact, many of us were on the fringe and some were outright outcasts!
Locked away in that room we were a timid and fragile group of 120. What could we hope to achieve?
We began to pray.
5 June, 2003 9:07 PM
Ever received an email from a Nigerian wanting some help with a $234923402343 money transfer!?? I get one every week. Now we know where they get their training - its at the 3rd Annual Nigerian EMail Conference! The program includes a debate entitled "The effectiveness of using all UPPERCASE characters", a discussion forum titled ""Are 10 million emails a day too many?" and a rount table discussion on "A round table discussion: Is email now Nigeria's top export?" Funny times! Source
5 June, 2003 9:39 AM
I love a good survey. This one might be relevant for those of us thinking through Emerging Church. Its an issue that I've not heard much talk about in the blogging circles that circulate in - but perhaps its time we did a similar survey.
4 June, 2003 10:59 PM
Is it time for some 'Alternative' Quiet Time/Devotional material to be developed? Does anyone know of any personal devotional material with an edgy, creative, alternative and post-modern feel?
Shortly after I made the decision to 'invite Jesus into my heart' as a young child my Dad sat me down one night as he was putting me to bed and gave me a colourful little book that looked something like this. It was a daily devotional book for kids complete with cartoons, stories, prayers and activities. Dad told me that one way I could grow my friendship with Jesus was to have something called a Quiet Time or a Daily Devotion. From that time I endeavoured to have one every morning.
Through the years my devotion to devotions varied between being once per day to being once a year (if that!). I used all kinds of material. As I got older the material I used got a little more hip and mature. When I got online I even found ways of having a quiet time there.
In more recent years I began to grow dissatisfied with some of the printed and online material I'd found. Often they seemed so packaged - a short reading, an easy question or two and a prayer to read just didn't cut it for me any more.
As with so many other GenXer Christians I began to experiment with some ancient forms of prayer and reflection. I've also tried some newer forms of journaling. These have been amazing for me - they've re-ignited some of the passion for Jesus that I'd lost over the years but they've also left me thirsting for more.
There seems to be a lot of resources being developed 'out there' for corporate prayer and worship experiences - alt-worship has been a dynamic and growing movement in the past decade or so. But I wonder if there is much being developed in the area of personal devotional material with an edgy, creative, alternative and post-modern feel? I'm keen to find some if you have any ideas - I'd like to develop a bit of a resource page for it if there is any out there....and if there isn't, perhaps some of us should put our heads together and develop some!?!
4 June, 2003 10:21 PM
This guy was all over the news here tonight. His hobby is building Cruise Missiles! The finished product will have a range of around 100 miles (160 Kms) so we should be safe here in Aus....but watch out my NZ blogging buddies!!
4 June, 2003 12:39 AM
My longer term readers might remember a post I did in January entitled America's Best Christian Paintball Park I critiqued how it (and other businesses) put the word 'Christian' in their name and asked the question why? The comments left at the time were pretty interesting I lost them in the move over to the new domain so you wont see them on the link above, but can see them here...leave your new comments on the post (hope that makes some sense)
Anyway today I noticed a little traffic coming onto my blog from the CPPA (Christian Paintball Players Association) discussion group who have some opinions on my previous post. Check it out, you'll have to register to leave a message like I did.
UPDATE - Winn (28th May - perm link not working) writes on a similar theme. (thanks Mike for the link.)
4 June, 2003 12:06 AM
This must be the most amazingly designed blog I've ever seen....looks somehow famililar though....hmmmm
Update: They've graciously changed it after a quiet email.
By the way if you want to have an amazingly designed blog or web site I'd suggest you talk to Cre8d Design
3 June, 2003 11:50 PM
For the past month now I've been trying to buy a laser printer on Ebay. Without it I'm making trips to college every couple of days to print. Its such a frustrating process - we have a price limit (thanks to a very generous donation from a fellow international blogger...you know who you are...thanks so much) but every time I bid on the model printer I want to get we get out bidded in the last hour of bidding. Tonight I thought we had it at last. With less than one minute to go I had the highest bid and even a buffer higher maximum bid (our upper limit) in the system - and yet when the auction ended I'd been outbidded by $5 by someone who hadn't bidded until the last 30 seconds!!! Thats the third time its happened. Frustrating times! Its back to the drawing board...again.
3 June, 2003 4:55 PM
There is a very interesting discussion going on over at signposts after last Tuesday's gathering between Living Room and Nexus (one of Phil and Dan's congregations). The conversation in comments there is covering everything from is Sunday the only day a church should gather through to what is worship and prayer through to creeds. Good stuff.
3 June, 2003 4:25 PM
I spent the morning with Mark and Kel from Forge. Tuesday mornings are always good because I get to hand out with them for a time of planning of upcoming events and chatting about the resources that we are working on. We also spend a fair bit of time talking about our various projects and church plants which is really supportive. The Cafe we meet in makes excellent coffee too...mmmm.
After that I spent some time preparing for this afternoon's Religious Eduction class at the local primary school. The class was bizarre as usual. I'm fast concluding that I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to teaching 10-12 year olds. By 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon they are all pretty crazy and are like a time bomb waiting to go off. No matter what I seem to do I seem to light their fuse and about 5 minutes into class they explode! I really hope that something that we do captures their imagination and draws them closer to God. I put alot of effort into thinking of creative ways to explore topics with them, but about the only thing they seem to calm down for is when I read them bible stories! The age old art of storytelling seems to win every time! Who would have ever thought that 25 minutes of teaching childrend can be so tiring!
Tonight is Living Room - Rob Yolanda and Chrissie are back tonight which will be fantastic. We'll spend some time catching up on their travels and kick off on the journey of Ignition which will run for the next three months alongside some other gatherings and activities.
2 June, 2003 2:06 PM
Interesting article on how Australia and New Zealand are gradually parting ways on foreign policy. Does this mean I have to cut back on reading my favourite New Zealand Blogs?
2 June, 2003 1:13 PM
On Friday I got new glasses. My old ones were getting pretty scratched and my prescription needed a small adjustment. I could still see out of the old ones fine, but it was time for an update.
When I walked out of the optometrist wearing my new specs I was amazed at how clearly my new glasses allowed me to see. I had become so accustomed to the scratches and old prescription that I had not realised how fuzzy my vision had gradually become.
It reminded me of when I first got glasses and realised for the first time (I was 13) that it was possible to see individual leaves on trees from a distance. I had always known trees had leaves, but had become accustomed to seeing trees as green blurs where leaves just merged into one another.
I wonder what other things we get out of focus without realising?
Today I've been preparing for this Sunday's Pentecost sermon at NCBC and have been reading the Acts 1-2. As I read the story of this dynamic community of faith I wonder if perhaps we, as church today, have gradually been loosing focus. Maybe without even knowing it our lenses have become clouded by the scratches of politics, power, comfortability and fear. Is it time we had our prescription checked to enable us to cut through the fog and get to the core of who we are and what we should be on about?
2 June, 2003 9:10 AM
A quick trawl through Melbourne's The Age newspaper this morning on the topic of Weapons of Mass Destruction revealed the following articles from the past few days.
Aussie Defence Minister Robert Hill has conceded that flawed intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons capability may have influenced Australia's decision to join the Iraq war and has backed a thorough and open review of the information.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted today Britain and the United States would unearth evidence of Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" and make it public before long. In an interview with Britain's Sky Television at a Russia-European Union summit, Blair said he had already seen plenty of information that his critics had not, but would in due course.
Senior Bush Administration officials have hinted it may take a long time - if ever - before they are able to prove the case they made to justify the war.
Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has suggested publicly for the first time that Iraq might have destroyed chemical and biological weapons before the war, a possibility that senior US officers in Iraq have raised in recent weeks.
The controversy over the quality of intelligence used to justify the Iraq war flared yesterday after reports that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and his US counterpart, Colin Powell, privately expressed serious doubts about the information.
Do you think anyone really knows what is going on?
1 June, 2003 9:00 PM
After a great weekend away its nice to be home. I spent alot of time thinking over the past 48 hours and have come to some points of self realisation and also had some moments of growth. Not sure how to express it all and wonder if cyberspace is the best place for it anyway - except to say that I can reaffirm that God is good and I have many things to be thankful for in my life.
Must sleep now.