Sydney Central Pedestrian Tunnel #4

For nine months of my life I walked this tunnel twice a day and sometimes I wrote down the snippets of conversation as a kind of random urban poem. I decided to do it tonight for old time’s sake. And something unexpected happened at the end.

central-station-pedestrian-tunnel-sydney

Two male office workers, in Friday casual:

‘Yeah yeah yeah. Yeah exactly.’

Twenty something female to friend, both with headphones:

‘And I was like, “My mum made the decision.'”

Man to women wearing hajib and looking skeptical:

‘Don’t know, probably.’

Twenty something man in high-spirits to two friends:

‘Yeah but actually she doesn’t live there anymore.’

Curly haired young woman on the phone at the bus stop:

‘I’ve just hopped off at Central and I’m waiting for the bus… actually I’m pooped.’

Man who approached quietly and is standing close to me:

‘ I don’t like to do this but my son and I haven’t eaten… I lost my job and… [hand out clasping gold coin].

Me: [reaching for wallet deciding with joy I’ll surprise this man with a note]. What’s your son’s name?

Begging man: ‘His name is Sean. S-e-a-n.’

Me: [Giving meagre $5] Well my name is Peter and I’m a Christian and God loves you whatever the story. [I don’t believe his spoken story and I don’t care].

And then I realised a scattering of bloggers

When I started my first WordPress blog on April 29, 2009 I couldn’t find anyone else I knew personally among the millions of WordPress bloggers.

Today as I read through some of the writing or reflective blogs I follow, I realised they were mostly by people I know in the real world and all offer something unique and encouraging.

So here they are, mostly on WordPress, why not check them out:

Chrissy Guinery, author of Falling Upstairs, reminds you why life is living large.

Bronte Sawtell, is 19 and thinking and has fallen in love with Newcastle.

Josiah Hallett is tossing out the pros and finds hope in the midst of angst.

Stephen Baxter is an old mate from Alive and On Being days and is keeping the heaven2earth connection going.

Rachael Stevens is a talented young writer (The Skeleton Diaries) and influencer and has a great website and blog which I daresay is designed by husband Tom.

I’m thinking there is groundswell of (Christian) writing evident here of which the sites I’ve listed are just a small sample.

Share your own favourites in comments (below).

PH

Spammer’s nice try

Spam comments often take the form of praise towards the unsuspecting blogger.

The goal is to have the comment published so that readers might follow the link to a sales website.

I thought this was a particularly flattering attempt (until the last sentence) although it was posted on Utterance’s report on Bear Gryll’s Christian faith so not sure what ‘problem’ is being ‘brought to light’.

‘Can I simply say what a comfort to uncover a person that truly knows what they’re talking about online. You actually understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people must check this out and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you’re not more popular because you most certainly possess the gift.’

I’m hoping this feedback leads to even stronger expressions of heartfelt admiration….

Meyer, Warren, Lucado out-tweet Gaga, Perry and Kardashian

The New York Times has used social media compilation tool Storify to show that spiritual leaders such as Joyce Meyer or Max Lucado receive massively greater response from followers to their tweets than celebrities such as Lady Gaga or Kim Kardashian.

While celebrities have far more followers, there is very little interaction with their messages while for the ‘spiritual leaders’ with less followers (but still large numbers) there is often strong engagement with the messages they deliver through Twitter.

Perhaps this says something about why people  follow Rhiannon and other celebrities in comparison to Rick Warren and the ‘spiritual leaders’ group. Or perhaps it is about the content of their respective tweets – Trivia vs transformation?

And if Twitter and Storify are new to you, this is a helpful insight into how both platforms are being used across the planet to connect and influence. See Storify here:

[View the story “Comparing responses to spiritual leaders’ and Twitter celebrities’ tweets” on Storify]

PS> Dear WordPress, please introduce a Storify embed option. Thank you.

Dear 2012, it’s nice to meet you

Dear 2012,

We haven’t met yet. My name is Utterance and I’m a blog. Sorry I haven’t said hello earlier but it has taken a touch of insomnia from my mate Pete to get things going this year. Um, that’s you isn’t it. This year that is. Well look, I’ve never talked to a year before so if I get a bit muddled, please forgive me.

Anyway, we have a bit in common, me (Utterance) and you (2012). Being a new year, as you are, you’d be interested to know that I pretty much began when my mate Pete made a New Year’s Resolution involving your colleague 2010. This was that Pete would write a new post on me every day during 2010.

Well he managed 266 posts which is not bad, I think 2010 was pleased, and he reflected on this here. He kept going in your other colleague, 2011, and I had my busiest ever day on August 17, 2011 when nearly 700 people dropped by to read my account of Kate Bracks winning Masterchef. Strangely enough, my most popular post of all time is to do with food as well, with 8632 people dropping in on MasterChef’s seven sins; God’s endless forgiveness.

Sorry to say there appears to be no such resolution this you, as here it is your 11th and we’ve only just met. But I’m sure we’ll get better acquainted as the year, sorry, as you progress and to help I’ll give you a bit more background.

As a blog I’m rather hard to define, deliberately so I think, which is a bit like my writer who has never been comfortable in a box, sometimes to his detriment. You know you can get further sometimes just by fitting in but he’s one of those early sixties babies who was never quite Boomer, never quite Buster and then had three Gen Y kids and so it’s all over the place.

I’m quite reflective at times, possibly a bit sentimental and even a little regretful. Please 2012, give me a slap around the ears if I go to far down that path.

I love the news – bit of the old printers’ ink in the blood  – well that would be his blood I guess as technically blogs have bytes and hits and posts but not so much of blood. But yes he was and is a journalist so there’s a newsiness to myself.

I especially like spotting God in the headlines, little signs of faith and the divine that manage to emerge in the daily dust of the world’s happenings. That’s why I might talk about Tim Tebow or job ads or Ayrton Senna or buggity, buggity, buggity or the Amazing Race.

Sydney’s a favourite, this great sprawling city of broad beaches, tense traffic, drive by shootings and colourful characters. And the occasional dead body, rainbow or pedestrian poem.

And if I try and get a little wise, a little insightful, bear with me, this too will surely pass.

So dear 2012, I hope we get along okay and catch up more than occasionally. For your part, could please slow down a little as it’s hard enough to find a moment without you being in a rush too, insomnia aside.

Oh, and as you are just at the beginning, here’s mine, it might help complete the picture of what I’m about.

Fare thee well and remember the advice I give everyone – breath, speak, breath and don’t forget to jump.

Much love
Utterance

PS Mr 2012, you can also follow my friend Pete on Twitter.
PPS Mr 2012, I’ve heard rumours that you are meant to be associated with the end of the world, something to do with Mayan calendars etc. Anyway, just to reassure you I have much higher hopes for you than that and in any case, the world won’t end until He says so.

Domain name change leaves readers searching…

  A couple of weeks ago I took up the domain mapping option offered by WordPress for my blog. I had previously registered http://www.utterance.com.au with another company and was sending http://www.utterance.com.au to http://www.peterhallett.wordpress.com successfully and with no apparent loss of traffic. To qualify for the new WordPress advertising option, AdWords, I switched domain mapping to WordPress and the hits have […]

Saturday stream of consciousness

“Time’s a goon” says ageing rocker Bosco in Pulitzer prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan and I gain some insight into the title and I realise that this book and A Sense of an Ending that won the Booker prize this year both tell stories about the passing of time and of lives and how the choices of, especially youth, but of other times, reverberate and get distorted and misremembered but are unerringly true in their effects. And why is it that there are never any people in these books who were innocent and naive and married for love and lived what they believed and remained faithful always and raised children and worked through tough times and never gave up believing or loving but sometimes, for a moment, they feel they may have missed something even though the really have it all but feel that confusion because the world they have to live in is so mistaken. And books that win prizes never, ever tell their story. Read More »

‘Tasteful’ advertising to tempt WordPress bloggers

Almost quietly, WordPress announced this week that it would allow bloggers to have advertising on their WordPress hosted blogs. This news has been keenly anticipated by many bloggers and yet the announcement was brief and without fanfare, perhaps to avoid an immediate avalanche of uptake. WordPress has, rightly, closely guarded the integrity and aesthetic of its platform and perhaps predictably, the […]

Repentance baffles secular Australians

Repentance is a world rarely heard outside of a Christian or other religious gatherings and so it is no wonder Australian journalists have matched it with terms like ‘puzzling’, ‘scratching their heads’ and ‘bolt from the blue’ when reporting Papua New Guinea’s first Day of Repentance held today.

True, the public holiday for Repentance Day was announced in PNG with little fanfare or explanation and this has baffled reporters and some (mainly ex-pat) business owners.

But there is no doubt the very large majority of Christians in PNG know exactly what it’s about and many will have participated in prayer events held across PNG today.

Even the small Muslim sector of PNG society was in favour, with their leader’s only caution being that people should not think repentance is for only one day of the year.

One PNG blogger was pleased with the introduction of repentance day and discusses why it could be so useful on the basis that repentance means a change of mind. Nothing new can be done unless there is first a change in our thinking… good advice for any nation.

It’s interesting to consider that increasingly secular Australia is surrounded by many strongly religious nations. PNG, East Timor, Indonesia and many of the Pacific nations have strongly religious orientations.

An overflow of this has been seen in the prayers, songs of praise and statements of faith that have mixed with the outpouring of grief outside the home where 11 Tongan family members were killed  by a fire earlier this week.

Our prayers are with them.

 

 

 

Logos leads the way in innovative use of the Internet

20110620-100852.jpg One of the world’ leading leadership and business authors, Seth Goddin has highlighted an innovative book pricing mechanism used by Logos, a Bible software company.

In Goddin’s most recent blog post, titled Coordination, he discusses a new more collaborative approach to internet business, made possible by technology and cited Logos’ Community Pricing strategy as an example.

According to the Logos website, “Community Pricing offers some amazing deals on classic works in the field of biblical and theological studies. Thousands of Logos users have gotten books for less than the price of a latte or a gallon of gas (which is around $3.00 in Bellingham, Washington).”

Community Pricing works by online customers indicating on a graph how much they would be willing to pay for a specific title. At some point in the process enough customers and a high enough price cover production costs and the book can be released.

Logos explains it this way: “If it costs $4,000 to produce an electronic edition of a book, the costs can be covered by 4 people paying $1,000 each or by 1,000 people paying $4 each. The more likely scenario, though, is that no one wants to pay $1,000 and there aren’t 1,000 people interested in the title, even at $4. But there may be 200 people who would pay $20 each.

“Community Pricing is about finding the lowest price that covers the production costs.”

Customers bids are tracked on an online graph to provide some guidance as to how to bid and when a price is set, it is the lowest possible price which is paid by all bidders, even if they bid higher.

It is another example of how the book industry specifically and retail in general is changing due to digital communication.

Godson loves the approach because it eliminates waste and allows customers to collaborate with the supplier.
It is great to see a Christian company at the forefront of change.

Two giants rise leaving us to rise up

On April 26, outstanding Greek-Australian preacher, evangelist and teacher, Con Stamos, died after a three-year battle with cancer.

Always larger than life, Con’s outstanding ministry reached many areas of Australia, notably the Aboriginal communities of northern Australia and the eclectic residents of inner city Sydney.

In a letter to friends written in early March, Con acknowledged the seriousness of his condition but was far from subdued:

‘Time is God’s domain. Mine is to live this life to the fullest.’

On April 27,  Rev David Wilkinson, the founding pastor of Times Square Church in New York City and author of the well-known book The Cross and the Switchblade, posted a blog titled When All Means Fail.

As if writing for Con and his family, he had this to say:Read More »

Where to with Utterance?

So, I’ve had a very long case of writer’s block. More writer’s coma than block. More writer’s near-death experience than coma. More…

Anyway, I’m just searching for that sweet-spot of an idea for what to do next. Don’t tell me, I’ll get it eventually.

In the meantime, it did spark my interest that the 7pm Project discussed falling church attendances tonight. Tellingly, they quoted no hard statistics, quoted a minister from a denomination with famously declining membership due to its abandonment of faith, and quoted an atheist who is too young to have any idea if there is a God or not because he hasn’t lived long enough to have a single conviction tested. Or so it seemed to me.

Host Carrie Bickmore admitted her mother had dragged her along to Hillsong, Steve Price had the usual hackneyed response about churches and money and Hughesy said that if it makes people happy and gives them good values then what’s the problem. The too-young-to-know atheist pondered what would happen without the community  that religion provides, but failed to give an alternative.

Oh, and by the way, on a different note, I’m reading my first Ernest Hemingway book, Death in the Afternoon, which is non-fiction and about bullfighting… well, it was the only Hemingway available at Leichhardt Library – but already I’ve gained a few insights into his approach to writing, which may or may not be a good thing.

Slow rain on fast blog

It’s snowing on Utterance, a WordPress nod to Christmas. But as we are in the southern hemisphere, and the weather is decidedly warm and damp, I think we can describe it as ‘slow rain’. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it may be time to upgrade your computer…

The Seven Deadly Sins. From Boccaccio (s.a.) D...
Image via Wikipedia

And some trivia for a slow, wet Saturday afternoon… I wrote a story about Masterchef and the seven deadly sins on July 11 and since then it has recorded 2,109 world-wide hits. That’s a lot of people reading an article that ends with this comment:

The message – however much we have been sinned against, forgiveness can be greater. Obviously, we can turn that around and say that however many times we have sinned, God’s grace is sufficient to bring forgiveness – if we sincerely receive it.

 The problem is that if we do not acknowledge the existence of sin – a widespread modern phenomenon – we will not access God’s forgiveness. In this case, if sin does exist , despite our disbelief, we remain unforgiven.

Most people visiting the article have used an internet search related to seven deadly sins or terms such as ‘gluttony’.

Another very popular post relates to Bear Grylls and his Christian faith – about 1,700 readers in five months. Grylls says this about his faith:

‘Christianity is not about religion – it’s about faith, about being held, about being forgiven. It’s about finding joy, finding home.’

More head miles than my legs can cope with

My New Year’s resolution to post to Utterance every day in 2010 has hit its biggest challenge recently thanks to a condition a good friend describes as ‘head miles’.

I first heard him use the phrase when I asked him why it was he stayed awake all night, most nights, walking the streets.

‘Oh, I just walk around and do lots of head miles,’ he replied calmly. He put it down to a combination of schizophrenia and the drugs used to treat his condition. I can claim neither as contributing factors for my mental mileage.

Unfortunately I also cannot claim the same positive side-effect of doing lots of walking. The phenomenon has dried up quite a bit since the City to Surf although I have turned to cricket in an attempt to stay fit. That, and about a kilometre quick-march as part of my journey to work each day.

Having watched a great deal of the big game of cricket on a small box in recent years, I was clearly lured into a false sense of my own ability. In a team made up of much younger men, including my sons, it has been somewhat embarrassing to discover my body simply won’t cooperate.

During the first game, not only did I manage to go out to bat with my pads on the wrong legs, wearing left-handed batting gloves and with my helmet in an oddly sight-reducing position, but I pulled my ham string fielding in the slips.Read More »

Utterance passes 10,000 visits this year

Oh, I just noticed Utterance has clocked over 10,000 visits. Nice. It all started with a New Year’s Resolution to blog every day, something I haven’t managed to do, but almost.

My best effort was seven posts in one day, including three audio posts via mobile phone, all while participating in the 14km City to Surf. Have you ever tried to jog and type on Nokia E71 keyboard…

Anyway, we have a way to go in the year and lately I’ve been thinking of a little book of Utterance, maybe available around Christmas time. Some of the best of Utterance in a nice little real-book package… What do you think?

And some Utterance trivia, I posted a story about Masterchef and the seven deadly sins back in July and it continues to be one of my most popular postings. To date, more than 350 people have visited it directly, many in the past couple of weeks. Is it a fascination with Masterchef or sin? Not sure… If you missed it, check it out.

Masterchef’s seven sins; God’s endless forgiveness

Discovering why we do what we do and the guts to change

Most of us spend some time wondering why we do the things we do and not always finding answers.

There is an ancient Christian spiritual discipline that I know of as ‘examine’ in which the believer is encouraged to take time out during the day, consider the activities and emotions they have been experiencing, reflect on them with the assistance of God’s leading, and hopefully receive insight and awareness into why we do what we do.

This is in keeping with the Biblical imperative of 2 Corinthians 13:5 – ‘Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves…’

I am always fascinated when I find concessions to a deeper or spiritual life in unexpected places. Such as a marketing blog on the internet. While Seth Godin is not your usual marketing writer in any case, it was still a surprise to discover his recent blog ‘The places you go’ which I’ve quoted in part below:

‘Occasionally we encounter emotions at random. More often, we have no choice, because there’s something that needs to be done, or an event that impinges itself on us. But most often, we seek emotions out, find refuge in them, just as we walk into the living room or the den.

‘Stop for a second and reread that sentence, because it’s certainly controversial. I’m arguing that more often than not, we encounter fear or aggravation or delight because we seek it out, not because it’s thrust on us.

‘Why check your email every twenty minutes? It’s not because it needs checking. It’s because the checking puts us into a state we seek out. Why yell at the parking attendant with such gusto? Teaching him a lesson isn’t the point – no, in that moment, it’s what we want to do, it’s a room we choose to hang out in. It could be something as prosaic as getting involved in a flame war online every day, or checking your feeds at midnight or taking a shot or two before dinner. It’s not something you have to do, it’s something you choose to do, because going there takes your emotions to a place you’ve gotten used to, a place where you feel comfortable, even if it makes you unhappy.

‘…you realize that there are some [emotional] rooms you’re spending way too much time in, that these choices are taking away from your productivity or your happiness. Why are you going there again?

‘Every time you go to that room, you get unhappy, and so do we. Every time you go to that room, you spend more time than you expected, and it stresses out the rest of your day. Every time you go to that room you short-circuit the gifts you give to the rest of the team.

‘Once your habit becomes an addiction, it’s time to question why you get up from a room that was productive and happy, a place you were engaged, and walk down the hall to a room that does no one any good (least of all, you). Tracking your day and your emotions is a first step, but it takes more than that. It takes the guts to break some ingrained habits, ones that the people around you might even be depending on.’

Go for it Godin. This is the beatitudes of Jesus packaged in a 21st century medium and preached by a secular prophet.

‘You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.’ Matthew 5:8 The Message Bible

Social engagement not just for the few

Scott Stephens is probably a good bloke doing a hard job, as editor of ABC Online’s Religion and Ethics portal.

But his July 19 blog post pretty much wrote off any Christian that engaged in politics (except maybe those he agrees with) and was full of stereotyping, arrogance and perhaps a slight trace of envy.

We are all good at that, if we are honest, aren’t we? So lets pray for him as on balance it is a positive thing that such a forum exists and a Christian is the editor.

His post attacking the Australian Christian Lobby, and among other things, Hillsong, gave the impression that unless you are a trendy, left-wing intellectual who reads Eureka St you shouldn’t climb the ivory tower of social engagement for fear of embarrassment.

That’s a pity because what we really want to do is educate Christians about social engagement, for the sake of the gospel, and the best way to do that is for us all to have a go, get kicked in the head a few times, learn some lessons, grow in humility and wisdom, and keep going…

Check out my response to his post.

Are we missing the very frontline of faith?

The Australian community is engaged in an extremely active and vigorous debate about the reality of God and I’m not sure the church at large is even aware it is going on.

While we faithful pray in our services and gatherings that God would move in our land, we may be missing the very answer to those prayers. (Try and stay with me my atheist readers, I know your blood pressure just rose at the mention of answered prayer.)

One of the first signs of spiritual revival might well be that people are even thinking about first order issues such as the origins and nature of life, is there supernatural or spiritual reality or only a material universe, and if religious claims are true how do we deal with many apparent contradictions and problems.

These kinds of questions are often and vigorously debated mainly in online forums and often in response to an increasing number of articles in the media addressing these questions from one perspective or another.

I can assure you this was not the case 10 or 20 years ago when most Australians didn’t want to discuss faith at all and where apathy and materialism (in this sense of material gain) seemed far more important.Read More »

Utterance hits 6000, blogs top 110 million

Today Utterance ticked over 6001 hits, after my somewhat reckless New Year’s resolution to attempt to post every day.

Like most bloggers, once I got into the habit of regularly recording my thoughts for the benefit (or otherwise) of others, the issue becomes having too many things to say, and not enough time.

It’s interesting to consider that there are more than 110 million blogs in the world today but blogging only began in 1994, with one of the very first being  by Chicago-born Justin Hall, sometimes described as ‘the founding father of personal blogging.’ That’s some growth rate…

At the same time as blogging had its meteoric growth, the genre of creative non-fiction also increased rapidly in popularity and today is one of the most successful forms of literature.

Creative non-fiction is the presenting of substance in a literary style, or applying the technique of story to facts.

We all know instinctively that people love to tell and hear stories much more than be confronted with flat slabs of information. (How often have you found yourself re-telling a true-life illustration a preacher gave in a sermon, and not recalling much else?)

The idea is not new of course and the Gospel writers, if not inventing the genre, certainly perfected it as they told the factual story of Jesus’ life in a way that continues to compel, thousands of years later.

Would Jesus have blogged? Not likely, he gives his life and his Spirit, something much greater. But Matthew, Mark, Luke and John almost certainly would have been bloggers. Hopefully I do them justice. PH

PS. To celebrate 6000 + hits I’ve introduced a new theme for Utterance – quite a departure from the very neat and today theme I’ve been using. But then again, my life has got rather more loose ends than it had a few months ago, so it’s probably fitting!