Unity and uniqueness

It’s good to stand together, prefer one another, consider others better, bear one another’s burdens, weep with those who weep and laugh with those who laugh. Re-digging the ancient wells of your father. It’s good to follow the narrow path, hear the call of God, use the gifts you have, make the most of the […]

Decisions, decisions…

 

Everything flows from decision.
You can’t fail to decide because even that is a decision.
Decisions are like seeds, they usually contain more than you imagine.
Decisions can be unmade but their consequences tend to have a life of their own.
At some point we should accept the consequences and get on with making new – and perhaps better – decisions.

 

sunrise, sky, colours, beauty

Walking forwards backwards or being really alive

Working on a project last week, I read a quote from an amazing Australian social reformer who should be better known to us than he is. Hopefully I can have a part in changing that shortly.

Anyway, he wrote that “most people move forward backwards”. The reason is that the future is “dark” in the sense that we cannot see one minute into the future (although we can imagine or project our ideas of what the future might be). On the other hand, the past is like a “blazing light” – we can see its details clearly and so although we may well feel we are moving forward, we do so with our eyes towards the “light” of the past.

But, he says, there are some people who move forward looking forward, watching carefully to see and embrace what emerges from the “dark” of the future. Something like watching the world take shape as night gives way to dawn.

These people, moving forward and looking forward, are those that are “truly alive”, he concludes.

I think we can convince and comfort ourselves we are moving forward when really in life there’s not much choice, as time and our beings go relentlessy where they haven’t been before, whether we like it or not. But are we looking forward.

It’s easy to step into the next thing life offers but have a good measure of our heart and at least one eye on something of the past that shines particularly brightly, even if it is the glistening of tears, or the rich glimmer of a golden time, or the sparkle of youthful innocence.

Move forward looking forward and save your best for what is and is to be. The past will take care of itself – which could be what Jesus meant when he gave the call to follow and said, ‘Let the dead bury the dead.’

I’m not saying it’s easy, or that I’m any good at it. But it makes sense, I reckon.

You Won’t Let Me lyrics tell an eternal story…

Written by Rachael Yamagata and Mike Viola, sung by The Voice Australia winner, Karise Eden, the new single You Won’t Let Me sounds strangely reminiscent of a song drifting down through time from Eden onwards,  from the Creator to the Created…

If you’d only let me
I could show you how to love
Take our time
Let it all go

If you’d only let me
I could show you how to cry
In your darkest hour
I would lead you through the fire

But you won’t let me
You won’t let me
I don’t wanna say goodbye
I just wanna give it one more try

And I’d do anything
Yes, I’d do anything
If you’d only let me

With your hand in mine
I would show you how to laugh
Nothing heavy, nothing serious
Just forget about all that

You’ve been stepping back
I wanna be your friend
Tear down the walls that surround you
And build you back up again

But you won’t let me
No you won’t let me
I don’t wanna say goodbye
I just wanna give it one more try

And I’d do anything
Yes, I’d do anything

So tonight stay with me
I know I can change your mind

But you won’t let me
No you won’t let me
I don’t wanna say goodbye
I just wanna give it one more try

I’d do anything for you
I’d do anything for you
But you won’t let me
No you won’t let me

You won’t let me.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

John Cleese’s favourite joke

Monty Python‘s fish slapping skit (below) was described by John Cleese, speaking on Seven’s Sunday Night program, as the silliest skit the comedy group ever did.

But when it came to the funniest joke, he offered this, towards the end of the interview:

‘How do you make God laugh? You tell him your plans…’

He was commenting about whether he would be married for a fourth time. In context, the joke suggests that we know so little about what will actually happen in our lives that to tell God what we are planning is hilarious.

But I guess you got it.

The dealings of grief and possibilities

‘The emotion of it was still strong. There was a bitterness in him that he continued to chew over as Digger did not. For Digger it had been one time of his life among others; a time, simply, that had laid hard responsibilities on him, but ones that were too deeply ingrained in his nature now for regret. He accepted them. He made no complaint.

‘For Vic the injustice that had been done to him was absolute, a thing he could not forgive. Some possibility had been killed in him then, and though he had found others and made what he could of them – that’s how he was; that was his nature, his character – that other possibility, the one that had been starved and beaten out of him, seemed especially precious.’ The Great World, David Malouf.

An old war veteran died today. Like all of them, Claude Stanley Choules no doubt had his own way of dealing with the grief of war.

‘He served in two wars but he hated war – he just saw it as a job,’ said his son Adrian. At 110 he had been the last remaining World War 1 combat veteran.

Incredible grief and loss is buried in the lives of many who have returned from war but also in many who have never been. Australian author David Malouf captures two of the dealings of pain, loss and grief. Does one or the other resonate with you?

Some of us integrate it and become something a little more, or perhaps a little less, than we might have been. Others are driven and cajoled by what might have been and never truly settle. Even achieving great other ‘possibilities’ does not assuage our sense of loss.

There is a Way that releases us so that now and not the past becomes the arena of living.

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 »

Justin finds his voice for justice

We’ve all had a chuckle or two at the Justin Bieber phenomenon and wondered how long it would last. I even thought of buying my son a Justin Bieber t-shirt as a tongue in cheek  joke.

But listening to the radio today I noticed someone crooning about closing their eyes to pray for a better day on behalf of those doing it tough. When the song credit was for Justin Bieber, I decided to have a closer look:

I just can’t sleep tonight,
Knowing that things ain’t right.
It’s in the papers, it’s on the TV,
It’s everywhere that I go.
Children are crying, soldiers are dying,
Some people don’t have a home.

Pre Chorus:
But I know there’s sunshine behind that rain,
I know there’s good times behind that pain (hey)
Can you tell me how I can make a change?

Chorus:
I close my eyes, and I can see a better day,
I close my eyes and pray.
I close my eyes and I can see a better day,
I close my eyes and pray.

When someone uses their fame to ask people to consider the needs of others, questions their own role in making a difference and encourages us to take time to pray, it deserves acknowledgement.

And to highlight the benefit that flows when popular culture turns its attention to serious issues, consider these comments on the Close My Eyes and Pray page on a popular lyric website:

‘every time i hear this song i cry and it is sooo sad and true im trying to change things too…‘ and
‘i think this song is very helpful to ppl out there because the first time i heard this song i cried…there’s so many ppl out there that don’t even care about the poor.so thank you justin for making this song.WE LOVE U!!!:)’
 
If you still aren’t sure, check out the YouTube clip and you may become a believer. Anyway, for what’s a worth, I’m a (kind of old) fan Biebs. I’ll be praying you don’t lose your way…

www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9tJW9MDs2M

For the complete lyrics, keep reading. Oh, and, find a moment to close your eyes and pray…

‘I’d have to say Jesus’

Sorry, this is a bite late, but in keeping with the hype about the latest Focker movie, a bit of God-spotting from the first movie in the franchise.

Kevin: [On who inspired him to be a wood worker] I’d have to say Jesus. He was a carpenter and I figured if you’re going to follow in somebody’s footsteps, why not the steps of our lord and savior?
Jack Byrnes: [Before Greg has a chance to respond] Greg’s Jewish.
Kevin: Really?
Greg Focker: Yeah.
[Jack smiles and nods]
Kevin: Well so was J.C….

Kevin (Owen Wilson) is back in Little Fockers but me fears he’s lost his way…

To find God and yet pursue

Love Liberty Disco
Image via Wikipedia

There are some days in which Love Liberty Disco is just the thing. Not quite sure why, certainly not the white suits on the cover. Perhaps it’s Peter Furler’s falsetto.

Helpful also to find a reference to AW Tozer’s The Pursuit of God in track one, Beautiful Sound: ‘To have found You and still be looking for You, it’s the “soul’s paradox of love”‘.

The original quote reads: ‘To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.’

Just let our hearts burn God, we are nothing but children.

Change comes from global action and the smallest deed

Millennium Development Goals
Image by jiadoldol via Flickr

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on world leaders to attend a summit in New York next week, to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, aimed at halving world poverty by 2015. Newly appointed Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, will be attending.

In the meantime, some good news from Britain today with these comments from British PM David Cameron in an article regarding the Pope’s visit:

‘The Holy See is a partner in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals, which will be discussed at United Nations headquarters in New York again next week. For our part, we are totally committed to meeting the UN target of spending 0.7 per cent of our national income on aid by 2013. And we want to ensure that the money we spend goes to those who need it most. Sustainable economic development is closely linked to political stability and security. A world in which there is a yawning gap between the rich and the poor will be more dangerous and less secure for all of us.’

Come on Jules and Kev, don’t let the Brits get the jump on us!

Meanwhile in the same article, which touches on the beatification of Cardinal Newman while the Pope is in the UK, David Cameron says: 

‘Cardinal Newman once said that one little deed, whether by someone who helps “to relieve the sick and needy” or someone who “forgives an enemy” evidences more true faith than could be shown by “the most fluent religious conversation” or “the most intimate knowledge of scripture”.’

Miner’s faith strong, 700 metres and 17 days beneath the earth

The Faith, sculpted in stone from Badajoz in 1...
'The Faith', sculpted by Luis Salvador Carmona in 1752-53. The veil represents 'not by sight, but by faith'. Image - Wikipedia

Quote of the week:

‘Dear Liliana, I’m well, thank God. I hope to get out soon. Have patience and faith. I haven’t stopped thinking about all of you for a single moment. I want to tell everyone that I’m good and we’ll surely come out okay. God is great and the help of my God is going to make it possible to leave this mine alive.’ Mario Gomez, 63.

Mario communicated these thoughts 17 days after being trapped 700 metres underground in a small room with 32 other men, knowing it would be weeks or months before rescuers would reach them. These are beliefs not lightly held…

The reality of God and the value of faith is often discussed in theoretical terms, as if life and death are not involved. But not for Mario and his friends. Seventeen days is plenty of time for an unreal pretense to have been stripped away. And yet faith in God has surfaced loud and clear.

Interestingly, Mario’s daughter made the following comments after hearing of the note from her father:

‘No-one will be able to take this happiness away from me… I’ve never felt anything like this in my life. It’s like being born again.’

Faith tends to have that result, whenever you encounter it… even for you, today.

Jesus is still a dangerous idea…

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
Image via Wikipedia

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas is on again at Sydney Opera House on October 2-3 covering everything from The Right is the New Left through to that most important of questions, Are All Men Fakes?

But before we take a closer a look at the festival (tomorrow), I recall discovering a dangerous idea when I was at university studying humanities back in the early eighties.

That was a time when Australia still had an active communist party and I think most of its members were either studying or lecturing in my course.

It might also explain why one of the subjects on offer was Studies in Rebellion and I was just rebellious enough to take it.

Then while most of my comrades where sliding to the left politically or dallying deeply into capitalism, I became a Christian and began volunteering in a soup kitchen.Read More »

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

Even men who think they’re Jesus respond to kindness

Came across this old song that first appeared on the Strawbs self-titled album in 1969 and was released as a single.

It reminds me of a few people I know and what I like most in the lyrics is the simple invitation of hospitality given to someone who is quite delusional. Kindness matters, even to Jesus.

Not sure about the pint of blood reference – maybe a beer too many. Oh, and the song was banned by the BBC… how times have changed.

The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
Dave Cousins

He came into the shop and looked me straight between the eyes
And said ‘You know I’m Jesus’, and I must have looked surprised
Because he said ‘Please don’t be hasty, no-one understands
But I’ve got a way to prove it’ and he lifted up his hands.

He was the man who called himself Jesus.

Read More »

Gretel, Gillard and ‘god’ in an age of convenient Christianity

Gretel Killeen is now a columnist for The Sun-Herald and, I believe, we did the same communications degree too long ago to remember. Known to most as the host of Big Brother for many years, she is actually an acclaimed author in various genres and did time as a stand up comic.

She counts her most important achievement as being a single mother to her two children and apparently believes in a small ‘g’ god, whatever that means.

Gretel made a fairly intelligent contribution in Sunday’s column to the commentary on Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s declaration of non-faith:

‘And despite the fact I do believe in a god, I’d like to give praise… to Prime Minister Julia Gillard for declaring her atheism last week. In a hypocritical world, it’s not uncommon for allegedly God-fearing politicians to treat the Ten Commandments as though they were a smorgasbord rather than a set meal, choosing their own custom-made combinations to both impress others and serve themselves. It’s therefore thrilling in this age of convenient Christianity to hear someone tell the truth on an issue that could actually lose them votes.’

If she was seen wearing sackcloth and ash and saying some of those things, especially ‘Ten Commandments as… smorgasbord’ and ‘impress others and serve themselves’ we might easily mistake her for Joan the Baptist.

It is possible (and not mutually exclusive) to respect the honesty of a Prime Minister and the measure of faith of a newspaper columnist while still earnestly praying that they would both encounter the living Jesus. PH

Julia learned Bible verses but formed different views

Faith in politics is much more on the agenda in Australia than it was a decade ago and so it is no wonder there has been intense interest as to the religious convictions, if any, of new Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Today she was directly questioned about religious faith and the future of the Christian vote in Australia during an interview on ABC Radio.

The Australian newspaper reports that Ms Gillard appeared to be ‘surprised’ when asked whether she believed in God and how she would court the Christian vote.

‘I’m not a religious person,’ Ms Gillard told the ABC, although she was quick to point out she had won a prize for learning Bible verses as a child in the Baptist Church. ‘I’ve, you know, found a different path.’

Read more of what she had to say at Australian Christian Voter.

Jesus making news for his leadership example

What would Jesus do? doesn’t always appear to be the question at the top of the list for politicians but businessman Lindsay Fox says it should be when it comes to leadership.

He’s advised Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to take a leaf out of Jesus Christ’s unwritten book of leadership and delegate some authority to his disciples.

Speaking on ABC Television today, the trucking boss, one of Australia’s most respected and richest business leaders, said Mr Rudd needed a lesson in delegating.

‘You have to delegate some authority [to ministers],’ Mr Fox said.

‘In the case of Jesus Christ, he had 12 disciples and those disciples carried his message long after he was gone.’

Not enough was being heard from Mr Rudd’s ‘disciples’, as his standing with voters tumbles in opinion polls.

‘You can’t run a government unless you’re a total democratic dictator and there’s only been a few of them in the world in the last 50 years,’ Mr Fox said.

While Mr Fox is correct in saying Jesus did not write down any of his leadership principles – making his success all the more impressive – his followers did record his words and actions.

They can be found in four eyewitness accounts, named after their authors, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If you are an inspiring leader, read them for yourself by clicking on the links or leave a comment asking for written copies, and I’ll get them to you. PH