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.

Entree to Transit of Venus: partial lunar eclipse on tonight (June 4)

Partial lunar eclipse in Sydney, June 4.

With all the Tranist of Venus excitement which occurs from about 8am June 6 (and then not again until 2117) there’s been little mention of the partial lunar eclipse occuring tonight.

The moon is passing through the eath’s shadow and will be mot affected at 9.03pm.

It’s a beautiful clear night in Sydney so step outside and see our collective shadow on the moon and pray for this mysterious round ball we call home.

More details here:

Oh, and the Tranist of Venus is June 5,6 and occurs when Venus crosses the sun.

More details here:

Holy relics travel the world and come home to see out their days

I bought them from a department store for a few dollars four years ago, not the coolest or the most expensive but they did the job.

They’ve flipped through the sand playfully and rested on tiles prayerfully with Bali’s beautiful peopleThey made an accidental appearance at Wimbledon, and may have suffered a dollop of warm cream from my strawberries.

A European summer was a fitting environment for these fine friends and not to be outdown by more practical measures

They tasted the dust of Rome’s ancient paths

Cooled in the light blue waters of Venician canalsStood beneath David’s marble features in Florence, dashing through the piazzas.

Not to be outdown by time and distance, they found their place in India’s complex culturesShopping for sarees on Commercial St, BangaloreA dash of tea near a St Thomas church on a steamy afternoon

The sands of Chennai clinging and the blood of the martyr as close as could be

And then there are the wonders of our broad landCarried along the in the far north during a Cape Tribulation stroll

The sounds of Italy and the smell of garlic down Leichhardt streets

windmill on a Brisbane hill looked down on my friends

The trams of Melbourne could not shake us apart

And many other places

But in the end, after taking eveything I could throw at them

Or even when I threw them at anything, many times

They have been undone by nothing more

Than the little cuts and grinds of wear and tear

And though my trust remains strong

My fellow travellers are approaching their last journey

And will abide as holy relics


Unless a tomato falls into the ground…

Lying forlornly in the dirt, like a yellowing tomb slit open, is the remains of an early season tomato from my garden that didn’t quite make it to the plate.

Sydney’s unseasonally damp summer has meant the vigorous tomato plant this specimen came from is long gone, afflicted by various diseases and my lack of care on occasions when life got too busy.

This shell-of-a-tomato was most likely not picked and taken inside for human consumption because it was marked or damaged or being eaten by a worm… In other words, it was rejected.

I know a Man who takes rejection, accusation and being cast aside and turns them into new life. He did it with his own life, saying, ‘unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone’.

February is late for growing tomatoes but no one mentioned this to my cast-aside tomato and without any assistance from myself, a veritable forest of tomato seedlings have emerged from their yellowing tomb.

With Sydney’s weather finally providing some sunshine and still plenty of rain, the young seedlings are thriving.

It’s not easy growing vegetables in an inner city town house. Pots are used, mainly, and these have to be carefully positioned to find sun and escape birds and the occasional visiting rat. (And Leroy our dog is known to occasionally pluck a tomato or strawberry for his own illegal consumption…)

It also means carrying pots and soil and shovels through the house to get to one courtyard or another, making an exercise such as repotting tomatoes a logistical challenge.

During the process I carried one of my new self-sown seedlings to another courtyard and realised I was carrying life in the palm of my hand. I also realised it was one of those ‘stock-photo-moments-of-hand-with-seedling-depicting-new-life’.

There is something about gardening that is renewing. Or perhaps the renewing comes first and then the energy to garden emerges. A bit of both I think.

As the cricket starts, and the sun bites, I’ve finished my little project and that pale shell of a tomato womb has birthed an array of seedlings, some already flowering, ready to greet the final month or so of summer warmth in Sydney.

There is not a soul among us who has not had at least a moment of being cast aside, left for dead, and lying in the dirt alone.

There is a God who showed himself as one of us, who placed  pictures of death and resurrection among us as reminders and who died an earthly death so he could share a heavenly life with many, many sons and daughters.

No doubt he is enjoying my tomatoey resurgence and if even one of these offspring is as productive as the original (bought from a stall at Leichhardt Public School fete), then we will enjoy a feast of home-grown tomatoes as the seasons approach change.

John 12:24


Would the real Jesus please not wear a robe?

SMH.TV has brought us another amazing documentary, this time about a man claiming to be the Messiah and living in the wilds of Siberia.

Vissarion, the Teacher, Jesus… wearing a flowing white robe, sitting on the side of a hill and teaching his followers, who also are wearing flowing white garments.

Vissarion’s real name is Sergey Anatolyevitch Torop who was born in 1961, served in the Russian Army, became a traffic policeman, before losing his job and becoming Christ.

In many ways Vissarion is reminiscent of our very own North Queensland Jesus, Allan John Miller who also lives in a remote location and is busy gathering followers and building utopia. Although Siberia looked quite warm in the video, I can only imagine Miller would be a better choice in winter…

It is interesting to see the faith of many who follow, and there is a certain sense of harmony apparent in the documentary, produced by a combination of the community’s music and the beautiful scenery.

But with the benefit of distance, there is also strong sense of religiosity, stifling spiritual deception and a shallow confusion of thought.

One thing we know, both Miller and Torop can’t be right – one of them is an imposter, or more obviously both.

Jesus, of the New Testament, warned that many would claim to be him, but not to run after them. He can be found, right where you are.

Watch Jesus of Siberia
Wikipedia’s bio of Vissarion

Urban neighbours bring hope, Jesus style

“It’s a fair bet that if Jesus Christ were around today, he’d be doing what the Owens are doing in Mount Druitt. They feed the poor and house the homeless. They lead the lost and counsel the conflicted.”

So writes Tim Elliot in a Sydney Magazine article about Urban Neighbourhood of Hope couple, Lisa and Jon Owen. It shows that culturally we still know instinctively what Jesus is like and that we want to celebrate it when we see it on display.

“They’re experts at unconditional love: alcoholic mums, runaway kids, petty thieves, everyone’s welcome at the Owens’ home, a four-bedroom brick house that for the past five years has been equal parts street kitchen and safe house, as well as a home for their daughters Kshama, 8, and Kiera, 7.”

Tim Elliott’s article explains: “Jon and Lisa Owen belong to a small Christian order called Urban Neighbours of Hope. Formed in Melbourne in 1993, UNOH’s mission is to relieve urban poverty by embedding volunteers in disadvantaged communities. UNOH workers take what amounts to a vow of poverty, surviving on an income from the organisation that is capped at the local poverty line, the idea being that they can better identify with their neighbours’ circumstances.”

More info and opportunity to give to UNOH

Melissa, it’s not finished yet

I remember clearly standing here in the torrential rain, as we lowered your body into the ground to be buried and baptised at the same time.
The bottomless ache and overwhelming senselessness were disregarded by a deluge somehow fitting for an ill-begotten time.
We still remember, we still seek justice and I still fight murderers in my sleep. One day they will be vanquished. Until then…
Rest in His peace

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.

Perry perched on precipice of prayer

Rick Perry
Rick Perry

You’ll hear more and more about Rick Perry in coming days and most of it will be bad. Not to say that he is bad, but being a conservative Christian who is demonstrative about his faith and running for US president ensures he’ll get plenty of bad press. Maybe he deserves it, but don’t believe everything you read.

American politics is complex, polarised and confrontational with far less political correctness than is present in Australia. Australians would find it hard to even imagine a character like Perry surviving anywhere except on the very fringes of Australian politics, and yet he is emerging as a genuine presidential contender. It would be like Fred Nile being a strong contender for Australian Prime Minister… not likely, no hard feelings Fred.

But is his faith genuine, heartfelt, intelligent – giving genuine moral and spiritual impetus to his personal and public life? The secular media won’t even consider such questions. They’ve already stereotyped him as someone to dismiss. Perhaps we’ll join them, but there could be more to him than that.

I’m going to keep an eye on him, and to begin with, check out this thoughtful article from Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in The Atlantic.

Is Rick Perry as Christian as he thinks he is?

And while you’re at it, you might want to think about this call to prayer Perry sent to other governors before his controversial August 6 prayer breakfast:

“I sincerely hope you’ll join me in Houston on August 6th and take your place in Reliant Stadium with praying people asking God’s forgiveness, wisdom and provision for our state and nation. There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.

Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.”

What do you think?

Philanthropy as a catalyst for meaningful change: Royal couple

If actions display priorities, then the choice of the first official event attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge says a lot.

William and Kate attended a star-studded charity dinner for Ark – Absolute Return for Kids as their first official engagement since their wedding.

While what the duchess wore captured the usual attention (“a shimmering nude gown by Jenny Packham”) it was the sentiment that took them to the Ark Gala that captured mine.

The duke announced a joint venture between Ark and the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry.

Prince William said he, his wife and brother wanted to use philanthropy as a “catalyst for meaningful change”.

Ark sponsors academy schools in the UK and programmes for disadvantaged children around the world.

Acknowledging the privileged education and upbringing he enjoyed, the Duke of Cambridge said, “So many young people do not have these advantages and as a result can lack the confidence and knowledge to realise their full potential.”

This comment carries forward the theme of the sermon preached at the Royal couple’s wedding: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

Read More »

Margaret gets straight to the big issue

I’ve been buying The Big Issue on and off for a while and more recently have bought it twice from the vendor in Central Railway Pedestrian Tunnel who once welcomed me as a good-looking second-row forward. I’m still trying to work out if that was a compliment or otherwise.

The Big Issue is ‘an independent current affairs and entertainment magazine sold in towns and cities throughout Australia by people experiencing homelessness and/or long-term unemployment’. Vendors are full trained and make $2.50 from each magazine they sell.

Coincidentally I often walk past The Big Issue office on Regent St near Redfern on my way to work. On the other side of the street, a little terrace house is headquarters for the Rational Association of NSW which still sells back-copies of the no-longer published The Rationalist News. In a very quaint and 18th century manner, it seeks to debunk Jesus, among other things. I’ve not bought any copies of this publication.

I genuinely enjoy reading The Big Issue and have the added bonus of knowing I’ve contributed in a small way to someone who has done it tough but is doing what they can to make a go of life. And I don’t just mean selling The Big Issue. Usually the selling is accompanied by many conversations, jokes and smiles that come for free.

In the January 4-17 issue, on the Street Sheet page, Margaret, who sells The Big Issue in Melbourne, contributed these words:

‘Some things in life are uncertain, but several things I know for sure. The sun comes up every morning and sets every night. There are 24 hours in a day, and 60 minutes in and hour. Time and tide wait for no man. Every day wasted is a day lost forever. You only have once chance to fill a day and when that day is over it can never be repeated. It is lost to eternity. I know with total assurance that God in heaven is looking down on mankind with love, grace and mercy, and drawing people to himself. I know that Jesus Christ died on a cross and he was the once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of mankind, and he was raised from the grave three days later an as a result of this his followers are also raised from the dead and got to heaven when they die.’

Thanks Margaret, what more can I say.

266 successes or 99 failures?

On January 1, 2010 I boldly proclaimed on Utterance my new year’s resolution to post to the blog daily throughout the year.
Now that we have inexorably made our way to the last day of the year, the handy WordPress stats tell me I’ve posted (from memory as I’m writing this from my non-stats accessible phone) 266 times, 99 short of my goal.
Depending on my point of view I could view this as 266 successes or 99 failures. As a perfectionist (who nevertheless has had a fair amount of perfectionism, or perhaps idealism, thrashed out of him this year) I would be inclined to fixate on the 99 missing blog posts. On the other hand, I find myself glad to still have something to say.
I reckon most of us could look back and see some kind of balance of good and not so good days; happy and not so happy experiences; rational and not so rational thoughts – apply this to every other aspect of life.
The choice now is on what we will we build the new year – 99 failures or 266 successes. Maybe you can’t find that many successes but even if there is just one, you could add to it be choosing it as your building block for 2011. One success plus God plus you may just be enough for the best year of your life!
There are no Utterance new year’s resolutions this time around – let’s just see what happens. Happy New Year…

True or feel, right or real

In life, some of us more than others, some more than me, do not carefully plan to speak the truth, but rather cannot help but speak what they feel.
And what they feel is always the truth in that it is real, although not always right.
Anyone of us who always insists on being right will not hear those being real and in the end, will be no more successful at being right.
Those speaking what they feel will suffer longer if they cannot in turn allow their feelings to be tempered by what is right. For example, righteous anger can only be righteous for so long, before it becomes hatred. In our feelings, as real as they maybe, we sometimes need to be led by someone who is right. But you can only lead, or be led, when there is mutual respect. And respect usually comes from a deep hearing of another.
As for truth that encompasses realness of feeling and rightness of knowing, it is not abstractly known in our universe but is personally discovered in the One whose feelings are always right and real and words always true.
Which is why we find such a home, such comfort in Jesus, who knows us, hears us, is not afraid of our feelings, is not in need of correcting us, who truly respects us and covers us in righteousness by grace as he leads us into truth.
So as you listen to people today, are they trying to be right or are they just being real? The right ears will help you understand.

A silence that leads to nails through hands

It’s hard having a Saviour who remained silent and weaponless even though he knew it would end with nails through his limbs.
Instead of raising his voice and his might in vindication he quietly accepted crucifixion.
Instead of shouting ‘you’re to blame!’ he whisphered ‘Father forgive them’. When he could have denounced them with ‘You are all wrong!’ he excused them with ‘they know not what they do’. Rather than marshalling his forces for a devastating counter attack, he quietly committed his spirit into his Father’s hands. What do you do with a Saviour like that?
Not that I think for a moment that the anguish I’ve experienced or the worthiness of my cause is anything to compare. My anguish and worthiness are nothing. If you think I think I’m somehow Jesus in my own story and others are Judas and Pilate and Pharisees and soldiers, then you don’t know me at all.
The real problem is that we are all so much more these others than we are Jesus. We are all the betrayers, spectators, legislators and perpetrators. It’s when we forget this and place ourselves above another that the crucifying begins.
Still, it may be that we can find some comfort in discovering how Jesus bore his infinetely greater pain while being infinetely more worthy. There truly is some comfort, but mainly a crushing, overwhelming worship when we realise how far removed from his level we really are. In such a place it should be hard to do others harm. Should be.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Jesus’ example is his awareness of other’s suffering in the midst of his own. He was not nurturing his own pain to the exclusion of others nor pretending all was well.
‘John, here is your mother…’ He tends to the wounds of others while no one can tend to his.
He recognised that his suffering would be shared by others but was also humble and selfless enough to want God to work good in it.
And yes, of course, there was resurrection, but I don’t recall an angel flitting down and glibly mentioning this when nails and thorns and spears pierced him. Rather the skies grew suitably and ominously black, divine acknowledgment and truth telling on display. But yes, on another day, resurrection. Bring it on.

Light at the end of the tunnel and inside as well

We’ve all heard the saying ‘there’s light at the end of the tunnel.’ I certainly hope that is the case for you right now.

But many of the tunnels we drive through are lit throughout which kind of messes with the metaphor.

And it raises for me a seriously important question, one that first came to me while driving through a brightly lit tunnel under the edge of Parliament House in Canberra last Friday night.

Why do we light road tunnels at night? It’s dark outside so why can’t it be dark in the tunnel?

See, I’m on to the really big issues now. Next it will be why is it that when people get on the bus they will seek out the empty seat until you have 40 people sitting alone on double seats.

The next person who gets on is so confused that there are no empty seats, that they’d have to sit next to someone, that they stand up and look miserable.

Mmmm, I’m on fire tonight.

Lawyers, trivia and how the world was won

I woke up to a radio interview with a celebrity lawyer saying how he would have loved to defend Jesus in his crucixion trial.

The lawyer went on to say he would have gotsuccessfully defended Jesus and that Jesus was a great philosopher and reforming rabbi who had less to do with Christianity than Paul.

It was Paul, the lawyer continued, who had turned following Jesus into separate religion rather than a Jewish sect.

Objection your Honour, I said in my groggy head. Paul was a religious Jew who initially opposed followers of Jesus visciously before a dramatic change saw him become the foremost follower of Christ. Something more than philosophy going on here I think…
As if to underscore my thinking, I was walking to the bus half an hour later when I saw a discarded card from a trivia game lying on the footpath. For some trivial reason I felt compelled to pick it up.

The fourth question read, ‘Who wrote two famous letters to the Corinthians?’ I think you can guess the answer. Something more than trivia going on here I think…

And for you trivia buffs, here are the rest of the questions:

What city did the Mormons establish as their headquarters in 1847?

What movie told of Anna Anderson’s claim to be a Russian czar’s daughter?

What daughter of Czar Nicholas II is said to have escaped death in the Russian revolution?

What does copra come from?

Who were the only two Australian boxers to be world champions at the same time?

Use comments for answers…

View from Bondi

Two buses and half a develoment day later and I’m enjoying a few moments gazing across the beach at Bondi.
One man wears a hooded dressing gown, towel wrapped around underneath, speedos in hand.
Two Asian tourists sit on a low brick fence, drinking water and chatting happily.
Three ancient mariners have plodded their way up from the beach where the salt water was good for their splotchy legs. Four dog paws pad past, with a slight sway in my direction for a closer look.
Five green-shirted girls learn to surf, first on the sand, then with their blue-shirted instructor in the surf.
Six minutes until I’ve got to be back discussing culture, climate and case scenarios. Sevens white-topped waves roll in to say goodbye.

Rainbow on Broadway, Sydney

Someone recently told me God would kill me in a flood. The rainbow reminds me God has promised to never again judge the world punishable by flood. Not even me. To the contrary, he finished all earthly punishment on a Roman cross 2000 years ago, his Son the subsitutionary bearer. As we know, there are still floods and many painful things, but these are the result of a groaning disharmony in creation.
Death by flood, burning Korans, suicide bombs – these are not God’s way of dealing with us. Rainbows are…