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 »

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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

Chattering and tractoring classes worlds apart on election day

In the inner Sydney seat of Grandyler where I live we have as a choice of candidates, starting on the left:  two varieties of socialists, the Greens, a rare Democrat sighting, the sitting Labor member and a Liberal candidate who is so young that the picture of youths being sent off to war as canon-fodder comes to mind.

Compare this to, say, the rural NSW seat of Riverina and you have, starting at the right: One Nation,  Independent, Christian Democratic Party, Family First, Liberal Democrat, Nationals, Liberals, Labor and Greens although there may be some discussion as to the relative ‘rightness’ of some of these candidates.

In other words, we have remarkably different worlds just a few hundred kilometres apart. It’s a common divide between the city and the bush and grows wider with relative distance from major city CBDs.

While there are overlaps and exceptions, we would do well to understand and respect the differences in priority and perspective between the inner city ‘chattering classes’ and the rural ‘tractoring classes’. 

One lesson is that the Greens have taken a step up from being a minor party that falls into an organisational hole when elections drawn near. They are mobilised even in electorates where they have more chance of being mistaken for a vegetable than winning.

If parties such as the CDP or Family First aspire to real political influence they must find their support base, represent it powerfully and broadly and do the hard yards of political foot soldiering.

As for making sense of it all, an election article of mine has been published in Sight Magazine or visit my Australian Christian Voter blog to find a link and vote in an election day survey – what’s your tip for election day?

City to Surf audio posts here tomorrow

After walking and jogging a couple of hundred kilometres in the past few months, Jeremy and I are ready for the City to Surf tomorrow.

We’ll hop on the 440 bus just before 8am in time to join our exclusive back of the pack starting group in the city. Due to the large crowds expected to watch our special orange group, we won’t get away from the start line until about 9am.

But our times will be carefully synchronised thanks to the start of the art shoe lace chips we’ll be wearing so our spectacular times will not be interfered with.

For you, the listening public, we will phone in breaking news blog audio posts direct from the race. So watch this space tomorrow morning (not during church though…) for a starting summary, a mid-race review, and a eulogy at the end. Did I say eulogy? I meant wrap-up.

If you are watching on television (and checking out this blog at the same time of course) you will probably spot us, notable for our orange bibs, my Jesus Saves goalkeeping t-shirt (thanks Bek) and Jeremy’s huge stature. If you see an ambulance, that also may have something to do with us…

I know various other people completing the event and have decided to let them all beat me in the spirit of self-sacrifice. On the day, the City to Surf will be the winner…

My secret preparation tip was a carbohydrate-laden Pad See Ew, purchased on the way home from the Swans v  Hawks game, from official City to Surf Thai restaurant, Thai La Long. (I just made up the official bit.)

My other secret weapon was to work night shift last night and have just three hours sleep this morning as I plan to sleep through the last half of the race tomorrow so as not to notice the pain in my curly toe.

I know you don’t believe me about the curly toe but it’s the stuff of legend in my family and I have learned from my mother that she gets it too and so did my grandmother. We come from a line of curly toed people…

I have just realised my sleep deprivation may be becoming obvious in this posting so will say farewell and go upstairs to see if I can make out what Jo is singing in the shower. PH

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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!

One brain for double the information – every 18 months

Some years ago I heard it said that there was more information in a Saturday newspaper than a person from the 17th century would experience in a life time.

Now this from Seth Godin

‘Redoubling to system failure

Every 18 months for the last decade, the world has doubled the data it pushes to you.

Twice as much email, twice as many friend requests, twice as many sites to check, twice as many devices.

When does your mind lose the ability to keep up? Then what happens? Is it already happening?’

Seth is a champion of the inter-connectivity of the internet and technology – if he’s worried, we should take note. PH

Dynamic duo takes on City to Surf

Ten weeks out from the City to Surf fun run I have started my disciplined training schedule to ensure I finish the event alive…

Today, accompanied by son Jeremy, who also plans to take on the City to Surf, we walked the inner west’s very popular Bay Walk , or according to some signage, the Bay Run (but not in our case…).

This was our second training effort and was preceded on Monday by a complex scurrying around the back streets of Glebe, Camperdown, Annandale and Leichhardt to come up with a 6km track.

To prove that we are actually doing the training and not watching Lord of the Rings (in which the cast do all the walking and running) I deployed the Sports Tracker application on my E71. Imagine my delight when I discovered the GPS traces a lovely little map which can be saved as a picture file.

This may well be the most accurate map of the Bay Walk yet recorded and I would like you to note the straight line at the top right of the diagram which depicts us walking, with purpose, across the Iron Cove Bridge.

Read More »

New site to help Christian voters

The next Federal election is not far away and the key issues are more diverse and complex than ever.

Many Christians will be trying to discern what good voting looks like and also want to speak with faith, compassion and intelligence into the pressing issues facing our nation.

For this reason, Australian Christian Voter  has been launched to bring together in one place anything of relevance to Christian and other voters in the lead up to the election.

It includes links to lobby and social justice groups as well as political parties and candidates but because ACV is completely independent, it can summarise the most important news from all these sources and beyond.

And where ever possible, we’ll be sure to include the best of election humour…

Check it out now and save it in your favourites/bookmarks. When election fever strikes and campaign literature starts filling your letterbox, ACV may be just the help you need… PH

PS The ACV site is funded by some advertising through Google.

God drives the bus to his own defence

God gave a clue to his reality during our bus trip to the ‘In defence of God’ session of the Sydney Writer’s festival today (May 23).

Running late due to bus delays, we were worried about missing the session until our bus driver got lost in the Rocks and pulled over randomly to let us out – right in front of our destination, Sydney Theatre, instead of the actual bus stop two streets away! God is providential, generous and has a sense of humour…

As we gathered with the unfaithful – the session was chaired by an atheist and featured a lapsed Episcopalian – we found we had more in common with the other speaker, the Iranian-American author and scholar, Reza Aslan.

While Eric Lax, author of Faith Interrupted, lamented his fall from faith (I believe he’ll be back though), Aslan launched an attack against the new atheists. He described their behaviour as being as fundamentalist as some of the religious people they hate. He also reminded the audience that despite a century of violent secularism, the number of religious adherents  had risen from half to two thirds of the global population.

Aslan was challenged by a few questioners but was able to mount a good defence for God before the brief question section was wound up. He even began his talk by referring to the blogs that had questioned why an atheist, lapsed Episcopalian and Muslim were leading this session, with no Christian authors present. I take it from this, that he has read Utterance!

In the long run, however, there was inability of all panelists to consider a God who is a personal, tangible reality in our lives with the chair Louise Adler asking for a more concrete definition of faith and God. It wasn’t forthcoming and this was because no one had been invited to speak who actually believes in God this way. It was a timely reminder that atheists and agnostics are searching for something to lovingly but powerfully challenge their unbelief.

A good place to start might be to invite New York minister and author Timothy Keller to next year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival. In the meantime, read his book, The Reason For God – Belief in the age of Scepticism. PH

Listen to a short section of Reza Aslan’s defence of God:

Reza Aslan
Reza Aslan.mp3
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Political leaders to address Christians across the nation

If your ear is aching, it probably has more to do with a fast approaching federal election than the onset of winter.

But don’t give up now – it’s time to cut through the wordfest and consider seriously how Christians should act as the nation decides its immediate future. If you are passionate about issues ranging from R-rated games to refugees, millenium goals to marriage support – you need to keep your ears and eyes open!

An excellent opportunity to do this has been organised by Australian Christian Lobby who have confirmed June 21 as the date for the Make It Count election webcast. 

Make it Count 2010 will see Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott address Christians and answer questions from Christian leaders in a live webcast to churches throughout Australia from Canberra’s Old Parliament House.

A similar event held before the 2007 federal election saw John Howard and Kevin Rudd address 100,000 Christians meeting at 846 churches across Australia.

ALC hopes to triple those numbers in 2010 – to register your church visit  www.australiavotes.org . PH

Royal Non-Easter Show bans Jesus

The Bible Society NSW  has been excitedly informing churches about its Easter All About Life stall at the Sydney Royal Easter Show with more than 200 volunteers arranged and thousands of resources purchased.

Then news broke that the stall would not go ahead because it was of a ‘religious nature’ and so the Bible Society hurriedly organised to re-distribute the Easter eggs, tracts, and Scripture resources to churches and Christian organisations for use in their own Easter activities.

Bible Society NSW, organiser of the Jesus All About Life (JAAL) multimedia campaign, has expressed dismay at not being allowed to have a JAAL stall at the Show.

‘It’s a curious thing that an event bearing the name “Easter” has disallowed anything to do with the very thing Easter is all about – the death and resurrection of Jesus,’ says CEO of Bible Society NSW, Daniel Willis.

Curious indeed… Perhaps it is concern that if one religious group is allowed entry then the floodgates will open. Surely it would be possible to carefully monitor this without the need for outright bans.

Or perhaps it is that the focus is agriculture but if that is the reasoning, they should say goodbye to side-shows and other entertainment. Afterall, it is in the country areas of Australia where churches traditionally play such a huge part in community life so to keep them out of the show seems downright un-agricultural!

Maybe the right response of the church is to withdraw permission for the Royal Agricultural Society to use the word ‘Easter’ in the show’s name on the basis that it is not of a religious nature… PH – with thanks to Eternity newspaper for some details.

Off to Bali with strings in tune

Tomorrow I join a bunch of young people from our church community, and later from other churches, on a short trip to Bali where we partner with local people to run a very special children’s home.

We go with great humility to encourage, support, learn from and, hopefully, contribute to an awesome team of people – Indonesian and Australian – who make Eternity Blessed Children’s Home a reality.

We’ll take the kids to the beach; visit disadvantaged rural families; paint a wall; share in church; listen, laugh and cry with the workers and hopefully get a few moments to soak in the beauty of Bali. 

We are taking a guitar because music is a universal language and some of our team are gifted in this area. For years we’ve just tossed our acoustic in the back seat, no case, and never thought twice. Suddenly we realised this would not be good on a plane!Read More »

Hardware handshake

There are two competing hardware stores on opposite corners of Booth St, Annandale and I’ve always wondered how they survive in such a small shopping area and how they get along.

Both stores appear fiercely competitive for the passing trade and it would not have surprised me if their was animosity between the two. Afterall, hardware is serious business…

On January 2 as a I drove up Booth St, I saw salesmen from the opposing stores standing on their respective corners staring at each other.

Were they about to draw nail guns at 30 paces? Had one of them tipped over the other’s ladder display?

As I watched in the rear view mirror for hand gestures or ‘f’ words, I saw one of the men, clad in his shop colours, pace across the road, and, to my surprise, enjoy a hearty handshake with his counterpart, with not a flashing screwdriver in sight.

Good old Aussie mateship, in a small way like leaving the trenches in WWI to celebrate Christmas with the enemy.

Who said there’s no hope in the world?

What are you growing this year?

We grow what we feed. We feed what we see. We see what we choose.

Rediscovered roseI have a miniature rose in a pot in the front courtyard of our home. I had paid it little attention in the past 12 months until late October when I decided to move my tomato planting efforts to this same courtyard (inner city vegetable growing is a ‘particular’ art).

Each day as I watered, fertilised and generally yearned over my tomatoes, I would give a similar treatment to the random plants that happened to be in the same location.

The tomatoes plants duly bore fruit but what really surprised me was the literal revival in the other plants, especially the long neglected rose. It grew bushy and is now covered in about a dozen flowers.

Which illustrates well: we grow what we feed; we feed what we see; we see what we choose.

What will you see in 2010? Your choice. You may have something in the courtyard of your life waiting to flourish, but unnoticed.

Having seen it, how will you feed it? Your words, your prayers, your faith, your time, your action.

Having fed it, there is no question – it will grow. So make sure what you focus on and feed is the very will of God.

Strangely, my rose is flowering because I focused on the fruitfulness of my tomatoes and there was enough focus and feeding left over for something beautiful.

Follow the fruitful callings of God in your life and something beautiful will spring up in the midst. PH

Check out my full message on this theme titled “12”.