There's an inspirational title, formulated with every ounce of creative impulse within me...
So part II of our Simple Life series went off OK on Sunday. Got to speak on the Parable of the Rich Fool. Seemed to go OK. It is a personal topic for people hitting the whole attitude to stuff. It certainly seemed to be appreciated by some. Ryan Gerten led worship for the first time since he joined us and did a great job. Now that Ryan and Angele have actually settled properly in Auckland they are getting the chance to contribute more fully. Its going well.
This week is one of those weeks that I dread just a bit - I get squeezed in between 2 meetings that are infrequent but time consuming - and they both fall this week. In both cases I feel like the meetings are going to be time wasters as well - one because the group that has been formed (Willow Creek Global Summit) really doesn't have a job to do on an ongoing basis; the other because try as I might I can't get people to focus clearly on what is really important going forward other than on the day of the meeting. That of course leaves no time to do the really important stuff that requires preparation. It is improving, but too slowly for my taste.
Finally, a recent post on Frank's Blog asks the question of whether we need to be focusing more closely on equipping our teens with life skills that allow them to live Jesus with their non Christian friends rather than simply live life in a Christian ghetto. It strikes me that the question may be more fundamental even than that! How do we help adults do the same thing?! One thought I've been pondering relates to how we raise our kids to know God. I've been challenged by conversations with a new person in our cell group who has a distant background as a Missionary kid. She talks about how she was raised to pray to this God who would protect her, bless her and make everything turn out OK. And yet. For her it didn't. Now I know the theology of all that, but my question is this: how do we raise our kids in an environment that will prepare them for the realities of life. Sometimes when I pray for Rhys I catch myself praying for "the good life". Well that might not be his lot. What if his father dies at age 50? What if his first wife divorces him? What if his second wife dies of cancer? How will he make sense of that if his knowledge of a loving and providing God doesn't also extend to an understanding of the brutality of life? And how do you tell a kid that s*** happens without creating a cynical adult?
In Christian education, we tell kids stories from the Bible that are profoundly disturbing but we take those bits out. So Noah and the Ark becomes a story about cute animals rather than the death of pretty much the entire human race. What does a teenager do with that story when challenged to speak their faith? All they have is this slightly embarassing memory of a "fairy story" about animals that turned out to be so much more difficult to engage as an adult. Do they hide the story away from their non Christian friends and force their faith into the background at the same time?
I actually asked this question once of kids workers at ECW. I didn't get an answer. Food for thought.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
There's an inspirational title, formulated with every ounce of creative impulse within me...
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
In every household there are traditions and moments of great expectation. These times become ritual venues for family bonding. There is a rhythm and significance with these events lost to most outsiders and yet there is laughter, there are tears...
In our house one of these traditions is the arrival of the "Care Package". Regular visitors leaving for NZ from the US are confronted at the GR airport by a wild eyed woman wielding a bulging suitcase and accompanied by a tired looking man in bike pants. Deftly, she pins a list of the said contents to the unsuspecting traveller’s shirt front and departs. The long suffering baggage boy leaves with her, nodding empathetically, dreaming of bush-clad NZ hills, perfect for his masochistic cycling fetish.
And now by popular request - we have one of those lists, with commentary available for all to see:
> Peanut Butter – now I’m a fan of peanut butter, but there are 2 issues here for me: we have it here in NZ! In shops (translation: stores)! I am told by my wife however that it doesn’t taste as good – this is a euphemism for: “it’s not as processed here” which is a recurring culinary theme in our household. The second issue is the brand name of this peanut butter: “Jif”…in New Zealand Jif is an abrasive household cleaner ("cleans and shines without harsh scratching") used for cleaning bathroom surfaces – I’ve tried the Jif and it doesn’t clean as well as the NZ alternative, however the aroma was unique – is anyone else up for peanut butter flavoured householder cleansers? What about roast beef? Or chocolate?
> Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – Speaking of chocolate and peanut butter brings me to this item. This is a peculiarly American phenomenon – this is how the people (mother in laws excluded) get so big over there. You take the 2 most calorific and addictive substances known to man (apart from the garlic aioli at Burger Fuel) and combine them! Instant heart attack! I’m not sure whether to offer thanks for feeding my addiction or run another 10km…actually that’s a lie: I didn’t run the 10km in the first place
> Plastic Bags – for NZ readers I need you to imagine this substance called plastic – its like glass, except its soft and pliable. You can see things through it but not as well as glass. It can be made into bags and is excellent for storing food. Apparently they were on sale.
> French Dressing – I really don’t get this one – Americans, like Kiwis, dislike the french*. So why include multiple bottles of a dressing of french origin in such a package? The answer lies in the question: its not really french. Its actually a deeply ironic jab at the french – no frenchie worth his salt and pepper would label this french dressing – its texture and taste resemble a slightly orange tomato sauce. It tastes great but its major redeeming feature lies in the knowledge that every time you consume this over-processed product you are undermining centuries of arrogant french haute cuisine! (* yes the lower case “f” was intentional)
> Liptons Onion Soup – for NZ readers I need you to imagine this substance called soup…alright, enough of the sarcasm. Apparently onion soup in NZ tastes different. It must be the ozone layer.
> Boxes - Then there’s the array of boxed ingredients – “it tastes better from a box” for those homebaking moments! Bisquick, to make biscuits which are really scones + cake, muffin and brownie mixes!
> Inside Out - My personal favourite is the stovetop stuffing mix – Yes, this is the stuffing that never sees the inside of a bird! For the serious stuffing lover, now you get to eat as much stuffing as you want – how about a little chicken with that stuffing?! Hey, forget the chicken! It’s quicker just to cook the “stuffing”!
> Finally, I would be negligent in not mentioning the clothing items that are so generously supplied for me! Last time for example I received a very well chosen shirt in one of my fave colours, black (black is the new black you know). But I have noticed how many of the items are branded “Michigan” or some variation thereof – maybe its just me, but I can’t help but think its to remind me that I mercilessly uprooted their daughter from her country of birth and whisked her away to a primitive colonial frontier…I wear them a lot anyway!
Care Packages: where would we be without them? Hmmm, a bad line - we wouldn't be in NZ would we?
Posted by BJ at 10:23 AM
Saturday, July 16, 2005
"Its the small things that count," he breathed in cliched contentment.
Rhys is down for the night - going for a record 4 nights in a row where he sleeps through till morning.
Somehow an appearance was made at the gym - it was a small workout. But the scales revealed a smaller weight that expected, a small victory for somewhat better eating.
We made pizza tonight.
Good times meeting with people yesterday one-on-one and at cell group.
Big day tomorrow - cell leader training most of the day, followed by core team meeting. Then dinner with friends.
Time to sleep. But one thought thats been chasing round my brain today:
It seems the London bombers were British citizens. That makes a difference. Obviously psychologically for the Brits. But also in law. If they had survived to go to trial they would have been charged with treason along with murder etc. Their acts were different in kind to the 9/11 deal. So, this is a new development for the world: citizens who will die for their beliefs (religious and political) and in doing so kill others from their own country. Not so much an act of war, as a treasonous protest. One assumes that where Britain is concerned this relates to their involvement in the Iraq war. I know Britain does not have a clean record in terms of involvement in the middle east historically, but I assume its recent events that have made them a target. But here, we have what is essentially a protest against foreign policy. Or is it not distinguishable from 9/11? Footsoldiers in a politically motivated, religiously fulled fanaticism that transcends national allegiences?
Posted by BJ at 12:03 AM
Thursday, July 14, 2005
I think I could be a reincarnation of Jerry Seinfeld. Apart from the fact that is that he is not dead, so I guess I can't be an actual reincarnation. And that I don't believe in reincarnation.
Leaving those minor issues aside, I think I might be...Jerry...or at worst George.
This fact was pointed out to me on Sunday night by a friend Dawn who was staying with us. It all started with me not grabbing dinner before church and then needing to drop Scott and Brian off at their place of abode...so I thought I'd find some food on the way home as I tuned into the Green Room [there's nothing I love more than tuning into the Green Room after a 13 hour day at church ;)]. Everything was closed except the drive through.
I hate drive through. Its the pressure. You barely have the time to read the menu and they want your order. The cars stack up behind you revving their engines in a feral way. Its impossible to hear the server and I fear deeply they'll get my order wrong. But you can hardly check the bag before driving off with all those cars salivating behind you. And then if you wait till you have driven off and its wrong you can't reverse...you have to go back through the drive through and start again. Including explaining to a person who obviously didn't hear you right the first time that they got your order wrong. Not to mention the passing over of the cash especially the passing back of change - what if I drop it? You've parked so close to the window (to avoid dropping the change) that you can't get the door open fully to pick it up. Its altogether an unpleasant experience. Even if someone else is driving, I won't order - I mean, yelling your order from the backseat is dangerous anyway, and I'm not sure I want to rely on the driver to get it right. So I avoid drive through. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
Anyway as its Seinfeld awareness day, I wondered if I was the only one out there?
A good day yesterday. Caught up with the Breakfast Club boys in the morning. Had staff meeting with Ryan and Angele. Coffeed with Rhett (who unknowingly inspired another Seinfeld moment with his strawberry, cream, soy latte, de caf "coffee"). Our cell had an outreach dinner - an "umu" - a Samoan earth oven where the food is cooked on hot stones. The fare included: a huge pig, fish, potatoes, kumara (sweet potato), taro (a starchy root vegetable), banana. It was pretty cool.
Anyways, time to hit the day.
Posted by BJ at 7:26 AM
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
I've had cause to consider this issue just recently noting the blogging habits and styles of others compared to my meagre offerings. I have friends who blog on issues, something I only rarely do. Others who ponder events and issues in their lives. Some comment on blogs but have no blog to call home. Still others who link to anything and everything as a kind of information hub (saves me doing it). N8 posed the question recently on his blog as he recommitted to continue his own anarchic ponderings. On the downside, Roach departed this blogging life back in June.
Psychologist John Grohol notes in his piece "Pyschology of Weblogs":
The reality is that blogging has left the world of "interesting feature used by a few" to become a widespread tool used by many for many different purposes. The uniqueness which was once a characterization of bloggers is gone. Some bloggers write incredibly compelling entries on a daily basis. Other bloggers write incredibly idiotic and brain-dead entries on a yearly basis. Where's the common thread?
And then there's those that write the latter with the proclivity of the former...
For me its about communication with myself, God and friends. Its not quite the tool that journaling is - there is much more censorship (thank goodness many of you think). But it is a way to stay connected to the activity of people's lives and self reflect on what God is revealing.
Why do YOU blog? Why are you reading THIS blog?
The issue of blog etiquette is another thought I've been having. There is a tendency to hide behind the "anonymity" of a blog identity, especially when commenting on another's site. I suppose if you enable comments you open yourself to whatever is going. But, sometimes I observe less manners in the blogging world than in real life. Actually I may even have commented irreverently myself on occasion...
A related issue is the need to be "right". Often the debate that occurs on blogs is less about unravelling truth and more about persuasian to a point of view. It doesn't take much for the debate to descend into the personal realm. An example which implicitly asks the question: "why blog" occurred recently. A friend, writing on the consequences of the London bombing, omitted to note a personal response to the tragedy itself. A comment then noted the omission (the clear impression I gained was that this was a crude attempt to negate the person's political/social views with which he disagreed - of course I have the right to be wrong...). Other bloggers noted the perceived slight. The response? No apology (not even for offence caused rather than intended), just a further justification and a comment to the effect: that the blog entry did not seem complete without the omission...now that was really interesting to me: are our blogs supposed to conform to some objective rules before they are "complete". The casual nature of blogging leaves us very open to the charge that our opinions are shallow and unsubstantiated...but I suppose if we wanted to write academically, we would (and indeed some do along with those who think they do). The point I am really making is this: is blogging really about the open exchange of information or the construction of ego? Probably both. You need to know how great I am.
Anyways, as usual no conclusions, so its about time I ended with some pithy and slightly cyncial witticism that expresses my intellect and yet humourously masks the fact I have nothing to say...
Posted by BJ at 10:48 AM
Monday, July 11, 2005
Man, I was so pleased to fall into bed last night! It has been a bussssy three days! It goes something like this:
> Friday - Writing my final essay on the incarnation, making up for time lost sitting in the Immigration office on Thursday...it was due in by 11.55pm Friday (by email) - I mailed it in early at 10.15pm...I really enjoyed the learning that came out of this and gained a whole new appreciation for the significance of Christ's humanity and divinity.
> Same night our friend Dawn, and her friend Bridgit arrive from the US via Australia - that results in an obligatory early morning bed time! Lots of rerun stories concerning racoons, slow sisters and acting like Sabre...
> Saturday includes meeting a couple new at church in the morning (that was fun), conducting a wedding & going to the reception in the afternoon (a cool couple, very much in love) and then heading to the final All Black v Lions game in the evening, live on the BIG screen at the cinema! Someone gave us tickets - nice huh? Hot dogs and beer in the price. I'm not sure if Kristen enjoyed it - she did tell me that she enjoyed the 10 minute nap she took at one stage...
> Sunday morning starts at 5.30am heading to the airport to pick up Scott and Brian also visiting from the US (I have been to the airport 5 times in the past 2 weeks)
> I'm on team at ECW, which is a mixed experience - the team is making progress but sometimes I despair at their ability to concentrate long enough to execute what we practice...
> Then its ECW worship practice which goes well apart from someone taking my keys home which mean I can't get the car home for Kristen who is going to some ballet recital or something - so I get a lift home and then take her over in my car...the blood pressure is rising...
> Then I head out to deepest darkest Mangere to serve Communion to the newly married couple (at the last minute the church they were using wouldn't let them take communion as part of the ceremony unless they included everyone). I have Rhys with me which is fun. I can't find the house. I knock at one wrong address, finally find the right one, and there's no one there. Still, its a scenic hour taking in the sights and sounds of rusted out wrecks, large metal gates, bizarre colour schemes and more dogs than you can shake a stick at...
> I sit down for 20 minutes to watch the Warriors lose by 2 points and then head to cession. We do a Worship Stations thingie which is way cool and seems to touch many people - good numbers too. Dawn and Bridgit come. Praying that God reached them in some way.
> Drop Scott and Brian at where they're staying. Come home have some dinner. Catch a bit of the Green Room, Frank's show, watch a bit of Aussie v England cricket and then crash.
As I said, a busy time - nothing deep or profound learned. Sorry if you read this thinking there might be! Its just me unwinding...
Back to terrorism, you can read Frank's take on the emergence of police states in the US and Britain. In my comment I cite this article which puts the British situation into some perspective? For my part a police state is not about the removal of freedoms per se but about the underlying political system. You don't have a true police state until you lose the ability to change the government. But it is valid to debate the tension between lawas that protect freedoms and laws that protect society from external (internal?) threats. In the words of Spock aptly post scripted by James Tiberius Kirk: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...or the one." Now there's an out of context quote!
Posted by BJ at 7:53 AM
Friday, July 08, 2005
Yesterday marked a victory for us: Kristen's immigration situation was legalised. So when we hear that knock on the door at 7am, we know its not the Immigration authorities arriving to deport her. It all happened rather quickly - the phone rings @ 7.45am - can we come in for an interview? Yup, we sure can, with requested documents in hand (we needed to prove we are still happily married...) An hour later we left with a brand new Visa in Kristen's passport. A big relief. Safe at last.
Not sure how this will play out now with the hospital bill, but we are pretty sure our local member of parliament got the immigration thing moving so we're hopeful of the same result with ADHB! There's safety in numbers.
Then the day ended with the first reports from London's morning terrorist attack. I'm not one to bandy around jingoistic terms lightly - there are many who in the past have been labelled terrorists when another point of view might label them "freedom fighters". I'm afraid my tolerance ends though at the point when people attack civilian targets (and yes I know the Brits bombed Dresden in WWII) when a state of war has not been declared between sovereign states. I know for some the splitting of hairs is not an issue: terrorism is terrorism. I guess the nationality and sympathies of these terrorists will come out in due course - apparently there is already a group with Al Quaeda links claiming responsibility. But terrorism comes in many forms - remember the French governments bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in NZ waters? (not that I'm suggesting the London bombing is a French reprisal for the 2012 Olympic venue decision of the IOC).
And I hope Blair and Bush stay the course in Iraq now that they're there. The foreign forces in Iraq are not terrorists or even imperialists. Maybe it wasn't their fight and there are questions to be asked about motives. But now that civilian government is being restored in Iraq it needs to be supported through to relative stability. Even fellow Muslims are fair game for terrorists in that country - witness the Egyptian ambassador. And it wouldn't do for people to wait for Saddam to die of a Dorito overdose...
I guess safety is relative...
Posted by BJ at 10:20 AM
Monday, July 04, 2005
Ever since I traded in my lawyer's robes for a pastor's cassock...actually I was being metaphorical: they phased the robes out towards the end of my time...I was saying, ever since that time, I have know God's provision in a miraculous way. For example, last year we received an anonymous bank cheque for $500 right before my car got stolen - it covered the excess for us. God finds a way to demonstrate his great love and faithfulness to us.
So this week some cool things happened. First, our friend Jean asked us over for dinner. Actually, it all started with Jean drawing me aside all serious to tell me something - I'm thinking "oh no, something's wrong!" Turns out she just wanted to say thanks for the way she had found a home as part of the cessioncommunity. So she invites us over to dinner on Saturday night for this awesome feast...I can't even begin to describe the variety and flavour! Through Jean's offering of friendship I also experienced God's care and encouragement.
Then there's Amie, new to the community - she self-describes herself as flirting with or dating God. She's come to our cell group twice now. On Thursday she offers her cleaning, babysitting and cooking services for the next 2 weeks to anyone we know who could do with some help, making it clear that she considers us at the head of the queue. "In that you did it for the least of these you did it for me." I experience God's care and encouragement again.
And then came Saturday morning. In a fit of optimism and delayed responsibility I think to check the bank account online to ensure we have money for the week ahead! I sign on in the usual way...only to note something very odd with one of our accounts. It has a balance way more than it should. So I access the statement to locate the anomoly. Then I see the words:
Posted by BJ at 8:42 AM
Sunday, July 03, 2005
It's 3 years ago today that my wife Claire died. Went to the beach this morning where we were married and where her ashes were scattered. Took Rhys with me while Kristen went to church @ ECW. Its important to me that he gets to meet "Aunty" Claire. He listened attentively...Anyways, some poetry from that time:
From Claire…to You
We can choose to thrash through life’s pathways
Breaking, destroying, leaving life in an un-mendable state
Or we can walk too lightly that no imprint is left,
No piece of personality remains,
No difference made to the world or others.
Instead, on our special day with our Maker
Take his hand,
And point to your chosen pathway
Tell Him how faith, hope and love dominated all
And that above all else,
You are content with what, together, you have achieved
At journey’s end
What legacy remains?
A life of love refined,
Fear overcome and disability refused.
And in death’s insistence,
Opportunity speaks of new life.
Yet choice remains,
For those who remain.
Whether to see
Or choose a dangerously safer blindness
To your essence and what lay behind.
As for me,
You remain forever in my heart.
You taught me how to love,
And I shall indeed.
Posted by BJ at 12:16 PM
Friday, July 01, 2005
So there's this site where you can create your own "Lions Haka". For the uninitiated a Haka is a Maori war dance, one variation of which is used by the All Blacks Rugby team prior to international matches. The Lions on the other hand are the pussy cats who got stomped last week in the first match - they are a team made up of the 4 nations that comprise Great Britain. So the idea of a Lions team doing a haka...well you can see the result at My Lions Haka They've picked a much better team this weekend - less aging Englishmen and more Welshmen...ah boyo the heritage dies hard...at least this week they'll go down fighting...
Day off today and looking forward to time with the fam, lunch with a friend and generally ordering our house after 2 weeks of meetings, retreats and 3 US girls staying in our lounge!
Posted by BJ at 7:41 AM