Friday, July 31, 2009

BWIII For Lunch

So, I don't want to name drop...but I had lunch with Ben Witherington today! The wonton soup was excellent.

Wide ranging discussion over Vietnamese...where to find good Thai food in Howick and North Carolina, Health system reform in the US, liberal theology, NT Wright v John Piper, (possibly)the worst president in US history, Mexican food, Socialism, the new reformed phenomenon, Cambridge (the NZ version), original sin, grace and a few other random offerings...

Good fun. And the wonton soup really was excellent.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Interesting article

I liked this article. Brave stuff in the environment. At the heart of it:

"Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace. The appeal also seriously misrepresents the notion of justice itself, not just in the Christian tradition of Augustine, Aquinas and others, but in the wider philosophical discussion from Aristotle to John Rawls. Justice never means “treating everybody the same way”, but “treating people appropriately”, which involves making distinctions between different people and situations. Justice has never meant “the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire”.

The author has written a few books and is quite well-known I believe.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


"To understand the identity and significance of Jesus, we must tell other stories - stories that interlock and interrelate, setting the context for making sense of the theological puzzle that Jesus himself set his disciples. One of these stories concerns God's creation of the world; another tells of God's calling of Israel; a third tells the age-old human quest for meaning and significance. The story of Jesus intersects all three, ultimately to provide their fulfilment. Jesus is the focal point from which all these other stories are to be seen, and on whom all finally and marvelously converge."

" not a revolution attainable by incarnation. Wesley became incarnate among the poor, the labouring artisan, the powerless people."

"Incarnation: the central truth of Christianity and all religion."

"The creation of the world was a very great thing, but not so great as the incarnation of Christ. It was a great thing for God to make the creature, but not so great as for God, as for the Creator himself, to become a creature."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Holiday Stuff

Such a busy time we're having here - all good though.

Last weekend we were up to Traverse City again to see the rellies and to visit Chris and Marcia's new church, The Journey. Good times for the kids again and some excellent golfing for me...from the couch. Tiger Woods on PS3, just another reason why I should never own one.

Sunday night we got home just in time to hear Chris preach at Lansing Faith. Slightly bizarre worship set from a stage filled with guitars doing bluegrass worship. It wasn't bad, just surreal. On balance I enjoyed it but mostly because it made me laugh!

This week was a little quieter at the beginning - Monday was a quiet day at home, with the exception of a long lunch with Mark Gorveatte, District Superintendent for West Michigan. Lunch at Fiesta Charra (that makes 3 times...) followed by coffee at Biggby. He's a good man.
Tuesday we spent a good few hours in Grand Rapids with Steve and Vicki Deur - friends from the Watermark plant days. Great times catching up and the time really flew by. Tuesday was Chris and Marcia's 36th anniversary so we took them out to breakfast. The service was so bad we "forgot" to tip, but the food as great!

Wednesday I spent some time with the new worship director at Lansing Faith and Chris talking through worship philosophy and systems. It was a good time sharing and I learned some stuff. As well as realising there is a lot in my head after one or 2 years of doing this stuff. After we'd finished I walked to the YMCA and did a workout - really nice facilities. Wednesday night was date night at Applebees...some nachos and some shrimp...mmmm

Thursday was a road trip to Detroit to visit Kristen's grandparents. I always enjoy visiting them. You can see where some of the heritage that Kristen brings to our family began. The evening stretched on till 1am with a mammoth game of Mexican Train...which just in case you were interested, I triumphed in...

The roadtrip continued on Friday - we visited Crossroads Village and the Huckleberry Railway in Flint, Michigan. The train ride was a lot of fun and a good decent length. We did a bunch of things including attending a short play, watching a cider press, getting hit by chunks of wood from a steam powered saw mill, riding an extreme carousel (so fasssst) and looking through old stuff. It was good fun.
Home in time for an outreach at Lansing Faith - a family movie screening - good idea which we will steal in the summer.

Today was relax day including a trip to the lake for a swim.
We're in our last days now so starting to pack - time has flown!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Michigan Update

It's been a busy time since the Poets, Preachers and Prophets Conference which is still resonating.

Wednesday - a very much needed "day off" from my holiday after a busy 3 days of Conferencing...did I mention how good the Conference was? So I sat around reading, websurfing, hanging out with the kids.

Thursday - The family went to Detroit to visit Kristen's grandparents. I stayed back as I had a meeting with Phil Struckmeyer, Pastor to Impact church, cessioncommunity's partner church. So the morning was given over to some work for various non-cession things. Lunch was in a local Mexican place Fiesta Charra in downtown De Witt - a short walk. Nice to be able to eat great burritos on tap!

It was good hanging out with Phil in the afternoon and also Ryan and Angele Gerten who served with cessioncommunity back in 2005 and picked me up on the way through from Detroit. We walked through Impact's latest plant Ignite - a second presence in Lowell meeting in a strip mall. It was great to see how God had raised up a church plant team and anointed a planter from within the body of Impact - very encouraging for cessioncommunity as we seek to engage our own church planting initiatives.
Friday - We took a day trip to Potter Park Zoo - a short drive - some different animals than we are used to in the Auckland zoo - Rhys proudly wore his Auckland Zoo hat and had a ball. The day finished with ice cream on the way home - Raegan created her own ice cream sculpture all over her face!

Saturday - We caught up with Jim and Natasha Versluys who we had got to know during the Impact Student Missions trip to New Zealand in 2005. They now have 2 kids so life has changed for our families since then!

That evening Kristen and I travelled 45 mins to her High School reunion in Jackson. This was a really fun and interesting evening. Kristen had a great time catching up with old friends - 15 years is a long time in people's lives. It whetted my appetite for my 25 year High School reunion next May. Yup I'm old alright. We celebrated not having any kids with us by heading to The Parlour - the local ice cream hangout. I ordered a double cone, thinking I would get 2 scoops. What I got was 3 massive scoops - probably equal to about 6 normal scoops. It was so big it was in a bowl with the cone sticking out of it as if an after thought. This is very typical of American food - the size and how the means transcends the end...if its too big for a cone, why bother with the cone? Its like the stuffing you don't cook inside the bird which I've blogged about before. Anyways a good night out.
Sunday - We worshipped with our friends at Berkley Hills Wesleyan in Grand Rapids - BH has been incredibly faithful in supporting cessioncommunity - both for our general ministry and in helping fund children's ministry. We shared in the service about life with cessioncommunity and introduced Ryleigh to her US church family. It was the perfect day for attendance as there was a picnic afterwards which we stayed to enjoy.

Monday - The extended family + the Bowlin family gathered in Muskegon to spend the day at Michigan Adventure - an amusement and water park. The kids loved it with rides and water galore. The highlights for me were the Thunderhawk roller coaster and the Funnel of Fear tube ride. The roller coaster was just awesome, like riding in a jet fighter! The Funnel is defined by the last part of the ride - me Josh Bowlin and Chris went down together which was awesome fun but when Kristen and I went down together I discovered where the ride got its name. The last bit is virtually a straight drop - I went down backwards into the massive funnel - it was an out of control ride!

The day was only marred by Raegan blowing chunks 5 mins from home. It was a long night...with a busy day to follow...

Tuesday - We celebrated Raegan's 2nd Birthday Party a day early while everyone was around from the day before. The Bowlins came as well as Sara Dekker (our flatmate). It was a fun day by the Hinterman's private lake (OK they share it with few others...) - swimming, playing in the park and passing the parcel! Beautiful weather complete with fairy bread, fruit kebabs and hot dogs. Raegan had a great time.

So thats us so far!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Absent for the AB's

So I will miss this weekend's test match at Eden Park - oh that I could be there. The team has a predicatable look about it, but some points of interest, mostly in the reserves:

  • Donald gets the nod at 1st V - I think this was likely given the way he was being talked up in the media - plus he gets his chance as the incumbent with a full strength side;
  • Cowan keeps Leonard out for the moment;
  • Tialata retains his role, but what is interesting is that Afoa doesn't even make the bench. Franks had a very good debut off the bench and perhaps he is seen as the guy for this role longer term;
  • Sivivatu replaces cousin Joe, but interestingly Corey Jane is starting - you get the sense that Toeva would have started at wing had he been fit, leaving Jane on the bench - this is a ploy for the Australian kicking game - the back 3 all have experience at full back;
  • Eaton is the comeback kid (predicted on this blog) covering lock and I guess the loosies;
  • However the loosie mix (including reserves) has an unbalanced feel for me - who will cover McCaw? Obviously Rodney will, a ploy that has not worked before. Read is being rewarded for being the most compelling of the new loose forwards but overall the balance is not assisted;

This is a pretty experienced forward pack with a ton of experience and graft with an injection of newer blood (in Kaino and Ross). It is easily the best we can do (with the exception of Tialata who needs a big one). The backline restores some combinations but the yawning hole remains at 1st V. I would have picked McAlister, simply because I think he shades Donald in all departments - kicking, passing, running and tackling - and has the greater vision. But neither of them are Dan Carter. And that sadly may be the difference.

It will be 3.30am here when the game is on. I don't think I can get it live - I have found a provider who plays it 9 hours later, but I've yet to work out how I can access that! A work in progress!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Aftermath - Poets, Prophets and Preachers

This was a very enjoyable Preaching Conference and quite timely for me. Throughout I was very grateful for the excellent grounding I was fortunate to have in this discipline, initially by osmosis from Melissa and subsequently from Paul Windsor direct. If you want to check out the live blog you can here. I am not going to summarise the content; I will simply note some of the things that stuck out for me.

Rob Bell

Bell was superb throughout. He is an excellent communicator live. Uses his body as well as his voice, all without a note in sight (uses powerpoint though). I've often wondered whether it is possible to learn from him because he is just so good - a natural if you like. But he did a great job of breaking down his approach including using previous sessions he had done as examples of his process. It not only reinforced the content but you got drawn into the process as much as the preaching. Some great moments for me:

  • The idea of sub-version - the telling of stories that provoke and arrest

  • The reinforcement of the importance of the metanarrative and the selection of beginning and end - does the story start in Genesis 1&2 or Genesis 3? A key choice to be made which affects the whole world view of the preacher and pastor

  • Building on the beginning of Genesis 1/2 and the ending in Revelation 21 "If you were to remove sin from the Bible, you'd have a pamphlet" - priceless

  • Drawing from Genesis, sin can be boiled down to (a) saying to God, "excuse me you're in my seat" or (b) looking to Creation for our wellbeing - elegant

  • On heaven coming to earth, "I get concerned that there will be folks who are going up somewhere while God is coming down and they'll miss each other! And it will be like, 'But I read it in the novel'"

  • The sermon is the continuing insistence concerning this larger story

  • Texts are often built around moments, movements or mystery - knowing which one can help

  • Everything in a sermon is related to every other part - name and know the parts

  • No rules other than knowing what you're doing

  • Tension is your friend - just know how your friend behaves!

  • Sermons that help people to find themselves will be focused and yet open, said and yet unsaid, defining and yet imagining, resolute and yet unresolved

  • Inviting people into a cathedral of words

  • The sermon is always about what it means to be fully human (rather than fully Christian...)

  • The chocolate covered turd - death by papercuts - the vulnerability of the preacher

  • Your identity cannot be tied up in how you are received

Rob Bell was impressive throughout with his preparedness to be personally transparent and you sensed his pastoral heart for other pastors. They had counsellors available for anyone who needed to unload any burdens they were carrying in pastoral ministry. Nice thought. This was a conference unlike any other. You felt like you were being treated as a person and not just a student.

Peter Rollins

There is no way to describe this man. He was a force of nature. Maybe it was the Irish accent or the way he scattered his written notes all over the stage while delivering a message on how we should think of knowledge within the Christian worldview (beautifully done). He came across as all over the place, but nothing could have been further from the truth. Brain the size of a planet tied to a heart of real compassion. There is an interview online here which captures the heart of what he was on about. My responses:

  • IKON's answer to "Alpha": OMEGA - How to exit Christianity Course (the toxic versions)

  • Evangelism group - goes to other religions and asks them to evangelise the group (makes sense if you think about it...)

  • Atheism For Lent - will only read the best critics of Christianity for Lent to be transformed by what they might say about (counterfeit) Christianity

  • Transformance Art - rupture, provocation, transformation eg. One time they organised people to picket their own gathering - people experienced a sense of mockery and alienation as they entered - some even joined the protestors!

  • When he discovered someone was writing a tract against him, he contacted the guy and met with him to help him write it!

  • Structures and ministers can do your believing for you - like canned laughter is not there to tell you when to laugh, its to laugh for you...

  • Transformation of the social self rather than the "head" self [he used a different term which I missed]

  • A failure to engage real transformation leads to the ironic gestures of an anemic Christianity - people who give money to the poor, but make no effort to address those parts of their lives that contribute to poverty, people sitting around Starbucks drinking coffee and talking about the evils of global corporations

  • The church needs to find the real site of resistance

  • Religious experience is not an experience - God is not an object to be experienced - he is the lense through which we truly experience

  • IKON is an equal offence community! We offend everyone to offend no one - I want to offend myself, to rupture myself

  • Preaching is not giving water, but giving salt to make people thirsty - preaching is not the bread but the aroma of bread, so that people become hungry

  • Christianity as violence - consider Mother Theresa whose pacifism ruptured the caste system - key = violence against systems not people

  • God as trauma - God as excess - conversion is radical - the infinite coming into the finite

  • Jesus is not a painter, he's an optician

  • People's Gods like their dogs, look like them

  • God is not the patch on our wound, he is the wound on which we try to stick our patches

  • Jacob demands to know God's name while he wrestles and God renames him - God names

  • God so loved the world he forsook heaven, he emptied himself - this is our path
I don't know how to explain my response to these sessions, other than to say, they ruptured me and I was left with a longing like never before for life with God.

He received a standing ovation at the end.

This was an excellent Conference. A really worthwhile investment of time with some good people who I got to know better as well. People from all walks of life. Mainstream contemporary alongside vibrant emerging. Lots of grassroots ministry going on around the place. A great feel to the whole event. 5 stars.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Poets, Prophets and Preachers

Tonight is the opening of Poets, Prophets and Preachers: Reclaiming the Art of the Sermon in Grand Rapids, Michigan and I am going! Its a rare treat to be able to sit in a Conference setting for a couple of days. I'll be very interested to compare what there is to learn to the Kiwi-Made Preaching Conference that I was at earlier this year which was just outstanding for Kiwi preachers.

The keynote is Rob Bell and some of his topics look to be quite compelling:

Rob Bell – The Original Guerilla Theatre
throwing ourselves into this ancient, sacred art form with the absurd, naive, antiquated belief that the world needs inspiring, provocative, comforting, dangerous, healing, great sermons now more than ever

Rob Bell – The Story We're Telling
sin, salvation, business, art, justice and the importance of beginning in the beginning

Rob Bell – The Fig Tree and the Failure of Language
moment, movement, mystery, and the science of homiletical architecture (alternate title: why some sermons work and others don't)

Rob Bell – Fumbling Around with Your Radar
tools, questions, approaches, and everyday 5 minute disciplines that have helped me understand where sermons come from

Rob Bell – The One Thing I've Never Heard Someone Talk About That Has Changed Everything for Me

He's teaming up with Peter Rollins and Shane Hipps.

Peter Rollins is an emerging church Irish guy who is the coordinator of Ikon. Interested in the artsy angles here. Shane Hipps is pastor of Trinity Mennonite Church, an urban, Anabaptist congregation. He just wrote a book Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith - so I'm assuming this will flavour his stuff along the lines of the medium is the message.

Should be a blast and I will blog as I go!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Poop Patrol

Last night I went to work with the CIA. It was a follow up to my mission with them in December 07 This time I was really going to be up to my neck in it.

The plan? To infiltrate 9 Portaloos aka Portajohns into the Lansing Mall carpark aka parking lot. The reason? To provide spy platforms for the impending 4th of July fireworks display attended by thousands of locals.

The aptly named Ameri-cans had been delivered earlier. Our task was to turn them into counter espionage fortresses. There was all the usual - toilet paper, hand sanitiser - but we added the WMD - weapons of massive diversion - propaganda signs that said it all:

  • This moment of relief has been brought to you by your friends at Lansing Faith

  • The seats are much more comfortable at Lansing Faith

  • You think you feel better now; imagine how much better you'll feel when you meet Jesus

  • Sometimes life stinks; we're trying our best to make it better

To make sure the message got through we handed out 2000 bugs disguised as glo-sticks. Each glo stick was bugged with a lanyard branded with the Lansing Faith's website. They snapped them up.

The lines were long as person after person responded to the honey trap. Oh sweet relief.

The night finished around midnight as we returned the WMD (weapons of mass defecation) to their original status ready for pickup by the contractor. A job well done.

Friday, July 03, 2009

On the Run

It is a different world here in the US. I noticed a billboard while driving to Traverse City this week:

"Michigan's toughest job. Support Michigan Department of Corrections."

Complete with knuckleduster and switchblade illustrations. There's a PR campaign right there. Leaves the NZ Police "Get Better Work Stories" line in the dust. I wasn't sure of the point of it. Was it a joke?

Then later in the trip we're driving down a wooded back road area and there's another sign:

"Do not pick up hitchhikers: Prison Area".

Now, there's a sign to fill you with confidence and generate flashbacks of any number of B grade movies.

Apparently the Governor of Michigan has proposed a scheme designed to prop up the prison system in Michigan - there have been a number of closures. Now normally this would be a good thing right, getting the prison population down? But apparently, the economic issues are not so clear and I guess its jobs for some people. So the new scheme is to ship them in from California where they have too many criminals it seems. Arnie seems keen and added, "Now, none of dis 'I'll be back' crap OK?"

Won't be long until they rename it Australia.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

On the Road

So today we head away for Traverse City, Michigan - the home of Kristen's Aunt and brother. Rhys and Raegan will enjoy seeing their Christmas cousins again - they have already become great friends in just a short time. We'll also check out Chris' new church - The Journey - and join them in house hunting escapades.

So you can follow where we are at, here is where Michigan is in red:

We are situated in Lansing and heading to Traverse City. We arrived in Detroit by plane. So you can see the various places - I will be at a Rob Bell Conference next week in Grand Rapids which is also where Kristen and I got married! For those that care, I have internet and am receiving email but can't get it to send - so am getting what you send but haven't been able to reply just yet.