Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Reflections of Jesus' Feetwashing

John 13:4-5
…[Jesus] got up from the table, took off
his outer robe, and tied a towel around
himself. Then he poured water into a
basin and began to wash the disciples’
feet and to wipe them with the towel
that was tied around him

I got to admit, the story of Jesus washing his disciples is pretty weird to me. To a western christian who lives in the west - why was the experience of washing feet so important, and what does it mean for me today.

Unlike today, feet in Jesus's time were the prime mode of transport, particularly for peasants living in the backwater part of a backwater country in the Roman empire. Jesus and his band of disciples would have spent all day walking down the roman roads, in only their sandles.

The muck the disciples received on thier feet represented the journey they had been on during the day, the collection of activities they had been in, both the good and bad. In this act, Jesus connected personally with the past journey of the disciples, and served them in an intimate way.

I wonder if the closest thing to this in our day to day life, would be going to each of our neighbours, and serve them by putting thier rubbish out. Collecting the materials and rubbish that they have collected on thier journey and serve them, in such connecting intimately with them.

All I know, is that people struggle with being served, it strikes at our autonomy as people, especially in the west. We personally beleive that we can get on on our own, and that also other people can cope on thier own as well.

Peters reaction was the same, he remarked - Rabbi, do not clean my feat. One because he thought it was below Jesus to do so, but also because he was embarrased at what Jesus would discover in cleaning his feat. In doing so Jesus intimately connected with his servants and actively showed that to be a follower we are to serve those around us humbly.

In serving, we intimately connect with the needs of those around us. We show people that they have worth in thier humanity. Serving is an act of love that brings shalom to those around us.

Take time to look, and take in. What are the needs that people are facing around you, how can you serve your neighbours. Maybe the first act is to introduce yourself to your neighbours?

What would be an act in our time, similar to cleaning the disciples feet? 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Those who understand grace are full of grace...

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the
home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman
came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume,
made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the
perfume on his head. Some of those present were
saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste
of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a
year's wages and the money given to the poor." And
they rebuked her harshly.
"Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering
her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor
you will always have with you, and you can help them
any time you want. But you will not always have me.
She did what she could. She poured perfume on my
body beforehand to prepare for my burial." (NIV) 

As a young kid, I remember looking forward to the gifts that I got for christmas and birthday, I remember looking forward to getting a electronic brick game, which I cherished for years after, or when I got my first bycicle. I remember being blown away by these presents, as a result I wanted to cherish the joy with a freinds and family, sharing the expereince with others.

When we read the story of the women who anointed Jesus, we often focus in on her and her possible trangression. But we fail to see the heart of the story. This women notices Jesus is the ultimate gift to humanity, and comes to show the whole room who is in the midst.

This lady, who we think is involved in a form of dodgy vocation, notices something that none of the religious people in the room notice, that Gods agent salvation is in the room, and he is offering a gift for anyone who comes and takes on his new way to live.

The women is grateful and shows her gratefulness through pooring expensive purfume on Jesus's feet and washing his head. The lady recognises that Jesus is someone special and shows her gratefulness to him through the ultimate act.

I beleive that Gracefulness results from understanding grace, taking the time to realise our brokeness, excepting it and then being thankful for it, and acting on it.This may mean doing something crazy to show our awe at what was done on the cross. But, "As a writer of an artical I was reading confesses ... "I am not so sure I am that guy. When I read about the actions of this unnamed woman in Mark 14, I find it easy to wonder about the fiscal responsibility of her actions..." I am too focused on my needs, I do not comprehend the fact that my father in heaven did everything he could do for me, so that I could find shalom. I often think I am alright, that I can rely on myself at best, often I forget the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made by dying on a cross for the whole world.

Take some time to think about the salvation act this easter and allow yourself to take some time to be thankful. Do something crazy to show your thankfulness.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Reading the Paper is painful

I read the paper last night and it had the stories of the hardship that people are facing in the depression. According to the media, Wellington's food banks are running bear and there is increasing pressure on this.

I can't help but get upset about this. I can not get upset at the New Zealand government, its not just thier responsiblity to deal with social issues, but I do get upset at myself, for being apathetic to the pain people face in thier life.

I make excuses not to engage all the time, I don't have the time resource, money. But in reality, I am a lot richer than most people, I just prioritise my resources in a way that bring benefit to what I see as most important.

Often it is my need for pleasure, I need to dress well, eat well, be happy with the way others see me, and in the way I do so, I show that I am more important than others around me. Rather than giving up my resources, I can often desire to put myself first above others.

I need to engage in dealing with the poor and the lonely, to bring health to my own life, my modus operandi cannot be myself, but always looking to bring redemption to those on the outter.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reflections on the peacemaker

Tonight, my friend Phil told the story of a freind of his who works in the field of brokering peace in some of the worlds most troubled hotspots. In the story, the person gave himself up to say that spy to stop a town from being masecred by a genocidal regime as it was the only way to save the town. As a result he was held captive and tortured.

To save this town, he had to sacrifice himself.

Our sacrifice for peace is not often like this, but it will be costly, it may be giving up time to help a signgle mother, it may be spending time with refugees, it may be stepping out and confronting a bully who is bullying our best mate, it may just be taking in orphans and treating them as our own. But it will be costly.

Phil told another story, of how his mate was arrested for armed robbery, and asked him to journey with him in his healing process. Phil reluctantly agreed to journey with him through a five year painful process while he was in prison, while the painful mending process occured. Phil knew that the time would be a sacrifice and costly, but also wanted to love his friend.

Redemption is costly, Jesus showed this by the most epic example of sacrifice and love through going through death on the Cross.While it is costly, it has eternal conssequences, the healing act of redemption has greater returns than the cost ever has.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

some views from a conversation on money

Today I had an interesting conversation with a flat mate, it was interesting how quickly both of us took positions on the subject, the subject was money and the use of money by the flat. I got defensive and went about taking a position, which I wanted to argue was right no matter what.

I realised after this conversation, how big an issue we can make the issue of money in our lives, I think most of the time I have a healthy view of the subject, but I realised from the conversation, that my view still needs work and needs to change.

Money is a taboo in our culture, we don't talk about it openly. It is interesting whenever I hear a subject on finances from anyone, I often get agitated, and defensive. We are often individualistic about money, viewing it as "ours" to be used for our own pleasure.

Living in a flat or community, you come onto the conundrum - how do you view the resource as needing to be used for the benefit of the community, how do you use it, and how are you a good steward of that money?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Forgiveness is healing

Forgiveness to me is an essential part of peace making, because it is the medicine to our pain.

I beleive that forgiveness is key to healing both the pains in the human journey, but also in criminal law national conflict and internation conflict.

Many people have believe that Justixe can only happen through retributive means - people beleive that the one who does, I beleive that the justice to be truly justice has to be restorative rather than purely about punishment for ones actions. The type of justice Jesus promotes in the scriptures in one that says, yes you are broken, yes you  have done wrong, there are consequences, but I will do all I can to show you that you have worth, that you can recieve restoration.

I think one of the most powerful examples of restorative Justice was the truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa. The commission was set up at the end of te brutal  unjust era of racism in South Africa, and was the brain child of the leader Nelson Mandela and one of the great peace activists, Desmond Tutu. One of the stories was how a lady confronted a secret police officer, who had killed her family members. In response to his brutality, she responded by saying that she would treat him  like family, and show him love and forgivenss. This story made me cry when I first heard it, and showed me that while we need to confront violence and brutality, we also need to allow for redemption as well.

My freind  recently told a story at Mosaic of how him and his brother got caught shoplifting when they were overseas. They were arrested and taken to the jail for thier actions as little kids. They waited for the grilling of thier parents. Thier father came and signed the papers and took them home. On the ferry home, they waited for the oncoming judgement. Their father opened his mouth, and told them how he too had been caught shoplifting and he had to deal with the shame of being caught. He finisehd by saying "lets not tell your mother about this." His act was an act of grace to these two boys, and showed redemption. He confronted the issue, but allowed for wholeness and forgiveness to reign.

Too often we stew, we beleive that punitive action is the best way forward, we do need to confront injustice, and the pain caused by selfishness, greed, wrongdoing, but we have to do it in a way that is understanding, and is forgiving, allowing the person to confront the wrong they have done, but also moving on, showing grace.

This is harder said than done, as I said, I often get caught up on the small things, and let those wrongs stew, I don't know how it would be to forgive a murderer. But I realise the cry of Gods heart is that we forgive and show redemption. This is the only way we can find healing ourselves.

How many conflicts in the world could have been stopped if the injustice was confronted gracefully, realising it is wrong, but also pushing for redemption? How do we confront the wrongs in our lives with grace and long? What resentment do I need to face in my live.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Forgiveness is....

.... difficult.

For me personally, I think I can get caught up on the most petty issues. Someone will say a snarky comment and brood on it, and take to heart and stew on the wrongs that people

I remember a freind once saying in a talk that resentment is a poison that kills both people. Its a lose-lose situation, and we can not find emotional, spiritual or relational health by resenting people. We will become more unhealthy, and the pressure will build up in our lives, destoying not only the relationship we had with one person, but creating bars in the relationships we have with others.

Last week, I read a story as part of expressions to the Mosaic Crew. It was a story from the life of Corrie Ten Boon. Corrie Ten Boon was a dutch christian who during the second world war who was imprisoned in the  Ravensbrück concentration camp for housing Jews. She tells the story of meeting one of the gaurds after the war who imprisoned her and was responsible for the brutality she faced in prison. She tells of how she struggled with a moment where he asked for her forgiveness. She had to rely on the grace and power of God to extend her hand in forgiveness. As she did this she felt the love of God sweep over her and her former gaurd.

I think forgiveness is really difficult, but as people, we are called to it. I beleive the only way for people to receive restoration is through forgiveness.

Practicing peacemaking means forgiving people, no matter how big the crime they have made against us.

Jesus's example is ultimate.. He went to the ends of himself to show Gods love for humanity, and extend the hand of grace to all the world. He showed ultimate forgiveness for our trangressions against God. Forgiveness is a grace filled gift, we struggle to give it, but we need to give it to find health. Who is there who you need to forgive in your life?

Congratulations Obama!

I have watched with fear over the last few months the debate on Obama's healthcare bill. I feared that obama would go down in history with both Clinton and Jimmy Carter as pretty ineffectual presidents, who promised much, but did not deliver.

I am glad for the people of America that they now have a public healthcare, it may be modest, but it is a much better than having nothing.

To be honest, most western democracies have watched in confusion at the fact that the U.S.A was confused over a public healthcare option. Most western democracies have public healthcare, provided by the state. Sure it may not be perfect, but I am happy that people will receive the help they need at the time they are most vulnerable. To be honest, this is 15 years too late, and its a shame that Clinton never got through his healthcare bill.

Obama has been couragious in passing this bill, especially in a time of fiscal hardship and deficits and for the fact that it has damaged his political approval ratings so much.. It is much needed. It will be interesting to see what will come next from Obama's presidency.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Community = sharing life together, no matter what

I went and watched a group of friends play ultimate today, it was the final game of their season. I enjoyed hanging out with this group. Particularly hanging out with my friends joel and kates little kid ania going on walks and playing games with her.

Communty for me equals committing yourself to journeying with a group of people and sharing life with them, no matter what, both the good the bad and ugly. In community we have to be willing to open up, be willing to share with others, and then be willing to let others share with us.

This is difficult, I know sometimes there are people in my own spheres of community, who I can find it really difficult to relate to and I do not really want to share with. One big challenge for me is to process through issues with people when they come up,  rather than hold them in.

The most powerful moments are those moments that gell a community together, these events are often those that shake the community up. Early last year we had an event like that happen. It was interesting to see how the community process through, praying for those affected, listening to one another, coming closer together to care through the grief we went through. For those involved it was an eye opening view on how good community can work and how good community can be a testiment to the love of christ.

As you know, I beleive that we were created to live in community with one another, and that only through community we can find health.

One of my favourite memories of our community was when Mosaic organised a party for my good mates Justin and Lacey before they went home to get married. It was great as it allowed us to involve Justin and Laceys network of freinds be involved in celebration of Justin and Lacey wedding and life together and show our appreciation for thier involvement in the community. The night was one where we could celebrate together and show off what sharing life together really emans 

I beleive that a healthy community is one that can laugh together, celebrate together, grieve together,create together. I beleive that as we figure out how to be community we begin to discover how to be truly human.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Questions without answers....

Last night, my good friend lacey blass led expressions. She talked about how we often focus as Christian on what the answers, rather than on the question. In our world, we love to pin things down, have answers. Not having answers scares people, because in our world, having an answer means we contain something - we can label it and control it.

We were given bunch of photos and we were to create creative questions around it. My one was of a lady in a lab with a giant bug behind me. The questions that came to mind mind were.

- If I was a bug, how far could I climb and how high could I jump.
- How would I view the world I I was a bug.
- What would my natural impulses be as a bug.
- Would my personality be any different if I was a bug (if all my experiences etc were transposed into a bug)

I have any interesting relationship with questions and questioning. When I was in my late teens, early 20's. I struggled with questioning. I had a beleif that as christians we should have all the answers, and if we didin't have the answers, we were somewhat doubting thomas' and we should review our faiths and confess our doubt. But, as I have grown older, I have realised, more and more, that the mature response is questions. God tells us to come to him like a child, have you ever seen a child, they are taking every moment, and they ask the most awesome questions, they dumbfound many adults through the questions we ask.

My flatmates girlfriend was over the yesterday, reading the bible trying to figure out a bible peice to do an exegesis on for a university paper. It was interesting listen to her questions, for some reason I wanted to answer them, and I did, try and answer them. I realised afterwards I was missing the opportunity to allow those questions to knaw at me, to come to new understandings, rather than answer out of what was really imperfect knowledge. For example why, oh why does the gospel of Mark only have passing mention of the ressurection of Jesus, when we hold it out as a key message of the christian faith?

What are the questions going on in my own life, we heres a flavour of the questions.

- How can I be a peacemaker, when I do not like someone and want to punch them out?
- How can I allow peace reign in my life?
- If God is a God of Justice, why is there so much hunger in the world?
- Why do I find it so hard to engage with pain in peoples lives? How do I leave the comfort zone, and become an agent of peace in the lives around me?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Growing the muscle of hospitality

Area 51 (my flat) hosted a 21st party last night for my flatmates freinds boyfriend. It was a real interesting night and a real interesting crowd from a whole lot of different backgrounds. Nate-dawg (the guy I was talking about last week) was invited and came along and many other people with no christian background came along.

On wenesday night, we were talking about peacemaking, and the need to be in proximity with people if we are going to be peacemaker. We are going to have to relate to those who are seen as outcast, or unrespectable in our culture.

For me the first step is opening up my flat to those around me, and being hospitable,  to develop the muscle of sharing the place that I live with others and to share my life with others.

I really enjoy hosting a cool party, and it was good to provide the place, to serve in ways when I could to help provide an inviting environment to those who were there.

Hospitality is a key value of Christianity, Christians became well known for sharing their lives with the lost and lonely, and it was a key reason for the growth of the early church. As a christian, I want to continue to give my time and effort to share with those who come across my path, to break out of the moulds, and share life in real ways with people no matter thier background.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reflections on Travel

I spend a lot of my life travelling for my job. Every couple of weeks I fly on a plane around new zealand. Usually to the Bay of Plenty. Travelling for me is an interesting experience, my best moments are those in which I get to have an interesting comversation with someone about a subject that interests them.

There are a few stories that stick out to me. One was the day I had a taxi ride to the airport with a iranian taxi driver. The driver talked for the whole time with passion about his home country, his countries history, his pain at the current regime, and his pain at how the western media reports on his country.

Another time I was travelling down to Nelson and I ended up sitting next a seasprite captain, who told me about training sorties and crazy stuff he got up to,

Personally I love hearing stories from the people I meet. I have the joy of sharing stories and getting provided with interesting relationship advice from kuia and kaumatua around the central north island.

One of my favourite moments is at Rotorua Atirport, on a still day, lookimg out at Mokoia Island, it is just beautiful, it often reminds me that God can create beauty from what we think are destructive events (Lake Rotorua is a result of an eruption some thousands of years ago, Mokoia is an expression of cooled magma.)

Take in the moments in life, they can teach you alot. Make time to listen to the person sitting next to you. You have a new experience every time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Expressions - 17 March 2010

At Mosaic today I set up a focal point, it some broken glass, some stones, and some broken ceramics for people to reflect on.

I had the following verses as thought provoke.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples--of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
Isa 11:1-10

I asked the following questions.

Look at the glass, pottery and stones, how do they make you feel, what do they make you think of?
Look at the glass pottery and stones in front of you, how would use to create something beautiful?
What injustice can you see around you that you need to tackle?
 What is a pain in your life that you need to let go of?
Is there an issue in your life or in friend or counterparts life that you need to confront to help them to health.

expressions on expressions

Today I led Expressions at Mosaic. Expressions time is the time where we express where Mosaic is individually and collectively with God and the world around us.

I have been part of the expressions since its inception, it has been one of the most difficult and rewarding journeys for me as part of Mosaic.

I do not think I am inherently creative, I struggle to turn the ideas in my head into something that can be presented, I will often wrestle with an idea for a whole week, before I start even preparing for expressions, then it takes me a few days to come up with something to present to the group, and I am always nervous that the whole thing is going to bomb. My flat mates must find it funny that I say a week leading out that I'm preparing for expressions, and the night before I am often still wrestling with what I am going to do on the evening (either on paper, or in my head.)
One thing I have learned from expressions is that you never, ever no what you are going to get. I may think through a conceprt and get a totally different reaction that I expected. I get crying, i get depression, I get hope, I get left feild ideas that I never expected when I came up with the idea. Its part of the excitement of leading expression. 

I also beleive that expressions has to be inherently participatory, I am a great holder on to that idea. I hold it as a fundamental principle. I have seen numerous great ideas fail in expressions (including my own), because people don't create a moment for people to interact. It is essential concept, and invites people in to express what is going on in thier lives, and the life of the community. I will stop, listen, and create moments so that people can express, and I am learning to do that conciously. I beleive in the concept of listening first, before talking.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Nothing

When I was a kid, one of my favourite movies was  The Neverending Story which is based around the tale of a boy. The main premise of the story is that the world of fantasia is been destroyed by a mysterious force, the nothing. Early on in the story, a rockeater describes the fact that rocks don't taste like anything anymore and that they have lost thier flavour.

In the story the nothing represents our apathy, lack of imagination and dispair at the present order. Bastian, the human reading the story must save the world of fantasia by using his imagination to restore it back to former glory.

In my journey, I have often fallen into the the trance of the nothing, not pushing for apathy, and looking to create something new, something fresh. Or like at the moment, I am use the excuse of busyness to stop me from taking time out to think, to dream and create.

We are called to be part of kingdom building, because Jesus called us to be creative, people who pushed the boundaries.

We are often blinded by our fear that if we break the mould, we will look different from those around us. Or that if we fail we will fail badly and it will be unreperapable. But I beleive that if we honestly try out of a good heart, with a good Idea, that Gods grace will be there to pick us up. By trying, we will be stronger, growing in character as we do.

The call of Jesus is to be radical, to create, to imagine, to dream and show humanity redemption and bring redemption to all creation.

Dont fall into the trance of the nothing, be part of building Gods kingdom.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The courage to find health

And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, "If I touch even his garments, I will be made well." And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my garments?" And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, 'Who touched me?'" And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."
(Mar 5:25-34)

I reread this story today, and I was struck by the courage of this little old lady. The lady had been suffering from bleeding for years, she had suffered physically with pain associated from her ailment, but also the pain of being made a social outcast as she was ceremonally unclean.

This little old lady broke the mores and went towards Jesus touched him and was healed.

One thing that is in about men is that we are hopeless at asking for help. I remeber about a year and a half ago, I got a bad bout of food poisoning, which lasted a week. The reason it lasted so long, was that I did not go to the doctor for the first couple of days. I thought (maybe out of delusion from the fever) that I could tough it through on my own. It was when I realised that i was not getting any better and was getting particularly weak and dehydrated, that I was convinced by the Crawfords (who I was boarding with at the time) that I should go to the doctor. Soon as I started taking the antibiotics, I got better.

It is like this so many times in our life, we faiil to take the steps to health. We know there is somethinbg out of kilter, it may be we suffer from anxiety, we are addicted to porn, we are addicted to substances, we suffer from loneliness, we are consumers, etc etc, and we fail to take the time to ask for help.

The cry for help is seen as a sign as weakness, but I think its a sign of courage, courage to say that we are human, that we want to be better people. Courage and faith that we know there is a better, healthier way to live than we have been.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dealing with my prejudices

Today was the second part in Mosaics peacemakers series. Phil gave a very challenging talk on dealing with prejudices in our life. He told the story of Jesus with the women at the well. In this story Jesus steps in and brings redemption to a samaritan women despised by society for being a loose women. By talking to the Samaritan women, Jesus broken every cultural and religious more about interactions with the outcast.

Phil challenged us with the thought that those who don't conciously realise that they can be preducial (in any form) are unconciously not dealing with the fact that they are being such.

I know that I am prejudicial, I know when I see someone who walks down the street who doesn't fit the mold of what people should look like, sound like, I can totally dismiss them. I do not want to take the first step to relate to them, they have to "earn" the right for me to relate to them. I conciously have to work against these horrible, selfish thoughts, to challenge them

If you have ever been in Newtown, you may have seen a tall lanky guy, who wears a mettalica t-shirt and has a fetish with coke. He drinks coke constantly. His name is Nathan, or is affectionately called Nate-dog by those who know him. When I first came to newtown, I thought he was pretty exentric and never really expected to even start to get to know him, and unconciously I didin't want him in my space.

But I have been recently bumping into him and slowly getting to know him, I hope that one day he knows me by name (a priviledge which takes a while as hes very forgetful.) I was having lunch over the road from my house on Rintoul St in Newtown, and Nathan came over to say hi and he was sharing his coke with people in the room. He wanted the scones I had on my plate that I had made for lunch. I said sure, and handed him a couple.

The challenge is to think about this at the first instance, it has taken me ages to get to this point in my mind with Nathan, why? Why? What is my right to define the worth of anyone? God says that we are all his children, we are all his workmanship, created in his image, to do good works for his joy. Why do we look and define people in our own eyes?

I need to work on this one, I have a lot to learn about what it means to deal with the predjudices I have in my life.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Are you Mary or Martha

In the gospels, there is an intriguing story. One day, Jesus goes to two of his followers place, mary and martha. They greet him and let him in. Martha goes about the house, cleaning, getting ready Jesus' favourite cookies, and other such things to be a hospitable house. She gets stressed trying to make the place spick and span for Jesus. While Mary goes and sits at Jesus's feet and listens. Martha gets upset at the fact that Mary isn't helping out, and goes to Jesus explains her distress that Mary helping. Jesus told Martha she was in fact anxious and making herself anxious on being preoccoppied with what did not matter.

This story came into my mind at prayers this week. My prayer was that we would be like mary and take the time to stop, listen to God, his heart for the world and not be affraid to do so.

I know I am often keen to do more, not to take the time to listen, to take in Gods heart.

We often think if we do more, we will be more rightious, if we serve in more ways, we will gain rightiousness. But if we do this to save face, we will run ourselves raggard, and become anxious pained people, for no reason, for the fact we need to save face. Rather than spending time with Jesus, listening to his heart

Jesus' call is that if we are to be the people we are called to be people who live out passionate lives, lives that are full of grace, full of action. But we need to come need to remember to to take time to be, to listen to God and reflect, or we will become anxious people.

A prayer for the day

Lord I pray that I would be wise, I want to be an ambassador of you in all my life, let me come and listen to you, abba. Lord let me be countercultural and rest when I need rest. Lord let me be countercultural and take steps out to defend to poor and lonely. Lord let me be couragious in the way I live.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Peacemaker experiment

My mate Justin came up with a great idea for the Peacemaker series for Mosaic, the first experiment is to fight a small fire - read below to find out.

The first assignment is to take a little step to help bring wholeness in someone else or in you (essentially fight a small fire). A good place to start would be listening closely to those around you or just reflection. Here is some food for thought:

Is there something you have meant to do (for someone or yourself) for a long time but just haven’t carved out the time?

Is there a nagging in your gut about something you have wanted to say or do to make amends or rekindle a friendship?

Is there someone you feel you need to forgive?

Small fires are the little things that cause brokenness in us and our relationships. This is an experiment and so don’t feel the need to participate if you’re really not in the space. Experiments are made for discovery so please share you experience with us. You don’t have to share what you did or but maybe what you discovered along the way about the process or about humanity or God. Happy peace making!

Rightous Anger

"And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons."

I was struck recently by the qoute of my freind Phil Crawford recently at a core meeting of Mosaic, he said that often we veiw God through the eyes of grace, we don't focus on God the peacemaker, a God who rightiously defends the weak and lonely. The God who does his darnest to defend the outcast, to bring grace to the foreigner.

When we read the Gospels, we often read them through our 21st centuary eyes and if you are from a christian background, you read the gospels with scales on your eyes built up from years and years of hearing the story and developing a film of ideas the cloggs your vision. When I read the story of Jesus and the temple, I first go, thats interesting, forgetting its importance. At best I think, that strange, Jesus the son of God is having a tantrum, what does that mean for me?

Now context time. If you know a little about the Herodian Temple, you will know that there were a number of areas, there was the centre of the temple "the holy of hollies", which was the most sacred place in the temple, then there was the Court of the Priests, where the priests of the temple would do sacrifices, then there was the court of the isrealites, this was exclusively set aside for Jewish men to enter, then there was the court of women, for women to enter, then finally there was the court of the gentiles, where Gentiles were able to go in. The whole temple compound was considered holy (shown by the fact orthodox jews pray to this day at the wailing wall.

The place where the money changers were selling goods was the court of the Gentiles. Jesus was angry for I beleive a couple of reasons, one, these money changers were taking advantage of poor people. Mark specifically notes that in his gospel that Jesus overturned the tables of those who were selling pigeons. In the torah, it stated that if you were not wealthy enough to bring a lamb you could bring a pigeon to sacrifice instead. The point of the sacrifice system was to worship God not earn a quick buck at the sake of the poor,, and Jesus took his anger out of the commercialisation of what was meant to be sacred.

I also beleive Jesus was angry because the only area where Gentiles could come had been taken over by money lenders. It stopped Gentiles from joining in on the grace that God offered them. By doing this, the religous leaders were going against Gods call on Isreal to be a light to all nations, as they had stopped access to the gentles to this.

We often do not take this story seriously and forget its importance. But in all the gospels, this story signals the demise of Jesus. Jesus completely pisses off the authorities, they are scared by the revolutionary nature of his message and worried that he will lead to their demise.

We are currently doing a series at Mosaic called the peacemaker, focusing in on the life of Jesus, how he was a peacemaker and the call on our lives to be a peacemaker. Peacemaking does not mean we are nice people, it means we fight for justice, for the underdog, we care for the lonely and hungry. It may mean we rankle the powers to get our point across, that Jesus is a saviour who is passionately for the poor and the brokenhearted and as his followers, we are too called to be for the poor and brokenhearted.

The challenge put down at Mosaic this week was look out for the small fires in our life, the small injustices that occur, but really represent bigger issues in the world, and when are put together look like one huge fire. The call was to be courageous and take it on.

What is a small forest fire in your life?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On the bus seeing injustice

I caught the bus home today. I was getting on to the bus today and there was a guy in front of me, fully tatooed and not really all there. He got up to give money to the bus driver, the bus driver said, no I can smell glue on you, no you are not getting on my bus. I will call the cops.

For me this was a shocking experience, I know the guy in front of me was totally out of it, but the way the bus driver treated the guy I felt a druming sense that this was wrong.

Ok get me logic, I know what your thinking here, but he's been sniffing glue, well yeah the guy wasn't well, and he is doing something hurtful to his body. But it doesn't seem that different to me than a person getting on the bus late at night, fully out of it on alcohol.  I felt like the man was treated like he wasn't human by that bus driver, and likely creating further brokenness in his life.

I wish I said something, or at least provided me disproval to the bus driver by taking the next bus to show solidarity to my fellow human, no matter how broken the person.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Who's your designer?

...You are all sons of God through faith
in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were
baptized into Christ have clothed
yourselves with Christ...

I am not a big fashion fanatic. the closest I get to being fashionable is wearing a few random printed r-ahirts with ideas that I think are cool. But I do have an appreciation about fashion. I understand that designers have thier own style and flare. Some designers get know for the intricacy of their designs, or the way that they push boundaries with thier dresses and clothes. People will wear the brand because it is worth something to them. People wear Vasace or Karen Walker, or World because they recognise the hard work that the designers have put into the clothes and appreciate them for the all the hard work they put in and what they do for fresh ideas.

We are driven by the trends around us, we look at what is considered great and quest after this. How we costume ourselves throught dress is often the way  we define it. We dress ourselves to get the attention of those around us, either as trend setters, or as the sheep following the trend setter. But how we dress is often how we get our worth in society. I got to admit, that to gain the attention of freinds, when I was younger I beleive I probrably would have dressed like a bogan if people were dressing that way too (even though now I would look back very embarassed at dressing that way.) I still conform to the way people want me to dress to gain attention and status

I see God as a great designer, and he offers the finest tapestries of all (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control and other accessories.) Yet we have decided that we value other designs over Gods perfect mastership. He offers us awesome gear, yet we pursue something of less worth as we see the cost as too much. Or we buy the rip off brand name item (religion) over the real macciy (a relationship with the master craftman).

Do we value the tapestries that God offers us, are willing to give into his desires for our life, or do we want to dress as a bogan for the rest of our life.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Sacred Normality

Who would ever have thought, this moment, sitting on my couch could be sacred. God turns up in the most unexpected moments, he takes hold, to show his character to those around him. In a moment that seems utterly mundane, the God of ultimate glory can show his face and bring in the beauty.

I have been thinking about how we have set the bar too high for God. We create elaborate sets, have highly produced songs and music, but God is sitting on the couch waiting for us to just have a coffee with him and hang out. We sing about we desire for him, but he is hungry for us to hang out with the poor and the outcast. We try to create elaborate artwork, but God just wants us to go and take in the breadth of the beauty he has created in the world.

I have been thinking of the story of the Elijah and the Baal prophets. Elijah meets up with this gang of prophets and lays down the beat, prove that your Gods are true by starting a fire. You say, we thats easy, just get some matches and some wood. No no, it was a little more difficult than that, no matches, no propane lighters, It had to be pure prayer. The Baal prophets come and do thier moves - singing and dancing up a storm for thier god, Baal. Nothing happens, they begin cutting themselves and doing other things to get thier god to show its power. But nothing happens.

Elijah gets up, he puts water on the rocks, and creates a nice little wet area. Now you got to think, this aint too smart, how is he going to start a fire. But he prays to God, and the simple act God moves and acts. Very different from the way we often shake and bake to try and get God  to act.

Jesus showed us how close we are to the sacred in our life, when he took a few peices of bread and some wine, left over from dinner and declared them to be his body and blood. That when we took these two simple emblems, these two very normal things, we were partaking together in remembering the ultimate moment, where Jesus sacrificed himself to heal the world.

Iif God is present in our lives, are we remembering that he is there, are we allowing him to interact with the mundane and allowing to make it beautiful?

How can you live simply, in a way that allow yourself to interact with the God all creation in your everyday moments?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Gift of Rest

Rest is interesting, I often view it as an obstruction to my life, I view it as an obstruction to being productive, and getting the things that I need to do done.

In our world, we push our bodies to the max, the successful person is the one who can get the most sales, the best numbers at work, the most milestones in thier workplace. We aim to get the maximum out of ourselves, viewing our body as a resource that can be taken for granted, used and abused. We live for the bottom line, for the profit, while forgetting that there is a bigger picture. We live exhausted lives, and think that it is the way to live, not realising that it is unhealthy.

Rest is needed for us. We did a reflection on sleep at Mosaic tonight. Sleep is an amazing moment in our lives. It allows us to to recover, to heal and defrag from the day. Our group reflected on the fact of how anxious we would be in our lives if we did not sleep. The act of sleeping allows us to actually process through issues and gives us a sense of clarity when we wake up. It is no wonder that people who do not sleep can end up irrational or end up suffering from psychosis.

Rest makes us realise we are human, that we are not god like.

Often the sabbath has been viewed as a religious activity, but in fact, it is a gift, a gift to be taken to help us recover, to reflect, to remove the tanons from our mind and to heal from the pains inflicted from the week.

Rest is hard in our world, we are pushed to stretch ourselves. We are told to work longer, harder for a more profitable economy, for the sake of the health of our communities, but we need to rest, it is a spiritual discipline that is counter cultural in our busy broken world. We can not be agents of change if we are bitter, anxious people, rest is essential to us being healthy, vibrant aware people bringing about shalom.

Saturday, March 06, 2010


"This is Russian Radio, calling you back home" - Anberlin, Cold War Transmissions

One of my most frustratig experiences when I was a kid was trying to listen to music through static, or searching through static. Static is always hard, it always makes it difficult to focus and to listen.

Often this is the feeling I have in my spiritual journey. I am trying to move the dial of the radio so that I can find the transmission, whether it is trying to listen out to the heart of God through the hundreds of messages provided to me by the world, the good and the bad, to figure out what is right and good and true.

Static has been haunting me today, as I write this post, I am searching for inspiration, searching for the point on the dial of the radio that will give me direction, but I find static, or small talk about some stars love life, but where are the things that really matter?

What is the static in your life, what messages are keeping you from hearing truth and what really matters?

Friday, March 05, 2010


What is success?

And I mean what is success really? How do we get it, when will it come. Is success important, or is it fleeting?

We are surrounded by stories about success - and these stories define what success is and how we should get it. Success is defined by those who hold have loads of money, get loads of sex or have power that they can  get what they want.

The Dream of success is that it will come, and it can be given anyone can get the dream of working oneself up to the top of the ladder within society, no matter where they have been on the table.

I recently heard one of my mates talk about success, he explained how we often see people who reach success for a moment in time as successful, their candel burns hot for a few minutes, then it burns out, while the type of success we are looking for is closer to slow burning candel.

Success in Gods view is one buit on aligning our story with a bigger story. Realising Gods sovereignty over our life, and submitting to this in the realisation that this is the only way we will find health in the long term. If you read the stories of the characters in the bible, they often seized their moments (Daniel in the Lions Den, Esther, Joseph in egypt) but they also were built on the stories before those moments in time. Daniel gained his role in Babylon becuase he was obedient to God when he did not eat the food from table of the empire. Esther, had been under the mentorship of her uncle Mordacai and his character traits rubbed off on her. David was a slow burner, he sleighed the giant when he was a kid but had to hide out for a long period of time before he would become king of Isreal. Because he aligned his heart with the heart of God for the nation of Isreal, Isreal was successful.

Success in my view isn't wealth or power, but the alignment of our heart with the heart of God. As we align our story with Gods story, we figurte out who we truly are. Our purpose may be to make the difference in the lives of homeless people, ve a social entrepreneur, a stay at home parent, a great uncle, a freind to the freindless.

Success definitely in Gods eye is not based on wealth or power, or the number of women we acquire, but a heart that searches out for what is right and seeks to bring about shalom here and now (bring about the kingdom.)

Thursday, March 04, 2010


I watched the movie Tyson tonight. It is the story of Mike Tysons life through his eyes, and it gave me some interesting thoughts.

Tyson is the most notorious and controversial figures in this generation of boxers. He is probrably most well known for his biting of Evander Hollifields ear, his conviction for alledged rape, and the fact that he is the youngest ever heavyweight boxing champion of the world.

What astounds me is how talented Tyson was. When he was in his prime he had a superquick punch and loads of power. There was no one in his league. His success was built on the strength of the trainer who took him under his wing - Don  Amato. Don Amato was Tysons mentor and freind, and installed discipline in him after a difficult childhood.

Like many stars, Tysons professional life was dogged by his personal life. He reached heights quickly. He reached success quickly in the worlds eyes. But he struggled to develop integrity.

Intregrity is the heart of character, it takes discipline and hardwork learn to live a life of integrity. In my view integrity equals working towards wholeness. Its doing the right thing under the heart of pressure.

You can see as Tyson talks, that his view on reality is totally conflicted - one moment he is saying on thing about reality, the next he is saying something completely different. As one person I was talking to afterwards described him - he is completely manic in his nature.

The second point I want to get at, is that "religion" did not seem to play a successful role in him getting character. During his time in prison, Tyson converted to Islam, and he thought his life was on track because of his religiion. But it seems to have conflicted to the lifestyle he was living (he was permiscous, etc etc.)

I wonder how we live double sided lives. Does our character reflect integrity, or are we living out of conflicting realities and trying to keep many stories going.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

5 Tips For Attending a Baptist Church Without Embarrassing Yours

 From Andrew Jones at Tallskinnykiwi.

This morning we are at Bromley Baptist Church in London. Apart from a visit to the Met Tab, the last time I went to a London Baptist church was in 2004 and I wrote up a few guidelines on not getting embarrassed at a Baptist Church. Here are a few of them.

1. Sit in the back. You have no right to be in the front seat unless you are a penitent sinner, the preacher, a deacon getting ready to serve communion, an underground charismatic who is starting a revolution by waving their arms during worship, or a breast-feeding mother. If you are none of these, and if you dont want to be caught out sitting and standing at all the wrong moments, stay in the back where you will avoid embarrassment.

2. Dress smart-casual, even if you usually dont. If you dress too formal, they will assume you are Catholic or a novice, or someone vying for attention. If you dress too shabbily, you will attract the attention of the volunteer outreach program staff who assume you are homeless. If you wear Eastern fabrics, or wear a Marilyn Manson T-shirt, or have any pagan symbols, you will get special attention from the welcome committee and evangelism department who assume you are having your first church experience. However, you might get special treatment and thats not all bad. So do go casual and you will not feel like a dork. Instead, they will assume you are a church goer just like them. Jeans are OK in most baptist churches. So put your piercings back in. Trust me.

3. Be semi-somber when you pray. Unlike emerging or alternative worship churches, you should be happy when you arrive and somber when you pray. Not Anglican hard-core somber. More like a semi-somber, a soft-somber, with no facial contortion, lest you look too spiritual. And if there is an open prayer time during the service, which there sometimes is, don't go King James or retro-Shakespeare on them (novice giveaway) but stay smart casual (like the clothing) and keep it on the healthy somber tone of voice. But don't go too far on the casual side either . . dont start telling God your latest joke . . and don't go asking Him for His.

4. Sing softly and hang back a beat or two. It looks weird if you dont sing but dont worry - its easy - the words are usually projected on the wall and the music is predictable for the most part. No one will notice that you are not familiar with the songs and mouthing the words in time is a cinch. Also, hang back a beat or two on the songs. There are one or two choruses where everyone sings on the off-beat immediately AFTER the beat which is precisely the embarrassing moment newcomers make themselves known by being the only ones not singing on cue. And if you sing softly, you might even get away with botching up the songs. I know I do.

5. Follow others and do what they do. If someone sings a solo on stage or does something creative, don't be the first to clap and cheer and wolf-whistle - usually, there is no applause at the end, just a small appreciative smile or nod, You will also notice that people are not tipping the preacher or stage-diving during worship or opening a can of beer. Unless it is an emerging Baptist church but thats another story. Again, watch other people from the back and stay 2-3 seconds behind them, and I give you my word, you will never embarrass yourself in a Baptist church.


Sometimes we get caught in a rip, and we are dragged out to sea. We deal with the hard hitting waves, and we do not know if we can get back to shore. The reason we got stuck in the rip was we didn't look out and check the the area for rips, or out of plain stupidity. We tried to get out of the rip, but we struggled against it rather than waited for the current to subside or travel the corner.

Stuck in the waves of the open sea, everything can feel helpless.

I have had one of those weeks, I have just felt like I'm being crashed over waves and feel hopeless. Momentum has been hard to acheive in my major projects, and in many areas of life. I have been struggling with momentum with writing this blog, and have felt that the posts I have written this week have been half baked.

In these moments I realise I need to seek clarity, which can be hard when you are choking from the waves, but it is needed. Finding up in these moments can be difficult. Pray as I move forward in to the end of this. Pray for clarity.

A Slave to Public Opinion. False Redemption and a Jury of Peers

This is an article by the very talented writer Donald Millar, I hope you enjoy. We will be back with our regularly scheduled programming soon, I don't think it will be as good as this.

Not long ago I was having a conversation with a friend who happened to be a Christian. My friend is a writer, and a very smart man. During the conversation, I noticed he kept explaining why he was right. I wanted to test him a bit, I suppose, so I asked him a hard question, essentially, seeing if he would be vulnerable and admit he was human and made mistakes. My friend looked uncomfortable and answered the question carefully, with just enough self-deprecation to get around looking self-righteous, but very quick to explain why he technically had never struggled with the issue at hand. After about an hour of this, I looked at my friend and told him he sounded like a tortured soul. I was being kind. Honestly, my friend sounded like a slave. And not a slave to God, a slave to public opinion, specifically, Christian public opinion. He had replaced Jesus with a jury of his peers, and he lived his life to make a case for that jury as to why he was a Godly man.

To be fair, my friend is a very moral man. And to be even more fair, I am being judgmental, to some degree, not because I am saying he has a false God, (there is nothing judgmental about making an observation) but because I honestly respect him a little less. He seems spiritually and emotionally unhealthy.
The truth is, there is one judge, and God does not look around to your friends to ask their opinions.

We were designed so our identity would be affirmed in a relationship with God. In other words, my feelings of self worth do not come from within me, they come from an external source. That source was supposed to be God. But in the fall of man, that relationship was severed (it had to be as God could not mix or mingle with anything opposing him, not because He is a jerk, but because He actually defines what is good in the first place) and so after the fall, we continue to look for affirmation from an outside source, and that source is each other.

All you have to do is turn on your television to see this. People sing to get others to clap, they act, play sports, spend millions on plastic surgery and so on and so on. We learn from an early age that people will affirm us if we are funny or smart or submissive or controlling. Our entire personality developed because these dynamics are in play.

That said, in Christian circles, the whole game gets confusing. Christians rightly affirm Godliness, theological accuracy, Biblical literacy, morality and zeal. So the Christian learns from an early age that if he has these characteristics, a jury of his peers will affirm him. And as well they should. But the problem comes when the opinion of the jury replaces the redemption we find in God. I once confronted this same friend about a wrong he had committed, and he became intense and angry. To him, I was threatening his very survival, his ace card (morality and righteousness) in the game. If his redemption would have come from Christ, he could see himself more objectively. But instead, he was a slave to the jury of peers.

This morning I was reading in Matthew, going back over the account of the birth of Christ. I just loved how God did not seem to care what religious people thought of Him, or, for that matter, His own children. The scriptures say Mary became pregnant while engaged, but not married to, Joseph. Now this happened because Mary needed to be a virgin, to fulfill prophecy but also that the birth would be a true miracle and an unquestionable seed from God Himself. That said, though, she was, in todays language, a knocked up unwed woman. Even Joseph wanted out of the whole situation. And he wanted out because he was a righteous man, who bowed to a jury of his peers. It took an angel of the Lord to talk Joseph into going through with the wedding.

So my question to you is, are you a slave to a jury of your peers? Do you always have to explain why you are right? How much do you care what religious people think of you? When somebody else is wrong, do you jump in quickly to tell them so, making yourself feel righteous? My answer to these questions is yes, I do. Doesn’t that stink?

This is all a question of motives, I realize. Nobody is condoning sin, or saying to revolt against religious people. That said, I think we would be a bit more emotionally stable to understand self-righteousness gets us nowhere, and the jury of our peers is neither an accurate or authoritative judge. It really is a waste of your time to defend yourself to anybody but God Himself. And it’s even more of a waste of time to claim any defense other than Christ crucified.

Imagine the time and energy we would save if we actually believed this to be true.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Slicing your thumb makes you think

I was making breakfast this morning and I managed to slice my thumb pretty bad this morning. This comes from the fact that I am a clutz, particularly in the kitchen, and I was still half a sleep. I basically meant that today I was without a thumb. Now whenever I look at my thumb I think that its a pretty ungly part of my anatomy, and that does not do much in the big spare of things. I don't seem to move it much and it seems pretty much a useless big fat blob on my hand compared to the other beautiful skinny fingers on my hand.

But my experience today has taught me other wise, been basically without a thumb I realised that my right hand had been rendered basically useless when it comes to gripping things, because whenever I use my thumb it hurts with pain. I realise that without my thumb, my life is made alot more diffucult.

It is like this with people as well.  They are often servants, helpers who just get on and do things in the background, and do them naturally. They actually really enjoy doing what they do, don't need praise, but will get on and provide the needed support to get things done. When  we lose them from our lives and our communities we realise it is only then we really realise thier worth.

Who is the thumb in your life/ community etc. Recognise and give them thanks for the work they put in and the support they provide. It will make thier day.

Monday, March 01, 2010

conversations with mates

Its interesting how one day of slackness can ruin your flow, can take you down a notch. I blame the fact that I had a crazy weekend, and could not get focus.

I was talkking with and we ended up having a chat about relationships (two of us was were single, one has a girlfreind - so I do not know how educated the conversation could be!) Anyway we were chatting and one of the guys was talking about that fact he has found it hard in his adult hood to develop strong relationships and feels that it is hard to because he is worried he is going to lose them. He holds out the fact that when he gets married this pain may go away.,

I found this hard to listen to. I see relationships in life are essential to our being. I think it is interesting that we often we easily walk with the limp that we have in our life, and we can do it suprisingly well. We do not see that we are living unhealthy lives until the balls are too many and we drop them all.

I recently read the "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller. Donald Miller is a bit of a loner, and likes to be alone. He conciously has to choose to live in community, and knows that without community he will become sick from his own selfishness. I know from living in a flat and with others it can be difficult. We can desire our own needs. We think we can live on our own, outside of community. Only to find that we cannot fulfil our potential as humans without it.

I have been thinking alot about community lately. Community is a gift - an ideal that we live up to. It is a cry of many people in our generation to find community. People look for relationship/community through social networking sites, they go to concerts to find comradery with others who have the same taste in music as them (you can find your new best freind for five seconds at that concert). People are craving for identity, longing and a place to call home. We long for it, but find it hard to find in our world.

The promise of the Gospel is that God has called us out of our loneliness, out of our selfishness into a loving community that he has created to bring hope to the world. This community is called the church, the body of Christ.