Monday, December 24, 2007

Rob & Bev's Wedding Day

Rob (my youngest brother) and Bev got married at St Peter's Anglican Church in East Lindfield on 22 December and celebrated with a reception at the International Tourism College at St Patrick's Estate in Manly.
It was great to see Rob & Bev make this committment to one another after being together for the last 4 years. The ceremony was joyous and full of praise for our Lord who gives us the gift of marriage, and the feast at the reception was a true celebration.
Jess and I MC'd the event. While we aren't natural comedians, we got a few laughs and people were very gracious in their comments on our efforts. Plus no one was offended. A great day... it's good to be in Sydney for it!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

en-route: the long way (time) down

We have been travelling for 26 hours now. Our bus driver was late, but comical. He told us that the current generation of young men has forced the US congress to consider installing sensors on the toilets of all inter-state buses and planes forcing guys to take a seat so that they "hit the hole" when doing the #1. We had just enough time for a burrito in Seattle airport before boarding Southwest to fly to Oakland and then onto ATA for the 5 hour flight to Honolulu. The dancing girls in grass skirts, who were meant to greet us with hibiscus lei's had gone home by 11:45pm.

After picking-up our bags an hour later, we had 4.5 hrs on our camping mattresses and pillows, in an airport which doesn't sleep. Ukulele music played all night over the loud speakers, lights stayed on, staff moved around us. I'm not sure how much actual sleep I got, but it was good to lie down, relax and close my eyes for a few hours.

Then from rags to riches (or "mud-slums" to "holidays by the sea-side") - Jess and I were the 3rd and 4th people to check-in - exit row seats locked-in, then the first to enter the Qantas Club. A trade-mark long and hot shower was enjoyed, followed by some local fruits (the pineapple and guava juice here rock) and some coffee, of course. No doubt some freebies will make it from the Club to our JetStar flight where the food is not so conveniently priced. Entry to the Qantas Club was worth every penny ;-) ... thank you Qantas!

Our plane has been delayed a little and the palm trees are blowing side ways, so we may be here for a little longer than expected - it's a good place to be stuck! So door to door, we are likely going to crack the 40 hour mark, that's a long way (time) down!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It seemed like a good idea at the time …

In my year working as a travel agent, I would never have wanted to present a client an itinerary like the one I booked for Jess and I five months ago:

14 DEC 2007
Departs: Vancouver by Bus at 08:05
Arrives: SEA (Seattle) at 12:15
Departs: SEA (Seattle) at 15:40
Arrives: OAK (Oakland) at 17:45
Departs: OAK (Oakland) at 19:55
Arrives: HNL (Honolulu) at 23:35

15 DEC 2007
Departs: HNL (Honolulu) at 08:15

16 Dec 2007
Arrives: SYD (Sydney) at 15:50

Travel Summary …
4 hrs 10 mins on a bus
14 hrs 15 mins in airports (+ arrivals in SYD)
18 hrs 20 mins on planes
TOTAL TRAVEL TIME 36 hrs 45 mins

In the Xmas high-season, you do-what-you-have-to-do to use frequent flyer points (thanks Dad!) to get to your brothers wedding cheaply. I’m sure the night in HNL on camping mattresses will be… memorable…

We will be in SYD (recovering from our travels) until 12 January, give us a buzz at my folks place 91XX 7563 if you want to hang-out with us. It will be good to be back!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I'm procrastinating (a little)

My Systematic Theology exam is done, now an assignment to finish before we take-off for Australia on Friday. The assignment for my Christian Education and Equipping class is to write a bible study booklet on the book of James. I have taught James twice now, with my Year 8 guys in 1997 and in Mexico over the last summer. Now it's time to see how this education and dwelling on James' message over the last 6 months can bring God's word alive even more as I write. I'll get to teach the series I am writing at Ekklesia starting in January, which I am really excited about.

While I'm looking forward to writing the assignment, I am stuck in a brief moment of distraction getting other stuff done - and in doing so, I found a great pic that my grandfather-in-law, Clyde, took on our trip to Victoria over the summer. Beautiful...

Time to get to work!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

It’s a small (Anglican) world after all

A few posts back, I reported on J.I. Packer's role in giving some Anglican parishes in Canada the option to “realign” themselves under the diocese of the Southern Cone in South America.

Yesterday, the conservative San Joaquin Episcopal diocese in California also voted to realign itself under the Southern Cone (CNN story). Which means, St John’s Shaughnessy that we attend in Vancouver, may become part of the same diocese as St Paul’s Bakersfield, the church where we were married. It’s a small, small world…

12 Dec Update - The Sydney Anglican's support the San Joaquin Episcopal diocese' move.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

let it snow...

First snowfall of the year - so beautiful to walk through the back streets of Shaughnessy to church this morning and enjoy the: quiet, peace, light and freshness that a new snow fall delivers.

More snow pics on Flickr... note the contrast with the 'Fall' pics I posted there a month ago.
as well as Nathan Tasker in-town for the Spice Girls World Tour kick-off (snapped practicing his 'sporty spice' routine)!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

schism or realignment? prophecy, Packer and patience

Last week was a significant one in the ongoing division that has been growing in the Anglican Church of Canada over some Bishops’ move to a ‘liberal understanding’ of some bible teachings, and in particular the blessing of gay unions, and consequently the ordination of homosexuals into the church.

The way forward for churches like St John’s Shaughnessy (that we attend), is to leave the oversight of the Anglican Church of Canada and come under the leadership of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America (based in Argentina), and directly under the leadership of a retired Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada, who will leave the church and take up duties serving defecting Canadian churches for the Southern Cone. For St John’s church plant, St John’s Richmond, the decision has been made. But for St John’s Shaughnessy, who risks loosing it’s property that is owned by the Anglican church of Canada, the decision will be discussed and decided at their annual vestry meeting in February.

A key player in this way forward has been Regent College’ Dr. J.I. Packer, who delivered a speech last week to delegates of a meeting representing the frustrated churches. Dr. Packer, who was described as “a doctrinal Solomon” in regards to wisdom, spoke of the move as “not schism but realignment.” Packer’s speech includes his description of, or vision for, the Anglican communion – high ideals which have lead him to remain an Anglican and be a shepherd to Canadian Anglican’s in this time of crisis.

In 1984, Jim Packer wrote in Keep In Step With The Spirit of how to respond to a personal prophecy that a ‘prophet’ articulates for your life, Packer suggests the only response should be an openness of mind to the prophecy being fulfilled, and also to the prophecy not taking place at all, that is, no action on behalf of the receiver of the prophecy. Packer reflects on a prophecy given to him about why God may have brought him to Regent College:

“we are not to be led by the possibly deluded predictions of self-styled prophets. (I think in this connection of the certainly sincere charismatic prophet who told me in 1979 that God had not brought me to Vancouver to write books, as I supposed, but to lead Christian people through a time of great internal division in the city churches. Well, the churches seem much as they were in 1979, and here I sit writing this book.)” pg. 216

As it turns out, The Lord plans some things in advance (28 years in Packer' case), and through his Spirit gives his ‘prophets’ the message early. It looks like this prophecy was fulfilled, and God indeed brought his servant J.I. Packer to Vancouver, at least in part, to “lead Christian people through a time of great internal division.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

living courageously, running with the horses

At times I think we live in a world where most people are pretty timid and only a few are game to take some risks and see what happens. This can happen in all areas of our lives: in our friendships, playing sport, while adventuring or travelling, in marriage, as a parenthood, in leadership (especially Christian leadership), in business or our jobs, and in our journey with the Lord. Eugene Peterson writes a stirring and almost poetic account depicting the battle that Jeremiah faced to live out the life that the Lord had install for him:

“Life is difficult, Jeremiah. Are you going to quit at the first wave of opposition? Are you going to retreat when you find out that there is more to life than finding three meals a day and a dry place to sleep at night? Are you going to run home the minute you find that the mass of men and women are more interested in keeping their feet warm than in living at risk to the glory of God? Are you going to live cautiously or courageously? I called you to live at your best, to pursue righteousness, to sustain a drive towards excellence. It is easier, I know, to be neurotic. It is easier to be parasitic. It is easier to relax in the embracing arms of the average. Easier, but not better. Easier, but not more significant. Easier, but not more fulfilling. I called you to a life of purpose far beyond what you think yourself capable of living and promised you adequate strength to fulfill your destiny. Now at the first sign of difficulty you are ready to quit. If you are fatigued by this run-of-the-mill crowd of apathetic mediocrities, what will you do when the real race starts, the race with the swift and determined horses of excellence? What is it you really want Jeremiah, do you want to shuffle along with the crowd, or are you going to run with the horses?” *

Jeremiah’s life became the answer “I’ll run with the horses.”

I have a good friend that is living courageously and taking a risk. He’s got a baby on the way, and he’s just walked away from his safe salaried job to pursue a dream that’s been in the pipeline for a while, starting up his own travel consultancy. The road ahead for him will be rocky, but I’m confident he wont give up at the first sign of trouble as many do. But, if you’re an Australian reader, he could sure use your help, by giving him a call and giving him (instead of the big-guns he used to work for at Flight Centre) the opportunity to arrange a flight, hotel, tour, cruise or travel insurance for you. I think it’s worth supporting someone who’s living courageously! Contact:

Evan Snow
Travel Director
33 Degrees Worldwide Pty Ltd
56 Berry St North Sydney 2060
P: +61 2 9455 0535

*Run with the Horses: the Quest for Life at its Best
Pg 18, drawing from Jeremiah 18

Monday, November 26, 2007

What are you thankful for?

wild boar shank at a great Italian restaurant
plenty of Fat Tire Amber Ale
a backyard hot tub
a bike ride with my wife along the Idaho River
going to a pro hockey game
an incredible feast
watching college football
playing Xbox with the men of the family (and the gay cat)
free alcohol on an American domestic flight
time with Jess’ uncle’s family who graciously hosted us for American Thanksgiving
Jess’ parents and grandparents joining the party, driving all the way from CA
and the opportunity to travel to Boise Idaho to enjoy it all!

This was my second thanksgiving in the USA, although since the first was spent riding roller coasters with a bunch of Aussies, Jess’ bridesmaids and her brother the day before I got married 4 years ago, I count this thanksgiving as my first.

I didn’t know what to expect, and am still sketchy on what “Thanksgiving” is beyond the survival of the pilgrims after they survived the Mayflower, and the turkey eating and football watching that is enjoyed to commemorate the pilgrims survival.

“What are you thankful for?”
I had my answer prepared, I thought it was part of the tradition to be asked around the banquet table, but I never was asked, and neither was anyone else.

My impression is, that America doesn’t get much time to ponder or answer this important question anymore. The Boise malls opened at 1am, only 1 hour after the “Thanksgiving” day was over. 80% of the sales that are made during the “Thanksgiving Sales” are made by 10am – I’m not surprised, after nine hours of shopping, I’m sure 80% of the shoppers would be pretty tired and would be thankful for going home to left-over turkey.
Maybe I don’t get it… but with so many things to buy tomorrow, it seems much harder to be thankful for what we have today.

The day before the trip, I had to read and write a response to a fellow students paper, written on the topic of “Measuring Wealth and Poverty”. I wrote my response knowing full well that a glorious week of indulgence and abundance lay ahead and also knowing that the paper I had just read was calling the church back to a “moral vision of poverty as manifested in the Eucharist”. That is, in our poverty, as sinful human beings before a Holy and wonderful God, we are brought to our knees as impoverished people, where being rich or poor (financially and socially) doesn’t matter, as together we receive the body and the blood of the one who became poor so that we could become rich (this is no prosperity gospel). It is when we are on our knees receiving God’s grace together, that we can be gracious towards one another, and lift one another out of our economic and social poverty.

As I emailed the paper off, I couldn’t help but write a few off-the-record words to the author, sharing my experience of reading and responding to his paper in light of the rich week that lay before me. I was very aware of what I didn’t want to give up – my entitlement, my comfort, my security, my opportunities – the trappings of living this-side of any measure of poverty – yet knowing that the “conceptualising and measuring of poverty is a sombre yet important duty. It must start with the sad recognition that the pervasive reality of poverty is a manifestation of sin.” Is it my sinfulness that plays a role in others being poor?

I am not yet ready to deal with the reality of the quote that the paper ended with:
“not to share our wealth with the poor is theft from the poor”. From what I understand, the church fathers, who walked the journey of faith closer to Jesus’ time than us held similar convictions. I do think however, that taking plenty of time to ponder and answer that key question maybe the first step to loving our neighbor who we kneel beside in Eucharistic poverty.
So, what are you thankful for?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sydney: from spectacular to uninhabitable?

Read all about it:

Pessimistic? Realist? Sensationalist? Prophetic?

I do fear for the reef...

Is Kevin'07 or Howard's 'Go for Growth' going to help?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Trans-Gendered Prose

While googling something only distantly related, I came across the “gender genie”, which will analyse a passage of writing and determine, based upon word usage, whether the author was a man or a woman. So, for fun, I put some of my writing through the genie. The result – I (jessica) write like a man!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

'Fall' on the UBC Campus

The last six weeks have been intense! It all came to brief interlude after spending Friday, Saturday and Sunday, literally chained to the iMac spitting out 6000 words, mostly for my Christianity and Capitalism paper - a Christian critique of Neo-Classical Economic Household and Consumption theories that affect our savings, debt, and exposure to consumerism and advertising - a really interesting paper to research and write, but I'm glad it's over!To unwind and restore myself, I spent a glorious (and rare!) sunny and warm fall afternoon walking around the UBC campus - I tried to capture it with my camera, although it's hard to do - Fall is so BIG here! There's a few more pics on my Flickr page.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ekklesia (gathering)

Jess and I have a new job (#3 job for both of us now). We are working as ‘interns’ for the 18+ college/careers group at our church, St John’s Shaughnessy. The group’s name is Ekklesia, which is a New Testament Greek word that means ‘gathering’, which implies more of a gathering in a house (church), than a formal meeting in an institutional church.

It’s a wonderfully simple model of Christian fellowship – we meet on a Wednesday night at 6:30pm where about 30 of us share a meal together. We do a few simple things as a group: we get to know each other better through some sharing times and ‘spotlights’ on individuals; we encourage each other with what we have been reading/learning in the bible; we pray for each other, sometimes we break-up in prayer-quads. Then we split off into 3 separate bible study groups, which wrap-up at 9:30.

Our role is great – we administer the group (the planning and legwork behind the scenes), we do a lot of the upfront leadership, and we share the responsibility of leading and shepherding the younger bible study group. Plus, we are given a Starbucks card to take Ekklesia people out for coffee! One big reason why we are doing the job, and also a joy of the job, is that we lead under Ken Moser – it is great to be working with Ken & Julie again!

I see some really healthy signs in this group: new people are welcomed and integrated quickly and we get new people every week; there is a hunger for God’s word to be taught; there is a desire to reach out and bless our community (although we are still working out how/what to do); people have time and care for one another. The Lord is doing something with this group – it’s great to be onboard when the Lord is working!

Another testimony to this group rang loud and clear this weekend … we were meant to go on a weekend retreat together. What would be a worst case scenario arriving at a campsite? Discovering the site had been double-booked with 90 boy/girl scouts under the age of 12 is one possible answer. We had to cancel the retreat. We went to a cold beach and hung out for a few hours, which ended up being a warm and enjoyable time together. Us leaders proposed meeting the following day a 3pm, have 2 of our 3 planned talks, have a great meal together and then go on, as planned, to our ‘mystery’ activity, Curling. Many people also met at 11am for a picnic on a glorious Autumn day in Vancouver, and the group hung out together in a home after Curling. All smiles, lots of laughs, no bitterness, but some understood disappointment. Ekklesia made the most of a potentially horrid situation, and we had a great time together!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I love this guy!

That’s kind of a weird thing for me (Andrew) to write, but let me explain …

I enjoy all the courses I am doing this semester, but my Christian Education and Equipping class is a real joy! The course has a simple aim: to equip us (both laity and the 'pro’s') to make disciples of Jesus Christ who will make disciples of Jesus Christ. Darrell Johnson believes the best way to make disciples is by helping people engage with texts of scripture. We spend a lot of our time looking at how Jesus makes disciples in the gospels.

Darrell Johnson who shepherds us through is amazing! He preaches with the kind of authority that Jesus talks about, he cares for his students, but most of all the love he has for Jesus spills out of him. I think this is why I love this guy, because he is so deeply in love with Jesus, and we can see it, and it’s contagious!

This week, Darrell went the extra mile for his students … he wrote a 10 day devotional packet on the Psalms and Ephesians for us to linger in during our upcoming reading week.
To share some of Darrell’s love for Jesus around, here is a link to the devotional pack for you to linger on as well. Darrell also wrote us an email with some additional thoughts after he did his first devotion today. I will post this email and any further ones he sends as comments on this post.

Enjoy lingering …

More on Darrell: Bio / Free Sermons / Regent Audio / Books
More on Jesus: listen to Darrell / read your bibles

Friday, September 14, 2007

reflections on an outlook for a new semester

This may sound odd for a Masters of Divinity student to say, but I am being re-awakened to the importance of God's word.

I walked in on the end of a passionate talk Ken was giving at VYLC a few weeks ago, where in the context of not employing 'fun and games' youth programs and instead taking God's word seriously by teaching it to youth, I caught a vision that distracted me. My mind flashed back to The Last Samurai movie, where I remember being taken through the process of layering and crafting the steel in a Samurai sword, the result being a weapon that was razor sharp and impenetrably strong. That is what God's word is really like, our orthodoxy affirms it and Hebrews 4:12 captures it:

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

The next image that came to my mind was a rubber sword, that instead of striking through to the heart, weakly bounces off someones chest in a 'play war'. It is no weapon at all, rather a toy. This is how we often treat God's word, our orthopraxis.

Today in Christian Education and Equipping (a course centered around making and maturing disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, who in-turn can make and mature disciples of Jesus through engaging texts of scripture), Darrell Johnson read us this quote from Cal Thomas (a syndicated columnist in the USA and a guy I have met during my stint with the fellowship in Washington DC):

"The problem in our culture isn't the Clinton Administration. It isn't the abortionists. It isn't the pornographers or drug dealers or the criminals. It is the undisciplined, undiscipled, disobedient, and Biblically ignorant Church of Jesus Christ. Several years ago, a USA Today/Gallup Poll found that only 10 percent of the people who claimed to be believers read their Bibles every day. There's your problem. If you're ignorant of the Word of God, you're going to be blind to the way of God and disobedient to the will of God."

I admit to: loosing sight of the importance of God's word; not reading it daily, and often less regularly than that; for thinking that something else I have to offer would be more effective at influencing people for God's Kingdom than God's Word would be. I repent today, but the chances are that through the busyness, all the other reading required of me, the paid work we must do to keep us here, my preference to disengage... I will stumble again tomorrow.

I remember John Woodhouse saying that he was sick of hearing about Christ Church's (the church of my youth) reputation for 'good teaching' (John has a reputation as a good teacher). John's point was good teaching would be seen in the lives that were pierced and transformed by God's Word, not by reputation. I am still wary about holding up 'good teaching', I would rather see good living - I guess that's the difference between our orthodoxy and our orthopraxis.

I am excited about this renewal of the importance of God's word and it's ability to strike to the heart, rescue the captives and usher in The Kingdom. I need to stand under God's word this semester (and this lifetime). Instead of blogging about it, I need to go read it, study it, dwell on it, memorise it, be changed by it. Jess and I now also have an opportunity to teach it each week at Ekklesia.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Warm Street

It’s a profoundly simply thing. Read about what happens when my good mate Steve hears that his company, Qantas, is about to replace all of it’s woolen blankets for their first class cabins. Steve lives just out of Sydney’s CBD and volunteers at a local food van that serves a great meal to men and women who sleep on the streets. Steve has seen a glimpse of how cold the men and women he serves must get on Sydney’s streets at night if you don’t have a warm cosy bed like he does. In a simple act of compassion and solidarity, Steve and his volunteers have brought some warmth to some of the cold men and women on Sydney’s Streets.

“Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done”
Matthew 6:10

Sunday, August 26, 2007

family time: Vancouver Island

One of the reason’s we wanted to do our studies in North America, was to be closer to Jess’ family in California and Idaho. While the family isn’t just down the street from Vancouver, we have done really well at spending some good quality time with them over the past year.

This week, we have had the joy of having Jess’ grandparents visit, Clyde and Sue arrived in Vancouver off a cruise ship from Alaska. We had a great few days together out on Vancouver Island: taking in picturesque Victoria; enjoying High Tea at The Empress Hotel; stopping to smell the roses at The Butchart Gardens; and driving through Chemainus, the world’s largest outdoor art gallery. The ferry trip there and back through the gulf islands was also very beautiful. Enjoy some of the pics:

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Building Intentional Christian Communities

The second summer course that we took (read about the first) was Building Christian Communities with Aussie Prof, Charles Ringma.

We started out considering the different ways that you could go about building a theology of Christian community: using the trinity, church or a Christ-centred approach as a base, developing a theology from New Testament perspectives (eg Acts 2 & 4) or looking at the tradition of historical Christian communities. The conclusion was, there is no theological, biblical or historical justification that a Christian community should exist in only one form. In reality, the theology around Christian communities is built on a conglomerate of the mentioned influences.

Throughout the course, we looked at the communities of: early Christianity, the Monastics, Anabaptists, Amish, Moravians, Contemporary House Churches, cluster living communities and Latin America’s Base Ecclesial Communities. Questions we wrestled with were: can the local church congregation fulfil the role of Christian community, as the Bible describes it, in our modern, fast-paced western society? Or do we need to consider establishing Intentional Christian Communities that complement and grow out of the institutionalised church?

Part of our assessment involved visiting an Intentional Christian Community and writing a reflection paper that also offered a critique of the community we visited. For a radically secular part of the world, Vancouver is home to several rich Christian communities, including: Regent College, L’Abri and A Rocha. As L’Abri was closed due to construction work, Jess and I chose to visit A Rocha: Christians in Conservation.

A Rocha is not your typical Christian community or ministry. There are A Rocha communities in 17 countries (with Australia on the way) that are located in important environmental eco-systems. The British Columbia community is based near the Little Campbell River, an area that is key for migrating bird populations and spawning Salmon. One of A Rocha’s key goals here, is improving the water quality in the River and Bay so the bird and fish life will flourish here, in this ecosystem.

In pursuing this goal, A Rocha has been able to build relationships with other conservation organizations and their members, the local community and representatives of different government departments. A Rocha also acts to educate people about the environment and in particular the impact of environmental abuse locally. School children, churches and random people off the streets come to visit, learn and participate in various projects. A Rocha attracts people of all religions, and particularly people with a more developed environmental concern. At A Rocha the conflict between Christianity and Science is at peace with scientific work playing a key and demonstrated role in creation care, which is a wonderful counter witness to the historical neglect of the environment by the church.

At the core of A Rocha Canada is an intentional Christian community, made up of a fluctuating staff of 15-20 people including long-term staff and short-term interns. Short term interns don’t have to profess a commitment to Christ, but do have to be willing to live in Christian community. We heard several stories of relationships that have developed from living with people and conversations about the gospel that take place in the context of planting local species on the river banks or picking fruit and veggies from the community garden. These conversations and relationships aren’t limited to the interns, they take place with many of the regular volunteers that spend time at A Rocha. It’s encouraging to see a natural Christian witness growing out of the shared concern of the staff and visitors at A Rocha, it offers us an alternate view of missional activity, maybe a more natural and relational one too.

Some heavy-hitters within the Anglican church in England, from where A Rocha sprouted, have crystallised why our stewardship of the earth, in which God has given us to tender, is so important. John Stott, an avid bird watcher, writes in the introduction to the founder of A Rocha’s book, “Can ecological involvement properly be included under the heading of “mission”? Yes, it can and should. For mission embraces everything Christ sends his people into the world to do, service as well as evangelism”. Alistair McGrath is also a regular speaker at A Rocha conferences.

I really like what A Rocha is doing in parts of the third world that are more vulnerable to deteriorating ecosystems than we rich westerners are. In Ghana, A Rocha has implemented a micro-enterprise program, which has provided 296 beehives to effectively harvest the honey from the aggressive wild African bees. Previously, the locals would set natural hives on fire in order to extract the honey. This practise led to many out-of-control fires that unnecessarily burnt large areas of the savannah. The beehives have helped the 98 locals involved by increasing their profits by 140%, valuable extra income in Ghana.

Friday, August 17, 2007

the ride of Goliath, the power of www

Almost 5000 people have viewed my YouTube Video of the Goliath roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain in LA. It's a great ride, used to be the world's tallest and the first drop is amazing! Although, as those who were at my pre-wedding day bash will testify, X is even better and was worth the 3 hour wait!

My question is, who are the 4887 people who have viewed my video? Are they those coaster nuts who travel across America and the world chasing bigger and better thrills doing some reconnaissance? Or are they people with too much time chasing thrills on the internet at home? Either way, it shows that the www is a powerful medium to share, publish and broadcast anything.

Look out for brother-in-law Matt and cousin-in-law Mark (as well as Jess and myself). What you don't get to see is how sick I was when I got off after concentrating on holding the camera through the G-force turns and drops. Enjoy the ride ...

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Cross and the Kingdom

Salvation is a favourite topic of Evangelicals. The Gospel in a word. The point of the cross. We are pretty clear on what we are saved from - our personal sins that separate us from God. Thanks to the cross, we are able to have a relationship with God. Ideally, we are sanctified a bit along the way. Then we die and go to Heaven.

This is the way I learned the gospel. This is the way I have explained the Gospel to others. I don’t believe this any more.

Through the journey of the last ten years, it seems to me that this Gospel summary is hardly Gospel at all; rather it is a myopic picture of the smallest aspect of Christ’s work on the cross and God’s purposes for the cosmos. Salvation, personal and corporate, in the narratives of Israel and the teachings of Jesus is a far more complicated and all-encompassing idea than just providing atonement, propitiation, satisfaction, and any other polysyllabic theological word on behalf of my personal sins.

The brokenness of this world is hard to miss. We know that all creation groans, longing to be freed from the mess, repaired, recreated. It is into this larger context of brokenness that our personal sins fit. No one sins in a vacuum - in all our actions we are simultaneously responsible agents and victims of other people’s sins, structural sin, cosmic brokenness. Being victims does not absolve our personal responsibility but neither does freedom-of-choice negate the real sin and evil of the world around us. It is into this complicated and messed-up world that we hear the message of the prophets and Jesus himself - the in-breaking Kingdom of God.

From Jesus’ parables, we know that the Kingdom is a kingdom of grace, of turning the current order upside-down and setting things right that have gone very, very wrong. With the exception of one notable group, Jesus’ gaze toward others is one of grace and mercy. We see this in the woman who weeps over his feet in the house of Simon. We see it in his many healings of lepers. We see it in his casting out of demons (which interestingly also often lack a mention of the individuals sin). We see it in his calling of Levi and those he eats with that evening. We see it in Zacchaeus. We see it in the woman caught in adultery. Why does Jesus see these people with compassion? Not all of these individuals came to Jesus broken and repentant - some did like the prostitute, some became repentant like Zacchaeus, others were brought against their will and show no sign of anguish over their sin like the woman caught in adultery. And yet, in Jesus all found compassion, healing, and freedom.

When we look at each of these examples and consider the setting, the social circumstances, and the societal structures, we see that no one existed in isolation, committing their personal sins apart from the larger system of brokenness. Matthew and Zacchaeus both were making a living working for the empire, making money in the way that tax-collectors did. Yes, it is wrong to defraud people, but the entire system of empire and oppressive taxation is also wrong. The prostitute and the woman caught in adultery were both wrong in their sexual decisions but so were the men who employed, objectified, and abandoned them, as was the social system that offered no opportunity for women without family. Only the Pharisees and religious authorities seem to provoke Jesus’ anger - interestingly enough, they are the ones who are concerned with personal purity and piety and who are responsible for at least some of the societal systems that condemn, oppress, and alienate.

Let’s consider a modern example. A 14-year-old Christian girl has a distant and verbally abusive single mother and doesn’t know her father. In her search for love, she sleeps with her year-10 boyfriend and becomes pregnant. Afraid to tell anyone, she has an abortion. When that relationship comes to an end, she continues to have sexual relationships with other men, and eventually, due to disappointment and frustration, women. Is she sinning in having sex with all these people? Did she sin in having an abortion? What if she was raped by her uncle rather than sleeping with her boyfriend; does that change our attitude toward her? Does it change the nature of her sin? These are the real complexities among which all our actions take place and among which our sins are committed. It begs the question, is her personal sin really the biggest problem here or is it the dysfunctional family and society in which she lives that fosters alienation and abuse?

The cross is truly the way of forgiveness and freedom, but it is much bigger than my personal sin. Throughout the gospel of John, Jesus makes it clear that his work is for the world, the cosmos. Jesus’ death is to fix for the brokenness of the whole mess and to provide the means of freedom, restoration and wholeness for the whole world. We often forget that forgiveness happened in the Old Testament - there is no evidence in Law or the prophets, and certainly not in the poetry, that the forgiveness that YHWH gave his people throughout the history of Israel wasn’t real forgiveness. But this forgiveness didn’t change their very nature as human beings. What Jesus’ death offers is freedom from sin, which makes us a totally different order of human – we are recreated humans, and that is evidenced as we are filled with and empowered by the very spirit of YHWH himself.

Over the past ten years, I’m beginning to see that the cross is about the complete undermining of the current world order, it is the sacrifice to redeem it all, to restore completely our systems, our societies, our relationships, ourselves. It is this revolutionary and comprehensive grace, freedom, and restoration that is the heart and character of the Kingdom of God. In the same way that we cringe at the “Christian” who uses grace as a means for “sin to abound” so we ought to cringe at the “Christian” who uses grace as a means of personal salvation, failing to engage in the radical restoration for the cosmos as a whole. As we, filled with the Holy Spirit, become formed into the image of Jesus, we get to partner with God in bringing his freedom and his restoring, recreating Holy Spirit to all the broken systems, oppressive structures, and exploitative practices that keep all of creation, even those created in the very image of God, in slavery.

Our job, friends, is not to continue affirming the fallen-ness of things but to usher in the Kingdom of God, the restored, recreated, upside-down new heaven and new earth for which Jesus gave his life and which he guarantees in his resurrection.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Solidarity, Resistance, Liberation: The Way of God in the World?

[WARNING: Not a quick or light read. But hopefully a worthwhile one]

This was the name of the Regent summer school course that we took with Steve when he visited. It was probably the most unique and eye-opening course we have taken! Instead of meeting at Regent College, in its somewhat plush, renovated and air-conditioned building, we started off meeting in a downtown legal office with a spectacular view of the mountains. This was quite deliberate as the first two bible passages we explored were positioned around those who have power over those who don’t. As we sat in our reclining leather chairs, we read the Joseph Narrative in Genesis.

Depending on what you choose to focus on, you can make Joseph out to be a good or a bad character. A few snapshots: Joseph alienates his brothers by boldly re-telling his dreams predicting his power to the point Jacob has to rebuke him for it (G 37:10); Joseph makes slaves of the Egyptians and Israelites because they are desperate for food (G 47:21); Joseph plays tricks on his brothers, e.g. planting the silver cup in the sack (G 44); after Jacob’s death, the brothers instinct is to fear Joseph (G 50:15). Joseph is someone who knows how to move into a position of power and privilege, and gains power with his father, Potiphar, the jailor and Pharaoh. Early on “the Lord was with Joseph” in these ‘promotions’ (see G 39), but that favour drops out of the text after this point. God did use Joseph to save the Israelites from starving, but does that mean we should emulate an oppressor like Joseph? In the end, are you left with a picture of Joseph as a God-fearing Israelite or someone who has adopted Egypt’s powerful and enslaving ways? Or is Joseph a good Israelite who saves his people from starvation by chaining them to slavery?

The next day, we found ourselves in a very different location. The corner of Main and Hastings in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside is the centre point of Canada’s poorest and most problematic postcode. Homelessness, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, street prostitution and petty crime don’t hide in the back-alley’s here – they surround you on the street. In many ways, this is where Vancouver’s enslaved live and try to survive. While some of these people are enslaved by poor choices, others are enslaved by circumstance (abusive families, historical racial prejudice, low wages, no affordable housing – circumstances as uncontrollable as a famine in Canaan). As we crammed ourselves into a stuffy, overcrowded room with no windows we read the early chapters of the Moses narrative in Exodus that directly follow the Joseph narrative.

The Israelites are still enslaved thanks to Joseph, but they were fruitful and filled the land (E 1:7). Out of fear of being overrun the Egyptian King oppresses the Israelites, but they continue to grow (E 1:8-14). Plan B, the King employs a plan of national genocide to stop the Israelites taking over (E 1:16). Enter Moses, a child who should have fallen victim to the genocide, but instead grows up in Pharaoh’s household (E 2:1-16). One day, Moses goes out and sees where his own people were and the slave labour they endured. The oppression Moses sees has such an impact on him, he kills an Egyptian that is beating an Israelite (E 2:11) and the result is he flees to a foreign country (E 2:15). Years pass, yet the Israelites are still enslaved and God is concerned for his people (E 2:23-25). ‘The tears of the oppressed’ are again heard by God and he sends Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egypt (E 3:7-10).

In contrast to Joseph who climbs the ladder from powerlessness to power, Moses walks (or runs?) away from his place of privilege in the Egyptian royal household. With some convincing from God, Moses in an act of solidarity goes back to his people in Egypt. The request to “let my people go” is denied, and so at the age of 80, God sends Moses to announce his resistance to Pharaoh by delivering the 10 plagues. After Egypt is decimated, God brings liberation to his people and allows them to escape to the desert, bringing the red-sea crashing down on Pharaoh’s pursuing army. Solidarity, Resistance, Liberation. The way God rescues his people out of slavery in Egypt!

Is this the way God in the world today?

The louder and longer heard voices in my life have not emphasised a God, who through his people, would seek to transform the power structures of our societies and our planet that enslave people. Instead, God is shown to be someone who transforms individual lives by bringing them salvation from sin, some level of sanctification and potentially but not always some personal or family spiritual healing and transformation. All wonderful and valuable things!
But, are we cheapening the freedom that Jesus paid in blood for us to have?

The following quote is something I read earlier in the year from an interview in Christianity Today, it wasn’t used in the course. I’m not sure N.T. Wright is advocating a Liberation Theology here, but his comments do point towards how the church has devalued the good news Jesus came to bring.

“For generations the church has been polarized between those who see the main task being the saving of souls for heaven and the nurturing of those souls through the valley of this dark world, on the one hand, and on the other hand those who see the task of improving the lot of human being and the world, rescuing the poor from their misery.
… that distinction is one that we modern Westerners bring to the text rather than finding in the text. Because the great emphasis in the New Testament is that the gospel is not how to escape the world; the gospel is that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Lord of the world. And that his death and resurrection transform the world, and that transformation can happen to you. You in turn can be part of the transforming work. That draws together what we traditionally called evangelism, bringing people to the point where they come to know God in Christ themselves, with working for God's Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. …
The key to mission is always worship. You can only be reflecting the love of God into the world out of overflowing self-giving love. The more you look at that God and celebrate that love, the more you have to be reflecting that overflowing self-giving love into the world.”

There is only one guy at Regent qualified to teach this course. Read more about Dave Diewert and his life spent in Solidarity, Resistance and Liberation.

Please add a comment or critique and share what you think.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Grade 12 Houseboat Trip

We have just returned from a great week on a houseboat trip with this year's school leavers from St John’s Shaughnessy. Jess and I fulfilled the role of drivers, cooks, speakers, leaders and boat captains. Ken & Julie Moser, the Youth Ministers, are bringing to St John’s what they brought to Christ Church St Ives in the Whitsunday’s trip. For those unfamiliar with the “Whit”, the formula is pretty simple… take the Grade 12’ers (who have just finished school) to a spectacular place for a week of good times, great fellowship, rest, relaxation and some time reflecting on the journey of faith in Jesus Christ so far, and the road ahead together.

Lake Koocanusa in British Columbia (near the Albert and Montana borders, close to Fernie) was the spectacular location. The lake was full of fresh, clean, turquoise, refreshing water and was surrounded by sandy beaches, pine trees and mountain vistas. We cruised around the lake on 2 Daydreamer houseboats for 4 glorious days where lazy mornings, lots of swimming, fishing, eating and being together was the agenda. Jumping/diving/sliding/back-flipping off the boat and cliff jumping (including a 70 foot jump!) were also part of the daily action. We lit campfires on shore and spoke about the importance being intentional with our faith, decision making and building Christian community.

A great part of the trip was driving around BC. We got to see some of BC's Glacier National Park and the Okanagan area. Everywhere we drove, we found spectacular mountain peaks, stunning lakes, rivers and streams, pine trees galore, and long and winding railways. This is an impressive part of the world!

Thank you to the Grade 12’ers for having us share in their adventure and to Ken & Julie for inviting us to be part of it. It was a blessed week!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


When I was 12, I really botched the wooden pencil box I had to make at school. The BBQ fork and the plastic photo holder weren't much better. When I used to hammer picture hooks into our brick walls, I would remove chunks of the wall in the process. What I am trying to say here is ... I'm not really that 'handy'.

However, after doing some construction work in Mexico this summer, and helping to build a 16x20 foot house end-to-end, I am gaining some confidence, know-how and perhaps even some skills. So, Jess and I decided to install a new toilet ourselves, and it works, and it doesn't leak.

Small victories!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

You, Me and Dupree

It's been a great few weeks! We arrived back in Vancouver and a few days later, summer and Steve arrived too. Steve came to Vancouver to hang out with us and do a Regent College course with Jess and I called Solidarity, Resistance and Liberation: The Way of God in the World (more on the course later ...). After being away from Sydney for almost a year now, it was a great joy for us to have a good friend visit!

While Jess was working hard for Professor Bruce Waltke, Steve and I enjoyed some lazy mornings, played some tennis and badminton, went to a minor league baseball game, and hung out with Ken Moser playing pitch-n-putt golf and seeing Transformers (wait for the DVD ...). Julie and Jess joined us for an enjoyable and relaxing weekend at the Moser's cabin in Pt. Roberts Washington.

One of the highlights of Steve's visit was conquering the Grouse Grind together. A 2.9km hike, straight-up Grouse mountain, gaining 2,800 feet. A spectacular view over Vancouver and towards Vancouver Island, Mt. Baker and Washington state awaited us at the top, as well as a well-earned Molson's Canadian! 2 grizzly bears are kept on Grouse, one of which got up on two legs right in front of us (but I missed the photo op ...). The lowlight was having Jess' mountain bike stolen while Steve and I were getting around town. Painful.

There are a bunch of Steve's and my photo's from his stay currently on our Flickr page.

Safe travels SB ...

Friday, June 22, 2007

back/only in the US of A ...

We have left Mexico and are en-route home to Vancouver with a few days with family in Bakersfield on the way. Hanging out with Jess' brother is always interesting! Yesterday he took me pistol shooting. Matt was impressed with some of my clusters from 10 yards (see the evidence below). Notice the name of the establishment (very NRA!) and the bullet exploding out of Matt's gun.

Read our final post (for now) on the EOC blog: Who says Jesus doesn't heal the sick anymore?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

you do the math

There are 300 odd million people in the USA. About 30 million in California (that's more people than in Australia, and almost as many as the whole of Canada). What would be the chance of running into someone you know from another country, in neither of your home towns, while you were both on separate road trips? I don't know ... you do the math!

"NO WAY!!" were the words I said loudly and over and over again when Andy, a Regent friend strolled into the IN-N-OUT Burger bathroom at the Lyons exit off LA's 5 freeway.

Andy, Jess and I are in a community group at college together. Our group had talked about the things that we miss from 'home' that we can't find in Vancouver ... IN-N-OUT was high on all of our lists. So i guess, for an unplanned rendezvous on a CA road-trip, IN-N-OUT was as better bet as any.

It was great to see Andy and meet his Mom, it reminded us of the new friends we have made in Vancouver. It will be good to be back there in 2 weeks time.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Fish heads, fish heads . . .

I ate a fish head this weekend.

In my mind, pushing the squishy, black, greasy eyes out of the skull with my thumb and onto a tortilla, along with its small remnant of a brain, and cheeks, would probably be the definition of “taking one for the team.”

This was the situation . . . We were at the end of a three-day, evangelistic/commissioning/baptisim/worship extravaganza in a small church in the middle-of-nowhere Baja. Literally the middle of nowhere Baja – on the state line between north and south, the 28th parallel to be exact. The congregation had been incredibly welcoming and hospitable, keen to get to know their very foreign visitors. On Sunday, after 15+ hours of church services, they had a huge seafood feast, of clam and calamari ceviche (raw fish “cooked” in lime juice), calamari cream, fresh oysters, and fried fish. Fried whole fish. With the tails. And fins. And heads.

As in much of the world, the head is considered a bit special, the thing you serve to guests. It ended up on our plate (we had already insisted on sharing since neither of us were too keen to pick the fish off the bones and pry away the fins). Andrew refused, despite the urging of one of the elders who had struck up a friendship with him. So, it was all up to me. Just me and two black, roly-poly eyes. I figured, with enough hot sauce I wouldn’t be able to taste the eyes looking up at me from the tortilla.

The hot sauce didn’t work.

To read about the rest of our weekend adventures, check out Andrew’s post and pics on the EOC blog.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Thoughts on Translation

If you’ve seen The Interpreter with Nicole Kidman, then you know what simultaneous translation is. This style of translation is very different from the stop and start style where the speaker takes a break and the translator then repeats what they have just heard. Simultaneous translation requires the translator to be constantly listening in one language and speaking in a second, lagging always just a few words behind. At the UN, people get special headsets linked to their translator, so all they hear is the translation. Last weekend, Andrew got the low-tech version, which involved me leaning over his shoulder, whispering in his ear for six separate two-hour sessions. All that whispering left me dizzy and on the verge of hyperventilation. But, despite the oxygen deprivation, it was a great learning experience.

Primarily and most obviously, my Spanish comprehension improved dramatically. In order to simultaneously translate a speech, you have to instantly know what you are hearing and then render it intelligibly into the second language. I only managed to get about 80% translated word for word, the rest of the time, Andrew had to settle for summaries of what was said.

Far more interesting, though, is what actually happens in the head of the translator during the translation process. While translating, it is as if you are channeling the voice of the speaker; their ideas pass through you, their attitudes, expressions and style, their goals and purpose for the talk. Although you are essential to the communication of the message, it has virtually nothing to do with you – it is all about the speaker. The translator’s only purpose is to bring the message into the language of the people. The spiritual parallel is clear. Ideally, we should be, through the Holy Spirit, translating the message of Jesus – that is, we should be completely out of the way with our own agendas, with only the ideas, attitudes, and goals of Jesus in mind as we translate his message into the language of our societies and cultures.

The other interesting part of simultaneous translation is what happens when the translator gets out of step with the speaker. At 80%, there were certainly times when I knew that I had missed something. Perhaps I yawned and got behind, or misunderstood a phrase, or forgot to translate giving Andrew Spanish instead of English, or perhaps my mind simply stopped for a bit, overloaded and exhausted. Whatever the reason, I had missed a beat (or several). When this takes place, you have two choices – one is to attempt to fill in the blank with your own ideas or understanding, the second is to simply pick back up with what is clearly being said in the given moment. Needless to say, the second option is by far the best – trying to catch the listener up by filling in ideas only risks missing what is currently being said, resulting in the listener missing even more of what the speaker is actually saying. Again, I have a lot to learn here spiritually. It is very easy to get caught up in the things that I’ve missed or done wrong, the theology that I have misunderstood (or still misunderstand), and the times when I have simply stopped listening to God, exhausted and overloaded. Perhaps, in these times, the best thing to do is to simply start up again with God, where I am now, with what I clearly hear and see in the present moment. As in translating, any other course of action only risk my mind and the message and person of Jesus becoming further muddled, confused, and lost in translation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

road trip to San Felipe

Another joyful role we are both playing here in Ensenada is helping the ministries and ministers to harness the internet to help communicate more effectively to their supporters and the groups that come here. Read our latest post on a team-road-trip to San Felipe on the overhauled:

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

that all may be one ...

Last night, 40 Pastors and their spouses came together to worship, share, and break-bread together. This is no small feat in a town where denominational differences have, for years, kept pastors from being in the same room together. EOC’s desire to do all its work through the local churches brought some unity last night, as they stood upon the common ground of Jesuchristo and the issues that divide were left behind.

pastors dinner

Jesus’ final prayer:

“… that all maybe one Father, just as you are in me and I am in you… may they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”

John 17:21-23

May Ensenada see God’s love through the example of these Pastors.
May we help answer Jesus’ final prayer …

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lomas Bonitas

The colonia of Lomas Bonitas sits high above the valley, nestled against the mountain, with a panoramic view of the Bahia de Todos Santos. The mountains on the north side jut up from the Pacific Ocean, pulling back and east, before they crash back to the sea on the south side of the coast, revealing a long and somewhat narrow agricultural valley. On a clear day, the steep point at the southern end of the bay is clearly etched against the hard blue sky. To the north, the straight, dark lines of Ensenada’s streets’ pave the valley floor, leading to a cruise ship that dwarfs the port. Immediately below the village lay the well- ordered fields of corn, broccoli, onions, something that looks like anise. Baja comes in only two colours, brown and blue, and from Lomas Bonitas, it is clear that even the fields of broccoli, covered in a powdery loam, are really just another shade of tan, a khaki, but still brown. The crystalline blue of the Pacific mirrored in the sun-filled sky and the hard brown earth, a desert without water and only rock, wash out to white oblivion in photos, with perhaps a silhouette blocking out the blazing sun.

The drive up to Lomas Bonitas from the valley floor isn’t long, but it is best taken slowly. The roads are pock-marked and pitted from the occasional heavy rains and the inevitable spinouts that result. The road wraps around the back of the mountain and turns, insisting on an impossible trajectory straight up, passing through Las Flores and its two-storied weather-beaten church, and finally arriving at the crest of the mountain, an almost cliff ledge overlooking the valley and sea below. This is Lomas Bonitas.

Andrew and I are with Abram, a big, soft man with silver hair, black wrap-around sunglasses, and large paw-like hands. He has stopped his jeep and gets out in front of a small property, less than ten meters squared. In front of the jeep sits a small concrete slab, to the left of the slab is a long, narrow shelter with a clothes line and a small garden in front. The dwelling is made from the wooden flats used for shipping boxes of produce, which are nailed together and stacked so as to provide slatted walls. Blue tarps are stretched over a center beam and tied down, forming a roof. At the other end of the clothes line stands a small, partially open toilet. Along the side of the property is a small garden with a flower plant and some cactus, a common food in Mexico. Another small potted plant is nailed next to the doorway. Abram, who speaks almost no English, introduces us to a solid, dark woman from Oaxaca Sebastiana who is half my height. She and her two children, Rosio and Jidel, invite us into their small house.

Her sister is in today as well, visiting, and she and her four boys gather up three crates, placing them in the centre of the room and draping clothes over them to form chairs for us. Sebastiana, Rosio and Jidel sit on their bed. The inside of their house is clean and tidy. They have no furniture. The bed is a piece of plywood set on cinderblocks with a blanket over the top. Cinderblocks and plywood also form a makeshift table that doubles as a kitchen counter. In one corner, a third make-shift table forms the kitchen, with an old, portable two burner stove running off a small gas tank. Plywood and cardboard line the walls on the inside of the house, providing protection from the constant wind. Nails in the plywood hold a pot, a potato peeler, a ceramic mug. Next to the door, an empty soda bottle cut in half, is nailed to the wall, serving as a toothbrush and soap holder. The floor is hard packed dirt.

Sebastiana’s husband has died recently in an accident. They had bought the land, planning to build a house, send their children to school, provide for them a better life than theirs of working on the farms below. Now that he’s dead, she is trying to provide this dream for her children. She refuses to let them go off to work with her in the fields, even though Rosio is 13 and in most families she would be expected to help support the family. Instead, she puts most of her meager income toward paying about $200 a year for her children’s education, leaving very little for luxuries, like a bed or other furniture.

In the second week of June, a small house, with a floor, windows, and a shingled roof will be built for Sebastiana, Rosio and Jidel on the concrete slab in front of the jeep. The children are all smiles, in part for the house, in part because Andrew is taking their picture and they love the attention and the encouragement to perform. The Rosio and I chat about school; she enjoys all her subjects although at times the work is difficult. In a year and a bit, she will be starting secondary school, which is not free, as primary school is in Mexico. But Sebastiana is smiling, certain that God will provide, as he always has.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

a genuinely good day

Tuesday, May 8 started early - not usually a good way to begin! 5:50am out of bed to lead a team bible study at 6:00. Coffee in hand, I pray that God will reveal to us the heart of his message. It’s been a while since I have regularly led bible studies, so I’m a little nervous as to how it will go … I have only known these folks for a week - will anyone contribute anything? Will they connect with what I have to say? Will my new theological college insights mean anything outside of the academy?

We are working through the book, or “synagogue sermon,” of James, my passage is chapter 1:19-27. I’m a little concerned that we will get through this too quickly, I have about an hour to fill … but we didn’t get past the first verse:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen,
slow to speak and slow to become angry

Lots of the discussion I directed, but I also learnt much from the team about the heart of what God is trying to say here … an hours worth of reflections, too much to share in this space. In an inadequate nutshell, I think this verse is about our state of being. Are we so wound up in self importance and frustration that when something is said or done, and we don’t like it, we quickly respond with rash words and anger? Or are we in a state that we seek further understanding through listening and thus loving those around us. From the Greek, a sense of the ideal being that we are slow to move into (eis – a preposition that describes movement into or among) words and anger as we are in (eis again) a good state to listen. The challenge to the team – this week, take a litmus test on your state of being by how you respond to others.

8am – EOC, where we are for 7 weeks, has traditionally done very little specific women’s ministry. So today is a first! 30 pastors’ wives arrive to be given a new outfit – shoes, handbag, make-up, smelly soaps for the road – the works! Coffee and fruit together, a bible message from a pastor's wife, a chance to get to know and encourage each other personally and in their ministries. A room full of women eating chocolate deserts is no place for a man! The constant women’s chatter was exhausting for me, even though I couldn’t understand 95% of it. Yet I knew a wonderful time was being had by all. Today I got to participate in ‘secret women’s business’ by ministering with my camera. I love it when ministry and things you are passionate about come together like this, it becomes joyful to do. Through my camera lens, I saw women dressed up in fine new clothes, looking and feeling beautiful and special – so important for a woman’s heart! More significantly, I sensed dignity being restored amongst these women who rarely get to be treated as special or have a day out put on for them. A great event! More photo’s on our Flickr.

In Mexico, you can't take for granted many of the things you did when you grew up in Sydney. You can’t drink the tap water, so drinking water needs to be trucked in and it runs empty. The roads where we are staying are dirt and horribly bumpy. There is trash everywhere, even on many of the beautiful beaches.

1:30pm – after hearing that the camp has to make an ‘exchange’ with the garbage man to haul the camp's extra trash away, and also that the camp is spending too much money in the kitchen, a lively bi-lingual discussion broke out in the kitchen with Jess working overtime to interpret both ways and contribute herself. For a country that seems to be covered in trash, I don’t see the logic in the camp having to pay money it doesn’t have for extra trash to be removed. The first step is to Reduce. Better purchasing for the kitchen, buy only what we need. Better communication with the campers: don’t serve what they wont eat; or serve too much; communicate that many people in Mexico don’t have enough food, so don’t waste food by taking what you cannot eat. Reuse - many boxes, cans and bags can be reused rather than trashed. Recycle and compost!

A fear that I have in my life, is that it is full of talk. Not today!
I researched, found cans, made signs, collected scraps and dug out a composting bin. It’s a start. It takes about 4-6 weeks to form a new good habit – that’s all the time we have here. It will be an uphill endeavor, but I’m going to try. As a result, maybe we will be able to achieve something: less Pesos spent, less trash added to Mexico’s pile; more healthy soil; education, awareness and new habits for our team and the visiting groups; operating with more integrity in a corrupted country; ushering in a bit of God’s good creation design by taking up his invitation in Genesis 1 to subdue his creation well. Small steps, but you have to start somewhere …

8:30pm – enjoyed Val Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue in The Saint

Thursday, April 26, 2007

off to Ensenada

After a week of relaxing and indulging in Bakersfield, today we hit the road for Ensenada Mexico, with a few days in San Diego en route.

Ensenada is a beach side town, located on the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula. We can drive there; it is approximately 4 hours from Los Angeles, about 90 minutes south of Tijuana, just over the US/Mexico border. Ensenada is a rapidly growing town of about 450,000 people. Being close to the US border, Ensenada has a growing tourist industry and is also a port for short cruises out of LA & San Diego.

This will be my 4th trip to Ensenada and my 5th to Mexico. Usually, we head down to Ensenada for 2-3 days to visit a growing number of friends, friends that we have been introduced to through relationships that Jess' folks have developed. On this trip, however, we will be staying for 7-8 weeks.

We have decided to spend a good chunk of our 'summer' here to get a real taste for life in a developing nation, to develop our relationships with our Mexican friends and learn more about following Christ from their perspective, and to help out at the Ensenada Outreach Centre where we will be staying. Jess is also hoping that is will be an opportunity for my Spanish to improve in leaps and bounds. If you compare Ensenada's weather with Vancouver's (see the two AccuWeather modules on the RHS of our blog) and also understand that the last 8 months have been wet, dark and cold for us, you'll also understand another reason why we are keen to spend a few weeks in a warm and dry beach-side town!

We are not entirely sure what our time will look like in Ensenada, but we are hoping that the experience will be one that gives us a greater perspective on life beyond our affluent Western one, and also on what God is doing in this part of the world. We are going with open minds, obedient hearts and ready feet to see and to hear if this could be a place or a gateway to what the Lord has for us post Regent.

We hope to keep the blog well-updated as we go, to try and share some of the experience and in so doing crystallise it for ourselves. Please pray for us as we go ...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

after 40 days (I feel like Noah) ...

For the 40 days leading up to Easter, my Lenten spiritual discipline has been fasting from wasting time on the computer. This 40 days have been extended past Easter with final exams in the last week. But now it's over! So back to time wasting shall I go?

I probably will in reality, but hopefully to a lesser extent. Here's a few thoughts on what I have learnt from the experience:

Blogs - most blogs I read (mainly of friends) don't need to be checked daily for an update (as I had been in the habit of doing). Our Lenten fast was put on hold for a Sabbath Saturday sundown to Sunday sundown, which gave me an ample window to check people's blogs once a week. The only blog that I at times struggled to keep up with was J-NYC [;-)] as J sometimes posts very frequently. The only reason to check most blogs more than once a week is to follow the conversation of comments on a post, but this is more often than not worth following.

News - I have to confess I am a little ignorant of all the details surrounding Anna Nicole's death and the many saga's that followed during the Lent period. But have I really missed anything? There of course are some worthy news stories and articles that I have missed, but that's ok too. I think the needs to be a once or twice a day visit for me, rather than an every 5 minute refresh, like it sometimes was in my days doing a desk job.

Online accounts - I am far better than I used to be (maybe I am/was a control freak? Don't comment on that ... otherwise I might delete your comments!), but during the lent season, I have tried to avoid checking online banking and other accounts except when necessary. This is a habit worth keeping!

Lent of course, isn't meant to be about using my time better, it's about taking on a discipline that helps you be more in-tune with Christ as he walks towards his crucifixion cross. In some small way, we pick up and carry our crosses and forgo our chocolate, alcohol, internet use or whatever and go with him, as he carries his cross and gives it all up for us. My chosen discipline did help with this, but to be honest, only in a limited way. At first, I did turn to prayer instead of the computer to make the most of those few otherwise idle minutes, but this faded into obeying a self-imposed rule on my life (as many of our honourable and godly pursuits can do). You'd have to ask my wife to be sure, but I think I was more attentive to helping around the house and in the kitchen, rather than defaulting to the computer. And again, check with Jess, but we probably spent more time simply being with each other, without the iMac distraction – all good things!

This lent thing is a work-in-progress with me as I’m new to it, so I will try something again next year. To leave you with something to ponder, in one of my classes we have been looking at the effects of technology on our spiritual lives, both good and bad for sure. Technologies like computers, the internet, mobile phones and even watches can be a stronger force in our lives than we think as they can become invisible to us, and part of our natural environment. If you are someone who can never miss a call, cant go an hour without checking email, or constantly needs to know the time – can I encourage you to think about taking a technology Sabbath (which may turn into a Lenten sacrifice next Easter). Do we really need our mobiles on a Sunday?

Friday, April 06, 2007

let’s (not) t-t-talk about the weather

so much to say, so much to say, so much to say, so much to say ...
keep it locked up inside don't talk about it
t-t-talk about the weather

~ Dave Matthews Band, So Much to Say ~

We talked about the weather in our last post – why do we talk about the weather when there should be so much to say?

I was humbled this Good Friday morning. While breaking my Lenten Disciple, I read an article from the SMH around the notion that ‘the church has left the building’. It lead me to think about where Jesus would be worshipping on this sacred day?

Studying theology raises so many questions and anxieties for me. Sadly, more about myself than about God, but I am a work in progress, so I’m ok with that for now. One constant question for us, is what will we do when we are done studying at Regent? While we are doing well at being present living day-to-day where we are in this season, this question keeps popping-up.

After reading about the church leaving the building, I came across a post from some good friends who, for a week, got to see what the transforming news of Jesus of Nazareth is doing in Central America.

So much say. So much need. So much to do. So much good being done. So much hope brought about by our transforming Jesus. Yet we talk about the weather.

This summer we will probably be blessed to be part of the transformation that Jesus is bringing to Ensenada, Mexico. We will spend 8 weeks (starting at the end of April) being part of the work of the Ensenada Outreach Centre. May Jesus of Nazareth have so much to say to us when we are there …

Sunday, April 01, 2007

It’s official – spring is here!

The northern hemisphere ties the beginning of spring to the Vernal Equinox, March 21. Of course, the exact equinox varies a bit, but this year, it was March 21 (more equinox details). For us in Vancouver, this blessed day promising warm, honey-coloured sun almost coincided with the end of a 22-day straight rain streak on March 25th. It also coincided with the appearance of the famous cherry blossoms, known as the first real sign that spring is truly on its way. Needless to say, after a winter with 30% less sunlight than a normal Vancouver winter, unusually strong storms, early and frequent snow, gale-force winds, and record-setting rain totals, everyone is much relieved.

To celebrate Vancouver residents are donning their shorts, tee shirts and thongs, heading outside for barbeques, and generally revelling in the “sunshine.” This brings us to a key point of definition. To me, sunshine is a golden-yellow light streaming forth from the sky, which, for the day to be considered “sunny,” must be blue. If the sky fails to be truly blue, I would call the day “hazy.” If the haze were a more opaque grey with texture, “cloudy” would be the appropriate term. Shadows always correspond to sunshine and one may find solace in the shadows from the sun, if heat accompanies the light. The other day was decidedly not sunny. While it was not raining, the sun could not be seen in the sky, definite clouds blanketed the expansive space above. No shadows graced the ground. Knowing that I hate the rain and am desperate for sun, many a cheery Canadian acquaintances asked me on said day, “are you enjoying the sunshine today?” I could only smile in a bewildered response.

All that said, we all know of warm, muggy days that are bright, cloudy and pleasant, if a bit hot. And so, the lack of true sunshine alone is hardly any reason to question the calendar, the cherry blossoms, and the throngs of thong-wearing Canadians. And, as this picture, taken yesterday, demonstrates, we have experienced a few days of beautiful blue-sky sun (just not on the previous day in question. Of course, the reality of true sun on some days only exacerbates my confusion as to Canadian use of language.) Stepping outside, however, one is not greeted by muggy warmth. No, even when the do clouds break and true sunshine appears, it is still cold. Not cool, not “well-it-certainly-isn’t-Sydney-in-the-summer” cold, not even 15 (that’s 60 for my North American friends and family) spring day cold. Yesterday was 8 (46.4), as I write this, at noon, it is 6 (42.8). It may reach 10 (50) this week. It is decidedly NOT spring, no matter what the calendar, the cherry blossoms, and the throngs of crazy Canadians declare.