Melbourne

I got to spend three & a half days in Melbourne. I visited a couple of churches & went to a conference…. Look, I’m a little tired, so “Mini-T” can tell the story.

 

Thanks Big-T.

So, Saturday morning, there we were, catching an early train, because “someone” is always too scared of missing a flight. “Better to be two hours early than to be 5 minutes late,” we were two hours early.

Thankfully we always have a book to read.
Thankfully we always have a book to read.

We weren’t too worried about a wait. The kindle with me in case I wanted to read some more academic or difficult stuff, otherwise, it was a great opportunity to re-read a classic during the travel times.

It was a first for mini-T, but Big-T is used to catching planes
It was a first for mini-T, but Big-T is used to catching planes

So, we arrived in Melbourne, having had an exciting flight (the North Melbourne Roos were on it with us… also, virgin now has an app which allows you to use your iPad like an entertainment system. We watched Spiderman!), and got picked up by our new friend George.  He’s an assistant minister at St. Thomas’ Burwood (which has recently gone through the kind of re-build that we’re on the cusp of), he has twin boys, and we looked similar enough that when we visited his 8:30am service the next day, one of the old ladies wondered why he was sitting in a pew, no robes on, at 8:30! George was lovely, gave us a tour of his church, and then was nice enough to drop us off at our Phil & Kristin’s house!

Phil & Kristin's house. Somehow, we managed not to get any pictures of P, K & the kids!
Phil & Kristin’s house.
Somehow, we managed not to get any pictures of P, K & the kids!

Saturday afternoon was all about hanging out with the Goldfinches. Saturday evening was home made pizza & NFL with Phil, and then Sunday morning George was back bright and early to pick me up for morning services at St. T’s.

Nice new hall
Nice new hall

 

Their new hall was light & bright. I can’t wait till we start the rebuild at Kincumber.

Two services, lots of lovely chat over morning tea, and then off to lunch with George, his lovely wife Sarah & their three awesome kids. It was too fun a time to stop & take photos.

After that it was off to the city with George, settle in to our hotel, then out again to go visit City on a Hill for the evening service. They meet in the Melbourne Central Hoyts, so it is a service with a really different feel.

Not the most impressive view I've had from a hotel room, but it was still lots of fun
Not the most impressive view I’ve had from a hotel room, but it was still lots of fun
Diet mode off for the conference, so it was fancy burger time before the evening service!
Diet mode off for the conference, so it was fancy burger time before the evening service!
Front row seats for the service
Front row seats for the service

So… there was lots more that happened, but you might have to wait for the next instalment to find out about the conference & the wonders of Melbourne!

Mini-Gs

Lego

We’re hitting the stage of life where lego is becoming more and more popular. Sometimes the kids like to build things following instructions, and sometimes they like to make up their own creations. Either way, as I parent I’m happy. I really can’t think of a better present for a kid than lego.

I was chatting to a guy at church who is lego mad. He has rooms full of amazing stuff and builds the kind of things that lego doesn’t officially make. For example, he just built a brewery that would be over a foot high and at least a foot wide & deep. To do this you need instructions from the lego fan who created it, then you need to source the pieces from your collection, and failing that, online.

All of a sudden I had an idea. If there are places online that sell individual parts, why not make lego versions of our family? I could collect props for people, and then whenever we go on holidays etc. we could take pictures of our lego selves also (I’m calling them mini-Gs. We’ll see if the name sticks….). With a little seed-money from my mum, I jumped onto a couple of sites, and a couple of weeks later, I had the little people you see above!

Are they absolute doppelgängers? Maybe not, but I think they are pretty good. Certainly close enough that you can guess who everyone is pretty easily.

I’m looking forward to thinking of creative ways to use the mini-Gs. (Don’t worry, I’ll post real pictures too!)

 

Lego-2

 

Slow Change

Can I tell you that they always play well together? Heck no, there are times when they go at each other, hammer and tongs!

But do they love each other? Yeah, they do. They are rarely more than a couple of meters away from each other. They share a room, they share their food, and despite knowing, categorically, that they aren’t identical twins, they share a very similar look!

The twins are slowly changing. A word or two sneaks into their vocabulary. Now, when they don’t do something they are usually be actively disobedient rather than just not understanding.

I think it’s about to get interesting!

And now… cut to the cute photos.

The progression...
The progression…
Happy little vegetates
Happy little vegemites
Love, baby, love, that's the secret!
Love, baby, love, that’s the secret!
They even provide each other transport!
They even provide each other transport!

Redemption?

 

 

What kind of record?

According to the BBC article (click on the pic to visit it), Nick Hancock is an adventurer. His record breaking achievement required him to sit on a rock for fourth two days.

Now I’m a big fan of all things Scottish, and I am all for the idea of finding extra time for personal reflection, but this is the kind of thing that just leaves me wondering. Have we so little to do with our time, that we have to invent challenges like this to keep ourselves entertained?

Of course, just when I was despairing, I realised nick had a website. On his site he notes that the main reason he is doing this is to raise money for “Help for Heroes,” a charity that supports British Soldiers who are wounded at war.

So… spending up to 60 days on a small piece of rock… the ultimate waste of time, might somehow find redemption if the outcome is that it raises funds for people who can often feel trapped by their disability.

On one side I am a little sorry that I doubted Nick.

On another, I still think there must have been a lot of money that went into this expedition that might have been employed in a more effective way.

But I’m also glad that, with a little bit of ingenuity, even the most obscure and useless things can find some kind of redemption!

After all, isn’t that God’s promise to us?

 

 

 

 

Wall

Charles & Jeremiah
Charles & Jeremiah

 

These are the two pictures that hang on the wall in my office.

Both were gifts.

To the right is a page from a very old German Bible. It’s from Jeremiah 38 and has a small illustration of him being thrown down a well. My mate Dan gave it to me as a reminder that sometimes ministry comes with a great cost, but the service is God is worth it, and the rewards are far greater than the costs!

The second picture was a gift from my lovely wife. It’s a caricature of Charles Spurgeon. He was known as the “Prince of Preachers.” In the 1850’s he regularly preached to congregations of 10,000 or more, and his sermons were so good, that they were printed after he gave them and you could buy them in the street in little booklets. Yet Spurgeon himself was no stranger to pain. Spurgeon, despite his prodigious talent and enormous success, struggled with illness and depression for much of his life. Additionally, during a service in 1856, someone yelled “fire” causing a panic, a stampede, and the death of several people by trampling. Spurgeon was shattered by this and it remained with him for the rest of his life.

Spurgeon is a reminder to me that no minister, even the famous ones, has an easy ministry. That there are costs and there will be troubles. Yet, Spurgeon, like Jeremiah, knew that his strength lay not in his resolve, in his talent, in his charisma, or anything else, but the fact that God would give him the strength he needed for the task he had been set.

My life in ministry is never quite straightforward either. There can be frustrations and failures that poke their heads up amongst the victories and joys. It helps to know that this is a story that has been told in the lives of every Christian. And whatever God has in store for me in the rest of my days here on earth, I know that my final destination is the same as these two great men.

Today they encourage me on my study wall. One day they’ll encourage me face to face as we sing God’s praises in heaven!

Religion vs. Jesus

Well I am back and I think I might stay a while. Back to writing about family, about faith and about culture.
Today, Religion vs. Jesus…

This video did the rounds about a year ago & was pretty popular. There is certainly some good elements to it.

The Good

I think the author, Jefferson Bethke, picks up one one of the big biblical themes. What does it mean if you have all of the external trappings of “religion” but fail to have the relationship that is at the heart of it? Jesus himself was hard on the Pharisees who were so committed to religious rules that they tithed the herbs in their garden, but failed when it came to justice, mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23).

I think the church has done a spectacularly bad job when it comes to painting a picture of Christianity as being about a personal relationship between the God of all creation, and us, his creatures. We are wonderful (particularly institutional churches like us Anglicans) at making things about the clothes we wear, the pews, the buildings, and the people we hang out with. It’s helpful to have a corrective that reminds us that, not only is this not at the heart of Christianity, but Jesus spoke against such things!

The Bad

That said, there are many faithful Christians who have a vibrant relationship with Jesus who are also part of the “religious” structures. “Religion” is not inherently dangerous… it is only a danger when the structures that are built to point people to God become a sort of god themselves.

Over my years in full-time ministry, I have met a number of people who are caught up in the pageantry and formality of religion. I met someone who was an ordained minister, yet didn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus, and said they couldn’t ascribe to the creeds that they led their congregation in week by week. It breaks my heart to think that people might be caught up in the “religion” without a deep and personal relationship with Jesus… But I also knew that there were Christians in that persons congregation who continued to grow, who continued to open up their bible and discover a God who loved them. I also know that the formal structure that is the Anglican Church is still something that members of our culture still feel connected to, that it is a means by which we can reconnect with people who haven’t darkened the door of a church in many years.

I like the point that Jefferson’s trying to make. In the end it is all about Jesus… I want to honour him in everything I do, and when I see “religion” in the right context, it can do just that!

12 Years a Slave

Twelve Years a Slave

Three movies in a month and a half!

I don’t know if I have ever seen so many movies in such a short period of time. Definitely not since any of the kids were born. It has been the perfect cinema storm though, with three must see movies coming out one after the other.

I read Twelve Years a Slave a year and a half ago. I don’t remember how I came across it… it must have been one of those things where you are link surfing through Amazon… I’m guessing I had a voucher that I had been given for a birthday, Christmas or something. Either way, I got the book, I sat down, and then I found myself drawn to it with every spare moment I had.

The book is harrowing. Even the small bits of happiness are cloaked in sadness. But it is also amazing.

I wondered whether the movie would turn out to be a bit lighter, or softer than the book? On the whole, I think they pretty much nailed it! The Southern Scenery is beautiful and warm, juxtaposing itself with the stark and brutal treatment that is meted out to the slaves. I had read that Steve McQueen, the director, shot some confrontingly long scenes, and that was spot on. I was particularly confronted by a scene that went for what felt like an eternity (but would have been maybe one and a half minutes) with a man left on tiptoes with a noose around his neck. The world around him is silent and focussed for a second before continuing on… the message to you and me, that, as shocking as this is, it was too commonplace to gain too much comment in the slavery-driven south.

If you want to see a movie that brings the brutality of slavery into clarity, then see the movie (or better yet read the book…. OK, let’s take it as given from now, I think you should read the book).

If you want to see an example of how people could bastardise the scriptures to validate their own behaviours, then you’ll get lots of that too. (For my non-Christian readers, I’d love to chat to you some time about how the reading of scripture by characters in the movie is not proof that you can “read anything into the bible,” but simply an example of how people will try and twist things to their own advantage.

All in all, I would give the movie 4 out of 5. My only complaints being the addition of what appeared to be a brief sexual encounter that wasn’t in the book, and the attempt to downplay the sincere Christian faith that Solomon Northup clearly displayed in his book. Despite his captors attempts to validate slavery by the Bible, and despite all the horrors that he suffered, Solomon Northup was absolutely convinced that God the Righteous Judge was in control, and that even if he wasn’t released in his lifetime, he was confident that he would experience true freedom with the return of Christ Jesus!

A great movie.

The book…

New Bible
New Bible

I love my iPad. Amongst many other grand things that it does, it runs a version of Accordance, which allows me to have access to scores of bible translations (including original languages) as well as all of the commentaries and other resources that I have bought over the years for my computer. My iPad has almost everything that I need to study the bible, in depth, all in a tiny little package. I can slip it in my bag & do sermon prep anywhere. I even preach from my iPad, using a wonderful programme that auto-scrolls at a pace I like (and helps slow me down that way), lets me know how long I have been going, how long I have left, and even records my sermon for me to put online.

I remember reading a blog last year, noting the potential danger that lies in these devices however. Despite the fact that some might claim it is making an idol of the book, there is real value in having a bible open in front of you when you head up to preach. Even though many have adopted the technological age, the majority of people still read out of a physical bible. By bringing one along & keeping it on the pulpit, you’re reminding where the true authority lies as you preach… not in one’s own intellect, but in the word of God.

Having been given a couple of amazon vouchers over Christmas, I decided to buy a new Bible to bring up with me. It’s all in one column, so hopefully it will make passages easier to find. It has lots of blank space on either side for my own little notes. If I can finally get over my fear of permanently marking books, I might even be able to use it as a visual record of my readings, as I highlight my way through different texts.

My iPad is still going to be the most useful bible study tool I own, but I am looking forward to making use of my new Bible, reminding me, and the congregation as I stand, that we are people of the book.

Walter vs. Bilbo

walter-mitty

Let me fill you in with a little of the backstory.

I was in 5th grade, I’d just got the reading bug & had recently finished Ruth Park’s More Adventures of the Muddle-Headed Wombat, when the Junior School Librarian decided to sit us down & read us the opening chapter of The HobbitBilbo’s hole sounded warm & comforting, and I thought it might be another lovely kids book like Wombats. It couldn’t have been any more different, but that didn’t matter, because I was hooked!
I whizzed through the Hobbit, ate up Lord of the Rings, and followed it up with a steady diet of Ursula Leguin, Dragonlance, Bram Stoker, any anything else I could get my hands on.

Having finished my HSC & not knowing what to do, my love of the world opened up to be through books was so great that I went & did library studies at TAFE!

Knowing that my early career had its genesis in the reading of this one book, the reader can understand that I have felt like I have an investment in this series, waiting for each movie to come out. Fear at what they might do. Excitement at what might be…
It’s also helpful to note that I was not overly scathing about LOTR….

Now, Walter Mitty is a different animal. I hadn’t heard of it, the modern version, or the 1947 one until I saw a preview on Apple Trailers. The music suited the trailer perfectly, the preview was both dramatic & slightly comedic… I was interested.
I’ve had a theory, I think I’ve shared it here before, that comedic actors (particularly the ones you don’t like that much) have one truly great movie in them. If we write someone off because “I don’t like Joe Bloggs movies” we run the risk of missing that gem. Will Ferrell’s “Stranger than Fiction” certainly alerted me to that!

Now to the review. (Hopefully no spoilers)

I saw the Hobbit just a day or two after it was released. I’d been ummming and ahhhhing about which movie to see first, and the old favourite won out.
As it started, I couldn’t help but feel that the opening credits were a little uninspiring. I know they went with the same style as the LOTR movies, but it seems a little like it had been dialled in.

Things never got better.

Rather than go blow for blow, I’ll just mention my major issues.

  1. Odd Characterisations: I felt like they made really bad decisions on how to portray different people. Beorn was a great example. I was left wondering why they left him in at all. They may as well have cut him like they did most of the Tom Bombadil stuff in LOTR.
  2. Love interests: Why they decided they needed love interests in the stories, particularly such odd choices, is beyond me. Really distracting and didn’t really help the story much at all…. except for….
  3. Making more changes to cover for changes: I felt like they dropped interesting stuff so that they could make more time to rationalise some of the stupid changes they made. It felt like there was a good quarter of an hour of a chase scene that was only there to rationalise the love interest that they added as well as the …
  4. Reoccurring bad guy. He doesn’t help. He’s stupid and, again, distracting.
  5. The sets looked too dark & the acting felt a little too much like they had done too many takes & the passion was gone.

That’s about all I can say without ruining the story for you. Now to Walter Mitty.

WOW!!!!!!

I was hooked when I thought it was just a story about a workaday guy who has a big adventure, but it was so much more than that.  It made me gawk at this over the top world that Walter lived in, as well as appreciate the extraodinariness of my world.

The cinematography was just stunning. The opening credits, elements of which were reminiscent of “North by Northwest” were breathtaking and the Characters were well crafted. I am not in love with either Ben Stiller or Sean Penn, but they were both brilliant. The few scenes that they shared together were just magical!
If you want to be lifted up, if you want to dream bigger, if you need to feel exhilarated, then The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is for you!