Chillin' with the Captain

Has it really been 20 years?

Well, we’ve been good friends for at least 15 of them….

It messes my head to think with numbers that big.

It doesn’t matter that Stu (and his lovely wife Suse. It’d be wrong of me not to mention her) lives all the on the other side of the globe. It doesn’t matter that the time difference between Sydney & London is such that we rarely get a real chance to talk. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t seen each other face to face in 4 years, it was just like old times.

Some “ageless” friends, you know, the ones who you don’t have to talk weekly to keep in sync with, some of them are such because you’ve never had to take things down to a level that is too personal. If you were only ever bobbing happily on the surface, then you can jump back into the warm water whenever and things are all good.

It’s different with the Captain.

On one side, there certainly is the joy of trivial. The fact, for example, that he’s called “The Captain” after the captain of the Love boat (as far as I can work out, neither of us were ever great watchers of the show…. I’m not even sure where it started), on the other, we can jump straight into matters of the heart. Theology, life experience, hopes, dreams, all that jazz.

But it’s not even about having the other side to the friendship. For me, the best ageless friends are the ones where all conversation, both the trivial and the true, melds itself seamlessly together.

Safe to say I was happy to catch up with the captain.

But now on to the food.

We went to Red Oak. It’s my second time eating there & it wont be the last. The entree sample platter was a standout. Each matched with a small shot of beer. flavours like Scallop and Tarwin blue cheese soup with candied lemon zest and truffle oil were just fantastic. Stu had “Beef two ways” while I had “Lamb neck with crispy polenta, anchovie butter and a tomato and almond salsa,” and it was fantastic. We shared a dessert platter (picture below) but thankfully Stu was pretty full, so I got to enjoy all of the “Belgian Chocolate Stout hot chocolate with pistachio biscuit”.

Just an awesome meal.

Just some awesome company.

Just give me a reason to catch up with you in the city & I’ll see if I can take you there too!

Follow the Red Oak link pick some favourites & tell me what we should have there for dinner.


mmmm Dessert taster……


Oh captain, my captain.

When I don't desire God.


I’ve been enjoying John Piper’s book “When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy.”

Here’s just a snippet to think about.

“God is glorified in his people by the way we experience him, not merely by the way we think about him. Indeed the devil thinks more true thoughts about God in one day than a saint does in a lifetime, and God is not honoured by it. The problem with the devil is not his theology, but his desires. Our chief end is to glorify God, the great Object. We do so most fully when we treasure him, desire him, delight in him so supremely that we let goods and kindred go and display his love to the poor and lost.”

Prayer

I’m forever prefacing statements.

I’m going to preface this post by pointing out that it is a beautiful thing that we can pray to God at any time and in all kinds of fashions. I enjoy the fact that I lead “Morning Prayer” 4 days a week, which follows a form laid out by the Anglican Prayerbook. I also do prepared prayers that I might say at a function of some kind. At the same time extemporaneous prayer is part of my everyday life, as is grace, and prayer before bed with my family. There’s also thousands of little opportunities to pray in life. I remember hearing about a guy at an MTS training day who made it a habit to pray for family friends whenever he was at a red light….
Prayer it lots of things & done in lots of ways….. preface over….

I remember when we were preparing to move out of the house I grew up in. The developers wanted the land, but decided to make some extra $ by chopping the house in half & shipping it to Cessnock. The place was 100 years old. Nothing compared to places like Scotland, where I’ve enjoyed a beer in a pub that’s been open for 400 years, but pretty old by Australian standards.

That means 100 years worth of bits & pieces that end up dumped in the crawl space under the house.

As my parents cleaned up & prepared for the move they found a prayer desk. I have no idea if someone way back in the family owned it, or if someone in the “olden days” stole it for a lark, but it was there & it was in disrepair.

As a gift to my sister, my parents got it repaired, reupholstered and returned to usefulness.

I was just a little jealous…. yeah, I know, that seems silly: a) because it’s a bit oldy-worldy for a 20 year old guy to want, and b) it’s a prayer desk! The purpose for which is to provide a place where people can be still, speak & listen to God. Jealousy has no place here….

But I was anyway.

Of course, the prayer desk was soon forgotten & life went on

Cut to late 2010

I’m on a silent retreat, a yearly expectation for Anglican ministers in my diocese. I spent a fair bit of time reading a great book, “A call to spiritual reformation” by Don Carson. It energises me & I decide that I am going to be a lot more deliberate & methodical with my prayers ( AGAIN, please read the preface…), my great hope being that when I say to someone “I’ll pray for you,” that I actually pray for them, that I do it regularly & that maybe this helps me follow them up & care for them properly…

The new plan is very helpful, but still I feel, sometimes, like a need a place where I can set myself aside. When I’m sitting at a desk or on a seat somewhere, I just don’t feel as connected, and lying in bed never works well for me & prayers…

Cut to last week.

I’m in the Parish of Islington in Newcastle. They’ve cleared out the church space & are looking to engage with alternate worship there. After Andrew (the rector) had spoken about what they were doing, I asked, offhand, “you don’t have any old prayer desks you’re looking to get rid of do you?”
Andrew said “are you serious, we’ve got FOUR we’re trying to get rid of”

half an hour later, I have a prayer desk (and a delivery driver thanks to Dan’s Landy… it wasn’t fitting in the Corolla), and the Parish will get a donation & a letter about how they are helping a young minister as he starts out in the diocese.

Sometimes God answers prayers you haven’t even formalised…

A classic 70's cover... and 50c what a steal!

Sometimes it can be difficult working in a “mixed economy” diocese, when differences between ministers can be, not only a matter of personality, but also of theology.

In the constant review of how I spend my time, I’ve decided again that I need to devote more time to reading & less time watching TV. This afternoon as I cleaned up a shelf on my library, I found Francis Schaeffer’s book “The Mark of a Christian.” I got given it a while ago & thought it must have been a gospel tract about becoming a Christian. It turns out, however, that it is really about how we are called to live/react, when Christians disagree.

At a whopping 36 pages long, I knocked it off by the end of the afternoon & was really challenged/impressed.

Here’s a snippet to give you a flavour.

“The Christian is to exhibit that God exists as the infinite-personal God; and then he is to exhibit simultaneously God’s character of holiness and love. Not his holiness without his love: that is only harshness. Not his love without his holiness: that is only compromise. Anything that an individual Christian or Christian group does that fails to show the simultaneous balance of the holiness of God and the love of God presents to a watching world not a demonstration but a caricature of the God who exists.”

I wonder whether the (theologically) liberal church tends to err on the love without holiness side. It’s certainly not a one way street though, because I suspect, we evangelicals err toward holiness without love. It’s easy to condemn people for what you might consider to be “fluffy” theology. It’s much harder to be clear that you disagree, but still love them…

Bibliophilic Tendencies

Eric Metaxas' new book

I remember asking a seasoned minister if they had read any interesting books recently.

They looked at me with a condescending glint in their eye & told me that full time ministry was far too busy to allow for reading. They didn’t have the chance to read theological stuff, let alone reading for pleasure. That, surely was the domain of people who just weren’t busy enough.

On the flip side, I remember reading Eugene Peterson writing about how we diarised an hour a week to read Dostoyevsky. If anyone asked him what he was doing on such-and-such an afternoon, he’d say that he had an appointment booked!

This year I’ve been aiming for a little balance when it comes to things bibliographic. On one side, my job is very much about caring for people. That means I should be out and about, I should be interacting with people & I should be involved. However, I read an article the other day that articulated the need for ministers to be readers. How, it asked, can a minister seek to be a visionary leader who is able to make a meaningful critique of the world & its many facets, if we are not making sure that we are interacting with contemporary thought.

I think this means we need to make sure we continue to feed ourselves theologically. I don’t think it excuses me sitting in my room for a whole day reading, I certainly think some of that job should be done in my own time, but I also think it does mean that I ought not feel guilty about setting a little time aside to read a good book on Christian Joy, or an article on ministering to young families (an aside being, it is amazing how many spare 5-minute blocks we have in our lives, if only we embrace those little bits of waiting time. As much as it breaks Bainy’s heart, I am thankful for my Kindle for helping me recover lots of little spaces, and allowing me the ability to have a number of books on the go).

We also need to make sure we’re reading fiction.

On one side, reading the stuff that others are reading helps us understand how people think. If “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” has become so popular that it has almost become part of the universal consciousness, then it probably pays to be able to understand (and critique as needs be) its message.

Of equal importance in my eyes, is the transformative nature of fiction reading. I feel that I am more imaginative, and more likely to engage my own imagination when I am using tools to fuel it. It’s one of the big reasons I blog, and it is a great reason for people who have to prepare sermons, week in, week out, to read fiction. Learn new words, fall in love with a deftly worded phrase, and feel the power of being drawn into a world that lies beyond your own experience!

So I make a little time for all of my reading. I’m trying to choke out the TV from my life (excepting “Escape to the Country”, the Superbowl, and my favourite, “Grand Designs,” whose host Kevin McCloud commentates so beautifully that it’s almost as good as a book!) and spend more time reading more stuff.

Maybe I’ll share some of the stuff I’m reading soon.

Truth

In John 18:38 Pilate, responding the Jesus’ claim that “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” asks “What is truth?”
I guess you could read his statement in a number of different ways. Maybe he is suffering some kind of existential malais and he really wants to know the answer. Is he pointing to relativism, that truth as a concept can only be experienced & determined by an individual, with reference to his or her particular circumstances?

I think Pilate might have had a bit of the latter floating around in his noggin, but mainly, I think he uttered these words as a dismissal. If he denies Jesus any any authority as a person, then Jesus’ perception of what truth is has no weight. What are the views of dirty carpenter’s son next to those of the ruler of the region? He can exit the discussion without having to really answer the question

Who is Jesus?

I think that maybe this mindset reflects how many interact with the question of Jesus in the 21st Century. By making a vaguely subjective claim we can free ourselves from having to actively engage with the question.

I guess it’s all part of the bigger question “why am I here?” Am I just a collection of carbon based molecules rotating around each other & following scientific laws for a 70 year period before the collection we choose to call “Tim” breaks down & the energy passess into other areas (feed the worms etc.)?

Is there no real rhyme or reason? I’m just an insignificant blip on an inconsequention planet next to the heart-stopping, mind-boggling enmormity of the universe? Should that cast into perspective all my worries? All OUR worries?

Or does that inbuilt sense that we’re actually about something bigger, and more important, point to the fact that there is purpose in my being, in fact, the one who gives all things being has a great purpose for my life!

What is truth?

I think there is an objective answer that made himself known most powerfully in the person & work of Christ!

But whether or not YOU believe that, I think we all need to ask the question, then we all have to work out, “do the decisions that I make & the way that I live accurately reflect my understanding of the world & my place in it?”

Heading South

I’m looking forward to tomorrow with equal parts anticipation & trepidation.

When I was at college I shot a fair few weddings. My popularity was based on the heady combination of two factors.
1) I owned enough equipment that I looked like I knew what I was doing.
2) I was so embarassed about being paid in any way for my photography, that I was cheaper than a professional by thousands!

That’s like a 1-2 knockout-combo for your average Bible College student.

I still shot the occasional wedding or two when I finished college, but, certainly since I have been ordained, and definately since I have had kids, the time required for a wedding has really disappeared (many don’t appreciate that it’s meeting with people beforehand, it’s a whole day’s work on the day, then I might have to individually colour correct 1000+ photos afterward!).

But when Megan B asked, I couldn’t help but be sucked back into the time vortex! We went to college together for all three years, there will be a bunch of college people at the wedding, and for a few short hours, i will feel like I am back at SMBC. How I loved those days!

Of course, the nervous bit will be that I have only shot 2 weddings in the last 3 years, Megan is one of those artistic types, so I’ll feel the extra pressure, plus it’s down in the Southern Highlands.

Bonus points for the natural beauty, combining with the natural beauty of bride, making my job easier.

Negative points for adding 3 hours travel each way.

So, I’ll make sure to post some pictures & stuff when I get back.