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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

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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.

Kindle

I always thought I’d go the iPad route.

I’d certainly thought about it. Still, it is hard to rationalise $700-$800, and then you really want the 3G version, which costs you more for the internet too!!!

But then, in 2010, we decided to do a family Kris Kringle again. Instead of getting a bunch of small gifts, I was getting one big one. I couldn’t think of anything else, then one day, messing about on the internet, I came up with the idea of the Kindle. It was a little over the Kringle limit, but I was happy to make the difference (and as it turned out, my sister was happy to spring for it anyway), so I spoke to the person who had me for a gift (we’re all so hard to shop for, evidently, that we end ups speaking to each other about ideas…) and the Kindle was ordered.

My only frustration with it was that it didn’t arrive till January 17th…. but at least they warned us!

I have to say that I am sold!

200,000,000 odd books that are available for free, thanks to being copy write free. If you like classics like Doestoevsky, Luther, or Wilde, then that alone is a sweet deal. It’s also a fair bit cheaper to buy normal books!

In particular, I love the idea that right now I am carrying a little over 60 books with me in something the size of a paperback!

In some ways it is funny, cause I was always the one who said I would wear “Eau de musty book” if they ever made it as an aftershave. I’m still the one who enjoys the tactile aspects of reading, but boy, convenience does sneak in on you too!

So, would you ever use a kindle if you had one?

What’s your favourite thing about real books?

And Back

You’d think I would have taken lots of pictures at CMS Summer School.

You’d be wrong…

A large part of the problem was the rain. I’m not complaining about the rain though. From Sunday till Friday I was transported from the coastal 28 degrees (83 fahrenheit) to an idyllic 18 (65). Mist shrouded mornings… come to think of it, mist shrouded middays, afternoons and evenings too!

I ought to be upfront and say that the absolute highlight was the talks. Hugh Palmer, minister at All Souls, London (where the theological great John Stott once ministered) spoke to us from 1 Corinthians. He’s very English, which means he is not as dynamic or thrilling as some American preachers, but it also meant he had a sense of self-deprecation, and a cutting sense of honesty. Missionary sessions are always great too. Amazing to hear of the work happening throughout the globe, to triumph in the victories, and to feel a sense of the pain and frustration that comes with service that is faithful, but not always fruitful.

So they were the important highlights.

That said, the week also had some other high points.

“Schwartz’s Bakery”, less than a kilometer from our house, provided fresh pretzels and pastries for breakfast, “Mountain High Pies” provided variations of the Aussie icon for lunch, and some home cooking & the occasional local restaurant looked after dinner. Food always seems to squeeze it’s way into my highlight reel.

So here I am again. Ready to jump back into work, and looking forward to a couple of weeks of planning before the realities of term time arrive!

Bring it on.

Lewis

The apple

I’ve just started reading John Piper’s “When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy” and the opening chapter has one of my favourite C.S. Lewis quotes, from a little letter called “Meditation in a toolshed” (the link will take you to a PDF of it. It will be the best 4 pages/10 minutes you spend this week!)

It’s all about “pleasures” and I think it’s fab!

“Pleasures are shafts of glory as it strikes our sensibility… But aren’t there bad, unlawful pleasures? Certainly they are. But in calling them “bad pleasures” I take it we are using a kind of shorthand. We mean “pleasures snatched by unlawful acts.” It is the stealing of the apples that is bad, not the sweetness. The sweetness is steal a beam from the glory… I have tried since… to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I mean something different… Gratitude exclaims, very properly, “How good of God to give me this.” Adoration says, “What must be the quality of that being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!” One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun… If this is Hedonism, it is also a somewhat arduous discipline. But it is worth some labour.”

Power Balance

The wife & I work fairly hard to make sure we are consistent in how we discipline our kids. We want to make sure that pumpkin & Gumnut understand that we are the parents & that while we want them to experience lots of things in life, there are boundaries that we have to enforce for their own good.

I’d like to think my kids, (well at least pumpkin… at 6 weeks maybe gumnut’s too young?) understand and respect that.

But as we drove on the freeway this morning, I saw one small glimpse of the power that our kids now have.

As gumnut slowly faded to sleep in the back & pumpkin fought sleep with all her might, I looked over to see the wife trying desperately to open a small tupperware container.

Trying to be a good husband, I quietly offered to have a crack at it (possibly not the best idea when driving at 110kmph, but I am pretty talented), but she informed me that she could open it just fine. The problem was that if pumpkin heard or saw the contents of the container, we’d be in trouble for the rest of the drive!

How did we become captives to our own kids?

I felt a little like I was six again, making sure mum & dad didn’t catch me in the biscuit tin…

Ten minutes later, pumpkin fell asleep, the wife got her jelly beans, and I got to wonder just how much of the power do I really have?

Who holds the balance?

Resolution

It’s not that I’m against new years resolutions as such.

Just that, as a Christian, I guess I feel we should always be reassessing and reforming our lives. If one day becomes the focus of change, rather than a constant deep seated desire to improve, then it’s no great wonder that so many people say they fail with theirs…

That said, I do have some resolutions that just happen to be taking place around now.

I will blog more often.

But I’m going to be on the net less often.

Read more, think more, eat less, run more.

Well… we’ll see…