The Rhythms of life

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It’s a pointy end of the year.

Of course, there’s all the stuff that comes with kids. #1 is moving up into 1st grade, #2 starts school next week. But the kid stuff has been a blast compared to the hectic nature of work.

Having survived Christmas, one is reminded, a couple of weeks into January, that the whole of 2016 is ahead of you.

  • Preparing a thousand different rosters for all of the ministries at Church
  • Printing out a million pieces of paper for Term 1 Sunday School craft (that was my job today, supported by a lovely parishioner, Wendy!)
  • Baptisms galore (and Baptism prep for the many people fitting in a celebration during the next couple of months of warm weather
  • Weddings (and preparation for my cousin & my cousin to be!)
  • A thousand other little tasks as we make sure that we’re set for the year ahead.

In the midst of all of this, it’s been a horribly sad January, with the passing of a parishioner, Sean, at only 26 years of age, leaving behind a wife and four young kids.

With all the business and grief crowding in, it was lovely to head down beside the Terrigal Skillion at 5:15 last Sunday to catch the dawn with a couple of mates, Peter & Peter, from the evening service.

I didn’t have the best start. I was standing on a rock ledge, watching someone walk toward me in the pre-dawn light. Just as I confirmed that it was one of the Pete’s, the last vestiges of a broken wave, having travelled across 100m of ledge, trickled over my shoes & ensured that I’d be squelching for the rest of the morning. Truth be told, I didn’t mind a bit, because the glory of watching the sun break out over the horizon & colour the clouds was just magical!

Peter #1 & I spent a good 20 minutes chatting & snapping from different (and drier) vantage points before Peter #2 popped up (infinitely better prepared for a rock shelf, in thongs & board shorts) thigh deep in water, capturing some abstracts to our left. It was wonderful to watch waves spraying as they butted up against the shelf, then cascade in a foot-high waterfall after trickling across the flat rock.

Amongst all of this, I couldn’t help but reflect that the sun continues to rise, the waves continues to pound, and the world continues to turn: no matter whether my weeks are big or small, my trials terrible or trivial, it all keeps on going.

Best of all, I know that God is bigger than it all. The unmoved mover is the one who made the waves, he fashioned the galaxy, and long after the land and sea have disappeared, God will still be there.

On Wednesday, we buried Sean. It was a very emotional occasion, but it was a glorious thing to know that he trusted in God and he is now safe in Jesus’ hands. God will care for him, just as I know he will care for me, no matter what 2016 decides to throw up next.

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The Two Petes
The Two Petes

 

Mystery

The Mystery Show

It started with a podcast.

With a fair bit of time in the car over the last week and a couple of late night walks, I’ve been delving into the podcasts, and one of the first suggestions I got was the Mystery Show. Shows like this are the perfect reminder that a story, well told, can be about almost anything. I listened to an episode that was all about tracking down the owner of a belt buckle that was lost 20 years ago. It sounds as dull as dull, but I enjoyed every second of it & even felt a teensy bit misty eyed at the end (you’ll have to listen to it yourself to see why!)! Starlee Kine does a wonderful job at taking those everyday little mysteries (on the way home from a wedding yesterday, it was how tall is Jake Gyllenhaal? could that really be entertaining? Yep, it was awesome!) and deconstructing them in a magical way.

So this all got me thinking.

I took a funeral last week, and, with mysteries floating around in my head, I spoke about it a little during the funeral. Not the podcast (that would be a little weird), but the idea of mystery. One of the reasons I think it’s become so popular to say of funerals “it’s not about mourning their death, it’s just a celebration of their life”, is because people feel fearful/anxious about the sense of mystery that comes with death. It’s seen as the great unknown. We’ve lost someone and we don’t know what is in store for them, or what it means for them to have died. We see a little of this tension played out in the fact that, no matter how staunch people are as atheists in the everyday, inevitably, they tend to get caught up in “I know X is looking down on us today” rhetoric when speaking of death.

We feel the tension. We don’t like the anxiety.

I shared last week, that God doesn’t want us to feel that fear/anxiety, and there’s an answer to it.

This Thursday, I head down to Sydney to attend the funeral of a member of my congregation and former Sydney Bishop, John Reid. He was a great man, humble, honest, friendly and very intelligent. I have no doubt that I’ll hear some amazing eulogies about a truly lovely guy, but what makes me look forward to his funeral is not that I’ll get to hear people wax lyrical about him, not that his many accomplishments make for a nice hagiography, but that he was confident that he knew that God had revealed the greatest of all mysteries to him. John knew that God himself had taken on human flesh, had lived a sinless life, took the penalty for John’s sins when he died on the cross, and then rose to life three days later, robbing death of its sting, and offering an answer to the mystery “what will happen to me when I die?”

John knew that nothing that will be said about him at his funeral will be the reason why God welcomes him into heaven. He rested wholly and solely on the person and work of Jesus Christ. The veil had been lifted, the mystery solved.

Though I’ll certainly miss his presence (and occasional constructive criticism) in the meantime, John was confident, as I am, that he has gone to be with God, and that we’ll be reintroduced one day in the future.

 

 

What’s Up

New year & all that.

As usual, I’ll make another attempt.

Some say blogging is dead. On Facebook the other day, a friend said that blogs were pretty much dead to him. Everything he needed, he could get from a couple of different podcasts.

I have to say that I’ve been enjoying the podcasts a fair bit.

Digression #1
In November I turned 40 and one of my presents was a “fitbit“. I’m the kind of guy who likes to be able to count things, and while at Bible College I was the only one in the group who wanted to play basketball without keeping score, I enjoy being competitive against myself. I’ve enjoyed the fitbit, because it lets me know, right there on my wrist, exactly how many (or how few) steps I have done that day. I’ve been aiming for 10k and if I get to the end of the day and I’m only at 6, I find that a real kick in the pants… so much so that I’m likely to whack my shoes on & walk for an hour or so, so that I can have 12k (the extra two thousand steps is just to show the fitbit who’s boss)!

It does’t always work, but so far I’ve been walking a lot more on average & I enjoy the fact that my resting heart rate is going down!

back to the action….

Now that I’m walking more (see digression #1), I need something to keep my mind occupied when I do so and podcasts like “This American Life” and “Serial” have done the job admirably. I’ve got a couple of new podcasts to listen to in the New Year, but they might remain blog-fodder for the moment.

With all that said, I don’t think I have a podcast in me personally, and despite the fact that I’ve been horribly inconsistent over the last 5 or more years, I really enjoy the process of blogging and know that when I’m doing it more regularly, I certainly feel more creative. So I’ll give it another go, maybe throwing in a New Years attempt to use my diary & evernote more for keeping my ideas in the forefront of my mind.


So, we popped down to Sydney today so that Shona & Pumpkin could go to an hour-long intro to  ballett thing in Chatswood. Whilst we were down there, we dropped some meals off at a friend’s house and they had a late birthday present for me (they had an early one too, but that’s a different story).

The things explainer: explaining complicated things in simple language.
The things explainer: explaining complicated things in simple language.

This is the coolest book I’ve seen in ages. Basically, the author Randall Munroe explains any number of complicated things, but the book only uses 1000 most common words in the English language! I’ve read a couple so far & they’re awesome.
Here’s another.

 

After playing drop-off, we drove to Kirribilli to drop something off to my niece. While we were there, we finally took out another present, this time a Christmas present that was for Gumnut.

Awesomeness.
Awesomeness.

 

If you can’t see from the picture, it’s basically a paper aeroplane. Not too exciting.

BUT, when you get a paper aeroplane that comes with a small rechargeable motor (which can be attached to just about any plane you can make) that’s a different animal!

The Powerup 2.0 was the unexpected winner from Christmas. It was small, easy to make, you can download more templates from the internet, but best of all, it exceeded expectations! I thought it would be one of these gimmicky things that gets an extra 5 meters out of a plane, but we had it take off & stay airborne for close to a minute!

It’s always enjoyable to get a photo of one of your kids with an authentic beaming smile.

Of course, spending time with my (including siblings up from Wagga & Melbourne) was the real highlight over the Christmas period. No amount of cool presents could compete with that. That said, it’s nice when you get something that is just cool, and even better when it’s not a thousand dollar iDevice, but a book or a paper plane!

The greatest story.

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My current favourite youtube watch, Casey Neistat said this:

“Tell a great story, tell a great story really well and people will forgive whatever gear you shot it on. Ask me about ideas, or ask me about story telling, but don’t ask me about hardware. Just google it or something”
Casey Neistat

Casey’s been making movies for over a decade now. These days he has all kinds of great gadgets, but for most of his career, he’s used $150 cameras and an outdated version of Apple’s movie programme. He hasn’t carved a career in video, advertising and creative pursuits because he has the biggest lens. He’s done it because he has a story to tell and he works hard at sharing it.

Christian, yours is the greatest story ever told. It’s great because it’s true. It’s great because it involves the listener as much as the teller, and best of all, it’s good news for everyone old or young, black or white, who hears and responds to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and his resurrection to return to God in repentance and forgiveness!  I’m not  saying that we shouldn’t use every medium available to share this mind numbing, world shaking good news.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t use good resources to share this good news. We should use every resource available to preach the gospel. If you’ve got lots of resources, make sure you use all of them to the greatest effect!
But what I am saying is that we must never forget that it is the message that we preach that is important, not the medium that we use.

Christian, the gospel that you preach in your rented hall, using a crackly mic and a couple of printouts, is just as powerful to save as the gospel being preached in the fab new cinema-style church building down the road where they have big screen videos and glossy colour brochures at Sunday.

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” and do it knowing that God will work in you and through you. If your resources grow, embrace any new opportunity to point to Jesus. But never forget that the best thing we can do is tell our great story, knowing that when people hear about our great God and respond, they’ll forgive whatever gear we used to preach it.

 

 

***** Watch the video that got me thinking.

Storms

I should start by pointing out that the Goldsmith household was very lucky. We didn’t lose power, and only had to contend with mobile towers being down and a lack of phone lines and internet. The rest of the Coast, however, copped it this week! Schools and daycares shut, roads blocked everywhere. You know it’s bad when even the McDonalds and Coles in Kincumber were down for three days!

I drove round to visit a number of people in the parish who live in spots prone to cop it from storms. This is what greeted me at one end of a road when I was trying to do a loop rather than go back the way I came.

Trees down

Well, the cleanup is still going. There are still houses without power, but we’re mostly through it & life goes on.

It was a close one though in Saratoga. Lots of that area still damaged, but they had power at the RSL for Saturday dawn service, where ANZAC Day saw at least 2000 people come to pay their respects. Always an honour to be a part of proceedings there.

 

Friday

I spent most of Friday driving to Watsons Bay and back for a funeral.

#1: It’s wonderful to be able to attend a Christian funeral. While there is a deep sense of grief and loss, one also experiences the joy that the deceased is now in the presence of their maker, and that if our trust is in Jesus, who died for our sins, then this is not the end.

I drove down with one of our parish wardens. We left at 10:30, and didn’t get a chance to have lunch until 3ish. Of course, if you’re in town, you may as well have lunch somewhere nice, so we stopped off at Batch Burger in Kirribilli. (As an aside, I’ve always wanted to try poutine. While there was straight cheese instead of curds, it was pretty awesome. Not good for the diet though!) It was a sad circumstance that brought us together, but it was a wonderful opportunity to spend 4 hours travelling together in a car, then top it off with a nice lunch together.

#2: It’s wonderful to spend time with older Christians, to hear their stories and learn from their experiences.

I lost almost a day’s worth of work time, but I was thankful to be able to support a grieving member of our congregation in a small way, and I was excited to be able to strengthen a relationship with one of the pillars of our congregation.

I’d call it time well spent!

A great burger, and Poutine!
A great burger, and Poutine!

Maslow or Connor?

Hammer
You get bonus points if you can tell me where I got this graphic from!

 

I heard it for the first time the other day, having coffee with my mate Dan, but it turns out he was quoting Maslow’s “Law of the instrument.”

“If all  you have is a hammer, then every problem is going to look like a nail.”

I love a good turn of phrase, and that’s the first thing that drew me to the statement, but I’ve been thinking about it, off and on, for a day or two now.

From my work perspective, do I get caught up in a narrow attitude to the many different elements of my job, causing me to hammer away at all of them? Am I failing to look at people and tasks in a nuanced way? And if so, am I failing to love those people I serve, by understanding them within their own context and with their own specific needs?

I want to have a lot of different tools at my disposal. And I want to make sure that, as I serve God in full-time ministry, I’m doing the job right!