Tuesday, December 25, 2007

eight to remember

I enjoy reading. Here are my highlights from 2007 (in no particular order)...

1. William Dalrymple, The Last Mughal: the fall of a dynasty, Delhi 1857 (Bloomsbury, 2006)

Having been based in Delhi from aged 10-17, I consider myself a Delhi-wallah (belonging-to-Delhi) and so does Dalrymple: Delhi is "a city that has haunted and obsessed me for over two decades" (6); "of the great cities of the world, only Rome, Istanbul, and Cairo can even begin to rival Delhi for the sheer volume and density of historic remains" (8); during a six hundred year period climaxing with the 18th century, "Delhi had been the greatest city between Constantinople and Canton" (8); "sometimes it seems as if no other great city of the world is less loved, or less cared for" (24).
Fed by that passion and his supreme skill as an historian-writer Dalyrymple tells the story of the fall of the Mughal Empire (which gave us things like the Taj Mahal) and how the final emperor left the city in a bullock cart, heading for exile in Rangoon - having watched the easy relationship between Briton and Indian descend into hatreds and racisms ... and lead to "the most serious armed challenge to imperialism the world over during the course of the nineteenth century" (21).

2. Eric Metaxas, Amazing Grace (Monarch, 2007)

Yes, the movie was staggering. I've seen it five times (and counting!). The scenes with John Newton in them impact me as much as any I have seen on the silver screen. Rarely have the spiritual and social implications of the gospel hit me with such force at the very same time.
And then a book to accompany the movie? Surely this is just a commercial gimmick? No! The book allows the timeline of Wilberforce's life to be opened and extended. I gained a new appreciation for his conversion experience ... for the way Wilberforce was the natural outcome of Wesley and Whitefield in an Ephesians 2:8-10 kind of way ... for his prevailing persistence and then the way he lived his final days poor and destitute. The book is so good I bought a copy for each one of my children. The world needs another generation of Wilberforces.

3. Christopher JH Wright, The Mission of God: unlocking the Bible's grand narrative (IVP, 2006)

This is one for the ages. After a slowish start to the book, I began to savour it page by page. Chris makes a case not so much for the biblical basis of mission but for the missional basis of the Bible: "The whole Bible renders to us the story of God's mission through God's people in their engagement with God's world for the sake of the whole of God's creation (51) ... The mission is God's. The marvel is that God invites us to join in" (67). As he is an Old Testament scholar I love the way he lingers there, valuing the ongoing contribution of Exodus, of the Jubilee, of covenants while also deepening our understanding of things like idolatry and holiness. Along the way he sees Genesis 12:1-3 as the first Great Commission. He concludes that "election is missional in its purpose ... God so loved the world that he chose Israel" (329). There is time to reflect on our care for creation (afterall "there is nowhere we can step off his property" (403) ); on the image of God and how it relates to the HIV/AIDS crisis ... it is just a wonderfully satisfying book for those who want to embrace the full gospel for all the nations.

4. Pete Hammond, Lessons, Prayers & Scriptures on the Faith Journey... (InterVarsity/USA Marketplace, 2007)

Pete has been one of the gurus in the faith-at-work movement around the world, affirming the place of God's call to places and people beyond just the gathered church context. In fact it is he who articulates church as both 'gathered' and 'scattered' (categories which I just love to use). He edited the WordinLife Study Bible. This little book is just as the title says - a collection of pieces drawn from his life and experience. There is wisdom here. There is tenderness and warmth. There is deep, deep spirituality. It is personal. It is counter-cultural. I do fear that its circulation will be more limited and that would be such a shame. Knock the InterVarsity (USA) door down until you get your copy! We do have one copy in the Carey Baptist College library.

5. Lorraine Moller, On the Wings of Mercury (Longacre, 2007)

I try to discipline myself to read biographies of people unlike me so that my understanding of people is always broadening. This was a good choice! I read it in two days. Just rivetting. Moller may be a famous NZ marathon runner, but she is also a remarkable writer ("Puberty was invented to humiliate humans" 48). What a mastery of metaphor (running as if "molten lead was seeping out of my shoes" 92). The opening pages on her health/family difficulties as a child - and how this served to stain so much of her life - contain such honesty and insight. There is then this rawness to the book. She stumbles into abusive relationships with men. She is drawn to odd spiritualities (with Mercury taking on a God-like identity in the story). She is so open about her angers and jealousies and griefs. She even talks about having a nose-job to correct a lifelong sensitivity about having a Big Nose as a child. There is a lost-ness in the story that provoked a sadness in me.

6. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: a discussion of Christian fellowship (Harper & Row, 1954)

This is not much more than booklet - but how could I have missed it for all these years? The way it speaks from beyond our own time into our own time with such prophetic clarity and relevance is striking. We talk about it so much today - but what does authentic Christian community actually look like? Read the book (in a matter of 3-5hrs) with its chapters on Community, The Day With Others, The Day Alone, Ministry, Confession and Communion. Our annual Carey Staff Retreat in February will be built partly around an open and creative engagement with this little book.

7. Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: practices that transform us (IVP, 2005)

In the embrace of spirituality - particularly the rediscovery by evangelicals of the richness in the Catholic heritage - something has been lost as well as gained. Calhoun corrects some of this by accumulating a full range of spiritual practises under the following headings: Worship, Open Myself to God, Relinquish the False Self, Share My Life With Others, Hear God's Word, Incarnate the Love of Christ, Prayer... In doing so she'll make room for the practice of PrayerLabyrinth but not let go of something like Bible Memorization, on her way to outlining 55 practices in way that makes it easy and clear to engage them. There is balance here. There is fullness here. I made it 'required reading' for a Spirituality class in 2007 as we made some effort to have a class blog by which to measure our progress through the book together. I think it now replaces the works of Richard Foster as the starting point for engaging the spiritual disciplines.

8. Manfred Kets De Vries, The Leadership Mystique (Pearson Education, 2001)

Don't we become a bit intoxicated with leadership-talk today? There can be a bit of a cult of leadership which develops. It almost becomes its own gospel. This book restrained me in 2007. In exploring the ‘inner theatre’, the unseen world that drives so much of what is seen in our behaviour, I encountered new perspectives on failure, change, dysfunction, transference, neuroses, and competency. Even the irrational has a rationale! And with the abundance of interactive exercises/quizzes designed to strengthen my self-awareness, there is no option but to progress in these areas. "People in positions of authority have an uncanny ability to reawaken transferential processes in themselves and others." (87) This makes leadership a lot trickier than it may seem. I'd rate this to be the most impacting book I have read on leadership in a decade.

I had some disappointments along the way in 2007. People I love and whom I like to draw alongside have recommended Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz and Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis to me (I love Bell's nooma stuff). However it does worry me that I could not stick with either of these books through to the end - particularly when so many find them to be so resonant with their own stories of walking with Jesus. I fear I might be losing touch with the key issues that people are facing.

nice chatting - for one final time in 2007!


Sunday, December 16, 2007

christian tv

I have just come from my TV.

A few weeks ago I discovered Christian programmes running on four different channels all at the same time. I lingered with each one for awhile. I moved on to the next one. But each time my response was the same - sad, to the point of grief.
My own growing conviction (happy to be proven wrong by any who can convince me!) is that while testimonies can be uncovered of the good that is being done through this approach, I bet no one is collecting anecdotes of the harm being done. On balance I ask aloud if more harm than good is being done to the cause of Christ through this medium at this time?

My grief had one of three causes (not always at one time, thankfully):

One is the enormous financial costs being expended on this programming. Is this the best use of God's resources - particularly when it is possible to choose from one among four? So much is so slick and so glitzy.

Two is the lack of faithfulness to the biblical gospel in all its fullness and balance and challenge. So much is so shoddy theologically. Sometimes I shudder to think that a random channel-surfer might pause to watch just what it is that I am watching.

Three is the cultural irrelevance of so much of what is viewed. Like the guy whose pulpit looked like a castle the other day. What?! He certainly isn't guilty of #2 - but gee, is he relevant to NZ society?! The Pacific Ocean is far wider than people realise.

[I am writing all this because there is a very big BUT coming ... here it comes]

BUT I have just watched the end of Shore Community Church's production at 8:30am on PRIME on Sundays. www.connectionresources.org.nz [the new site for www.shore.org.nz]
It is not the first time I have watched. And yet again I was impressed by the simplicity of the production, the biblical faithfulness of the message from Reuben Munn (I caught the last few minutes of a series on Hebrews), and the sheer cultural relevance of watching something that is authentically Kiwi. I was stirred deeply in my following of Jesus.

I hope that all those for whom Christian TV is a lifeline to God's Word each week will be tuning-in next week. The rest of you should be connecting with a local community of God's people :) - which is what I am rushing out the door to do right now.

nice chatting


Monday, December 10, 2007

the year of living biblically

This title caught my eye on the new book shelf at Borders. Check out the subtitle: "one man's humble quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible" (William Heinemann, 2007). A.J. Jacobs - an agnostic, or non-believer - sets aside a year to follow the 700+ rules in the Bible as literally as is possible, allowing them to impact "the way I talk, walk, eat, bathe, dress, and hug my wife" (8). Intriguing!

I was surprised
The cynicism which I expected did not eventuate. Even th0ugh he finishes the year as a "reverent agnostic" (329) he does benefit from the yearlong experience. It is easy to warm to his story. He is so open. He finds value in the rituals and the repetition as he goes in search of "the meaning beyond the wierdness" (87). He reaches a point where he can say "I no longer dread prayer" (94). Elsewhere he claims that "I feel more connected ... My life is more significant" (107). At times "the entire world takes on a glow of sacredness" (153). He is not trying to be destructive. There is some honest humble searching going on here.

Plus a lot of wisdom spills out as he writes - and not just from the spiritual advisors with whom he surrounds himself (including the 'pastor out to pasture', the Rev Elton Richards). I value his insight about speech: "the less I vocalise my negative thoughts, the fewer negative thoughts I cook up in the first place" (157).
I loved his appreciation of the prophets and Ecclesiastes - "I feel the thrill of recognizing thoughts that I have had myself, but that I've never been able to capture in such beautiful language" (114) - two of my own favourite rest areas in the Bible.
What about the usefulness of intercessory prayer? "It's ten minutes where it's impossible to be self-centered." (128) ... or, the wisdom contained in "stop looking at the Bible as a self-help book" (208).

Yes, I was surprised!

I was humoured
The guy writes so well ... and with a few laughs along the way.
As he struggles to shut down for a Sabbath he is feeling stressed: "the outside world is speeding along without me. Emails are being answered. Lattes are being sipped. George Bush's childhood friends are being appointed to high-level positions" (124).
On capital punishment in the Hebrew scriptures? "Think Saudi Arabia, multiply by Texas, then triple that" (92).
On living Israel's food laws in their pagan world: "they were marking their territory with menus" (170).
Or take his visit to Jerry Falwell's church or to Amish country or Israel.

Tracking alongside his year in the Bible is his commentary on life with his wife Julie and son Jaspar (and the growth of his own beard!). Part way through the book Julie becomes pregnant with IVF-assisted twins, a procedure having its own humour (like asking for pen marks to be put on his wife's but so that he knows where to put the needle) - as does the section on the dilemma of avoiding contact with a woman (ie Julie!) having her period near the beginning of the book and the decisions about circumcision when twin boys eventually are born near the end.

Yes, I was humoured!

I was frustrated
With an eye on the way the Bible is handled, Jacobs divides the Christian world into two sections. There are the fundamentalists. For them "the Bible emerged from God's oven like a fully baked cake ... God sat behind His big oak desk in heaven and dictated the words verbatim to a bunch of flawless secretaries" (200-201). Here is where biblical literalism is practised. Then there are the liberals - a word Jacobs does not use but still describes his position well enough: "the Bible has evolved, like humans themeselves. Like a Wikipedia entry" (201). He writes of a "cafeteria Christianity" where you pick and choose what you like form the biblical buffet - a position which he considers to be unavoidable by both sections.

I do beg to differ. There is another approach. Sadly the bibliography suggests that this was never really engaged - as it rarely is by people writing from Jacobs' perspective.
One where the 'literal' word is seen to be unhelpful.
One where you hold an ancient text at a distance before you bring it close.
One where issues like reading texts within their historical and literary contexts is the way to uncover their natural and plain sense.
One where a text's genre - and there are a dozen separate ones in the Bible - plays a decisive role in unpacking the meaning.
One where across the many authors and many centuries covered in the biblical text, a single story from a single divine author is discovered and any one bit is interpreted then in light of this whole bit.
One where oak tables and secretaries are dismissed in favour of fully human authors being fully inspired by God.
One where the New Testament does not feel like an afterthought (as it does in Jacobs' book) but the very fulfillment of the Old Testament, with passages like Jesus on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24) and Jesus in the book of Hebrews (which doesn't rate even a mention) leading the way.
One where the Bible is not seen to be an exhaustive encyclopedia of all there is to know and do, but a sufficient guidebook that sets up a trajectory of wisdom which we follow on into the challenges of today.

Yes, I do find this frustrating.

A.J. Jacobs has done what is so common today. He has deleted this third option. This option doesn't take all the problems away. But gee, I find it provides me with a compelling vision and feeds my sincere intent to aim at living my whole life biblically and not just a single year.

nice chatting

Paul Windsor

Saturday, November 24, 2007

stress and burnout

Yesterday I stumbled across the notes from John Sturt (a well-known counsellor here in NZ) about the difference between stress and burnout. Here they are...

Burnout is characterised by disengagement;
Stress is characterised by over-engagement.

With burnout emotions tend to be blunted;
with stress emotions tend to be over-active.

Burnout leads to a loss of motivation and drive;
Stress leads to a loss of physical energy.

With burnout there is a demoralisation;
with stress there is a dis-integration.

Burnout leads to a loss of ideals and hope;
Stress leads to a loss of energy.

With burnout there can be this sense of helplessness;
with stress there can be this sense of hyperactivity.

Burnout leads to depersonalisation and detachment;
Stress produces panic and anxiety disorders.

With burnout people will say 'it is not worth it';
with stress people will say 'there is not enough time.'

Burnout leads to emotional damage;
Stress leads to physical damage.

I wasn't in a good space at the time and had gone along to his seminar. This distinction which he made was revelatory for me. I (and others) assumed that I was stressed in my job as a Principal. The discovery I made that day was that actually I am rarely 'stressed' in the job - but I do have this propensity to live close to the clutches of burnout. Now I am sure they can't be just split apart so easily ... but I do wonder how many people make the wrong diagnosis of the problem and then tend to seek the solutions in the wrong place as a result?!

nice chatting


Sunday, November 18, 2007

split apart

The deepest divisions among the people of God in our nation have nothing to do with denominations. They have nothing to do with political loyalties. No - the deepest divisions cut through the life of individuals.

Take the time to listen to Christians talk. I do this all the time. Let me tell you what I hear. I hear a mind vs heart division. People love to go on and on about 'head knowledge' and 'heart knowledge', seeing them as two different things. I hear a theory vs practice division. A Placemakers' van caught my eye the other day. 'Know How, Can Do' was splashed across the side. That sounds so practical. I suspect a van with 'Know What, Understand Why' wouldn't market a company very well. Theory sounds so boring. I hear a public vs private division. On a Sunday or being in worship brings out a certain conversation and a certain behaviour in people, while living on a Monday and being at work ... well, it can all sound and look so different.

Divided talk like this is not new. For example, centuries ago Philosopher Plato talked about a body vs soul division, the material was separated from the spiritual. And what is it that happens next with this split? Well - one bit becomes a good bit and the other bit becomes a bad bit. On one side is where you find God living - in Plato's case the soul and the spiritual - and on the other side you find God evacuating - in this case the body and the material. Have you ever wondered why Christians can be so hamstrung when it comes to confronting pornography or leading the response to an ecological crisis? There are experts who trace it all the way back to Plato. We are sailing in his bad air. What else can you expect to happen when you allow the body and the material to be seen as a bad bit from which God has evacuated?

And when we come back to these divisions I hear around the place - the mind:heart, the theory:practice, the public:private - nothing much has changed. There tends to be a good bit and a bad bit. And a bit that God inhabits and a bit that God evacuates. Our faith and our churches thrive in the private:practical:heart world. Our faith and our churches get a bit lost in the mind:theory:public world - in fact, it is often argued that this is where faith shrivels and dies so stay away! [cf Lesslie Newbigin: "the church has secured a continuing place, at the cost of surrendering the crucial field."]

Now there is one problem with this. The Bible knows nothing of this nonsense. And that means that God ain't too chuffed with it either.

Mind vs heart? When Jesus drew alongside two heavy-hearted disciples on the road to Emmaus he ministered to their minds, to their understanding of Scripture, and in a matter of minutes despairing hearts became burning hearts. Dividing head knowledge from heart knowledge is not the way forward.

Theory vs practice? When Paul sat down to write Ephesians he did not start with chapter 4. When he sat down to write Romans he did not start with chapter 12. Last time I looked he establishes the theory first. His van had 'Know What, Understand Why' splashed across the bonnet and 'Know How, Can Do' splashed across the boot.

Public vs Private? When a Joseph or a Daniel or an Esther left home on a Monday morning to go to work they did not park their impeccable private worlds with their chariots. They went in and lived them in full view of Pharoah and Xerxes and Nebuchadnezzar and did so with integrity and did so with influence. They didn't ask themselves "gee, how can I be relevant?". They just refused to divide up their lives and therein lay their relevance.

I'd go one step further with all of this ... I would argue with all my being and for as long as God gives me breath that the central reason for the church's ineffectiveness as it participates in the mission of God in this land lies with deep divisions like these ones. We are struggling not because of too much mind, too much theory, too much public - but too little of the finest variety.

nice chatting

Paul Windsor

Friday, November 16, 2007

the good, the bad and the netball

The Netball World Championships are on in Auckland at the moment and this causes me to reflect on the sport - especially as a lifelong basketball fan and player. I must confess that netball has become an acquired taste. I enjoy the game.

the good
Netball has advantages over basketball. Two come to mind. By not allowing dribbling the game has the potential to be so much faster. As any basketball coach knows - 'a pass will always beat a dribble'. Alternatively, take the way players are limited to certain zones in netball. It took awhile ... but I quite like it. It creates such a team game. Having a Michaela Jordan as a goal-shoot is irrelevant if the centre and wing-attack ain't much good and can't get her the ball.

Another thing I love about netball is the personalities and leaders it throws into public life. Waimarama Taumanu was my first favourite with Bernice Mene not far behind. They are so winsome and so articulate (I really like that one!) when they are interviewed - and gifted leaders as well. Adine Wilson has the same qualities. Gee - I wish she could be interviewed after All Black games!

But the question I keep asking myself is 'why does such a good game have such a poor following around the world?'. In 2007 the NZ media have tried to place the Cricket World Cup, the America's Cup, the Rugby World Cup and the Netball World Championships on an even footing. Really?! I don't think so... Globally, netball is to basketball what rugby league is to soccer. Upwards of 95% of the world's population have no idea that the netball championships are on at the moment. Why? Of course - it has something to do with the treatment of women's sports ... but are there other reasons?

I don't know - but there are things about netball that frustrate me ...

the bad
At the head of the list are some of the rules and the way they intrude into the game and interrupt its flow. I notice this most when I am on the sidelines for my daughters' games. Isn't it time to get rid of many of the 'contact' calls? We are no longer in the dainty lady-like era! Does a little touch really deserve a whistle - especially if it has not impacted possession? Which brings me to the need for an 'advantage' rule of some kind. Why keep bringing the game back to the 'spot' for a restart if it is not necessary. As a spectator sometimes I have to turn away out of sheer frustration with these two areas in the lawbook - and the way they attract pedantic and officious officials who just love their whistles. No sport I know features so many bewildered looks by players towards officials as netball. It wouldn't take a lot to fix...and the appeal of the game might well spread.

But here is the issue. Those controlling the game don't seem to be self-critical enough about their sport. Administrators. Officials. Media. The sport would be stronger if it was less defensive in the face of critique. Sometimes these people can be just sychophantic. At the opening ceremony the other day, the NZ coach came on screen and the commentator gushed "doesn't she look lovely?!" What?!

I reckon netball is good enough to go global. But when quarterfinals are won and lost by an average of 50 goals it suggests that there is still a long way to go. That's OK. You gotta start somewhere - but is there a willingness to start? ... or will the 2019 semi-finals feature Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica and England as well?

nice chatting


Saturday, November 10, 2007

houses and homes

A couple of Sundays ago I received an early morning email from Zambia. I had been there last year speaking at a pastors' conference alongside a delightful Zambian man called Albert. We (my son Martin was with me) grew close to Albert. We've kept in touch ... except that in August we received an email to say that Albert had died suddenly.
This recent email came from Albert's wife (and four children). It had two sentences: "We just want to share with you to continue praying for us for the issue of accommodation. We are staying in the house up to December and after that we don't know where to go."

I went off to church and came home to read the newspapers. I was confronted with what happens pretty much every weekend. Lengthy articles stacked with facts and figures and projections presented to a readership stacked with anxieties and greeds and fears about the price of houses in this country. We are obsessed! I find myself drawn so easily into this obsession.

But this time I have an email from Zambia, not just the Herald on Sunday, to process. I've done this by asking myself some questions. Maybe you can help me with the answers...

1. When does an icon become an idol? I know about the Kiwi dream of the 'quarter-acre pavlova paradise' and I know that the dream is fading. People are miffed by the injustice of it all. But when the 'miffing' is mixed with this obsessing - what does that say?

2. When does owning become hoarding? I doubt whether God has difficulties with home-owning, but I do wonder about home-hoarding and the practice of the wealthy to purchase multiple houses, particularly if there is no intent to extend the circle of beneficiaries beyond the family. If a Malachi or an Amos moved through the land I do wonder what they'd say ... and I wonder what could possibly be said in a face-to-face conversation with this young mum in Zambia?

3. When does a home become just a house? A home is a place to nurture family life, to raise secure and contented and generous children and face them towards Jesus ... and to open up heart and home to a hospitality towards others who have not had this privilege. But when a home becomes merely a house something happens. Those Sunday newspapers figure too large in the imagination. Children pick up that facing the Joneses, rather than Jesus, is what is important. The energy for hospitality drains away as hearts begin to close.

4. When does nuclear family become household of God? The Bible has little to say about Mum, Dad and the kids. When it speaks of 'family', it is speaking of a household with a far wider orbit - encircling the single, the employee, the grandparent etc. It is basically a small village! And as the globe shrinks into a village, as we have the opportunity to build relationships with people living far away ("yeah, why not put facebook to some good use, rather than this narcissistic nonsense that is happening at the moment?"), as we become aware of their needs ... is there not some sense in which I should view this mum in Zambia as part of my household? I now know of her need. Do I not have some responsibility to meet that need?

5. When does the accelerator become a handbrake? As I face my society the prevailing wisdom is all about getting rid of the mortgage as quickly as possible. Our feet are on the accelerator as heavily as we can manage. And yet there is this danger with debt - particularly when we multiply it and extend it. It holds us. It imprisons us. A handbrake goes on in other areas of our lives. We don't seem quite as able to let God move us on. Being fiscally responsible becomes the ultimate wisdom. We become stuck in a life far from what God intends for us.

6. When does the compassion mask the envy? My heart is a deceitful thing. Maybe the emotion stirred by the plight of a widowed and impoverished mum in Zambia is not about compassion or justice - but just a vehicle to transport the envy in my heart which can look at others and long to have more for myself.

nice chatting


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

wholes and holes

A couple of blindspots have been exposed in recent decades...

First-up there is the recognition that the earth needs stewardship and the environment needs care. The genius of Genesis 1 & 2 is that it constitutes every possible relationship (God:world; God:humanity; humanity:humanity; humanity:world) - but then from Genesis 3 all of these relationships get stained and ruined by sinfulness and evil. Part of aligning ourselves with the mission of God in the world is to be agents of reconciliation and restoration in each of these relationships. But the two involving the "world" have always struggled to grab some headlines. But I guess people like Al Gore have shamed followers of Jesus into waking up to these issues...

Then there is the recognition that this sinfulness and evil has wrecked the relationship which mentions "humanity" twice (humanity:humanity) leading to a world racked with poverty and injustice. Part of aligning ourselves with the mission of God in the world is to work for justice and equality now, knowing that a judgement day is coming that deals with those situations where we are unsuccessful. As my heart becomes more attuned to injustice (as it has been doing) I find I become so expectant, so excited, about that coming day when God will both punish badness and vindicate goodness and do so for eternity. The people of Israel used to sing about that hope (for example, Psalm 96:11-13) - and so should we.

But here is my question...
If we were to reach a point where the earth is fully cared-for and people everywhere live free from injustice and poverty, has the mission of God on earth been accomplished?

I don't think so!

There is more to the mission of God than this. There is a worrying danger today that in pursuit of a more wholistic gospel (that's good) we might end up with a gospel with gaping holes in it (that's bad).

When Jesus mourned over Jerusalem at the end of Matthew 23, it was not because the city of Jerusalem was beginning to slip into nearby Gehenna, an environmentally-unfriendly wasteland. Nor was it because the people of Jerusalem were oppressed and impoverished, even though they were. Jesus was mourning because they had rejected him and they were lost until they found him, enabling him to be to them "as a hen gathering her chicks under her wings" (Matt 23:37). That is why Jesus mourned. Lost people were remaining lost...

When the great commission was given to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 it expressed God's desire to bless all peoples on earth through Abraham. Then when we get to Rev 4 & 5 with "every tribe and language and people and nation" around the throne, God turns to Abraham and says "See, I told you so - I told you I'd do it - here they all are." Actually Chris Wright says it much better in The Mission of God (IVP, 2006): "And God, in the midst of the resounding praises, will turn to Abraham and say, 'There you are, I kept my promise. Mission accomplished." (251)

Ahhh, there are the words that matter -"mission accomplished" - and this is when it happens. Let's be careful that in following Jesus in this world we allow the biblically-shaped gospel to be our guide - in all its fullness and devoid of gaping holes.

nice chatting

Paul Windsor

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

love unknown

A 2005 song from Chris Martin (Coldplay) contains these lyrics:
My song is love
Love to the loveless shown
And it goes up
You don't have to be alone ...

My song is love, unknown
But I'm on fire for you, clearly...

You're the target I'm aiming at
And I'm nothing on my own
Got to get that message home ...

A 1664 hymn by Samuel Crossman contains these lyrics:
My song is love unknown
My Saviour's love for me;
Love to the loveless shown
That they might lovely be.
But who am I, that for my sake.
My Lord should take take frail flesh and die?

I stumbled across this combo as I was picking the hymn (wanting to fit into the mantra of 'teaching people a new song'!) for community worship at Carey this week. I haven't investigated this too deeply but Chris must have known about Sam - particularly when the two tunes are so hauntingly similar as well! However it is the comparisons between the two complete sets of lyrics that has captured me. Let me open this up a bit and invite you to jump in!

1. Chris is only horizontal; Sam is only vertical in their relational focus
The focus for both is on the word 'unknown'. For Chris it seems that the love of a guy for a girl is unknown by the girl and he 'has to get the message home'. For Sam Jesus' love for people with a sin-problem is being rejected and so remaining unknown to them - with particular reference to the hatred shown by those watching Jesus go to the cross.

2. For Chris the purpose of the pursuit seems more selfish; for Sam the purpose is sacrificial.
While Chris goes on about 'you don't have to be alone' and this does sound selfless (although we don't know if she wants his company!), the deeper motivation is to fill the void in himself: "I'm nothing on my own". For Sam the purpose is about this fabulous gospel story. It is about this sacrificial death of Jesus - 'for my sake ... who at my need His life did spend' - which then enables this profound friendship with this same Jesus - 'my friend, my friend indeed' - to develop and writer's own person to become deeply 'lovely': 'love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be.'

3. For Chris this love remains unknown until the end; for Sam the love becomes known by the end.
Both songs tell a story. For Chris there is intense longing and emotional turmoil all the way through. The message doesn't seem to get home. For Sam the hatred and scorn and anger of the crowds in that final week is contrasted by the writer experiencing something quite different: "Never was love ... like yours. This is my Friend, in whose sweet praise I all my days could gladly spend." This love actually can be known and experienced...

Maybe you can uncover a few other observations. Here are a couple of clips from YouTube:

The Coldplay song:

The Crossman song:

nice chatting


Sunday, October 07, 2007

great to good: nz rugby

The inexplicable has happened - again! Going into their fourth straight World Cup rugby tournament as overwhelming favourites NZ's All Blacks were yesterday knocked out, this time earlier than ever before. If the inexplicable keeps happening when will it cease to be called inexplicable?

My mind goes to the Good to Great book by Jim Collins. He surveys 1400+ companies in the search of a recipe for greatness in leadership. He finds it far from the madding crowd ... in about 10 leaders who have a "compelling modesty" and a "fierce resolve". Personal humility and personal resilience seem to be the key.

My mind returns to NZ, our rugby, our All Blacks ... and this ability to stumble from greatness into goodness.

I wonder - is there not something lacking in the 'compelling modesty' department? I now find myself wincing at the arrogance that NZers bring to their passion for rugby. We do not tend to respect the opposition. One TV station's average score from viewers before the French game was 43-8! Maybe the reason why we see so much arrogance in the English is because there is so much arrogance in us about the way we view our place in the game?
We may not have an arrogance borne out of our dominance of the world stage (like we see so often in the Americans, for example) - but there is one that can emerge out of our insignificance on the global stage. When we 'box above our weight', it is exciting for us and we want to make sure everybody knows about it. Gee - this can so easily morph into the wrong kind of pride (that diminishes others!) as we become the sheep that roared from our little home in our comma on the bottom of the global page.
While I realise that many find the passionless, staunch, inarticulate, and lets-be-the-only-team-not-to-sing-our-anthem persona of our sportsmen to be an expression of compelling modesty, I am far from convinced. I find the winsome and gracious and animated persona so frequently displayed by our sportswomen far more compelling and authentic in its modesty.

I wonder - is there not something lacking in the 'fierce resolve' department? Huge criticism is about to be heaped on the 'reconditioning' and 'rotational' policies of the coaches. Those two words are going to need some couch-time to recover their place in the Kiwi vocabulary - a bit like the hammering Lord of the Rings gave to poor little "precious".
But how is it that rugby league players can play up to three games in a week, while our elite rugby union players have struggled to play ten full games in eight months? Where is the physical toughness and resolve in that fact?
Then the reality behind the 'inexplicable' is that we are deficient in some sort of mental resolve as well. The rest of the rugby world speaks of us as 'chokers'. Maybe we do freeze. Maybe we are the possum stuck in the headlights. Maybe we do struggle with the professional era. Rugby is not the only Kiwi sport that struggles here. Look at golf!
And it is not just physical and mental resolve ... to hear the coach say that France had more passion than the All Blacks. WOW! Really? After three early exits from World Cups and in our first knock-out game in this tournament ... and the All Blacks were out-passioned by the opposition? Where is the emotional resolve? Maybe we could start by learning to sing our anthem like the Portugese sing theirs?!

Like so many Kiwis I feel gutted. Knowing I couldn't drive back from Wellington in time, I spent the night in Room 88 in the Safari Motel in Taihape and watched the match on my own. Ugh! I'll get over it, knowing that God's mission in the world is far more concerned with other inexplicabilities ... but wouldn't it be great if we allowed this experience to build more modesty and resolve into our national psyche? It might make us even more useful in God's hands as well.

nice chatting


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

robin and marian

I grew up with Robin Hood. My Dad is a big fan of the 1938 movie version starring Errol Flynn. We watched it as kids. The storyline has grafted into my heritage. Then there was the 1991 version with Kevin Costner as Robin Hood. And now ... on Monday nights the phone gets ignored and the video recorder purrs away as we tune into Prime TV to watch the 2006 TV series from the BBC.
What so entices me with this TV series - and so ruins it for anyone within audible range of me as I watch - is that the same old storyline changes so much over time. Take two examples of this: identity and religion.

In terms of identity...
In 1938 Robin is chivalrous and heroic. He is a 'for God and King and country' leader of a throng of merry men. He stands on tables and up trees above his people urging them on to greater works of compassion and justice. In 2006 he cuts a more uncertain figure. Looking like he has just stepped out of a boy band, the charm is there but the plans are less grand. At one point Much, the one who knows him best, observes that 'he just wants to be loved'. And his leadership? He is rarely up front or up high. He leads from within a small group of followers.

And Marian? In 1938 she is a mostly passive and refined lady who knows well her elevated place in a hierarchial society. In 2006 the "Maid" has gone! She fights. She handles the bow and arrow. She moves easily between Nottingham and Sherwood. She is still beautiful - but now she is also fearless and smart. Anything Robin can do, she tends to do better. When all is said and done she is more the hero and heart of the storyline.

In terms of religion...
The Crusades (as they had started to do in the 1991 version) with their brutality of Christians towards Muslims hovers over the 2006 version. Friar Tuck, as the representative of Christianity, does not even make the script (and in 1991 he had morphed into a drunken, stupid, and useless buffoon, eclipsed completely by the Muslim Azeem character in the religious stakes)."For God" is long gone ... and "for King and country" (from 1938) is muted. At one point, when an unlikely pearl of wisdom emerges from Robin he is asked, "Where did that come from - the Bible?". His response? "No, the Koran".

As the series develops - Episode 9 last Monday - the spiritual heart of the movie is carried by a young Muslim woman (Djaq) who enters the story as the leader (how is that possible?) of a slave-gang brought to Sherwood by the Sheriff to work the mines. Djaq is redeemed by Robin and stays on with the group as a Muslim woman, masquerading as a young man. Go figure!? That could never have happened...

It is not difficult to see what is going on here ... but oh, it is such fun! Movie directors are not as creative as they think. They tend to reflect the world in which they live ... and maybe lead it a bit as well. Watch the 1938, 1991, and 2006 versions and we gather insight into the worldview that shapes my parents' generation, my own generation, and now my children's generation. [NB: I might also add that the same sort of thing can be done with many an enduring Disney storyline and Romeo & Juliet is a good one too. In fact I once shared some basic ideas about Romeo & Juliet with someone who ran with it, developed it further ... and it became a foundational part of his doctoral work. There is a doctorate in Robin Hood as well].

And with my childrens' world - both at high school and university - no aspects of worldview are more 'on the move' than identity and religion. These movies are case-studies in leadership and power relationships with 2006 giving prominence to a feminist perspective. These movies are case-studies in religion and spirituality and pluralism, with 2006 presenting this prevailing bias against Christianity. In our universities today the Crusades tend to be mentioned in the same breath as the Holocaust. Christian faith is being humbled and humiliated... None of these features would be anywhere near the original story as the contemporary penchant for revisionist history comes to the fore.

This is all SO useful ... To be effective as participants in the mission of God in the world we need to know our God and know our world and what it is that makes our world go round: worldviews! "To ignore worldviews, either our own or those of the culture we are studying, results in an extraordinary shallowness" (NT Wright). "The critical ideas in society are not the ones being argued, but the ones being assumed" (CS Lewis).

Robin Hood is a big help. We need to know our biblical worldview and let it engage these types of worldviews and find the response which is full of grace and truth. I fear that the christian mysticism spawned by charismatic renewal/contemplative tradition together with the pragmatism to which we so easily gravitate (which together have had such prominence in our NZ church life from 1991 to 2006) just do not have enough grunt for this crucial mission task...

nice chatting


Friday, September 21, 2007

those c-words

Maybe someone can help me with one of the great mysteries of church life in NZ for me.

Why is it that within the 'protestant' scene (particularly the Baptist one, for me) the word "Calvin" seems to be a dirtier 'C' word than the word "Catholic"? On which side of the Reformation did we actually end up?!

Now I am teaching spirituality and am finding some good stuff in the Catholic heritage. In my current role I have enjoyed fellowship with Catholic believers ... so that is not so much the issue. What befuddles me is how the Reformed (Calvinist) people are so marginal in the life of the NZ church. They are off in some eddy far from the mainstream which is unlike every other country of which I am aware. Time and time again I find this C-word to be one of the great conversation stoppers. Why is this? More importantly, what is missing in the overall church because they are confined to the margins?

In 1984, fresh from a mildly Reformed training overseas, I was travelling to my first NZ pastors' conference with a mentor. I asked him, "So how many Baptist churches/pastors would consider themselves to be 'reformed'?" I will never, ever forget his response: "None". While he wasn't quite right, he was well within the statistical margin of error!

The plot thickens even further when it is realised that the NZ Baptist scene was borne with an umbilical (and familial) connection to CH Spurgeon, the greatest Reformed/Calvinist Baptist of the 19th century. Something drastic has happened over the century. I just don't get it...

nice chatting


Monday, August 27, 2007

the mistake of maturity

There are times when mature people really frustrate me.

Seasoned pastors and leaders (and lecturers themselves, it must be said) can peer into a training programme like ours at Carey and be a little too hasty to contribute into it out of their current and exciting 'growing edge', rather than rewinding to what was useful for them when they were at a similar age and stage as the students.

Sometimes this ends up as being as dumb as trying to build the fifth storey of a building without taking time to lay the foundation properly. I am surprised by how often people of maturity are unwilling to extend to students the grace of time to grow - the very grace on which their own growth has been so dependent. How often do I come across a pastor/leader in their 50s expecting a graduate in their 20s to be far more advanced than they themselves were in their 20s?! That seems so unfair to me. We are in such a hurry today. But fruit takes time to ripen.

Afterall the student years are not the end of a training experience, they are merely the beginning of a lifetime of training. Not everything has to be crammed into those student years. Some things can wait for the trajectory which living life creates...

And if you don't mind me changing the image from 'foundation' to 'core', then consider these two comments that ring continually in my ears (emphasis added by me):

"If we avoid rehearsing the core of biblical faith then it will be lost in one generation. If it goes without saying, then it needs to be said." (Peter Adam, Hearing God's Words 17)

"During the past twenty years there has been a quite frightening tendency to assume the center without really being able to articulate much about it and then to gravitate to the periphery ... (and) sooner or later the periphery is in danger of displacing the core - at least in our affections and energy, and perhaps in our theology (or that of our children)." (DA Carson, The Gagging of God 566-567).

Yes, "that of our children" ... and that includes our 'spiritual' children as pastors and leaders and lecturers. We need to keep building the core and we need to keep giving students the time to get that core in place.

I keep warning myself that 'an emphasis in a teacher easily becomes an extreme in a student'. I need to keep that warning alive.

I keep apologising to students for prefacing my instruction with 'when I was at your stage this is what I found helpful...' Maybe I need to put that apology to bed.

nice chatting


Thursday, August 23, 2007

contemporary slavery

The final course in Carey's BAppTheol is the Integrative Seminar. We choose a theme. The students select a specific topic. Then in their 6000 word piece of research they are required to move FROM some kind of social scientific analysis of the topic THROUGH a biblical-theological lens and then ONTO a missional outcome of some kind.

Next week we gather over three days to hear them present their findings. In 2007 the theme has been Contemporary Slaveries. Here is a list of the specific (and yet abbreviated) topics that have been selected:

Honour/Shame killing of women in Pakistan
Prostitution in Kolkata
Practise of Trokosi among Ewe of Ghana
Female Genital Mutilation in Africa
Intimate partner domestic abuse in NZ
Enslavement of wives in Chinese society

Children on the cocoa farms in Cote d'Ivore
Children producing Nike soccer balls in Pakistan
Sex slavery of girls in Cambodia
Child sex workers in Philippines
Child prostitution in South Africa
Child soldiers in DR of Congo
Child soldiers in Uganda
Female child workers in Indonesia
Selling children in Samoa
Assimilation of Aboriginal children
Child-stitchers of Pakistan

Forced labour in contemporary USA
Forced migrant labour in UK
Forced labour in Burma
Bonded labour in India
Domestic workers in Phillipines

Human trafficking in Texas
Enslavement and the will-to-power
Unthinking hedonistic materialism as enslavement
Skilled immigrants as refugees in NZ

We are in for a gruelling few days, aren't we?

My prayer is that the students will be changed forever as they discover a new capacity to bring World and Word together, with a fresh determination to live their lives in both places.

nice chatting (actually - I lie ... this stuff is ugly and awful)


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

hand head heart

Carey has been a building site since classes started in March. The floor above us has been gutted and refurbished. It all finishes tomorrow. I've been disrupted much less than others - partly because I've been too busy admiring the skills on display.

Start with the project manager. Every day for months there is this row of vans outside belonging to every kind of sub-contractor. How does he figure-out who needs to be on-site and at what time and in what place? The vision and the teamwork is amazing. Then there are the specialist skills of the plumbers and the electricians, the plasterers and the carpenters, the concrete-cutters and the carpet-layers and the elevator-installers... Having not grown up with tools in my hands, I've wasted a lot of time just watching skilled hands at work.

And that's just what happens once I get to work! Closer to home there is even more admiring going on. Take that extension to the Hillsborough motorway nearby! Watching 'every valley filled; every mountain brought low' to create a road with perfect flatness. WOW! And what about the way they keep the traffic flowing - as they build six overbridges - by creating these temporary roads that skirt around the edge? That is so clever! Only one bridge has been completed so far. I cannot begin to describe the excitement I feel about driving over each of the other five.

"Paul, you are a sick man and need help." Yes I know.

However the more I've reflected on this the more I realise that there is more going on than what meets the eye. While I've admired what people can do with tools and machines in their HANDS, it is not just about hands. It is also about HEADS. There are clever architects behind that building-site. There are brilliant engineers behind that motorway [I know this for a fact because when one visited I forced him into the car for a drive-by the motorway and a view from up Mt Roskill and compelled him to give me a running commentary on all that our eyes surveyed. Thanks Damian ... "and you are still a very sick man, Paul"].

Then when I took a walk around upstairs late yesterday something else dawned on me. It looks so beautiful. Surely the architects and concrete-cutters alike must walk through those rooms and feel a joy and contentment about a job well done. The finished product is a work of art. There is passion and pride and HEART going on here.

So - as I've sat with all this - I think what really inspires me is the integration of hand and head and heart so evident in this final product. The gaps between the three have become so small! And yet it is on this issue that such a melancholy about the prevailing Christian spirituality can overwhelm me. If head and heart and hand in our churches had a race, 'heart' would pip 'hand' at the finish line and 'head' would come a distant third. I fear I might spontaneously combust if I hear someone say once more that what we need today is more 'heart knowledge', not 'head knowledge'. ["Yes, Paul - then you really will be a very sick man"].

There is a better way forward. For argument's sake, take just the 'head' and the 'heart'. We tend to view these to be like two non-overlapping circles. They deal with very different realities. The feeling stuff is here and the intellectual stuff is over there - and never the twain shall meet. What about seeing them more like a single ellipse with two poles? There is still some distinction - but now there is also integration and the opportunity for the gap between the two to become small. Sometimes I find it is as if my heart is feeling deep thoughts and my head is aflame with passionate ideas. "Case closed - you really do need help, Paul!"

While I seek out that help, I am going to keep praying and working to see the people of God engaged in the mission of God looking more like ... ... upstairs.

nice chatting


Monday, July 30, 2007

the problem with preaching?

For those of you interested in the ministry of preaching...

There is a spirited discussion going on in the pages of the magazine of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand at the moment. David Allis - with a breadth of experience in church and mission life in NZ and overseas - contributed an article in the July issue entitled "The Problem with Preaching". It is uploaded here:


I was among those who made a response in the August issue of the magazine. It is also uploaded here (with the formatting included that inadvertently dropped out of the print version!):


enuf said - nice chatting


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

streams and banks

I've just entered a new chapter in my life. I have started teaching 'spirituality' in our BAppTheol curriculum at Carey Baptist College. It's going to take me a few years to feel confident with the material - but, hey, you gotta start somewhere!

On the first day we did an exercise where students put 30 different words/phrases on the whiteboard which immediately come to mind when the word 'spirituality' is uttered. 20 years ago there would be a few empty spaces as we didn't tend to use the word. And 10 years ago you could have guaranteed that two little words would have made it onto the whiteboard: "new" and "age"! But those two words were nowhere to be found. I've spent the week since trying to decide whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. Has 'spirituality' got so good that it has purged itself of harmful influences? Or has 'spirituality' got so bad that we just don't notice harmful influences anymore?

I am not sure! I guess I will find out. However I think we face this dilemma as followers of Jesus because of the image about spirituality which prevails among us today. Richard Foster is one person who has popularised it. It is the image of streams. Spirituality is like a river in which many streams - or traditions - mix and mingle and flow together.

There are any number of these streams. In one place Foster identifies six: the Holiness stream (a focus on being pure); the Contemplative stream (a focus on prayer and meditation); the Charismatic stream (a focus on the Spirit and spiritual gifts); the Incarnational stream (a focus on keeping sacred and secular together as we live in the world); the Social Justice stream (a focus on helping those less fortunate than us); and the Evangelical stream (a focus on the scriptures and sharing the gospel). A bit brief ... but that is the basic idea!

Now I confess that I find this image of the streams of spirituality to be far from convincing - both in theory and in practice.

In practice Foster's stated (and laudable!) intention to bring balance into spirituality doesn't easily happen. The tendency is for spiritually-minded Christians to hop into their kayak and find their way into the stream they prefer. "Sure - over there you can be into the Charismatic with a sprinkling of the Incarnational - but as for me I prefer the Social Justice with a hint of the Contemplative." I fear that Foster's desire for balance gets swamped by the tsunami of consumer choice. Balance too easily becomes preference. And preference always finds it hard to choose what we don't like ... and what we don't like is probably exactly what we most need.

In theory I remain unconvinced about the 'Evangelical' (not really the right word!) stream being just one of the streams in the river. This is the one which nurtures a focus on the scriptures and sharing the gospel. Is this just another stream? Really?! Surely this one is more than just a stream in the river? Isn't it more like the banks for the river? It is the one which determines the course of the river. It reaches right across the river providing the channel to include things from every stream. And it discerns what is a bit toxic and is able to divert it out of the river altogether.

My suspicion is that "new" and "age" should still be on that whiteboard - as well as a number of other words like gnosticism and mysticism. We need a clearer discernment with these words. However my suspicion is that because the Word of God can tend to be seen as just another stream in the river rather than the banks for that river of spirituality, we lose the ability to use the Word to carry out a more objective and critical discernment of what is happening. My difficulty is not so much with Foster but with those who apply Foster's image in a way he probably didn't intend. And my suspicion is that because of this there could well be much in so-called 'Christian' spirituality that isn't really 'Christian' at all. But I guess that is still up ahead of me.

nice chatting

Paul Windsor

Thursday, July 12, 2007

faces on the fridge

While I was overseas I was stunned to hear more than one person tell me that when it comes to missionaries raising their financial support, New Zealand is gaining a reputation for being very slow - the slowest of them all.

I wonder if this is true. Are we becoming stingy? Are we growing less committed to the financial support of missionaries in cross-cultural settings? I offer a few comments on which you can chew...

One For about a generation now we have been told that there is nothing special about missionaries. They are not super-spiritual. 'Pull them down off that pedestal.' There is truth in this. However maybe the pendulum needs to swing back a bit. The reality is that the missionaries which I have just met are special. They are making sacrifices that very few of us are willing to make. They should be prized. And part of that 'prizing' should be making it very easy for them to raise their support because we are all so generous.

Two While it is hardly the best incentive maybe the easing of tax laws regarding rebates on charitable giving can be used of God to build a fresh wave of generosity?

Three I am less and less convinced that the practise of tithing is meant for the New Testament era. [Please correct me before I fall into heresy - there is still time!] This is because, in practise, tithing simply becomes a mandate to keep 90% for myself. And yet the bottom line is that all we own comes under the Lordship of Jesus. 100% is his - not 10%. Followers of Jesus living way above something like the minimum wage should be considering giving way above 10%. And those who do will one day have honour heaped upon them by God ... and in the meantime more missionaries (among other people and projects) will experience quicker and fuller support.

Four There is generosity in NZ. Look at the growth in Child Sponsorship through the likes of Tear Fund and World Vision. It is staggering. In NZ homes photos on the fridge are almost as common as the fridge itself. It is a phenomenon - and it is good! But it is just a starting point, not an ending point, for our giving. Our fridges need to be populated with other faces - the faces of missionaries. I reckon that for every sponsored child on our fridges we should aim at having at least one missionary face as well!

nice chatting


Monday, July 02, 2007

out of (central) asia

I am on my way home from ten days in this region speaking at the annual conference of a 'company' with its 'workers' gathered together from throughout the area. Sorry - I have to be a bit vague for security reasons.

Here are a few observations...

a church
While the church is not a building one building does stand out. A church in the UK embarked on a massive rebuilding programme and decided to 'tithe' their costs ... and as a consequence it paid for two churches to be built - one in Africa and the one I entered in Central Asia. WOW!

The church as a people in Central Asia has known the tide come and go. Before about 1450AD it was thriving as the Nestorian church with archealogical sites to prove it. Then it died out. Centuries later along came the repressive Stalin who sent various people groups into exile as a way of maintaining control. And so off went the Germans and the Koreans to Central Asia and with them came the good news! WOW!

a beauty
There can't be many places in the world where you encounter 40degree temperatures and then lift your eyes to the hills to discover snow-clad mountains ... or turn into multiple city streets to find those same mountains lurking at the end of them. The conference was held at a lake lined with snowy mountains as far as the eye could see - a lake so big it makes NZ's Lake Taupo look like a substantial puddle and mountains so tall that they routinely double the height of Mt Cook.

a diversity
What a 'company'!! Among the 90 adults were people from England, Malaysia, Romania, Australia, USA, Scotland, Korea, Germany, Canada, Holland, Singapore, Switzerland, New Zealand ... with a range of vocations including health care, youth work, community work, English-teaching, prison work, university lecturing, IT specialists, and schools together with business ventures in the areas of second-hand clothing (import), candle-making, freight moving, cafe, and construction. As a speaker who tries to honour the context as well as the text, this diversity proved to make it the most demanding setting in which I have ever spoken.

And yet amidst the diversity, a remarkable unity around a person and a purpose which they all hold in common.

a hangover
I grew up in post-British India. Here is post-Soviet Central Asia. What a contrast in hangovers. There is a PhD here for someone.

Creativity and initiative and excellence still remains under-developed here. The botanic gardens are left to become an overgrown ramble. I was asked the routine question: "how old do you think this apartment building is in which we live?" It looked about 40-50 years old, but sensing a trick question I respond cleverly with "20-30 years". The right answer? 10 years.

The British left a better legacy in health and education. Many 'workers' commented on how caring for people did not appear to be integral to the medical profession. One 'worker' is trying to initiate the first emergency/trauma care programme in the country. Another is trying to establish the first hospice care programme.

After years of repression distrust is endemic. Checking in and out of a hotel is a prolonged process ensuring that nothing has gone missing. Taking the room towels down to the lake was tantamount to inviting explusion to a new gulag in Siberia.

Ironically (and sadly) a free-er society has led to one where the people are far worse off than they were under the Soviets. Progress is going to be slow...

a library
I visited the leading cross-denominational theological college in the region, principal-ed by a Kiwi. It is 10 years old. A 3 year programme in Russian and a 2 year programme in the indigenous language. 75 graduates spread around the country. A distance programme underway. It is just SO strategic ... if the church is to grow it will be through these graduates.

... and then I was taken to the library - in a room the size of a bedroom in my home and a collection about half the size of my own. It stirred me. So much so I am going to launch a Project 200 on return to NZ, raising the money to buy 200 Russian-language books for this college. What I have in mind is to approach people who value their (theological) education and encourage them to cull their own personal libraries, selling unused books and so 'out of our plenty supply their need.' Each Russian-language book will cost about NZD25 and so people will commit to buying a certain number of books. I am aiming to provide the first 40 books by culling my own books and praying that others will join me with a book here and there. If you are interested contact me at Carey Baptist College and I will send you an explanatory letter.

nice chatting

Paul Windsor

Friday, June 15, 2007

official - or influential?

I confess that I am struggling with why seeing New Zealand as a Christian nation in past, present, and future is such a big deal. Under the threat of today's new-religions and 'no-religion's (as is so popular in our census forms), it smacks of Christianity trying to preserve some sort of home-field advantage in the game of religion. "Let's make sure we maintain a preferential treatment for Christianity and keep it kinda official."

Is that the way to go? Isn't that just a not-so-naked power play?

This Wilberforce movie (Amazing Grace) is a reminder of just how ugly 'official' Christianity can become. Wilberforce takes on a Parliament crammed with people no doubt claiming to be Christian who are also advocating for the slave trade - concerned as they are that its abolition will lead to a lowering of their standard of living! Official Christianity has a way of going to seed. It is a magnet for gigantic blindspots. No matter how much 'the days of Elijah' are sung about, it is actually the days of Malachi in which we live. Read it and weep! Official Christianity becomes institutional. It develops a form of godliness while denying its power (its real power) ...

... and it easily becomes corrupted. In the early 1990s a video went all around NZ causing great excitement among the Christian masses. It told the story of the election of Frederick Chiluba as the President of Zambia and how - at his inauguration, from memory - he proclaimed Zambia to be a Christian nation. That video was like a rugby ball down an All Black backline. It moved very quickly. Last year I was in Zambia. Last year I was on the street where Chiluba lives - under house arrest awaiting trial on corruption charges. What a gullible lot we Christian Kiwis are... (oh yeah - remember how Taupo was going to erupt!)

NAH! Let's not put all our eggs in the 'official basket', hoping to bring about transformation by that means. The urge in our nation to 'go back' to when we were more Christian - some mythical back, I suspect - needs to be traded-in for an urge to 'go further back' - way back to those early centuries when followers of Jesus were a marginalised persecuted minority in a world full of new-religions and 'no-religions' - and at the peak of their influence.

Today we are heading for a similar space. New religions and 'no-religions' are not going to go away. That would be like trying to turn off a waterfall at the tap. The storm clouds of persecution will continue to gather for authentic followers of Jesus. And is that such a bad thing? Do we want to be merely official - or do we really truly want to be influential for the sake of Jesus?

Again Wilberforce points the way. What was the secret of his influence in his marginalised persecuted space? ONE he discerned the call of God on his life, which was to politics rather than to the ministry, and he lived that call with character and courage. TWO he mixed-in to his world as salt and yet stood apart from that world as light and did so fully and forever. THREE he lived his life in the company of like-minded others (sadly, the story of the community which is the Clapham Sect is left untold in the movie) with resilience and purpose.

The posturing and soap-boxing and headlining that comes to mind when I think of "official" leaves me a bit cold. But the subversion of a grassroots movement of Jesus-followers committed to ONE and TWO and THREE and doing so against the odds ... well, that is a different story and probably an "influential" one as well.

nice chatting

Paul Windsor

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

innocuous grace

As I anticipate watching an advance screening (tonight) of the Wilberforce movie - Amazing Grace - I thought this might be an opportune time to share my first and last efforts in song-writing. It goes like this:

Innocuous Grace, how dull the sound
that saved a nice guy like me.

nice chatting


[later ... rather than writing a new post, I have written a little 'review' of Amazing Grace and embedded it within the 'comments' on this post]

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

on silliness and sadness

Recently I visited the Blue Penguin Colony in Oamaru. Having been ushered through the Visitor Centre 50 of us gathered in a little grandstand to wait and to watch - and to listen to an expert tell us about the blue penguin. She knew her stuff! She described what the blue penguin looked like and how they lived. Just 30cm tall! They spend each night in their little hobbiton up a slope and then in the morning they waddle down to the ocean and disappear for up to 50kms of swimming and as many as 1000 dives for food. Then each night they return, gathering out from the shore in clusters, before surfing in on the waves together and waddling back up to hobbiton for the night.
How clever is that?! And so there we were, peering into this thickening twilight waiting for these surfies to arrive. How silly we must have looked! But out of that great big expanse of dark ocean they surfed on in and waddled on up. We were, as the brochure expresses it, 'captivated by nature'.

Just one day earlier I had been chatting with a young woman who had been selected for the Peer Sexuality Support Programme (PSSP) in her high school. Three days of training and a very thick workbook later, we were having a chat. They knew their stuff! They described what the issues of sexuality are today and how the body and the law and the relationships and the helplines work. It is all in that workbook: from body image to contraception, from anatomical detail to HIV/AIDS, from sexual orientations to shaping values, from cultural issues to gender issues, from eating disorders to sexually transmitted infections, from sexual abuses and coercions to abortions and adoptions ...
How clever are these people? It just goes on and on and on. How sad I felt! An ache-y, throbby kind of sadness. Has our society slid so far that someone somewhere now feels that teenagers need to know about all this in such graphic detail?

Penguins and Sexuality. What do these two experiences on consecutive days have in common? Both demonstrate the upsides and downsides of science. The upside of science tends to be that it answers the what and the how questions fully. It is about description and about process. The downside of science is that when it infiltrates penguin colonies and sexuality programmes and fully answers the whats and the hows it really believes - and I emphasise the non-scientific word 'believe' here - it really believes that the task is finished. Explanation is complete.

It isn't. Followers of Jesus cannot accept this. What and How is never the full story. Science does not tend to be wrong as much as it tends to be incomplete. There is also a Who and a Why. No one volunteers this information - but behind those penguins and that sexuality there is a person and a purpose.

There is something sillier than peering into the darkness looking for surfing penguins. It is the silliness of worshipping the penguin, rather than worshipping the penguin's creator.

There is a something sadder than working through a workbook crammed with all the problems associated with teenage sexuality. It is the sadness of recognising that if we followed the maker's instructions it could all be said on a single page.

Penguins and Sex have this in common: they are the designs of a creator who longs for us to ask our whats and hows - but then to frame our responses with wonder and worship.

nice chatting


Monday, May 07, 2007

a first eleven: worship leading

I rise from the malaise that has engulfed me after NZ's dismal final week at the cricket World Cup to offer just one more 'first eleven'.
One of the more complicated roles in the church today is 'leading worship'. It is tough! I have a lot of empathy for worship-leaders ... In fact I have a discussion with a worship team tonight and here are the questions I will be encouraging them to ask:

How important is it for our worship to reflect all four seasons in human life - summer, autumn, winter, and spring? How could worship engage more authentically with peoples' winters and autumns - as this is where most of them spend much of their time?

How important is it for our worship to be always contemporary? How could worship connect more with what is pre-contemporary and post-contemporary, respecting both the history and the hope that is designed to impact our present experience as followers of Jesus?

How important is it for our worship to be something more than singing? We all know it is and yet we all keep defaulting back to this. How could worship be seen to be and nurtured to be something that includes singing ... but so much more as well?

How important is it for our worship to be biblically accurate in what we affirm? How could the teachings of the Bible better enrich and restrain our practise of worship?

How important is it for our worship to affirm the reality of both the transcendent and the immanent God, the God who is way beyond us and the God who is beside us? How could we ensure a balance in this area in our worship?

How important is it for our worship to be realistic in what we pronounce to God? How could our bold statements along the lines of 'You are the only one I want' be tempered by a greater truthfulness where we focus more on God and what he does, rather than on me and what I will do?

How important is it for our worship to be appealing to those who are not followers of Jesus? Should worship carry the burden of evangelism? How could we focus more intentionally on making our worship appealing to God - and then allow Him to carry the burden of drawing people to himself if he chooses to do so through the beauty of our authentic worship?

How important is it for our worship to be so similar to what is happening elsewhere? How could we think more independently and imaginatively under God's direction to do and to be something more unique in our own setting?

How important is it for our worship to be inclusive of everyone who gathers? How could we 'push back' the danger of worship teams becoming bands who perform as well as the danger of the congregation becoming mere attenders rather than genuine participants?

How important is it for our worship to feature an engagement with God's word so late in the 'worship service' (that climax to our week of worship)? How could more of the worship service be structured as a lingering response to hearing God's word, rather than having us rush out so soon after hearing it?

How important is it for you to convene as a small group for a season and work through Stephen Worsley's new resource together - http://www.onestepaheadworship.com/ ... I think it is very important!

nice chatting


Sunday, April 22, 2007

living it up at the lido

I took my parents to see Miss Potter at the Lido in Auckland. As we walked through the doors into their intimate little cinema on the ground floor I saw a sight I will never ever forget. The front row is lined with these luxurious laz-e-boy chairs. Leaning all the way back in them with chairs extended and feet stretching up onto foot-rests was a row of elderly women. When we settled into the cheap seats further back all we could see were these six pairs of delicate feet and ankles sticking out over the top. They looked very content as they shuffled out after the movie!

I've been thinking a lot about those women living it up at the Lido. Would they ever be able to live it up within the orbit of the church? I wonder... How is it going with the elderly in churches today?


If the gospel really is real, then it will seek out barriers between people and melt them. Paul spoke about the ethnic barrier between Jew and Gentile and how the two become one in Christ. Does the age barrier - between younger and older - need to receive the same treatment by the gospel today? There is not a lot that is miraculous about like-minded people from one generation hanging-out together.

If human beings really are made in the image of God, then they are always and forever to be prized ... even when they grow old. Prizing the elderly means listening to their stories, taking their minds seriously, loving them enough to sing their songs, taking them out on dates, mentoring them in the art of the internet ... on and on it goes. It is common for children and youth workers to say that 'children and young people are not the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today.' True! Very true... But it works both ways. Neither are the elderly the church of yesterday. They too are the church of today.

If wisdom really does come from experience, then wrinkles and grey hair should be a magnet for the rest of us. The elderly have watched the pendulum swing back and forth a few times. To find the still-teachable, still-moveable elderly is to find one of God's great gifts. We need to keep an eye on Maori, Polynesian, and Asian peoples and learn from them. They do this better than the rest of us. We are so good at pointing out the blindspots of previous eras. What are they going to say about our era? Maybe ... "They were so addicted to the contemporary. They made an idol of relevance. They lived in the present. They neither knew how to remember the past or to hope for a future."

If eternity really does matter, then my maths tells me that on average the elderly are closer to meeting their Maker and confronting eternity than the rest of us. If this is the case - and eternity matters - shouldn't the elderly be receiving some priority in our mission and evangelism?

But then maybe all these reflections are unnecessary. Maybe those elderly women living it up at the Lido were on a church outing - maybe one where the gospel is real, where all human beings have dignity, where the wisdom of experience is valued, and where eternity really matters?

nice chatting


Thursday, April 12, 2007

a first eleven: golf

In the aftermath of a remarkably high-scoring Master's tournament from Augusta in Georgia

[where I once inadvertently drove through the unimpressive front gates, up to the club house, walked into the lobby ... confronted by a security guard with "what are you doing in here?" ... "I came to have a look" ... "this is a private club" ... "Oh, really - I am from New Zealand!" ... at that point my beating heart propelled me back to my car (after a quick look down the fairway!) and on towards the front gates ... confronted on the driveway by a security car emitting all kinds of sounds and furies from within as well as "we are just about to call the cops" ... after a muffled "gee, the gates were wide open" I was outta there],

I have been drawn again to one of my favourite past times: tracking the names of American golfers. Now there is not a lot you can do about a surname, but what were parents' thinking when the following names were dreamed up - or the nicknames were allowed to continue?

Without further ado here are my 'first eleven' favourite golfer names:

#11 Duffy Waldorf
#10 Bubba Watson
#9 Fuzzy Zoeller
#8 Davis Love III
#7 Ty Tyron
#6 Rocco Mediate
#5 Tripp Isenhour
#4 Tag Ridings
#3 Briny Baird
#2 Bo van Pelt
#1 Boo Weekley

nice chatting

Paul Royston Windsor

Thursday, April 05, 2007

musings on a challenge to faith

It was sitting on the shelf of a bookshop at Melbourne airport. Everthing seemed to catch my eye. 'New York Times bestseller'. The title - and more importantly, as often seems the case these days, the subtitle - 'Letter to a Christian Nation: a challenge to faith.' There was even an endorsement from today's most celebrated unbeliever, atheist Richard Dawkins: 'I dare you to read this book. It will not leave you unchanged. Read it if it is the last thing you do.'
I said to myself, "OK, you're on. I'll open myself up to your 98 page challenge. I'll read your attempt to dismantle my Christian faith. You have the flight home to Auckland to convince of the attraction of unbelief."

Having read this book by Sam Harris, here is a handful of reflections:

ONE ... focusing solely on an American brand of Christianity, as he does, is not going to be convincing. It may have the money and the power, the publishing houses and the media - but it is no longer the centre of gravity in what God is doing in the world. This centre has moved from North to South and from West to East and until Christian faith in these settings is engaged the book will not impact me much. To undermine religious fundamentalism in America is not going to undermine Christian faith in the world.

TWO ... anyone can pick holes in the Bible. Goodness me - there are things recorded in the Old Testament that God hates to read. Just because it is on the 'sacred page' does not mean it receives God's endorsement. Then when he jumps from Thessalonians to John to Leviticus to Exodus to Ephesians to Timothy with just a handful of intervening paragraphs ... sorry, I just tune out. Until the little difficult parts of the Bible are interpreted in light of the big clear story of Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is not being taken seriously enough to draw me into the critique.

THREE ... the suffering in the world is a common rock which the atheist hurls at the believer. But I don't really need it hurled. I feel the weight of it enough already. It can seem that God is either absent or unfair. However alongside this must be placed the reality of a God who suffers. I am not aware of another religion or faith where this is emphasized as it is in the Christian faith. Part of the reason why I am a Christian believer is not just because of the triumph of Easter Sunday - but because that triumph followed the pain of Good Friday and the despair of Bad Saturday ... the two darkest days in history and God was actually present in both of them.

FOUR ... there are difficulties not just in the Bible, but in the history of the church. It is a story of flawed sinful people making mistakes - and this book just revels in those mistakes. Even that ol' favourite - the persistence of slavery down through the centuries - gets a few pages. But if you are going to write a book to destroy Christian faith you have to get beyond the Christian story to the Christ story - engaging with the Jesus who lives in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and spending time with him - and with the way he has been transforming people's lives by the power of the Holy Spirit ever since. I fear Harris has made the shining mistake of poor research: painting the opposing view in its poorest light and shooting that down. Such shots can only ever be cheap shots...

FIVE ... this book pushes the believer onto the backfoot. It makes us defensive. That's OK. We need to do that with humility and with care. However we also need to get on the front foot as well. A pluralist society that prioritises tolerance makes space for us to do so. The believer needs to get on the offensive - graciously and courageously. Alongside considering what Christianity looks like through an atheist worldview, we must consider what atheism looks like through a Christian worldview. Under FOUR above, why not commence by noting that the eventual abolition of the slave trade was due to the persistent activity of Jesus-following believers, not atheists?!

If this little book has troubled you or someone you love, can I suggest another book that is often sitting on shelves in similar bookshops: Alister McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism (Doubleday, 2004). It just must be read alongside...

I confess that there was a moment where I was distracted away from the book on the flight home to Auckland. The movie A Night at the Museum was playing. I find the pastoral counselling given to the premodern atheist, Attila the Hun, to animate my funny bone. I could watch it on a weekly basis...

nice chatting - and my congrats for getting this far!

Paul Windsor

Monday, March 26, 2007

a first eleven: leadership

Leadership is within the range of a lot more people than we realise. For someone taking their first steps into leadership I'd urge the following "first eleven" to be read - in this order...

#1 Nehemiah
The secret of this book is the way every characteristic of Nehemiah's leadership (and there are so many!) can be placed within a divine frame. This is the first basic lesson of leadership: we are only ever sub-contractors to God, the Leader. God is at work through a disciplined and focused and consecrated leader. No pyrotechnics like in Exodus. Nothing miraculous. Just a lot of hard work under the 'gracious hand of my God.'

#2 Ajith Fernando, Jesus Driven Ministry (Crossway, 2002)
Just what the doctor ordered! A gospels-centered reflection on leadership (and discipleship) from a Sri Lankan who stands aside from the North American adrenalin rush (but is also immersed in it from time to time) - quietly and clearly calling us back to Jesus. And typical Ajith - he does it with such a vulnerability.

#3 Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus (Crossroad, 1993)
Like #2, here is an antidote for the purely managerial/corporate approach to leadership with which we can so easily be seduced today. Based on the temptations of Jesus, this takes two hours to read and needs to be read every year by every leader.

#4 JO Sanders, Spiritual Leadership (Marshall Morgan, 1978)
Sure - it is a bit dated now ... but it has been viewed as the classic all around the world for more than a generation. Arguably (and I'd argue for it pretty hard!), the most widely read book ever written by a Kiwi Christian.

#5 Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership (Broadman & Holman, 2001)
I keep being drawn back to the way this book seamlessly weaves biblical insight with 'secular' wisdom to create a pretty comprehensive book on leadership. Still my pick for a basic 'textbook' if I ever get to the stage of teaching in this area...

#6 James Kouzes & Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge (Jossey-Bass, 2002)
I will be forever indebted to this author combo. A decade ago, as I journeyed towards a job that was well beyond my skill-set and experience-base, a friend suggested the first edition to me. It strengthened my arm. It whispered in my ear that it could be done. The book is now in its third edition ... I rest my case!

#7 Peter Cammock, The Dance of Leadership (Prentice Hall, 2001)
I just find this interplay between 'skill' and 'soul' as the key to effective leadership so compelling. Leadership is not just about filling a tool box, it is about refining a character! He is a professor at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch.

#8 David Dotlich & Peter Cairo Unnatural Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2002)
A hobby horse I have been riding for a long time is the way a 'spiritual gifts' culture so often provides little incentive to work away at weaknesses - or to hear God's call to do something that we are not good at. Here is a book that identifies ten leadership instincts that are "unnatural", 'going against initution and experience', and which can develop us further as leaders. Its gotta be good for you...

#9 Max De Pree, Leading Without Power (Jossey-Bass, 1997)
Just the title will do fine! In a world where 'power' has replaced 'truth' as the currency of concern, the art of providing influence and direction without displays of power must be where it is at.

#10 Robert Banks & Bernice Ledbetter, Reviewing Leadership (Baker, 2004)
The authors stand back, consider the glut of books on leadership over the past twenty years, and provide a book-length review of what has happened from within a refreshingly biblical framework. It just has to be compulsory reading for every established Christian leader.

#11 Manfred Kets de Vries, The Leadership Mystique (Prentice Hall, 2001)
Established Christian leaders have been around long enough to discover the 'dark side' of leadership and just how sin and evil seeps into people (starting with us!) and systems. Not since #6 in 1997 have I found a book on leadership so helpful to my own journey...

Gee?! Am I already up to eleven?! There are so many more...

Oh dear - let's pretend that we have a '12th man' and a substitute fielder as well, OK?

#12th man?
Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell, Shackleton's Way (Penguin, 2002)
Just make sure you read it in during a 'drinks break' ... I started it in the heat of battle and the unattainably 'heroic' in Shackleton pretty much sunk me in cold and iceberg-ridden waters. But it is just loaded with insight and ideas to which I have returned for real benefit. The fact that it is a real story helps a lot.

a substitute fielder?
Walter Wright, Relational Leadership (Paternoster, 2000)
Here is a phrase that is as far from being oxymoronic as it is possible to go. They go together - but it is not always easy to put them together from day to day. A bit like #5, I like the way he moves from the biblical material (a heavy reliance on the letter of Jude) into the accumulated wisdom - from wherever - on what it means to be relational.

Well - that's where I am at just at this moment. I'd be interested in hearing what books others have found to be helpful, if you are so inclined! That will ensure that next year's 'first eleven' will be different...

nice chatting


Thursday, March 15, 2007

a first eleven: cricket

This intermittent 'first eleven' series is, of course, a tribute to the greatest show on earth (in what will be the greatest sport in heaven) ... the World Cup Cricket tournament in the Caribbean.

I could never ever try to rank my 11 most favourite cricket memories but...

What about cycling across Delhi to the Feroshah Kotla cricket ground one foggy morning in 1975 to watch Viv Richards hit his first test century (192*), spiced with five sixes before lunch off Bishen Singh Bedi?

What about, as a relatively fresh lecturer at the Bible College of New Zealand, returning very late to a staff meeting because I just had to watch Martin Crowe - that batting textbook incarnate - get a triple century ... only to have him tickle it to the wicketkeeper on 299? Surely God could not be that petty in singling me out for judgement :)!

What about a statistic to cherish? I love cricket statistics. Of all the bowlers from every country who have ever played test cricket since WW2 and of all the bowlers who have ever played One Day Internationals (and bowled at least 2800 balls in tests and ODIs), Shane Bond has the best strike rate of any of them - in both forms of the game. In other words he gets people out more often than any other bowler in history.

What about popping down to Eden Park for the post-tea session (paying just $5.oo for me + three kids to enter) and being entertained by watching Jacob Oram and Chris Cairns pelt ten? sixes in 90min off those poor South Africans?

What about listening, as a lad in the Himalayas, to the dulcet tones of John Arlott commentating on that first World Cup final in 1975, in the company of my cricket buddie on the staff (who doubled as my piano teacher - his name was F Sharp!) as Clive Lloyd thrashed 102 and Viv Richards ran out multiple Aussies with direct hits? Funny how my piano career never really took off... but then I never shared his admiration for Geoffrey Boycott either.

What about sitting in the 'V" in the stadium behind the bowler's arm at Eden Park with my father-in-law and my 6yr old son for the opening game of the World Cup in 1992 and watching the Aussie 'required run rate' on the scoreboard gradually rise out-of-control , handing a shock victory to a NZ team dressed in beige?

What about driving up from Invercargill to Carisbrook in Dunedin to watch the aforementioned (twice!) Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards be the only person in history to hit a hundred and take five wickets in a one day international game - and watch it in the company of 82 year old Henry Gardiner and my 3 year old son? We were quite a threesome that day...

What about those Air Points gained from a family reunion trip to the USA in 1994 ... 'Now let me see, where shall we go?' ... 'ah yes, the Boxing Day test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground' ... with the pilgrimage now completed, need I say more? Oh yes, there will be more! I have yet to watch a game at Lord's.

What about being stuck in a motel room in Queenstown with guests from the USA who have no (cricketing) soul and trying so hard to be sociable while Richard Hadlee was taking 9/52 against the Aussies on the TV in the next room?

What about watching the NZ team chase down 330+ against Australia at Eden Park just the other day - in the most electric sporting atmosphere I have ever encountered? An Aussie steps on the boundary while taking a catch. Was it a six? It went upstairs to the third umpire. Lots of deliberations and replays unseen by the crowd. Every eye fixed on the umpire waiting for his signal. Up went the arms signaling six and the crowd turned Vesuvian and StHelensian and Ruapehian ... and my daughter and I were part of the lahar that covered the ground that day.

What about (ah yes, I have managed to leave the best until last!) taking all my children back to India (25 years later), standing on a verandah in the quad of my old school, chatting with my coach Brij Lal and having him say - in the hearing of each one of my children - that my bowling was 'unplayable'? Ahh - the joy that flooded my soul. Clearly that 6-14 on a green mat laid down on the gravel at St Georges' was fixed in his memory!

if for some strange reason you got this far in the post ... let me tell you it's been real nice chatting