Monday, December 28, 2009

unforgettables from the noughties

I like this word "noughty". It keeps popping up as a description of the years from 2000-2009. I had to use it in a post! So here are my top ten unforgettable moments from the Noughties (roughly in chronological order):

#1 standing at a graveside
This had always been our dream. Travelling up and around and over row upon row of Himalaya for hour upon hour in order to find our way back to a place called Dharchula. In a little pocket of India close to both Tibet and Nepal. Between them Barby's parents and grandparents had spent decades up there - but as the youngest child, Barby had never been there. And so on a hill outside the town we stood as a family in front of the grave of Barby's grandmother with that headstone reading "In giving light to others, she herself burned out".

#2 loving a concert
I enjoy my music - all sorts of music. But the church often places hopes in music that music alone cannot sustain. It does not help when 'watching' replaces 'listening' as the prevailing verb. But that was not the case one night at Parachute when the Newsboys were on stage. I watched and I listened. The lyrics, the commentary, the testimony, the sound, the event ... I just did not want it to end. Afterall has there been a more profound line coming out of contemporary Cristian music than "Shine, make 'em wonder whatcha got"?

#3 feeling the pleasure
Discovering our own variation on the (Eric) Liddellian theme is something to cherish: 'when I run, I feel God's pleasure'. In the noughties I discovered mine. Be it in the classroom at Carey or, more significantly, in the foyers of little churches in places like Wanaka and Geraldine, Morrinsville and Welcome Bay I stumbled on my chief delight in serving Jesus. "When I train preachers I feel God's pleasure".

#4 taking a phone call
I do most of my crying before breakfast. The middle of the noughties had two experiences that provoked emotion for weeks. The first was that phone call from Phyllis McIntosh in Invercargill. Georgetown Baptist Church was no more. The church we had pastored for five years was closing its doors. Yes, it was grief that I felt.

#5 reading a headline
A few months later it happened all over again as I walked back from the Mobil Station with the newspaper in hand. A massive one word headline stared at me. Tsunami. Add in the writings of people like Philip Jenkins and Lamin Sanneh, stir in the decisions being made by our children, in particular - and my life was being freshly and irrevocably turned towards the peoples of the world. It was the beginning of the rest of my life.

#6 enjoying a stream
I spend a lot of my dream-time planning memory-making holidays with Barby and the children. The subsequent photos are part of the glue which bind marriages and families together. I was pretty chuffed when I figured out that our anniversary and Barby's birthday were three weeks apart and so one holiday was bookended with celebrations of both. But nothing could beat our week together in Morocco and that gently flowing stream running through Todhra Gorge on a hot and dry and thirsty day.

#7 watching the children
God's hand has been on them and we are so thankful. So many memories. Rushing around Auckland's bookshops with Stephen trying to locate a major new book on the Treaty of Waitangi which contained a glowing footnote to an essay he wrote as a student? Watching Alyssa, torn from months immersed in Kolkata's poverty, come home and go upstairs to her room and immediately create a piece for her wall - 'compassion: to suffer with'? Wondering how Martin was going to cope while I fulfilled my speaking commitments on that first morning in Kabwe (Zambia) - only to find him best mates with half a dozen Zambians before morning tea? Listening to Bethany's end-of-year speech as Head Girl and asking 'did all that really did come out of my little girl's mouth and is she really from the same gene pool as me'? And Joseph? How could I ever forget prizegiving on his final day at primary school? One prize had a long introduction. 'Who is she speaking about?' The childrens' heads twist and turn. 'Who is it'? A comment is made and in unison every head turns and looks at my little Joseph, sheer delight filling their faces. That delight from his peers trumped any affirmation from the staff...

#8 drinking a cup of coffee
They tell me God's guidance tends to be a little bit of push and a little bit of pull. Thinking I still had a few years to run as Principal at Carey I was taken a bit by surprise by the pulling and pushing which God began to orchestrate. The 'pull' is easy to source. Over a cup of coffee with Chris Wright at King's Plant Barn in St Lukes a role with Langham sounded plausible and possible. The 'push' is a bit harder. What about sitting around a table of Baptist leaders for a high level meeting when a particularly respected one asserts, "But what has Carey got to do with training leaders?" Ah yes - after a decade of sweat and tears it was like a knife in the heart (and I did not react too well either!). My time was up and other little pushes made it clear that it was time for a new voice at the helm.

#9 sitting in front of the TV
How could anyone forget the moment when Susan Boyle walked onto that stage, opened her mouth, and subverted so many of the things that the world holds dear?

#10 going on a pilgrimage
Why not celebrate my 50th birthday by taking a pilgrimage up to Marsden Cross in the Bay of Islands - and invite some friends to come along as well?! Even though I still carry a heavy heart for missing a few people out, it was a stunning day of friendship and fun, spirituality and community.

nice chatting - catch you in the next decade (the tennies? the teenies? ...)


Monday, December 21, 2009

celebrity and integrity

I have been thinking a bit about Tiger Woods recently...

The dynamics at work in public and private life are worth considering. Celebrities like Tiger have no qualms about using the media to magnify their lives on the global stage, increasing their fame and fortune as they do so. But the necessary consequence of this is that one day that same media might deflate their lives on the global stage as well. Deal with it! If you want them to puff up your balloon in the public world, be prepared to have them pop it as well. That is the life you have chosen. You can't use the media for a decade or two and then suddenly turn around and say, "OK - I want my privacy from now on - turn around and go home." Compassion is in short supply in our world and it needs to be spent where it is needed most - and so when a celebrity falls into a deep dark hole out of their own foolishness, I train my mind to control the flow of compassion.

There is, of course, another pathway celebrities can choose. Adding an ordered private life of integrity to their dizzying public life. That 'what you see is what you get' quality. That 'go on, media, shine your light anywhere you like in my life and you won't find much about which to write which will interest people.' However such is the corrosive nature of their level of access to money, sex and power that we seldom see this alignment of public and private worlds. It is a bit tragic because celebrities with a global reach coupled to a private order could do a lot of good in the sort of world we live in. (I guess there are a few of them around)

I have been thinking a bit about Brian Tamaki recently...

Before you start quoting me out of context (!), let me say I am not in the crowd who throw the "cult" word at Tamaki. I was embarassed when that conversation was had on national TV. The language was too strong and too aggressive and Tamaki handled himself with gracious restraint. I respect Tamaki for what he is achieving for the sake of Christ in a part of NZ society where the church has failed. I think I understand what is behind the '700 men making their promises' and I am going to give Tamaki the benefit of the doubt and refrain from being critical.

But I still have deep concerns which evoke deep prayers for him and his ministry. What I struggle to understand are the massive billboards with "a super city needs a super church" on them, together with Tamaki's photo. What is the thinking behind this strategy? Why are these billboards needed? Gee - I hope Destiny's brains trust knows what they are doing with these. They make me squirm with discomfort. Biblically, they seem wrong-headed. Strategically, they seem ill-advised. I would have thought that the people of God living distinctive lives as they immerse themselves in that part of the world where God has called them is sufficient marketing. It is so viral.

To me this billboard approach starts to feel like the celebrity approach. To me there is here an overheated desire to be noticed and known. This invites unwelcome and unnecessary pressures that become difficult to withstand. The media glare will switch on. The search for inconsistency between public and private worlds will intensify. I hope and pray that they maintain the personal integrity and nurture the spiritual resources to withstand the heat so that the name of Christ will not be embarassed at some later date.

nice chatting


Saturday, December 12, 2009

antidote for atheism

If these billboards from Britain are coming to a bus near you, head for Ecclesiastes and preach your little heart out.

I'd start with expounding the text on the side of the bus ... then I'd go to the sympathetic approval of such a text in the early chapters of Ecclesiastes ... before going to those supreme chapters at the end - 11 & 12 - where the bus-text is slam-dunked and snookered, cornered and trumped.

And then live your life like Ecclesiastes 11 and 12 is true. Behind the "you do not knows" of chapter 11 (which encourage us to live adventuresome, risky lives) lies the God to be feared and obeyed of chapter 12. And that is the way to enjoy life...

nice chatting


Thursday, December 10, 2009

kiwimade preaching

This new website with its various bloggish features is now up and running

Become part of the community - and enjoy!

nice chatting