Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Present or Future Self?

How many of us use commitment devices of some kind in order to help us choose the things we want to choose?  One such commitment device is stickK.

Here is a great TED talk that recognises the benefit of commitment devices but explores some alternative ways of helping behaviour change that involves imagining our future selves dependent on what choices we make today as our present selves.  Motivating and helps us understand at a deep level the connection between the choices we make today and the people we will be or what we will have in the future.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Prodigal God - by Tim Keller

I recently read the book "The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith" by Timothy Keller.  It was a great and easy read; though challenging to the core.

As you can probably guess, the book is based on the story of the two sons, often spoken of as The Prodigal Son story.  This story always helps me continue to grasp the Father's heart and who I am and the Father's embrace of me.  Over the last couple of years I've been in numerous situations where this story has been at the fore: considering Henri Nouwen's book last year in my faith community gathering and also having a print of the picture based on this story in my workplace last year.  The story has shaped me deeply over recent years.

This book refreshed much of that shaping - and shaped me afresh too.  A few points of Keller's book that stood out to me were: an emphasis on who the hearers of this story were (a mixed group of listeners); the emphasis on the eldest sons lostness as well as the lostness of the younger son; the fact that the story ends with us not knowing how the story really ends; the Father's initiative in coming out to both sons.  However, the thing that really struck me was Keller's exploration of Jesus as the "true elder brother" and the cost to the elder brother of the Father's welcoming home of the younger son.  This exploration has left me pondering - and thankful.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Formational Children's Ministry by Ivy Beckwith

Ivy Beckwith is one of the people writing about children's ministry currently whose ideas I most resonate with.  Having read this book over the last few days, I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a role with children.

The title "Formational Children's Ministry: shaping children using story, ritual and relationships"is a very good descriptor of the book.  The key idea of the book is the formation of children (as opposed to giving children knowledge).  In discussing this formation, the book discusses the importance of story (God's story, their story, our family story, the story of the church through the ages and the individual faith community story), the importance of ritual and the importance of different types of relationships.

There are some good practical examples about how to engage story, ritual and relationships in the formation of children and it's a book with a balanced understanding of the role of family and the role of the faith community in the formation of children.  Another thing that I thought that Ivy does really well is speak across a broad range of expressions of "church" - broad evangelical, liturgical and emerging.

Without spelling it out constantly, the book also has a solid understanding of the current context of today's children, families and churches.  One of my favourite quotes from the book embodies this understanding:
"The millennials and futuristic adaptives, the two generations we currently teach in our churches, are not primarily linear thinkers.  They do think logically and linearly, but it is not the only way they think, and it is not necessarily their preferred way of processing information.  Therefore, lessons that are heavily dependent on linear thinking are not going to capture them the same as lessons that include kinesthetic, intuitive, affective, and 'loopy' ways of processing information." (p28)

Parents, people involved in children's ministry, ministers, teachers, friends of kids - I highly recommend it!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Amazing South of WA

A lovely couple of days.

On Tuesday morning, my friend Kylie and I left Perth and drove to Bremer Bay.  A very wet drive.  The initial purpose of this trip is for me to see the locations of the Family Missions that happen around WA over summer.  That meant that we went via Brookton in the wheatbelt - check out the sites that the mission use and got a sense of the town.  I'm increasingly conscious that there are things you just can't know without seeing a place for yourself - it's so valuable.  Then a late lunch at Stumpy's Roadhouse - we've said that "roadhouses are our friend"!  Then the long drive to Bremer Bay.

We stopped in Katanning for a quick walk and Kylie was impressed with the friendliness of the locals driving past in utes!  We spent some time trying to work out whether we needed to eat there - or whether we would make it to Bremer Bay in time for the restaurant at the place we were staying.  A phone call to the place we were staying indicated that they thought we would make it.  We followed there advice - and made it in plenty of time.  But it is a consideration that I am learning to regularly take into account in my WA life, even more so outside of Perth.

Bremer Bay Resort more than met our expectations.  After settling into our room, we went into the restaurant and ordered dinner - lamb shanks for me, lamb curry for Kylie; glass of white wine for Kylie, glass of red for me.  Very satisfying.  TV / Computer time / Sleep followed.

As we woke up on Wednesday and opened the blind, we were greeted by a clear morning and a view of the local river.  After packing the car, we headed up for breakfast at the restaurant - the best breakfast I have ever had! Eggs Florentine.

I chatted to a friend while we ate; Kylie read some of her book.  We then talked for a couple of hours while sitting in a lovely spot.

Eventually we got moving.  And checked out the beach in Bremer Bay.

As we drove around the town we came across a "Barbara St".  Of course, I needed to take a photo.  Kylie suggested that it was a sign ... a sign of what?  It would be a pretty good place to live!  We resisted taking the sign!

Once we were finished with the township we headed out to the caravan park out of town.  This is the place that the mission team stay at - and part of my purpose on this trip is to check out such places.  The owner and staff were friendly and clearly appreciative of the teams presence there in January.  They also proved to be our tourist information - and pointed us in the direction of beaches to check out before we left the area - and recommendations for our next few days as we continued around the coast.  Before we left the Bremer Bay area we headed down to Blossom Beach which the owner of the caravan park had recommended to us.

Next on our journey was Cheynes Beach.  A very small isolated place - where a mission team is over summer.  We connected with the caravan park owner - who once again was helpful.  And after checking out the location of where they run the program in January, we headed down to the beach.

We walked along the beach - wanting to have a closer look at a boat that was on the water.

We couldn't have chosen a better time to be on the beach.  Sunset - and such beauty.

And in the midst of that - a gorgeous photo opportunity.

As I look at that sunset - and reflect on what such beauty draws out of me, I'm reminded of the rainbows that we saw on the trip yesterday.  A few different occasions we saw rainbows - on an occasion we could see the whole of a rainbow, another time we could see part of a double rainbow - special and a reminder of God's faithfulness.  

Life is breathtaking.  We saw and experienced many moments of such life yesterday and arrived into Albany tired from both days of driving but satisfied and having had a relaxing and fun day of exploring - as well as great interactions with staff of the caravan parks missions are connected with and gaining an understanding of the context they are ministering in.

No question - it was a day of experiencing the wonder of God's awesome creation.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Impact of death

Death impacts us.

A week ago a friend of mine died.
Not someone I saw regularly.
But someone who was/is of importance to me.
Someone who is part of my history.

We have lived in separate places for most of our lives but our paths have crossed enough for connections to have continued.  We met as children on Groote Eylandt.  One of my clearest memories of her from that era was when I was 13 and was baptised and confirmed in October 1988.  That night I stayed at Angurugu at her families place.  At a lonely time in my life - she was a friend.

Some years later (1997), in what felt like another lifetime, I was at a national conference for an organisation that I was a volunteer with (and now work for) and there was Krysti, also heavily involved with this organisation.  That week established our connection as adults - and people who cared passionately about our faith and seeing young people connect with and find real the person of Jesus.  We also had some deep personal conversations around some of life history which also brought us closer.  There was also some late nights of fun!

About 5 years later, Krysti came to Melbourne (where I lived at the time) to study at Bible College.  Again connections continued.  Not frequent but several during her time in Melbourne - enough to continue the friendship and the sense of connection around a shared history and shared passions in the present.  And again a sense of fun.

Krysti returned to Darwin.  Facebook continued our connection.  And then in 2009 my uncle was seriously ill in Darwin - and Krysti once again was a friend, at a time when that is so what I needed.  As soon as she heard, she showed her care and arranged for me to stay with her parents.  She (and her family) had me over for dinner and we once again shared some significant moments of conversation - in the midst of one of the most stressful weeks of my life.  Her presence, her actions and our conversations continued to help me be grounded in the One who was her, and my, source of hope and peace.

And now she has died.  A journey of 18 months or so.  A husband and two children.  A life that has been well lived.  A life that has been lived with passion.  A strong sense by people close to her that she is now with the One she most loved.  Deep grief for many who knew her - especially those closest.

I've felt the distance this last week.
I'm in Perth; I wanted to be in Darwin.
I've been thankful that I've been working in an organisation where a few people know of her - and know of her death.  There is something about that connection that makes it easier.
I've been very conscious of those who are the closest people to her - having known something of deep grief myself, they have not been far from my thoughts and prayers this last week.
I've also been conscious of how death affects us - from whatever the point of our relationship to a person.  For each of us the story is different.  But its impact is profound - and not necessarily just for the closest.  For me this week, I've felt a sense of isolation and disconnection - as I grieve the passing from this life of a friend who has shared some significant moments and have no co-grievers around me.  There has been a deep sense of feeling for her family and those others closest to her.  Along with that, there has been a thankfulness for her life full of faith, hope and passion and once again grief has plunged me into living fully in the moment that I find myself and being fully myself - embracing faith, hope and passion in the place that I find myself.  Once again, I experience the journey of grief which embraces the "both/and" of such different emotions and thoughts and I find myself know something of the mysterious comfort of the "God of all comfort" and praying that those closest are also experiencing something of that comfort.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Centering Prayer

I so often find the things on Paul Fromont's blog helpful and interesting - and often points me in the direction of various resources, books and articles.  This is another post like that.

I loved this statement which is from Paul's notes in reflecting on Cynthia Bourgeault.  So true of my experience.

"Centering prayer “patterns us” over time. It reprogram’s us to “let go” and to be “open”. It wires new channels of perception that enable us “to see the lines connecting the dots”; to “extend hospitality and hold together what are typically held as opposites; one over and against another!"

SUNO blog

I am actually blogging a bit now - much more over on the SUNO blog connected with Scripture Union WA where I'm now working.  You might like to put that blog in your feed reader or look at it occasionally - however you read your blogs!  As I'm writing on that blog, I'm having all sorts of ideas that don't fit the scope of that blog - so I suspect that it will actually mean a decent amount more blogging on this blog too.  Loosely speaking - things to do with missional living or missional leadership style things will be on the SUNO blog, with other things on here.