Wednesday, December 5, 2007

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Maybe I’m a freak for the back page of the Herald, but it just seems that all the daily whimsical wonders of this page are the most real. I like more than the numerical sketches produced by ‘the numbers.’ I like the daily photo on the back page, the ‘big picture,’ because it lets me see something that I have missed out on, or something that I can expect to see in the future. The ‘Sideswipe’ column does the same thing, different but the same. It is a whimsical wonder, for me, and it has whimsical beauty. These little anecdotes let me share in people’s thoughts and experiences, to share things that I would have otherwise missed out on: It lets me laugh, get angry, sad, or happy, sometimes it even lets me do all of this at once.

In Thursday’s sideswipe there were a selection of letters (emails actually) written to Santa Claus. These letters all had a theme; some kids get the ‘season of good will’ idea. One child asked if he could give a present to the children in the poor countries, a pig or a cow. A similar letter ended with ‘I will not ask you for anything again if you can just help the little girl who sits on the road crying on the telly.’ Another child wrote, ‘Dear Santa, I don’t want much, just something nice for mum and something nice for me as we can’t afford Christmas this year and I know that upsets my mum but I am okay with it.’ These letters have whimsical beauty, they also let me laugh, be angry, sad, and happy.

There is so much good in this world. Christmas reminds me that this is because of Jesus, who has come and is here, in our midst. I see the truth and beauty of Jesus in the letters of these children, even if I wish that they were prayers to God rather than Santa. But these letters also remind me of a really important question: If Jesus is working and can be seen in the lives of these kids, and the selfless thoughts and actions of other people throughout the world who don’t know God, what is so special about being a Christian?

I have an idea about this, one that I borrowed from a book called Resident Aliens. My idea is that yes, there is lots of good in the world and in the lives and actions of people that- even if very Christ like- do not have a relationship with Jesus. I also think that the answer to this question has something to do with the big flow that I talked about yesterday. It is useful for me to think about this flow as a culture, there is good in this culture, but there is lots of bad too. As a Christian I am called to have a different culture, an alien culture. There may be some things that are shared between the two cultures; I think that this is all the goodness and truth. But having the culture of Jesus makes me different, it means that I no longer have to be part of the big flow that is responsible for all the bad in the world. The continued transformation that comes from having Jesus in my life, this holistic transformation (you can read about this in Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell), makes me different. The life of Jesus, God coming to earth, changed the course of history, he was different, and by having a relationship with him we are also made different, we are set apart.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Almost every day on the back page of the newspaper they have ‘The Numbers,’ a collection of statistics, numerically sketches of the world that we live in. This nearly always captures my attention as one of the most informative and relevant of all the ‘news’ that lines the pages of the Herald. Did you know that there are 1500 pigeons in Trafalgar Square in London, or that there are 117 known portraits by Italian renaissance artist Titian? But this little section of the paper does more than prepare the reader for their next game of trivial pursuit.

The stats aren’t always obscure or humorous, for amongst the numbers regarding pigeons and renaissance art, or, for that matter, the nectar bat’s tongue (which I can tell you is 85mm long) emerges other numerical sketches, of loss and injustice, violence and disrepute. ‘The Numbers’ has told me that there are 3273 victims of the 2004 Tsunami who have been identified; there is only 1 African American among the 100 senators of the US congress; 10,000 Palestinians are in Israeli jails; there have been 3 (now 4) coups in Fiji since 1987; 23 people claiming refugee status in New Zealand are in jail; and that as of a few days ago there were 106 suicide bombings in Afghanistan this year. These statistics also remind me of the other things, of poverty, war, hunger, and torture, of infant mortality rates of more than 50% in some parts of the world. The list goes on.

My first response, maybe more defensive than anything, is to ask, what can I do? But I am starting to think that maybe this is the wrong question. Some of the most influential social scientists of the 20th became known for their writing on human suffering and social injustice. These academics suggested that in a way we all play a part, we are all responsible for human suffering; our actions and the decisions we make propagate and perpetuate the sufferings of others: We are caught unawares in this big flow, now knowing that when I buy a t-shirt that says made in China on the tag I am sustaining if not increasing the torrent. I need to ask myself, then, not what can I do, but what am I doing? How am I a part of (and that means in some way responsible for) the jaw-dropping statistics that daily drift across my life?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

waiting...waiting..waiting... #4

I lived with a married couple for a while, Geoff and Jenny. I didn’t mean to live with them, it just kind of happened. I was house sitting for them while they were in Hong Kong visiting Jenny’s parents, and when they came back I just stayed there. I lived with them for a few months. It was the first time that I lived in a Christian household, I don’t know if it was different but I enjoyed having late night conversations about Jesus, Christianity, and the bible, something that would never happen at home. These days I go to home group at Geoff and Jenny’s, sporadically, but I do go. I like being the last to leave, having those late night conversations again; usually they are with Geoff. I like talking to Jenny too, she’s a stay at home mum at the moment and sometimes I will give her a call during the day if I find myself drifting towards Dr Phil and all the other glories of day time television.

When she is not a stay at home mum Jenny is a nurse. She wants to go to Africa to be a nurse there. It is a dream and a passion that she has. Geoff is a carpenter, so really they are pretty well needed in developing countries. I want to go to Africa too, but my academic background in Anthropology isn’t as needed as the particle skills of my friends. I always look on the Internet to see if there is some opportunity, somewhere, for me to apply my anthropology in Africa. But most of the time I just see opportunities for nurses and carpenters. I get annoyed at this, and at Jenny because she has this God given passion and the ability to see it through, yet she won’t go.

Jenny tells me that she is waiting. I asked her if she was waiting for her 11 month old boy Theo to get older, and she said that she grew up in the jungles of South America so taking her child(ren) to Africa wasn’t an issue for her. She told me instead that it if was to pack up her family and go to Africa today it would be on her own accord. What is more, she said that this would reflect a fleshly desire; I was bewildered. How can (living out) a desire to serve those people most in need be anything else but of and from God? Jenny told me that she will go to Africa, but when she goes it will be in Gods time, not her own.

I think I might understand Jenny now, and something more of the importance of waiting. By waiting she is giving her passions over to God, even if Jesus endowed these pasions in her in the first place they still belong and are best used by him, right? Jenny’s desire to go to Africa and her talents belongs to God, by waiting she is acknowledging this, what is more she trusts that God will use her. Jenny is waiting for Jesus to take her to Africa, and she is allowing God to prepare her for this.

I tend to see waiting and action as different things. For me Jenny’s not being in Africa right now was inaction. I don’t think that God necessarily agrees with me, I think that God may view Jenny’s waiting as action. Maybe waiting can be a form of action, maybe Jesus calls us to wait just has he calls us to act, and maybe the two things can’t and shouldn’t be separated…

Friday, December 22, 2006

Outer Freedom

I love that idea- that our freedom and the freedom of others is intimatley connected. Are we truly free when our actions limit the freedom of others?

Consider getting involved in a freedom fighting group or campaign.... here's a pik n mix...

Get in on fighting sexual traffiking

Get in on trade justice

Get in on working with refugees

Get in on battling child poverty

Get in on helping peopl be free from gambling addictions

Get in on fighting global injustice

“..freedom comes only through deeds,
Not through thoughts taking wing.
Faint not nor fear,
But go out to the storm and the action,
Trusting in God whose commandments you faithfully follow,
Freedom, exultant, will welcome your spirit with joy.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Outer Freedom

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." said Nelson Mandela.

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has annointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lords favour" said Jesus.

Seek situations today where you can bring freedom more fully to another.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Inner Freedom

There is yet another antique prayer method to be learned from the Spirit filled hermits. It's called Breath Prayer, a beautiful, simple, freeing prayer.
This is expereinced by constructing a basic one sentence prayer, including your favourite name for God and a subject (or something you want to ask for) i.e, comfort, humility, peace. Or, even more simply, any line from scripture. This is your Breath Prayer.
After trying to still your mind and get comfortable, allow this prayer to get in rhythm with your gentle breathing. Such as,

Whoever knows the Son (as you breath in)
Will be free indeed (as you breath out)


Creator God (as you breath in)
I need your freedom (as you breath out)

It almost becomes like a reflective chant. You could spend 5-10 minutes, or perhaps try and breathe it throughout the day.