Monday, November 23, 2009

... putting the "random" back in random acts of kindness ...

I'm not sure that I'll ever forget yesterday morning.
Reversing out of my driveway to take the kids to church, I noticed a couple of girls in their 20s struggling with the front bumper bar of their car on the other side of our street. Somehow it had partly come adrift and they were attempting to remove it entirely so they could continue their journey.
As I drove alongside, I asked if they could use some help ... they were grateful for the offer, and continued to be very thankful as I blew the dust off my socket set (my tools don't get much action usually) and proceeded to detach the remaining part of the bumper, making it safe for them to drive.
During my a-typical display of mechanical prowess I discovered that the girls had been in an accident only moments before, and as I attempted to help them debrief it a bit, I heard that "this woman came out from nowhere and then accused me of running a red light". ... From there I heard some of the driver's life story, that nothing seems to go right for her, and that she needed to get to the other side of town to pick up her kids ...
I suggested that they may not make it that far seeing the car was losing fluid from the cooling system, but they were keen to get going, so I said I hoped things get better for them ... they thanked me again, and they were off (didn't think to get the number plate!).
There is a certain sense of satisfaction in helping someone out ... participating in the Kingdom of God ... being a "Good Samaritan" ... so, I couldn't help but tell my story to Dad in the church foyer when I got there a few minutes late - he had a weird look on his face when I told him, then asked: "What colour was the car?" ... he then explained that Mum had been hit by someone running a red light that morning, then drove off.
"No way ... wouldn't it be weird if it was the same people?" I said with a half-laugh.
Any doubt of this was removed after the church service when Mum showed me the colour of the paint on her car, and part of the other vehicle's bumper that she'd collected from the scene ... it was a match ... "No way!" ...
Yeah, I know ... so, these are the questions that keep bouncing around in my brain ...
  • ... would I have treated these girls any differently if I had known who they hit?
  • ... how would I have felt if Mum was hurt badly, or worse, and I helped the culprits get away?
  • ... if I was participating in God's Kingdom (and I thought I was!), what can I learn about His kingdom from this completely RANDOM set of events?

... any thoughts?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

stories from immerse hq opening

Hey! ... check this for news on the opening of our Adelaide YMA office ...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

a generous God...

I continue to be amazed at the simple and unexpected ways God reveals His generosity.

After a weekend of celebrating, vision casting and conversationing at the opening of YMA's new Adelaide office, I was ushered into another experience of God's generosity after our PM church gathering. A woman in her 50s came up to me, and, a little misty-eyed, began to explain how God had prompted her to support our family financially even in the light of her own dubious financial position.

She went on to say that she'd been putting some money away through some sales of the artwork she'd been working on. This was a result of a recently discovered passion she had to create in spite of other Christians suggesting it wasn't the best use of her time. So ... her approach to me seemed to be a significant step of faith ...

I then told her stories of how I'd seen young people's creativity unlocked when we take them through the story of God in IMMERSE ... something happens which I can't explain - when people are given the space to contemplate their way through God's story, they seem to discover the creativity in them that has often lay dormant for some time. The smile I encountered from this lady when I explained this to her will not easily be forgotten. The expression of her God-given creativity would be enabling others to discover and express theirs ... this is the generosity of God ... not found in an amount of money, but in the depths of a woman's heart which is discovering the depths of God's heart for her.

So, for me, the opening of "IMMERSE HQ" (YMA's new Adelaide office) was about more than food, and conversations, and vision-casting (which was all REALLY good fun btw!) ... it was about the generosity of God ... and my hope is that's what the movement of IMMERSE will continue to be about.

Friday, June 26, 2009

state of origin

"Ease up, Tiger" he said with his forearm planted firmly against the assailant's throat while he calmly looked into the eyes of the attacker.

I was in a small North Richmond lounge-room with 12 other men (mostly younger than me) on "Origin night".

I've always enjoyed a good game of State of Origin football between the Blues and the Maroons, but up until now I've never had the privilege of watching it with the religious. In the afternoon leading up to the 80 minutes of testostoronic television gazing, I was gently coerced into revealing where my loyalties lay... and, seeing that I'd lived in Queensland for two and a half years, the answer was inevitable.

The admission of my Maroon tendencies proved to be a lonely one with two other "Queens-lan-ders" in a room filled with Blues supporters. They were all polite and civil as we had our fill of Dominos Pizza, but even then I sensed a deeper tension beneath the surface ... a tension that spoke of loyalty, courage, passion ... and, well, blood-curdling rivalry.

The first half of Maroon domination brought on by the Blues' inability to hang onto the ball gave our minority group plenty to smile about. But smiling wasn't enough for my compatriot sitting a little to my left ... he seemed to think that gloating, taunting and parading were more appropriate responses. He turned to me at one stage and said, "You're not saying much Trav!" To which I replied, "I'm not sure I need to." ... thinking that his antics were possibly antagonizing the New South Welshman enough already.

This thought proved to be true when the Blues scored their first try, and my friend somehow managed to find his way off of his seat, and pole-driven into the carpet ... then with another, a football was sent flying across the room connecting squarely in the side of my Queensland-loving friend's face. ... The room became silent for a moment as an awkward apology was made, and ignored with the words, "Just you wait" ... and the time-bomb had been set.

The second half saw the Blues fight back and it looked as though the vocal Queensland supporter might end up red-faced in more ways than one ... but he sat in silence, awaiting his moment for revenge. Then, just minutes before full time, Queensland celebrated a try, but confirmation was needed from the video ref ... and when it finally came, revenge was swiftly pursued. Before long, shirts were ripped, bodies piled up on one another and best mates would have been exchanging punches if not for the size of the room ... and the youth pastor.

Ryan wrestled the Queenslander off of the ball-thrower and, with his entire weight on top of him and his arm pressed up against his throat he looked into his eyes, and said, "Ease up, tiger."

The life-threatening wrestle was over ... the warriors dusted themselves off ... smiles came out, backs were slapped ... words of friendship were exchanged ... and the game was complete.

I've not witnessed such a violent expression of mateship before ... and I'm still scratching my head over it - a senseless mistreatment of friends, or a primal expression of respect and honour? ... I'm not sure, but if it's the latter, it's strangely compelling ... dangerous ... but compelling.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

message & medium ...

"My concern for you in your new role Trav, is that you might become so focused on the dynamic of the means you use to bring the message that you forget about the dynamic of the message itself."
That was the latest insight given me by my mentor ... and it's bugged me a bit ... mainly because I know he's right.
I can't back away from integrating the method of "storying" into how I present the Bible to young people ... and I can't back away from injecting creativity into the way I teach God's word ... not because I'm willing to sacrifice truth on the altar of pragmatism, or because I'm just trying to be relevant ... but because I see an ancient path in the means of storying the Scriptures, and I genuninely believe that creativity in communication is a very real expression of worship to God ... so I cannot back away.
But I do take the warning ... I take the warning of searching so hard for the perfect song or picture or video loop to complement the story, and in that search I lose sight of the simple power of the gospel ... in my own life, and in the lives of those who hear from me.
I don't want to become another ministry statistic clambering for the next "new way" at the expense of the ancient "new way" ... I don't want to become subject to the consumerism that the generation I hope to reach are subject to ... simply by trying to be clever.
I've seen the power of the gospel work without "environmental input" ... I've seen that power with those things as well ... and I've even seen the power of the gospel speak into people's lives in spite of the distraction of our cleverness ... the issue then doesn't seem to be whether or not we be creative in our teaching - but how we view creativity.
If we see creativity as "what we need to do to make God's Word relevant", then we pragmatically elevate the medium over the message ... but if we see creativity as a legitimate and authentic expression of worship, then that creativity becomes part of the fabric of the message we proclaim - not replacing, but revealing the truth of the gospel.
So in one sense, the medium is not the message when it comes to teaching the Bible, in another sense the medium we use may well be an expression of the message we bring - and because the message has been through us, and we are the medium of that message (2 Corinthians 3:3) ... in this way, the medium is the message.
So I've taken the warning (and will seek to continue to) ... but this warning has also helped me to realise that the dynamic of the means of communication may well be birthed out of the dynamic of the message itself ... how can I tell if it's not? ... that all depends if my preparation is out of striving in the flesh or resting in the Spirit ... and if, at the end of the day, the message is not clear ... I might as well pack up and go home.

Friday, May 29, 2009

the fear of deliverance ... matthew 12:22-28 ...

We don’t like it when our kingdoms are uncovered and exposed for what they really are. The kingdoms of conquest and power cower in fear at the possibility of a kingdom that offers deliverance ... I think the Pharisees trembled with this fear when Jesus brought healing to the demon-possessed man (matt 12).
It wasn’t His authority in the spiritual realm that concerned them so much, but His growing authority in and amongst the realm they called “theirs”. That’s the reason they came up with such a lame protest: “He does this by the power of the devil” ... and Jesus was quick to reveal the ridiculous nature of their argument:
Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined ... if Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?
If Jesus was a tool of the devil, surely he’d be used in some other way than to deliver people from the oppression Satan himself was enforcing!
These guys weren’t thinking straight ... their fear of losing control trumped their ability to recognize the kingdom of God ... a kingdom that brings the possibility of deliverance ... they feared the deliverance of their people... they feared their own deliverance.
In fact, they were so fearful of the kingdom of God, they threw a label at it - “the work of the devil.”
God’s kingdom uncovers and exposes my kingdoms of conquest and power as it brings deliverance from fear, confusion and oppression ... may we be people who can recognize it when “the kingdom of God has come upon us.”

Sunday, May 24, 2009

grandpa, contemplation and urgency ...

On Friday we said good-bye to my grandfather. He was 86, and it took a heavy blow to the head to take him out ... I reckon he would have kicked on for another decade if not for his fall. Reading out his eulogy awakened a deeper appreciation for the legacy he's left me and the rest of his family. I didn't know that he was so instrumental in the setting up of South Australia's rural grain handling network ... I didn't know he was a lay methodist preacher for 40 years ... I never realised the impact he had on so many in his latter years just by being an encourager - until he died.

Today I spoke at his home church in Lameroo ... where about 20 faithful people gathered - friends of Harry, my Grandpa. It was kind of surreal - preaching on the same platform from where he had had so much influence over so many years ... nostalgic ... healing in a way. If not for the persistance and resiliance of this old farmer (among others), I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today ... if not for his faithfulness (although flawed at times), I wouldn't be playing my part in the story ... which, I might add, is a much bigger story than what I initially imagined.

And so, as I take the 2 hour ride home, I'm drawn into a deeper appreciation for my history ... a larger picture of the potential of my own contribution ... a greater resolve to participate in the landscape of what God is doing here in my country. This type of contemplation is what fuels me ... maybe it's weird that my Grandfather's passing initiates it, then again, maybe not.

It's true that the shortness of life compels us to think about the urgency of what God desires of us whle we're still around ... but I reckon this "urgency" isn't just about eternal fire insurance (that people will be saved from the judgement to come) ... this urgency is about becoming all that I'm supposed to be, contributing in the manner I'm called to, and helping others step into the restoration that Christ alone has brought into His creation. ... an urgency with the motive of long-term movement and legacy over short-lived frenzy and activity.

So... I'm glad that my Grandpa is in "a better place" now ... but I'm more glad that he contributed while he was here - that, while he longed for heaven, he was compelled to serve on a hospital board, initiate better grain storage strategies, raise a God-fearing family, and go out of his way to say a kind word whenever he saw fit ... I'm glad that his legacy goes deeper than a "courageous" telling of Jesus' story, and is easily recognised as an integral current-day part of Jesus' story ... I'm glad that I'm a part of that legacy, and therefore a part of that story.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

immerse headquarters

NEWSFLASH ... check out this clip on the YMA Adelaide office

Sunday, April 19, 2009

seeing "the world" through new eyes ...

I've always thought I had a pretty balanced view when it came to what I think is meant when the Bible refers to "the world"... until recently ...
My theory on "the world" (see Romans 12:2) has always been that our planet is not being referred to here, but the system of understanding/belief which creation is subject to - the dominion of sin and the devil ... ie. we live on a planet that is the world, but it is not "the world". Just because creation is under the dominion of pride and rebellion and selfishness and warped ideology, does not mean that this planet is a bad place, just the system it is subject to ... that has always been my theory, and it still is my theory.
But I find that my attitude and my practice is often much different ... the easier road for me is to almost unwittingly equate the creation we live in with the system it is subject to ... when I'm consistently confronted with the brokenness that evil brings, it is far easier for me to want to escape from the world (and to perhaps convince others to come with me), than it is to join God in bringing change (and in the process others are swept up into salvation) ... it's much easier for me to focus on the ultimate victory Jesus will bring at the end of this age than it is to notice how He can and is bringing it now. Kingdom is easier understood as a conquering force that's coming tomorrow than it is a subversive yet powerful influence that emerges today.
So, my hypocrisy frustrates me ... but I think it's important to identify ... it's important to see "the world" through new eyes ... why?
... because my behavior should not be reduced to a performance for the age to come, but an expression of the kingdom I belong to now ...
... because when I'm so focused on the badness of "the world", I tend to miss the beauty of the world ...
... because the alleged comfort "the world" brings me will always stand as a blindspot to the discomfort of the world ...
... there are probably a heap of other reasons why it's important for me to see "the world" through new eyes (and to see the world through new eyes) - a more important question might be - "Trav, what are you going to do about this?" ... I'm working on that ... .

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

easter "fan mail" ...

EASTER this year saw me sharing with a bunch of young people and leaders at an easter camp from Baptist Churches in SA. It was "heaps good" to walk through God's story together ... I was amazed at the effort the camp's leadership team put in to not only make it a great experience for the campers, but in their intent of integrating the content I brought with the whole flow of their camp ... these guys were super-committed to seeing God work amongst the generation coming through - and from what I saw over the weekend, He's certainly doing that.
Something that was particularly encouraging for me was in my "fan mail". (everyone got fan mail in a paper bag stuck on a wall over the course of the camp - I wasn't the only one!)
Not only did I get a stack of shout outs from a number of the campers, and encouragement from some leaders who God spoke to over the weekend ... but God used one particular note to speak into my life personally ...
... it simply says: "thankyou for helping me realise things I needed to."
No flattery, no embellished praise, no sordid details - just honest acknowledgement that "things in my life weren't where they should have been, and now I want to see that change"
... I don't know the context from which the note was written, but I do know that a simple statement like this can fuel me in what I do for a very long time.
When all the hype of a camp is over, and the reality of living out grass-roots faith hits us the day after, my hope is that I can be a person who keeps "realising the things I need to."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

garden trivialization

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that there's more to Eden than what we allow ourselves to understand.
More than just the place where God put humans to do gardening ... if we cannot expand our understanding of this perfect place, then our understanding of the rest of the story will never be what it could be.
My fear is that if we fail to explore the Divine intent of Eden, then we may reduce the Divine intent of Calvary to some sort of "escape plan." God's plan merely becomes a militant mission of saving sinners from hell, and our sole purpose in life is to spread the "good news" to save as many as we can before this broken world is destroyed.
And it sounds right ... compelling even ... but from what I see, this "good news" produces followers of Jesus who are harried and hurried, and it promulgates a reputation of the church that is described with words like "fear" and "hypocrisy".
The more I read the Scriptures, and think through the huge subject of what God is doing with and in His broken creation, the more I'm sensing that this type of focus is incomplete - not necessarily incorrect, but it is incomplete.
The path we travel to come to this conclusion, I think, stems from how much wonder we allow into our reading of Genesis 1&2 ... let me explain ...
... God creates Eden for humans to tend it ...
... God creates humans to enjoy relationship with Him...
... Humans mess up, sin enters the world and relationship with God is severed ...
... God enacts another plan by giving an initial promise of a Saviour ...
... God creates, and creates and creates - and Eden is designed as a special place for the pinnacle of His creation to inhabit ...
... God creates humans as the bearers of His image who enjoy the pleasure of relationship with their Creator ...
... Humans choose their own rule and God's creation masterpiece is broken, severing the designed union between humans and God...
... God reveals His eternal intention of expressing His character to His entire creation through the promise of the One who is to come ...
Simple really ... one is centred on humans and their need for relationship with God, and the other is centred on God and His agenda of self-revelation ... one works for the attainment of rest, but the other works out of the assurance of rest
... so, I sometimes wonder whether a trivialization of the garden limits our understanding of a story that is far greater than us ... and whether it leaves us with an incomplete gospel.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

stand or leap ...

Driving through the mass of traffic that is Sydney just before Christmas, Dave quoted Peterson to Matt and I ... not word for word as is quoted below, but it was pretty close ... and it was helpful ...

"We need roots in the past to give obedience ballast and breadth; we need a vision for the future to give obedience direction and goal. There must be organic unity between them…what we require is obedience – the strength to stand and the willingness to leap, and the sense to know when to do which.”

Knowing when to make a stand, and when to take a leap isn't always easy ... but it's important.

I can see that the strength to stand means being convinced that I'm meant to be where I am "for such a time as this" ... that, despite my weaknesses and inhibitions, I've been placed here and perhaps through my presence, God will accomplish something beyond what I thought possible.

I can see that the willingness to leap means being able to trust that God can accomplish something beyond what I thought possible in this context without me ... and perhaps He'll use me in a different context altogether.

He is the One responsible for the work of His kingdom ... and He has the right to choose whether He does that work through me, or in spite of me.

Knowing when to make a stand, and when to take a leap isn't always easy ... but it's important ... it's important because if you get it wrong, it's irresponsible ... but if you get it right, it's faith - and there is a world of difference between the two ... because one is obedience, and the other is not.

The weird thing is, I might be confident of my obedience to God's call of "leap" when others around will think I should have stood ... there are times when my obedience might give off the aroma of irresponsibility, but perhaps it isn't faith without such a scent.

I guess now that I've taken a leap and am standing somewhere else, I need to trust Him with the place that I was standing before.

So, Dave, thanks for the quote ... I think.