Friday, December 8, 2017

Trav's Day

Just playing with some creativity here - but though it was worth posting ... also, there's some great thoughts on creativity from Richard about halfway through!

 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Love isn't Love


I've said "I love you" so many times to my wife.

Mainly because I just do.

I think she's amazing.

I choose her everyday.

I can't help but join her in celebrating.

I can't help but grieve with her in loss.

BUT.

Sometime I say "I love you" to divert her attention away from my failures.

Sometimes I say "I love you" so I can get what I want.

That's when love isn't love - when it isn't coming out of a place of truth.

And it seems to me that truth cannot be solely found in what I'm feeling at the time.

Love is Love


"I'm just feeling so grieved"

The man stood in our shop and beleaguered the point of his sadness over the YES vote winning this week.

He was too loud, too conservative and too bigoted for my liking.

But there was no doubting his sadness.

Here he is, a man in his 60s, shaped by a worldview that upholds the sanctity of marriage as the cornerstone for a functioning society.

Even though society had long disregarded his own perspective, at least the law still upheld the traditional Christian practice of a heterosexual monogamous union.

Not anymore.

And he was deeply grieved.

If love is love, and the expectation is to accept people no matter what their story or preferences, then what does love look like for the loud conservative bigot?

I didn't vote


I couldn't.

Out of good conscience on religious grounds I couldn't support the view that the definition of marriage should be changed in Australian law.

Out of good conscience on relational grounds I couldn't support what the no campaign represented and the inadvertent damage it brought to the name of Jesus.

I'm glad that people I love can celebrate their sense of acceptance in our nation.

I have questions over what this means for future generations.

I want to get busy telling the story of Jesus and seeing what He can accomplish in people's lives.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

when a house of cards falls ...



HOUSE OF CARDS: a structure, situation, or institution that is insubstantial, shaky, or in constant danger of collapse.

The irony is hard to ignore.

In the wake of Harvey Weinstein's inexhaustibly public downfall, the accusations toward Kevin Spacey, his ill-conceived response, and subsequent string of sexual assault allegations have seen an untouchably professional reputation come crumbling down.

No doubt, the choices of individuals to mistreat others is simply abhorrent.  As is the seeming institutionalised culture of threatened shame of those who are victims.

It's just horrible.

Enough, it would seem, to bring the entertainment industry to its knees.

Unless we choose to continue to ignore the cornerstone of this elaborate house of cards structure.

The currency of sexualisation, objectification, and the denigration of human dignity carries untold value in the modern-day art of story-telling.

Could it be that our thirst for power or pleasure is not quenched, but enflamed through the trading of this currency?  Where our consumption of stories which so reduce the value of our humanity, are actually fostering the horror of Weinstein and Spacey in our own minds and hearts?

Could it be that Weinstein, Spacey and others are living as residents of the house of cards that they, and society at large, have built for ourselves to live in?

Could it be that the magnitude of their demise is enough for us to identify the cornerstone of this house, and remove it entirely?

I suspect it's been dislodged slightly.

I'm hoping for justice and healing for all who have posted #metoo.

I long for us humans to find our identity, purpose, sexuality and dignity in a grander story than our world is telling us.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

the reason why


I'm coming off the back of 4 days on the Sunshine Coast at my third and final intensive with "Arrow Leadership".

One of the cool challenges we were given was to give the heart of the reason why our organisation exists - this has always been hard for me - but this is what I came up with:

There is an ancient story that speaks of a deep origin.

This story describes the ache of human separation and brokenness, and longing.

This story reveals the relentless pursuit of inexhaustible love, unparalleled sacrifice, and unexpected victory.

This story resolves in hope-filled purpose and flourishing.

This is the story of God.

There is an emerging generation who are mostly UNENGAGED with this story.
The communities who carry this story are largely UNCERTAIN in how to change that.

AccessTheStory longs to step into this space.

"arrow" reflection



Last night I was given the brilliant opportunity to share some reflections on my experience of the Arrow Leadership Course I've been a part of this year.

Standing before 20 other peers in leadership was a little terrifying to be honest, but it was great to be able to share some of my experience:

Intensive One led me to a FOUNTAIN - Back in March we spent 4 days unpacking the ideas of INTEGRITY and SELF DECEPTION with a focus on our personal leadership.  I was drawn to the need for me to have my strength regularly refreshed in what God notices about me, and since then I've been practising the discipline of regular journaling through parts of the Scriptures.   This has proven to be a fountain of personal refreshment.

Intensive Two led me to RECEIVING - In June my cohort of leaders from faith-based organisations met in Geelong, and we faced the results from a 360 degree review.  Ten people we each worked with filled in a survey regarding our leadership behaviours ... I don't know what I was expecting, but the responses I received were super-affirming.  Interestingly I quickly slipped into "deflect" mode, and I knew I needed to allow myself to sit in the responses given, and receive the encouragement.  If others saw me in a positive light as a leader, then maybe I need to drop the false humility and let me see myself in the same way.

Intensive Three led me to the HORIZON - the focus of this last week on the Sunshine Coast has been around leading an organisation.  Amidst the 'information overload' (at least for me) on strategic planning and governance and risk management, there were some very helpful gems that apply to AccessTheStory.  More encouragingly, I found myself in the midst of other expert practitioners, and in the midst of some great conversations.  One of those had to do with 'strategic horizons', and as I considered the embryonic nature of my own organisation, I was challenged to consider what I need to do now that the next generation of leaders can steward the fruit of the investment being made now.  The Horizon might not be the only place for harvest, but I'm looking for who is around me now - who is being raised up for the harvest on the horizon?

One of the guys in my cohort prayed for me today, "That he might see an abundant fountain bubbling up now, and turning into a stream that flows out all the way to the horizon."

That's a pretty cool prayer.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

electives @ NYMC 2017



It was a thrill this morning to present my two electives at National Youth Ministry Convention.  Such a big encouragement to see so many youth leaders here, and so many invested in engaging their students in the Bible Story.
As promised, I've uploaded my slides - so, whether you came to the electives or not, feel free to make use of the content / ideas for your ministry context :)

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

BIBLICAL STORYING

... and don't forget about our pilot resource - StoryBites
- or our mailing list - StoryLine

Sunday, August 27, 2017

thinking about australia in indonesia



I'm halfway through a trip to Indonesia as a guest of an amazing group of schools, and as I peer back at my homeland through the curtain of social media, the approach that ex-pat Christians have in Indonesia is nothing short of inspiring.

Here are three observations I'm making:

1. They know they are guests.  
As they live out a biblical worldview in a nation which does not pretend to, my friends here respect the culture they live in - warts and all.  They with-hold judgement when they observe attitudes and behaviour that does not correspond to their own set of values, and they continue to serve - trusting that the gospel has the power to shed light into the darkest of places.

2. They act on opportunities.  
The Christians I have met here seem to live on the assumption that they are most likely on borrowed time as they live out the gospel in a 'Muslim country'.  This leads to an agile and 'in-time' response to opportunities as they arise.  There is no campaigning authorities (and sometimes there's little time for long-range planning!), but there is meaningful, love-filled, faith-inspired action.  There's a slogan for a local hotel here which seems to describe the Indonesian church beautifully: "If not now, when?"

3. They instinctively move towards a 'third way'.  
They may not articulate it this way, but the Indonesian church seems to know it cannot afford to take a diametrically opposing platform to the dominant power structures.  Instead, God's people identify that there's a third way, and they pour their energy and resources into that possibility for the sake of the story of Jesus.  In the case of the friends I have met, this is accomplished through providing excellent education - and the children of the powerful people in the country are being invested in by Christian educators from around the world.

So, that's what I'm learning so far while here in Indonesia - and I long for what might be possible if the Christian Church in Australia takes a similar approach.

Friday, August 11, 2017

'sexual identity' is B-S


‘Who I am with’ does not define ‘who I am’.

The feverish debate tends to paint a different picture - our culture wants to corner us into the belief that our sexuality is the prime ingredient to our identity.

This is not so.

'Who I am' cannot be found in my marriage, my extra-marital conduct, my online habits, my orientation.

'Who I am' is a spirituality question, not a sexuality question.

I've discovered that who I am is a child of the everlasting God. That's it.

My identity is forged in the heart of God through the binding nature of covenant - and my priorities, my vocation, my relationships, my sexuality, my service ... all flow from this covenant.

And this loving Father invites me to reflect who He is - to express the covenant He has entered into with His child.

His identity is somehow woven into the fabric of covenant.

And so is ours.

Who we are will not be displayed through the expression of our sexuality, but through our participation in the unrelenting promise of this relational divinity - who goes by the name "I AM".

I take the personal posture of an open heart to those who long for 'marriage equality', and a firm conviction that what's actually being asked for is 'marriage redefinition'.

My posture is informed by the observation that few of us who are caught up in this debate pause long enough to consider the implications of covenant.

Covenant is the steadfast undertaking of a God who longs to permanently unite us to Himself, and He has initially (and I would say, enduringly) chosen to communicate that through the marriage covenant between a man and a woman.

That's why a re-definition of marriage is so controversial - it messes with an original expression of how God's Story reveals the heart of who God is.

But in the meantime...

A homosexual person's identity is not found in their homosexuality, but in the truth that God has irreversibly pursued them.

A heterosexual person's identity is not found in their heterosexuality, but in the truth that God has irreversibly pursued them.

What this means is that the notion and pursuit of 'sexual identity' is built on the false premise that identity can be found in our sexuality.  Our culture longs for this to be true, but it is not.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Unfollow


Today I unfollowed someone on Facebook.

It's the first time I've done it.

It's not that I don't like the person, it's just that their status updates rile me up.

Whenever this happens, I spend the next 20 minutes thinking about a clever comment to respectfully challenge their view - while remaining convinced that my contribution will add nothing to the conversation.

I know that my craftsmanship will become another inconsequential piece of brilliance aimlessly floating in the eternal void of social media static.

So, I overcame my sense of guilt for reducing the amount of people in my feed who will articulate a different point of view than mine, and I clicked 'unfollow'.

I still love you, but I need to invest my time on this earth more wisely.

I guess I could just put my phone down - or I could blog about it. 😉


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"Well done, EBC!"


"What can you celebrate?"

The question hung in the air for a while as our new Lead Pastor provided an opportunity for leaders to share encouraging stories with the other teams represented.

There were some exciting reports of God's provision, community engagement, and faith decisions - but as I let the question settle in my own heart and mind, I began to realise that what our church community was experiencing overall was worthy of exuberant celebration.

Healthy transition.

It's easy to overlook, but leadership transition in a church community is hard work, and when it isn't handled well - well, let's just say it often isn't handled well.

As I look back over the last 3-6 months, I am super-proud of Edwardstown Baptist Church.  Saying good-bye to our much-loved Pastor Joe and his wife Michelle so generously, and being able to recognise the "rightness" to appoint Pastor Dale in succession - well done, God's people!

Leadership transition in the life of a church is 'vulnerability personified' - at best, it can equate to stagnation, and at worst - it can be just plain ugly.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that churches are renowned for making transition ugly - and EBC is certainly not immune to that characterisation.

But we are in the midst of seeing what's possible when we refuse to give into the fears that so easily bubble up.

After being on the leadership group for 5 years, I step into a break from the role as Elder with a deep sense of satisfaction - it IS possible for a church community to journey into the unknown together - with trust in God, respect for each other, and a sense of expectation for the future.

I can't wait to see what God has for His people as we accept His invitation into the next season of His mission together.

Monday, April 24, 2017

feeling the Daveron Park love ...

"Good morning, LOSER!!"  12 year old Ryan greeted me with a resounding battle-cry on the last morning of camp - still relishing in his victory over me in chess the night before.  

I knew in my heart that I had been accepted.

Last week I had the immense privilege of spending four days by the river with around 30 young people and their leaders. My brief was to facilitate an opportunity for campers to learn through God's story, but I got so much more than what I bargained for.

Being immersed in a community who are reaching some of the most disadvantaged kids in our city was one of the most enriching ministry experiences I've had so far - here are four lessons these guys helped me with:


1. RELATIONSHIP IS EVERYTHING 

I noticed that any influence the leaders had among the campers was deeply rooted in relationship.  The young people in this community seem to carry an inbuilt resistance to anything that smells like authority - demonstrated by ignoring, talking over, or walking away.

When I heard some of their stories of how authority has been misused in their lives, it is little wonder that they discount any influence a 45 year old, male, teacher-type person might seek to exercise over them.

I found myself constantly monitoring my use of authority in the sessions I had with them, while still trying to facilitate an environment for learning.  Shh-ing never worked, sometimes a hand in the air had some effect,  a few times I found myself entering into the conversations groups were having while I was trying to present - sometimes I managed to steer their attention back to what I was presenting, other times I just couldn't.

What I did notice was that the leaders who had invested time and relational energy into the young people were the ones who were more likely to gain their attention - some of the time.


2. EXPECTATIONS MUST BE FLUID

I've never been one to hinge everything on "the last night of camp" for people to respond with faith decisions to God and His story, but I have found that the story of God often naturally brings people to a point of response.  So, we planned a run for a response session on the final night of camp, but it just didn't go as planned.

There were a few contributing factors, not the least of which was when the time came for me to invite the community to consider trusting God for the first time, there were a group of girls nattering away about something completely unrelated, and if I put pressure on them to be quiet it would have completely blown any relational traction I'd gained with pretty-much everyone in the room - so I wrapped it up.

The whole week was a journey of me (and the other leaders) constantly adjusting expectations.  What was really cool, was that often we were surprised by responses we weren't expecting - leaders told stories of how kids accepted me as a story-teller, or how they engaged with some of our learning activities, or even how the campers were happy for the leaders to pray for them.


3. VALUE THEIR FOCUS

Something that I really appreciated was the conversations I had with the kids - talking about their interests, their dreams - but it was usually in short bursts.  More than once, campers would bowl up to me and start chatting, then, after a few sentences (and sometimes in mid-sentence), they would walk away.

It was during these momentary bursts of interaction, that I realised that often their focus would be fleeting - so rather than get frustrated with their 'lack' of focus, I began to intentionally capitalise on the focus they did give me, and I found I was gifted with some unique opportunities to speak into their lives.

This insight also shaped how I retold the Bible stories we shared with them.

When setting the scene for our Bible narratives, we usually give people a 'narrative hook' - short stories about life that introduce some of the feelings experienced in the Bible narrative.

During this camp, I found it far more effective to use the narrative hooks for large group retells than asking questions from the content of Bible narrative - my theory is that this at least replayed their experience of the Bible narrative through their association with the narrative hook.


4. CELEBRATE THE 'SMALL WINS'

The leaders at camp were exceptional at noticing and celebrating the contribution of the kids to the community.

One example of this was when some of the kids walked out on my session.  Instead of just leaving the room, they asked their leader, John, if it was ok for them to go.  As he allowed them to walk out, John had the presence of mind to validate them in the fact that they thought to ask - rather than lamenting the fact that they weren't in the room, John noticed this shift in their behaviour, and celebrated that as a contribution to the culture of the community.

All week, I was so encouraged by leaders noticing the small things of kids doing duties, looking out for one another, or lasting longer before relational conflict - and they celebrated the small wins.

This not only became a rich source of affirmation for the kids, but it provided the leadership team with some tangible examples of transformation - for many contexts these examples might be considered small and inconsequential, but here there is genuine cause for celebration.


There's probably a bunch of other things I still have to learn from this amazing community, but this is what I have for now: RELATIONSHIP IS EVERYTHING; EXPECTATIONS MUST BE FLUID; VALUE THEIR FOCUS; and CELEBRATE THE 'SMALL WINS'.


I will never forget the love I felt from my new friends from Daveron Park - and I've come away with a deep assurance that God is at work in this community.  Who knows how these kids might change the world?!

Monday, April 3, 2017

the mind of Christ


What difference would it make in our world if the thinking of Jesus held sway?

It might be in the midst of an impossible moral complexity, or a corrupt system of power - something that amplifies the human ache for things to be made right.

What would it look like for the thoughts and activity of Jesus to penetrate the complexity and corruption of our daily experience?

It would look like the fruit of people who are yielded to the life that God promises.

1 Corinthians 2:16 - for the Scripture asks, “Does anyone know the mind of the Lord well enough to become His advisor?” But we do possess the mind of the Anointed One.

In the midst of the Corinthian mindset of "possessing higher knowledge" and rampant competition and celebrityism among each other, Paul unravels their sense of self-importance with the statement: "we possess the mind of the Anointed One."

That's quite a statement - Paul discounts our ability for us to ever know God's thoughts, then He asserts that as followers of Jesus, we can "have the mind" of this same God.

Moral complexity and corrupted systems are no match for a people who have recognised who they belong to.  Human pain and confusion can find resolve and peace through the wonder, clarity, and compassion found in the mind of Christ.

The way of His thinking is available to us - albeit mysteriously - through the Person described in the Bible story as the 'Spirit'.

Check out a talk on this passage/theme here

Monday, March 6, 2017

alarm clocks and smartphones



It's a common experience.  The plane lands, the captain welcomes you to the destination and suggests you adjust your watch to the new timezone.

The thing is, I don't wear a watch.  All I need to do once I've landed and the seatbelt sign is turned off is take my smartphone out of flight mode.  It picks up the signal pretty quickly and I immediately know what the time is where I've landed.

I'm not a big fan of keeping my smartphone next to my bed, but when I need to wake up at a designated time, it's far more reliable than the old digital alarm clock.  All it took was a flick in the power, or a kick of the lead, and the dreaded flashing red digits would confront my bleary eyes.

There's been a change in technology.  Rechargeable batteries and 4G networks mean I can tap into a signal beyond me and I'm not caught out by my self-regulated attempts at trying to keep synced with the world around me.

The disposition of an alarm clock is one of being separated - once it loses power, it needs some serious outside help to re-create the illusion that it's a reliable source for tracking the time.

The disposition of a smartphone is one of being connected - sure, it might be offline once in a while, but once the choice is made to sync in with the network, it doesn't take long for it to fulfil it's desired function.

This technology change shifts our experience from a default of separation to a default of connection.

I need a technology change - an 'upgrade' if you will.  Something on the inside needs to shift my settings from separation to connection.  From an isolated, manually driven, unreliable, indication of what it means to be human, to an interconnected and consistent reflection of true human experience.

Sure, my battery might still go flat, or I might put myself in flight mode once in a while - but to have a disposition of being "connected" - that is a compelling reality to pursue.

The more I reflect on the death to life story - the more I can see that this sort of internal technology shift has already been made available to us.

This shift promises a change in our disposition from separation to connection - being in sync with who God actually is and what He's doing in this world.  Jesus' death and resurrection is an invitation for us to live out the new disposition toward God, rather than living out a default setting that moves us away from Him.

Therefore, if anyone is united with the Anointed One, that person is a new creation. The old life is gone—and see—a new life has begun! - 2 Corinthians 5:17

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

the story needs to change - from FAIRY-TALE to EPIC


Recently I told a story at my home church where I introduced the concept of "the fairy-tale controversy".

The genre of fairy-tale can be described as:
"a short narrative often used for children - often beginning with the phrase “Once upon a time …” - the story is often set in a far-away kingdom or forest, where human characters interact with magical or mystical beings.  The good side ultimately triumphs over evil, and the promise of a happily ever after ending is realised.”

In the story, it was argued that the way in which the good news message of Jesus is communicated often resembles the story-line of a fairy-tale - where:

“The familiar canvas of the FAIRY TALE leads us through the battle between GOOD & EVIL and leads us to a life of HAPPILY EVER AFTER.”

Sure, the use of the term "fairy-tale" is a little controversial, but the point is that the canvas of the story we're telling has been smaller than what our culture seems to require.

When we've been condensing compelling stories to pamphlets, comic strips, and perhaps the odd feature film, our culture is exploring the wonder of deeper character development and morally complex plot lines found in film franchises and extended TV series.  

It's a bewildering contradiction to observe a generation who have no trouble in binge-watching entire seasons on Netflix, when they are accused of lacking the ability to span their attention beyond 3 minutes.

Could it be that in the midst of our fleeting SnapChat stories, deep down we long for a larger canvas?



Which brings us to the 'modern epic':
"A long narrative poem written in elevated style, in which heroes of great historical or legendary importance perform valorous deeds. The setting is vast in scope, covering great nations, the world, or the universe, and the action is important to the history of a nation or people."

An epic shows us that we long to immerse ourselves (perhaps even escape) into the lives of the characters over an extended period of time and journey with them to shift the culture of a community, city or nation - as if we are writing history with them - where:

"The broader canvas of the MODERN EPIC leads us through the landscape of MORAL COMPLEXITY and leads us to the experience of TRANSCENDENCE."

If we moved from the canvas of 'fairy-tale' to that of 'modern epic' when it comes to the story of God ... what would that look like?

Monday, January 16, 2017

The People of God in Fountain Valley


It wasn't difficult connecting with The Creator as I walked to church on Sunday morning.

The warm summer sunlight danced across my face - filtered by the large pines which surrounded a cemetery at the back of our estate.

A dense carpet of pine needles took me past the historic graveyard and led me to a quaint red-brick & sandstone chapel.

The chapel was empty, but laughter and warm conversation drew me to a fibro hall across the near-full car park.  As I stepped across the threshold, I was welcomed with a smile, handed a newsletter, and ushered to a seat.

I took a moment to survey a room not much bigger than a double garage, and I was compelled to imagine the stories of the grey heads that filled my immediate horizon.

A hymn.
A mission report.
A hymn.
An time of open prayer.
A hymn.

The 86 year old lay pastor - with a prostrate the size of a pomegranate (his words) - then opened up his Bible to Ezekiel 22.

In the midst of a broken city wall, God laments the judgement His people had fallen into through their rejection of Him - He could not find one man to 'stand in the gap'.

As the  elderly pastor lambasted the media, longed for parliamentarians to return to God's Word, and bemoaned the evil we are surrounded by, he challenged his flock to be people who would "stand in the gap."

As he pleaded for his people to be a voice of truth in our sin-soaked society, a thought came to me:

"I think it's too late." 
I appreciate that I sit in the midst of a generation who have always carried the assumption that they live in a nation fashioned on Christian principles, but even if their assumption was once true - it seems it can no longer be assumed. 
So, if there ever was a time to "stand in the gap" and call this nation back to God, perhaps that time has passed. 
If we are going to use the ancient people of Israel as a metaphor to engage with our culture, then perhaps we need to take up their story in Babylon, rather than in Jerusalem. 
The ransacking has happened, God's people have been exiled, and we now find ourselves as "guests" in a foreign land. 
The reality of sin and judgement and corruption and depravity is still the same, but the perspective as exiles revolutionises the approach of God's people. 
Our posture is transformed from "standing in the gap" (Ezekiel 22:30) to one of "planting gardens" (Jeremiah 29:5) 
- to live where God has placed His people with a generational expectation.   
Where we're still longing for the day of ultimate deliverance, but we exhibit a passionate commitment to be the blessing of God in the land He has planted us.
After some courteous conversation, I stepped outside, across the carpark, and as I meandered back past the graveyard, I wondered:

"Where are the people of God in Fountain Valley? And what are they planting?"