Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Rob Bell’s Love Wins

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Cover of Love Wins by Rob Bell

A mini-review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins, in the style of Rob Bell’s Love Wins.

Yesterday, I bought and read ‘Love Wins’.

Beneath the hype

and the critics’ judgement,

I found intriguing thought,

reasoned argument

and provocative questions.

Challenging? Certainly.

Illuminating? For some.

Important? Maybe.

While Bell is no Luther, Wycliffe or Zwingli, he’s no heretic either.

Time to tell a better story: an afterword

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Olive tress and path

We live in an age where our tweets about grocery shopping, ill-considered blog posts and half-hearted ‘likes’ of mildly amusing Facebook posts threaten to trivialise and reduce our lives like nothing before.  Yet, amongst all the noise we create with our self-importance and desire to be liked, we still hear snatches of a clearer signal that enhances our human connections rather than dilute them.

In a comment on my previous post, Casey kindly expresses a concern as to whether I may be bottling up my feelings concerning Friday’s accident.  While I always appreciate folk taking the time to comment on my posts, I feel blessed that Casey cares enough not just to follow through with a comment but also to challenge me on whether I am really ‘over’ what happened or just blowing smoke in my post to disguise a need to vent.

I am pleased to report that I am not bottling anything up and I genuinely have nothing I need to work through or get out of my system. While I have reacted badly to similar situations in the past, on Friday I took a different approach to dealing with the incident.  I found it liberating and offered me a timely opportunity for reflection.

While there is no denying a certain amount of inconvenience as a result of the accident, what did I actually lose?  Other than three or so hours out of my working week and possibly losing my ‘no claims’ bonus, I am essentially no worse off than before the incident.  On the other hand, I find I have gained in a number of ways.

I spent time with a delightful Indian lady and her daughter who were also involved in the accident, comparing our respective philosophies and theologies while the police carried out their enquiries. I met a couple of great tow truck drivers who had a fine line in graveyard humour, a genuine concern for all involved and did me a great service in calling ahead to arrange a courtesy car.

However, the biggest gift of all was that I was given an opportunity to put my faith – all that read, pray on and believe in – into practice when speaking to the disqualified and uninsured driver who drove into the back of my car.  In the simple words of George Fox, I was given the choice to ‘let my life speak’ through the way I chose to react to him and the unexpected turn of events he set in motion.

Where I might previously have puffed out my chest, shouted and remonstrated, I was given a chance to turn the other cheek; where I might have nurtured a grudge and apportion blame, it was in my gift to banish ill-will; where I could have demanded summary justice, I resolved to think about mercy; and where I could have argued the facts and challenged untruths, I was minded to hold my tongue and extend grace instead.

In a week where the aftermath of tsunami, earthquakes and civil unrest continues to cleave family life, decimate communities and bereave thousands across the Southern hemisphere, I am truly thankful that my gravest concern is how I might pay for the car repairs.

My flawed and fissured life is a work in progress; a series of moments, milestones and mishaps through which I try to navigate with a pinch of wisdom, a modicum of integrity, an ounce of good humour – and my faith, which exhorts me to seek that of God in every man, no matter the circumstance. On Friday, I simply tried to do just that.

Trusting The God Who Was There All The Time

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

I’m sitting at my desk replaying in my mind the beautiful morning and lunch I spent with the lovely folk of Westgate Baptist at Chosen Valley.  Wonderful worship, fantastic fellowship and so many connections discovered through the sharing.

Thanks to Raewyn and Greg for asking me to be a part of your camp and blessing me with an opportunity to share.  Here’s part of what I shared:

I have learned that I can pray almost anywhere. That is, anywhere other than in my house where, even if I do go away by myself and shut the door behind me like Jesus did, I am always reminded that I am just one man in a house of five wonderfully vocal women.

I can pray as I wake – to give my thanks for waking to a new day, my desire to serve and my hope to catch a glimpse of Jesus during the day.  I can pray in the car for the ever-changing dawn sunrise I see each day as I commute across the causeway on the NorthWestern.  I can pray at my desk – for wisdom in leading my team, for honesty in my work, integrity in my decisions and for the blessing of serving the city and country I have chosen to make my own.

In his book ‘Christian Discourses’, Soren Kierkegaard wrote this:

“A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realised that prayer is listening.”

As I get older, I often find that when I run out of words and my mind stills itself, it is then that I experience God.  When I do it reminds me that I can trust Him in everything and with everything.

A year ago, one of my daughters became extremely ill and was rushed to Waitakere Hospital where she was found to have bacterial meningitis. While waiting for the ambulance, literally hoarse with pain, she suddenly slumped against my shoulder and pleaded ‘Pray for me, Daddy’.  I don’t believe I have ever prayed harder.

In the hours that followed, my words began to run into each other; they became meaningless and then they simply ran out.  And it was then, by her hospital bed, that I fully experienced God in that incredible choice to trust in Him in my own valley of shadows; the faith, fellowship and prayers of friends and community; the blessing of His grace, mercy and deliverance – and in the glory of God, closing an amazing circle of faith, by answering the prayers of a father for the daughter who had taught him to pray again.

And so, if there is any message at all in this story, I think it is for those of us who ever doubt – the reluctant spouse attending camp to find out what their partner sees in church; the lifelong believer rocked by private grief or national disaster; the mother or father who struggle with the ghosts of their own childhood.

Take that leap – again or for the very first time – and trust in God with a wholehearted trust that is evident to believers and doubters alike.

I will leave you with an example of wholeheartedly trust in the Lord, in the form of a brief story from my Sunday school days.

A Quaker family living on the American frontier heard a rumour that a Native American war party was planning to attack their small settlement, The other homesteaders barricaded themselves in their houses, loaded their guns, and prepared to do battle.

As pacifists, the Quaker family refused to use arms but decided to protect themselves by pulling in the latchstring on their door When the latchstring was drawn, there was no way for someone from the outside to get in.

When night fell the family went to bed, but found they could not sleep; they were restless, and troubled by doubts. They were worried that by pulling in the latchstring, they were putting their faith in a locked door rather than in God’s loving care.

Finally they got up, put the latchstring back out the way it usually was, went back to bed, and slept through the rest of the night.

Just before dawn, a war party attacked the settlement. Houses were burned and people were killed, but the homestead with the drawn latchstring was left untouched.

A few years later, in a peace circle, the father described his experience and was shocked to get an explanation from an Indian who participated in that night’s raid. He said the chief announced, “These people believe in the Divine Spirit. They shall not harm us. We shall not harm them.”


A beautiful moment in Egypt

Friday, February 4th, 2011
Christians protecting Muslims while they pray during protests in Egypt ©NevineZaki

Christians protecting Muslims while they pray during protests in Egypt © NevineZaki

I am pretty sure that this is what ‘love your neighbour as yourself‘ looks like. May it be a metaphor for the future of Egypt and an example to the wider world in the weeks and months to come.

via Jesus Needs New PR and Reddit.

Jack & Grace

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011


“The leaves of our blessed lives fall to the ground and if we’re wise … we gather them in a pile and keep them safe lest the winds of forgetfulness blow them away.”
— Philip Gulley

Jack’s one of a kind, many times over. Ever since our days together at East 15 Acting School, I have known some of these Jacks. Each is a leaf in my blessed life which I now gather in a pile lest my winds of forgetfulness blow them away.

Jack the caring curmudgeon;

Jack the exasperated deflator of theatrical pomposity;

Jack the seeker of honesty;

Jack the Dad who loved and tried;

Jack the earnest conversationalist;

Jack the skilled stretcher of a dole cheque;

Jack the lifelong musician;

Jack the succinct sage;

Jack the ‘Technique’ Alpha to the ‘Method’ Omega;

Jack the mate to troubled teens;

Jack the punk;

Jack the best Bad Fairy ever;

Jack the burner of sofas;

Jack the closet cowboy and Western lover;

Jack the sharer of large bar tabs;

Jack the perpetual wearer of Doc Martens;

Jack the loving son in the RAF club;

Jack the encyclopedia of popular music;

Jack the groom whom I best-manned;

Jack the innocent who asked me how the internet worked;

Jack my friend who died and left a hole in many lives.

More by heart and guesswork than reason, I sense Jack carried more than most could manage or fully understand – melancholia echoing from a different time, frustrations with why the world didn’t work his way and some deep dislocation that he could never seem to express.

In a world that leaks and dribbles grace into the cracks of our indifference, Jack had a bruised and persistent grace that touched those who chose to look below the surface. Jack’s grace was in his reflection and kindness, his music and his passion, his mad-cappery and his jester’s japes and the brutal honesty of the friendship we shared.

I trust that as ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ plays for Jack next week, God takes Jack at his word and extends His unceasing grace to my gracious friend.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Monday, January 17th, 2011
Today, the 17th of January, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  The following presentation, posted by Matt Peyton at The Bluevine Collective ponders the ongoing legacy of King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail through words and video.
The Bluevine Collective is new to me but I have enjoyed what I have read there recently.


Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Friday 3rd December 2010 in Waimauku, New Zealand

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’

Matthew 4:10

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.

Colossians 1:9-10

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Psalms 119:105

after “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5

I walked the other day along a river
And watched the ducks and heard
some hawkings’ cries;
Then suddenly the nearness of my Saviour
Brought tears of joy and wonder to my eyes.
Oh, praise the Lord!
“This earth is crammed with heaven!”
Oh, praise the Lord!
And, Christian, look around!
For every bush you pass with fire is flaming.
And every spot you treat is holy ground.
I stopped the other day to watch a fountain
And marvelled at the magic of its grace;
Then suddenly my heart was on a mountain
And worshiping Jehovah face to face!
I wept the other day – oh, Christian, hear it!
I wept the other day without control,
But suddenly the blessed Holy Spirit
Spoke peace again and calmed my needy soul.
Oh, praise the Lord!
“This earth is crammed with heaven!”
Oh, praise the Lord!
And, Christian, look around!
For every bush you pass with fire is flaming.
And every spot you tread is holy ground.
by Anne Ortlund

Feathered friends

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I have had a day of positive avian influence.

This morning, I woke to the alarm and, having switched it off, lay back to listen to the tuis out-sqwauking the other early birds in the trees along our little road.  They seemed to be a happy bunch and very much enjoying life and this made me smile.

Later, I was in a lunchtime Quaker meeting for worship with my eyes closed, enjoying the silence and the sun streaming through the window.  I gradually became aware of the birdcall outside the window, competing with but somehow less distracting than the traffic noise and sirens.  Again, I smiled at their busy noisiness and returned to my prayer.

Still later, in the middle of a meeting with my boss this afternoon, we were distracted by a colourful pair of Rainbow Lorikeets (thanks for the identification, Ray) in the tree outside my office window.  We laughed and jointly decided to suspend the meeting for a few minutes so we could enjoy their antics and I could take a few pictures before reconvening.

Just a few more lovely reasons why it’s nice to live and work in NZ!

Pray for me, Daddy

Friday, July 9th, 2010

I have been wanting to write about something for a week or so but, at the same time, have been avoiding doing so because, I suspect, I want what I write to be deep, impacting, important and perfect.  All these reasons are shallow and, sadly, will tell you more about me than I’m comfortable admitting.

This being the case, I’ll simply tell you that one of our daughters was taken ill recently with what turned out to be bacterial meningitis.  Over five days, she complained of headaches and tiredness, running a fever and generally feeling unwell – nothing, as parents of four, we hadn’t seen and dealt with before.  However, while she is usually the fittest of us all, she was definitely not herself and, by the evening of the fifth day, she was very drowsy and in great pain.

As I sat holding her late in the evening, I silently wondered what else I could do to make my child better.  I recalled my own childhood illnesses and the soft promise of my Dad saying ‘if I could take it away, I would’ as he cuddled me, while my district nurse Mum took my temperature and gave me medicine.  While grateful for my Mum’s knowledge and experience, like every kid I wanted whatever it was to go away and alwayshoped my Dad’s wish would come true.

As all this was swirling round my head, very quietly yet very clearly I heard my daughter say ‘Please pray for me, Daddy’.  As I fulfilled her request, in that one moment, my life shifted irrevocably.  As I prayed, I knew that without a shadow of a doubt my daughter was gravely ill and I shouted for my wife to call an ambulance.  Secondly, I finally knew the raw enormity of a parent’s love for their child and the aching truth of the promises my Dad made all those years ago.  Lastly and most importantly, in those five quiet words, I experienced the vast and humbling depth of my daughter’s faith, in her asking for prayer above all else.

Thankfully, she was diagnosed and treated promptly by the good folk at North Shore Hospital and then transferred into the equally good care of the The Rangitira facility at Waitakere Hospital.  Within three days, she was sent home with an IV drip and daily visits from the home care nurse and discharged three days after that.  For all the exemplary medical care and the expertise of the doctors, I take most comfort from knowing that He not only watches over us but that he answers prayers – even from broken sinners like me.

Getting To Simple

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Isn’t it funny how our self-reliance and self-centredness so easily convinces us that we’re the only one that feels a particular way when all along there are many, including those close to us, who feel the same or share the same concerns?

Having been enlightened by Tony and Felicity Dale’s Simply Church, I have spent a week or two processing my reactions to the politics and demands of denominational church and how it affects my behaviour and feelings.  After a year of scratching this particular itch, I am now aware that I am not the only one feeling this way and can now see more and more people are seeking a more authentic expression of their faith.

Reading further on simple faith, I am drawing some comfort and much inspiration from Marcus Borg’s Reading The Bible Again for the First Time, finding it to be a serious, cogent and scholarly examination of the scriptural literalism that I find so hard to process intellectually.  Likewise, I have been similarly intrigued by the simplicity of the The Church of Two concept which, in its simplest form, is about two people practising two spriritual disciplines and sharing together daily.  From the stories posted at LK10 resources, Stories From The Revolution and The Scilla Blog amongst other places, it seems like this practise is helping folk to deepen friendships, get closer to their families and initiate postive change in their lives.

I mentioned CO2 to the three guys I meet with weekly with a view to taking things up a notch between our weekly catch-ups.  As a result, I have swapped a couple of emails and calls with one of them by way of a gentle try-out and we intend to explore it as a group. Then, at the end of the Sunday service, our youth pastor was prompted to speak on our need to been more immediate and authentic with each other.  Rightly calling us to reflect on dashing off from church the second the service is over or remaining only to swap snippets of news over coffee after the service, he asked why we don’t stay and share the deeper fellowship we so easily speak about but rarely practice.

In the discussion that followed, I shared a little about my recent journeying and CO2, while others spoke of seeking more connection and relationship, rather than religion and ‘church’.  After praying for a couple who are leading a youth mission to the US to work at The Dream Center in the weeks to come, we parted with a commitment to make small but intentional changes to support one another better.

Elsewhere, we have been trying to be a little more intentional and missional in our lives.  One way of doing this has been our Tuesday night pot luck dinners where we open our home to all comers for a few hours, with the only aim being to share food and friendship with whoever steps across the threshold.  While far from a new idea, we felt this was a solid and sustainable way to get alongside others on a more regular basis.

On the first Tuesday, no-one came.  We sat around the table eating our meal and feeling a little deflated that nobody had taken up the invitation.  On reflection, this was a good thing and perhaps challenged us on our motives and ensured our hearts were in the right place.  Last week, with our expectations adjusted and hearts humbled, we were blessed to see another family of six and two couples join us at the table for what was a lovely evening of simply fellowship.  The eight kids wolfed their food and were soon engrossed in a variety of games, while the eight grown-ups shared freely and laughed heartily for a couple of hours.  With today being Tuesday, it’ll be interesting to see who, if indeed anyone, joins us in half an hour’s time.