Archive for the ‘Ponderings’ Category

Pulling things to pieces

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

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Arriving home last Sunday and keen to make the most of the early summer sun, I whipped up a ‘whatever is left in the fridge’ salad and headed for the deck.   Munching away, I was keen to read Frederick J. Tritton’s The Discipline Of Prayer (Pendle Hill Pamphlet No.42) but couldn’t get past this passage on the first page:

We are critical and analytical, rather than appreciative and creative, and this tendency at its worst leads to a habit of pulling things to pieces, including other people’s reputations. Some persons simply cannot resist it, and we are all to some extent infected by the complaint.

While I am not conscious of pulling anyone’s reputation to pieces, I am indeed infected by the same complaint.  I am keen to pursue a simple faith which I can model to others and yet I am often too vocal about my struggle with much of the stuff that ‘religion’ and ‘church’ tends to involve.   On occasion, I find myself over-analysing and criticising rather than being conciliatory and appreciative and I spend a good deal of time wishing I could be more constructive and creative.

I want to be involved in a faith community and be part of seeking a way to tackle the issues that seem to plague ‘church’ as we commonly see and experience it.   However, I struggle to reconcile my belief in God and my faith with the doctrine and the orthodoxy of mainstream religion and I find myself failing to exhibit the behaviours I hope to see in others.  Unlike Paul in 2 Corinthians, I seem unable to find strength or, indeed, even grace in my weakness.

That said, I pursue and seek answers in scripture for, while it is the source of the limitless interpretation, literalism and biblicism that abound, I believe that it is through understanding it better in my own context that I will progress in my journey.

I also read a good deal of non-fiction works on faith and religion to increase my understanding and Tony Jones has recently blogged about two titles which have caught my interest and which I will add to my reading list.  The first is The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture by Christian Smith and the second The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited by Scot McKnight.  They won’t provide the ultimate answer – of that I’m certain – but they may help with the next step of my walk.


Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!

Monday, October 31st, 2011


Callum & Fiona McKinlay, OMF missionaries who have recently returned from Taiwan, spoke at our church yesterday.  Having spent years reaching out to blue collar Mandarin speakers more used to the oral tradition than reading scripture, Callum demonstrated the storytelling methods he uses to share his faith.  He told the story of Jesus healing the paralysed man (Mark 2:1-12) who had been lowered through the roof by his faithful friends.

After telling the story, Callum asked us to chat to those seated next to us and consider any new insight that we gleaned through hearing the story.  Most of us commented on how hard they had worked to bring the man before Jesus and how He healed the crippled man by forgiving his sins in response to his friends’ faith.

It also occurred to me that a crippled man such as this, living 2000 years ago, would have probably lacked the benefits of medical care and basic hygiene. This being the case, he may well have been lying in his own waste for years and it struck me that this could also be a metaphor for what we strive – and sometimes struggle – to leave behind when when come to faith.

While exegesis can be enlightening and knowing a bit of Greek and Hebrew help unpacked a verse or two, nothing beats a good story told well.  As for the paralysed man, wouldn’t you love to know why he hurried away without so much as a ‘thank you’?

While driving

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011


My prayers – and the ways in which I pray – are many and varied but increasingly I feel drawn to the ‘expectant silence’ of Quaker prayer I grew up with.  Driving to work today after the excitement and drama of the long weekend, I was trying to still my mind and ‘wait upon the Lord’.

As I came to the top of the hill, a movement on the other side of the carriageway caught my eye.  I glanced across and saw a clutch of tiny ducklings were frantically running in circles on the edge of the road.  Snatching a second glance, I saw what I knew I’d see next – their mother’s body lying smashed on the white line a little further along the road.

I couldn’t help but feel for the orphaned ducklings and, as my heart softened, I immediately realised that I was being presented with two distinct pictures.  The first, a stark snapshot a sacrifice made so that others could live; the second, a metaphor for how we often behave, running around lost and bereft without a guiding presence.

As I drove on, I thought of a worship song lyric I’ve often sung – ‘break my heart for what breaks yours’ – and I realised I had been taken at my word, my heart breaking for His sacrifice and our need for Him.  More and more, I am drawn to conclude that my faith journey is experiential above all else.

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.


Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Anniversary Breakfast

Today, She Who Must Be Obeyed (aka my beautiful wife) and I celebrated 21 years of marriage.  We did so at Lombardis Cafe with a magnificent breakfast that, like our marriage, I initially found daunting, occasionally challenging but ultimately proved to be a wonderfully warm, satisfying & enriching experience. I love my wife.


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.

Time to tell a better story?

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

To the disqualified driver of the uninsured, street modified Honda who drove into the back of my car after tailgating me on yesterday morning’s commute into town.

  • I am trying to think well of you though your actions, behaviour and manipulations left me sad, annoyed and inconvenienced.
  • I wish you no harm and my hope is that you choose not to drive again whilst disqualified to do so.
  • I bear you no ill-will and my wish is that you respect the law and other road users enough to not drive whilst uninsured.
  • I trust you are as safe & healthy as when you left the scene and my prayer is that you hold those you meet in higher regard than you seemed yesterday.

In closing, please think about telling a better story with your life, taking responsibility for your actions and their consequences, and enriching the lives of others as well as yourself.


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.

Say Anything

Friday, January 14th, 2011

This American Life is rarely less than great and this old episode from 2003, featuring the marvelous words of Michael Bernard Loggins, is no exception.