Archive for July, 2013

Probably, my favourite genre of literature is biography. My bookshelf (and more recently, my Kindle-shelf) contains a wide range of biographies on politicians, musicians, missionaries, business people, and even sportspeople.

My current read is Bono On Bono: Conversations With Michka Assayas, a book that has been around a few years, but provides a very honest and revealing insight into the life of Bono, the lead singer of U2, described as one of the most influential musicians at work today. For those who are unaware, Bono’s band, U2, have sold a staggering 130 million albums and collected 14 Grammys in the last 25 years.

ImageHere’s some thoughts from Bono that are in line with some of the things I was saying in church yesterday:

Michka: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Michka: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?

Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you.

And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched

If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

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On Having a Point of View

Posted: July 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

On an average day everyone seems to be trying to convince me to make a commitment to a particular brand. It’s either Apple or Samsung, MacDonalds or KFC, Ford or Holden, SGIO or Bupa, Eagles or Dockers.

On a religious level there seem to be as many brand expectations: Baptist or Anglican, Calvinist or Arminian, Fundamentalist or Liberal, Pro Choice or Pro Life, Creationist or Evolutionist.  

And the lists go on…

I was sharing at church on Sunday about paradox and my view that in life we don’t always have to make a choice between one extreme or another. On many occasions it is quite alright to accept there are two points of view and that they are both valid in their own way.

That is not to say that we can avoid making a decision and happily sit on the fence on everything. Rather, I think there is a place for us to investigate and study the options, come  to the place where we understand the differences, then hold both sides together.

The healthy approach is when we come to a viewpoint of our own, but are still prepared to hear the other side and allow someone else the right to argue and defend their point of view, without animosity.

I’m convinced that Jesus is the only way by which we can find peace with God. However, I  know there are many people who figure there are other ways to know God, and some who don’t even believe there is a god.

As a Baptist, one of our fundamental beliefs is the freedom of religion – that is the right of everyone to practice the religion of one’s choice or no religion at all. This means that not only should I listen to what someone else says and respect their right to believe what they believe, but I will also defend their right to have that belief.

And since I am prepared to defend a person’s right to believe what they have chosen, I deserve the right to share my viewpoint with them.

It’s interesting that in a free country we are increasingly being told that we are being discriminatory if we express our viewpoints.

Here’s the video of last week’s amazing Fun Factory at Maida Vale Baptist Church, High Wycombe, Western Australia.

We had an average of 100 children each day and visitors included Akwaaba African drummers, Maori dancers, Operation Christmas Child and children’s entertainer, Sean W. Smith.

For three hours each day the children participated in games, activities, craft, singing, and Bible stories. The theme was Around the World, so each day we focussed on a different country, highlighting Africa, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, and Canada.

Sean W. Smith concluded the week with a concert, bringing us many of his favourite compositions.

Thanks to the many volunteers from the church who contributed to the success of the week’s events.

Enjoy the video.

It was our fourth day at Fun Factory today – still over a hundred kids and having a great time, though the leaders are all getting a little bit tired-er every day.

Our theme was New Zealand today, so in addition to the kiwi-themed stories, crafts and games, we had a visit from some Maori people who taught some new skills. There were some great efforts at Poi spinning and the boys all had us in fear with their rendition of the Haka.

Tomorrow is Canada day, but the highlight of the day will be the concert with Sean W. Smith.

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How do you feed hamburgers to 117 kids? Well, it take a lot of planning, good management, and a very long line. That was our third day at Fun Factory.

Our theme for the day was Mexico and there was no shortage of senoritas, senoras and senors, along with a visit from Yvonne and Robin from Operation Christmas Child, telling us about the annual shoe box appeal, and particularly telling us a story about a boy in Mexico whose life was changed when he received a Christmas box.

It was a great day with a great bunch of kids.  We’re off to New Zealand tomorrow. Image

Fun Factory Day Two

Posted: July 9, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

ImageOn Day Two of Fun Factory Around the World we had 103 children turn up for our focus on Japan.

Thanks to Rebekah Hunter who drew caricatures of the children in the Japanese style.

Tomorrow we are off to Mexico.

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IMG_3754What happens when you put more than 80 children in the same room as nearly 100 African drums? Bedlam? Surprisingly, the result is an amazing sense of unity.

On the first day of Fun Factory, Maida Vale Baptist Church’s annual holiday club, we put it to the test. Akwaaba, the local African drumming team came along and gave us half an hour’s incredible drumming. Instead of bedlam the children quickly got the beat and played along together.

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The theme for Fun Factory this year is Around the World, so tomorrow we’re off to Japan. Looking forward to another great day.

It’s probably a bit self-indulgent, but after reading many recollections on a Facebook site “I Remember Kalgoorlie When…” , I decided to put together a summary of some of the stories that I covered in two decades of journalism from 1973-1993. Fortunately, I kept files of many of my stories and photographs through these decades. It was interesting to go back and see names and events that brought back memories, but I realised after putting together some of the highlights that it actually represented a valuable historical journey through two decades of regional journalism. During that time I reported in the Goldfields, Kimberley and Gascoyne regions of Western Australia and interviewed some fascinating people. Have a look at it here, and enjoy the journey.

ImageI remember once riding a motorbike in the bush on the outskirts of Kalgoorlie. Alongside the track on which I was riding was a fence and on the other side of the fence an emu began chasing me. This emu may have been confused and upset at the sound of a motorbike, but instead of running away from me, it was running alongside me, constantly crashing into the fence that was clearly getting in the way of its efforts to attack the offending machine.

The emu and its futile efforts remind me of organisations (and I include the church) that struggle with the idea of change. Sometimes the fences are so secure and our view of the world is so narrow that change becomes a painful and frustrating exercise. The result is that change management involves re-educating emus, re-building fences that have been damaged, or are in the wrong place, and learning how to deal with offending motorcycles on the other side of the fence.

Compare this story with that of a caterpillar that has movement built into its body. There have been some fascinating discoveries recently about the way caterpillars move. (You can see a great video of this movement here). It seems that their internal organs move, followed by their legs. As they make their way up a leaf or branch their body maneuvers across all sorts of barriers in a very natural way, and every part of their body, led by their guts, move together to overcome the obstacle.

Too often organisations operate like emus bashing themselves against fences in a futile attempt at resolving problems, instead of being like a caterpillar that has change built into its system, starting with the internal organs. My observation of the way Jesus launched the church is that it is more caterpillar-like than emu-like. But over the years we have changed.  

It seems that for us to address the issues associated with a changing world and changing society, and for the church to survive in this new environment, we need to think of ourselves as being more like a caterpillar. Rather than change being something foreign and difficult, a caterpillar church sees change as a natural part of its existence.  A caterpillar church doesn’t see bumps as obstacles but part of the branch that we have been created to climb. A caterpillar church is constantly moving – gut first.