Monday, February 29, 2016

The Nike approach

Just Do It.

This is what Nike has been telling people to do since 1988.

But, it applies to far more than just shoes.

It can also apply to...
Healthy eating.
Bible reading.
Using a prayer journal.
Using a budget.

Really, it applies to anything which you know will be for your benefit.


Because, while you're somewhat willing, you haven't yet mustered up the gumption to incorporate this discipline into your life.

Trust me, I'm a master at both procrastination and excuses.
You're too busy...
You're too tired...
You're too... whatever...

Really, all you need to be told, especially from someone you trust, is to... Just. Do. It.

Starting today.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Playing out of position

I mentioned in yesterday's Tiny Bible Bit that I don't play guitar.
I also don't play drums.
I also don't lead singing, except for the time I did it here.

But, if I were so inclined, I could put in the time to learn/develop the skills and have certainly been involved in churches where these talents have been, for whatever reason, required.

The problem with that, potentially, would be the time when I cross the imaginary threshold of proficiency when I felt that I could expose my undiscovered talent to the masses.

And then, if I were in a familiar setting, it would appear that I'd be playing out of position.

For, in my church-life, I've be involved in a lot of things.
Music was/is never one of them.

So, would I be a hindering distraction if I suddenly appeared behind the microphone, amplifier or drum kit?

Would my "new position" throw people so much that they would, at least for a while, struggle to connect with God?

Would my irregular involvement put more focus on me than Jesus?

For, over time, we set the expectations of our involvement at church.

For some, it will be musical.
For some, it will be leading the service, praying or preaching.
For some, it will involve pastoral care/support.
For others, it will involve serving unassumingly behind-the-scenes.

Now, with every church or ministry transition, you have the chance to reset the expectations.

Now if I only took drumming, guitar or singing lessons over Summer...

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Why I don't believe in "the one"

I own the complete box set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sure, it's currently unwatched and still in its original wrapping, but nonetheless, it's in our DVD collection.

In truth, of the seven seasons, the last one was the weakest. But it did utilize the idea of Potential Slayers - those who could potentially become the new Vampire Slayer if the predecessor dies.

Why do I bring this up?

Now, if you look at my little profile picture on the right-hand-side, you'll notice that I'm married. Obviously, I believe in love and making a commitment to someone.

But I don't think, in life and romance, there is "only one."

First of all, for most people, they're aware that they could have, in a sliding-doors type scenario, quite possibly ended up, and been happy, with a number of people (obviously not concurrently!). Sure, not everyone that you're potentially compatible with would (or should!) walk down the isle with you, but some would make a perfectly adequate coupling.

Second, I find the concept of the "the one" harmful in the way it applies pressure on...
Those looking for love - Will the next person be "the one?" or have I already missed them?
Couples whom start dating - Am I this person's "the one" and is this "the one" I've been waiting for?
Those in a damaging relationship - Can I separate myself from he/she whom I thought was "the one?"

Third, the idea of "only one" is insensitive to those who have, for whatever reason, lost their first "one love." Do we really want to tell widows/widowers, that they have no hope of finding true love again because their "one" has died?

Instead, I think that life, and God, offers you potential "ones." There are a number of people who we could, gladly, end up with.

For many, luckily, they have found one.

But, I'm not convinced that the world is directed like a cosmic version of snap, where ever other card is a mismatch.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Grieving over a dead ministry

When you go through loss - no matter if it's a loved one, a relationship, a job or a ministry - you travel down the path of grief and negotiate its various stages.

From ministry, either vocational or volunteer, you draw a lot of positives as you serve and journey alongside others. And, when a ministry venture comes to a close, the loss can be great.

As such, you traverse through the stages of grief...

Denial: No matter if the loss was expected or sudden the wound is fresh and you're in shock at the change. You'll wish that everything could go back to "normal" and you could "wake up from the nightmare."

Anger: You want to lash out in order to maintain the feeling of control, no matter what your degree of culpability, as the wound is still raw.

Bargaining: You play the "what if..." game and scenario a heap of past events in order to envisage how things might have paned out differently. But, you can't go back in time...

Depression: Now, you actually feel the loss and the vacuum it's created in your life - time, money, relationships, feeling of purpose and accomplishment...

Acceptance: You figure out a new reality and how you best function in that new realm. Now the wound is a scar that you learn to live/deal with.

Given enough time in the church, you'll find out that some things you're involved with come to a close. Ministry activities and, even ministry vocations, aren't meant to last forever.

The best thing we can do is recognize that, with the closure of a ministry, their will be pain, and grief, but, thankfully, that need not be where we choose to stay.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Is prayer natural and why it matters

My three-going-on-four-year-old talks. A lot.
She babbles about random things...
She sings...
She tells stories...
She takes up great slabs of time at daycare sharing in the "news time" about her cat and baby sister...

But this ability to talk has been developed over a number of years.

And now that I've got a newborn who can only communicate via crying, it has me wondering...
Do we, as humans, have the innate ability to communicate?
And, if so, do we have the innate ability to talk?

I think, with no solid research to back me up, that the first question is clearly true. From the instant we are born, we want the world around us to have some clue about what's going on for us. As a baby, it all revolves around tired, hungry and uncomfortable.

But, the second question is more puzzling, for we communicate beyond mere words. The language we use is something which we develop and learn from those around us.

The two questions bring me to the topic of prayer...

Do we, as humans, have the innate ability to communicate spiritually?
And, if so, do have the innate ability to pray?

Again, without any solid basis, I suspect that the answers may mirror those above.

As humans, have an internal desire to communicate with the world around us, including he/she/it/they who put us here, made everything and keeps us accountable.

But, this desire to communicate is one which is shaped over time.

In short, we might desire to pray, but we must be given to tools to do it most effectively. We need to develop a spiritual language to free our tongues.

And here's why it matters in terms of evangelism and discipleship...

When we tell people about God, or when they come enquiring, we are not speaking about something which is totally foreign. There is an inbuilt spark which we are tapping into.

And, when it comes to walking with people on their journey-of-faith, we have the responsibility to talk seriously about the richness of the faith traditions (even the ones I don't particularly engage with) and the language of theology. Here we expose then to the language of the faith and expressions which have been used for millennia.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The dual-present problem

In yesterday's post announcing the arrival of our new daughter, Emily, I promised that I would shed light on the dilemma that would face her surrounding her birthday and dating.

Did you work out what it would be?

In short, it has to do with two dates.

February 14th & 16th.
Valentine's Day & Emily's birthday.

What will the person she's in a relationship with do when it comes to these dates?

Now, this dilemma can easily be transferred to a birthday and an anniversary, Christmas and any occasion where gift giving is expected.

What do you do when you're in a relationship with someone and a two-hit-combo of present exchanging is approaching, especially if you're not committed to the relationship?

If you're the dual-present purchaser, do you bail on the relationship before you need to give the presents?

If you're the dual-present recipient, do you stick with the relationship for a few more weeks in order to get the anticipated bounty?

Now, I would hope that Emily would never need to face this conundrum (and would certainly never be so shallow as to milk a boyfriend for gifts), but the problem remains...

(unless I make good on my threat to lock my daughters under the house from the ages of 12-30 in order to avoid all that dating awkwardness)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Expanding to two

Yesterday my family grew by another girl, Emily Joan.
He big sister looks fairly pleaded...

Tomorrow I'll post on the dilemma that Emily will face surrounding her birthday and dating...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The checking-out signs

I've written about youth/young adult drop out points and those who leave/are considering leaving the church a significant amount.

Why? Because it happens all too often.

If you hang around a church long enough, other people will leave. Some will leave well, others will not.

Chances are, given enough time, you'll also transition through a church or two.

But the decision to leave is not always an abrupt choice. It comes in stages and with warning signs.

For, before people drop out, they usually start to check out...

They check out financially - they stop giving or purposely redirect their gifts to "certain areas."
They check out intellectually - they stop engaging their mind and go into screen-saver mode during sermons.
They check out relationally - they disconnect from people at church, only engaging in safe small-talk.
They check out emotionally - they stop caring about the vision or the overall well-being of the church.

All these can, and normally do, happen well before someone drops out physically.

Friday, February 12, 2016

I can't write good sermons (at least currently)

Today, while walking the back-streets of a leafy Northern-Sydney suburb, I considered my options for keeping "ministry sharp."

Currently, I haven't pitched a tent in either eventually-going-back-into-ministry or not-going-back-into-vocational-ministry camp, but I've been doing a few things to keep my mind engaged.

Aside from engaging in the bible reading plan I wrote about in my last post, I've also worked my way through a theology textbook and am currently writing notes on an ethics book.

But, could I spend some time writing sermons like I used to do?

In short, I don't think I could.

At least, not good sermons.


Because sermons aren't designed to happen in a vacuum.

The crafting and delivering of a sermon are pastoral activities.
They need personal context.
They require community.
They need faces to think of and actual problems to wrestle with.

If I sat down and wrote my thoughts about a passage, it might closer reflect a commentary - in a similar fashion to the way I personally studied the bible for a number of years - but it wouldn't be a true sermon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My bible reading plan

Where do I start my next bunch of Ramblings??? (I've only got 33 topics to choose from...)

One of the best things I did over the Summer was buy the new NIV study bible. It's the first bible, for my personal use, that I've brought for well over a decade... and it's pretty awesome.

My plan was/is to read the entire New Testament by the end of the Summer (which has morphed into the end of March).

As such, I scoured the internet to find a bible reading plan which would take around three months (since I was planning to take Sundays off).

But, alas, I couldn't find anything which tickled my fancy.

So, I sat down with my new bible and developed my own, trying to connect the natural thought chunks from the various books.

My last scripture reading scheme was back in 2012, which I posted about here. Needless to say, that time, I failed spectacularly!

This time I'm doing much better, currently sitting on day 39.

For most of you, you can stop reading now because the rest of the post will just be a massive list, but here are how the days & readings break down... (you'll notice that the overview articles and book introductions are included within the schedule)

Day 1 - New Testament intro
Day 2 - Matthew intro, Matt 1-4
Day 3 - Matt 5-7
Day 4 - Matt 8-12
Day 5 - Matt 13-17
Day 6 - Matt 18-21
Day 7 - Matt 22-25
Day 8 - Matt 26-28
Day 9 - Mark intro, Mark 1-3
Day 10 - Mark 4-8
Day 11 - Mark 9-13
Day 12 - Mark 14-16
Day 13 - Luke intro, Luke 1-2
Day 14 - Luke 3-7
Day 15 - Luke 8-12
Day 16 - Luke 13-17
Day 17 - Luke 18-21
Day 18 - Luke 22-24
Day 19 - John intro, John 1
Day 20 - John 2-5
Day 21 - John 6-10
Day 22 - John 11-14
Day 23 - John 15-17
Day 24 - John 18-21
Day 25 - Acts intro, Acts 1-2
Day 26 - Acts 3-5
Day 27 - Acts 6-8
Day 28 - Acts 9-12
Day 29 - Acts 13-15
Day 30 - Acts 16-18
Day 31 - Acts 19-23
Day 32 - Acts 24-28
Day 33 - Epistles intro
Day 34 - Romans intro, Romans 1
Day 35 - Romans 2-4
Day 36 - Romans 5-8
Day 37 - Romans 9-11
Day 38 - Romans 12-16
Day 39 - 1 Corinthians into
Day 40 - 1 Cor 1-4
Day 41 - 1 Cor 5-7
Day 42 - 1 Cor 8-11
Day 43 - 1 Cor 12-14
Day 44 - 1 Cor 15-16
Day 45 - 2 Corinthians intro, 2 Cor 1-2
Day 46 - 2 Cor 3-7
Day 47 - 2 Cor 8-13
Day 48 - Galatians intro, Gal 1-2
Day 49 - Galatians 3-6
Day 50 - Ephesians intro, Eph 1
Day 51 - Ephesians 2-6
Day 52 - Philippians intro, Phil 1
Day 53 - Philippians 2-4
Day 54 - Colossians intro, Col 1-2
Day 55 - Colossians 3-4
Day 56 - 1 Thessalonians intro, 1 Thess 1-3
Day 57 - 1 Thess 4-6
Day 58 - 2 Thessalonians intro, 2 Thess 1-3
Day 59 - 1 Timothy intro, 1 Tim 1
Day 60 - 1 Tim 2-6
Day 61 - 2 Timothy intro, 2 Tim 1-4
Day 62 - Titus intro, Titus 1-3
Day 63 - Philemon intro, Philemon 1
Day 64- Hebrews intro, Hebrews 1-2
Day 65 - Hebrews 3-5
Day 66 - Hebrews 6-10
Day 67 - Hebrews 11-13
Day 68 - James intro, James 1-2
Day 69 - James 3-5
Day 70 - 1 Peter intro, 1 Peter 1-2
Day 71 - 1 Peter 3-5
Day 72 - 2 Peter intro, 2 Peter 1-3
Day 73 - 1 John intro, 1 John 1-2
Day 74 - 1 John 3-5
Day 75 - 2 John intro, 2 John 1, 3 John intro, 3 John 1
Day 76 - Jude intro, Jude 1
Day 77 - Revelation intro
Day 78 - Rev 1-3
Day 79 - Rev 4-8
Day 80 - Rev 9-11
Day 81 - Rev 12-16
Day 82 - Rev 17-20
Day 83 - Rev 21-22

Now I'm off to read four chapters from 1 Corinthians...

Monday, February 8, 2016

Regular transmission resumes

Well, where do I begin? 

I haven't written a "real" blog post for 97 days.

In that time, life has changed. A lot.

I'm now reading gas meters "full-time."
If my wife has her way, my second child will be born imminently.
And, I'm taking some time out from ministry (which I'm sure you'll hear the story of in due time).

In fact, my life, in many ways reflects what it did when I started this blogging journey back in 2008

So, the Ramblings will now return to regular transmission. 

And trust me, after three months off, there are a lot of ministry, church and youth Ramblings to get off my chest...

Friday, February 5, 2016

A little more conversation...

It's been awfully quiet around here the last few months whilst my life has undergone a lot of transitions.

But, I'll be back blogging from Monday...

Unless my wife starts giving birth to our second child over the weekend. Did I mention that life is undergoing a lot of transitions???