Letters from the past

I’m currently undergoing a life coaching program called “Coach Yourself” which involves identifying life areas that need work and creating an action plan for change.  Part of the process is to write a letter from the future that describes life beyond the desired changes.  It’s an amazingly simple yet inspiring process.

Well, funnily enough I happened to be going through the oldest emails in my Gmail account.  This one is quite the pearl (I have replaced actual names with “…..”).

I am writing this just after the Sunday evening service, in response
to the ‘gospel’ message …. presented after the musical.  It is being
addressed to you as I do not know of any other Pastor or Elder (apart
from …..) who understands the clear distinction between easy
believism and the clear proclamation of the gospel including
repentance (though I am not saying that other Elders do not, merely
that I have no knowledge). As ….. was bringing his message to a close,
I began feeling extremely disappointed with what he had shared, as it
lacked the very key components of the wrath of God and repentance.  As
you well know, God’s love cannot be shared without the equalising
balance of His wrath. Christ had much to say about judgment, yet today
we hear so very little about it, in preference for an emphasis on
love.  And then I became most annoyed when ….. brought in the
‘sinner’s prayer’, which is the height and pinnacle of easy believism.

I know of a number of cases of people who once confessed Christ, some
strongly and others half-heartedly, and now do not follow Him at all.
I am sure you would know of a much greater number. Given that Pastors
would be well exposed to such statistics, it would seem that you would
certainly want to make absolutely sure that the gospel is clearly
presented, to avoid the serious repercussions of false belief.  Yet it
seems that time after time, the gospel continues to be only partially
presented, and this ‘gloss-over’ effect is overlooked by the majority.
We must earnestly contend for the faith!  I truly do want to discuss
this with ….., yet I thought it would be wise to pass it through you
first. I am sure that if John were around, he would make it an
eldership issue.

The issue of the gospel is one that eclipses our present turmoil, for
it has eternal ramifications. My hope and prayer is for the complete
eldership to come to an agreement on the essence of the gospel, and
refuse to allow any divergence to be proclaimed from the pulpit. I
leave this to your discretion, and if you feel that I am wrong in any
point, I certainly want to know.

Rejoicing with you in the Lord,

Do I really know the person who wrote this email?  Yes, it was me, but I can’t even identify with a single line.  It smells of arrogance, presumption, and elitism.  The only thing that I can read from it that remains is passion and sincerity.  Yet what a dreadful argument for the gospel, which in English is supposed to mean good news!  This is clearly the work of someone who read too much theology and yet had far, far too little practice.


Lonely Cities

It’s ironic how cities can be so populous, and yet contain some of the loneliest people.

There’s a whole host of reasons for this, and I won’t go into statistical data here.  The fact remains that more and more of us are boxed off from one another, and the walls just keep getting higher.

This is why I’m a huge fan of Meetup.com.  Having discovered it several years ago, I was grateful for an opportunity to join interesting activities and meet new people that I otherwise would not have known about.

Not everyone fairs well in some of the more traditional ways of making friends.  Work can be a huge disappointment, and we’re just not drawn to the watering holes (and if we are, we generally keep to ourselves anyway).  Family is far away, or if it is close it can be such a drain that relief only comes through distance.  We are not the sporting types, aside from the odd jog around the block.

Increasingly, we find our lives more and more invested online, in the virtual world.  This place can give you the illusion of friendship and can even leave you feeling satisfied……for a very brief time.  Then, when the space next to you in bed is empty, or you face another Friday night in front of the TV, you realize just how barren this world really is.

And that’s where Meetup.com enters the fray with a vision to transform cities into places where locals gather around numerous interests and find that very thing they crave….community.  Many a friendship, many an intimate relationship has been formed through this network.

One year ago having just moved to Brisbane I logged on to Meetup.com hoping to find a space for coffee lovers to meet.  While there was huge demand, this space did not exist, so I created it and adorned it with the name Brisbane Coffee Lovers (which I admit is actually copied from an American group using their own city name).  And it took off quickly.

In celebrating the anniversary, many people expressed their appreciation for the group, and how much it had changed their experience of Brisbane.  All because of my little whim to meet coffee geeks.  And I realized that my own experience of loneliness has now become the means by which lonely people can connect.

So I now christen this wonderful group with the following motto, and hope it continues in this vein:

Coffee is merely the bridge by which strangers become friends



Time

Am I the only one Who feels at mercy to the merciless tyranny of Time?
Being left to its devices I ache and crave
For I wonder if I will see my dreams
And I wonder if I will outgrow my past
Promise of possibility was given yesterday
I thought I would see it today
Alas, it remains out of my reach
A mere mirage
How can I believe?
Is there room for faith?
Must I wallow in despair forever?
Am I the most sensitive man
Doomed to teeter on the edge
By the ungracious hand of Time?


The Highly Sensitive Person @ Work

There have been so many times that I have wanted to deny, or have been in denial, the fact that I am highly sensitive.

I mean, it just doesn’t go down well to be a sensitive male in our macho-dominated culture.

To put it into perspective, I just started a new job where all of a sudden I was handed a great deal of responsibility.

Not being accustomed to such responsibility, I have found myself feeling so overwhelmed that I feel like I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Many, if not most people, chase the dollars and take on the burdens to do so.  I simply cannot.  The dollars don’t mean a great deal to me, and the pain is too much to bear.

Being sensitive means that when I’m under the pressure, drinking what would amount to most as a small amount of wine will really loosen me up.  But it’s only temporary, and too much reliance on it has further repercussions the following day.

I know I can’t continue this, and know there are plenty of other opportunities more suitable.  But it certainly has taught me a bit about my sensitivity threshold.  It’s such a shame that very, very few people understand.  Imagine trying to explain to the average Joe or Jill that my sensitivity limits my job potential – they’d think I was just a lazy bum!


Becoming Generously Orthodox

I need to blog more often.  It’s a creative output that balances the large amount of information that I take in from so many different sources, and gives me an opportunity to both process and chew on what I’m reading, and also share it with a wider audience.

It’s also a really good confessional!!

Unfortunately, I often fall into spells of self-pity, depression, and laxity, such that my motivations fall away, and I move towards whatever entertainment or pleasure I can consume.  Given that I am a product of a consumerist culture, this really is no surprise.

So today I went to church feeling rather downcast.  I’ve been disappointed in my abysmal social life, and lack of opportunities to meet people.  And I wanted to put the church partly to blame.  Yet as is often the case, God brings ease and comfort in my time of pain through the actions of a very imperfect church, such that I walk away feeling strangely lighter.

And I borrowed a book through the church library called A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren (which, if you’ve been here before, would know is my favourite author). Although I’m currently reading another book of his, The Secret Message of Jesus, this is one that complements it ever-so-nicely, for it seems to be a very personal book of Brian’s journey.

It really comes down to the fact that you really shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater; the project of Christianity which can seem more of a curse than a blessing holds a lot of hope.  There’s a place for orthodoxy, there’s a place for tradition, there’s a place for truth; but it’s a truth that is gloriously generous.

My prayer is that I might catch some of this generosity such that I let go of my self-pity, get out and take part in kingdom business, which is far more surprising and inspiring than trying to ‘save souls from hell’, as is too often the case.


The Way of the Cross

Here’s the good news:
Jesus is alive and has made the way of the kingdom crystal-clear.

Here’s the bad news:
We have been sold a lie that the good news Jesus told was about believing certain things about him so that we may avoid hell and enter heaven.

In fact, that would be far, far too easy.  And what Jesus told us was not easy at all.  His message was so deeply offensive to our deepest desires that it takes a personal crucifixion for us to enter the kingdom of God.

I must die to my need for personal comfort and satisfaction.

I must die to my cravings for the good life.

I must die to my cries of injustice towards those who offend me, or who indirectly make life difficult for me.

I must die to the envy I feel towards those who are better looking, or who enjoy richer relationships, who are married and have families and good homes.

I must die to feeling insecure.

I must die to the need for others to feel sorry for me.

This cross I bear, that I must die to all conceit, ego, pride, and every shameful way.

Yet his promise is clear:

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Life without all the above is a life without the struggle of survival.  It is a life of utter dependence upon the goodness of God.

It is Psalm 23 lived out completely, for “The Lord is my shephard, I shall not want”.

The Good Shephard came, died, and rose again, with the promise of a new life.  He would create in me a life that is free from every burden.  To enjoy this life, I am to “die daily” to everything that represents the old life lived in desperation and despair.

Today Lord I cry to you.  Lift my burdens and ignite the fire of your life in me.  I take up my cross, yet without torment, for you already bore that for me.  Release me from shame, and lift my spirit high, so that I might walk in your shoes, and be a worthy servant of a Great King.


Evolving Thought

Change is constant.

My absence from writing stems from a lack of inspiration, especially given the variability of my thoughts and beliefs.

The most visible manifestation of this on the blog at the moment is the removal of the feed for the Evolutionary Christianity blog.  This morning I realized just how much I differ from the views of the blog’s author, Michael Dowd, that I could not have his words side-by-side with mine.  Dowd calls himself a ‘Christian Naturalist’.  In other words, scientific rationalism and materialism cloaked in Christian language.  Dowd seeks to affirm both the insights of science and the language of faith in a kind of marriage, as he puts it.

As much as I have gained immensely from the podcast series he produced where he interviewed a wide variety of people on the spectrum of evolution and Christianity, I simply can’t accept his conclusions.  For Dowd, death is the end of life.  There is no concept of life beyond death, life beyond this realm.  God is seen simply as the language of Reality, of life as it is.  Dowd’s presentation in Thank God for Evolution is to completely re-interpret all of scripture in light of Darwin.

Funnily enough, I believe God used Dowd to draw me back to faith in Christ.  I needed his thoughts to call my doubts back to seeking God, back to the need for fellowship in a good church.  That’s what makes God so profound and lovely; he will use anything to draw his lost sheep back into his pasture.

Instead of being driven by doubt, I have chosen to cast it aside in favour of faith.  Both doubt and faith are merely different orientations towards Mystery.  One looks at Mystery with scepticism and reduction; the other looks at Mystery in awe and wonder.