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Archive for January, 2009

In the middle of an energy sapping heatwave here in Adelaide (yesterday hit 45°+), i had the good fortune to bunker down for an afternoon chatting with a couple mates.  I would like to report that it was the ‘spirit of friendship’ i most valued but i must admit it was more the ‘spirit of the air-conditioner’ i invested my hope in.  The conversation was a close second.

During the conversation the topic turned to ‘spiritual disciplines’, particularly fasting.  As a person who has long thought he should give fasting a go, i was intrigued to hear from somebody who had actually practiced it!  My friend reported that he had ‘fasted’ from watching television for a long period of time and found it to be a powerful experience.  He then confessed that due to a perceived weakness in unbalancing talking with listening he was keen to fast from talking for a short time (a vow of silence i suppose).  I was impressed by his self-awareness and willingness to submit himself to a Godly discipline in order to seek God’s empowerment to help him grow.  It seemed to me that in his case fasting was a liberating act rather than a religious duty.  I went home in my ‘sauna on wheels’ with the concept of fasting firmly on my mind.

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The Science of Happiness

My friends at the AAANZ have linked to an interesting article on the Simple Living Network website.

Apparently, a group have scientists have come up with the top 10 things that will make you happy…i reckon they actually might be on to something!  Looks a lot like a ‘Jesus-type’ type life to me…what do you think?

 

10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy

 

 

smile

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After lamenting some of the negative issues regarding the date we celebrate Australia Day (aka Invasion Day, as highlighted again by new Australian of the Year Professor Mick Dodson), today I would love to highlight a true Australian hero who should inspire us all.

 

Jonty Bush has been named Young Australian of the Year. (Nine News)

 

Young Australian of the Year Jonty Bush knows more than most the pain of violence.  And yet she has refused to stay a ‘victim’, instead working tirelessly as an anti-violence campaigner.  She needs to be reflective of the new spirit of Australia…a voice for justice, non-violence, restoration and reconciliation.

 

Read her story here

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Well Said Coach

On the eve of Australia Day (celebrated on January 26th), the words of revered AFL football coach Ron Barassi caused to me to stop, reflect and hope.

After waking around midday from my night-shift induced stupour, i jumped on the net and found this interesting article:

Barassi calls for new Australia Day

 

Barassi’s call for a rethink regarding the date we celebrate Australia Day is one i wholeheartedly agree with.  It is an opinion shared by many who are not patriotically blind regarding our history.  What makes his comments even more powerful to the populace, is that he is iconically Australian as a legendary footballer and coach.  And he is a 70-odd year old male; not the young, revisionist hippie types we are led to believe make these types of comments.  This man has credibility. 

As stated in the article, the date we celebrate Australia Day (and yes, i believe the concept of the day has merit) is none other than the day that the first white settlers from Britain disregarded the humanity of the indigenous population and claimed the land to be terra nullius.  With few exceptions, this led to the conquer, exploitation and genocide of the native inhabitants of our nation.  From these inhumane beginnings right on through to the ‘Stolen Generation’ and beyond, Aboriginal Australia has crumbled under the weight of cultural and familial destruction, alcoholism and other health burdens, violence inflicted upon them and perpetrated by them, and the patronistic (and often-times racist) ‘care’ of the political system.  Australian indigenous relations stands as the major blight on our proud history and yet, of all the days we could celebrate positive aspects of our country and call us to something greater, we choose the day that symbolises our greatest injustice.  To those who simply claim “get on with it, it was not us who did it, they get handouts so why don’t they help themselves”, i think we fail to understand the complexities of their struggle.  While i’d like to think such attitudes reflect a recognition of the inherent strength, creativity, capacity and beauty of the Aboriginal cultures of Australia, i fear they are thin veil for the ongoing racism birthed on January 26th, 1788.

As an Australian i am proud of many, many things, but how can i celebrate that?

As provocatively stated by a protesting Facebook group, Australia Day is Invasion Day.  In an era in which our nation has been party to two wars invading other nations (though for obviously different reasons), perhaps it is sadly poignant that we ‘celebrate’ Invasion Day. 

Is this the heritage we aspire to? 

Do all our national holidays need to be shrouded in a violent past?

Can we not distinguish all that is good about us without glorifying death and destruction?

 

As an Australian i believe we should celebrate, and hence aspire to, something greater.  As Barassi rightly suggested, efforts towards reconciliation and peace between our hurting indigenous brothers and the rest of the nation would be a wonderful start.  We could celerbate both our deep connection to the land and our modern feats of technology and innovation.  We could celebrate the ‘iconic’ toughness and ingenuity of the early settlers as well as the brash Aussie boldness of our gifted young people.  We could learn equally from our rich indigenous cultures as well as the amazing diversity brought to our shores by a variety of migrants over the past 221 years.  We could honour the bravery and sacrifice of those who have given their lives for what they believed was a just cause while committing to a better way to enact future change without the futile coercion of violence.  We could be inspired by the many world-changing artists, writers, doctors, activists, sportspeople, scientists etc that Australia has produced.  We could be convicted by those in our past who have cared for the hurting and acted to end injustices.

These are the stories which can truly make us proud Australians…all of us.

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Every now and then you encounter something that provides an ‘a-ha’ moment of revelation.  It could be a book, a speech, a sermon, a movie, a song, a glimpse of nature at its finest, an act of kindness or sacrifice.  Whatever it is, it immediately speaks to your inner being and gives you fresh inspiration or direction.  It can happen in a moment but change your life forever.

A couple of days ago i experienced such a moment when i came across an excellent post written by ‘Perth Anabaptist’ Nathan Hobby. 

 

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The Beatitudes 2

Todays reflection on the Beatitudes come from the Cotton Patch version of the New Testament.  The Cotton Patch version was written by a man named Clarence Jordan.  Living in the deep south of Georgia during World War 2, Jordan co-founded a small religious community called Koinonia Farm (koinonia meaning communion or fellowship) and was later instrumental in the founding of Habitat for Humanity.

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The Beatitudes 1

As I mentioned recently, the literature which has most captivated me in life is Jesus’ ‘sermon on the mount’.  This discourse can be found in the Bible, in the Book of Matthew (chapters 5-7).

Most famous are the ‘beatitudes’ (from the Latin beatus, meaning ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’).  The beatitudes may be found at the beginning of Chapter 5.

The beatitudes (and indeed the whole sermon on the mount) have a timeless relevance.  Not in an ‘other-worldly’ or abstract sense but rather in a gritty, life-transforming, world-changing sense.  The lives of MK Ghandi and Martin Luther King are extraordinary evidences of the power of the beatitudes embodied.  For those who choose to follow the way of Christ, we also are called to embody these truths.  In order to engage this challenge, i have enjoyed searching out different interpretations and explanations of these inspiring and enchanting words.  Over the lifetime of this blog, I’ll throw a few of my favourites in.

Today we shall start with an interpretation written by Eugene Peterson in his contemporary language version of the Bible, The Message. 

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.  Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are- no more, no less.  That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.  He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care.  At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world- your mind and heart- put right.  Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.  That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

“You’re blessed when you’re commitment to God provokes persecution.  The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

“Not only that- count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me.  What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.  You can be glad when that happens- give a cheer, even!- for though they don’t like it, I do!  And all heaven applauds.  And know that you are in good company.  My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

 

Amazing stuff. 

Every time i read it i am drawn to different truths.  Tonight, the line “at the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for” captures my attention.  It is uncanny how often this truth plays out.  It seems that the moment you act for the good of others, your own good is serendipitously met. 

Unfortunately, prioritising care for others tends to run against our instincts to look after ‘number one’.  We care foremost about our own standing, we clamour to ensure we do not miss out on whatever is on offer, we order our lives to promote personal security now and into the future, we measure our significance by comparing and competing with others, we build extensive barriers in our life to protect our physical and emotional safety. 

In essence we are primarily careful. 

This is not always a bad thing.  But too often being careful dictates that we neglect being care-full, and actually care-less about anyone other than ourselves. At its worst, it is all about our feelings, our dreams, our wants, our insecurities, our excess baggage that we cling to.  Such an egocentric life is not compatible with being care-full.  Conversely, being care-full is costly, it is risky,  it is courageous, it is tough, it may even be careless!  It is also the way of Christ.  Whatever we lose following this way, we will eventually gain even more.  So let’s throw caution to the wind, resist the urge to be care-less or careful all the time, take the counter-cultural challenge and do something which could be seen as quite careless- be care-full!

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