A Taste of Aussie Humour

Have you ever wondered why Australia is so far away from the rest of the world.  Maybe this gives you an idea.

New Meaning For Black Friday.

Well Black Friday has claimed its victims.  The first occurred in Long Island New York at a Walmart store but I have heard of other deaths as well since then.  As my friend Peter Geel commented

Strange, isn’t it, how in Saudi Arabia, people get stampeded during the Hajj. In India, during the pilgrimage to the Mandhara Devi shrine on a holy day. In America, when Walmart opens on Black Friday.

And another comment from Carol Ann Bass

I thought about that similarity as well and also about the soccer (futball) rushes too where people perish. It seems, however, that when it happens in situations like a shopping spree attended in order to buy more” things” for a spiritual holiday like Christmas, something is terribly vacant in our morality.

And some good thoughts and reflections on the subject from Eugene Cho at Beauty and Depravity

And all done in order to keep America spending and reboot the economy.


The to-and-fro of love

My rapid reading course has been slowed down by delving into Jean Vanier’s writing which I have not done since I read Community and Growth some years ago but am planning to make his writings part of my Advent discipline.

I am currently reading Jean Vanier: Essential Writings, and am being profoundly impacted by it partly I think because it resonated so deeply with NT Wright’s comment that the language of God’s kingdom is the language of love.  Here are a couple of quotes that I am reflecting on at the moment made more profound by this season of Thanksgiving when so many participate in meals for the homeless and abandoned and then turn their backs and forget about them.

To love is a way of looking, of touching, of listening to all: taking time with them, especially with those who are broken, depressed and insecure, revealing to them their importance.  As we take time with them and enter into communion with them, they in turn reveal to us our beauty.  Communion is a to-and-fro of love; we give and receive mutually.  (p44)

To eat at the same table is to become friends.  The vision of Jesus is to break down the dividing walls of hostility and prejudice that separe people and to bring them together in love.  But the poor are wounded and angry, fearful and depressed.  They disturb.  Their anger disturbs.  The rich too are wounded and fearful, hiding behind barriers of self-satisfaction and power.  Communities of faith, of God’s reign, rbing together into oneness those who by culture and education are far apart.  This is the body of Christ.  This is the church.  The poor are evangelized.  They discover they are loved.  but even more, the poor evangelize.  They possess a healing power that awakens and transforms the hearts of the rich. (p64)

Join the Advent Conspiracy

Advent is approaching rapidly and the organization Advent Conspiracy is coming out with some great videos to help us focus on the real meaning of the season.  Check out this great promo video

The Generosity of God – Fish and Loaves for all

The Middle Zone Musing topic for this month is What I”ve Learned from the Generosity of Others.  But I couldn’t get beyond the generosity of God and remembering the many times that God has overwhelmed me with overflowing abundance.  It seems to be a very pertinent reminder at this season when so many are grappling with how to continue to be generous when they see their life savings dwindling rapidly before their eyes.

The scripture verse I am always reminded of is 2 Cor 9: 10, 11  which I know many of you are probably sick of hearing me talk about.

“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousnes.  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

In many ways this has become the testimony of my life.  The first time I can remember being overwhelmed by the generosity of God was during my early days on board the Mercy Ship M/V Anasastsis.  We were stuck in Greece trying to resurrect this old ship, with very little money and very few resources.  We decided to call a 40 day fast to seek God’s guidance for the future.  We would meet for prayer every morning in a room that looked out over the Mediterranean Sea.

One day towards the end of our fast we looked outside and notices something flashing in the sunlight.  “The fish are jumping” someone called and we raced outside to find fish jumping out of the sea and stranding themselves on the beach.  We actually collected 8,301 fish that morning – and that isn’t counting the ones that got away. It was as though God was saying – in my time and in my way I will provide the harvest.

Fish in Greece

Fish in Greece

That was almost 30 years ago and though the Anastasis is no longer with us Mercy Ships is still providing medical and surgical help to thousands in Africa

God has poured out that same kind of generosity throughout my life.  I have always had enough for my daily needs and a generous amount to give away and I am not just talking finances here. God has given me generous gifts and talents which have multiplied as I have shared them with others in ways that continue to astound me. God has also given me generous friendships and colleagues.  Tom & I have friends literally all over the world.

God’s generosity isn’t confined to the pages of the Bible or to some deep distant past.  It present all around us today too but often we don’t see it because we hold to ourselves the things that God intends us to share.  The feeding of the 5,000 began with the generous act of sharing by a young boy who was probably hungry willing reached out to others with the little that he had.  The miraculous way in which God provided for Elijah through the widow and her son only occurred because she was willing to share her last meal.

I think that we only become aware of the abundance of God when we share our limited resources with others a theme which I have already reflected on in my post What I Learned from Stress in Times of Financial Crisis . But we also only become aware of the generosity of God when we look for it in the everyday events of our lives.  If we focus on our own needs we can easily get caught in a mentality of scarsity and feel that we don’t have anything to share… and that makes us more and more acquisitive and less generous.

What do you think?  Where have you become aware of the generosity of God in these days of scarsity?

Make Something Day Coming Friday

Make Something Day is almost upon us and has stirred quite a bit of discussion.  I love Julie Clawson’s post on the pros and cons of a day like this.  It really made me sit up and think about why I am participating in this.  I agree with her that people often make things that are useless and that in no way subverts the global economy.

What I have discovered this year however is that focusing on Make Something Day has made me think a lot more about the people that I am planning to give presents to.  And in the process I find myself reminiscing about times we have spent together, reminding myself of how special they are and praying for them as well.  It certainly beats that frenzy of buying at the last minute or on Black Friday which has sometimes characterized our Christmases in the past.  Tom is planning to refurbish a desk he has had since he was a child for our god child.  I am making a knitted purse for his sister Catie and hopefully will get that Lavender Lotion made that I am wanting to try for my garden chafed hands in the spring.  Tom already has the Aran sweater I knitted him – I just couldn’t wait until Christmas.   And I know that I will feel good everytime he wears it.

Tom's new Aran sweater

Tom's new Airan sweater

For me Make Something Day is more than a stand against the consumer culture.  It is about adding meaning to gift giving.

I personally love to receive home made items and always feel that they carry something of a person’s identity with them – maybe a little deposit of their soul. I find that when something has been made especially for me then I don’t want to throw it out. I wear it until it is rags. I think that one of the motivating forces for our consumer culture is the disconnect between the consumer and the person who produced what they are consuming. When we have relationship with the person who produced our goods our whole attitude changes. They are no longer goods to consumer but a small part of the person who made them.

On Sunday (the first Sunday of Advent) we will be decorating our Christmas tree and I particularly love to hang the home made ornaments. Some of them are those same cutsie craft articles that at other times I would despise but there is something special about ornaments that I pull out every year and hang on the tree, especially as some of the people that made them are now dead.

Changing the World Is Too Much Fun

Here is some interesting news just out from Christianity Today.  Evidently Rick Warren and Reader’s Digest are going into partnership to create the Purpose Driven Connection I am not sure at this stage how to react to this.  Is it buying into the empire or is it a good way to spread the gospel?  What do you think?

How to Change People’s Attitudes.

I found this article How To Change People’s Attitudes by Guy Kawaski and its links very intriguing.  Guy also posted an interesting post recently Looking For MR Goodtweet: How to Pick Up Followers on Twitter. I wasn’t sure whether I should get excited or scared at the implications of how easily we can manipulate what people think and believe.  Do I want to change people’s attitudes by what I blog and twitter?  To an extent the answer is yes but hopefully that is not the only reason.  Sometimes I think that these are great tools to draw people closer to God.  At other times I think that they are just another form of voyerism, a little like reality TV only on a more personal scale.

What do you think? Why do you blog?  Why do you read blogs?  And maybe more specifically why do you read this blog?   And if you Twitter what is your strogest motivation?

Reading About Community

Some of you are aware that this last week I started a self imposed reading discipline to undergird my desire to understand more fully why, from a faith perspective, community is important.  I have a stack of books a mile high in front of me and recommendations coming in every day.  Some of them are faith oriented, some are secular.  I am still looking for books that deal with community and faith historically, as well as theologically and practically.  I am also looking for books that discuss community models today and in the past – monastic communities, intentional communities and even virtual communities.  I also want to look at books on community organization as well as those on community within organizations.  So if you have any other suggestions of must read books I would love to hear from you.  It’s a good thing that I am an avid and fast reader.

As you look over the list you may notice that many of the links are to amazon.com  That is because often I could not find a good review or description elsewhere.  However if you plan to purchase these books I would highly recommend doing so from a local independent bookstore or from the author directly.

I started this week with a couple of very stimulating books

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leadership Organizations Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom is a very important book about the power of decentralization within organizations. I have also read Organic Community and The Search to Belong by Joseph Myers which both talk about how to shape an environment in which community can emerge naturally.  Now I am into Created for Community: Connecting Christian Belief with Christian Living by Stanly Grenz.

Next on my list are

Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block

The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons and Other Hangouts at the Heart of Community, Ray Oldenburg

Better Together: Restoring the American Community, Robert Putnam and Lewis Feldstein

The Becoming of G-d, Ian Mobsby

The Consuming Passion: Christianity and the Consumer Culture, Edited by Rodney Clapp

Community Organizing in a Diverse Society, by Felix Rivera and John Erlich

Church After Christendom, Stuart Murray

StormFront: The Good News of God, Brownson, Dietterich, Harvey and West

The Forgotten Ways, Alan Hirsh

Water from a Deep Well, Gerald L Sittser

Making Room: Discovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, Christine Pohl

Dissident Discipleship by David Augsburger

Journey Inward/Journey Outward by Elizabeth O’Connor

A Different Drum: Community Making and Peace by M. Scott Peck

When Love Bends Down: Images of Christ Who Meetss Us Where We Are, Michael Lodahl

Authentic Relationships: Discover the Lost Art of One Anothering: Wayne & Clay Jacobsen

Followed by books that describe various communities

Communities: The Story and Spirituality of Twelve European Communities, Jeanne Hinton

Fire, Salt and Peace: Intentional Christian Communities Alive in North America, David Jenzen

Celtic Christain Communities: Live the Tradition, Ian Bradley

Then I plan to revisit some of the old classics or at least what I think of as classics as well as books on the monastic traditions that still have so much to offer as we reflect on the place of Christian community today.

Community and Growth, by Jean Vanier

Reaching Out, by Henri Nouwen

Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, Nouwen, McNeill & Morrison

The Community of the King, Howard Snyder

Companions to the Poor , Viv Grigg

Restoring At Risk Communities: Doing It Togetehr and Doing It Right, John Perkins

Change the World in 5 Minutes

Here is a cool vidoe on ways that school kids can change the world,

Thanks to Green Inventions Central that first made me aware of this.