Friday, March 31, 2006

JoBloggs on the Song of Songs

My sister in law is blogging on the Song of Songs this week. Take a look if you're feeling brave.

Biblical Blogging

Having just spent a couple of hours wandering around the blogosphere, I came across Blogging and the wisdom of Solomon. For me, a very timely reminder that biblical principles can and should be consciously applied to all areas of our lives, including the way we read and interact via the internet.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Is commitment an option for generation Y students?

I recently put together these thoughts for something else. I'd be interested in any feedback especially from you gen Y's out there which should be most of you. Can I stress these are generalised observations from the book and my experience.

I work in a christian ministry to 18-22 year old university students. They are part of the options generation or generation Y (16-30 year olds). What is needed for christian ministry to flourish on campus is a real engagement with the word of God and one another. This takes time; weeks and months, not just a few days. It takes the dreaded C word, commitment.

Michael Grose says, with divorce having boomed in generation Y’s time, they are reluctant to commit to permanent relationships (XYZ – The New Rules of Generational Warfare, Random House 2005). They consider impermanence a normal state of affairs (p 96). He calls 18-26 age group twixters because they fall betwixt and between adolescence and adulthood (p 15). They want to keep their options open and defer traditional rites of passage like careers, marriage and kids as long as possible.

It’s not as though generation Y never commits to anything. What’s different is the way they make commitments. They commit with a STABO proviso in mind. Subject To A Better Offer. 24/7 communication technology puts their friends, the next party or social event only a text message away. To plan your next face to face social encounter in the midst of a current one is not unusual. Peer friends are still very important and form a strong second family in an age where parents work, families are smaller and there is less contact with older adults. Friends can be there at the drop of a hat for support and understanding as long as there is no better offer at the time!

Choice is the assumed birth-right of all consumers. Generation Y are heavily marketed to for their disposable dollar (p 91). Surf shops, juice bars and music are huge businesses that have developed and evolved just for them. The i-Pod was invented to appeal specifically to them. Having the latest technology for these digital natives is more about the social status that it brings rather than practical necessity.

However, keeping your options open is not always freedom. To fund mobile bills and spending habits, 55% of students hold down part-time jobs of 15 to 30 hours per week (p 15). They expect to pay off their uni HECS debts up-front to get the discount. Freedom comes at a cost. Classes get squeezed into 2-3 days a week (helped by night lectures) allowing zilch time for social interaction of any variety on campus. Relationships on campus don’t suffer because they never get off the ground. Students are time-poor now even before they start full-time work.

Commitment to anything on campus is becoming counter-cultural. This year our student union paid christian groups to help run the orientation week BBQ. We could supply students prepared to help out on the day. I’m not advocating commitment for its own sake. But commitment flowing from love, from truth or from any ideal is in short supply at uni. Students don’t need more options. They need to know commitment is not a dirty word. Commitment to something, someone, beyond oneself is not always imprisonment. More than that, they need to meet the one whose love to them is non-negotiable, no matter what.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Abdul Rahman

What follows is a letter that I sent to our Prime Minster and local MP this morning.

Dear Sir,

It has been brought to my attention that Afgan man, Abdul Rahman, is facing the death penalty for apostasy - converting from Islam to Christianity. Abandoning the muslim faith is against all schools of shari'a law and Afganistan's 2004 constitution supports this, stating that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam” (Article 3). However, the constitution’s preamble affirms that the people of Afghanistan will respect the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in Article 18 guarantees the freedom to change one’s religion.

Surely in 2006 we cannot allow this man to be killed for converting from Islam. Islam is a religion which is very active in making converts, however, it seems that this is a one way street in which people may enter the Islamic faith but never leave it.

Mr Swan, can I ask you to take up the cause of Muslims who choose to embrace another faith? The death sentence for apostasy is part of mainstream Islam and has been since the seventh century. An outpouring of indignation and protest on this issue from those who enjoy religious liberty in the West is long overdue.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours ...

I think this is a very important issue and urge you to become involved. For more information on Abdul Rahman, click here.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Railway Children

I love reading children's books, especially 'old-fashioned' ones. I recently came across this gem of a passage in Edith Nesbit's The Railway Children, first published in 1906:

"I say," said Peter, musingly, "wouldn't it be jolly if we all were in a book, and you were writing it? Then you could make all sorts of jolly things happen ....... Wouldn't you like to be writing that book with us all in it, Mother, and make Daddy come home soon?"

Peter's Mother put her arm round him suddenly, and hugged him in silence for a minute. Then she said:--

"Don't you think it's rather nice to think that we're in a book that God's writing? If I were writing the book, I might make mistakes. But God knows how to make the story end just right--in the way that's best for us."

"Do you really believe that, Mother?" Peter asked quietly.

"Yes," she said, "I do believe it--almost always--except when I'm so sad that I can't believe anything. But even when I can't believe it, I know it's true--and I try to believe. You don't know how I try ....."

Friday, March 17, 2006

Pet Peeve #2 : Lurking

I've had this term brought to my attention lately. Lurking. Doesn't sound nice, does it? Like some kind of perversion. But I'm a lurker. Everyday I lurk around my favourite blogs (my favourite is here) eavesdropping on other people's lives.

What does this say about me? Do I have a problem? Do I need counselling? Should I repent? Should I just get a life of my own?

I thought it was a fairly innocent activity until I heard the term. Now I wonder.

Does anyone else have a problem with lurking?

I haven't decided to give it up yet, so if you have any links for interesting places to lurk I'd love to hear of them.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

What's your focus?

My cousin emailed this to me the other day and it's worth sharing; it's from A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D A Carson...

Praying for Others

We are not strong enough or disciplined enough to take these steps ourselves. That is why Paul prays as he does. If the holy God is to count us "worthy of his calling," we must ask him for help. That is why Paul is praying: he is not simply asking the Thessalonians to try harder, he is praying for them to the end that God will count them worthy of his calling. Such a prayer is tantamount to asking that God will so work in their lives, so make them worthy, that ultimately he will count them worthy. And so this text asks us: When was the last time you prayed this sort of prayer for your family? for your church? For your children? Do we not spend far more energy praying that our children will pass their exams, or get a good job, or be happy, or not stray too far, than we do praying that they may live lives worthy of what it means to be a Christian? Many of us have had the experience of asking a parent, "How are your children doing?" only to get an answer like this: "Oh, Johnny's doing very well now. His career as a research physicist has really taken off. He is the youngest person in his company to have been appointed to the board. And Evelyn is doing very well, too. She's into computer programming and is already the head of her section." "And how are they doing spiritually?" A long pause. "I'm afraid they’re not really walking with the Lord at the moment. But we’re hoping they’ll come back some day." Of course, the initial response of such parents may be a reflection of nothing more than privacy, a quiet and loyal concern not to disparage any family member. But too often it reflects warped priorities. I have had parents, ostensibly Christian parents, rage at me because they thought I had influenced their bright children to train for ministry, perhaps for missionary service. Others are joyous over their children’s material prosperity and not terribly concerned over their children’s utter indifference to the God who made them. How will these values appear thirty years or forty billion years from now? From eternity’s perspective, what should be the primary things for which we should pray for our children, for ourselves, for our fellow believers? When was the last time we prayed for such things? When was the last time we prayed that God might count us worthy of his calling?

D.A. Carson commenting on 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
in A Call to Spiritual Reformation pages 54-55

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Judging vs Judgmental?

I have had an interesting experience over the last couple of weeks. As I was talking with a friend about the hurt that had been caused her by a Christian 'brother', I became really frustrated that he (who is a Christian) could bring the name of Christ into such disrepute, claiming, in the aftermath, that he doesn't care about his reputation (a fact which I seriously question anyway!)

He has become hurt over people's judgment of him and his actions. I've really struggled throughout this saga to know how to react to this guy. Part of me, wants to encourage him to pull up his socks, stand apart from the world, and act more like the man God would have him be. The other part of me says it's not my business ... But that doesn't 'sit' right either...

My question is ... As Christians, do we (do I?!) have the right to lovingly challenge people about their behavior if it doesn't line up with what God asks of us in the Bible? And if we do, what does that look like? Or, should we just leave them be, and accept that we all, as humans fall short of God's standards? We all have planks in our own eyes, right?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Pet Peeve #1 : Simple vs. Simplistic

I got a letter home from school last week asking for parents to come in and do 'simplistic' cooking demonstrations. AAAAHHHHH! This one really gets to me!

In an effort to sound sophisticated people replace the word 'simple' with 'simplistic'. If something is 'simple' it is clear and uncomplicated. But if it is 'simplistic' it has been overly simplified. Dumbed down. Simplicity is beautiful. Simplism is base.

I remember a uni lecturer once saying that the widespread misuse of a word will eventually change its meaning. No! I won't accept this! Will you stand with me and fight to protect our language from such vulgar simplism?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Not such a beautiful day?

I heard the news. Sorry to Cath and the thousands of other u2 fans.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Christian culture

As threatened, here's the whole new topic on "Christian culture", so we can stop digressing in Pete's "Christian Idol" thread.

Thanks Simone and Cath for your comments... Simone, that's the exact problem I'm talking about. Far too often it seems that Christians are content with second rate knock-offs of secular material, and we think that it's enough to just change a few lyrics here and there, or make the hero of the book a Christian, and that somehow this makes it worth supporting.

I was thinking along similar lines for what to see in Christian culture - that we live out our beliefs to the best of our God-given ability. The arts is always a touchy area, but can I add the criteria of "excellent and praiseworthy" as well as diverse? I don't think it's any more godly to enjoy Petra than Elton John - certainly Petra's lyrics do more to encourage a godly life, and the band members themselves have a more godly life and example than Elton, but he's a gifted songwriter who's written many excellent songs. No surprises here - I enjoy Petra's style more than Elton John's, but there are plenty of people who are the complete opposite to me! For another example - I quite like "Sweet Child of Mine" by Guns and Roses. Lyrically it appears fairly innocuous, and although their lifestyle is nothing to aspire to, the music is still excellent, if you like that style.

For part (c), maybe I didn't express it properly. It's a good point that for evangelism our life makes a bigger impact than anything else - I'm not downplaying that for a moment. I guess what I'm trying to promote though is that rather than Christians being mindlessly influenced by the world around them, why don't we turn it around and try to influence the world ourselves instead? So many of the great artists and scientists of history have been influenced by their faith in God and have influenced others as a result of that. So while yes, it's fine to enjoy Elton, or Britney, or G&R, I'd love to see more Christians doing excellent things to influence the rest of the world, rather than the other way around. Case in point - I don't particularly like Guy Sebastian's music, but I love the fact that he's spoken openly about his faith as a witness and encouragement to others. As winner of Aus Idol it was great to hear; but if he'd been winner of Australian "Gifted" instead, it would have been expected and had far less impact.

Anyway, that's enough from me - like I said, I'm pondering all of this so it's going to be a little disjointed, but I appreciate the comments. Maybe at some stage I'll try and write it all out coherently. Or maybe I could use my time to write something "diverse and excellent"! :)

bellevue tce

Monday, March 06, 2006

My Favourite Emily Dickinson Poem

If I can stop one heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain
If I can ease one life the aching
Or cool one pain
Or help one fainting Robin unto his nest again
I shall not live in vain

Friday, March 03, 2006

Christian Idol

As you all know, I'm a big fan of Australian Idol. I love American Idol too (why oh why did channel 10 dump it?). And if Nigerian Idol was shown in Australia, chances are I'd watch it as well. But this is way too much even for me. Check it out here or here.

Who am I?

Struggling with an identity crisis? Hear from Uncle Dietrich and take heart.

Who am I

Who am I? They often tell me
I would step from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I would talk to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I would bear the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, March 4, 1946.