Thursday, December 4, 2008

Free CD? Yes please!

Hey y'all,

My mate Bob Kauflin and the guys at Covenant Life have decided to memorise ten worthwhile hymns over the next ten months, and to assist with that they've recorded a CD with some fairly good remixes. And you can get it for free! (Or whatever you want to pay for it).

Like the rest of Sovereign Grace's stuff, I listened through it once and it didn't immediately jump out and grab me - but then I listened through again, and before I knew it, I'd listened through a dozen times. It's good stuff, believe me.

So head on over to, download it, and get into some good lyrics put to some good music in a variety of different styles. For free. Did I mention the free bit? That's what sold me... so worth it!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What on earth is that falling from the sky?!?

The Christian Union is having a 24 hour prayer time at the uni at the moment - I just got home from doing the 7pm - 7am shift to get a bit of sleep before returning for the rest of it (and then two birthday parties immediately following).

Upon exiting the nice, warm classroom, I immediately thought it seemed a little more fresh than usual... then opened the doors outside to discover the most beautiful sight ever - dawn was just breaking and sending pink hues across the sky, and it was SNOWING!!! Imagine that - snow!!! It's not just something they made up for the TV to fool us all, it actually comes from the sky! I got a weird look or two as I walked home, most of the way with my head raised and my tongue out as far as it could go to taste some.

It was an amazingly cool experience - to be spending some time with the Big Guy and then to depart from that to discover that He's decided to paint some new pictures on the scenery. So, so cool.

...but also so, so, SO freaking COLD! My hands have literally dropped off, which has required me to type this with my nose, which is also about to go. So if I suddenly stop typing, you'll know w

(That was just a joke. My hands haven't really dropped off.)

Nick's English Week

It's been a while - no surprises there, really. Over the past two months I've basically just been doing life here, so I figured I'd post a quick rundown of my standard week for your reading pleasure. (Who'd have thought life goes on as normal in another country?)

10am - Church at St Andrews, Eaton. It's an old school Anglican church with organ and lots of old people - new experience for me, and I'm actually kind of enjoying it. The main reason I'm going is because the pastor (sorry, the vicar rather) is a really, really top-notch bloke named Phil Rodd. Adam Moore's the youth guy there too, and including he and I, there are approximately two people in the 18-35 age group. As I said, this is a new experience for me, and it's good to be able to support him!
Sunday roast for lunch - usually chicken or pork. Good stuff.
8pm - student Bible study at Holy Trinity, the more-modern Anglican church that I first got in contact with when I arrived.

Monday's generally my day off - I don't have anything to do until
4pm - Creative writing: Poetry. Lots of reading and writing poems, it's a very cruisy class.
6pm - Confirmation classes. Adam and I take two classes of kids who are looking at getting confirmed, and for an hour each week we go through an aspect of Christianity. Next week's the last one, because the confirmation service is next Sunday. Monday's group has 4 kids aged between 11 and 13.

Cleaning day! Spend between three and four hours doing the whole house's vacuuming/mopping, as well as cleaning all the bathrooms and any other assorted jobs that need doing.
4pm - Pick up Mima (the youngest kid (9 years old)) from school and take her to her Bible class at Holy Trinity. Lots of fascinating discussions abound in this twenty minute walk.
7:30pm - Christian Union. Basically a church service for the CU guys, with music and a speaker that comes in generally from one of the churches in the city or one of the university heads.

9am - Actor and the Text performances. Two 15 minutes performances with workshopping immediately following. I've been in one so far, have to do one more before the end of semester.
12noon - Creative Writing: Prose. A fun subject which is spent workshopping each other's pieces. My one's due in this Wednesday, should be fun.
7pm - Confirmation class 2. This class has 6 kids who are a bit older - between 12 and 16.

9am - Actor and the Text seminar. Do all sorts of assorted exercises in this class, generally revolving around the theories of acting.
1pm - CU Action group. Basically a Bible study with a few other guys and girls from the CU.

7am - Breakfast with Patrick, Zac and soon-to-be John. Really good English breakfast too. Prayer and Bible study to follow.
The rest of the day is spent doing uni work, meeting up with people and doing some more assorted jobs.

Finishing up whatever hours I have left for the week, and then going out with mates and doing stuff.

Obviously there are a lot of gaps in this timetable - that's generally spent doing a few extra hours around the house, hanging out with mates at their house, one of the many pubs in Norwich or seeing shows/gigs, actually doing some uni work and talking with people from back home.

So that's basically been my life the past little while, and will be for about three more weeks. I shall endeavour to update a little more frequently with some of the more interesting things that have happened (including a trip to LEGOLAND!!!, seeing a freaking AWESOME funk band with three saxophones named Small Town Bullies - look them up on Facebook, and seeing Quantum of Solace twice. Is that out in Aus yet?)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Challenge or Opportunity?

Over the past few weeks, the story of Naaman has popped up at least three times. When that happens, you tend to sit up and take notice of it.

One of the things that strikes me about the story (which you can read in 2 Kings 5) is the difference in reactions from the king of Israel and from Elisha. Read verses 6-8:

The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: "With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy."
As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, "Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!"

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: "Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel."

When approached by Namaan, the king immediately saw it as a challenge, and a situation wherein he would lose some of his own power. Contrast this with when Elisha encountered the situation. Elisha saw it for what it really was - an opportunity for God's power and might to be shown.

Which got me thinking, how do WE react when faced with challenges from people questioning us about God? Do we get worried or depressed that we'll say the wrong thing, or that they'll laugh at us and we'll lose face with them? Or will we praise God that He's getting an opportunity to work through us, and show Himself to those people?

Philemon verse 6 reads "I pray that you will be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." When faced with questions and with challenges, it's an opportunity for our own lives and our own knowledge of who we are in Christ to be strengthened! While Namaan benefited greatly from his experience in Israel, surely Israel also benefited - because they had the opportunity to see how great and powerful their God was.

So in all circumstances, don't be afraid to do a shift in your mindset and turn challenges into opportunities. Everyone benefits, and God gets the glory.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Wales and Norwich

Wow, it's been a while since I've updated. Apologies to all.

So I finished up in Edinburgh, and then caught a plane to Bristol, Wales. From there I had to catch a train for thirty minutes, and it cost me eight pounds. Eight pounds for a half hour train ride! Ridiculous. In any case, that took me to Newport, where I met up with Mike. For those not in the loop, Mike was the first Aussie guy to have gone through the Sovereign Grace pastor's college, and he's currently doing an internship in Wales.

Spent some time talking with him and the other pastors there, and was quite excited to discover that they're looking at planting the first Australian Sovereign Grace church in Newcastle. Quite intriguing how God's leading works, hey? I was able to fill them in on the current church situation around there and we brainstormed about how they would best be able to serve the community and stuff, it was great.

I also got to hang out with these guys:

They're what's known as the "Gap team" at the church - 5 Americans and a Pom. I stayed in an old English house with the three blokes, and we had a great time bach-ing it up, playing PS3 and doing ministry stuff.

Anywho, speaking of God's leading, remember our mate Chris, the guy on staff at St Helen's in London? Well, I went to that church, and asked about some decent churches in Norwich. One of the pastors there gave my email to another guy there, who emailed me with an email address for a pastor here in Norwich, who I then emailed. He then put a notice in the bulletin asking about accommodation, and the day after I got an email from Janet Malcolm saying that they were going to an au pair agency that week for some help around the house, but saw my advert and decided they'd offer the place to me first.

What that means is that in exchange for doing 15 hours a week of vacuuming, washing dishes and the like, I get free food and accommodation. What's best is that their house is just up the road from the uni, their 5 kids (from 9-18) are an absolute blast to be around, as are Paul and Janet (the parents), and their house is chockablok with musical instruments (2 pianos, guitars, brass, woodwind etc) and they have a million and two Christian books/commentaries! The theology-nerd in me is absolutely drooling right now.

Speaking of my theology-nerd-drool, while I was in Edinburgh hanging out with Evie and her mate Erin, we went into an old bookstore. Inside said bookstore, I managed to find a book of C.H Spurgeon's sermons from 1882-83. These are the original printouts that he'd done for the congregation, and someone bound them all together into a book. It's absolute gold, Spurgeon was one of the biggest champs known to man. I've only read through three thus far, but he's been a massive inspiration to me.

Well, that's about all I think I need to add for now... I'll endeavour not to take so long between posts next time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seventy-five bucks

So I was there in the airport, lining up for my flight to Edinurgh for over an hour - and it turns out I was in the wrong line the whole time. As a result, I missed my check-in time and had to change flights to a later one. It cost me thirty-five pound, which is about $75AU.

After silently fuming for a while about the extortion that had just taken place, I came to a new conclusion after talking with God about it. If it was going to cost me seventy-five bucks to catch this different flight, then gosh-dangit He had better have had a good reason for it, and He'd better help the unfortunate soul who sat next to me, because I was going t evangelise to the poor codger!

The guy I ended up sitting next to was a cool guy, but the opportunity didn't really come up to talk God with him, apart from my desire to enter into ministry sometime soon. Either that or I just wimped out. I'm not entirely sure which it was. But on finally arriving at the bus-stop that was near my hostel, I saw a van with people milling around it. From this van, a bunch of Christians were giving out free soup and coffee to homeless guys.

As it turns out, the van runs every night of the year, no matter how cold or wet it gets (it IS in Scotland, after all). And around about 60 churches in Edinburgh help out, taking turns to participate in the outreach.

Now, had I caught my original flight and not the later one, I'd never have experienced this ecumenical marvel. It's hard enough in Australia to get two churches together to do something, let along sixty! It was a real encouragement to me to see Christians putting aside differences and getting out there doing Jesus' work.

But the experience got me thinking. That night, I was deliberately looking for something God-glorifying, because it had cost me $75. Surely if I had been forced to pay that money, then God would have a specific purpose for that expensive excursion was my reasoning, and I was out to find that purpose. I think seeing those guys in that van next to the beautifully lit castle made for a highly encouraging purpose.

Yet, if the excursion HADN'T have cost me $75, would I have been looking? Would I have seen God in that moment if it weren't for my perceived sacrifice?

Jesus sacrificed His life so that we could see God and His purposes. We were bought at a price, and that price was the death of God's own son for sinful man like me. That's a much higher price than $75.

So keeping in mind that ultimate sacrifice, shouldn't we ALWAYS be on the lookout for ways that God is working? It cost me $75 to see God at work in Ediburgh that night, but the only reason that was possible is because God already made the first move two thousand years ago. Without His payment, it would be impossible for me to come to know Him at all. If it weren't for Jesus, we wouldn't see anything of God.

It's my prayer that we all may be constantly looking out for Him in everything that we do, because He's in it. Keep in mind that a sacrifice has been made so that you can see Him.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

"We're all about Jesus - we preach the Bible."

As many of you well know, my sense of direction isn’t the best. Today it served me quite well. On trying to find my youth hostel, I managed to walk down a wrong street – which took me to a man putting up a sign in front of a church declaring that “London Christian School” met there. His name was Chris, he’s on staff at St Helen’s next to the gherkin, and he’s a good bloke. I learnt two things about England’s Christianity from this chance encounter and following conversation:

1) You can tell a lot about how England’s Christian education scene is different to Australia’s when you realise that the school with the name “London Christian School” was established last year and only has twelve students. Chris’ hope (and I assume the hope of many evangelical churches in the city) is that there will be lots more schools with lots more students popping up in the near future.

2) You can tell a lot about England’s churches when the answer to the question “Tell me about your church” is “Well, we’re all about Jesus – we preach the Bible straight up, I hope you’re into that kind of thing.” I chatted with Chris for a bit about the state of England’s churches, mentioning that I’d heard bits and pieces about the shocking state of the Anglican denomination. He replied that their church was one of the few Anglican ones that weren’t a waste of time, because of the very reasons that he straight up came out with – they preach Jesus and the Bible.

I’m beginning to think we’re spoilt in Australia. It seems that in the US everyone claims to be a Christian, and so you need to delve for a bit to find out if they actually are or not – you need to find out what they think about the Bible, and what they think about Jesus before discovering what they truly believe about Christianity. It seems in England, everyone claims to be religious, and yet don’t have any gumption to stand up for their faith lest they offend someone else’s religion. One must wonder whether their religion has any faith behind it at all.

At least in Australia, if someone’s not a Christian they’ll tell you. But to be honest, I don’t think it would hurt to have to clarify exactly what a Christian entails. Rather than just saying “I’m a Christian”, how good would it be if we made known what we actually believed – “I’ve been brought into a saving faith through Christ alone, and therefore live my life to glorify Him”. Rather than simply saying we’re Christians, using the Bible to express what we believe and why we believe it.

WE may know we’re Christians, and know what being a Christian entails, but do the people we’re talking to know that? Over here, you can’t assume that giving yourself the label “Christian” automatically makes you one. I wonder how many people in Australia are just giving themselves that label and we don’t even realise it – simply because we don’t have that polarisation between the Christians and the “Half-Christians”.

Can’t wait to go to St Helen’s tomorrow and see the church in action.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

An Elihu Youth

If you're anything like me, you've heard the words of 1 Timothy 4:12 countless times before:

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."

But have you ever stopped to wonder exactly how it is that we, as young people, can do that? It seems to me that the verse is less about ensuring equality between the young and the old ("I'm young, I have as much say as you do!") as it is a call to be something that's far greater than we already are. And in order to set an example in speech, life, love, faith and purity, we need to start with a proper understanding of who God is.

While sitting waiting for my delayed plane in Dulles Airport, Washington, I was reading backwards through Job. This may well sound like a strange way to do it, but I was alerted to one particular verse in God's speech, which happens to be at the end. For whatever reason, it made sense to me to read the sections backwards, for reasons I still can't entirely comprehend.

Bear with me. I read through God's speech to Job, which left me in total awe of His power and majesty - if you haven't read it, turn to Job chapters 38-41 (It has dragons in it, which automatically makes it awesome).

Here's why it was so important that I read backwards. My read started with the majesty and holiness of God (the only place we can start with ANY Bible reading, really). Then it progressed (in chapters 34-37) to how hopeless we humans are in comparison (the natural conclusion following the realisation of the majesty and holiness of God).

The beginning of Job 33 details the absolute futility of trying to bring God down to our level, and perhaps more importantly, how doomed and futile a life without God is. Take verse 21-22 as a small example: "His flesh wastes away to nothing, and his bones, once hidden, now stick out. His soul draws near to the pit, and his life to the messengers of death." Not exactly the most encouraging words out there.

Then I read further backwards to the next section, and for the first time in quite a while, I could honestly relate with Job 37:1 - "At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place." I literally stopped in my place, reading this one small section over and over again. Have a read of Job 33:23-28:

"Yet if there is an angel on his side
as a mediator, one out of a thousand,
to tell a man what is right for him,

to be gracious to him and say,
'Spare him from going down to the pit;
I have found a ransom for him'-

then his flesh is renewed like a child's;
it is restored as in the days of his youth.

He prays to God and finds favor with him,
he sees God's face and shouts for joy;
he is restored by God to his righteous state.

Then he comes to men and says,
'I sinned, and perverted what was right,
but I did not get what I deserved.

He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit,
and I will live to enjoy the light.'"

This guy understood our need for Christ thousands of years before He came, and God had it all planned out. More than anyone else in his time, he had an understanding of who God was (holy), who we were in comparison (worthless), what our good works would amount to (nothing) and our need for a Saviour (Christ). "Wow," I'm thinking as I re-read it for the tenth time, "about time Job gets some good advice! This guy must be the old priest guy or something."

I read back to the next chapter.

Elihu is the youngest guy there.

Now I'm quite literally in shock. How on earth have I been in youth groups since I was 12, read almost every Christian youth book there is, and not once have I heard of this guy?!? I quickly grabbed the nearest bit of paper on my person and wrote down that this passage needs to get out there.

"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty that gives him understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, nor only the aged who understand what's right." (Job 32:8-9)

How do we make sure we're not looked down upon because we are young? How do we set an example in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity? By following the example of Elihu - focusing on the truth of who God is, the rubbish that we are in comparison, and the incredible love and grace found in His sacrifice.

If we as a youth can understand that, then I think we're on to something.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Aiireland, London and Norway

Well, it seems that I haven't updated this blog in quite some time. My humblest apologies.

What's been happening over the past few weeks? I flew from Washington to Dublin - and somehow or another an hour delay on the US end made for a five hour delay in Heathrow airport. I couldn't get an earlier flight because my luggage was already checked through for the later one - and then once I got in, the luggage was left behind in London anyway. I quite dislike Heathrow airport. It all just seems so messy.

But it was cool being in Dublin, because it meant I got to see Steve, Trudy, Libbeth and Jordi again, but perhaps overshadowing them was the fact that Matti came along for the ride too! We were doing a kids club, and I got to meet a bunch of other cool people who were helping out also.

Here's a photo that basically sums up the awesomeness of the time:

And here's a photo of the most brilliant shop name in the known universe:

Heh, it makes me laugh every time.

The kids club went really well, the kids certainly seemed to enjoy themselves, and they memorised some good verses and stuff. Matti and I spent a few days reading through Romans, which was really quite helpful and insightful to read through as a pair rather than by oneself. I also got to read a few excellent books, which I've sent back with the Aussie guys for you to have a browse if you feel like a good read.

Speaking of good reads, I'm currently reading "Humility: True Greatness" by CJ Mahaney, which is excellent. I'm also investigating the doctrines of grace, which has been quite humbling and a real eye-opening journey for me. I'm turning into a Calvinist, watch out.

After Ireland, I changed my flights so that I could spend a few days in London/Ipswich with the rest of the guys. Because I was with a bunch of girls, I got to have the Hugh Grant tour of London - which basically says that if Hugh Grant was filmed there, then you have to see it. Also got to watch the second half of Timon of Athens in the Globe, which is about as authentically Shakespearean as they come. Now I can say I've done it, and be a true English/Drama teacher.

Currently I'm in Hamar, Norway, hanging out with my mate Stian who I've been chatting to over MSN since I was 13 - seven years, and we've finally met. It's pretty cool, but mega expensive here. Getting the chance to catch up on a whole bunch more reading and podcasts and all round learning stuff which is very exciting.

Should find out in the next few days where I'm off to next - won't share all the details now, but just be praying that the university will let me do correspondence study, ok?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Giving back to the generous

I don't have time to do a full entry as I'm just in an Internet cafe in Ireland...

But I got to pay back some generosity! Bob Kauflin said that I could take some stuff in to the church and they'd send it home for me, which saved me a lot of money. So I took a bag in, and Kyle was there (I'd met him a few times), and he jokingly said he'd only do it if I gave him a copy of The Nugget and The Castle (some guys from Perth had shown him them and he thought they were the funniest movies ever).

His face was absolutely priceless when I told him I actually had a copy of The Castle in the car, and went out and gave it to him! He was stoked. So now I feel like I've repaid a little something to the Sovereign Grace guys - only a little though!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sovereign Grace

Man, those guys are generous.

I was at the WorshipGod08 conference (at Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, Maryland) from Wednesday to Saturday, and it was freaking awesome. Got so much good stuff out of it, which I'll have to reflect back over notes to share with you guys. But the greatest part about it was that it was a mixture of great theology about worship and actual practical application.

The conference was based on the Psalms, and one of the main things I got out of it came from David Powlison - that because Jesus is the God-Man, not only is He the person being beaten, rejected and scarred in the Psalms, but He's also the faithful God who delivers from trials and persecutions. He truly can relate to our situations, and He truly does deliver us from those situations. We have a great God!

Because I was by myself, I ended up introducing myself to a bunch of people and hanging out with different groups, and somehow or another one person would lead to another, which would have me hanging out with a bunch of different Sovereign Grace pastors, many of which were on stage or writing half the songs on the CDs.

The culmination of this though came on Saturday, when I was chatting with Bob Kauflin (see the side-bar for his fantastic blog, he's been mega-influencial on me). It would appear that being Australian says to people over here "I've come a long way, therefore you need to spend time with me", it's quite a good badge to have! Anyway, whether it was my Australian-ness or just my all round coolness I'm not sure, but he invited me back to his place for lunch after church on Sunday, with a few other guys from the conference.

I was flipping stoked! I expected to maybe chat with the guy for ten minutes, and was now being invited back to his place to spend the afternoon with him! And what's more, "a few other guys from the conference" ended up including Tim Smith (the worship pastor at Mars Hill Church (with Mark Driscoll, who was the only "guy I want to be when I grow up" that I didn't get to meet on my trip, coz he's hanging out in Australia at the moment))!!! My jaw was pretty much agape at this point, being that I was now hanging out with TWO of the worship pastors from my TWO favourite American churches.

And that wasn't all, one of the other guys was Drew Shirley, the guitarist from Switchfoot! We reminisced about Hunter Harvest and how cool it was. Bob got everyone to have a few group think sessions about the direction of where Sovereign Grace was/should be heading, which was really surreal and massively humbling. Man, that afternoon was flipping awesome.

Also met some cool people from California, a few others from Sovereign Grace and another Aussie bloke and his South African wife who are currently living in Dubai.

But back to the generosity thing. Throughout the conference, the attendees were given three books for free, two lunches and a dinner for free, all the free water and "soda"/"pop" you could drink, and donuts on the last day. That wasn't all though.

One of the pastors I met up with over dinner (that Pat Sczebel shouted me, what a good bloke. He was Canadian) had just finished from the pastor's college, which I've been really keen on checking out. So he showed me through the offices and brought me to a bookcase, which had all of Sovereign Grace's self produced resources (such as Josh Harris' books, their CDs and all of CJ Mahaney's books ('Living the Christ Centred Life' and 'Humility' among others)). He said that everyone who comes to the office for the first time gets a free resource, so I got a copy of "Sex isn't the problem, Lust is" by Josh Harris, because "Humility" had completely sold out at the conference.

Anywho, then after talking with Bob Kauflin, he put me on to one of the Big Five, who I met up with on the Saturday afternoon (named Pat). This was extremely helpful for me, and he told me all about the college and we talked about my calling to ministry and how everything works and all sorts of stuff. He asked me whether I'd seen the resources shelves, and I replied that "Yeah, I got my free book, that was awesome".

Pat raises one eyebrow, and says "You got one book?"

He then proceeds to lead me out to the shelf, and plucks one of every CD and one of most books off the shelf, and shoves it into my hands. "Anything else you don't already have?" he asks, so I grab a few extra books, and comment that Humility wasn't there, which was the one I really wanted. So he enters the office of one of the financial bigwigs and asks if he has a copy of Humility - checks the cover to make sure it wasn't a personal signed copy (it wasn't) - and then hands it to me.

Man those guys are generous.

This post has already become massive, and I haven't even told you about meeting some of the Harris'! Long story short, I met Alex Harris (co-author of "Do Hard Things" which I'll send home to you guys) which was really cool. Then Gregg Harris, the dad of Josh, Alex and the lot of them sat down next to me and another guy I'd just met, and it took a second to click in who it was.

He was fantastic to meet, if only because if you've ever (like me) wondered how these young Harris guys can accomplish so, so much for the Big Guy, just spending five minutes with their dad pretty much instantly explains it. A very, very Godly man who puts everything into his kids. His advice for us was that fathers need to "Get a life", and then "Include their kids in that life". Good advice.

So much more to reflect upon and write about, but I'll leave that for another time. I'll leave you with this photo of all the stuff I got (three of the books I bought, but for half the price I'd have gotten them in Koorong!)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hanging out in Tronno

Yeah, that's right, once again I was just up the road, in Tronno (aka Toronto), this time spending a few days with the man himself, Tim Challies. With that in mind, why are you still reading this? Quick, click his link on my sidebar, and visit his blog! Do it now, hurry, there's not a moment to lose!

Turns out this guy is pretty cool and has the most adorable family ever. It was kinda surreal actually - he has a son and two daughters of similar age differences to my family, and thus it felt like I was staying with my own family from ten years ago. Was a great experience in that regard - seeing what impact Mum and Dad have been able to have on random people who end up staying with them!

Because I was absolutely blessed in my time there. Tim and Aileen have such a holistic faith that's mega encouraging, and I also got the chance to hang out with some guys from their church who are the same way inclined.

Perhaps more than anything in the time though, I realised something new about communion. Julian (one of the fill-in pastors while I was there - turns out the real guy has taken a sabbatical in an effort to avoid me) emphasised the unity that we have when we come to take communion. While that's something that I must have heard hundreds of times, it finally sunk in for the first time on Sunday. There I was on the other side of the world, taking communion with a bunch of Canadians, who somehow or another felt like family to me. This seems to be a recurring theme. Love it.

Also, read this article Tim wrote about something else we heard on Sunday relating to God striking Uzzah down for steadying the Ark of the Covenant - an act that I'd always thought a little unfair before this concept clicked for me:

So yeah. Now I'm in Gaithersburg, Maryland, ready to go to WorshipGod08 and (hopefully!) meet up with Bob and Josh - two of the other awesome men of God on my blogroll. What I really should rename that to is "Who I'm gonna be when I grow up"

When I grow up, I'm gonna be Tim Challies.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Float like a butterfly, sting like a Jellyfish

Best day ever? Probably.

I went to Jellyfish Labs to have lunch with Phil Vischer today - he's the guy who made VeggieTales and is starting a sweet as new Christian kids network - look it up at

He took me to Shane's deli, and we had Larry's grinders, which were quite aptly named. It's just a pity there weren't some Bob's colas to go with it or something. Heh, coz then it would be Bob and Larry, just like on VeggieTales. Get it? That would've been funny. In any case, Phil shouted, which pretty much automatically makes him a likeable bloke. Check out his blog on my side panel.

We talked about all sorts of important stuff - predominantly God, this new network, how it's going to work and all that kind of thing. It was just so mega exciting to be able to talk with a guy who's putting his whole job in the faith category - no one really knows if this new thing will work or not. All the funding is through "ravens" as he put it, little instalments that you never know where they're going to come from. Absolutely exciting, love it :)

It was also awesome because we talked about animation and recent movies, their budgets, how they work, what makes them work etc. Finally I found someone I could actually have those conversations with in person - now the rest of you guys probably don't have to put up with my random tidbits and boring conversations!

After we had lunch, Phil drove us through Wheaton Bible College's grounds and showed me around - it was Billy Graham's college, apparently which is kinda cool. It looks like a pretty cool place.

But the coolest place was Jellyfish labs itself. After we got back, I hung around for a few more hours and chatted with Liz and Bill, who are two of the five staff at the place. The whole place has an awesome set up, where basically they're trying to make the best quality stuff on a fairly cheap budget - in film terms. What it meant was that there were a few Mac Pros, a few greenscreens and all the proper lighting and cameras and stuff - it was aaaaaaaawesome. Loved being there! I was fiddling on a quadcore Mac Pro with the biggest Apple screen you could get...

...and I was using it to transcribe the audio from an old Moody Science Institute DVD. Listening to ten seconds and typing it down, listening, typing. Can anyone say "overpowered machine for the work"? Whatever the case, it MUST be an awesome place if you can be doing a monotonous task like that and still having a blast, which I was.

It was just great to be there and seeing this great vision matched with this great faith found in all the guys who worked there. A real inspiration and I really can't wait to see how it all pans out for them. Be praying for JellyTelly!

Now I've just gotta work out whether God's calling me to Wheaton... I really wouldn't be complaining if He did, hey. Love it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

F-L-O-R-I-D, eh?

Hmm, the "eh?" just doesn't fit in the title as well when the post isn't about Canada. Instead, this one's about the U-S-Eh?

So I've been in Tampa, Florida since last Friday, hanging out with Sue Sorg (Michelle's "mom") and her boyfriend Ejay. They're really cool, and Ejay's a great cook. Which reminds me - I have to write up a post about the food over here sometime in the nearish future. I'll give you a sentence to whet your appetite (BAHAHA, geddit??? Whet your appetite... because I'm talking about food... it's a pun, y'see?): Lots of sugar, massive serving sizes and 49c Maccas cheeseburgers.

Anywho, what have I done since I've been here, you ask? (I'm just assuming that's what you ask - this is more of a monologue than a two-way conversation, so just bear with me here, ok?) To answer your (assumed) question, I shall again use bullet points:
  • First thing you notice as you step out of the airport is that it's hot. It's really quite humid here - it reminds me a lot of the good ol' days of going to Cairns every other weekend. I think we're a similar distance from the equator. I could be wrong. But it feels like it, and if there's one thing I've learnt over this trip, it's to always trust my natural ability to sense how far from the equator I am. (That's a lie.)
  • Second thing I noticed was that Ejay bought us tickets to see The Dark Knight that night - opening night for these silly North Americans who get movies a few days after us. Whooooooo! (Great movie by the way, but as if anyone needed me to tell you that. I thought the pacing was off though.)
  • On Saturday we went out to watch the Flugtag competition. Flugtag is where a whole bunch of people build gliding contraptions to jump off a pier and try to get as far as possible. It's more about the performance and the novelty value than the actual distance though. Tons of people turned up to watch.
  • What was funny was that there was also a fantasy convention on at the same time. So there were a bunch of yobbo's (I'm not sure what they call those here) mixed with a bunch of guys dressed as elves, mages and assorted other Dungeons and Dragons/World of Warcraft characters. It would have been interesting to see a fight break out, but alas, it wasn't to be.
  • I also saw a guy dressed as the Companion Cube. But I didn't have my camera. Man I make a sucky tourist.
  • That night we went to watch the Tampa Rays play the Toronto Blue Jays at baseball. I was cheering for the Blue Jays because they were the only team I'd ever heard of (thanks to Tim Challies - read his blog, y'all).
  • Baseball isn't as interesting as cricket. That game wasn't, anyway. It was nil all for the first six innings, until finally someone hit a Grand Slam (a home run when there's loaded bases). Apparently that's a real rarity and excitement to see, and I got it on my first game. Then it was pretty much nil all for the rest of the game, until the final innings when the Blue Jays got 4 runs to try and match the Rays' 6. But they got out.
  • It seems that baseball isn't as interesting as cricket because the effort is all on the part of the batting team. In cricket, it's the job of the fielding team to get the batting team out, and that's what makes it interesting. In baseball, it's the job of the batter to hit something that DOESN'T get him out. Basically, if the ball goes in the air, it'll get caught, and if it bounces too close to anyone, he'll be run out. If it's a good hit, it doesn't matter what the fielding team does, he'll just get the run.
  • All that to say, cricket has more variation in it. I may have more thoughts on this in the near future if I see some more games that AREN'T just a stalemate for the majority.
  • After the game, MC Hammer came on stage and did a concert. I was surprised to find out that he's a minister here - has his own TV show and everything. I started to tweak on when he was talking about how good it is to get married, and then he came out with "I love being back in the south, because here people aren't afraid to love Jesus". I was quite pleasantly surprised - more thoughts on American Christianity to come.
  • We went to a water park on Sunday. It was fun, and I went down slides and got a little bit burnt (but not much).
  • Yesterday Ejay and I saw Hellboy 2. It was fairly silly, but fun enough I spose.
  • Today I saw Batman again on the IMAX for $12. Did I mention stuff is really cheap here? In any case, every Aussie reading this should immediately head for Sydney to watch the movie on the biggest screen in the world. After a second viewing, I think it may be paced quite right, thank you very much - and I'd ask you not to post such silly thoughts without first thinking them through!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

That beautiful bond that we have

Tonight I was dropped home by Frank, who's a Chinese man who came to Canada for high school and university - he's been here 8 years or so. As we were talking, we couldn't get over how awesome it is that God's set up this thing called Christianity, whereby people from completely different nations and walks of life can be united and have something in common. Here we were, an Aussie and a Chinaman sitting together in a car (Ford Mustang) in Canada, having just spent a night hanging out with a bunch of Canadians and talking about God.

How good is it! It's so good, that's how good. I was reading Revelation last night, and I just love chapter 7 verse 9-10:

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb... and they cried out in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb."

God has created us so incredibly differently, yet for one purpose: To glorify Him. And it's His love and grace that allows us to get to know each other - to have something in common - to work together for a common purpose. What other community in the world would have such a wide diversity of members? What other purpose could join people across all walks of life?

A girl from the church here named Kerri played guitar in a tea shop tonight and gave me a CD afterward, and one of her songs hit the nail right on the head:

There's a love that can bring it together
It's the love of Jesus Christ

The song's actually about spiritual healing, but what struck me in that chorus is that this love that God has for us; through sending His Son to die; to bind us to Him and to each other... That love is just so overarching, so completely sufficient, and so overwhelming on so many levels. It's that love that brings EVERYTHING together.

I mean, if it weren't for the love of God and the work that He's done in my and so many other people's lives, I wouldn't know all the fantastic people I've met so far. (and I've only been away just over a week!)

But what's even more striking is that rather than just meeting people, we can love them. How on earth can you love people you've known for a day???

It's the love of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

C-A-N-A-D, eh?

You know what they always say - you haven't been to Canada until you've hugged a Triceratops.

(Yes, I know that's not technically a Triceratops. But I'm not entirely sure what it is, and Triceratops rolls off the tongue a whole lot easier. After all, they wouldn't always say it if they didn't!)

I'm going to write this post in point format because there's a lot to update and I want to make it as easy as possible for you, the readers, to get the info. Because I'm always willing to give you, the readers, what you want.
  • The sun never goes down in Canada. I'm staying in Edmonton, and it will still be light out at 11pm. It's insane, and just not right.
  • Floyd and I went on a road trip. This took us firstly to Drumheller.  The road is completely flat the whole way until you get here, where it all of a sudden starts descending and you're in these massive valleys filled with dinosaur bones. There's what's apparently one of the best dinosaur museums in the world there, and we went through it. All dinosaur lovers be jealous.
  • Just out of Drumheller is this place:

So there you go, I've been fooling you all this time! You all think I'm halfway across the world, whereas really I'm half an hour down the road! The beach has changed a little though, now it looks something like this:

  • We then went to Calgary, and watched the chuck wagon racing. This entails four wagons pulled by four horses, as well as four blokes on four other horses per team. That makes 32 horses on the field. The four blokes, on the whistle, hoist a stove into the wagon, then the wagon takes off doing a figure eight around two barrels, then races around the circular track (against the other three wagons). It's kinda like the chariot races from ancient Rome, but the four blokes on the other horses have to follow along behind. It's pretty intense and fun to watch.
  • After that came the "greatest outdoor show on Earth" which, as I mentioned in the last post, could quite well live up to that name.
  • The next day we went into the mountains, to Banff National Park where we saw some beautiful lakes and rode a gondola up mega high.
  • It was here that I decided I make a sucky tourist. I just don't take enough pictures. I guess I just figure - if I want to remember the things, I can just look it up on the Internet. I'd rather appreciate them in all their splendour rather than trying to recapture that splendour and spending all the time making sure the photo works out.
  • That being said, I did get this really cool photo, because I figured I couldn't just look it up on the Internet:
Heh, that goat's eating that goat crossing sign! Silly Canadians.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Best for God

I'll fill in more of my trip, along with photos probably tonight. But for now I'd like to talk about something.

Last night I went to the Calgary Stampede, which is apparently the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth". After watching the chuck-wagon races (great times which I'll write about soon), a massive stage show started up that could well have proven that title correct. 350 singers/dancers/performers, 250 musos, over $30k in pyrotechnics, and they did it ten nights straight.

And the performance was absolutely brilliant. The performances ranged from massive song and dance numbers through to those insane muscly acrobat guys, motorbike riders (who we unfortunately didn't see because it was raining), a comedian with bagpipes and a KISS tribute band. Somehow or another, it was all pulled together seamlessly and sounded fantastic.

But my mind was split the entire time. Half of it was in awe of the awesomeness of the sound and the performance. The other half was left wondering - what on earth is the point of this? Half the time the songs were celebrating the fact that they'd been doing these performances for 40 years, the other half they were celebrating the rodeo itself, or just celebrating nothing at all.

Which got me thinking about this whole idea of worship. It was a massive performance last night, and it's seriously difficult to think of what could have been added to make it better. Which leads one to wonder - what's left for God? Surely He deserves the best of the best. It disappointed me that such a fantastic performance could be worshiping nothing at best, and itself at worst.

One of the accusations often leveled at Hillsong is its massive expenditure on performance aspects. Yet, the opening ceremonies at their conferences were some of the few performances that could rival a massive stage performance like this - but they were God-glorifying and brought people into a time of worship.

I think too often we've been short-changing God. If the secular world can do something massive like that, then surely our God, our Creator, our Saviour deserves something much better! I look at the descriptions of worship in the Bible - thousands of singers, musos and dancers in the temple courts - the richest place in the world at the time, and all glorifying to God. I look at the massive cathedrals built to worship God in. I look at Bach's compositions - all written to glorify God.

Then when we come to church on Sunday, we play three chords.

Christians have long been on the forefront of new trends, using them to worship, but then wimps out when the secular world starts doing it better. Just look at theatre. Or a more recent example - cinema. The guy who create the first video camera wanted to sell the patent to his church, but they wimped out.

This didn't stop Christianity from doing stuff with it though. Most of the first movies in the world were created by the Australian Salvation Army and were Passion plays. Then in the 1910s the church realised that movies were being made my non-Christians too, and decided to declare the practise unfitting for Christians.

Now we're stuck with low-budget Christian flops while the rest of the world gets hundred million dollar blockbusters. Shouldn't God get the best?

All of this leads me to wonder about my own life. Am I giving God the best? As I do uni to become a teacher, am I planning on using that first and foremost for the glory of God or just as a job? As I practise the piano, am I playing first and foremost for the glory of God, or just because it sounds good? As I go on a trip around the world, am I travelling first and foremost for the glory of God, or because it's fun?

What are your gifts, and are you using them to glorify God?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mitch's Stellar Advice

Mitchell Jones gave me some great travelling advice in a letter. This advice served me well throughout my flight - for example, when confronted with the choice of pancakes or omelette for breakfast, I immediately went for the pancakes - because I knew that I should avoid egg at all costs lest I get sick. Similarly, my cup was rarely empty of Coke (the sweeter Canadian type), and my screen was filled with various movies and television shows at all the pivotal points where I wasn't reading letters or books.

But perhaps the best advice came after my initial flight. I got a linking flight to Edmonton in Canada, which lasted only an hour. I was sitting next to a nice looking lass, and I asked her where she was from and the like when we first got on the plane - polite chit-chat, you know the sort. Then we sat there for the next fifty minutes in silence, listening to our iPods/sleeping.

As we were making our descent and about to hit the runway, I suddenly remembered Mitchell's final piece of stellar advice! He suggested that if I find myself in such a situation that I'm sitting next to a hottie, I should break the ice with the following:

A man goes to the dentist and says "Doctor, help, I think I'm a moth!"
The dentist replies "Why did you come to the dentist's then?"
Then the man shrugged and said "The light was on"

So with only a moment's hesitation, I began a new conversation that went something like the following:
Me: "Do you mind if I ask you a favour?"
Her: "Sure, go ahead"
Me: "Can I try this joke out on you?"
Her: *awkward looking smile* "Go for it"

And so I told her the moth joke, with a strong, fairly deadpan delivery that effectively conveyed the punchline. And she laughed. I'm serious, she actually laughed. So I said "You think it's a keeper?" and she said "Yeah, definitely" and then we kinda sat in mostly silence with a few short conversations for the remainder of the trip.

Never did catch her name though.

Moral of the story? Listen to Mitchell - he's a good bloke.

It begins - Vancouver airport

So here I sit in Vancouver airport. Local time is 7:50am, which is pretty impressive considering I left Sydney at 10:10am on the same day.

The flight went a lot quicker than I expected – and it just so happened I got given one of the best seats on the plane. It was definitely the one with the most leg room, as there was no one in front of me at all. I sat next to a nice Canadian/Australian bloke named Marcell (an interior designer who’s lived in Perth for ten years) who was taking his five year old son back to his homeland for the first time.

Food was really good, there was a bit of French cuisine and a lot of fruit. Canadian Coke is a lot sweeter than Australian stuff, and I don’t hate it. Canadian beer doesn’t taste as good as the Australian stuff though, and I couldn’t put my finger (or is that my tongue?) on the reason.

The sun coming up over the clouds when you yourself are above them also is absolutely beautiful. I got my camera out to take a photo or two, when I realised that I hadn’t actually put batteries in it – and they were in my other bag. What’s more, I haven’t brought an SD Card reader with me, so I couldn’t upload them anyway. Thankfully though, Marcell came to the rescue and let me use his and offered to email them to me. What a nice guy.

As we got off the plane and walked into the airport (at about 6:50), the place was absolutely deserted. It was quite eerie, like all those movies where you think it’s all empty and then a zombie jumps out and chews on your face. The people on our flight were the only tourists in the whole of the international section of the airport.

But now I’m in domestic where there are people milling around doing their everyday kinda thing. They still sound American to me. I should probably learn to discern the difference.

Being on the other side of the world for the first time ever is actually quite exhilarating. In the line to check in luggage at customs (which just consisted of some guy in an orange flakjacket and boots taking the bags off us and putting them in piles) I was standing behind a girl when I realised that – “Hang on, I’m in a completely different country. I can just be friendly and be myself and people will just assume it’s that friendly Aussie tourist-ness.” (As it turned out, she’d just returned home from Aus, where she’d travelled all up the east coast from Melbourne to Cairns)

The other major thing I’ve noticed is that I start conversations with “G’day how are you?” – something I know I’ve always done, but it seems so awesome now.

An hour and a half left til I can get on board the flight to Edmonton. Guess I’d better get used to these airport waits. Thank God for wireless Internet.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Night Before

So here I sit, the night before the journey, tapping at my Mac for the last time for the rest of the year at least. I'm off to Canadia (no, that's not a typo - that's how it's pronounced, isn't it?) at 10:10 tomorrow morning, and arrive at about 8am - two hours before I depart. Work that one out.

Basically, it's gonna be fun. I can't wait to meet all the cool people I've organised to hang out with - that excites me a ton more than actually seeing sights or anything like that. I've always been a people person, going on holidays to see people rather than things. It's so much more interesting.

My perspective about that may have changed this time next month. Who knows.

In any case, I'm sitting in this room and realising that all this stuff is going to waste for the rest of the year - although, when I think about it, most of it has been sitting in waste for as long as I've owned it. So if you wanna come round and claim something for a few months, go ahead - just run it by my parents rather than making off with it! The top shelf of my bookcase contains some of the best books I own, so I'd start there if I were you.

And if anyone feels like alphabetising my CDs while I'm gone, go for your life - it'll make everything a lot easier to find, coz it's in a massive mess at the moment. Probably easier to search for what you want on my iTunes, you'll find out if I own it and then you can begin your search for the CD in amongst the rest of them! (And to the person doing the alphabetising, going by band names is probably your best bet eh)

Wow, I just finished a sentence with "eh". I'll fit in to Canada straight away. Wow, there's another one.

So, everybody wish me luck! Keep in contact with this blog, and if you want/need to email me, hit me up at

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Meeting

Joe’s heart pounded in his chest. She had finally arrived! This was his opportunity – to have his first conversation with her; to get to know her; perhaps even let her know his true feelings! Now all he needed to do was instigate. With much trepidation, he decided to take the plunge.

“hi” he typed, and began to pray. If only she would say something back – no matter what she said, it would be a dream to him; it would make his day; he would treasure the words forever.

“hi” Grace replied. Try as he might, Joe couldn’t work out exactly what she meant by the word – was it a simple greeting, or was it something much, much more? He decided to risk talking to her a little longer.

“how r u?” Joe asked, immediately kicking himself for his stupidity. He could just picture her telling all her friends at school the next day about that idiot Joe who couldn’t think of anything better to say than “How are you”.

“gd u?” Joe’s emotions soared to higher heights than he had ever known. Not only was she in his presence, she wasn’t unhappy as a result of it! And what’s more, she was interested in his feelings! Joe doubted he had ever known such ecstasy as he carefully contemplated his next words.

“yeh im gd” he replied, before adding “wots bin hapnin?”
Her reply took only a minute, but it felt like an eternity as Joe sat with his fingers drumming the table in front of him.

“nt much u?”

Joe had a dilemma. Should he tell her what he was actually up to – sitting at his computer, hoping and praying that she would talk to him? Or should he play hard to get, making her press him for information? He decided to take a more light-hearted approach.

“jst skool lol” he typed, knowing that it would be a good ice-breaker. Joe knew that anything would pass as deep and meaningful unless you laughed out loud after stating it.

“lol” came her reply. Joe almost leapt out of his seat. She was laughing too! They were laughing together! They were having a shared experience that they would remember and reminisce on forevermore! Steepling his fingers under his chin, he contemplated his next move – but before he could type anything more, Grace took the initiative.

“brb” she wrote. This encouraged Joe. Surely she was off to ring her friends – to tell them about this boy from school that she was talking to for the first time – this wonderful, hilarious, charming boy that she’d never even noticed until this afternoon. Surely she was asking their advice about how to show him she was interested! Joe decided he’d better acknowledge that it was ok for her to do this – that he would wait for her, no matter how long she would be.

“k” he typed, knowing that upon her return, she would be thrilled to find this message written solely for her – to know that he was rapt by her attention.

Three minutes passed, and Grace returned.

“g2g bi” she wrote. Joe’s heart sank. They were just starting to get to know each other – surely she couldn’t despise him already? What had he done wrong? How had he messed up this perfect opportunity? In despair, he reached out to her. He had to let her know what she meant to him – he had just this one last chance to win her over.

“k bi” he wrote back, and immediately kicked himself again. Now he had completely blown it. There was no returning from this. Head in his hands, he let a tear roll down his cheek. There he sat for twelve minutes, before getting up and reaching for the power button.

It was then that he saw it. In the moments before signing off, Grace had left him one last message.

“c u l8r”

Joe smiled. He was in.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Anastasia and the prevalence of Disney

I re-watched Anastasia tonight. It’s probably the first time this millennium that I’ve watched this particular film, and it really strikes me as an interesting movie for a number of reasons, the most particular of which I’ll outline in this post.

Anastasia is one of only three traditionally animated films in my lifetime that’s made true blockbuster status that WASN’T made by Disney. (The other two are The Prince of Egypt and The Simpsons Movie) It’s formula is much the same as the traditional Disney princess movies, and that’s probably what made it successful. In fact, when I found out as a fourteen year old that it was made by Fox and not by Disney, I was taken aback – I (and I assume many other children at the time) just naturally assumed it was a Disney film.

Don Bluth (the director/producer of Anastasia) somehow managed to overcome the hurdle and create a film that could rival Disney in terms of quality and entertainment value. The question that I have though, is whether or not they’ll last the test of time, as Disney films have. He’s got quite a challenge in that regard.

Let me elaborate. Put your hand up if you’ve seen Snow White. That was the first full length animated movie, and it was made way back in 1947. Odds are you’ve seen Pinocchio, Bambi, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty too – and all those movies (and many others) were made before 1960.

Why have you seen them? Because they’re Disney movies. Due to Disney’s continued presence in the movie industry, and the continued trust that parents place in Disney’s animated films, kids keep watching Disney movies. And because I was watching Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin when I was growing up, it meant that I would recognise the brand, and as a result I would want to watch the earlier movies by Disney too. It also means that Disney can keep re-releasing these classic films, and people will keep buying them. Is it because they’re classics, or because they’re Disney? Most people would say that the two are one in the same.

Back to Anastasia, or more specifically, Don Bluth. Anastasia wasn’t his only classic – he also made classics such as All Dogs Go to Heaven, Thumbelina and my personal favourite, The Land Before Time. Interestingly enough, one of his biggest successes came two years before I was born – An American Tail.

I haven’t seen An American Tail. I haven’t even seen it available on DVD. What was supposedly a classic animated film seems only recognisable by those who were kids when it was released. In the same way, kids these days haven’t seen The Land Before Time (unless they’ve seen one of the dodgy sequels), and I doubt they’ll see Anastasia. Not because they’re not good movies, but simply because they’re not recognisable.

I’m still processing my line of thinking here, and this blog has gone on long enough as it is, I feel. But one very, very interesting thought to leave you with – Don Bluth had his start in animation through Disney. So did The Prince of Egypt’s creator Jeffrey Katzenberg. The question I have for you is this – can animated films thrive WITHOUT Disney?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Manliness Factor + 1

So my manliness went up a level today. I drove ten hours to Brisbane today, starting at 4:45am (and therefore, getting there at 2:45am). It is here that I must point out that Podcasts are one of the best inventions since sliced mushroom. I made sure I loaded my iPod up with sermons from Mars Hill, and it was like Mark Driscoll was sitting right there beside me preaching to me through my iPod. That is, during the times that weren't chatting spent with Jordy, the manly hitchhiker I took to Tamworth in a manly kind of way.

But anyway, now that I'm more of a real man and all who drives for long periods of time doing manly things, I thought I'd share what I consider to be the best article you could find on the Internet. Well, the best article pertaining to manliness that you can find on the Internet, anyway. Behold:

The Marks of Manhood, by Al Mohler

If you're a bloke, have a read. It concisely and informatively goes through 13 essential aspects of manhood, including spiritual maturity, personal maturity, economic maturity, moral maturity etc. Read it, be challenged, pass it on. It continues to challenge me.

But anyway, I'm gonna go flex my muscles or cook some steak or something. I'll leave you with this other tidbit.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"The Wall"

I learnt a lot about relationships in high school. When you're in a small class with ten or so guys, you tend to bond fairly well, and you can come up with anything to fill a lunchtime. Many of those lunchtimes involve schoolyard cricket - you know the sort, where you don't have any wickets, so a wheely bin will work. And any shot that goes remotely near a teacher is six and out - because said teacher will call the whole game off. It's the perfect pastime for a bunch 15-year-old kids.

Often you can make do without one bloke. As long as you have a bowler, a wickety and a fielder or two, the difference is fairly unnoticeable. In fact, it gives you an excuse when they hit it in that sweet spot that gets them a few runs - "Aww, that's where Ricko usually stands!" you declare.

And where was Ricko, instead of catching that pivotal ball? He was with a girl, sitting against the wall. The problem is, once Ricko's sitting against the wall, the process is only just beginning.

It always happens the same way: Boy meets girl, one thing leads to another and before you know it, you don't have enough people to play cricket. Instead, the boys sit all in a row along the wall with a girl between each of them. Boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl. You may have your bowler, and your fieldsman, and your wickety - but they're useless, because you have no batsman.

Those times require an amazing bond between you and the few blokes left willing to do something with their lunchtime. Pushed on by this inability to play traditional sports, we would find our own entertainment. It was in this elite group that I learnt more about physics than in any science lesson. Who in a classroom ever discovered that Anzac biscuits make the best frisbees? Or who ever calculated how close you could throw a shoe to a tree branch before it would get stuck?

The best physics lessons came when it was just myself and one other faithful. Moving to the wall beside the boy-girl-boy-girl pattern, we filled an empty bottle with water, tightened the lid and pegged it with all our might. The patterns of water resulting would put any of Da Vinci's or Picasso's "masterpieces" to shame.

Would we have discovered such an incredibly fun game without the loss of all the other cricketers? Who knows. But even more than the fun games, "the wall" taught me a lot about forgiveness.

Because often, the boys would rotate by a weekly basis. As one went to sit with a girl, another would slink back from the wall and re-join the elite group. Granted, the 'elite group' was made up of one bloke who'd just broken up with a girl, one bloke who was willing to put mates before dates no matter what his girlfriend thought, and two other blokes who couldn't get a girl no matter how hard they tried, but it was an elite group nonetheless.

And every time a guy would come slinking back, nothing even needed to be said. You can break up with a girl, but you can't break up with your mates, even if you become confused for a while and think that sitting against a wall is more fun than cricket. Mates are mates, and mates don't hold grudges.

Instead, we were all just thankful that Ricko could catch the ball and get Fluff out after his eighth over in. That earns forgiveness quicker than any words could.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Counting backwards from two thousand

Does anyone else subconsciously figure out how many years ago something was based off the year 2000? I can't seem to help it.

1900, well, that was a hundred years ago. That doesn't seem too bad.

But then you get to 1950, and I assume "Yeah, that was fifty years ago". Eight years off still, but not that big a difference.

Look at 1975 - must have been 25 years ago. Err, no, that was 33 years ago.

Then it gets really scary when you remember the years. 1995, well, of course, that was only five years ago, right? Wrong - it was thirteen years ago. 1995? Thirteen years ago? No way.

Or 1998 - surely only two? Nope, that was a decade. A whole decade. And still I subconsciously think two.

Does anyone else think this way, or am I just going crazy? Or is this the process of finally becoming old? I dread to think.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Who will they become?

Last weekend our church turned our shop into a prayer room for 24 hours. The place was set aside for individual and corporate prayer and worship, as well as being a place to talk about, write about and relax with God.

I ended up being in there during the midnight shift, from about 11pm til 4am, and during some of this time I lay on a couch and perused "Red Moon Rising: How 24-7 Prayer is Shaping a Generation" by Peter Greig and Dave Roberts. The book chronicles the movement of the 24-7 prayer rooms around the world from their beginnings in Europe in the mid-90s to now, where every continent in the world is setting aside specific places for full-time prayer. Our shop was one of those places on that night.

Being quite patriotic and not wanting to read the whole book due to the late hour (moreso the latter reason than the former), I flicked through to the two Australian sections. The second chronicled how the 24-7 "movement" (as the book describes it as) came to the Salvation Army in Australia - through a young guy in Bundaberg, Queensland. For those that don't know, Bundaberg is about four hours north of Brisbane, and is famous for it's sugarcane, ginger beer and rum. It's also where my dad spent his late-teens and early-twenties.

Knowing this last piece of information and knowing that he was a Salvo during that time, I asked Dad about this guy - the one who was the first to start the movement in the Australian Salvos. It didn't ring a bell, until I mentioned that the guy was from the Bundaberg Salvation Army, at which point his eyes lit up with recognition. Dad didn't recognise the name for the reasons set out in the book.

He remembered the name as a ten-year-old kid that he'd taught in Sunday School.

It was quite an amazing realisation that this kid that he'd endeavoured to show God to back when he was my age had then gone on to be a part of starting a Christian movement that brought many people to Christ. It led me to think of a few things.

Firstly, who are the kids that I minister going to become? It's an interesting activity to walk into the classroom that I help in and watch the kids interact, and try to work out where they'll be in ten, twenty, thirty years time. It's an even more important activity to actively put into their lives good role models and examples.

Which leads on to the second point - what's the best way to do that? As I think back over my childhood, I realise I was blessed with a whole bunch of older people who just loved me for who I was, and deliberately went out of their way to bless and teach me. They really made me who I am now, and without them, I wouldn't be able to do the same for the kids that surround me.

Thirdly, it's surprising how important a role that mentoring children really is, and yet it doesn't often get mentioned. When we think of important Christians in life, we think of Billy Graham - but do we think of his Sunday School teacher? Paul reminds Timothy in his second letter that Timothy's faith began in his grandmother, which was then passed on to him. Without the mentoring and discipling of Timothy's grandma, and then from Paul, one of the early church's most important leaders may not have even been a Christian, let alone a mover and shaker!

So next time you see a kid running around your knees, stop and spend some time with them, say a prayer, and thank God for who they'll become. It's important, and they're more than worth it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Step one in creating a new blog.

I decided I would start a new blog several months ago.

I kept a Livejournal throughout years 9 and 10, before upgrading to an MSN space in years 11 and 12, with both experiences proving to be quite beneficial for me, I believe. They allowed me to share my thoughts in a concrete, readable way, as well as develop the writing style that I continually endeavour to perfect.

But somewhere along the way, I stopped the process of writing, and haven't written anything of substance (that isn't required for uni, at least) since my schooling days. Granted, those days were only a year and a half ago, but it seems like an eternity in any case.

Hence my deciding to start a new blog, at the end of last year. It was all planned out: I would write my thoughts out about life, the universe and everything; people would read and be edified and come to see me as a grand purveyor of wisdom; I would get picked up by a publishing company and become a world-renowned author. It was a grand plan that was to be a surefire success.

The trouble with writing about life, the universe and everything, however, is that there's an awful lot of it. (That and the fact that the very phrase "life, the universe and everything" is probably copyrighted by Douglas Adams, of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fame)

In order to start a blog, I needed a reason to write. Something to inspire me to write continually. Something to make people want to come to the site. In short, I needed a really witty tag-line.

For example, perhaps the biggest blogging inspiration to me (you can find his link on the right) has "Informing the Reforming" as his. Look at that phrase. It's short, it's succinct, and it RHYMES. I happen to know for a fact that it took dozens, nay, hundreds of suggestions for Tim to come up with that line to replace his old one ("Putting the fun in fundamentalism" - another genius line in and of itself!). My recommendation to him involved two fantastic anagrams of "Challies' book on spiritual discernment", but it seemed the short, pithy saying won out. And I have no hard feelings about that. Not many, anyway.

Try as I might, I simply could not come up with a witty tag-line for my own blog. And as such, I couldn't start my blog! It was impossible! How can you blog without a witty tag-line?!? Thus, the blog just sat there, unused, for five months.

Then, as I was playing Peggle on my iPod, and listening to a song, it hit me. A few thought processes that I'd been going through over the past few days, months and even years all combined into this one idea that I decided I would use to start the inspiration-ball rolling. What was the song, I hear you ask?

"You are Holy", sung by VeggieTales.

It was this song that made me realise a lot about myself, a lot about Christianity, a lot about life in general. And most people probably haven't even heard it. I'll explain more about it in subsequent posts, but suffice it to say here, it inspired the title for this blog.

"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." says Jesus in Matthew 18:3-4.

What on earth does it mean to become "like a child"? I don't know all the answers to that question; in fact, I'm pretty sure no one reeeeeally knows all that Jesus was talking about. But it's been my goal for many years now, and that's a pursuit that I'd like to share with other Christians. That's a pursuit that we should all be after.

That's a pursuit worth naming a blog after.

It's not quite as witty as it could be, and it doesn't rhyme, but I like it. Because it sums up so much in so few words, so much that hopefully this blog will serve to unpack. Needless to say, this blog will hardly be just about that one verse - have you ever had a conversation with a kid and tried to keep them on track with one topic? Similarly, this blog will cover anything and everything that I care to think or write about. But hopefully, hopefully that pursuit of childlikeness in God's sight will pervade all that I am, all that I write, and all that I long to be.

Let's do this thing.