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