Saturday, November 29, 2008

New Direction

Tomorrow morning our parish here in the midlands of Ireland is beginning a new journey. Led by our Rector Stephen Neill and our parish assistant, Mrs. Vicki Lynch, we'll be embarking on the road of discovery into what it truly means to be following in Jesus' footsteps - together. The Rector is calling it 24/7 (as in hours and days) which is an allusion to the fact that there's more to being a Christian - or a church in the community - than an hour on Sunday. In conjunction with this new direction, we're beginning to show the Rob Bell Nooma videos to spur on conversation with those within and outside the church here in Cloughjordan. We've already shown 'Everything is Spiritual' and had some good feedback. As in all cases, our expectation (or hunger) for God to show up will set the stage for Him to do just that!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Obama's Roots Shatter Irish-American Myths

Here's an article I came across recently that carries some weight and may be of some interest especially to those of you who consider yourselves to be Irish-Americans. I take special interest because:

1) I have lived in Ireland for almost a decade

2) My children (soon to be three!) were all born here

3) Canon Stephen Neill is a good friend (read article)

4) I am a part of the Church of Ireland (Anglican) and I'm employed by them

5) My family and I live in the same parish (church boundary) that Obama's ancestor is from near Moneygall, Co. Offaly, Ireland

Enjoy!
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Why Obama's Offaly roots help shatter Irish-American myths

Irish America was first seen as Catholic, then Presbyterian and now Church of Ireland too, writes BRIAN WALKER

PRESS COVERAGE of Barack Obama's election as US president has drawn attention to his connection with Ireland. His late mother Ann Dunham was a descendant of Fulmouth Kearney who left Moneygall, Co Offaly, for the US in 1850.

This connection is of special interest, however, because it casts an important light on the subject of the Irish diaspora in the US. Indeed, it provides an answer to some of the mystery about this diaspora, the full character of which has often been obscured by widely-held myths about both the Irish Americans and the Scots Irish.

Fifty years ago the number of those with an Irish background in America was put at about 16 million. It was assumed that most of these were Irish Americans who were mainly descendants of Catholic Irish who had come to America from the time of the Great Famine on. The family background of Joe Biden, the incoming vice-president, falls into such a category.

This picture, however, was upset radically in the 1980s. The American census results of 1980, which for the first time stated ancestral backgrounds, recorded a figure of about 40 million people who gave Ireland as their ethnic background or country of origin. This figure was much greater than had been expected.


Read on . . .

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Emerging Church Secret Sessions

Just caught this over at Andrew's blog and it is hilarious - creative too! I love the in-sights injected into this from whomever created it. It was well-timed, utilised lots of 'big hitter' names and was excellently delivered with it's subversive, side-lining allusions between those 'in' the conversation and the Third Reich. No matter what you believe / feel about the emerging church - this is funny. Enjoy!


Monday, November 24, 2008

How is Pop Culture Influenced by Technology?

This great post AND responses on this question from the "Q" blog, here (scroll halfway down).

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"We live in an inflated society. Individuals and cultural influences are coated with a thin layer of veneer. This thin shiny coating makes everything seem better than it is. Inflated.

At the heart of the problem is that we are living in a time where perceptions have become reality and reality is dismissed with a dose of Prozac. We huff and puff and blow ourselves up, making meaning out of our existence through what others think of us. Or, more accurately, what we tell them to think of us. Meanwhile, our televisions and computers and magazines tell us what we should think, what we should look like, and what we should buy. All the while, we eat our hot dogs, peanuts and apple pie, oblivious to the cultural ramifications of this existence.

As individuals, we make choices about how we consume, how we engage with technology or what we believe with very little thought. Each morning we wake up and systematically put on our veneer - our outlet mall pants, our dyed hair, our white teeth - we then turn on our phones, crank up our blogs, and update our statuses. "Good morning world. I am perfect. I have more friends than you."

However innocent these choices may seem, they carry sincere ramifications. Let's take Facebook or Twitter as an example. We log in and update our status with what we are doing that day. We tweet about a cup of coffee we are having. Outside of being pure digital pollution (i.e., noise that offers no value) these nonchalant actions imply that what we are doing is important and that someone cares to know. These actions feed our ego, a form of narcissism . . ."

Read on . . . (scroll halfway down)

Possibility and Pleasure


"If I were to wish for anything I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of what can be, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating as possibility."

- Søren Kierkegaard, 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian


Friday, November 21, 2008

Jedidiah Rocks!

Totally inspiring. Totally awesome company making a real difference in the world.


Jedidiah Clothing: Who We Are from Jedidiah Clothing on Vimeo
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The Best Of . . .

Oh yes, it has arrived . . and I'm very excited. I am REALLY looking forward to getting into THE BEST OF RISEN MAGAZINE. Check 'em out. There is nothing like them out there.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Senior Adult Choir Hip Hop (Short Version)



compliments of Mark Batterson via Twitterific . .

. . not so much as funny, just sickening .

New Music for New Movements



Video: Flobots on Faith - The ‘Rise’ of New Music for New Movements

by Matt Hildreth 10-02-2008
Flobots are a Denver-based, hip-hop/rock alternative group, whose powerful activist lyrics explore issues from globalization and poverty to war and peace. Their influences include civil rights activist (and Sojourners contributing editor) Vincent Harding, who has a cameo in their newest music video, “Rise.”

(HT: Sojourners Blog)

Missional Shift or Drift?


Well, THANK GOD something is changing in the out-dated mode of mainstay evangelical Christianity . . not to diminish evangelicals, I refer to myself as one (in the *radical* sense of the word and not the categorical). I came from Willow Creek to Ireland. In fact, my family and I are here directly because of the Hybels' - they recommended our first job in N. Ireland to us in '99. I was only at Willow for a short time, but I fully upheld the model it was promoting until around 2002/3 when a dark, brooding cloud began to form over me. That experience helped usher in a new understanding and a new direction for me into 'missional' living.

The article below by Leadership Journal is a welcome note and yet another sign of life breaking through in North American Christian experience. There are worldviews expressed in the article which I can't encourage, but overall, it's good news. Here are just a few tasters from the article:

". . then Lueken took a class at Fuller Seminary taught by Dallas Willard. The experience led to a complete change of course for him and Oak Hills Church.

"[Willard] was teaching on the Sermon on the Mount and conveying the heart of the gospel through Jesus' teaching, and I felt I was sitting there listening to something I'd never heard before," Lueken recalls. "We realized that we had to rethink what the gospel was about. Does the Bible teach only the gospel of heaven and forgiveness of sins? Or is it about a new way of living that involves the power of God, the peace of God, along with your sins being forgiven and going to heaven when you die?"

"Here are more trends uncovered by the research. Compared to ten years ago:

- Pastors are focusing more on the Gospels than on the Epistles.
- More pastors believe the gospel is advanced by demonstration and not simply proclamation.
- More pastors say the goal of evangelism is to grow "the" church rather than to grow "my" church.
- More pastors believe partnering with other local churches is essential to accomplishing their mission."

"Whatever the particular cause for the shift in these pastors' ideas regarding the gospel and mission, five changes are gaining momentum in congregations all across the country:

- Affirming the whole gospel
- Not looking to a megachurch model
- Focusing on making disciples
- Encouraging a missional mindset as a means of spiritual formation
- Establishing partnerships to advance the gospel."

"Another shift is the growing emphasis on spiritual maturity, not just conversions. Pastors surveyed are pouring more energy into disciple-making even at the expense of programs previously considered sacred cows."

"My ministry used to be, 'Here are five things to know, four things to do, take your devotions and call me in the morning,'" he said. "It was head knowledge, with applications that didn't result in any heart change." "Compared to ten years ago, today's pastors say they increasingly see disciple-making and meaningfully engaging the world as not merely ancillary expressions of faith, but the means through which spiritual formation occurs."


Read the article in FULL .
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WillowCreek's 'Reveal'

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mission in the West

This was a presentation I gave at the Church of Ireland's General Synod in Kilkenny, Ireland in May of 2007 on the emerging trends in the West (particularly Ireland) and the great potential to re-imagine what God is inviting His Church to be a part of in the 21st century.

Mission In The West
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: church emerging)

N.T. Wright & the Post-Emerging Church

Here's a little clip of Bishop N.T. Wright, Brennan Manning and Father Richard Rohr in a discussion on the state of the Christian faith in the world and particularly in the West. He postulates what he believes will happen as we (the Church) enter the post-emerging church era. It's just a glimpse of a longer conversation that happened in October 2007 in the Caribbean at Soularize 2007.


(HT: View From The Basement via Mike Todd)
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Here are some images of the notes I took when I went to hear Bishop Wright speak in Carlow Cathedral, Co. Carlow, Ireland on November 10th 2008. He was invited to speak in light of the Pauline Year and because of his reputation as a New Testament scholar.

Lighting Up London

Here's a little article from the BBC on how art is helping to change perspectives and attitudes toward creation care through renewable energy powered installations.

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Tower of power lights up London

By Flora Graham
Technology reporter, BBC News

Artists are lighting up London's South Bank with 1200 wind-powered lights as part of a digital arts festival.

The Aeolian tower - which means moved by the wind - is a 15m steel structure located next to Waterloo Bridge.

The tower is covered with hundreds of tiny wind-powered LEDs. Each one made of a plastic turbine, controlling circuits and three red LEDs.

The designers aim to show how renewable energy can be used to power sustainable art and design.

As wind blows over the tower, swirling patterns of light reveal the strength and direction of the breeze.

"We want to visualize the invisible, making people realize that there's a lot of energy out there that we're not using," said Zena Bruges from Jason Bruges Studio, which designed the tower.


Read on . . .

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Collide


03 - The COLLIDE Show from Collide Magazine on Vimeo
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Blacklisted



OK, I admit, this is out of the ordinary, but twice now this week I have been 'shot' at (well, one of them I just came across). Here's a link to a page from a seemingly very fearful 'ministry' that believes ancient Christian practices such as 'Lectio Divina' (more on it here) are of the devil. I think it's because the name is in Latin and not bog-standard English!

What do you think?

? ? ?

This image proves that booking Andrew Jones (tallskinnykiwi) to come and share at your function is well worth the investment - he not only speaks, but changes tires as well! So, in an attempt to make this blog more inter-active, I'm inviting any of you who actually do more than passively observe to come up with a creative, catchy title for the above image (which will also become the title of the blog post). The winner of the contest will receive either a *free* copy of the fantastic reflective journal resource entitled 'fuel' (see below), a souvenir from my ultra-cool office in the midlands of Ireland OR a lock of Andrew's hair which I cut from his head while he was sleeping during a film we were watching (joking!).

The fuel reflective journal:










More on the journal here.

This should be interesting . . .

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Conversation is King!


Here we are on the shores of Lough Derg in the middle of Ireland. It's a misty morning with a heavy fog hanging over the lake but we've had a hot breakfast and are already in the thick of coversation. So far we've begun in depth chat around moving into a Rhythm of Life, setting up a venue at a national artistic music festival and facilitating churches in engaging more holistically with the wider culture through the Arts. Good directions . . .


"Now it's time to say goodbye . ." Here's a shot of my son Aidan and I saying goodbye to Andrew as he leaves these green shores for other adventures. Thanks for coming to Ireland tallskinnykiwi!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

In Flight


Here's Andrew Jones in full flight here in Galway, Ireland today. He began a little less than confident (seemingly) but is now really engaging with the crowd. They're enjoying his input and asking loads of questions. I get a sense that this is really helpful for those in attendance. Thank you God!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama-nomics

This post was originally written for Risen Magazine and was posted last week on Saturday, Nov. 15th 2008. I just received an email from my contact at the magazine stating that he was asked by the Publisher to remove the article because he wants to "avoid taking positions on political issues". I was in no way trying to make a political statement, but to simply make comment on what I have observed about the character of our President-elect of the United States of America. If desired, one could interpret my positive sketch of Barack Obama as support - and a healthy dose of patriotism - for our future President. So, at the moment, here is the exclusive release of "Obama-nomics". Comments open . . .

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Things have already changed quite a lot around here. I mean the whole world seems to have been keeping an eye on the American political race for the White House. I admit, I’m not sure how much coverage was given within America to the reaction from other countries at the success of Barack Obama & co. in procuring the title of the 44th President of America . . but it was exceedingly good from where I’m standing. Whether you voted for Senator / President-elect Obama or not, you have to admit, his campaign was a very well-oiled machine. Even where my family and I live in the middle of rural Ireland was not exempt from being affected by the recent American political performances. I suppose our case is a little exceptional as out-of-the-way places go, especially since Barack’s ancestral line on his mother’s side is traced to the next town over within our parish boundary. My friend Canon Stephen Neill has been riding the wave of ‘Obama fever’ the past year and a half since he made the discovery within church records.

It seems the world was on a euphoric high last week since he was nominated for office. That is, except of course, the President-elect’s opposition. Whether a supporter or not, everyone knows by this stage that one of his more obvious qualities is his ability for clear rhetoric. I tend to believe it was all the persuasive, compelling ‘wordage’ minus the lack of sincerity or meaningful content that ‘rhetoric’ denotes. I recently heard a radio presenter here in Ireland remark that when running for office one must, ‘Campaign in poetry and govern in prose.’ While I recognise the significance of this statement, I hope a good measure of the poetry remains in play with the Obama administration. It has been that ‘poetic’ element of President-elect Obama’s public face that has endeared so many to him. It’s the poetic flare that has generated all of that hope we have heard so much about - and even experienced in some cases. It’s that poetic edge that creates new possibilities in the ‘seed beds’ of prepared souls, the possibility that boldly declares ‘Yes We Can’. While I recognise that hope is not a deep enough resource to effectively guide a country on alone, it would be despairing if it were lost.

Not to be left unnoticed, much has been said about Barack’s intellectual prowess. Again, it has primarily come from those favourably disposed to him, but others have conceded that point as well. I’ve heard comments passed to that effect often enough to make me sick of hearing it. Okay, okay - let’s give that one to the man. He’s got to be smart and very intellectual to have made it to where he is . . doesn’t he?? Doesn’t everyone occupying the position of the ‘most powerful man in the world’ have to be so? **Enter relentless jokes about the present incumbent.** I have to admit, no matter your position or views on our current President, Will Ferrell plays a mean ‘W’! Then again, I can’t help but laugh every time I get a view of the comedian’s face - Will Ferrell, that is. I do recognise an aware and seemingly knowledgeable individual in the person of Barack Obama; but is that enough to effectively govern our nation? Will a ‘heady’ Oval Office provide the type of national leadership we need in our flailing society? It will help, but alone it’s not enough.

In my eyes, one of the most necessary qualities for leadership is a deep-seated personal integrity. Integrity at its root demonstrates a cohesion of person, a trustworthiness of character and honourable behaviour - no matter if someone is watching. A person of integrity is someone who says what they mean and does what they say. Their public face accurately mirrors their private world. This is a quality that has largely been lost to our Western society. Oh, it is valued in personal interactions with others, but a person of integrity is largely seen as a bit out of touch with the rest of the world. It’s a dangerous prospect for all of us when we begin attributing to celebrities the kind of respect and admiration saints once received in days gone past, because of what those celebs possess (cash, homes, influence), as opposed to who they are. More on that another time. I am grateful that, in my eyes, our next President of the United States emanates a certain level of integrity of person. I’m not suggesting for one moment that he is flawless (I’ve been around long enough to realise no one is), but integrity is present. Discerning souls will know it when they see it.

In regards to matters of faith, although relatively little is known of the personal convictions of President-elect Obama, it can be deduced that he does have a healthy grasp on the nature of faith and what living ‘faithfully’ truly means. In Obama’s speech on ‘Faith-Based Initiatives’ that was given in Zanesville, Ohio on July 1st this year, he states:

Now, I didn't grow up in a particularly religious household. But my experience in Chicago showed me how faith and values could be an anchor in my life. And in time, I came to see my faith as being both a personal commitment to Christ and a commitment to my community; that while I could sit in church and pray all I want, I wouldn't be fulfilling God's will unless I went out and did the Lord's work.

Here, in the last lines, is the essence of integrity: acting in private as we have pledged in public. Or, in this case, fulfilling in public what we have intentioned in the private places of our own soul. One who possesses integrity is an integrated person. Integration is when we act on what we say we believe and we demonstrate what we believe by how we live. This is a pattern of life that makes persons whole and creates a healthy society when we’re compelled by a vision of human living at its best. In my experience, persons of integrity are the kinds of people that inspire me, that challenge me and call me to become the person that I am not yet but that I desire to be.

Come January, I truly hope that the sense I get of a person in which truth dwells deeply within, is not actually another mask put on for personal gain. I don’t think it is. In reality, intelligence is a necessary quality for leaders of nations, but integrity trumps it at the end of the day. Not that we have to decide between them, but in my book there is no contest. Like so many others, I am hopeful for what the future holds - Barack or no Barack - and I am grateful for Providence’s sway on human affairs. From where I sit, the best is yet to come!


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Watch for this post (no longer!) on Risen Magazine and make comments there / here.

tallskinnykiwi's Return to Ireland

I'm just heading to the airport to pick up Andrew Jones of tallskinnykiwi fame. He'll be helping to facilitate a day on Christian spirituality, new media and fresh expressions of church in Galway (see advert below). It's open to the public. Ring me on 00353 (0) 8682 55759 if you'd like to come.


Following that, he'll be taking part in our annual Dreamers of the Day Symposium on the shores of Lough Derg which will consist of open conversation, food and good drinks. We hope to explore the Dreamers Rhythm of Life which we're attempting to develop as we consider transitioning into a missional order. Check out more on the open Dreamers network here and join the subversive revolution!

Following the close of the Symposium on Sunday, Mr. Jones and I will be hanging with my fam and kicking back next to a fire with our feet up no doubt!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Travels and Sights

So things have been silent recently here on ye ol' blog. I've been traveling and recovering from an annual tradition of mine - being ill after our national youth weekend called Anois. I have also been coming to terms with my new responsibility of blogging at Risen Magazine as I stated in my previous post.

To get the party started again here are a few images from my travels as of late (don't get too excited):

These shots are from the historic city of Derry (or Londonderry depending on your political slant. Or in my case, reasons for ease of speech). I was there for one night to highlight the Youth Department's new resource called Inspire among some of their youth workers, which I have already blogged about here. Their youth ministry is called DRY which stands for Derry and Raphoe Youth, but their network of youth ministry 'cells' is called Sitting Ducks - pretty cool. I love this city because it's so beautiful situated on the heights around Lough Swilly in the North West and because it's one of Ireland's only walled cities. The pictures are of the Church of Ireland Cathedral in the city which is supposedly the first psot-reformation (Protestant) Cathedral built in Britain and Ireland. Guess the British felt it would cause less of a stir on the fringes of their Isles . . wrong! Magnificent views.



The next is of City Hall in Belfast City Centre with it's ferris wheel. It makes a for a scene like a mini-London Eye (Which I rode on last May). I have not been on this one in Belfast though. Maybe that's something to do with the kids!


The final shot is what a friend and colleague of of mine sees everyday when he opens his apartment door. Scott just took up the new position as Diocesan Youth Officer for Cashel & Ossory in the South East of Ireland. He got set up when he chose to rent out this fantastic place above a new shopping centre in the centre of Kilkenny town - Ireland's Medieval capital and widely accepted as Ireland's current artistic capital. What you're seeing is on top of the shopping centre - awesome!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Time Has Come


The time has come . . I have put myself out there and offered to get involved in an amazing endeavour known as Risen Magazine. I have offered to promote the magazine here in Ireland (both North & South) and I have also committed to begin writing regular blog posts for their website with a small army of others. This should be interesting . . .

While I've sensed for some time that writing could be a significant aspect of my own personal calling or vocation, I have for years evaded it out of some kind of fear. It's really a strange situation; being drawn to something that you sense your destiny is tied up in, yet feeling strangely compelled to run from it - that very thing you desire.

In many ways that scenario is so characteristic of our human nature. Especially in the context of our relationships, it plays itself out regularly. Have you or has someone you've known been in a relationship that was going the right direction and had all the markers of good health about it, yet something in you or in your friend, caused the relationship to terminate 'prematurely'? If so, you're not alone. We all in some way have a 'self-destruct' strand of DNA within us. Some do better than others at avoiding seeing it played out in their life.

It's the same for those of us who are following our hunger for God. As I stated in a post about a year ago regarding a book I read by a Jesuit priest, so many of us claim to have a desire to grow closer to God - to increase in intimacy with Him and we eagerly make strides toward that end. For many of us, at some point when we're faced with the reality of actual intimacy and depth of relationship with Him in Christ, we fumble, we trip, we lose our confidence and turn and run from that very thing we desired most. The illustration that was given in the book I read was that of a person running to the edge of a cliff and realising that the next part of the journey is out of their control (free-falling over the edge), they decide to turn back the way they came.

That's what my journey with God has been like on many occasions. That is what it has been like walking in the direction of becoming that person that God dreams I can become and that He created me to be. I am presented with the option, the choice. I am offered a glimpse of what life could be like. I am even given loads of encouragement along the way. But, in the end, I must choose to walk that way [head nod to RUN DMC & Aerosmith!], to trust enough to become that someone do not know - yet. Writing has been that for me these last few years. I've had enough time in the wading pool where I'm safe as I pump out pieces at my own pace, according to my own desire or interest. I need to step it up. I need a greater challenge. I need pushed. This new endeavour will be that for me.

So, with gratitude, thank you Risen Magazine for giving me that space to grow. Who knows, how key this time will be in helping clarify further the path God has marked out? All I know is I'm up for the challenge and all the criticism that comes with it - the constructive and painfully rude. So, if you have yet to learn what Risen Magazine is all about - why waste any more time?? All I will say is their creative collaboration has inspired me and added more fuel to my fire. I love their presence (image). I love their angle (stance) as they approach issues. I love their coverage (content). And I love the homegrown, but professional vibe. For me, Risen is actually a convergence of those arenas in life which I am most passionate about: the arts, faith and culture. They are experimenting in areas I am hungry to experiment in, namely the inter-relationship of the arts, faith and culture. There's too much in that to unpack now, but maybe it will come - and possibly on Risen's site. So, if you're interested in Risen and / or interested in giving me some constructive feedback on a different level, please keep your eye on this very, very hotspot on the web - RisenMagazine.com.

Watch that/this space . . .

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If you live in Ireland, hit me up and I may be able to hand deliver a copy of the magazine to you!

Here's an earlier post on Risen Magazine.