Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fun with Food

So, I was at a meeting today with a Rector friend and we headed out for lunch after viewing a conference property searching for new stewards. Before eating, my friend made this face from his eggs and chips, then accented it with precision ketchup details. Who said meeting with clergy isn't fun?!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

'Worship Star' by Shekelback

What do you think? Does it ring true?

[HT: Greg Fromholz]

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Compelling (Rhythm of) Life: Three

Hello there . . for those of you following this progressive revelation of a 'Rhythm of Life' in process, here is installment three in the series. It follows on from the first and second posts (read first) . . . your comments and questions are very welcome. I'm trying to work this all out myself! Thank you!


Patterns for Daily Living

As an individual matures in character and settles into any given season of life, it may be good to seek to understand how one’s life lived best would look at that particular time. The impetus for this comes from the deep awareness that all of Life is gift from our Father of Lights. We have been entrusted with much: our own lives to co-author with God, relationships with others which we’re to give ourselves to and a world of wonder and beauty to cultivate and create within. With so much having been given to us, we must remind ourselves that, “ . . to whom much is given, much will be required.” [ ] How can we make the most of our time, energy, efforts and abilities during the short period in which we live, move and have our being? How can we be faithful, responsible and creative co-labourers with the Spirit of God in the world?

Some have embarked on a season of deep reflection and intentional surrender in order to offer their whole selves to God in service of others. The effect of this season has led to drafting what an ideal day, week and month would look like according to their gifts, passions, responsibilities to work, family, friends, the Other and season of life. The notion is to devote time to those things in our lives that we must - by responsibility and by holistic intention - which help us walk into the person we were created to be. Again, this is a process, and one which only comes about through reflection and input from those we trust who know us best. It may be useful to begin by creating a chart with hourly slots depicting your waking hours of any given day. We then, with God’s help, begin thinking about what’s most important to us - those indisputable absolutes - that define our lives. Some examples will be our circles of relationships (close friends, family and acquaintances), our work commitments, sleep and eating habits, exercise, faith practices, leisure activities, and so on.

We then continue the process by prioritising those activities and marking in the hour blocks of our day according to the day’s priorities. A day in which you’re working will look different from a day that you are not, as a weekday may look different from a weekend. Remember, this process is not about how much you can fit into your schedule at any given time, but how life looks like best lived for you in a balanced, healthy, holistic fashion. It will be important to give yourself time to sleep enough to be rested (the average is between 7- 8 hours), time to eat unrushed meals, time to work what is required of you, time for your closest relationships to develop (including your faith practices) and time to be replenished through exercise and leisure.

Once you have drafted your ideal day at work and day off, try the same thing with how an ideal week would look for you giving appropriate time to the things we considered above. Your ideal week schedule will have some activities and practices that are specific to certain days, just as your ideal day schedule will have some activities and practices that are specific to certain hours. Once you have experimented with your days and week, try drafting what an ideal month would look like for you with those added monthly activities and practices which occur infrequently. Some people may choose to continue drafting an ideal year with those activities and practices that are bimonthly, quarterly or are unique to a certain time of the year. Further consideration may be given to practices occurring less frequently (such as every five or ten years) such as pilgrimages, specific gatherings or other more costly investments of oneself.

The goal of all of this is freedom for the wayfarer engaging in this sort of deliberate action. To many it may seem that these suggestions are too rigid or inflexible and may therefore stymie an individual’s freedom. Far from it. Rather than sapping it, developing a life plan such as has been suggested is meant to give life and impart freedom. It is well-attested that structure breeds freedom of the rarest kind by allowing space for activities and practices that need to happen, but all too often get squeezed out due to procrastination or lack of preparation. After having invested time reflecting on one’s life in a holistic manner and creating the appropriate space for those most necessary things, a pattern of life can emerge that empowers the wayfarer in the process of ‘becoming’. In this way, anyone can begin to more intentionally co-author their life with God who already knows intimately the dreams He’s had for us since the foundation of the world.

“Communities must reinforce how broken we are, how vulnerable we are and how much in need of God’s grace we will always be.”

- Brother Samuel; Franciscan Friar

My New Hair Piece

Here's my new hair piece as interpreted by my kids with Play-Doh. I really like the colour. my eldest daughter Neve helped me with hair placement. I may have just gone with it if the Play-Doh didn't start burning my scalp. Ahhhhh, creativity at work!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Wait is Over!

I'm back. I was temporarily banned from facebook and this blog for a few days until everything settled down a bit for our family. Christy (my wife) wanted to inform a few people about the arrival of our new daughter first before I told the world. So, the ban has been lifted and I'm free to proclaim my joy about the arrival of our third child - a most beautiful baby girl - named Keely Hope Tucker!

Here's a bit more info:

Meet Keely Hope Tucker!

Born 12:50am April 6th (10 minutes after arriving to the hospital!)

9lbs. 13.5oz (she beat her dad by a half oz!)

And as far as we can tell . . she's another strawberry blond!

How incredibly precious she is - so sweet and soft to the touch.

She and Christy are doing very well - Keely is eating constantly.

Her name means:

Keely = 'used mainly in poetry and means "so beautiful only poets can describe her"'
Hope = 'a reflection of the over-riding sense in our lives this year on various levels & of the Easter season'

We're so thankful. So very grateful.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Justice And All That

I don’t know about you but I have been mad lately. Not just mad, REALLY mad. Seldom do I get irate, but this week it’s been more acute. Please permit me to tell you why.

It’s no new thing seeing images of the destitute on our screens: those affected by intense hunger or by a cataclysmic force of nature. We have, as many have stated, largely become desensitized to the plight of people in these situations. Shame on us. For some it may be because they do not have the capacity to place themselves in the ‘shoes’ of another or because they openly mock and jeer at those considered down and out. For others though, personal distancing from people in such circumstances may be because they care too much and feel over-loaded by a sense of helplessness not knowing where to start. As is usually the case, a balance between these two extremes of inactivity is the ‘sweet spot’ we can all find our home in.

We need to find those needs presented before us (which we cannot miss) AND those things that ignite our soul afire (which we cannot forget) and explore where they meet together in order to find our groove. Someone once said, your ‘calling’ (lit. vocation) is where the world’s greatest need and your greatest passion meet together. It’s in investing ourselves in this way that we’ll occasionally experience that ever-so-elusive sense of ‘I was born for this.’ However, regardless of whether our personal lifelong calling is to directly serve the ‘down and outs’, it is the call of every human being to reach out in compassion and love (seeking the best interests of another) and respond to needs when possible.

Thus, we come at last to the source of my anger this week. The above illustrations of situations of need may often (predominantly) come about because of our sins of omission. By that I mean others in the world suffer because of our indirect, self-concern (being fat and happy) through our consumption of food / goods / services and demand thereof. It’s a much different thing when others suffer because of direct disregard for the value of their life as in the case of child slavery, human trafficking and forced sex trade. These people suffer because of intentional, inexcusable sins of commission. The perpetrators know full well what they are doing, to whom they are doing it and what effect it has on those they are doing it to. Sins of omission are excusable, for a time, due to ignorance . . but sins of commission deserve an altogether different response. Oh my face is heating up . . .

This week I have read of two situations in which direct, aggressive violence has been enacted on those of unequal ability to defend themselves. This is where I melt with a righteous swell of anger that arises demanding justice. I read an article where the practice of sacrificing children is on the rise in Uganda. I fume over the abuse of children. This should NOT be and CANNOT continue. Apparently, some adults believe that by offering children (not necessarily your own) for sacrifice they will become wealthy (how they make that mental jump I know not). In many cases the children have been sold off by guardians or parents who hope to grow rich through this accursed practice. Even some of the traditional African doctors are said to believe that their ‘magic’ is made more powerful by the use of children’s body parts. How can they be so deluded? Forget the ‘civilized’ argument - what about plain old human decency or even respect for the weaker among us? I am sick with this. I’m grateful that some of the Church leaders there have spoken out against such deplorable practices, but words - as powerful as they are - are not enough. Something more is needed.

The other sickening reports I am hearing are coming from the Swat region of Pakistan where women and children are being beaten supposedly because of religious regulations (but we all know it’s because of pride in the human heart in men who have negated their role due of their abuse of power). These men make me sick. They are weak and pitiful creatures that attempt to elevate their putrid selves up by stepping on the backs of those weaker than they (or at least less cruel and dark-hearted). I cannot believe we can hear reports such as these and the governments of the world are so slow - if they do anything at all - to respond as people lose their lives by the hands of ignorant, jingoistic, fantastically diabolical aggressors. Wake up, wake up world!

This world was never meant to be built on, or for humanity to ascend on, the backs of other human beings. We MUST act. We MUST do whatever we can. If we have a voice we MUST use it. If you are a networker - pull your networks together to facilitate indiscriminate acts of outright care and kindness for others. If you are a person of resource - use whatever resources you have for the good of others. If you are a writer - write your way into the lives of others inspiring them to become catalytic agents of an ultimately redemptive nature. If you legislate - use your powers of persuasion to push something into existence that is yearning to be birthed. If you make things happen - put together a project that will work against, and ultimately overcome, discordant acts of our marred human nature. If you care for those in need by use of your hands - find outlets that not only give you permission, but encourage your efforts. We have to engage in our mandate for divine collaboration in facilitating the ‘Kingdom coming’ which we ALL dream about - no matter our culture, creed, condition or creature comforts. It takes each one of us choosing the joy of self-sacrifice (because we were made for it) over the amusement (lit. distraction) of self-absorption.

So, if you are sufficiently moved, what can we do together? What options are before us? Will you consider blogging about this issue or specifically about these (or other) news items that highlight injustices in our world? Will you chat to a friend whom you think needs to hear about these issues? Will you donate some of your time or finances to honest projects existing for the good of others? It’s true we can’t ‘save the world’ or do lasting good if we have a ‘messiah complex’ - only the Messiah can do that. But we ALL are capable of doing something. Explore what that something is for you and be about it. If you don’t know where to start or are looking for opportunities, please consider checking out the International Justice Mission. They are a highly mobilized, extremely professional and unbelievably successful international consortium of local networks acting against injustice. You can learn more, support, or get involved here: Get in the game.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

40,000+ Views??

I uploaded this presentation - Mission in the West - four months ago and now I'm hearing from SlideShare that it has been viewed over 40,000 times! What?!?! How could that be? I delivered it at our General Synod Mission breakfast in May 2007. Some exciting stuff is happening here since then! Thank you God!

Flynn-tastic: Dishes!

Here's another offering from my man Flynn Adam. He's no newcomer to this blog. Flynn has recently had some major attention for his track 'Such A Time' which is my theme song for 2009. And now he's released a vid for his previous (extremely addictive) track 'Dishes' which is an exclusive video premier at MySpace right now. Check it out here and go buy some more of his musical genius here. Flynn is also a part of the dynamic duo Rootbeer who are out on the 'Pink Limousine' tour in the US right now. Out!


Flynn Adam - "Dishes"

BBC Lenten Reflection: 'Journey Into Touching'

This article was written for the BBC / Radio 4 Lenten blog series 'Sense Making Faith' in the UK and was posted there last week.

This weeks’ Lenten reflection on touch, it’s significance and correlations to meanings beyond the immediacy of it’s exertion, have intrigued me.

First of all, may I say that I welcome whole-heartedly a renewed vision of a unified, embodied response to spirituality that we are seeing in the West. It’s long overdue after so many centuries of compartmentalising our lives into spiritual and non, sacred and secular. I understand why this line of thinking may have developed, but we ventured too far along that path. Somewhat of a return to the centre is necessary as a counter-balance, without becoming out-of-kilter once again in our search for the new, unknown or forgotten. Some may scoff or reel with suspicion at this movement. But, we need go no further than the recognition that the Creator made for us these wonderful bodies to experience life on this beautiful mess of an orb called Earth. There is after all, for those Platonically-inclined Faithful, a difference between the Soma and the Sarke. So, touch, in all of it’s complexity is where our journey has brought us this week.

There is no doubt that touch plays a significant role in our lives as human beings. From the earliest moments of our existence to our dying day, touch features as a prominent catalyst in our experience and formation as individuals. There has been much research done on this field of study, but even from our own personal experiences, we can attest to the influence and impact of touch - particularly within human relationships. Other studies have made human / animal relationships the focus of their efforts and have revealed the extremely positive affect animals have made in the lives of sick children in hospital or the elderly in retirement centres. Additionally, the development of new born infants and very young children is heavily influenced by the presence and consistency of comforting touch. Professor Darwin Muir of Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada has stated in a paper entitled, Adult Communications with Infants through Touch: The Forgotten Sense that “. . in humans the skin is the largest sensory organ, it is the first sensory system to develop in the uterus, the fetus receives extensive prenatal stimulation, and infants learn by touch at birth.” It’s obvious that we are communal creatures in need of reassuring, positive, regular touch from one another.

mom n kidsI was particularly moved by the image used at the beginning of this week’s guided Lenten reflection on the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland site. It’s of an infant’s hand grasping the finger of an adult - presumably its parent. It caught my attention because this week - God willing - I will become a parent . . for the third time. My wife has done such a fantastic job of creating wonderful little people that we desired to bring yet another into the family. Now, I thought that being a father would be cool, but in actuality, being a dad has been pure awesomeness! The experience of fatherhood has entailed all of the usual lack of sleep, dirty nappies and constant care that parents experience, but the connection and satisfaction of investing oneself in entirely new people who have the adventure of life ahead of them is exhilarating. So it is with great anticipation and hope that I begin gearing myself (and my wife of course!) up for yet another arrival; waiting to touch the little person I’ve been speaking to for months and hold the individual that is at the fore of their unfolding story. What wonder and mystery in it all! For me, it’s the ability to touch and hold my new child that ‘seals the deal’ and makes the arrival final. Up til now I have been imagining who this individual is, what they will look like and how it will feel having them in the family. The wait is almost over. This child will know his/her mother and father, brother and sister, primarily from the touch we give.

In reflecting on our five basic senses which constitute our primary interaction with our world, it seems to me that out of all of them, touch is the most significant. Not one of us would desire to be without any of them (although so many in our world live in such a way), but if we discerned the impact that each one - sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch - has upon us, I think our use of touch demonstrates its primacy. Sight and hearing are our most utilised senses. We take in everything - whether we process it or not - when our eyes and ears are open. In fact, when we sleep our sense of hearing is the sole function that never fully ceases to operate. Our eyes take in all that is set before them, often more than we are aware of as Jonny Baker illustrated in his post on Journey Into Seeing. Our sense of smell is limited by proximity to the source of the scent, and taste is even more limited to being in actual contact with the object of desire. Touch is unique in that it is the most identifiably employed sense when drawing our circles of relationship.

You can tell how ‘close’ someone is to another person by watching how they interact with one another through the use of touch. We assume that if two people allow their faces to touch they are either very close friends, family or lovers. We know by ‘how’ people touch (and in what place on their bodies) what type of relationship they have with one another. It’s not a perfect method of discerning the nature of relationships, but it is largely true that those we dislike or distrust we keep our distance from, those we only know as an acquaintance we limit to a handshake or ‘hello’ and those we partner with are allowed access that no one else is entitled to. This is painfully illustrated in the reality of relationships that have disintegrated due to trust and intimacy being violated through the giving of oneself (often, but not exclusively, through touch) to someone other than our partner. The most powerful, influential aspects of our human nature are those most misused and abused. Touch is no exception.

From the Christian understanding of God, we come to learn something very significant about touch and our bodily home. God embodied Himself in human form, wrapping Himself in flesh and became one of us. Subject to all of the same experiences of humanity, Jesus Christ felt pleasure, pain and the full spectrum of sensations in between. There are no shortage of examples in the Scriptures of Jesus intentionally touching people He encountered. He welcomed friends - the socially elite and the socially excluded - all in the same gesture of inclusion. His touch extended to all who came to Him for reassurance, healing or freedom. It was through Jesus’ touch that the Kingdom that He often spoke of revealed itself. We know too from the reading in Mark chapter 14 in this week’s study guide that Jesus felt the crushing blow of betrayal which led to His arrest. Judas Iscariot, arriving with a contingent of armed guards, identified Jesus to them by use of a gesture that is reserved for friends - a kiss. The act, one of relational intimacy, was turned on its head as something utilised for apparently selfish gain. This was, in essence, a ‘heartless’ act. A sign of intimacy enacted to detract from, and not bless, the recipient.

dad n daughterThere is real beauty in the truth that God chooses to communicate to us through the lives of others. Each one of us has the ability and opportunity to join with God in His work of caring for and redeeming creation through acts of love to our fellow human beings. Service in any shape is an appropriate form of love when we see a need we can meet and we do something about it. Not to be lost in more obvious acts, we should never underestimate the power in a simple reassuring touch, aptly timed, to bring light into someone’s life. Just as in the ‘Free Hugs’ campaign by Australian Juan Mann, something so simple can make the world of difference to another. Life lived in the service of others offers the kind of feeling when you know that all is right in your world. Not that all is well and good in the world necessarily, but that all is right in your world. There is joy in the journey and hope along the way. This is a gift only God Himself can give. Jesus has shown us how to receive it in the example set in word and deed for all eternity.