Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hiding behind belief?

Untitled - By Me.

Ever become aware of a "story" that you've been telling yourself?  A convenient fiction that you habitually use, because it's easier and more comfortable than really engaging with the truth?

We all do it.

It starts when we're kids.  'Oh, he's just a "boy's boy"!'  (he's really rough and aggressive but that's okay)

"She's such a little princess!"  (she's spoiled and self-centred, but we'll humour her)

Sometimes these stories remain unchallenged into adulthood.  But even if they don't, we will go on to make up new and better fictions. 

One of mine is  (now shhh... don't tell ;)  "Oh I'm just very open and social".  Well, I am.  But that blithe pronouncement is something I have used, at times, to avoid more honest examination, of my interactions with people.  It can be a little mental censor's board that I hold up;  shielding me from the fact that I'm... maybe...  letting my own neediness show...  or what's infinitely worse, toying with the vulnerability of another. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Guest Post - Ian Metcalfe (Rest 2)

Here is part 2 of our Guest post series on rest - and an auspicious moment for the blog - as Ian is my first ever Guest Blogger!

Ian (aka "Bunz" - I can't get used to his real name, although he assures me most people do use it) is a very old friend, who has seen me go through a lot of changes.  I'm particularly thrilled that he decided to contribute to this series, because I know his feelings towards "religion".  I'm sure my attachment to such things has tested his tolerance, however I have always known Ian as a man of deep integrity, who cares about justice and truth enough for it to reflect in his life choices.   Unlike myself, Ian is juggling blogging with a life ;) - so although he will be available to answer comments, his response may not be immediate.

Rest is a State of Mind
Ian Metcalfe

Given the nature of this blog, I feel the need to declare that I am an atheist.  For me, there is no being, supreme or otherwise, at the centre of creation.  There doesn't need to be.  I attribute the joy I receive from the world around me to the realisation that I am as much a part of it as it is of me.  And it is in this context, I relate my little story...

Several years ago, I found myself somewhere that I really didn't want to be.  I had damaged my knee, and the specialist strongly recommended surgery, partly exploratory, and partly remedial to repair damage to a meniscus.  After a few weeks of post-surgical painful restrictive hobbling, the knee began to come good, but my mood didn't.  I felt inner tension and exhaustion I couldn't account for, despite getting plenty of rest, re-watching most of the X-Files and a myriad of new movies, sleeping in, relaxing, and lazing about.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

More than Listening

I had planned to write about something else today, but there's a conundrum gnawing at my brain, and it won't let me go until I tussle with it, so here goes...

This week, I posted videos by two quite different thinkers, Peter Rollins and Alain de Botton.  Rollins is a Christian theologian.  De Botton is an Atheist philosopher.  In spite of this, the two have something in common.  I think the "something" is listening (which was also the something I had planned to write about today)They are both men who are prepared to listen, and, even more than listening, to actually evaluate their own beliefs and behaviour through the perspective of the "other". 

So you might expect their perspectives to mesh, quite nicely;  but whilst there are some points of agreement (the importance of listening being the biggest) their perspectives do. not. sit. comfortably. together. at. all.

And for me, the thing I find utterly compelling when I listen to both is NOT their agreement, but the jagged dissonance that exists between them. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An Atheist on Religion

Given that the conversations here frequently teeter in the space between faith and unbelief, I was interested to hear an interview with Atheist, Alain de Botton, discussing his thoughts on religion.  He is the author of a book entitled Religion for Atheists.    His is also an interesting perspective to examine alongside that of Peter Rollins (see previous post).

See the interview and transcipt, from ABC's 7:30 progam, here!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Places Worth Visiting!

Valentines Day has never been big on my calendar (it's not such a big deal in Australia, anyway), but this year I ignored it more assiduously than usual.  Jay Kim, however, at Farewell to the Sea, posted some thoughts on love that are worth sharing.  You may have noticed that I revised my "about me" box recently - and, yes, I borrowed that little phrase at the end from Jay :)

Since we've been on the topic of rest, here's a bit of a different take, from Michael Thompson, over at  Perichoretic Life.  He writes about Sleep as Sacrament.  That's a perspective I'd never really considered.  I love his point that in the Biblical view, the day starts with rest, then moves on to the things we have to do, so that we are always operating from a place of rest.

A dose of Peter Rollins!
Okay.  THIS has got to be the most powerfully provocative, and deeply resonant thing I have come across in a long time. (& I don't mean the sketch... although that's also very cool)

Sketch drawn during the talk by Matt Lumpkin.

I just spent a couple of hours watching a video (linked below) of Peter Rollins speaking.  I will be watching it more than once.

Having said that, if you want to absorb it, you'll need to set aside some time.  The talk goes for about an hour, followed by a half hour question time.  It's worth the time - ALL of it.

In this talk, Rollins turns traditional conceptions of Christianity on their head.  During the question time, he draws parallels and distinctions between Christianity as he sees it and both Buddhism and New Atheism.  More than anything I have ever read or heard, he makes SENSE of the cross!

A whole bunch of ideas I've been groping at myself, quite independently, are articulated here in ways I could not have said.  I couldn't embed the video on blogger, but here's the link:

Introducing:  Peter Rollins, Salvation for Zombies!

Check it out, even if you ignore everything else I ever recommend!

& That's all from me!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rest, part 1 - How I got here...

 A little holiday-inspired sketch, by me!


Well I promised an intro to a series on Rest, and arriving at the end of this week, feel I'm less than qualified to write it.  Truth is, I've struggled with serious fatigue for some time now, and though the general pattern has been one of improvement - THIS week has totally sucked!

Which probably just makes a re-focus on rest even more important - at least for me.

So...  Here goes.

I don't know why, but I have struggled with ridiculously severe fatigue, for about as long as I can remember.  A few years back, my doctor said (referring to my adrenal glands) "We don't know why.  These organs just seem to fail, in some people".  Seems my energy producing system has never been much chop.  And as I get older, it is becoming more and more important for me to balance work, play and rest.  I have kids. I have other goals and interests.  And I have to work, at least sometimes.  If I don't look after myself, it all tends to fall apart.  When I get the balance right, I need only normal amounts of sleep, but when I don't...  forget doing anything but the essentials, for a while!

So part of it is probably just my genetic inheritance; the "luck of the draw".  But if I look back at the last... twenty years(?)  of my life, I can see other good reasons why my "energy system" might not be in such great shape.  Fact is, I have never been one to keep things "in balance".  Ever.  I've always tended to be either "full on", or "full off".  Years of abusing body and soul in one form or another, are bound to take their toll.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On Blog Stats

The other day I posted on facebook, that my blog had reached 4, 444 pageviews.

It just seemed kind of an awesome number!  Four fours aside, have THAT many people really looked at my blog???

In actual fact, it has taken over two years to reach that figure, and quite a large number of those hits were just me... checking on comments, obsessing about whether I'd said things "right".  This blog is not big.  But, like any writer, I get an amazing sense of fulfillment and satisfaction when people actually read my stuff.

Of course, in response to my little bit of self-indulgent crowing, the pageviews have dropped this week (yes, I do obsess a bit over them - I know it's silly!) and there were fewer comments (just so you know, I LOVE comments :)

But that got me thinking.

I don't think I've ever really expected my blog to get "BIG".  Some of the blogs I follow have comment threads so long that it takes half the day just to read through all the responses.  There are times when it just becomes a bunch of loudmouthed religious people crapping on, but for the most part, there is real dialogue and a sense of community - people listening to others and valuing their thoughts.  I love that!

But quite apart from the fact that I don't have any recognisable credentials at all, to be talking about this stuff (well, apart from the fact that I'm me, and this is more or less about my own ruminations) I think there's a very real reason, why the blogosphere is probably never going to start flocking here en masse.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Speaking my Language

Being a school teacher, and having completed my degree relatively recently, I've spent a bit of time learning about a pedagogical philosophy (now there's a big word!) called constructivism.

The whole idea behind constructivism, is that people only ever really learn something new, if they can connect it in some way (or construct it) with something they already understand.  The implication for teaching, is that you need to start with what your students already know. If you're not helping them to build on their own existing understanding, you are not teaching them anything at all.  Makes sense to me! 

You can't teach the principles of multiplication, for example, to kids who can't count yet.  Or even to kids who can count, but don't yet fully understand addition.  Little ones just starting school have begun a journey that will take them to multiplication and beyond, but they are still a long way off.  They don't yet have the background concepts they will need.

So if this is the way all of us learn (and I think it is) what are the implications for understanding God as teacher?  If He is really about communicating with us, changing our hearts, and growing us from the inside...  wouldn't you expect Him to begin the conversation, in whatever form it takes, with what we already understand about the world?

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Modern Parable

The Big theme for me this week, is over and over, the need to identify with those "outside".  AND, I just discovered Peter Rollins.  His name seems to bounce around the blogosphere a bit - but until now I'd never heard him speak or read any of his stuff.  I think that's gonna change!

Enough from me - have a listen to this parable.  How does it sit with you?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

In my Skin

A lot of stuff has been coming up, lately, on two themes.  One is "learning by experience, or by doing".  The other, is empathy, or identification with others.  I think those two themes overlap, significantly.

I think I am definitely one of those people who learn best, by doing.  And I suspect, even though we all have different "learning styles", that experience is always the best teacher.  I don't think you ever know anything fully, until you experience it for yourself.  

My new blogosphere buddy, Adrian, has been doing some kind of experiential program - where he and his wife are putting themselves through different experiences, in order to see things differently. Head over to life before the bucket for more info, if you're curious.  The story of Therese of Liseux, has also really stayed with me.  She was Catholic nun, who died of tuberculosis.  While she was ill (and dying) she found herself unable to experience God, or to hang on to any kind of faith or certainty.  This enabled her to understand and love atheists and those outside the faith, because she was "in their shoes".  She finally knew what they were experiencing, and had a sense of how they felt.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Rest-Fest

It's official!  Heady Brew is about to host a Friday blog series on rest!

Although I already have some fantastic contributions, I really think this is a series that shouldn't be rushed.  Hence, one post per week, for as long as the series lasts.  I've picked Fridays, because for most of us, that's the end of the working week, when we start to kick back and relax, and hopefully, when we also have a little more time to think and reflect.

There is already plenty of good stuff to look forward to (& although I am busting to get it all out there, I am determinedly resisting the urge to rush this!)

Here's the plan, so far:

Friday, Feb 17th - Introductory post by ... yours truly!

Friday, Feb 24th - Much anticipated reflection on keeping a Sabbath, by Adrian Waller

Friday, March 2nd - Rest is a state of mind, by my old friend, Ian Metcalfe.  (Loving the fact that Ian decided to contribute - he is a passionate atheist, and I am really honoured to have his viewpoint on this blog.)

Friday March 9, and Friday March 16 (not exactly sure which order) - Some thoughts on Buddhist meditation, by another dear friend of mine, Andrew Cook.  Andrew is not a blogger, but probably should be - and I am really looking forward to his perspective.  (& Andrew, if you're reading this, you're committed now, mate!!)

Biblical rest, or something along those lines, by Josh Miller.  Josh is my youngest sibling.  He's also an (ex?) pentecostal pastor, a theologian, and a deep thinker.  We've had lots of conversations about the place of rest in the Christian faith, and I know his thoughts will be worth sharing. 

And the series is still open.  If you have a perspective you'd like to share - there's still plenty of time, and I'd love to hear from you!  If you'd like to join in the Rest-Fest as a guest blogger, just send me an email:

Image Credit:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Can you add to the Rest???

Okay, so here's the thing.

This year, I have determined to learn how to rest better.  (There's a story behind this, but I'll share that later)

I've realised that for years - no, decades! - I have pushed myself past my limits, carried constant stress, and even in periods where I was "veging", "taking it easy" or being just plain lazy - I wasn't really resting well.  I had never learned to really switch it all off and REST.  This year is my year of learning to rest.  I am actually getting better at it - and the result is a more relaxed, more productive, and definitely happier me.


I want to host a blog series.  I've got a couple of hot bloggers lined up already (Adrian, from Life Before the Bucket, has agreed to share his Sabbath experience with us - I am over the moon!!) and I'm hoping a couple of my friends, including my brother, Josh, will contribute the unique perspectives I know they have.

And I'm throwing this wide open!  Do YOU have a unique perspective on "Rest" that you'd like to share?  Maybe you're a sleep therapist?  You've discovered meditation??  Did you have an experience that taught you the value of rest, or how to rest well??  Doesn't worry me if you are a theologian, or an atheist...  I think we all have something to contribute!

If you'd like to jump in...  shoot me an email at   & just let me know the general direction of what you'd like to post.  I'm almost certain to fit you in!!

Can't wait to hear from you!!

PS.  This series is focusing on rest - but if there's something else you're burning to share, try me!  The blog is open!

Places I've been...

Identity with Atheists
 Richard Beck posted some thoughts last week on the life of Therese of Liseux.  I don't come from a tradition that makes much of "saints",  and had never heard of her.  Therese went through an intense crisis of faith during the illness that led to her death.  For her, this led to a deep sense of solidarity and empathy with atheists and those 'outside' the faith.  Something about the way she identified so totally with those "others" was, to me, a beautiful and deeply moving picture of Christ.

Real Stuff
Glenn Hager, over at Communitas Collective, wrote some soul-nourishing words about the messiness of life.  His observation: that the hard places, and the "real stuff" of life is where you find a real God.  Words I needed to hear - again.

Adrian, over at Life before the Bucket, is experimenting with Sabbath-keeping.  That's something I have some thoughts about, and may even post about it myself...  however I think for Adrian and his lovely wife, Kalyn, the exercise is more about finding a rhythm between work and rest - always a good thing! 

Life Before the Bucket is a new blog discovery for me - but really seems a great place to "drop in"!  While you're over there, check out the Drawbridge post - & join in the game!  It's as thought provoking as it is fun!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

God of the Broken

 I really enjoyed hanging out at church this morning.  I'm slowly feeling more connected with the folks there (I haven't been attending there all that long) and am loving the sense of community, and the freedom and joy that so often comes across through what is shared.

I really enjoyed the singing, too - more than I have in a while.  I haven't been finding it easy to pray or to feel "connected" with God, of late (much as I value that) & it was a time when I felt I could just reach out and trust Him, if that makes sense.  It was what my soul needed.

But there was something I just couldn't quite do.  I couldn't sing the words of some of the songs, comfortably.  In fact, I ended up staying silent for bits, and at one point changed them to my own version.  Not that they were theologically wrong, or bad at all.  It's just...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why Jesus makes NO sense!!

I visited my mum's church, a few weeks back.  I'm pretty uncomfortable with institutional church on the whole,  but this is one little community I think I could happily be a part of.   I have had a few contacts with them over the past few years, all of them positive.  The most significant was 2 years ago, when they mourned, with us, the death of my father.  So I guess that kinda makes them "extended family".  Their youth pastor, a guy named Joel Noonan (according to their website - I had not actually met him before) talked about Jesus' explanations of "The Kingdom of God" - and how totally confusing they can seem.  It's like a mustard seed, it's like a coin... it's like a farmer sowing seed...  Well, what is it, really??

He wryly recounted his visit to some church conference or other, where the visiting speaker had announced that he was going to explain very simply what the Kingdom of God meant - and then proceeded to list 47 different points intended to "simplify" our understanding (well, maybe not quite 47, but you get the idea) leaving his audience probably feeling more confused than ever before.