Sunday, March 26, 2017

Trump-o-meter Update

Well, it's pretty ordinary so far by any measure!!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Problem with Pauline

Dear Pauline Hanson,
As I've observed to many friends the tricky thing about your representation in Federal Politics is not that you're a lone voice for racism, xenophobia and simplistic world views [or that you are deluded in thinking people want you to represent them]. It is that you do indeed speak for many average Australians. There are many people missing out and looking to blame, feeling unheard and seeking to speak out. The big problem with this is scapegoating.

I whole heartedly agree that our Leaders have lost their way in terms of ability to understand the concerns and issues of everyday people. You only have to see a government clamping down on our poorest people in the name of major economic reform to understand that they haven't a clue.
BUT here are a few of the problems with all this:

- You do not speak for me on any issue I can name
- I am not part of a vocal minority on this
- Blanket bans on peaceful people of faith [even different faiths] is a pathway through fear of difference into making the issues worse. It's logic is akin to me posting a hashtag #BANEVERYREDHEAD in order to have you removed from a position of power. The others have an unknown potential to be just like you so if in doubt insult all of them
- When you speak of banning sharia law, you are again generalising about extremes and don't really understand what you are talking about. Your lack of willingness to learn is lost on many of your supporters who react likewise
- Same with halal
- Nobody has truly held you accountable for your claim we are in danger of being swamped by Asians, simply allowing you to shift target onto the latest group many in our country don't understand.. so choose to get angry about
- Our country is not like a plane you can land, sort out the passengers to leave only those you know and like and then take off again. It is more akin to the EDS advert 'building a dream' in the air [while no analogy bears close examination] where we have to be a community, build relationships, be multi-cultural/global/modern/caring/just and mature along the journey
- Your perspectives and policies are as conflicted as the ABC radio program "Australia All Over" which rails against technology while inviting listeners to stream the program or interact in Facebook, SMS etc. The program celebrates much that is quintessentially Aussie but: glosses over multiculturalism; ignores development is the 2/3s world as linked to our prosperity; confuses jingoism with genuine worth and cultural value; and then runs a sublime piece on Blaze Aid, a local persons wonderful story etc etc... confusing times indeed
- Not everything in the world is better viewed through the globs of paint and fading coca cola stickers on the front window of the fish and chip shop. Neither is that true from the balcony of Cafe Sydney. Most people live somewhere in between on a spectrum of life issues, concerns and day to day dilemmas. Isolating people never helps.

As a person who seeks to participate in God's activity of reconciliation and renewal in the world, taking Jesus of Nazareth's values and ethos as an example, I find all the conflict, false pathways and troubles we are living through in Scripture [at the heart of it's story indeed]. I find none of your proposed solutions amongst the parables, stories and values [including from many OT heroes with feet of clay]. Instead I see invitations to 'welcome the stranger', the golden rule, care for widows, orphans, the poor and ill... stories promoting cohesion and flourishing. I see an image of God siding with those who are pushed to the very edge of our society. AND yes I see a 'church' that fails in its own attempts to live all this out... those shortcomings don't invalidate the invitation or the possibilities. There's much more to be written but even more to be lived by an alternative narrative to your fear and oversimplification...

Friday, March 10, 2017

"Joshua Tree" Album 30th Anniversary

They've gone on so long they are a parody of themselves and they have always polarised music fans But this song is timeless through the rare gift the band have to reinvent the key themes and images to reflect the current day context. This song, 'Bullet the Blue Sky', 'One Tree Hill', Pride etc have all had that role over time...

"Where the Streets Have No Name" U2
Live with Zoo TV 'Zoomerang' Tour 1993 Sydney Football Stadium

Perhaps it doesn't matter whether the song was inspired by a trip to Ethiopia or the way you judged someone just by their street address in Dublin... it's a special track from what even those who've gone off the band agree is a landmark creative album!!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

"Supermarket Flowers"

A wonderful song from a wonderful story and a deeply significant time in life...
For Ed Sheeran's Grandma!!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Australia Day PART TWO Paul Keating REDFERN

   Australia Day ALWAYS reminds me of this Speech! I still remember watching it on the TV News that night and even with less passion for and experience of the deep issues it addresses I knew it was something so important. It evokes similarly strong feelings I held when we did hear Shane Blackman and others in Belmore Park in 1988.
   When Geoff Smith and I recalled this speech recently the anecdote was shared of Uncle Ray Minniecon talking about what it was like to be there...
   At the beginning [and you can hear it if you know] the crowd had a palpable anger and unrest, thinking blah, blah, blah... yep, here we go, the usual superficial stuff from our politicians. Only the raw honesty and plain speaking changes that...

Redfern Speech (Year for the World's Indigenous People)
Delivered in Redfern Park by Prime Minister Paul Keating, 10 December 1992

Ladies and gentlemen
I am very pleased to be here today at the launch of Australia's celebration of the 1993 International Year of the World's Indigenous People. It will be a year of great significance for Australia. 
It comes at a time when we have committed ourselves to succeeding in the test which so far we have always failed.

Because, in truth, we cannot confidently say that we have succeeded as we would like to have succeeded if we have not managed to extend opportunity and care, dignity and hope to the indigenous people of Australia - the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people.

This is a fundamental test of our social goals and our national will: our ability to say to ourselves and the rest of the world that Australia is a first rate social democracy, that we are what we should be - truly the land of the fair go and the better chance.

There is no more basic test of how seriously we mean these things.
It is a test of our self-knowledge.
Of how well we know the land we live in. How well we know our history.
How well we recognise the fact that, complex as our contemporary identity is, it cannot be separated from Aboriginal Australia.
How well we know what Aboriginal Australians know about Australia. 

Redfern is a good place to contemplate these things.
Just a mile or two from the place where the first European settlers landed, in too many ways it tells us that their failure to bring much more than devastation and demoralisation to Aboriginal Australia continues to be our failure.

More I think than most Australians recognise, the plight of Aboriginal Australians affects us all.
In Redfern it might be tempting to think that the reality Aboriginal Australians face is somehow contained here, and that the rest of us are insulated from it.
But of course, while all the dilemmas may exist here, they are far from contained. We know the same dilemmas and more are faced all over Australia.

That is perhaps the point of this Year of the World's Indigenous People: to bring the dispossessed out of the shadows, to recognise that they are part of us, and that we cannot give indigenous Australians up without giving up many of our own most deeply held values, much of our own identity - and our own humanity.

Nowhere in the world, I would venture, is the message more stark than it is in Australia.
We simply cannot sweep injustice aside. Even if our own conscience allowed us to, I am sure, that in due course, the world and the people of our region would not.
There should be no mistake about this - our success in resolving these issues will have a significant bearing on our standing in the world.

However intractable the problems seem, we cannot resign ourselves to failure - any more than we can hide behind the contemporary version of Social Darwinism which says that to reach back for the poor and dispossessed is to risk being dragged down.
That seems to me not only morally indefensible, but bad history. We non-Aboriginal Australians should perhaps remind ourselves that Australia once reached out for us.

Didn't Australia provide opportunity and care for the dispossessed Irish? The poor of Britain? The refugees from war and famine and persecution in the countries of Europe and Asia?

Isn't it reasonable to say that if we can build a prosperous and remarkably harmonious multicultural society in Australia, surely we can find just solutions to the problems which beset the first Australians - the people to whom the most injustice has been done.
And, as I say, the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians.

It begins, I think, with that act of recognition.
Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing.
We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. 
We brought the diseases. The alcohol.
We committed the murders.
We took the children from their mothers.
We practised discrimination and exclusion.
It was our ignorance and our prejudice.
And our failure to imagine these things being done to us.

With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds.

We failed to ask - how would I feel if this were done to me?
As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded all of us.
If we needed a reminder of this, we received it this year.
The Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody showed with devastating clarity that the past lives on in inequality, racism and injustice.

In the prejudice and ignorance of non-Aboriginal Australians, and in the demoralisation and desperation, the fractured identity, of so many Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
For all this, I do not believe that the Report should fill us with guilt.
Down the years, there has been no shortage of guilt, but it has not produced the responses we need.
Guilt is not a very constructive emotion.
I think what we need to do is open our hearts a bit.
All of us.

Perhaps when we recognise what we have in common we will see the things which must be done - the practical things.
There is something of this in the creation of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.
The Council's mission is to forge a new partnership built on justice and equity and an appreciation of the heritage of Australia's indigenous people.

In the abstract those terms are meaningless.

We have to give meaning to "justice" and "equity" - and, as I have said several times this year, we will only give them meaning when we commit ourselves to achieving concrete results.

If we improve the living conditions in one town, they will improve in another. And another.
If we raise the standard of health by twenty per cent one year, it will be raised more the next.
If we open one door others will follow.
When we see improvement, when we see more dignity, more confidence, more happiness - we will know we are going to win.
We need these practical building blocks of change. The Mabo Judgement should be seen as one of these.

By doing away with the bizarre conceit that this continent had no owners prior to the settlement of Europeans, Mabo establishes a fundamental truth and lays the basis for justice.
It will be much easier to work from that basis than has ever been the case in the past.
For that reason alone we should ignore the isolated outbreaks of hysteria and hostility of the past few months.
Mabo is an historic decision - we can make it an historic turning point, the basis of a new relationship between indigenous and non-Aboriginal Australians.
The message should be that there is nothing to fear or to lose in the recognition of historical truth, or the extension of social justice, or the deepening of Australian social democracy to include indigenous Australians.

There is everything to gain.
Even the unhappy past speaks for this.

Where Aboriginal Australians have been included in the life of Australia they have made remarkable contributions.
Economic contributions, particularly in the pastoral and agricultural industry. They are there in the frontier and exploration history of Australia.
They are there in the wars.
In sport to an extraordinary degree.
In literature and art and music.

In all these things they have shaped our knowledge of this continent and of ourselves. They have shaped our identity.
They are there in the Australian legend.
We should never forget - they have helped build this nation.

And if we have a sense of justice, as well as common sense, we will forge a new partnership.
As I said, it might help us if we non-Aboriginal Australians imagined ourselves dispossessed of land we had lived on for fifty thousand years - and then imagined ourselves told that it had never been ours.

Imagine if ours was the oldest culture in the world and we were told that it was worthless.
Imagine if we had resisted this settlement, suffered and died in the defence of our land, and then were told in history books that we had given up without a fight.

Imagine if non-Aboriginal Australians had served their country in peace and war and were then ignored in history books.
Imagine if our feats on sporting fields had inspired admiration and patriotism and yet did nothing to diminish prejudice.
Imagine if our spiritual life was denied and ridiculed.
Imagine if we had suffered the injustice and then were blamed for it.
It seems to me that if we can imagine the injustice we can imagine its opposite.
And we can have justice.

I say that for two reasons:
I say it because I believe that the great things about Australian social democracy reflect a fundamental belief in justice.
And I say it because in so many other areas we have proved our capacity over the years to go on extending the realms of participation, opportunity and care.

Just as Australians living in the relatively narrow and insular Australia of the 1960s imagined a culturally diverse, worldly and open Australia, and in a generation turned the idea into reality, so we can turn the goals of reconciliation into reality.
There are very good signs that the process has begun.
The creation of the Reconciliation Council is evidence itself.
The establishment of the ATSIC - the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission - is also evidence.
The Council is the product of imagination and good will.
ATSIC emerges from the vision of indigenous self-determination and self- management.
The vision has already become the reality of almost 800 elected Aboriginal Regional Councillors and Commissioners determining priorities and developing their own programs.
All over Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are taking charge of their own lives. And assistance with the problems which chronically beset them is at last being made available in ways developed by the communities themselves.

If these things offer hope, so does the fact that this generation of Australians is better informed about Aboriginal culture and achievement, and about the injustice that has been done, than any generation before.

We are beginning to more generally appreciate the depth and the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
From their music and art and dance we are beginning to recognise how much richer our national life and identity will be for the participation of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.

We are beginning to learn what the indigenous people have known for many thousands of years - how to live with our physical environment.
Ever so gradually we are learning how to see Australia through Aboriginal eyes, beginning to recognise the wisdom contained in their epic story.

I think we are beginning to see how much we owe the indigenous Australians and how much we have lost by living so apart.
I said we non-indigenous Australians should try to imagine the Aboriginal view.
It can't be too hard. Someone imagined this event today, and it is now a marvellous reality and a great reason for hope.
There is one thing today we cannot imagine.
We cannot imagine that the descendants of people whose genius and resilience maintained a culture here through fifty thousand years or more, through cataclysmic changes to the climate and environment, and who then survived two centuries of disposession and abuse, will be denied their place in the modern Australian nation.
We cannot imagine that.
We cannot imagine that we will fail.
And with the spirit that is here today I am confident that we won't. I am confident that we will succeed in this decade.
Thank you

"Australia Day" 2017 Part ONE

I acknowledge the Awabakal People who share a unique relationship with the land on which I live and work. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and being formed for the future.

I could tell Australia Day was coming in the week that's just passed by:
- The crappy merchandise and [made in Bangladesh] swimwear is in the shops
- Reindeer antlers have given way to car window flags often accompanied by xenophobic stickers
- Fear of difference brings unhelpful perspectives on the burqa and the hijab
- Social media includes people's mixed feelings about indigenous history and the 26th January

There will be some diverse celebrations in places like Newcastle and Lake Macquarie and indigenous culture will be included but it could be so much more. Not enough people have the empathy to even consider the issues. Is our sense of identity so fragile?

I believe we are 'the lucky country' and any travel I've been fortunate enough to undertake reinforces our climate, landscape, opportunities, broader values, blue sky, urban and rural settings and how great a place we live in. Being Australian to me is bigger than jingoism and more important than stereotypes. I choose to prioritise the values I hold that flow from my faith and where that and patriotism or nationalism are in conflict, being Australian comes second. It's far from a thoughtless or ungrateful attitude, quite the opposite. Even in sport it's great to have a team or competitor that "punches above our weight" but that's no reason to celebrate poor behaviour...

The Triple J Hottest 100 and Festivals like the 'Big Day Out,' the ODI cricket in Adelaide and the Australian of the Year Awards celebrate some aspects of our creativity. I for one will be buying some lamb for the BBQ this year [inspired by some of the the nonsensical responses to the clever TV advert].

One SBS TV and NITV contribution to the conversation here
Listen to inspired music "Under the Motherland's Flag" from Jim Moginie here

Here's a small re-write of my 2011 poem the stanzas of which may sound familiar:

My Country 2017 [inspired by Dorothea Mackeller]
The love of field and pruning
Of green tree shaded lanes
Of pommie woods and gardens
Is the backpackers domain
Putting up with grey-blue distance
Brown streams and that low sky
Is nice to sometimes visit
But we could pass it by

I love a sunburnt country
Across the great western plains
Of bushwalkers mountain ranges
Of droughts and flooding rains
I love our far horizons
I love the Bar Beach sea
The beauty and the terror
The wide brown land for me

A stark white ring-barked forest
The loggers lop in tune
Three Sisters and Blue Mountains
The midday sun breaks through
Annoying spikey shrubs
Lantana and pesky weeds
A bunch of 50 dollar natives
With a protea is all you need

Core of our soul, our country
Land of storylines told
For flood and fire and famine
Our payback comes threefold
Farms and backyards dampen
Rain thunders on the tin roof
And green tinges reappear
The steady soaking rain

Core of their soul, their country
Land of the Rainbow snake
Flood and fire and famine
The dreaming stories make
Sand through the hand is poured
Lingiari was his name
The greenness will return
When they the land can claim

An opal-hearted country
A willful, lavish land
It isn't love or leave us
fear of difference holds us back
Our diversity is richness
first or second to arrive
We owe it to this brown country
To at least give hope a try

Friday, January 20, 2017

Row K Seat 17 "Lion" rated PG 118mins SPOILER ALERT

"A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometres from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family."

Based on a true story...
   Saroo Brierley is delivered to an adoptive family as arranged in Tasmania. Restless and determined to understand his own story he really does try to use Google Earth to find his mother and family. It's a story beautifully and movingly told in both India and Tasmania [and Melbourne].
   It's about identity, choices, finding yourself and your path in life. It reflects on real circumstances and consequences in a world of such disparity where we have recently been reminded the world's eight most wealthy people have as much as 50% of the world's poorest. But go further, most of us in Australia would make the top 1-4%.

   Sue Brierley and her husband adopted two Indian boys and that was not without it's costs and challenges but their story is real and inspired. In the same way the film's production company have launched a charity to assist 'lost' children in India.
   It's easily the most I've teared up in a film for some time, it's not sad, it's moving and real and taps anyone's story about their identity and the experiences that shape a life, including mine. 
   The specifics of India are ever present but drop away to reveal the personal stories that happen in that place. The Australian connection, accents and time in history give the film a texture unlike big budget American films. We are fortunate the Weinsten's didn't transplant the story as a generic US story but stayed true to Saroo's life and journey as celebrated by him in the local media and premiered here in recent weeks around Christmas!!
   Visions, ever present people in our stories, faith and one's place in the world offer a rich spirituality within this story of place and people. I would happily watch it again, soon!!

30 Reflections #01 Context

  What a time to begin to exercise gifts for ministry with young people!! Generations of young people disappeared from the mainstream church denominations as I was finishing High School. Massive social change and a new kind of questioning fitted to the times meant 'all bets were off'. People discovered the sky didn't fall if they opted out and doubt, skepticism about hypocrisy and the changing values across society exposed a fragility or social convention of church participation.
   Curricula struggled, people began to write books about ministry with small numbers and divides opened up around focus, purpose and core message or what the 'good news' actually is.
   Suddenly models of ministry with youth which were built on a steady stream of participants began to struggle. Mark Senter was writing about "The Coming Revolution in Youth Ministry" and "Four Views of Youth Ministry." David Bosch was writing "Transforming Mission." The wider church was just being confronted by the idea that our 'mission field' came home and it was no longer OK for the "preparatory" model to predominate. As I lived in two worlds [both anglo middle class ones mind you] I tried to bring empathy, non judgement, questions, creativity and what I knew to be of value in any context, with me!! Movies, music and other conventional stories could come from any sources and most that were not 1980s culture of 'copying' e.g. terrible Christian music and films could be part of 'culture-making' in a new way of 'announcing the existence of the rule and reign of God' if only we could be communities as visible signs of this reality [sorry my post is getting nerdy and jargon filled which I used to pride myself at being neither of]...

I'm jumping ahead a bit BUT some inherent and some learnt values:
- Young people are people and 'adolescence' can look like but is not a mental illness
- Goals need to be shared and have ownership amongst the young people, not just my agendas
- Young people have an ability to make meaning, find significance and have great 'bullcrap' detectors
- In every group of young people some will warm to a more black and white story of the Christian faith and then some will embrace the grey questions. This often includes being more immersed in 'the world where they live' and the rich challenge of helping them do so. That's diversity.
- Place sharing, un-shockability, suspending judgement, being yourself and listening are vital
- Just as I and my life story deconstructed and helped reconstruct 'the way I speak of God' and what it means to me to seek to 'follow' Jesus life, example and relationship with God... I can share stories, space and life in ways that help others
- I hate making mistakes but I do try to learn from them...
- I avoid conflict if I can, but am much better than ever at it when I can't
- As a 'big picture person' I have learnt to overcommit less so as to not appear like I can't organise
- I care much less whether everybody likes me or values my contribution or me

There's many more things to write and one thing I'm learning and being affirmed in these days is that so much of this translates to people of all ages. People have occasionally commented to the effect "I guess that may be relevant in a youth context OR I know your experience is with young people BUT..." OK, better post this or I'll never put the full stop and write Post #02

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Celebrating Thirty Years

   It occurred to me late last year that January 2017 represents thirty years of 'putting one foot after the other' pursuing what I perceived to be the 'right' choice for my work. As in, doing something I've loved as what the average person knows as their job. Part time University was a job, Accountancy Trainee or Manager in Training and even doing a Diploma in Education were a job. This is more the sometimes overblown, over complicated, pursued or misunderstood sense of call.
- I knew it would be a mistake to be an Accountant and I struggled at University part time
- I loved my voluntary youth leadership role/s
- The Uniting Church existence and ethos are crucial to my story
- I put my hand up locally but needed to go further afield
- Normanhurst took a chance after they'd had some less effective experiences
- I started as Parish Assistant Youth & Retirement Village Pastoral Carer for two years
- I finished a Bachelor of Economics and started a patchwork of formation/education/training
- I participated in networks, had mentors, listened, learnt from mistakes
- Dip. Ed and SRE teaching
- Order of St Stephen Hunter Regional Youth Worker
- NSW/ACTStatewide Youth Unit
- Hunter Youth Ministry Development & Resource Minister Upper Hunter
- Congregational Minister at Morisset Uniting

There are learnings, key relationships, anecdotes, how we speak of God and models/ideas to share
[in coming weeks as I'm on holidays]

Anyhow I'll have a fittingly quiet celebration of fav. food and beverage this coming week sometime with more reflections to follow!! It's a bit like this audio only youtube song

"The Calling" Mary Chapin Carpenter
Deep in your blood or a voice in your head
On a dark lonesome highway
It finds you instead
So certain it knows you, you can't turn away
Something or someone has found you today

Genius or Jesus, maybe he's seen us
But who would believe us
I can't really say
Whatever the calling, the stumbling or falling
You follow it knowing
There's no other way, there's no other way

There are zealots and preachers
And readers of dreams
The righteous yell loudest
And the saved rise to sing
The lonely and lost are just waiting to hear
Any moment their purpose
Will be perfectly clear

And then life would mean more
Than their name on their door
And that far distant shore that's so near
They'd hear the calling
And stumbling and falling
They'd follow it knowing
There's nothing to fear
Nothing to fear

I don't remember a voice
On a dark, lonesome road
When I started this journey so long ago
I was only just trying to outrun the noise
There was never a question of having a choice
Jesus or genie, maybe they've seen me
But who would believe me
I can't really say
Whatever the calling, the stumbling and falling
I followed it knowing there's no other way

Jesus or genie, maybe he's seen me
But who would believe me
I can't really say
Whatever the calling, stumbling and falling
I got through it knowing there's no other way
There's no other way

Movies I'm Looking Forward to in 2017

It's obviously easier to find advance reference to blockbusters BUT here goes in no particular order:
[click on most of the film titles to see a trailer]

Looks a great yarn with a terrific cast, should have more awards as a Weinstein project
Manchester by the Sea
Critical acclaim
Some stories are worth the admission price [none are worth the cost of snacks/drinks]
Hidden Figures
A great story and I reckon it'll be my pick of the year by the end!!
A thriller
Jasper Jones
Based on the aussie novel
The Zookeepers Wife
A tough but important story
Star Wars Episode VIII
Looking forward to the unfolding story
Justice League
Ramping up the Affleck
Hoping Chris Nolan doesn't stuff it up
No fan of war/violence these films tell our anglo founding stories one way or another
Spiderman Homecoming
Don't be confused, this is 'young' Peter Parker
I know, but they're action packed escapist stories
Wonder Woman
Who is UN empowerment symbol of the year
Kingsman The Golden Circle 
A quirky 'sleeper' if they get it right
The internet is full of fan made trailers
Jumanji 2
Where the kids get trapped in the game world
Oscar nomination for Dwayne Johnson?
Captain Underpants The First Epic Movie great storybook/s
John Wick Chapter 2
Because it will be completely ridiculous and he will kill whoever
Cars 3 Lightning Strikes
Really, but it could be OK

Yeah, not so worried about...
Thor, Transformers, War on Planet of the Apes, Beauty & the Beast, Pitch Perfect 3, World War Z 2 [the irony],  The God Particle, Flatliners, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Smurfs, TRainspotting 2, Bladerunner 2049, etc

Sadly the number of TV shows remade as films, sequels and bad ideas is only increasing
I would hope 'Baywatch' with Zac Efron is somewhere near the bottom of the curve

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

40 Degrees Today in Newcastle

 I know, it's crazy, I don't love the summer heat but I do enjoy it as my fav. time of year. I always say, I wouldn't like to be laying bricks today and I know many older folk struggle with the oppressive conditions. Others in my household are not so enthusiastic!! There's also been more pollens and dust in the air the last few months and I end up with very sore eyes BUT I could wear six jumpers in winter and still not be warm, I find it depressing and tend to hibernate in some ways because of the infernal cold!!
   It is why I love January holidays as you can be in the heat from a shady vantage point, take a swim, get in the air etc etc... but I've also regularly until about 40 something played cricket in up to 38 degrees and wanted to take the challenge. It's only been recent years I drive past Bar Beach and Empire Park and wonder which side of the road I'd rather be on...
   I will enjoy the cool change mooted for this evening as much as anyone, it's part of the summer thing and who doesn't like an iced coffee during a thunderstorm?
   In the meantime I will ride my bike a little earlier today but then possibly start my garage clean ip and re-organise... I will have the chance to swim before lunch!!
   This is also the time of year I have much greater motivation to eat better and lose some of the kilos my broken knees make easy to put on... 8kg down so far, but that just means back to where I was a year ago, there's much more to do...
   So while my thoughts are with those working outdoors, the elderly and anyone who struggles with humidity... I will happily drink more water that I did yesterday [I wasn't on top of that], bring in the washing, shop, ride, check the mail and later water the gardens to see if 55 year old me is as resilient as I used to be...

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

End of an Era

  After every year since it's inception we are finally NOT heading to Sydney's 'Openair' Cinema at Mrs Macquarie's Chair!! The 2000 seat bleachers [complete with Sebel plastic chairs] and catering on the edge of the Botanical Gardens has been a staple through kids, all weather [we've only had the worst of it once in that time] and another one or two light showers nights... ponchos are handed out free and only high winds would stop a screening. Various reasons we're not going I guess... oh well!

   Much like the SCG members who turn up at 10.20am expecting their favourite seats to be available, my favourite viewing has always been those who rock up at 8.15pm with a date to impress and discover there are only single seats 150m apart because many people have lined up since 4-5pm to be let in after 6pm and grabbed a seat and a table and settled in to make a night of it!!

If you plan to go here's the way to do it:
- Open a St George account I guess, pre sale access 500 tix per film or main sale a week later
- Tix in advance but no reserved seats, first in gets the choice
- Personally we rule out films over 2 hrs [plastic seats]
- There is early parking at Mrs Mac's Chair but go around so facing west
- Go early and line up with your print at home tix [that's changed most over the years]
- One race to get two seat reserved St George signs and go up the first stairs to find good seats
- Another head straight for the Dining Tables and grab spots
- Grab your free Lindt ball on the way through
- Take your time before ordering, the eating/drinking
- Move to seats a bit before 8pm so you can still read a newspaper/magazine
- The screen mechanically goes up around 8.15pm
- Movie 8.30pm-ish
- Enjoy!!

   There are deck chairs for first 200 St G customers, special nights for them too. I preferred the original Phillips sponsors and no VIP seats [although there's always been a VIP bar and a bevy of celebrities]. Props to the famous who sit with the great unwashed... there's plenty of spottos each year!!

Monday, January 09, 2017

Vale Brian Rudd Pitt St Mall Shoe shine

It was inspiring at Christmas time to read this tweet from Father Bob...

"full of resilience and gratitude"

   Brian was a well known 'shoeshine' in Sydney who I often saw and very occasionally spoke to in Pitt St Mall over many years. It was humbling and fascinating to have heard Father Bob speak of Brian's story and background at a fundraising dinner for the South Sydney Herald.
   Brian had been a ward of the state in Victoria from 3 months to 18 years of age and had moved to Sydney because he feared the drug culture in Melbourne would be his undoing. Sharp, funny and as Father Bob says "full of resilience, he slept rough or in boarding houses and didn't want charity but was happy to shine shoes and carve out a simple life in the city. He died quietly in his sleep just days after the phone call/tweet. I used to regret that I mostly wore joggers or suede shoes every time I went past Brian in the Mall.
   I had cause to share the little I knew of Brian's story with young people and other audiences over the course of a few years when talking about who makes up this world, what 'good news' might look like to different people and/or just to invite people to 'walk a mile' in the shoes of another and hear their "story of hope". I know he inspired me and caused no end of honest self reflection.
   You can read a little about Brian here and I understand that Father Bob has been rushed with offers to take Brian's ashes to the Ganges, not least of which from holiday travellers, businessmen who shined Brian's shoes and the ED of Steve Waugh's charity. I think they're still looking for pro bono transport of Brian to Melbourne for a Funeral with remaining family [his brother].

Vale Brian Rudd

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Mike Frost's 'New' Blog is worth a read

 I sense a motivation for a bigger conversation than a Facebook Post can offer and so Mike Frost is blogging in a 'new' site and today's post is well worth a read and a thought here

Sunday, January 01, 2017

"The Sound of Summer" Jim Maxwell

Just quietly I don't often enjoy reading!
   That said, some books I can't put down [often autobiographies] while others join the pile of six awaiting another try. I've just read Jim Maxwell's excellent memoir since Christmas Eve!! Interesting, fills in some gaps from newspaper articles, gives great insight into the ABC and it's characters.

Jim offers honest and generous assessments of various cricketers, Captains and others. Since his medical incident during the local van based coverage of the Olympic Hockey from Rio he's been confined to 'phoning in' his insights and observations of the cricket... typically sharp and relevant comments!!

Wishing him well in his stroke rehab and wondering if I take the book to the SCG and see if he's about for autographs!!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

When You Know You're Right...

  It's was 38 degrees in my Office the day I started this post writing, with a fan on and the hint of a breeze wafting through the open door. It's an example of me avoiding the air con option while I can as I actually like this weather. I don't mind a cold drink, a swim or the end of such a day with a cool change and an iced coffee as well!! But in the meantime it's definitely summer, it burns colds away and gives value for effort in your exercise... I digress...

   Yurora 2017 [the current inventive 'iteration' of the UCA's national youth event formerly identified as NCYC now in a  three year cycle] kicks off at Stanwell Tops 8th January. I'm not involved [apart from spreading the word and encouraging young people to get onboard] and not planning to participate at this stage. That's a bit of a transition as I haven't missed one since my first in 1987...

My friends went to Adelaide 1985 but I had no money or time off...

1987 Ballarat
1989 Perth
1991 Toowoomba
1993 Canberra
1995 Adelaide
1997 Launceston
1999 Geelong
2001 Brisbane
2003 Newcastle
2005 Gawler
2007 Perth
2009 Melbourne
2011 Gold Coast

   Like many others I've offered Community Leadership, Chaplaincy, alt.worship, Bible Study Interactives with Teams, Elective Workshops, Organising and Mentoring...

   This is an event that's brought us into contact with Desmond Tutu, Jim Wallis, Grace Imathui, Pete Rollins and Jules Hamilton and many more outstanding contributors!! Tutu and Wallis are still two of the best communicators I've heard.

   At least [3] times in the latter half of this time I participated in 'consultations' and conversations about the future models for the event sparked by the universal missional challenges facing the church. These presented as declining numbers, theological wrestles, affordability and sustainability of the planning and leadership models for a rotating event "reinventing the wheel" in every hosting cycle.

   Inspired by listening and discernment, the effective reinvention of "Blackstump" and other similar events we advocated for: change; choice; flexible accomodation and catering options; and that the "givens" in the manual had to change for the event to survive and prosper.

Among things we were convinced of:
- convention style had run it's course and the price ceiling had been reached
- 75% of attenders needed a subsidy/fundraising component [lots of Fredo Frogs]
- Most attenders are first timers
- 'Choice' was working in Festivals as the adjectives of intimacy changed for a generation
- Praxis would allow deeper learning through middle day immersions
- Commercial food choices and a variety of accomodation could allow different budgets
- We were very anglo despite best efforts [up front and in authentic engagement]
- Festivals can pack more in for less days
- Whole Convention Gatherings didn't need to be everyday

Imposed major changes have only happened in my time when the host is onboard e.g lower age, community style, middle day programs, self catering and tents again, digital music, festival style.

On the back of 2003 in Newcastle which offered the inspired 'Carthedral' but also using the middle day to explore agencies and people serving others in the local community [with all the January shutdown challenges and groups not quite 'getting' what we were asking... you know, we wanted to genuinely listen and hear their story. A small crew worked crazily to make that happen. It was breaking out of a christendom envisaged presence in the host town.

I'm most proud that it sparked others to "do even better" e.g to not just see a soup kitchen operating but to serve soup [in WA] and then to stage social justice actions from common good partnerships with community organisations through existing networks in Vic/Tas... that was the hope when we started... that others would take our idea and do it even bigger!!

There are loads more things about NCYC that have been landmarks, brilliant and everything it means to be UCA...

I'm still inspired by the creativity and cultural/artistic/generational brilliance of Canberra's "On the Edge of the Night" evening experiences. Tim Winton readings, music clips and live bands, varied speakers, drama, story and art in themed material that invited you to think, imagine, connect and make meaning. These were shaping experiences for what I've advocated for decades since in accessing the arts, story and pop culture to tell our story...

I also understood the privilege of wrangling teams to do two experimental Bible Studies in Melbourne and on the Gold Coast... you can keep your talking head hour long lectures!!

Anyhow, I step back and take a break knowing I saw Yurora happen last time and a vision for change actually work... Festival style... by people and in ways better than we ever imagined, as expected!!

I contributed an interactive story space going old school with TV monitors for video, art, props, shoes, a message box, photo booth etc and I got to see 'The Commons' nail it for village community and hospitality!!

This whole year I've known I had nothing creative bubbling up to offer. I would happily offer to do transport, toilets, ushering etc etc no problem. BUT I just feel I need to step away, to be on holidays and maybe be able to have a circuit breaker for next time with renewed energy and maybe even an attender or two in tow!! I look forward to hearing and seeing the story unfold [I won't miss some of the style of the event, after all I wasn't suggesting a Festival I'd enjoy, one that 18-25s would]... I think I knew at the end of the last Yurora I wouldn't be at this one for all the above reasons. It's important to reflect, take time and decide... when you know you're right!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Thursday, December 08, 2016

"Disruption" Word of 2016

Forget "post-truth" as word of the year from 2016!!
   Notice the fade in the Pokemon obsession [except amongst the easily distracted] the enduring nature of fitness wear as fashion, the rise of the wearable tech [as sadly Pebble becomes part of FitBit courtesy perhaps of a waterproof Apple Watch and catch ups from other devices], the popularity of the one piece short pants suit [as opposed to the not so popular US presidential candidate pants suit], Ray Ban and copy styles with elaborate mirror lenses.

   What else has defined fashion or fad in 2016? Terrence Malick movies, Disney Star Wars, sports brand t-shirts, live videos, cheerleading as aerobatic dance, the 'Babylon Bee' satirical site, Game of Thrones chain store merchandise, anti-sugar diets, "Goggle Box" relaxing it's language threshold so the kids get sent to bed, Leonard Cohen, the now Ninja enhanced "Nutri-Bullet", 'not musical' music, politics as usual "on the nose" and so disregarded people elected the "as usual" by a different name without realising it!! This is the year when Nigella can drizzle olive oil a slice of turkish bread with lettuce and a fried egg and call it cooking!!

I actually think the word of 2016 was "disruption" [or at least it's a prime candidate for 2017!!

noun: disruption; plural noun: disruptions
disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process.
"the scheme was planned to minimize disruption"

synonyms: disturbance, disordering, disarrangement, disarranging, interference, upset, upsetting, unsettling, confusion, confusing; More

Note "Disruptive Innovation Week" in March 2017

Growth of innovation, service, choice or comfort OR profit?

The most positive use would be "it was an industry 'ripe' for disruption"
I can't decide whether I like it or not or think we should be suspicious [my natural state]

Perhaps a simple example is the arrival of Uber as an on request transport service in direct competition with the existing Taxi Cab industry. The attempt is to cast "disruption" as an innovative, creative, load lightening, consumer empowering change. Is it that or is it a weasel word for 'an opportunity to make money at the expense of the status quo.

Suddenly following an era of uniforms, standards, quizzes and consolidation, the taxi industry is under threat from a seemingly more streamlined, tailored, cheaper, and choice based competitor. Others caution this is until Taxis begin to disappear and the Uber pricing will go up to capitalise on the success of their "disruption."

OR is any 'disruption' in this context to be encouraged... in the name of serving the needs and wants of individuals. Are there Uber mobility buses, wheelchair ready vans and sedans, short trip specialists, taxes paid, safety checked etc etc?

Is disruption just another name for capitalising on other people's hard work on start up?
Is it favouring individuals with resources over a community of those without? [while looking like that's exactly who 'should' benefit?

Concert ticket prices and resale ticket sites, now there's an industry 'ripe' for disruption!!


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

"Redneck Wonderland/Concrete" Midnight Oil

ABC Local Radio 1233 in Newcastle has it's album of the week as the disc celebrating 20 years since the TV program "Recovery" hosted by Dylan Lewis and Jane Gazzo!! This Oils performance brought the then clearly themed album to the 90s youth TV audience on what was a great program for it's day... outstanding work from the set design mob who went all out for the Oils!!
   You can see Peter Garrett's red megaphone in the "Making of Midnight Oil" exhibition in Wollongong now!! Great stuff!!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Crowded House 'live' at the Sydney Opera House ABC TV

   It's wonderful to sit and share the joy of Crowded House with our girls twenty years on from the entire collection on high rotation in the car, the house, anywhere!! Neil Finn is just a masterful lyricist, composer and musician...
   I'm reminded of the concert twenty years ago because we didn't go!! I know!
Not for the first time or the last I chose to be where my vocation called for me to be [though on that occasion I was less than impressed with the turnout] but the quality of relationships with those gathered was a wonderful thing!! It was a UYF Christmas Party at Charlestown UC and I and others were on BBQ duty!! So I have the double VHS collection instead...
   That's why [apart from being away, since booked] I decided not to go this time... It's hard to relive something you missed first time around!! It's different to why I don't go to the vineyards, which is about it never being the same as it was... or the risk it won't be!! Nice though, to read friends FB messages across the last four nights!! They are still a great band... 'Beatlesesque' when there were then too many good bands for that to be quite as unique!!
   So here I am in the lounge room fighting back tears for songs that speak of life's pains, decisions, good times and grief. There are songs reminding me of: so many venues and gigs seeing this band live; strong albums; Neil's perfectionism; Paul Hester's jester act and just the magic of storytelling through song...
   There's also something wonderful about the Aussie/Kiwi battle/wrestle/market size that means Crowded House reflect our brashness and Kiwi humility and creativity.
   I'm reminded too of Newcastle's Civic Theatre with the Finn brothers plus Liam and Elroy Finn as the players rotate around instruments for several songs... showing off, no, showing sheer talent. Then there's the 'Sound Relief' gig with Neil playing guitar and singing and Tim on guitar, voice and foot drums!! Wonderful! Tim will be onstage soon... and as I'm in QLD, there he is right on cue I kid you not... "It's Only Natural"!!
   I'm also sad for Paul Hester who lived with such anguish and who died so alone at a time of his own choosing. A reminder to me that if the one whose example I try to follow, the community we are called to be in response and the Christ we are meant to bring, means anything it has to mean something in those times and places. We have to actually be a people tuned into those voices from the struggling edge of ourselves and our community... places of hope in bad times, of joy and of so many more things...
   It makes me think of Neil at the Opera House [inside] after Paul's death and we'd gone to hear him play and he asked for the PA to be turned off and he just sang for Paul a capella in that space and it was not just a 'thin place' but the shared grief was palpable.
   So there you go, that's what I'm thinking of and tearful about in a time share lounge room as the grainy reception on the Unit TV offers some glimpse of creativity, joy, talent and celebration that's always been Crowded House!!
   Looking forward to "Weather With You" and so many more...

Friday, November 11, 2016

"Carols for Compassion" #lovemakesaway

  "Love Makes a Way" is a movement of people who believe it!! That there's got to be a better alternative to the hopelessness, mental anguish, exploitation and punishment of already distressed people seeking asylum in Australia by 'leaky boat.'
   There's no doubt the global problem needs complex solutions but it ought to start with compassion and relief of post traumatic stress. In the 1970s Australia embraced 'the boat people' and we are a richer country for our multiculturalism. What irks me most is not the rhetoric about 'stop the boats' or the drownings BUT it's the fact that suits a political wedge agenda. The Howard Government saw a political opportunity, lied about children overboard and have kept ramping up the hype. Then Labor relaxed the approach, for the right motives, and yes their 'soft on border protection' blah blah blah!!
   This country needs a Forum of skilled people to develop an alternative response, involving the UNHCR and our near neighbours, to replace that awful militarily inspired "Operation Sovereign Borders."
   Leaving all that aside "CHILDREN DON'T BELONG IN DETENTION"  and "CAROLS FOR COMPASSION" is an opportunity to gather with others, to sing and to stand for a better way!!
   Even if you believe our current approach is right you can't possibly be OK with what's happening refugees and asylum seekers in our Detention Centres... if otherwise I'd love to hear how you find those values earthed in the Christian story and the arc of God's siding with the poor that bends towards justice!!

In short, like minded souls can gather for "CAROLS FOR COMPASSION" from 4.45pm Thursday 8th December at Hunter St Newcastle [Office of Federal MP Sharon Claydon]!!

Monday, November 07, 2016

Movies 2016 [too early?]

“The Nice Guys” most entertaining, funniest film I saw all year
“Hunt for the Wilder People” my favourite film for 2016
“Sully” divides opinion but I really liked it for the clever angle to tell the story
“The Girl on the Train” best intrigue of 2016
“Eddie the Eagle” loved it, funny and inspired
 “Batman v Superman” um yeah it was OK if a little underwhelming!!
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” held up well, great laughs
“Captain America Civil War” yeah, tired!! You need a reason to tell a story
 “The Divergent Series: Allegiant” OK as a terrific suspend belief brain break
“Jason Bourne” a fine return but they still don’t resolve as they set up the next two
“Suicide Squad” entertaining distortion of the story in editing
 “Bridget Jones Baby” as good as ever, love it or hate it
“The Magnificent Seven” great remake, tense, violent, good cast
 “The Accountant” surprise packet
“Jack Reacher 2” aside from 5’ 8’ non blonde, entertaining
“Eight Days a Week” showcase for Ron Howard’s craft, youth & enthusiasm & talent on show
“Eye in the Sky” caught up with this to remember Alan Rickman
“Money Monster” great effort, George both inspires and frustrates
“The Secret Life of Pets” surprisingly entertaining
 “The Jungle Book “ terrific memories of my fav. childhood storybook
“X:Men Apocolypse” OK for a morning off
 “The Man Who Knew Infinity” almost a great film
“Dr Strange” like the title says
  “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2” 2 hours I’ll never get back
  “Finding Dory” Good but unecessary
“Independence Day 2” shlock laughfest
cast will obscure what a terrible film this was
 “David Brent: Life on the Road” Funny but uncomfortable, which is what Ricky is shooting for
 “Grimsby” crude and disappointing
Unfortunately the ‘chip on the shoulder’ about backlash against rebooting the original with a female

Swiss Army Man
Captain Fantastic
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Rogue One

Hail Caesar
Dads Army
Whisky Tango Foxtrot
Florence Foster Jenkins
Star Trek Beyond

Thursday, September 08, 2016

10 months and Not Counting

   Conversations with people about my years of focus on working with young people vs what I'm doing now seem to come in waves and I suppose correspond with finding your self in new networks or social settings. I talk about my role at Morisset Uniting 'Church in the Trees' and I've been reflecting on how enjoyable the last 10 months have been, how a 'fresh start' isn't always great in the mid to longer term but so far this is very much the case. I've been very excited that simple ideas I've grown to value, about how you go about this thing called 'ministry' and the edge of encouraging people in their engagement in God's mission in the world, is for me built on things I've learnt working with young people and in sitting on the edges and observing [something I'm good at]!!
   Being straight with people, listening hard and acknowledging your own limitations while saying "thank you" to those who observe your strengths are building blocks. Working out the simplest ministry tasks that have the biggest value to those who belong to your community is worth the effort. Sticking to what you know intuitively, being willing to speak up about ethos and values, trying really hard to live those out and affirming what you see that's good and of value don't hurt either.
   I identified early that leading Funerals was going to be a learning curve for me, so too is polity and the nitty gritty of our organisational shape, with all the variants of local history. e.g "this is how it's been done" but checking for how long by who and how it was done before that.
   "Are you over the honeymoon period then?" is an interesting question which presupposes a few things, most commonly that people are on best behaviour when you arrive and can wear your difference for a time but eventually true character or annoyance will out. Instead for me it's involved the joy of honest feedback both positive and negative but also seeing others relate as they naturally do and beginning to work with those interrelationships for us all to be better and more true to our values. In other words, no I don't have whinges and complaints to make or I haven't found walls to bang my head on... I've received fair comment and have unearthed ways people need my help. The end of the honeymoon marks the beginning of the real work of ongoing relationship, but not from the default of me having all the problems... I did have a 29 year preparation for this last 10 months...
   I have sat with people in their last days and hours, re-assured someone who felt very uncomfortable that God had inflicted cancer on them when they had "been a good person" while seemingly in the world people do bad things and 'get away with it.' This was a person I'd met then for the first time as I stood in to help out. This lady would have since passed away and was to have a Funeral with only her son present as she had no other family. She was fine with that... it had been much the same for her husband a few years earlier.
   I have sometimes missed that 'extra question' through the usual weariness. The question that unlocks how someone really feels or what's really happening. But we get there somehow, mostly.
   Someone told me they "liked the way I spoke openly about doubt, questions, God and the wrestle to have faith." That person had life experience to challenge any notion of a God and they were saying they found this encouraging.
   I've also worked myself to a standstill getting Weekend OUT ready with a bunch of great people on a very small team. Next year will need to be done differently and it will be...
   How often do you see something horrendous on the TV and wonder, what can I do about that? Imagine being able to give people the bank a/c details for an alternative community 'Meeting Place" that would better enable people to do something positive and practical in the face of the treatment of those victims in the story. So it is with the 'Don Dale Centre' story on TV and the community development at John Flynn Memorial UCA in Alice Springs... but there's still encouragement to be offered for people to actually give!!
   It's September already and it's now time to:
- Mindmap the next missional steps
- Start Taskgroups about "Fix It Festival", "Advent Workshops","3rd Sunday","Life" event and a few other things like fundraising

Lucky I come back to life in spring and gain some new energy... apologies for the jargon filled reflection and obscure details BUT this is me processing, not a media release...

Monday, September 05, 2016

Where's the Love...

"The Black Eyed Peas" The World = new version of their 9/11 response in the face of the crazy world in which we live!! Can a song change the world? I doubt it... but the question it asks could...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Alphabet Musical Challenge "F" "Feet Touch the Ground" Jebediah

Over on Facebook I'm taking my own alphabet musical challenge and am up to F...
"Feet Touch the Ground" Jedediah and this acoustic version which although it ends abruptly is one of those reminders that a good catchy song sounds great in many different genres!!

Rough out of the key lyrics...

So I thought the worst was over
When my heart stopped beating again
And the weak side of my body has come undone
Through trusting them

So we walked into the building
Took the lift to the third floor
Pain lies behind that door what am I to do now?
When what they tell me is what they sell me
When what they tell me is what they sell me

And I know to be realistic
Will save me from the shock to come
Any fool believes what you tell them
Happiness in being dumb

So we listened to the experts
Everyone needs some kind of guide to help them
See deep inside what am I to do now?
When what they tell me is what they sell me
When what they tell me is what they sell me

And it's not the truth
But I'm not calming down
'Till my feet touch the ground