Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas the night before Christmas (depending where abouts on the globe you are)

So I have left New Zealand for the time being (hence the change of blog title). I am currently in the UK before heading on to Canada to study at Regent college.

My last few weeks in Wellington were a mixture of chaos, fun/fellowship and sadness:

Chaos: It is fair to say that my packing up and moving on took a little longer than I hoped and I didn't quite finish it. I am very thankful for all the folk who helped me move stuff, who have agreed to store stuff for me and for my flatmates who cleared up the mess I left behind and moved the stuff I left behind. Without all these peoples help I would never have come close to getting it all sorted out. So thank you ever so much. The actual departure didn't go very smoothly either. I got to the airport to be told that there was no flexibility over excess baggage and I would be charged $100 per kilo over my allowance! So I ended up repacking my cases on the floor of the airport and leaving a whole case behind!

Fun/Fellowship: It was great to be able to spend time with friends over dinner, BBQs, coffee and conversation. It was particularly nice to have a group of friends came to send me off and keep me company at the airport. It was so encouraging to read through cards that various folk sent me as I prepared to leave and I am very grateful for all their kinds thoughts and words.

Sadness: Saying goodbye is hard. I am sad to have left behind friends and the place that has become my new home. We've done a lot of work in the book of Acts this year and I have been struck by the relational nature of mission. They are nearly always traveling and working together in twos and threes or more. I will miss the merry band of missionaries/friends that I have left in New Zealand and really look forward to being back with them all in 2010.

Now I am enjoying catching up with friends and family back here in England. It was great to be able to surprise my family and arrive back three days earlier than expected, their faces when I turned up were priceless. I do have to confess to getting more than a little frustrated with the glorified car park that is the M25 motorway. Having flown half way round the world in 24 hours it was very frustrating to barely move one mile in one hour!

For the next few weeks it's family time and I am really looking forward to it. It has already been a joy to catch up with a fair few people.

On a down note I have run into some visa issues over transiting through the USA on the way to Canada. The instructions on the website in NZ were mis-leading (in fairness who would fly through the USA to Canada from New Zealand? so I guess there is less reason to cover it in detail). I got to the Uk and was submitting my application for a visa to transit through USA only to find that I did not qualify if my destination was Canada and I was not a permanent resident of Canada. For some completely unknown reason the US immigration service want to interview you if you are transiting through the USA and staying in Canada for more than ninety days, regardless if how long you will be in the USA for. If I had my student visa it would not be a problem but all I have is a letter of invitation which will grant me a visa when enter the country. If the US embassy are not convinced that I will get a student visa when I enter Canada then I will have to forfeit my existing flights (a loss of 500 pounds) and rebook a direct flight to Vancouver (at the cost of 1000 pounds) or risk being sent back to the UK by US immigration and having a permanent mark on my immigration record. Apparently it is down to the discretion of the immigration officer as to whether they say yes or no; so prayers would be appreciated!

The only other thing to say is happy Christmas! Take a look at this video which I think gives a helpful reminder as to the true story. May this Christmas be a blessed time for you and yours.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

From staffworker to student...

students at SLCSo last week was TSCF student leaders conference. We met together at Palm Grove Christian holiday camp for a week in the book of Acts, for fellowship and fun. It was tiring but has reminded me how much I love what we do and what a privilege it is to be involved in. Some particular highlights were a student making a decision to follow Christ (I love that this can happen at a Christian leadership conference!), students getting stuck into the book Acts, and getting their heads around what it means to be multicultural mission teams on campus. Nigel Pollock's talks will be available here soon (I promise that it will be done within the next to weeks!).

The week was particularly significant for me as it marks my last formal student involvement in New Zealand till 2010. In three weeks I will be heading off to study at Regent college in Vancouver for the whole of 2009. You can read more about it here. I am really excited (and a little daunted too, having looked at how much I have to study next year!) to be able to study full time at a bible college but yet at the same time I am sad to be leaving New Zealand and life here. Happily I will be returning in 2010 as a full time regional staffworker!

There is much still to be done before I leave in terms of handing over my office roles to other people and saying lots of goodbyes (be it more see you in a year and bit rather than goodbye) so I'd appreciate your prayers that it would all go smoothly. Thanks!

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Shack

When I was in Regent in June there was a lot of talk about a new book called The Shack. Much has been spoken, written and said about this book but I thought I'd add my two pence worth anyway.The Shack book cover

To be honest I fail to understand why people are getting so hot and bothered about it. It is a story, a real page turning story; it is not a theological text book. People are only going to get in trouble if they start reading the bible in light of the shack rather than reading the shack in light of the bible. I wonder if C.S. Lewis got as much flack over the Chronicles of Narnia as William Young has over the shack? Because in my head the two books are comparable in that the authors are using fiction to help us understand something of God's character as revealed in the Bible and history.

I can understand why the some people are uncomfortable with the way the author represents God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, but in my thinking the author has picked representations that will rattle his readers the most. And that should lead us to ask why are we so rattled? I do not think that the author is not saying that God is black female who likes to cook, rather that if God so chose He could chose to communicate to us in any form that He sees fit. Why does that bother people so much?

What made me uncomfortable was what the author chose not to say about God. There is no mention of Jesus returning to judge the world. Now I recognise that in my own argument that the shack is not a theological text book so the author is never going to cover everything. But when talking about sin and its results it is Christ return that we should look to for setting the record straight once and for all. His return will bring about the renewal of creation, the end of all hurt pain, and that God will wipe every tear from every eye. This is our certain hope. But it will also bring eternal punishment for those whose sins are not covered by Christ death on the cross.

That being said there is much in the book that I found very helpful. Here are some of my favourite quotes:
"You try and make sense of the world in which you live based upon very small and incomplete picture of reality... you see pain and death as ultimate evils and God as the ultimate betrayer (because He lets it happen)... you don't think that I (God) am good" p126

"Grace doesn't depend on suffering to exists, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colours" p185

"Lies are a little fortress; inside them you can feel safe and powerful. Through your little fortress of lies you try to run your life and manipulate others. But the fortress needs walls, so you build some. These are the justifications for your lies." p187

"Do you realise that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me (Jesus) there with you?" p142
It is the last quote that challenges me most. As a I prepare for another move I sometimes feel fearful. And when I do it is nearly always because I have made no room for God in my imaginings of the future.

So pick up a copy of the shack, it is well worth a look.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

South Bound Snow Boarding

So I went down to Christchurch to visit my friends (and colleague) Tim and Lizzy. Tim and I had planned to go snowboarding/skiing but on the first day it was too windy for my plane to land (and to windy for the slopes to be open too) so my flight was delayed for a few hours so we went sight seeing instead.

The second day was a bit more successful and we managed to get in about 4 hours before the weather got too windy again and the slopes were shut. Spring conditions are way more complex than winter as parts of the slope were just ice which is much more scary to ride on but hey, you live and learn. I also realised that chair lifts and wind are not a good combination. We were sat swinging in the air on a chair lift because it was too windy for the chairs to me moving. Swinging in the air about 20 feet above ice is not my idea of fun but it was an unexpected opportunity to try and get over my dumb fear of heights (sorry Tim!).

On the way back we stopped for some pictures with the surrounding scenery:

Tim and Lizzy have also moved house which has enabled Tim to expand his gardening skills (sorry to hear about the tomato plants Tim).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Snow Holiday

Well, I'm back from holiday and had an amazing time! The place we stayed was amazing, the weather was fantastic (best three days of the snow season so far allegedly), and snowboarding was so much fun!

As you can kind of see from the photos I've at least managed to snowboard down the slope without falling over. I've even learned to make turns down the slope without falling over! I'd love to go again some time soon and see how much I've really learned. I do have to admit that I was more than a little sore after the three days; I've discovered new muscles (because the hurt), my ankles, knees and tail are bruised from falling over and I burnt the tip of my nose and a stripe on my forehead (between my hat and my goggles). All part of the fun!

The views from the mountain were stunning and I had planned to take the lift up higher on the last day. But seeing as by that point I could barely move I decided I'd do that another time. But I did get to go for a walk on some of the trails up the mountain which were beautiful (if slightly disorientating at times).

All in all it was a great holiday; a chance to relax, have some fun and recharge a little. My thanks to James, Viv (and congratulations to J & V), and Matt for a great time away.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Changing Seasons

So it is finally getting towards being spring! I can tell by the fact that it is getting lighter later into the evening and that walking past some gardens makes me sneeze (hay fever)!
Me with the snowy hills in the background Snowy hills around Wellington
Last weekend was unusual in that there was snow on the hills surrounding Wellington. It was a gloriously sunny day (unlike the rain of the previous 6 weeks!) but yet there was snow (which I am also pleased about as I am heading off snowboarding next week!) which was more than a little confusing.

It is also one of the more confusing times of the year (for me) generally. The UK weather starts getting worse (although from what I've heard it's been rubbish anyway) and the weather here starts to improve. My nephews and nieces have just started a new school year but lectures at Victoria university finish in four and a half weeks before heading into final exams. It is a time when the Northern and Southern hemispheres feel at their most distant.

This morning I went to the airport to say goodbye to two very good friends, Matt and Liz, who are heading overseas as missionaries. I am very grateful to them both, it was Liz who set me up with the flat that I lived in last year (owned by her in-laws) and I got to the know the wider family through living nearby. They welcomed me in so warmly across the year and had me over for Christmas. They have played a big part in my ongoing adjustment to life in NZ.

I am very sad to see Matt and Liz go but am very excited for them and humbled by their obedience to God's call on their lives.

One thing that completely caught me off guard this morning was the rush of memory and emotion watching Liz and Matt say farewell to friends and family at the airport. It reminded me so clearly of when I moved here back in 2006. I have been here for nearly three years now and this is the amount of time I originally committed to joining TSCF for. So being at the point of renewing my contract it has set me exploring options for the future. But more on that in another post...

Saturday, August 02, 2008


It is a good but difficult truth that even after two and half years of being away I still get home sick. Several members of my family are on holiday together at the moment and I would really quite like to be with them. But I am looking forward to the fact that thanks to the help of some generou supporters I will be home for Christmas this year and I am glad that they are having a good time.

The rest of the month that was

So what else has happened? Well some of you will be aware that it saw TSCF’s mid year conference up in Auckland. It was a very positive week and has resulted in much good in the Wellington groups from a men’s accountability group to increased support for a bunch of evangelistic dialogue dinners that have/are being held. There is much more to that can be said and to be given thanks for but there are others who have said well already (here, here and here) so please do go read more.

Somewhat embarrassingly I crashed my car three weeks ago :( Driving round a corner on the way to church I got blinded by the sun shining and reflecting off the wet road (despite wearing sun glasses and having my sun visor down) and clipped a parked car. My car came out far worse from the collision (bumper smashed and hanging off, light completely smashed and wing staved in) than the parked car (scratched, dented, and break light glass broken). No one was hurt and it was my fault but it has been an adjustment being without a car for three weeks (so far). But it has been good for me to get into walking again, if the weather permits I may walk to work two days a week even when I get the car back.

I also completed my assignments from my recent study trip to Vancouver. I really enjoyed it all (apart from the frantic getting all finished and written part at the end) from the set reading, to the thinking, to the writing. It is quite an adjustment writing a theological essay coming from a computer science background. In the final few hours there were a few times that I wished that it was as straight forward as the reports I had to write back in the day. All that was really required was to explain how, what and why I wrote some code. Simple really. But it does make sense that writing assignments for Theological study would be more complex because Theology seeks to engage holistically with God, humanity and redemption (and that’s just for these two papers, theology is obviously a great deal more than just these three things). Writing code is mostly about making computers do something… well I want to say useful but much software has been written that is confusing rather than useful so I’ll settle for moderately helpful. Anyway, I look forward (with a little trepidation if I am honest) to my results and getting some feedback that should restart the cycle of reading and thinking.

Oh and I got a new computer for work, it’s a macbook.

Back and forth

Ben Carswell very kindly invited me on a tour of the North Island with him and his sister Emma's family. It was particularly nice to be able to tag along because I used to work with Emma back at UCCF a few years back so it was great to be able to catch up with her. So on the Monday we drove up via New Plymouth on the West coast because the desert road through the centre of the North Island was closed due to bad weather. My first time on the West Coast and it was really beautiful.

Ben at a bay somewhere near Taranaki Me with Emma, Ollie and baby Seth at Huka falls outside Taupo

We stayed overnight with the Shudalls in Auckland before driving on down to lake Taupo (NZ's biggest lake, said to be larger than the landmass of Singapore) via Rotorua. We stopped off in Rotorua, one of the most geothermically active regions in NZ, where we savoured the sulphury scented air (it's not that bad at all really) and walked around for a bit.

Me at the craters of the moon, just outside Taupo Anglican church sign in the town of Bulls

The following day we drove across to the Hawkes bay on the North Island's East coast where we visited some very nice vineyards (including one where Rod Stewart played a huge open air concert a few years back) before heading back to the bach we had rented in Taupo. The following day we drove down from Taupo to Wellington. We stopped at some famous and well worth a visit tourist spots, the Huka falls (water so wild it is illegal to kayake on) and the craters of the moon. The craters of the moon are bizarre. They are not particularly moon like in my opinion but it amazing to see the ground bubbling, steaming and smoking due to the geothermal activity so close the surface. We also drove through the always entertaining town of Bulls. All credit to them for not taking themselves at all seriously. I was particularly drawn to a sign outside of one of the churches (see above).

Mount Ruapehu, made famous as Mount doom but looking more like a ski field

We were blessed with good weather and were able to see the mountains spectacularly clearly (I am looking forward to going back to ski there later this month). It was great seeing cars pulled over on the side of the road, not due to accidents, but because people had pulled over to have snow ball fights and to make snowmen! We got back into Wellington that night haven driven 1900kms in four days. I had an amazing time so thanks heaps Ben, Emma and Ollie, and little Seth!

The sun setting over lake Rotorua

On turning 30

So on the 4th of July I celebrated my thirtieth birthday! Contrary to what I thought may happen, not all of the muscles in my body failed and I didn’t instantly start saying “it wasn’t like that in my day”. Mostly because that started happening a while ago.

But anyway, turning 30 provided a brilliant excuse to gather friends together and enjoy each other’s company. Someone very kindly made a cake chocolate cake covered with my favourite sour lollies (that means sweets if you are in the UK). It was odd not being able to celebrate this landmark-ish birthday with my UK family, I missed you all that day, but it was great to be able to celebrate it with my extended kiwi family.

So my thanks to all who were there; I had a really nice evening and thanks for being my friends. You are marvellous! Thanks too to those who phoned, texted, emailed, facebooked me and dispatched gifts from a far, much love to you too.

To those of you who have are turning 30 this year, enjoy it!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Post-Regent post 2

In our final day of class we talked about how in closed countries we must be sensitive and make the most of opportunities to talk about Jesus with people of other faiths but recognise the danger we put ourselves and them in when we do so. We then went on to talk about being sensitive to those around us in Western countries who get offended when we seek to talk to them about Christianity.

I think that we have been tricked into thinking that as western Christians we live in closed countries when we in fact do not. A class mate shared how his non-Christians friends have said how they 'do not appreciate it' when he talks to them about Jesus. He, myself and others find ourselves at a loss with how to respond to this because we don't want to offend people.

I cannot speak for anyone else but there have been times when I have attempted to theologically justify not talking about my faith by saying that I do not want my persistence to create a barrier to that person exploring Christianity when 'they are ready'. Other times we act as though if we talked about Jesus the authorities would descend and bad things would happen. We retreat into the hope that if we do enough good things as Christians we will somehow earn the right to be heard (see previous post on pluralism) about Jesus.

I, and I suspect many others, have allowed myself to be tricked by the idea that we should not talk about Jesus unless invited to. As if we were living in a closed country.

But the simple truth is that we do not live in closed countries where it is illegal to talk about Jesus (that time may come but it has not come yet). The honest reason is it suits me to hide behind the fact that I should only talk about Jesus when invited to because I fear that if I instigate the conversation and maybe persevere over a number of conversations the person I am talking to will no longer be my friend or like me. Or 'worse' they may publicly reject me and turn others against me too. Or to put it another way, on some horrible level inside it is more important to me that people like me than that it is that I talk to them honestly about my faith.

Another part of the reason is that I have been tricked into believing the lie that it is intolerant and thereby impolite/socially unacceptable to say that Christianity is right and that other religions are wrong and if I do say either of these things then people will see me as a arrogant.

So much of this is flawed in obvious and less-obvious ways.

To start at the beginning: if it is okay for someone to say to me that they "do not appreciate me" talking about Jesus then it is okay for me to say in return that I do not appreciate them putting a huge area of my life in a category that is out of bounds (but I admit that this would only be fair response if I am regularly talking about how my faith relates to my life and the world in general. It would not be fair if I am only ever talking about the other persons 'need' of Jesus). To be honest, are our non-Christian friends really friends if the center of our existence is not allowed to be talked about?

Secondly, how on earth am I going to know when a person is 'ready' to explore Christianity?!? I completely accept that the Holy Spirit giving us nudges towards certain people but we have got to be more proactive than that. The book of Acts (13:42, 44, 45, 48; 14:1; 17:17) and the history of Christianity is full of people taking the initiative and persevering and people responding in a number of different ways. Sure, we need to be wise and know when to let it go but I know that if I am honest I generally back down because I am ready to end the conversation and have the person still like me rather than because it is time for the conversation to end (and maybe picked up again in the future).

Thirdly, we do need to accept that people are going to reject us for being Christians (John 15:18, 19). I want to be liked and the idea of being rejected is something I fear. I do not know why this causes me (and maybe you) so much trouble, but I suspect it is because I revere what others think of me more than I revere God. The example of the apostles in Acts 5 humbles me greatly. Sure, we need to be sure that it is Jesus that is the offense and not us but these days we are so caught up in being good (and as I have said in previous posts, we should be known as good people) that I don't think we need to worry too much about that just yet. We should worry more about whether we have even mentioned Jesus at all!

Fourthly, we need to correctly understand what tolerance means. I did a quick check on definitions (1, 2, 3) and they all talk about the acceptance or recognizing and respecting of differing views, not accepting that all views are equally right. We can respect differing views without agreeing with them. It is not arrogant or intolerant for me to say that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that I disagree with atheists, Muslims, Hindus Buddhists etc. over who Jesus is. We do not all believe the same things about him so therefore we cannot all be right. People who accuse us of being intolerant are the ones who are actually being intolerant! They are pretty much saying that you can hold any view providing you agree that everyone else could also be right. That is not tolerance it is confusion.

I must end on a personally frustrating, but honest, note. I was thinking of all the above as I flew home and got chatting with the person on the plane next to me and she asked me about what I had been studying about world religions whilst at Regent college. I am ashamed to admit that I realised after the conversation that what was foremost in my mind was how to answer her question in a way that would leave her thinking good of me. I was with a colleague at a public meeting a couple of months back and she was asked the question "you don't actually try and convert students do you?" to which she replied "yes". We chatted afterwards as to how awkward we feel saying that (in retrospect I think some of the awkwardness comes from some of the negative connotations that come with the word convert but that would take more words I have gone on long enough already). I long to be able to give an honest, gracious answer without being swayed by fear. What I am writing here is far from what I practise but it is something that with God's grace I want to strive to towards beginning to practise.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Post-Regent Post 1

Here are some of my musings regarding Christian missionaries and cultural imperialism. I recognise that some of what I say is overly simplistic and generalistic but this is a blog post and not an essay so please be generous as your read this if your understanding of Christian history is broader than mine.

While I was in Canada there was a formal apology from the leading political parties regarding the residential schools that were started by churches and funded by the government. Children from the age of six to sixteen were taken from their native Indian homes and placed into one of the boarding schools. They were beaten if they used their native language, and many children were both physically and sexually abused. Many of the children never saw their families again. The schools operated for some 80 years with the express intention of to "kill the Indian in the child".

I am not quite sure why but being in Canada I felt a need to apologise too. I have previously resisted being held accountable for the actions of previous generations, after all they were nothing to with me, I wasn't even born! But this time I came to realise that I need to recognise and where appropriate apologise for actions committed by my people. Not that I am in any way personally responsible for what happened, but as the representatives of those who have gone before we need to recognise the damage that our ancestors inflicted and respond appropriately. My changed reaction also highlighted to me how I identify myself: I am firstly a Christian and secondly English. The fact that it was primarily English settlers that started the schools did not grieve me as much as the fact that is was Christians who started these schools. It was primarily as a Christian that I am sorry for what happened. It was at least mildly encouraging that the churches in Canada had formally apologised some ten years previously.

The same day the apology was issued we reached chapter 15 in the book of Acts which is the council of Jerusalem where the early church leaders met to discuss whether the Gentile believers should be required to be circumcised. The council agreed that it would be wrong to require the Gentiles to continue a practise that was primarily Jewish and had no value regarding salvation. My mind immediately skipped forward nearly two thousand years to the early Christian settlers in Canada (and New Zealand and Australia for that matter) who arrived with the view that in order to be a Christian you had to basically abandon all indigenous cultural practises and practise Christianity as the settlers did. Now this is not to say that all Christian missionaries held this view, and I recognise that the missionaries did much to help the Aborigines that they encountered, and I recognise that there are various practises that the indigenous peoples who became Christians would have to break from (same as when the council of Jerusalem reminded the Gentiles to abstain from the sexual immorality that was common place at that time). But the language of "kill the Indian" shows that then as now Christians still wrestle with a number of issues as to what Christianity should look like in different cultural contexts. Makes me wonder how much of what I see as Christian practise is cultural and how much of it is biblical. Bearing in mind the Jerusalem council and that Christians have struggled with this in the last one hundred years we would be foolish to think that any of us are beyond making similar mistakes.

An editorial in a Canadian newspaper the following day was very striking. The title was "Apology meaningless without atonement". The understanding of Christ atonement on the cross has come increasingly under attack (I suppose it always has been in some way or another but I am particularly aware of it at present) from various Christian leaders and academics. The view that Jesus took the punishment for the sins of those who put their faith in Him seems objectionable to some. I find it interesting that inbuilt into the way the world thinks is that where someone is wronged there is a price to be paid. The editorial in the newspaper recognised that it was not enough for the government to apologise, there was a price to be paid in order to make things right with the Indian peoples but that it still would not undo what had been done. In the same way there is a price to be paid in order for sin to be dealt with. It is not enough to only apologise to God. Jesus death on the cross pays that price. Because the one who committed no sin died in our place, God no longer sees what we have done as what we have done. He sees us as being right with Him.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:11 - 21
Thinking about how I cannot atone for what was done in the name of Christianity has made me realise in a new way again how amazing it is that Jesus death on the cross atones for all of my sin.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


So having 10 or so hours in Sydney on the way back to New Zealand I thought I'd go for a bit of an explore.

Sydney Harbour Bridge View from Sydney Harbour Bridge

I paid about $10 and climbed some 200 steps to a look out point on from the Sydney Harbour bridge. The bridge is quite a site to behold, having been built some 70 years ago, and the view over the city from the top was breath taking.

Sydney Opera House Sydney Opera House

I guess the other obvious land mark is the Sydney Opera house. It really is an interesting shape and I had not realised before how if you put the shapes of the building together it makes a sort of oval.

Flying Fox
I also had time to explore some of the gardens where I was surprised by the number of flying foxes (the bat-like creature above) there were sleeping in the trees (literally hundreds!) as well as some of the more colouful wildlife that was still around.

After that is was time to head back to Windy Wellington. However this time rather than being windy it was foggy. At close to midnight we got diverted to Auckland because it was too foggy to land in Wellington. So at about 1am I joined a queue of 7 other planes full of people who found themselves in Auckland unexpectedly. Air New Zealand did a great job finding hotels for us all to stay in. So after 5 hours sleep in Auckland I then headed back to the airport and flew on to Wellington. It's good to be back.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

An end has a start

The title of this post is taken from an album by the Editors which I am enjoying, but today also marks the end of my trip to Regent. I have had an encouraging, humbling, strengthening, tiring, rejuvenating and envisioning time. I have some musings in my head that I am hoping will come together more in my head on the flight home. But I wanted to say a HUGE thank you to the Reese-Thomas family for being such amazing hosts, they have just been brilliant to live with. I am also thankful to the my class mates, students and staff at Regent who have obviously been vital to my experience at Regent.

On the last but one day of the spring school a couple from globalization class very kindly took the class teacher and I out sailing into the harbour. We had an amazing time and I am very thankful! My first trip out on sail boat too! Above is a picture taken from the boat of Vancouver city.

It's Saturday night here and I'm about to board my flight to Sydney and I've managed to sort an electronic visa to go out an explore Sydney (seeing as I have about 10 hours there!) so will go out to explore for a bit and hopefully take some more pictures.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Regent Post 3: Pluralism Ah-ha

Today saw a very early start for me: I was out of the house by 6:30am in order to be on campus for 8am! Feel okay so far by the end of the week I think I'm going to be exhausted. I don't really do mornings!

So today we spent some time thinking about pluralism and it has helped me begin to get my head around some issues.

Pluralism used to pretty much mean "all religions lead to the same God in the end", the different religions are "different approaches up the same mountain". But that definition has had to be changed because not all religions even have a God. All religions lead to God is too theistic so it has now become: "different religions are how we approach the real". The 'real' becomes a blanket term for God, nirvana or enlightenment (depending upon which religion you follow).

This in and of itself is a tremendously arrogant statement because it redefines what different religions believe in a way that followers of each religion would not agree with. The pluralists are still looking in from the outside saying "we know best", they are just doing it to more religions.

The appeal of pluralism is obvious on some levels (it allows for all religions to more or less be dismissed and elevates each individual to supremacy as they are free to chose for themselves what it right/real) and not so obvious on others (any exclusive truth claim might result in another religious group responding in violence. If we can agree that all religions are basically the same then religiously motivated violence might be avoided).

But what was a key understanding for me was realising how pluralists compare the different religions. Their primary criteria is practical: how good the followers of each particular religion are. Doctrine/belief is a lesser criteria.

If the primary criteria is how morally good we are then on some levels you can see why some pluralists reach the conclusions that they do. Each religion has followers who have had tremendous effect for good as well as for bad. Much as it may grieve us to admit it this is true of Christianity.

But as a result of this I think some Christians have been tricked into fighting on the pluralists ground. We try and prove how good we are (be it campaigning for social justice through to acts of service in our community) in order to appeal to people to consider Christianity. Now at this point don't miss-hear me, I am convinced that as Christians we should be involved in these things, it is clear outworking of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. But it is not the grounds that we should use calling others to follow Christ or to prove Christianity. When we do that we are playing the pluralists at their game and we will lose because they will still say that there is no significant difference between our good deeds and the good deeds of those who aren't Christian.

So what is a way forward? We ran out of time to discuss that in class but here are some of my reflections so far:
  1. Fight on the real battle field. The real criteria is not how good people are, but how the things that we have done wrong are dealt with. When people try to argue that Christians are no different, we shouldn't get sucked into comparisons over how good Christians have or haven't been (now or in the past). Point them to the certainty that only the gospel of Jesus Christ gives for forgiveness of sins. People are repelled by this and always have been but that is not an excuse to point them to things they may find less objectionable.
  2. If people are looking for an example of what it means to be 'good' point them to the best example: Jesus.
  3. Recognise that we are called to be different and in God's grace and with His help, live differently, and be willing to admit our mistakes.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The weekend

me on Cyprus MountainAlastair and Nancy on Cyprus Mountain
So today (Saturday) Nancy and Alastair took me on a sight seeing tour of Vancouver. We went up Cyprus mountain which has an stunning view over Vancouver. In the winter you can actually ski/snowboard down Cyprus and it will be one of the venues for the 2010 Olympics. We also went through Stanley park which is a huge reserve pretty much right on the edge of the central district. In many ways Vancouver reminds me of Auckland (but with way better surroundings). It has a central city with lots of residential areas sprawling out around it.

We also went to the Space center where there is a huge sculpture of a metal crab outside and I got to take another shot of a eagle (much clearer this time) in a nearby tree.

Crab Sculpture
We also drove by a river side to visit Alastair and Nancy's niece's birthday party. Everyone got a bit of a surprise when a naked bicycle (as in people riding bicycles without clothes) tour group turned up! Very interesting cultural experience!

In the evening I went to visit the local Intervarsity (equivalent of TSCF/UCCF) group summer bible study meeting. Was nice to be able to visit another IFES group and get a glimpse of how they operate.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Regent post 2

So today I narrowly avoided a near death experience by looking the wrong way when crossing the road and walking in front of a car. I realised in time so no harm done!

I am loving the fellowship and teaching at Regent! Today I had lunch with some of this years new students (A swede, a Canadian and an Australian) and heard their reflections on life at Regent and how they've found studying. Everyone is so friendly, it's great!

Today's class provided more food for thought:

We reflected on the experience off some of the 19th century missionaries to India and how what they thought were Theological statements (e.g. "Your sacred texts are not divine in origin") were heard as insults (e.g. "you are abusing our religion"). I had been taught similar things in Thailand, what Buddhists think we mean when we use the phrase "born again" (i.e. reincarnation) is very different from what Christians mean by it. It is stating the obvious to a degree but thought we may speak the same language as other people, we cannot assume the words we use carry the meaning we intend to all those who are listening - especially when working cross-culturally.

The other interesting reflection of the day was on how the word "religion" has pretty much become a dirty word associated with oppression, lack of openness, boring institutions and ritualism. The word "spiritual" on the other hand has become far more popular and associated with freedom, flexibility, openness, and personal experience. Which leaves me with question of should I describe myself as a spiritual persons? Using the term "religion" when talking about Christianity has carried negative connotations for a while so has stopped being used by many and I can understand why. But I am not comfortable with what it means to be "spiritual" either. I recognise that there is definitely a place for creativity and that we will spend the rest of our lives exploring what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. But there are boundaries between being a "spiritual person" as the rest of the world seems to define it and being a Christian. But I suspect there is much discussion to be had as to where those boundaries lie. Praise God that He didn't leave us in the dark but gave us the bible, His Spirit, and each other as we explore these kinds of issues.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Regent post 1

So I am now 3 days into my studies at Regent and I'm having a great time! The book store has a wonderful collection of books and is having a sale. The students studying the same course as me have been really friendly as have the students who are here longer term. It has been great chatting over coffee and lunch and hearing other peoples experiences of Christian work and study at Regent. I have also been encouraged by the warmth and enthusiasm that there is from both staff and students (several of whom have worked with IFES in various countries around the world)towards IFES and the pivotal role it has played in the discipleship of so many. It has reminded me again of the privilege it is to be involved in student ministry and how God has and continues to use the work of IFES.

The classes have been very stimulating. It has been really interesting and helpful hearing reflections and thoughts from people in the class as we come from varied backgrounds and perspectives. A couple of particular interesting points in our studies so far have been:
  • Exploring the run up to the Great Commission in the Gospel of Matthew with particular reference to Matthew 5 as an explanation of what it means to be a disciple and how that might be worked out in our making disciples
  • Looking at definitions of the words 'culture', 'worldview' and 'religion' and how we sometimes interchange the words culture and worldview when they mean different things, and how all three terms mean distinct things but in practise are closely related and how what they relate to overlaps

Monday, June 02, 2008

Day 4

Got a surprise this morning in that I looked in the mirror to find I have got a sunburned head! Not as bad as times I have burnt it in NZ but it is a little sore none the less. Does still seem a little bizarre that I could get sun burn on a mountain where there are people skiing but hey. Having confessed that I had done some singing in my dim and distant past I got asked if I would be up for singing in the music group at the church that Alastair and Nancy were visiting today. I really enjoyed it. Not last because the group were a joy to be a part of but also because of the songs we got to sing including some great hymns that I have not sung in a long while. We also sung the hymn "Come, Thou fount of every blessing" which I have not sung before but found the words helpful and the tune very memorable. The church was really welcoming and overall an encouraging time.

In the afternoon Alastair took me out into the river on their boat which was heaps of fun! I nearly fell in the river but it was only nearly. I have come to realise that I do like going fast. Yesterday it was the ATV today it was a boat! I am having a great time!

Tomorrow is the start of classes at Regent and I am looking forward to getting into it. May not blog again for a couple of days but we'll see how things go.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Day 3

So today I got to go on the All Terrain Vehicle tour! It was amazing! After a quick (and mildly terrifying: "If you feel your vehicle overturning don't put your foot down or the vehicle will land on you and break your leg") we got going. We drove through mud pits, round mountain tracks, fast and slow. Personally I'd have loved to go faster but that probably would have ended up with me hurting myself and or others. All in all the five of us on the tour had a great time. After that tour the five of us went for lunch together and chatted about where we were from (Canada, New Zealand/UK and Jamaica). Which is a great example of how friendly Canadians are. There are not many places I can think of where four complete strangers would suggest that we have lunch together. It was really nice.

From there I caught the train back to Vancouver where I was picked up by my very kind hosts. Below is a picture of the train and some of the beautiful scenery that there is around Vancouver.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Day 2

So today I caught the train up to Whistler. It's basically a whole town built around a ski field. I got up at 6:30am and my host family very kindly gave me a lift to the train station in order to catch the train up to Whistler mountain. The train journey took roughly three and half hours through beautiful mountains, lakes and waterfalls. There was an open carriage where you could get cold and take pictures without glass which was great. However I seemed to react badly to some pollen in the air and before long my eyes went very red and I looked slightly possessed. Took an anti-histamine later which sorted that out. I am not sure what the folk on the train made of me when my eyes were at their worst!

Once I got to the Whistler resort the hotel I am staying in let me check in early which was great! But I then found out that my all terrain vehicle tour had been cancelled due to lack of interest! Thankfully they let me re-book for the following morning so I can still go. So in the afternoon I took the gondola up mount Blackcomb (mount Whistler was closed due to building work installing a new gondola from Whistler to Blackcomb). It was brilliant to be able to wander around a bit of the mountain in the snow and take a few pictures. I was quite surprised to find that people could still use the slopes but as you can see from the picture there is still quite a lot of snow around!

On the gondola back down I was surprised to see what looked like a dog wandering around the lower (now melted) ski slope. To my excitement it turned out to be a bear! It was some distance away but already (on day two no less!) I have seen a wild black bear! It did result in a slightly bizarre language moment with the guy running the gondola. When I got backed down he asked how I'd gotten on and I replied very excitedly that I'd a had a great time and even seen a bear. He grinned at my widely and said that I probably shouldn't say that so loudly and then asked if he could have some. He thought I had said I'd had a beer. I should have just said "no, I meant a BEAR", or just nodded and moved on, but for some reason that I still quite don't understand I said "no, a bear", growled and acted as if I had claws. The guy said he understood what I meant and that there were a few of them around. He then shook me hand which either meant that he was trying to show that he didn't think I was too strange or that I can do a particularly good impression of a black bear. I'm not sure which.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Groundhog Day

One other thing I forgot to say is that I enjoyed being able to imitate the movie Groundhog day. When I got into the airport I was able to say (in my head anyway) "It's 7:30am Thursday 29th May 2008... again!". Bill Murray says something similar in the film Groundhog day which is a movie that still makes me laugh after having seen it a few times.

Seeing as how Canada is some 17 hours behind New Zealand I got to experience pretty much all of Thursday 29th May 2008 twice!

Arriving in Canada

I have safely arrived in Canada! A high point (so to speak) of the flight was getting a text in Sydney airport from a supporter in New Zealand pledging a very generous gift towards my personal report support. The long flight from Sydney to Vancouver was long, but I got the chance to enjoy a few movies. Didn't sleep so well on the plane so was very relieved to finally arrive.

Immigration was interesting. They seemed to question whether I really was coming to Canada to study! They asked why I hadn't paid all my study fees upfront, wanted details of where I was staying, and asked me exactly papers I was studying whilst comparing what I said with the invoice in front of her said. I am slightly offended to think that they thought I looked like someone who may try and stay illegally!

Had a great day exploring Vancouver but am feeling pretty tired now. Below are some pictures that I took today. The carvings done we saw today look similar to some of the carvings I have seen by the Maori in New Zealand. A particular highlight was being taken by my amazing hosts to see a bald eagle nest. I guess I identify with the eagle in it's baldness (although it doesn't look that bald)! It is great to see one of the things that I really wanted to see on my first day!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


So tomorrow morning I am heading off on a study break! This July see's me completing six years in IFES students ministry. As a result I have applied for and been awarded (if that's the right phrase) a sabbatical (more on futher plans for my sabbatical at a later date). The first part of which I am taking as a study break at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada. A significant gift from one supporter has pretty much covered the costs. I received an email informing of the gift literally within days of discussing what I might do on a sabbatical. It was a huge encouragement! God is so gracious!

So I'll be in Vancouver from the 29th May and get back into Wellington on the 16th June. The trip will include studying two papers (Paper 1 is Globalization, World Religions and Christian Mission, paper 2 is Acts of the Apostles) at Regent college and some holiday exploring Vancouver.

It's been a busy few months at TSCF what with my first time preparing for the annual audit of TSCF's accounts. I am more than ready for a break and a change of pace. I'll be updating my blog as every couple of days or so, so keep an eye on here. I'd also value your prayers that the time away would recharge my batteries and that I would have listening heart and mind as I study. Thanks!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

New Perspective on the English

I was doing some catching up on blogs and whilst looking at Paul Windsor's I thought I'd follow his suggestion of keeping an eye on the top ten most viewed articles on as these sorts of lists provide "a windows into a nations soul".

To my surprise coming in at number ten (beneath "Meet Playboy's Playmate of the year", "Chef Ramsey wants out-of-season veg outlawed", and "Kangaroos trample Kiwis") on the list today was this article about the English being described as "self-important and irritating" in the new rough guide to England. I am not sure if this bothers me because it rouses some of my long dormant national pride at English being thought of in this way or because, to some degree at any rate, some of the criticisms are fair.

I realised a while ago that many Kiwi's have a sort of love/hate relationship with England. On the one hand they'd really like to visit and form some sort of connection with what some affectionately call "the motherland". But on the other hand they are gleeful when England loses at sport or somebody English does something embarassing or stupid. So on that basis it shouldn't really suprise me that an article that puts down the English is one of today's most viewed.

But it also probably says something about me and how the English people feel towards people of other countries that one of my first responses was "surely the Americans are worse?".

Tomorrow is Mother's day here is NZ. A colleague at work showed me this video yesterday (and the words certianly remind me of things that my mother has said to me in the past). It is an hilarious but accurate description of a day in the life of a mum. You can read the lyrics here. Happy NZ Mother's day mum!

Friday, May 02, 2008

A new chapter

Mark, James and LorenSunrise from the balcony of the flat on ANZAC dayView of the city at night from the balcony
Having blogged about leaving my old home, meet my new flat mates Mark and Loren, and enjoy the view from the balcony of our flat! Mark and Loren are marvellous and I look forward to getting to know them better. I have already much enjoyed their cooking, tastes in music and generally living with them.

It has been a complex few months for me for a number of reasons. This new home is a good thing and comes at the right time.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

End of an era

Today saw the end of an era for me. I have moved out of my flat in Island Bay and into a new flat in Kelburn (more on that in another post). I have to admit that I started moving nearly two weeks ago but today I collected the last of my stuff and cleaned the Island bay flat ready for the new tenants. I am sad to leave but it is the right time to move on.

I am hugely thankful to John and Linda and their whānau (maori word for family) for all the hospitality and friendship they have shown me over the past year. I have enjoyed many meals, conversations, good times and their general care. I am very thankful to God for them all.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Humbling Witness

You may have heard on the news or from Andy and Nigel's blogs about the Mangatepopo river tragedy last week. I can only began to imagine what it must be like for the family, friends of those who died.

But the way that they have responded has had a deep affect on the media and on New Zealand in general. To quote one journalist:
Perhaps it was faith that enabled them to mourn their losses without rage or bitterness; without looking for someone to blame. Whatever the reason, I have never seen any group of bereaved people behave with such generosity of spirit.
As has been said by many, our prayers are with those who are mourning. But so too should be our thanks, both to them and to God, for the way that He has and is enabling them to be such a great witness in the face of such deep sadness.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Annual Camps

International Christian Fellowship and the Christian Union Christian Union

The weekend of the 12th April saw both of the Victoria University groups go away on their annual camps. I spent Friday to Sunday with the Christian Union at Forest Lakes camp site. We spent the weekend looking at what is the gospel, how it applies to our lives and how to make use of opportunities that we have to talk to our fiends about Jesus.

It was both really encouraging and a real privilege to talk and pray with students as they wrestled with the issues. One particular highlight was a session on the Sunday where we all got into small groups and discussed ideas for reaching out with the gospel on campus for the year ahead. It was great to hear them learning from their experiences over the last year, and applying what they had learnt over the weekend.

On the Sunday afternoon we headed off to Te Poupatate Marae in Fielding to join with the International Christian Fellowship on their Marae camp. The camp provides an opportunity for International students to meet a whole new bunch of people, experience Maori culture, but most importantly an opportunity to learn a little more about Christianity. This was the first time that two groups have been able to combine for their camps and it was great to be able to have fellowship together and build relationships. The evening ended with a hangi (one of my favourite meals ever!) after which the CUers headed back to Wellington but I stayed on for the night with ICFers on the Marae til Monday.

I have to admit that with the passing of years I find the camps increasingly tiring. But they are hugely significant for the groups both in terms of teaching/training and building relationships. I came away from the long weekend really encouraged, thankful to God that I am able to partner with Him and the students as we seek to reach other students for Christ, excited for the year ahead and looking forward to sleeping in on Tuesday morning.

Friday, April 11, 2008

It all adds up

You never quite know what you might find yourself doing as part of your job. As a I blogged a while back my new job title is Systems Manager and Wellington Staff Worker. As part of the change I have just completed a course run by a local accountancy firm entitled Accounting Made Easy.

The course was very helpful and I have learnt a number of new things that have helped me get my head round TSCF's accounts and handle some aspects a little better. But I have come to realise that accountancy is far from easy and not always that interesting. But this is what God has led me to for the time being.

Over the next few weeks and I have to prepare TSCF's 2007 accounts for auditing whilst getting my head round the changes that have come in this month with the government pension scheme KiwiSaver. As a result I am taking a few weeks of campus because there is simply too much to do here in the office.

It is not too bad a time to be of campus as the next two weeks are the mid semester break. Over the weekend I am off to the Christian Union camp (where I am doing a session on using media and contemporary issues to talk about Jesus) and then to the International Christian Fellowship Marae camp. I'll blog about both of the camps next week, but the camps will be the end of my campus involvement for the next 4 weeks and the beginning of 4 weeks with my computer.

Monday, March 31, 2008

My Bacteria and me

So somehow I managed to get food poisoning. Apparently the form that I caught comes from chicken but I hadn't eaten any chicken or egg as far as I remember!

This is a picture of the bacteria, campylobacter, that took up residence in my gut. They look quite interesting but caused me a great deal of pain!

The centre for disease control describes what it can do here. It seems I had a fairly normal case as it laid me out for a week!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Folicaly Challenged

So after searching, well actually after no searching at all but by accident actually, I found a verse in the bible that is positive about bald people!

"A man who has lost his hair and is bald is clean." Leviticus 13:40

In your face Proverbs 16:31! So there you go. I am at home sick, and am bored.

Friday, March 21, 2008


England Batting So last weekend along with some friends I got to go and see the England Vs Black Caps test at the basin reserve in Wellington. For those of you back in England please don't be annoyed but it cost around twenty five pounds for a five day (admittedly the fifth day was pretty short) pass for the test!

The TSCF office is a couple of hundred minutes from the office so I got to nip down during the Thursday and Friday parts of the game (sometimes there are benefits to working evenings!). One particular highlight was being there for Tim Ambrose hundred, Collingwood's fifty and to see England's score reach three hundred.

The balmy army were a sight to behold and behear (is that a word?). Their chanting was brilliant. One of my favourites was the one about Tim Ambrose to the tune of "you are my sunshine":

We've got Tim Ambrose, just like Ambrosia. They make good custard, comes in a tin. They make good rice too, that's not important. What's important's England win.

More about custard than cricket but very funny anyway.

Kiwi's are a lot more relaxed about sport than Brits are. During lunch anyone was allowed on the pitch to play. It was great to be able to walk on the ground (you could even talk to the grounds men about care of the pitch if you were so inclined, which I wasn't). I can't see that being allowed at Lord's somehow.

Me and people on the pitchMe on the pitch in my new England cricket shirt

If live sport had been as accessible in the UK as it is here I think I would have gotten a lot more into it (and I am getting more into it). Being at the test the atmosphere is just amazing. I have seen two international rugby games live and two international cricket tests live. Which is four more games than I ever saw live in England but at the same time I paid less than half of what I would have had to pay to see similar games back in England.