For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. Ephesians 5:8 I’m a pretty intentional person. I generally know what I’m doing, where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. But for a long time I didn’t leave enough space in my life for spontaneity. I missed out on things because I scheduled life so tightly – also a challenge for someone who likes to say “yes” to everything. Moving to Queensland has been great for creating space. I don’t have that many friends here so there are less social engagements and I also have fewer weekly commitments. Further, moving to Queensland has opened up a new patch of Australia to explore. And I’ve been waiting months for the weather to cool down enough to start hiking the hinterland areas. Yesterday morning I looked at the forecast and saw it was going to be sunny for the next 2 days. And coming off a 3 day work trip I had intentionally not made plans on Friday night to recover from the tiredness. (I know, who have I become?!) So a few quick texts to my friends and we made plans to hike to Mt Warning or Wollumbin just over the border in NSW on Saturday morning. Wollumbin meaning patriarch of mountains, or later named Mount Warning by Lieutenant Cook on his first sail past in May 1770, is an 1157m ancient volcanic plug. It’s also the first place on the Australian mainland to be touched by sunlight, a popular sunrise hike. And to do it properly, we set out from Brisbane at 2am (!) arriving at 4am (!) to start the 4.5km, +650m gain climb to the top for first light and sunrise. It’s been years since I’ve done a hike by torchlight and it was fun to charge up the mountain only ever seeing 2 steps ahead. We overtook a number of people and made it to the top in 1hr30m only to be greeted by 2.5 degree temps and 30km/hr gusts. It was the Catch 22 of the clear sky and close to full moon. And there we stood for an hour waiting for sunrise on a platform wedged at the top of the mountain. And slowly the light appeared, the distant lights of Surfers Paradise, Tweed Heads and down to Cabarita fading as the largest light crept up and poked its head over the Pacific Ocean horizon. And suddenly the faces of those around us were clear and vastness of our surroundings made known.  Unfortunately there were 50 or so others, many much taller than me, so although I wasn’t the first to see sunrise… (#dadjoke) it was pretty amazing to take in the 360 views. And within an hour or so after sunrise, the visibility became more than 100km with the Brisbane CBD visible in the distance. And then finally the wind and cold became unbearable to we headed back, to discover all that we’d passed in the darkness.     Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
Hamish Blake made a little Flipagram of his wife Zoe Foster Blake and the literal+figurative hats she regularly wears. Spotify suggested some female artist playlists I may be interested in. Virgin Australia ‘grammed an all women crew who recently flew Sydney-Adelaide. David Jones launched a new ‘At the DJ table’ video content series “featuring an incredible group of Australian women.” The NSW Police Force posted a ‘shout out’ with a photo of women officers marching. My old boss and dear friend posted a pic of the old office crew decked in purple attire. Mike Baird announced the NSW Public Service was now 100% flexible for all senior staff. Sisters are doing it for themselves. On International Women’s Day, we wanted to share this great shot of our all-female flight crew taking the reins on a trip from Sydney to Adelaide recently. A photo posted by Virgin Australia (@virginaustralia) on Mar 7, 2016 at 2:06pm PST My commute and lunchtime social media scroll sessions today were filled with articles, photos, quotes and statements of support for International Women’s Day. And so it should. Today is a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women – locally, nationally and globally. It’s been celebrated in varying degrees for more than a century and remains an opportunity to demonstrate how we value 49.6% of our world population, the same proportion who continue to struggle with structural and cultural inequality. It’s also a platform to bring pertinent gender issues to the forefront. Brands, corporations, government and media agencies all celebrated differently. This weekend there were women’s fun runs and triathlons, today there were breakfasts, policy announcements, advertisements, social media posts and editorials. Their support of women was unquestionable. However, there was one key institution absent from the celebrations. The church. I used my lunch break to extensively search the internet – in hope. I trawled through the Facebook and Twitter channels of notable pastors, large churches and Christian organisations. I looked on key websites for opinion editorials or blog articles. I looked for anything or anyone recognising today, even just a humble #internationalwomensday. Here’s what I found: –          Michael Jensen shared this post on the value and role of men and women. ‘For Christians, woman aren’t property or baby makers. We’re witness to the life of Jesus Christ in our bodies…. Posted by Michael Jensen on Monday, March 7, 2016   –          John Dickson took the opportunity to share and challenge the doctrinal position held by the Sydney Anglican Diocese on women preaching. This International Women’s Day might be a good moment to revisit what was once (up until about 1990) the standard… Posted by John Dickson on Monday, March 7, 2016   –          Eternity magazine online re-posted an Open Doors article on women in Iraqi refugee camps.   Nothing from Australia’s largest church Hillsong. (Although it is their second of three women’s conferences today, so I’d be surprised if they didn’t do something with the 5000+ in attendance.) Nothing from some of Sydney’s largest churches. Nothing from my new church in Brisbane. Nothing from the leaders of Australia’s churches. It makes me wonder, why is the church not joining the rest of society in celebrating women? We live in a day that equality is high on the agenda: be it gender, marriage or economic. Further, we live in a day that society is very critical of the church. And for good reason, the church, as an institution, does not have such a great track record with inclusion and transparency. The same sex marriage conversation is evidence enough. The inclusion of ‘to submit’ in marriage vows brought the biblical role of women in marriage into the spotlight a few years ago. And even in February, ABC deemed it newsworthy to publish an article on the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney’s response to a question on gender equality at the annual prefect ceremony. The students were torn in how to reconcile his comments and the empowering words of their teachers, and society. I can understand why. Women make up half the population and close to 60% of the Australian church. Be it conscious or unconscious, the decision for the church to neglect the largest international day celebrating women adds propensity to the argument that the church doesn’t value women equally. See in the church failing to recognise the importance of day, it fails in joining the rest of our society is demonstrating we value and celebrate women and their role in our communities. And while men largely lead the church, a theological conversation I’m not having here, today was an opportunity for men and women. An opportunity for brothers and sisters alike to rally around their sisters past, present and future. Celebrating International Women’s Day is about saying to women “we love, care, appreciate, support and need you”. It’s saying it to every woman as she seeks equality in her life as a daughter, sister, mother, wife, worker, volunteer, teacher, nurse, truck driver, policewoman, children’s worker, pastor, student minister or corporate executive. At a personal level, I know my church values women. When a sister and I raised our frustrations that the past 4 video testimonies at church had been men, my campus pastor said he shared them and knew the next 4 would be women. If only they could be more equally distributed. And again, when deciding on making it my new home church, I shared the lack of women involved in the services bothered me. It concerned him also. He shared the problem was often having enough women willing to be involved. Taking time to celebrate women encourages women to continue on as they are, to look and push for opportunities, to enable (with words of affirmation and training) our sisters to be bold and serve, but also shows young girls to aspire to take active roles in their church. It also encourages our brothers to look to publicly and privately encourage, acknowledge and support women in the church. I hope the church values women, and I mourn the decision of friends to leave the church and the faith because they don’t believe so. But we need to hear it and see it to believe it. Women have played a huge role in the history of the church. Women continue to play a critical role in the church. Literally. Without women the church would more than halve. Celebrating women today shows the future generations that the church does indeed recognise equality of men and women, irrespective of how scripture is interpreted and played out in denominations and individual churches. We need today to remind us we need to pray, encourage, train and nurture women to continue to be active in the church, for Christ’s glory. When I ask the question, ‘why isn’t the church celebrating women?’ I am being deliberately provocative. But we need to be provoked.     As a post-script here are some Christian women I think are worth celebrating today: –          Florence Young, my great great aunt who led evangelistic outreaches to the Polynesian workers at her brothers’ sugar mills, served with China Inland Mission and established the South Sea Evangelical Mission –         Bobbie Houston, Hillsong cofounder who spearhead the Sisterhood ministries changing the way women meet together around the gospel –          Raechel Myers, co founder of She Reads Truth, a daily devotional website used by millions of women (and now men ‘hereadstruth.com’) regularly –      My dear friends A, H, E all currently understand ministry traineeships of various forms   Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
I don’t drink coffee. In fact I don’t drink any hot drinks. (I like to think of it as a financial saving rather than social faux pas.) But what I do enjoy is breakfast. I like it a lot. But I don’t just go wandering around the streets of Brisbane looking for a new café to try out. I wouldn’t want to waste my Saturday/Sunday morning and my coin on some soggy French toast, or sub-par poached eggs. Further, as a non-coffee drinker, it infuriates me that some cafes can proceed without offering any non-caffeinated beverage alternatives. It’s a highly researched activity. How do I do my research? Lifestyle and review sites and blogs: Urban List, Weekend Edition, Zomato and smaller foodie blogs. And then of course there are personal recommendations. Before I arrive somewhere I know from the hungry souls gone before me whether the service is a strength or downfall, the vibe casual hipster or all hail organic free range cold press organic hemp wearing hipster, or perhaps just whether the French toast is even worth trying at all. I know this from the star rating, or equivalent, and the comments left behind. Review sites have changed the way I choose my breakfast cafes, my post-work watering holes and even which food processor I should buy. I could continue with another example from my day job about TripAdvisor and how it’s instrumental in consumers planning their holidays…but I’m hoping you’re with me in understanding the validity and necessity of review sites in ensuring I only experience the best. However, there is one huge gaping hole: Church reviewing websites. After moving to Brisbane a few months ago I shared my experience visiting churches. They are two of the most read pieces on this sporadic little corner of the interweb. I did a lot of research but still it took me visiting 8 churches to decide to go back to the fourth one I visited. Would a review site have saved me some time? I could have read others experiences and determined if it was worth the investment/effort. Last weekend when I was back in Sydney-town losing my wisdom (teeth), I visited the church plant of a few of my friends. It’s in a huge new suburb in development close to Camden. It was a joy to be with them for their launch back in November and, sadly after some delays with council, Sunday was their first week back in their ‘hub’ aka industrial warehouse. One of my friends approached me at the end and said he’d love to grab my thoughts on visiting, particularly as they’re now permanently in their building. It’s his intention to work out where the cracks are and to plug them quickly. He was asking me to review his church! As someone with little entrepreneurial fervour, (to the point I struggle to identify the purpose of this blog in order to grow it) I realised this could be my new thing. I could set up a website, visit churches and review them. Church mystery shopping. Church consulting. In time, I could grow it and have other contributors and even open it up to the general public. How efficient looking for a new church could become and, as some astute business owners do, churches could identify the cracks in their church to ensure visitors have the best experience possible. My church review star rating system? Holy hands. My website name? Scroll up… but promise me your won’t steal it. I don’t want to be poor Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and lose my idea to a zealous Zuckerburg-type. But here’s the thing: while some succeed and others fail, churches aren’t a business. They’re not a service provider that is looking to ensure its attendees have the best possible experience in order to generate new and repeat visitation and loyalty. Churches are a community, a family, an eclectic community of brothers and sisters looking to share the forgiving news of Jesus Christ and emulate him to bring justice, mercy and love to those around us. But churches should be in the business of pointing people to Jesus through everything from how to get there, the people one meets, the words spoken and the coffee served. Churches should want people to have a good, culturally appropriate experience in order for people to feel like they wanted, loved and belong. But I see a church review site similar to reviewing your Christmas day festivities. Everyone’s family has a crazy aunt/uncle who they think surpasses the craziness of all others. A cousin who somehow just doesn’t seem to fit in and an old, not-sure-how-they’re-actually-related-to-you distant relative so far off their rocker you’re just not sure what they’re doing at your gathering. It’s the talk around the office before the holidays, but it’s not the kind of thing you ever want to get back to poor aunt Gertrude. And I haven’t even started on reviewing the food! It’s potentially dangerous and relationally damaging. The thing is there are a few church review sites already in existence (Shipoffools.com, Churchrater.com, Churchfinder.com). While I couldn’t say for certain it’s not the daggy web graphics, they don’t seem to be the next Urban List of churches. They comment on everything from the length of the talk to how the coffee was. But don’t hear me wrong, although I’m not about to go and buy a domain and DIY a website, I do think there is merit in churches analysing their interactions with new and ongoing visitors and spurred on to consider building their community. The Apostle Paul wrote a fair few letters to the new churches of modern day Greece and Turkey commenting on their behaviour, challenging and commending them for their, for example, community outreach, or lack there of.  His words didn’t always go down well. Late last year I emailed all the churches/pastors of the churches I visited. I thanked them for having me, let them know I had found a new church and shared my blogs with them. I was anxious. It wasn’t all good news. In some cases, I did have bad experiences. And although I was careful not to identify the churches I visited online directly, it would be possible to work it out. Each of the churches I visited were pointing people to Jesus. But some just did a better job at getting me to church and feeling part of a community. I was telling the people responsible for each of the churches what it felt like to visit! Facilitating a means of commentary has the potential to get ugly; it’s the curse of the old school comments box. But a comment box that’s actually a public community notice board. Is broadcasting the experience of visiting a church for others to read pointing others to Jesus, pointing a society who are fairly critical of the church to the reason why we meet as a church? I’m not so sure it is. I will share my thoughts with my friend on his church because I love him and the others involved, I want it to grow and see lives changed because of Jesus’ love in that new suburb. However it’s not something I’m going to blog about, nor advertise my reviewing services. A church is where two or more gather (Matt 18:20) which means there are always at least 2 people who can consider what it would look like to join the gathering and make it to happen. It’s just whether those 2 people are selfishly worried about solidifying their place or outwardly focused in ensuring everyone has a place. Be one of the latter.     Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
On this joyful day of love, I thought it fitting to write a little ode to a recent love (read:foe) of mine. I must warn you though, it’s pretty steamy so you may need to follow my lead with a cold shower. I hate the way you smother me, and the way you ruin my hair. I hate the way you melt my face, I hate it that you fog my eyewear. I hate you’re costly to escape, And the way you ruin my zZz. I hate you so much it makes me sick, It even makes me whine. I hate the way you’re always there, I hate it when you’re high. I hate it when you make me ‘glow’, even worse when you make me slime. I hate it when you’re still around, and the tease of rain is agony. But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you, not even close… not even a little bit… not even at all. (Okay, that last bit was a total lie. I mean seriously even my drink is sweating…) Everyone warned me, even told me I’d need to buy new make up, which I have. Alas, there is no escape…until mid-March i’m told. But to you and the one who blesses you with the affection I don’t have for my juvenile curls, I say Happy Valentine’s Day And because it is so, here’s the sappy original featuring the one and only Heath Ledger: Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
In the application cover letter for my current job, I facetiously said Sydney was the best city in Australia but if they took a New South Welshman aside they’d admit Queensland’s beaches are some of Australia’s best and they happily holiday above the border at any opportunity. It was a way of retaining my blue dignity in the chance I got the role and had to move into maroon territory. It seems my backhanded compliment was received well and four months later I’ve sunk my toes in at least 15 of Queensland’s beaches. The verdict? Australia (not just Queensland) is beautiful and I’m proud to live in this land of sweeping plains, ragged mountain ranges, droughts and flooding rains. I cherish the far horizons and her jewel sea. But after 20+ years of New South Wales coastline and inland regions, I’ve enjoyed familiarising myself with the Goldie, Brissie, Straddie, Sunny and Bundy. It seems Queenslanders like their abbrevs as much as their southern neighbours. Queensland is a big place and I’m keen to keep exploring however long this sunscreen dependant and beaded upper lip adventure lasts. A few months ago the sun woke me at an ungodly hour. Usually cursing the early northern sunrise, that morning I sat up from the air mattress atop a catamaran roof and looked out across the coral cay and lagoon. I considered the series of events that led me there. I was being paid to stay on the Great Barrier Reef in order to photograph the crystal waters of Nemo, Squirt and his all his buddies. The end goal being for more people to enjoy hopefully more than I did in my very brief trip. What a huge blessing. And it goes without saying that each time I look out from the expanse separating the water from water, I consider the work of God’s fingertips and am truly thankful. We have a creator God who blessed us abundantly with a beautiful world to take care of. Despite the curse that now lays across the land, we can continue to take rest from work and enjoy his creation. This is Queensland, well just a small selection of snapshots from Southeast Queensland. It seems it’s a whole larger than I realised! Burleigh heads Broadbeach Surfers Paradise Mount Tamborine Curtis Falls Mount Coot-tha Brisbane North Stradbroke Island Town of 1770 Agnes Water Lady Musgrave Island  Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)