Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A pro-life idea...

28,000 children removed from their homes this year in Australia... they all need foster homes... good, solid, holy foster homes.
I've heard that the early church used to do a nightly run to the walls of the old roman cities... they were looking for orphans - babies who were unwanted by their dads and left on the walls of the city as the Roman custom permitted... apparently the growth of the church was directly related to their nightly runs and the homes they provided to kids who were abandoned.
I'm thinking new church growth plan - or hey instead of just holding signs and showing disgust around the whole abortion issue WHY NOT FOSTER A FEW??

Monday, May 26, 2008

The long walk to... Justice

JENNY MACKLIN MP(Australian Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services
and Indigenous Affairs)announces:

I will join former AFL champion Michael Long today on The Long Walk from Federation Square to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). The Long Walk was initiated in November 2004 when Michael Long set out on foot from Melbourne to Canberra to speak to the then Prime Minister and raise awareness of the plight of Indigenous Australians. The Long Walk is now an annual event to encourage cross-cultural understanding and build a commitment to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians. Funds raised support development programs in Indigenous communities. The AFL has a great record of supporting young Indigenous football players as part of the process of reconciliation. The AFL allows 1000 walkers to go on to the MCG for a lap of the ground in the lead up to the Dreamtime at the G match between Essendon and Richmond.

on this announcement I was reminded of the long-term approach necessary in our fights for justice and our extensions of the Kingdom of God. Nelson Mandela's biography is titled, 'a long walk to freedom' and the life story of wilberforce also reminds us of his seemingly tireless lifetime effort towards the abolition of the slave trade. Both are examples of how a righteouss life lived in the hope of redemption over the long haul can change the world. I'm into faster pace changes... patience is the place where God has to work in/on me most... but I'm resolved to set my course on the Kingdom coming and I'm determined to join God in the work... you?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Holy integration

I was talking with someone today about how easy it is to compartmentalize our lives... it's also a tendency in organizations... we can easily put what we believe in one box and how we live in another... or we can put faith in one category and justice in another... the thing is God is completely integrated... he is love - and everything about love is whole, true, pure, believing... trusting...integrated.
So I was thinking about what a completely integrated life would look like - and the easy answer is Jesus... a completely true, authentic life looks like Jesus - but what about now... what would your life look like completely integrated - nothing boxed in or separated from - or hidden away... there is a verse of a song in the SA songbook that goes like this:
Thus supported, even I
knowing Thee forever nigh
shall attain that deepest joy
living unto thee
no distracting thoughts within
no surviving sin
thus shall heaven, indeed begin
here and now in me..

-albert orsborne (fellowship with thee)
For those of us in the tradition of the salvation army we can understand those verses as a description of holiness - the fight with sin over.. Romans 8... I want to live a holy, consecrated and integrated life. God send your grace.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Holiness and Justice...

There is a connection between these things...
Wesley was noted for his notion that there is no holiness except social holiness... which is a nod to true holiness being infectious... it will impact the world.
I have many thoughts about holiness... I wonder if Isaiah 58 lived out is what holiness looks likes... I wonder about the nature of God's holiness being the perfect presence of Justice and bearing perfect peace - living that out in living colour... what does it look like... so I was picturing some things:
1. every spare room used for housing (hostels unnecessary)
2. every Christian a life bearer
3. generosity as a lifestyle
4. hunger ceasing because every one of God's children chooses to share
5. human trafficking stopped because of lack of demand...
6. people living what they know.

I'm interested in these things much more than the casual list of pathetic sins we think God came to save us from. I remember one leader telling me that Bono wasn't saved because he used the 'f' word... I may be inclined towards non-religious behaviour but I think his understanding and attempts at Isaiah 58 show fruit that he's got some holy power flowing in and through him... you remember the classic Tony Campolo (I heard Eva Burrows gave this a shot at a training college lecture years back) that kids are dying every day of hunger and we don't give a shit... and now you care more that I swore than you do that kids are dying of hunger... your offense is in the wrong direction. I'm offended at sin - social sin and systems and injustice and oppression - not just personal piety and religious sensibilities. let's aim for the goal. I'm going for Hebrews 12... a sprint towards God's kingdom come - last one there is a rotten egg!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Go Canada..

Request from Max Vincent... (a good one!)

I'm rallying all the Canadians I know to send a quick email to Stephen Harper asking Canada to do more to save the lives of millions of children around the world.

Please take 2 minutes to visit and join people all over the world demanding a better deal for the 9.7 million children who die needlessly every year!

Lets see how many people we can get to raise their voices and ask their leaders to be a hero.......

Friday, May 16, 2008

Punchy Pensioners

Old Age pensioners took to the streets today in Melbourne - flinders st.
It was crazytown (hattip hp)!
The ABC radio reporter was trying to describe the scene - and yet, it seemed like something you may just have had to be there to understand completely. Retired women by the dozens were taking off their tops in an effort to attract attention to the lack of pension increase in the budget announcements in Aus.

I didn't really know how to feel as I listened in... at first I was laughing at the boldness of the oldsters. But then I started to realize that it's their right to speak out on issues that effect their lives... it's a shame that we have to keep resorting to more and more degrading acts in order to get some attention... it's this thing about the media needing some entertainment value in order to get some air play... when one police officer asked a pensioner to step off the road he replied, 'my life built these roads.' - not a bad comeback!

then I took it as a challenge - how can we protest for things that are incredibily important to those who can't speak for themselves in creative and meaningful ways that will attract the media... those are the current challenges in justice... prophetic acts that are courageous, bold and fun... I'm wide open to ideas...

then I took it as an opportunity... I saw hundreds of old folks in Salvation Army uniform protesting in fun, creative ways - using their time to make a difference in the world and reforming society... BTW: if you have time you may want to check out the heritage society's latest event this Sat. at boxhill corps - they are highlighting the HAMIDOVA tea effort of 1897 (the SA Australia's first attempt at fairtrade beverages for mission purposes)...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

power in poverty

I've been writing an article on the harmful effects of wealth... stay tuned for details.
But in the meantime consider these words from Jason Upton:

There's a power in poverty that breaks principalities
And brings the authority's down to their knees
There's a brewing frustration and ageless temptation
To fight for control by some manipulation

But the God of the kingdoms and the God of the Nations
The God of creation sends his revelation
Thru the homeless and penniless Jesus the son
The poor will inherit the Kingdom to come

Where will we turn when our world falls apart
And all of the treasures we've stored in our barns
Can't buy the Kingdom of God?

Who will we praise when we've praised all our lives
Men who build Kingdoms and men who build fame
But heaven does not know their name?

What will we fear when all that remains
Is God on His throne, with a child in his arms,
And love in his eyes
And the sound of his heart cries

Monday, May 12, 2008

JUSTLive network...

So, when social justice is boiled all the way down to it's essence it is about relationships.
It's about how we choose to live and how that life impacts the people around us.
There is a move about in the church... a radical move that some disciples are making that change the way they are living -and where they are living. it's a move into the economically poor areas of the world... an 'incarnation' of the gospel in us coming also to the neighbourhoods where we choose to live.
living that way has changed my life... I love it and have found it one of the best teachers in my pursuit of God and His Kingdom.
I remember reading Cry Of The Urban Poor by Viv Grigg (a must read for incarnational types) and it completely transformed the way I thought about bringing the gospel to the world.
The Booth's were convinced by theory and practise that incarnation was the best approach to kingdom advance and the good news is that a whole generation of Salvation Army folks are catching the primitive incarnation bug again!
In Australia we are hoping to gather all these types in a network that will encourage, inspire and equip people to do incarnation even more deeply. It's called JUSTLive and it's kick off event is at a conference called Surrender (hosted by Uniting Neighbours of Hope). If you can - you should come... it is a celebration of what God is doing through incarnational communities among the poor around the world... let's get justice right where we live... and then let's let it roll!
interested in joining? contact for more info on how to be part of changing the world one community at a time.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

relentless hope...

I was speaking at a retired ANZ (bankers) club the other day. And I was talking about the relentless hope of the gospel... God as a venture capitalists with all his deposits in high risk options like me! ;-)
a man who was there slipped me this poem by Emily Dickinson (circa 1863) as I left:

Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
and sings the tune
without the words
and never stops - at all.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Journey

About six years ago and few of us Kingdom types in the dtes of Vancouver brainstormed about what we could do that would really make a difference in the lives of women caught in the vice of prostitution and violence. The Journey was one outcome - a fantastic partnership with Linwood House. Here's an article from the province on how that one little seed has grown...

Refuge from mean streets
House on the Sunshine Coast is a respite from harsh reality for 'broken' women

Cheryl Chan
The Province
Sunday, April 27, 2008

When Sarah goes on a weekend escape to the B&B-like surroundings of a mansion on the Sunshine Coast, she spends a lot of time in the bathtub.

It is there in the corner of the "bridal suite" that the 37-year-old former drug addict and prostitute, who was molested as a child, begins the slow process of healing. "I've spent many hours crying in that tub," she said.

Sarah, who does not want her real name used, spent a year in the Downtown Eastside, high on heroin and selling her body to survive.

"I've been beaten up, raped, abused in every kind of way you can think of. I did some pretty ugly things to myself."

By the time she came to the house two years ago, she was already clean, but raw and flooded with shame and guilt.

It was so bad that when she showered, she couldn't bear looking at her body.

But in the quiet tub overlooking the woods, something happened, said Sarah: "It's a connection with you and God and nature, all at the same time. There's a release that happens in your soul."

Sarah is just one of the women who arrive at Linwood House, a Victorian-style residence tucked away on a rural road in Roberts Creek.

Six times a year, a group of 15-20 "broken" women from the Downtown Eastside -- the drug-addicted, the prostitutes -- come, seeking rest and refuge from the hard reality of their daily lives.

Linwood House, a registered charity run by Linwood House Ministries, hosts the three-day getaways for the women.

It is not a retreat or a program. No receptionist takes down their names and checks ID. No therapist measures their progress.

Instead, Linwood House has a 95-year-old grandma who does the baking. An affectionate family dog named Kelly. And beautiful rooms, lovingly decorated.

It's a family home, evidenced by the photos, heirlooms and bric-a-brac handed down through generations.

Gwen McVicker, who co-owns the home with husband Ron and sister and brother-in-law Dorothea and Doug Rae, has only one rule: No drug use.

In five years, none of their guests has broken that rule. Nothing has gone missing. "We treat them as we would our finest guests," said McVicker, 64. "We treat them with dignity and, in return, they treat our home with dignity."

The goal of The Journey, as the trips are called, is to build friendships. "It's easier to do when you sleep together, eat together, play together," said McVicker, who sees the house as a "sacred space" where a "broken world can experience God's extravagance and grace."

It's a place she hopes the women can visit to clear their minds and be away from the survival and victim mode necessary on the rough streets of the city.

To the many women who've come battered and bruised -- emotionally, if not physically -- the mauve and grey house, with a single turret that makes it look like a castle, weaves magic.

"When I walked into that house there was such a powerful sensation of the generations of women that were involved in this house," said Sarah.

The biggest difference between the two locales, she said, is hope.

"There's none of it in the Downtown Eastside. It's the most hopeless, desolate, last-door sort of place there ever was. What Linwood House offers is a little glimmer in your heart of hope."

The house reminded her of happier times. "It brought me back to a place I remembered when I was a child, of family and wholeness and beauty."

Last year McVicker spent a week with a team of female volunteers in the barren streetscape of the Downtown Eastside, with its boarded-up storefronts and trash-strewn alleys.

She stayed in two dingy hotels where windows were nailed shut and the scurrying of rats was heard through the night. One hotel had one shower for every two floors, a single toilet per floor.

It made her more determined to give those who come to her home the best.

When the tough, street-hardened women -- who are referred to Linwood House by friends or by the Salvation Army and Union Gospel Mission -- do come, they often stand in awe. Some start crying on the driveway.

At Linwood, McVicker champions a simple yet powerful cocktail of therapy: love, acceptance, clean sheets, fresh air, gorgeous food. The women have the run of the five-acre property. They take naps in a sunlit hammock, play bocce on moist grass underneath bare feet, or plant bulbs in the garden.

One woman spent two weeks cooped up in the red-wallpapered library. After a lifetime of being called "stupid" and "worthless," she "devoured every book she [could] get her hands on," she said.

Others head straight to the attic, which has a dress-up nook full of vintage clothes and costumes -- a "safe place," said McVicker, because "some of them never had a childhood" -- while some gravitate towards McVicker's mom, Linda, who became "everyone's grandma."

In the high-ceilinged Great Room, the women gather for conversation, music, art and activities.

McVicker organizes spa days, when volunteers come in to do the women's hair, wash their feet and paint their nails.

One weekend they groomed horses at a nearby farm. Last summer they enjoyed an afternoon on a speedboat in Sechelt Inlet, watching dolphins play.

At the house, the women feast on fresh salmon, free-range chickens, roasted potatoes, blackberry pie with berries picked from the bushes -- all served on the best china. No alcohol is served. But there's plenty of chocolate.

When Linwood House hosted its first Journey five years ago, only two women came. Since then, it's been a full house.

Janet MacPhee, a chaplain at Union Gospel Mission, said the retreats do a world of good for the women. "It gets them out of the dreary downtown and a real opportunity to heal in the country."

The women are "universally thrilled" with the experience, she said.

McVicker finds it difficult to measure Linwood House's success. "We don't measure success by numbers. We measure them by the stories we have.

"The more people come, the more we see them being strong enough to leave drugs, or strong enough to make better decisions. If you spend most of your life thinking one way, how do we expect them to change suddenly? I don't. It's a journey to wholeness."

So McVicker uses a different gauge, seeing progress through women like Rosalynn Humberson, a 39-year-old Downtown Eastside resident who has been an addict and prostitute since she was 12.

The first time she arrived at Linwood House, Humberson soaked up the safety and serenity of her surroundings and slept for three days straight. She loved the "exquisite" meals and Christmas trees in every room, "even the bathroom," during the holidays, but the best thing about the house was the "vibe" from people.

"They treat you like a human being, which is hard to come by sometimes."

After five visits in the past year, she's slowly putting her life together: She stopped selling her body six months ago and she's added 40 pounds to her still-skinny 5'7" frame. Currently on methadone, she is scheduled to get into a treatment facility near Vernon in June.

"I thank Linwood House a lot for what they've done for me. They're like my family," she said.

McVicker said Linwood House is only a small part of these women's journeys.

To continue friendships formed at the house, she has opened a Downtown Eastside version of the Great Room in a condemned building on Hastings.

As part of the ministry, she left for Thailand with a team of volunteers yesterday to work with a similar home that helps prostitutes exit the sex trade.

McVicker estimates it costs $150 for the ferry ride and meals at Linwood House for each woman each weekend. Upkeep on the house is also costly. Two months ago they had to throw away box springs, mattresses and pieces of furniture because of a bedbug infestation.

With more funding, she hopes to host more Journeys and provide a place for women who decide to get off drugs to stay in the interim while waiting for a detox or treatment bed. She also opens up the house to other women in need.

"It's a resting place for a lot of different people from all walks of life."

Linwood House is meant to offer a safe and sacred place, she said. "We don't really consider it our house. It feels like we're taking care of a house that has another purpose."


© The Vancouver Province 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Empathy and the lack of it...

I was just talking yesterday with a friend and we were lamenting the obvious lack of empathy on occassions in the SA... both of us can count the horror stories or recount conversations about 'them' and 'those people' and the incredible distance we have from the 'poor'. I was contemplating the causes of it and stumbled on this amazing article... check out this quote... "The global capitalist culture with its premium on accumulation and profits not only devalues an empathic disposition but produces a stunted character in which everything is transformed into a commodity, not only things, but individuals themselves. The very capacity to practice empathy (love) is subordinated to our state religion of the market in which each person seeks advantage in an alienating and endless commodity-greedy competition."

Read the whole article, NEUROSCIENCE AND MORAL POLITICS: Chomsky’s Intellectual Progeny
Are humans "wired for empathy"? How does this affect what Chomsky calls the "manufacturing of consent"?
An essay by Gary Olson

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Faith without works...

Was taking a look at James 2 (faith without works is dead) this morning at Shop 16 in resevoir - Melbourne. A challenge for sure... I've been reading 1 Kings at the moment and was reminded of the Hebrew idea of wisdom being rooted in skill rather than esoteric knowledge (more a greek idea). So, when James is speaking he is talking to audience of gentiles who have been schooled in greek philosophy and culture (just like us!)... and he's having to make a connection between faith and works (not a connection needed in a Hebrew culture - they are the same there).
We took a few minutes to ponder how we can fight the seemingly inevitable dualism (separation of spiritual from natural) in our world today...

a few ideas?
1. tell the truth
2. do what you sing (even in worship on a sunday)
3. worship every day...
4. be conscious of God's presence and your participation in His work of salvation every day
5. confess your sins to one another (for your healing - see James... I'm convinced this is also about combatting dualism but no time to explain...).
6. any other ideas????

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A blessing...

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice and exploitation of people so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain rejection, hunger and war so that we may reach out our hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in the world so we can do what others claim cannot be done to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.