Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Knepp.co.uk

“Knepp Estate is one of the most exciting wildlife conservation projects in the UK, and indeed in Europe. If we can bring back nature at this scale and pace just 16 miles from Gatwick airport we can do it anywhere. I’ve seen it. It’s truly wonderful, and it fills me with hope.” Professor Sir John Lawton, author of the 2010 Making Space for Nature report.

In 2000 a decision was made to sell the dairy herd and farm machinery at the unprofitable Knepp Home Farm in West Sussex, England and put the 3500 acre estate out to contract. Twenty years on the Knepp Wilding project is a leading light in the conservation movement. The Knepp Wilding website describes “astonishing wildlife successes” and talks about the project offering “solutions for some of our most pressing problems – like soil restoration, flood mitigation, water and air purification, pollinating insects and carbon sequestration.”

It sounds like I’m just reporting on a successful conservation project, but the story goes further. Last year in the Church Missionary Society Pioneer Mission website, Paul Bradbury drew on the achievements at the Knepp Estate and put forward the concept of “wilding the church”.

Bradbury put it like this: “The unfolding story of the Knepp estate might be read as a parable for the church in the UK. We use methods that in many contexts are no longer fruitful or sustainable, and others which are resource intensive and (if not mechanistic, then) programmatic. Yet, in many ways we too are farming in the old ways on land which is now marginal, amalgamating parishes in the hope that perhaps we can find a way out of decline. We too need to stop and deeply listen to our context. When our machines have stopped and the dust settled we may just be able to discern the nature of the soil at our feet.”

As the baseline was changed in the Knepp Estate, surprise was a constant experience. Species that people thought had gone, came back and the soil that had seemed to be unproductive sprang into life. There is a picture here of the surprise that comes from experiencing the Holy Spirit at work in the life of the church and the wider community when we listen and observe his presence.

Perhaps there is a place for a more “wild theology” – a changing of the baseline – a place where we stop trying to organise, manufacture, or programmatise the work of God and to allow the Spirit to move in fresh ways that will surprise us again and again. Perhaps there is a place for us to learn how to participate in the life of the Spirit who is already at work in the world and as Bradbury says to become “observers, enablers and curators”; to be facilitators of the vision of the Spirit. 

What do you think?

knepp.co.uk

What Follows Isolation?

Posted: July 9, 2020 in Uncategorized

Over the last few months I have been reflecting on what the church may look like post-COVID-19. I took the opportunity to talk to a range of church leaders to hear their thoughts and the result of this investigation is in a short video. CHECK IT OUT HERE

It seemed that since isolation was such an important theme it was appropriate to “top and tail” the video with a scene from the Pilbara region of WA. It also coincided nicely with a visit to our Pilbara family as soon as the regional boundaries were opened.

As you would expect there was plenty of variety in the approach of different church leaders, but there were some themes that came through to me. I got the sense from these conversations that churches in the future would need to be simpler, more agile and more directly focussed on Jesus. ______________________________________________________________________________

It is time we stopped imagining the church as something we have to invite people into and see it as something that is blessed to be broken and given to the world. From Microchurches: A Smaller Way by Brian Sanders

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Ten or so hears ago I was avidly reading books about the “emerging” and “emergent” church (apparently there’s a difference). Since then some of these movements have fallen by the wayside and some have just become “emergencies”. Nevertheless the desire to see the development of fresh expressions of church has matured in some way over the years and I am holding out hope for the future.

Next week, as a result of my desire to investigate some of these issues further, I will be participating in some online workshops initiated in both the UK and USA. It seems to me that we can no longer depend on the inherited church models as the only way to bring about God’s Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven”, and I’m keen to sharpen my thinking on this topic.

COVID-19 has forced many churches to reflect more deeply on whether our focus on the weekly gathering needs to be as high on our list of priorities as it has become. It would seem that the original intent to worship God and to prepare ourselves for mission has become an end in itself and the heart of the Gospel has been lost.

Watch this space as I dig deeper into how we can develop a fresher and simpler expression of church in the future.

(If you haven’t seen my video, COVID and the Church, CLICK HERE to see it on YouTube)

The West Aussie Wave

Posted: July 1, 2020 in Uncategorized
Susannah Carr from The West’s and Channel Seven’s campaign :The West Aussie Wave” Picture: Daniel Wilkins

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We’ve just come back from a road trip to the north west of the state and observed that since the removal of regional borders, the tourist traffic has started.

I grew up in the bush and it was pretty normal in “the olden days” to wave to other road users, and you could be sure the wave would be returned.

But although we waved at almost every vehicle heading the opposite direction to us, there were very few people who waved back. Rather, everyone seemed to be anxious to get to wherever they were going without paying too much attention to other road users.

Were we more friendly “back then” or were there simply fewer vehicles on the road resulting in greater camaraderie between intrepid regional travellers?

The odd thing is that there is a television newspaper campaign underway to bring back what the promoters are proudly calling “The West Aussie Wave”.

Launching the campaign, Police and Road Safety Minister Michelle Roberts said it aimed to reduce serious and fatal crashes, some of which are caused by impatience and road rage. 

“Take a different attitude to your fellow drivers on the road and show them some courtesy. Give them a wave — it costs nothing,” Ms Roberts said.

It’s funny that we have to run an advertising campaign to encourage people to be more courteous, but my observation from waving to motorists along the North West Coastal Highway is that the ad campaign isn’t working.

In an age in which most people have social media accounts that encourage people to have as many friends as possible, there seems to be a shortage of friendliness, not just on the road but in many circumstances.

I think we need to spend a little more time developing friendliness. Sure, waving to other motorists is a nice idea, but we can probably add to that (without the benefit of an ad campaign) by developing an attitude of friendliness, kindness and courtesy that flows through every part of life.

Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, certainly wasn’t in wonderland when he said “courtesy is a small act but it packs a mighty wallop”.

What’s Next?

Posted: June 12, 2020 in Uncategorized

This week has been a bit of a throwback to my old journalism days. I’ve been out and about meeting people and in the process putting together a video of my experiences. You see, I was curious about how churches have handled the COVID-19 situation, but more than that, I was curious about how the closure of places of worship would change the future of the church. 

So I’ve been meeting church leaders from a variety of different denominations, styles and formats to simply ask what have been the best things to have come out of COVID-19, and how will these things affect their future. I even had a fascinating conversations this morning with my Jewish ophthalmologist who described how the synagogue coped with the closure of places of worship. I have to say that holding “Zoom prayers”, morning and night, every day during lockdown seemed to show a greater degree of commitment than I saw from most Christian churches. 

But what’s next? In my last post, I asked the question was this just a case of pressing the pause button or should we press the reset button that may take us back to the manufacturer’s settings. I’ve been delighted to see that church leaders are asking the question, about whether they should continue with everything as it was, or if this is the time to think carefully about why we do the things we do. 

Hamo’s post yesterday reminded his readers of Phyllis Tickle’s idea (The Great Emergence: 2008) that every 500 years the church holds a giant jumble sale and throws out some of the rubbish of the past. I’ve thought about that a lot and when church doors were closed by a pandemic it made me wonder if this was the time. 

Just before Jesus began his earthly ministry and started a train of events that would change history for ever, he went into isolation for 40 days and 40 nights. 

I’m hopeful that this period of forced isolation will be the start of something momentous in the ongoing history of the Kingdom of God. 

I’ve been putting together a video of the conversations I have had with church leaders this week so watch out for it in the next couple of weeks and be a part of the conversation. 

Which Button?

Posted: June 8, 2020 in Uncategorized

I was in  a LinkedIn conversation with someone in the UK the other day about what the church might look like post-COVID-19. I used the word “pause” as something that may be relevant to where we are at the moment. I was thinking that this period of lockdown was like a “pause” button for the church, a time for us to stop and reflect on what we are doing and decide if that is what we want to continue to do in the future.

The person with whom I was corresponding threw the question back at me about the pause button and asked if it was actually the reset button we needed to be pressing, and added: “Are we being asked to discover the factory default settings of the church?”

Just before everything closed down I concluded my ministry at a church that I had grown to love over many years. Since then I have been visiting many churches online and have appreciated the fact that in many ways church is easier to access now than it was before. As I have reflected on what I have observed and as I reflected on what I have personally experienced in church life over the last 40 years I believe we are at a unique time in history. 

It’s a while now since I read Phyllis Tickle’s book, The Great Emergence, but the coronavirus reminded me of her assertion from about eight years ago. Tickle used the analogy of “The 500-Year Rummage Sale” to describe religious change over the years. She said that historically, the church “cleans house” roughly every 500 years, holding what she calls a “giant rummage sale,” deciding what to dispose  and what to keep, making room for new things. 

We are now 500 years on from the Reformation and I’m wondering if COVID-19 has provided us with the impetus to begin that 500-year rummage sale; a time when we have been forced to stop everything we normally do, and perhaps, to think about a future that is somewhat different from the past. 

Brian Sanders, the author of “A Smaller Way” made the observation: “It is time we stopped imagining the church as something we have to invite people into and see it as something that is blessed to be broken and given to the world.” This resonates with me as I think about a world where churches got very busy with all sorts of things and some of the heart of mission may have been lost. 

Rather than rushing back to life as we know it, I wonder if we need to take the time to reflect on the best bits of our COVID “pause” and tentatively reach for the “reset” button. And perhaps as our finger hovers over the reset button we need to ask the question: What do the factory default settings really look like?   

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. 

The Book of Hope

Posted: April 12, 2020 in Uncategorized

I’m on a journey to discover more about hope. There’s very little that’s familiar about the world in which we live right now, and I think everyone needs hope more than ever.

But how do find hope? I went to buy petrol for my car the other day and was delighted that fuel prices are down. A great reason to feel hopeful. With industry closing down and people using less cars, I’m told the levels of carbon dioxide in the air are decreasing.  Could that be good for our planet? Perhaps a reason to feel hopeful?

I read the other day that there are all sorts of stories on social media about animals moving into cities, finding their place that have been deserted by humans who have gone into isolation. Hopeful? Well, apparently most of those stories were fake news.  You see people try to drum up hopefulness, and they’ll even tell porkies to try and make people feel hopeful.

So there’s got to be a better way. My search for hope has been centred on the Bible and I’m astounded at the amount of hopefulness that is present in the Bible.  I was reading a passage that talks about our need to help people do what is right and to build them up in their relationship with God, and the passage concludes like this:

And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

The very purpose of the Scriptures, another word for the Bible, is to give us hope and encouragement as we wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

Don’t you just love it that all those meetings that were in your calendar have all been cancelled? And perhaps you’re thinking to yourself right now that maybe there’s something else you can do to put this time of isolation and social-distancing to good use. 

I’d like to suggest you take the time to read the Bible.  I know there’s some bits in there that are hard to understand, but if the purpose of the Scriptures is to give us hope and encouragement, take the opportunity to specifically look for hope and encouragement as you read.

I love the Psalms, right in the middle of the Bible, because although they sometimes express hardship and doubt and even fear, they are expressing life as it really is. But almost inevitably the writers to the Psalms, after they have had a whinge about God, and their enemies, and their own doubts, they focus back on God, and his beauty and majesty; they talk about his love and grace, his generosity, and his hopefulness. 

Here’s an example: Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed! Truth springs up from the earth, and righteousness smiles down from heaven. Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings. Our land will yield its bountiful harvest. Righteousness goes as a herald before him,preparing the way for his steps.

The Bible is a source of hope. Take this opportunity when the busy-ness of life is on hold to a certain degree, to read the Bible. In fact this is a great time to develop a habit of reading the Bible every day. Set aside a time each day when you can read the Bible and explore what it says about hope.

After all, it says itself that the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

Eager Expectation

Posted: April 8, 2020 in Uncategorized
Photo: Monarch Butterfly – butterfly-conservation.org

I’m on a journey to discover more about hope. One of my favourite stories is about how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. When you get a chance just look online for a video of this incredible event which is known as metamorphosis. (you can find it here)

I can’t explain exactly what happens to the caterpillar, but there comes a time when the butterfly begins to emerge from the cocoon. And when you’re watching it’s an incredibly frustrating process. You really want to help the poor butterfly get out of this messy prison that it seems to be in. But the reality is that it needs to go through this incredibly complex and frustrating process, so that it it will emerge whole, as a beautiful butterfly. 

In my journey to discover ideas about hope I came across this verse in the Bible that says this: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hopethat the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

It seems that right now throughout the world, we’re becoming more aware of this idea that creation is in bondage to decay, the words that are used in the Bible. Whether it’s climate change, pandemics, bushfires, floods and drought, or wars and famines, there’s a lot of decay occurring all around us.

The person who wrote this passage that we now read in the Bible may have been writing a couple of thousand years ago, but he could have been seeing something that was going to happen well into the future. I get it, and I suspect you do, when we read the phrase, that creation was subject to frustration.

Butterfly life cycle: Shutterstock

It’s like the process of metamorphosis. For that butterfly to emerge as a beautiful creature that flitters around from flower to flower, brightening up our day, it has to go through a time of frustration. 

And maybe creation needs to go through a time of frustration as we prepare for something better. The Biblical writer referred to hope: He talked about creation being subjected to frustration, then added that this frustration occurred in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

So there’s hope, not just for us, but for the whole of creation. There’s hope because God’s got things under control. Just as I would like to reach down and help the butterfly out of its cocoon while its struggling to develop its wings and emerge in all its beauty, I suspect there are times God would like to step in and sort out the mess that we’ve made. And I’m sure many of us wish God would step in and sort out the mess.

But for our good, perhaps God is allowing his creation, including us, to go through a time of frustration, so that we can learn more about him, and that, in time, we can emerge, like a butterfly, from this time of frustration and decay, fully developed, brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 

Join me each week as I take you on the journey to hope. You can also hear these on 98.5 Sonshine fm.

Pearls of Hope

Posted: April 5, 2020 in Uncategorized
Photo: Rob Douglas

When the world’s messed up there’s one thing you really need, and that’s hope. But how do we find hope?

Over the years many people have found the answer in a rather surprising place. 

I’ve read stories from people in all parts of the world, and at different times in history, who have found hope in this surprising place and over time they’ve been able to confirm that it was real.

Stories about people who have experienced illnesses and in their suffering they have found hope when everyone around them seemed to be giving up hope. Stories about people who have found hope during times of war when they didn’t know if they’d get back home to see their loved ones. Stories about people who have suffered in concentration camps and prisons and on the darkest of days, they have experienced hope. Stories about people who have had accidents and experienced life-changing injuries and disabilities, yet have experienced hope at the worst of times. (Check out this story of a doctor who came back to life)

It’s pretty hard to believe, but the stories are true. People have found hope during times of suffering and they have achieved that hope through their faith in Jesus.

The funny thing is – well maybe not so funny – the Bible confirms all these stories. I’m on a journey at the moment, searching the Bible to find out what it says about hope, and this is one verse that I came across:

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Photo: australiasnorthwest.com

We love pearls and we are often amazed at the beauty of pearls. Natural pearls form when an irritant – usually a parasite – works its way into an oyster. As a defense mechanism, a fluid is used to coat the irritant. This coating is deposited layer upon layer until a beautiful pearls is formed. 

I think we’ve got a great picture here of suffering and how to deal with it. To start with it’s not a pleasant thing, and it actually seems to be incompatible with a good life. But various layers are developed over that suffering. According to the Biblical writer, suffering produces endurance, the next layer that grows over endurance is strength of character.  Then over this layer is another layer which is described as hope. And hope, we’re told, doesn’t lead to disappointment.

I reckon it’s also possible to cover suffering with a whole lot of other layers that don’t lead to the production of that pearl of hope. To that initial irritant of suffering, we can add layers of fear, anxiety, regret and guilt. And the final result is not nice.

For us to become pearls of hope that will brighten the lives of the people around us, requires us to allow the love of God to fill our hearts and to begin to change us from the inside out. To take the irritant of suffering and to add those layers of endurance and strength of character.

These are times when we need hope and we need more people to become pearls of hope that will enhance and brighten the lives of the people around us.  

Check out my previous blogs on Journey to Hope here and here. You can also hear them on 98.5 Sonshine fm.  If you are looking for a 9-minute message of hope, you can also check me out on Youtube.

Peace in an App

Posted: April 1, 2020 in Uncategorized

Welcome to Rob’s Ramblings. I’ve decided to develop a series of blogs entitled Journey to Hope as a way of addressing some of the fears and uncertainty that we are currently facing in our world. I’ll be running them twice a week so I’d encourage you to check it out on a regular basis and let your friends know to read it as well. For those who live in Western Australia, these blogs can also be heard on 98.5 Sonshine Radio.

When things are tough there are many places you can go to find hope. Some find hope in music, poetry or literature, while others find it in a bottle. I reckon the most hopeful place to look is in the Bible. That’s right the Bible, that old book that God botherers seem to go on about all the time.

I’m on a journey at the moment, and I’d like you to join me. I’m looking for hope and I’ve decided to see what the Bible says about hope. Here’s a verse I came across. It says this: Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Some translations put it this way: We confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. 

If you’re looking for peace, one of the options is to download an app. There’s a bundle of them. Peaceful music to help you go to sleep, deep relaxation and mindfulness apps, happy mind guides, stress relief and heaps more. But the Bible talks about being at peace with God.

What’s that you ask? Peace with God – what do you mean?

Well, we all have built into us, the ability to connect with God in some way. It’s kind of a God meter that many of us don’t even realise is there.  But when this God meter is out of sync all sorts of things can go wrong. We may doubt that God exists, or we may just have the sense that we’re not really connecting with God.

To put it simply we are not at peace with God. In fact, we’re probably arguing with him, resisting him, or simply trying our best to ignore God.

The verse I quoted says that we can have peace with God, and it’s made possible by what Jesus Christ has done for us.  Then it goes on to say that when we have that peace we can also have hope. We can confidently and joyfully look forward to living at peace with God for the rest of our lives … and for that matter, even beyond our death.

You can sit and listen to relaxation music all day, but when the kids start whingeing about the amount of screen time you’ve allocated them and other pressures are crowding in, it seems that peace is a long way off.

So there’s got to be a better way of discovering peace. The thing is, it’s not something that we can achieve by downloading an app, or having another drink, or reading more poetry. Peace with God is achieved through what Jesus Christ has done for us.

What did he do?

  1. Well he came to earth and set up camp here with us. He needed to prove that he’s not as distant as you think he is.
  2. Then he died to show just how far he was prepared to go to fix up the mess that we’d made.
  3. Then he came to life again to show that when he talked about eternal life he really meant what he said.

Being at peace with God doesn’t just help us cope with the here and now, it gives hope for the future … and that helps us cope with the here and now.

Overflowing Hope

Posted: March 29, 2020 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,
Wellington Dam, Western Australia

Seeing dams overflowing isn’t an everyday experience but many of us would have good memories of having seen Mundaring Weir overflowing, or perhaps Wellington Dam down near Collie, or even places like Churchman Brook, Serpentine Dam or Argyle Dam in the north west. 

What an incredible sight it is to see the dam full of water, and as the water overflows the roar of that water is quite amazing. One of the aspects of watching a dam overflow is to see the way in which the water is released and spreading out into the rivers and creeks that seem to spring out of nowhere.

Wellington Dam, Western Australia

I’ve started a journey to discover more about hope and I’d like to invite you to join me in this journey. I’ll probably be blogging on Sunday and Wednesday . I’ve been working my way through the Bible to discover what it has to say about hope and I can’t get over how much hopefulness is expressed in the Bible. Here’s a verse that I came across.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As I read that verse I can’t help but think about those dams overflowing, the roar of the water, and the freedom that is associated with the water finding a place of escape from the boundaries that have been holding it in place.

But it’s talking about hope. For some people hope is like a dry creek bed. We can see the evidence of hope. There used to be a creek or a river here once, but because of the drought it’s been a long time coming. When we live in difficult times, the sense of hope can dry up and it’s only a distant memory.

But the Bible shares a prayer that the dry creek bed of hopelessness and doubt and fear, will once again flow with hope.  The prayer, which is one that I think we can all practice praying says: I pray that God, the source of hope fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The source of hope is God and the expectation of this prayer is that we will trust in this God of hope. Sure you may be experiencing a dry creek bed at the moment and you’re not sure who to trust, and to be fair, there are probably some people you thought you could trust who have let you down. But as you look at that dry creek bed, be reminded that it used to run, and it will run again.

If you’re not used to praying, or you’ve found it hard to pray in the past, this is a great time to start again. It’s a time to pray to the God the source of hope. A God who is trustworthy and dependable.

I’d like to invite you to pray that we together as a society will see God’s hope filling our lives and overflowing so that not only are we filled and overflowing with hope, but that the overflow will impact the lives of people around us.

Please join me in these blogs on a regular basis and share them with your friends. If you’re in Western Australia you can also hear them on 98.5 Sonshine FM. You can also check out their website for more valuable information.