A Third Way

I get married in 4 days.

I know most people who read this blog are probably married and you’ve been there, done that. But for me this is a first time experience and after living for 35 years by myself (I’ve been in share houses etc, but it’s basically by yourself) this new adventure feels more like jumping out of a plane than photographing sunsets.

I’ve moved most of my ‘stuff’ into our new apartment. It’s nice. We can see the ocean and we’re perched on the top floor which makes it feel like we are sitting amongst the clouds.

But this is not cloud city, it is about to become a marriage pad. Two people are planning to move in on the same turf and live life together. This is exciting and frustrating all at the same time.lando

Naomi has her way of doing things, I have mine.

I realised as we were chatting on the weekend that ‘how’ we live cannot be simply a division of habits. As we were chatting about how we would organise laundry, do the cooking, put the toilet paper on the roll (paper over? Or paper under?) the whole thing started to feel like a process of merely ‘giving ground’ to the other person.

“I’ll let you leave the bin under the sink, if you agree that we can keep a laundry basket in the bedroom.” *

One of the things that the Bible is big on is the idea that marriage is a ‘one flesh’ union. Two people become one united unit. That got me thinking about how the ‘giving ground’ scenario doesn’t really work. Instead of us doing some things her way and some things my way we actually need to develop a third way – ‘our way’.

‘Our way’ will of course involve combinations of how each of us used to live, but it also reminds us that at every turn both of us will need to change.

This way reminds us that there is no ‘ground’ to be yielded, for we are starting something new. That really excites me!

Lando Calrrisian ruled cloud city pretty well. It was a peaceful city and provided security. However he ultimately let the Empire in – they captured Hans and put him in carbonite for who knows how long.

Our cloud city is going to be different. I’m no Lando and this is not a space to be ‘ruled’. I’m looking forward to finding a third way that will bless each other and others in our living space.

Naomi

*This particular conversation never actually took place.

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Protesters, latte’s and the meaning of life.

I was just walking through Sydney Uni. I’ve taken a day off to recover from some sort of fever or head cold or something. The sun on my face is healing and the buzz of a lunchtime university crowd is good for the soul.
Everyone is sprawled across the lawns, eating sandwiches and drinking coffee. Scattered around the place are stalls for different clubs – one for sports, another organising a protest out the front of Fisher library at 3pm – I walk past the Sydney Law Review table. Five people standing around talking quickly, arms flying around the air.

I’m always on the lookout for what it is that makes life worth living. Even as a Christian I’ve had my fair share of seasons that feel useless or meaningless or just plain dark. So in the back of my mind, making sense of the human condition is a constant hobby and on a personal note it is a daily search.

As I walked around the university that day it dawned on me with such clarity;
We crave to be part of something bigger,
And that something bigger must involve some sort of tangible action.
Something of worth, of value, something that is tangible.

Humans flourish when we work together to tend the garden. That’s a phrase I get from Genesis 1. It’s the biblical concept that God gave us our lives in order that we would do something with them, something tangible, together, for the good of the world.

I feel like there has been a slight disconnection for me on this front.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know this is not a new concept. I have been talking about the need for humans to be part of something bigger for donkey’s years. But what really struck me today as I looked at those organising the protest and the people recruiting for University Games and the Law students planning their review was that this ‘something bigger’ must be doing something tangible.

It must be doing something that has worth which can been seen and touched and enjoyed.
It is a challenge for my own life and my approach to daily tasks.

I think it is also a challenge to our Christian communities scattered around Sydney.

We are very good at reminding each other that we are part of something bigger! That is what the Gospel of Jesus is all about – that God should enter our world in order to lead us into his eternal, life affirming world.

However, I wonder if as communities we are doing something together of tangible worth?

On Engagement and Growing Up.

Counting-Crows1I listened to the Counting Crows on the morning that I proposed to Naomi. I know for those who never got into them the Counting Crows are no more than a whiny, over emotional 90’s band. But for those of us who were hooked by August and Everything After, lead singer Adam Duritz provided a poetic glimpse into the pain and joy of relationships, regret and new beginnings.

counting_crowsOde to Melancholy could have been written by Duritz. I think him and Keats would have been best friends if they weren’t separated by a century of time.

I listened to the Counting Crows because they represent all the longings of my 20’s. The desire captured in his strained voice; “All my friends and lovers leave me behind and I’m still looking for a girl” echoes the why me of much of life’s disappointments.

Adam Duritz is 50 this year and from what I can gather is still looking.

I listened to the Counting Crows as a reminder of how far I’ve moved forward, grown up. It’s so easy to get caught up in the melancholy of life and find a sort of joy in the constant disappointment but ultimately that approach is kind of boyish.

The idea of marriage cuts through all of this – primarily because it’s a relationship that is not about you. As far as I can work it out, marriage doesn’t let you find joy in your own disappointments because the focus is the other person. To bring them joy and to help with their disappointments. It’s also about two people coming together with a purpose much bigger than just themselves – that is to serve God – to love him and to bless others in a way that you couldn’t do on your own. At least that’s what I get from the Bible about marriage.

And so I listened to the Counting Crows on the morning of the 8th as a farewell ritual.

When I got down on my knee at Clovelly head land and asked Na to marry me I felt excitement but I also felt a deep sense of responsibility. Getting engaged at 34 is different to 23. You know there are a hundred and one ways that your life will need to change and you know only some of them are going to be fun. The season of why me is over. Whilst there is a part of me that would love to stay up all night having beers with Adam Duritz and sharing stories about the ones that got away I think the seemingly eternal adolescences that the Crows represent has to come to an end.naomi and me

Naomi is a woman who is fun, spontaneous, emotional, godly, smart, patient (very patient!) and extremely beautiful. I never like her going home at the end of the night and I deeply desire to do life with her – and I don’t mean the mountain tops, I mean the daily’s – washing, vacuuming, cooking, tv watching, exercising and sharing Jesus with friends.

Adam Duritz has been a good companion but it’s time for someone real.

Why it’s Good to be a Christian School

3.      We provide the depth to education that is needed in human flourishing

It was Socrates that said; “the unexamined life is not worth living”. Too often our education system can simply become a treadmill to university which in turn becomes a treadmill to the workforce. Whilst a good job can certainly be the fruit of a good education it should not be the goal. Genuine education involves a profound change of personhood as we come face to face with new truths and worldviews that push us beyond the familiar. To deny students access to an array of perspectives is to limit their own development as young men.

depthAs a Christian school we ensure a deep and rounded educational experience by combining intellectual, physical and spiritual. Your son will be challenged to think beyond his day to day needs to the broader questions of purpose and meaning in life.

At Cranbrook we use Jesus as our entry point into the spiritual. Jesus has had a profound impact on the world in which we live and we use his command to “Love God with all our heart, soul and mind and love our neighbour as ourselves” as a door way beyond ourselves. We will encourage your son to have a grander view of the world than just his own life and invite him to consider the ways he may actually seek the good of others as the key to human flourishing. At no point will any student be forced or expected to hold this view as his own personal belief but we believe that being challenged with this perspective will deepen and add value to his educational experience.

 

Why it’s good to be a Christian school

2.      We have a foundation for community that is second to none

Communities are always complex. Bring 2 or more people together for any extended period of time and there are bound to be problems. Here at Cranbrook we have a community of students, teaching staff, support staff, admin staff and parents that is vast. Our Christian foundation provides us with the perfect stability upon which to build such a community.Humility

Christians have been thinking about how best to run communities for over 2000 years! Both Jesus and the apostle Paul made it clear what the key ingredient for real community is – love – plain and simple. And the particular expression of love that is emphasised is humility – seeking the good of the other, even at cost to oneself. This picture of humility is not plucked from thin air but rather is emphasised because it is the very character of God. God is a God who loves us at cost to himself as most clearly seen in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

And so as your son enters Cranbrook – an Anglican school, a Christian school, he is entering a community that is guided by love. He will be cared for by staff and other students and he himself will be challenged and encouraged to care for others. It is a great foundation for a community like ours. I would say it is the best!

Why it’s good to be a Christian School

1.      We welcome all people, from all cultures and all beliefs.

I am often asked whether we accept students of differing faiths despite the fact that we are an Anglican School. I like to inform parents that it is not despite but because we are an Anglican school that we welcome all students from all cultures and all beliefs.

welcome-members

At the core of the Biblical picture of humanity is that each and every human is inherently valuable because they have been created in the very image of God! It was this Christian doctrine that drove the early church to care for the sick, the widows and the discarded children in the ancient world. It was this Christian doctrine that drove William Wilberforce to bring an end to slavery in the British Empire; Martin Luther King Jnr to fight for racial equality and Nelson Mandela to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.

A Christian school sees each and every student who enters the gates as inherently valuable because of our Biblical foundations and this means your son will be most welcome here, whatever his back ground, whatever his beliefs.

Evolved Into Bystanders

The Bible is a pretty old book.

I know we’re sceptical of old things. Old people aren’t revered they are put in homes. Old appliances aren’t kept but thrown away. Old training methods are replaced with new, quicker, more scientific training methods.

We hate the old because a lot of us believe things are getting better. Social Darwinism proclaims that humanity is on a constant plain of improvement. A few bumps here and there but otherwise the theory is that we are more developed and therefore better than those who lived 2000 or 3000 years ago – it’s science.evolution-of-man

Or so it seems. In his brilliant essay The Funeral of a Great Myth C.S Lewis masterfully highlights the grave mistake of not distinguishing between the truth of biological evolution with the myth of social evolution. If you haven’t yet read it go do it! HERE

Maybe we aren’t as far ahead of our ancient counterparts as we like to think. Maybe the question of right and wrong, good and evil and how we should act is the same today as yesterday as the turn of the millennium.

I say this because in the Bible, the author of the book of Romans (Paul), writes that part of our human problem is that we are sinful. That means we have stopped worshiping and listening to God (who is good, generous and has designed us for love) and instead bunkered down in our own little worlds – trying to make something better than God could do. Now of course a large part of this rejection of God leads to us becoming our own Gods (legends in our lunch boxes, the centre’s of our own worlds, etc, etc).

Here is the interesting bit – Paul says that a fruit of this is that we ‘invent ways of doing evil’ and while we know that what is going on is wrong we stand back and applaud each others actions. We end up just looking after number 1 and we only love others if it will benefit us.

ENTER the story of Aida;

As reported HERE in the SMH 16/1/2014

aidawide-620x349Yet, as a 29-year-old Sydney woman known only as “Aida” discovered this week, a crowd of people can be watching and you can still be very much on your own. At 4.30pm on Monday, on busy Railway Street in Liverpool, Aida fought off a man who tried to drag her into a car. There were three other men inside the car. There were “dozens of people around”.

Not one of the people came to Aida’s assistance, despite her screams.”

Here is the rub, when writing about this situation, the journalist did not seek to make any moral judgement on the bystanders, instead she writes the following;
It’s easy to have a reflex response to such an incident with all its horrible echoes of the Anita Cobby case. Someone is in trouble. You help them. If you don’t, you are morally flawed and/or a coward. But psychologists offer an alternative view. They call it the “bystander effect”.”

Apparently it’s natural for us to not want to help and this innate desire grows larger as the size of the crowd watching increases.

In the past such an act – to stand by as a woman is abducted by thugs – would be called wrong. Because we were so strongly influenced by Jesus words to love our neighbour and to seek the good of the other. Some may have called it a sin of omission.
But we’ve moved on from that haven’t we?
We don’t need Jesus any more with those archaic throwaway lines.

We’re far more advanced in 2014 and we’re clearly better for it. Our Psychologists support our indifference to another’s suffering, confirming that the evolved life really is all about me.

But I wonder if maybe, just maybe we know that this is not what an evolved life looks like.

And if that’s the case, then maybe Jesus still has something to teach us.