A Habit of Reflection

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I feel like life in New Zealand is pretty busy – especially for young adults, who are getting used to Uni or work, and juggling new found freedoms along with new found responsibilities. Culturally, we are formed to be busy and on the move. Do you feel that?

2018 has been a year of new beginnings for me, and that’s made it feel busy and full. That can be exciting, but it’s also challenging. I began work as a youth and young adult’s pastor, and was lucky enough to have an existing role with the Diocese of Auckland expand to allow me to give more to young adults at a regional level.  Early on in the year I realised I needed new spiritual disciplines to sustain me, so as part of that process I developed a habit of prayer-walking during my day at work. I have found it profoundly nourishing in my life.

At the office in Parnell, I’ll try get out and head down Parnell rise, reflecting and praying about young adult ministry, about work commitments, about the businesses I walk past and the people I came across. Usually I’ll grab a coffee and sit for a while too. People do prayer-walks in different ways. For me, it has been fairly reflective and personal. For others it’s more overtly outward. Different times and places call for different things.

This discipline has been for me an acknowledgement that ministry is not my ministry. If I am to do well at my two jobs, I need to let my work be shaped and guided by the Spirit of Christ, the One who lives in me – for it is His ministry I participate in. That’s reassuring to remember.

Recently, if I am honest though, I’ve been really slack with this habit. I’ve been slack in general, too, at engaging in a disciplined way in reflection with God on my life and work. In the process I’ve become anxious, weary, and fearful. I’ve found it hard to focus, or be clear on the vision God has given me in ministry. So, today I headed down Parnell rise at midday and took the practice back up. I took a book to sit with on a stoop outside a café and prayed for those that passed by, and when I felt like it was a good time, I opened up the book and read. The first page had the words of Haggai 1:5-7. Here God speaks to his people in a time in which they were lost. They were toiling in the fields, but yielding little results, they were eating, but they didn’t have enough, they had clothes, but they weren’t warm, and they were earning, but their wages were falling through holes in their money bags. Twice, God says to them, “Give careful thought to your ways” (TNIV). The Message puts it this way: “Take a good, hard look at your life.” But the most hard-hitting of all is the NLT: “Look at what is happening to you.”

 

“Look at what is happening to you[!]” Those words rung in my ears. I’ve felt like that recently…like life is happening to me. How about you?

“Reflect”, God was saying to me, as he held up a mirror. It hit me. I haven’t been sitting with God and others, nor with myself, to give careful thought to my ways and take a good hard look in the mirror. How can I listen to God’s nudges, if I don’t even know where I am at the moment – good or bad? How can I celebrate the wins if I don’t take stock of life, and pause? How can I tweak small things, or make monumental changes, if I can’t see what is being neglected?

Untitled design (1)As I sat and reflected, I noticed a pigeon in front of me pecking at the floor. It was missing a talon. I realised that, as silly as this metaphor is, that pigeon at some point had something happen to it, or ended up getting itself into something that left it worse for wear, and it had retreated, and paused, and let it’s body heal. Now here it was, missing a talon, but strong as ever, different but pressing on. It couldn’t have done that had it just carried on like nothing was wrong. As I sat and reflected, I felt that peace of God, the kind that surpasses all understanding, settle into my body and work its way down into my heart.

One of my favourite songs at the moment (perhaps you know the one) says “He never told me it would be easy, he said suffering would come. But he promised peace.” The thing is, unless we ruminate on that peace…unless we reflect on it, and what God is saying to us amidst our unease, Christ’s peace won’t sink into our souls.

If you are tired or weary, or anxious, or whatever…hear the Spirit of God speaking to you with the words of Haggai 1:5-7. You’re racing ahead, and working hard, but you have missed what is going on for you…so stop, reflect, and look at what is happening.

If you and I are going to allow God to shape us and sustain us for the long haul in the hard and painful Christian life, then we are going to need to take time at regular intervals to pause, to journal, to talk it out with others, to listen to God, to hear him speak through pigeons on sidewalks and in the pages of His Word. We are going to need to press pause, rise above the chatter, to do lists and tasks, and take a good, hard look at our lives. We might just find some things to celebrate, and we may just realise the tweak we’ve needed to make all along.  
Some Questions to help you:
When can you take time today to reflect on how you are doing, and where you are at?
What wins can you celebrate from the past week in your life?
What is God asking you to take a hard look at? Why have you avoided it?
How will you adjust your patterns of life?

There are some great spiritual practices that have been used for generations of Christians too that can help you in this journey, such as:
The Daily Examen
The Empty Chair
Spiritual Direction
(And many more). You might like Google one from the list above and try it today.

Kia kaha, kia māia, kia manawanui. 

 

About the Author:

J H updateJeremy works part time as the part time as the Diocese’s Young Adults Facilitator and as Youth and Young Adults Pastor at NorthWest Anglican. He is married to Katie, who regularly shows him how to be a better human. He spends his spare time brewing beer, reading, and watching Suits. If you want to chat to Jeremy about anything GC-related, you can email him at JHarris@auckanglican.org.nz.

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Dan and David

You know, one of the things I love about the Gospel of Jesus and the Kingdom of God is that Jesus invites us to give up what is keeping us from a relationship with Him, with our world, and with each other, and find a better way. He was constantly forgiving people’s sins, and healing people, and in the process, restoring them to their communities again. And the greatest thing about Jesus is he was willing to die for what he believed in, which is that the world can be made right, justice can come to our societies, and healing can come to our souls: through the power of his life, death, and resurrection we are invited to share in his work of bringing spiritual, physical, emotional, communal healing to the world, by being transformed in the grace and love of God. Participating in that story is the mahi that I’m about.

And it’s my belief in this God revealed in Scripture to us, that has meant in the last two weeks I’ve been deeply troubled by the political discourse coming from the MP for Epsom and the National candidate in the Northcote by-election.  David Seymour, the Act Party leader and MP for Epsom sent a letter to his constituents about a Housing New Zealand development in his electorate which he argued would bring in undesirable people with mental health issues into the neighbourhood and cause security risks and trouble for those already living there. In the Northcote election, Dan Bidios said that new affordable housing developments in the area would cause an increase in crime. He later backpedalled when he was asked how the link could be made between the two.

I’m just going to lay my cards right out on the table. David, Dan, statements like that are what weaken our nation. We are all in this thing together. What I mean by that is we are a nation, we are a city, we are local communities, made up of all kinds of people, and that means we are each other’s responsibility. But unfortunately rhetoric like yours serves only to insulate some of us from the rest of us. Barriers between us make us weaker. I’m going to call it. You both only have the interests of people like yourselves in mind. People who are middle-to-upper class. People who have made it. People who have wealth, and security.

If you stopped and asked yourselves what is at the root of crime, mental illness, and poverty, you would realise that inequality in our society, separation, segregation, all reinforced by the worry that people over there will discolour our patch over here, lies at the heart of these issues in the first place.[1] Let that sink in a little, would you? You are reinforcing the issues that lie at the foundation of what you are trying to protect yourselves from. Counter intuitively, healing for people who’ve committed crimes, people with mental illness, and people in poverty, is inextricably linked to us all embracing one another. Can you not see beyond your own interests, to the extent that you have missed the humanity in others who have a different life story to your own?

What you have said in the last few weeks shows your true colours. And it worries me. Because I passionately, firmly, believe that one of the great tragedies of our society is that we don’t actually know each other well. And if politicians espouse views like yours, then we will not see our communities come together and move forward because it will entrench ideologies that prop up inequality and division.

I have lived in the Epsom electorate, and in the Northcote one. I am linked to both of your communities. At the moment I work as a pastor of rangatahi in in West Auckland, in an area people like yourselves, it seems, would think no good could come from. But people said that kind of thing about Nazareth too, and look what came from there: Emmanuel  – Jesus Christ. Good comes from all people, if we are able to see their humanity, reach across the fence and stand united as a community. Until we can see the humanity in each other and treat one another with dignity, we will stand divided as a nation and weaker as a result. So I ask you, retract your statements, apologise.

Then come and see.

I’d love to connect face to face, and talk about this some more. I am sure you are both very busy, but if you’d like to meet, I can be found at jharris@auckanglican.org.nz.  Perhaps I can show you round my neighborhood, introduce you to some friends, and maybe have you over for dinner.

[1] The entire book, The Spirit Level, is an academic consolidation of research that shows this.

Faith and Mahi: Following up from last week’s gathering

Mahi Slide Crave

 

I want to begin by covering some ground I hope we can all agree on. It’s not about work, but it will get us there. Because it’s a foundation to stand on, that hopefully always gets us thinking about life with God’s heartbeat guiding us: scripture.

As Christians we believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. That it has been crafted and inspired by the Holy Spirit in partnership with humanity. I’ve heard people beautifully describe it as God’s love letter to us, the story of his relentless love affair with creation (and creations tendency to try see other people). It contains all kinds of literature, speaks to all facets of life, and for Christians, it shapes the way we live. Because we believe that it has power, as God’s Word, to speak to us and form us. We believe it is both alive – speaking to us where we are, and grounded in history, needing to also be read in context to reveal what God was saying in time and space in times gone by.

And the scriptures begin with a book aptly named “beginning” – Genesis. We are told through poetry some theological realities about creation. You might say it’s not speaking to factual truth about how creation happened, but rather, it is trying to reveal somethings that are true about what was created, and most importantly by whom. In Gen. 1: 18 we hear that humanity was created and called by God to be fruitful: to make some babies, to “fill the earth, and subdue it.” We are told that humanity is called to rule – to govern – the earth, and the living creatures in it. Later in chapter 2:15, as the book goes into more detail about the creation of humanity, the writer of Genesis writes that humanity was put in the garden “to work it and take care of it.”

These words all have implications. And the implications are work. Filling the earth and being fruitful…takes particular kind of work. And the result: raising children – is work. Subduing the earth, and governing it, requires that we tend to the plants, look after animals, and that has the potential to look a little like farming. Governance requires organisation, forward thinking, conversation, care, and effort. You can’t be passive, if you are to embody these words. They are verbs by nature. And finally, if it wasn’t clear enough, we are told to work the garden, to take care of it.

Work is part of the way that we were made as humans. It’s part of the what that the whom made. And if we are made in God’s image, the image of the great worker in all things, to reflect the image of God is to work (and to rest mind you – Gen. 2:2-3).

The early Christians had many perspectives on what kind of work reflected God’s glory. They tended to stay away from military positions, prostitution, and the halls of power. That aside, it is not as though they only preached and prayed. Paul was a tent maker, as well as a missionary. Even Jesus grew up as a carpenter.

So the challenge is laid before us: to reflect God is in part to work. To create. To take what we have and produce something else after toiling, after trying, after experimenting, after enduring.

I genuinely believe God can call us and does call many of us to change our professions because we have been transformed by God’s love. Sometimes God leads us from one job, to another for specific purposes. Sometimes our position compromises our values, and so we remain in the same line of work, but move to a different organisation. Sometimes we are called to big change. But often, actually, we are can bring God glory, be who we were made to be, and usher in the Kingdom of God here and now by changing how we work where we are to conform to the ongoing work of the Spirit in our lives.

The question becomes, as a follower of Christ crucified, the homeless rabbi and king, what kind of lawyer, doctor, barista, uber driver, cycle messenger, student, union organiser, nurse, electrician, youth worker, pastor, will I be. And perhaps you are called by God to up and move into ministry, into full time mission, or become a youth worker, or whatever it may be. But actually, it’s likely, that the Mahi, the mission and ministry you are called to is the ministry of electrical work, the ministry of building, the ministry of making the best damn coffees in the world, the mission of nursing well, the mission of organising unions to get the best outcomes for workers possible. God’s Kingdom is breaking forth everywhere in unlikely places.

Watch for it at your workplace.

It might be in a conversation at the water cooler edging toward a bridge-to-life-diagram or a “have you met Jesus?” question (maybe), but just as, if not more, likely it is coming through you working hard, giving your all, and pointing to the one who made you to do just that. The Word of God – God’s inspired story of love – shows that to be the case right from its genesis.

 

J H update

About the Author:
Jeremy works part time as the part time as the Diocese’s Young Adults Facilitator and as Youth and Young Adults Pastor at Northwest Anglican. Jeremy writes blog posts for the Grace Collective about Jesus, social justice, and all things related. 

Mammon: Confessions

Mammon Blog

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with Jesus sometimes. I mean, mate, Jesus, did you really mean what you said? Like when you said to the Rich Young Ruler that he had to sell all he had and give it to the poor, or that for the rich to enter the Kingdom, it would take a miracle to overcome the impossible? Did you mean it that when Zacchaeus decided to give back to everyone he’d stolen from more than what he owed them, that salvation had come to his house? Did you mean what you said when you declared we should seek first your Kingdom and not worry about what we will eat or drink or wear? Did you mean what you said when you explained what we don’t do for the least we have not done to you?

Sometimes I just want to say “Don’t you know, money makes the world go round? And it sounds to me like you’re kind of not that stoked on your followers keeping lots of it.”

And then there are passages like Luke 6:17-26.

These are known as the blessings and woes. Being part of the Gospel of Jesus, they are “Good News for the poor”, as Jesus said his good news would be (Luke 4:18-19). But…as a relatively well off, white male, in the western nation of New Zealand, these blessings and woes are not quite good news if my goal is to remain a relatively wealthy, white male, in New Zealand. They are hard to stomach.
“Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God,” Jesus says (v20). “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort,” (v24).

News reports over the past year have shed fresh light on poverty in New Zealand. 140,000 people are homeless in our nation. That includes people sleeping on the street, to people with no fixed abode, to families sleeping in cars in our parks.

It’s becoming more and more common knowledge that living an average NZ lifestyle make us rich on a global scale.

So here I am.

Sitting with my Bible.

Struggling.

I believe that Jesus meant what he said. But that leaves me in an awkward position. Because I am rich. For me to understand the gravity of the change that Jesus wants to work in me to transform me out the empire of this world into a citizen in the Kingdom of God, that will require a miracle. Because I have “already received my comfort.”

I am thankful that what for me is impossible is entirely possible for God. But I can’t ignore the fact that to be born again into the “life that truly is life” – eternal life in the Kingdom of God – is a slow and grueling process of becoming that will literally be a fight for me because of the position that I hold (1 Timothy 6). Don’t get me wrong, I know I have been born again into new life and I am a new creation, but as a new creation it will take a lifetime to unlearn the patterns of this world and grow as a disciple of a homeless rabbi king on a journey downward, while proclaiming the Good News that the Kingdom of God belongs for the poor.

We cannot serve both God and Mammon. They are entirely different gods. But I have loved money for so long now, and been a servant of mammon for so long, that it will have to take a miracle of ongoing grace and generosity from the Spirit of God to transform me into someone who truly catches a hold of the vision of Jesus. There will be enough for everyone, but it will require that people such as me learn to give everything up, redistribute, and become rich in good deeds.

Money is not the enemy, I’m learning. But it needs to be re imagined and re-thought by the people of God’s Kingdom. It is not ours for ourselves, and accumulating it is no longer our goal. Generosity, simplicity, contentment, satisfaction, joy, liberation, freedom, these are some of the things towards which Christ leads us, and in the process, money and the love of it can be left behind for what truly matters: love, relationship, full bellies, warm bodies, and eternal life in the Kingdom of God – may it come on earth as in heaven.

And may I – may we – continue to learn to resist the empire of mammon, on the road that leads to life.

I don’t know about you. But as young adult, I’m learning to handle money in a way I never have had to before. I am earning more now than I ever have. And I will probably be able to say the same in 10 years’ time too. So it is ripe time for me, for us, to understand what God calls us to in Jesus as stewards of wealth. If you have similar questions, or you struggle like me. If you are a young adult learning what it is to follow Jesus to freedom. If you are a young adult in the upside-down Kingdom, or are beginning to explore what that might mean, feel free to join my friends and me on the 28th of February at the Humble villager at 7PM and we can continue the conversation then. Kia kaha.
J H update

Jeremy Harris is the Young Adult’s Facilitator of the Diocese of Auckland. He also works part time as Youth and Young Adults Pastor at Northwest Anglican. He is a recovering sinner captivated by the God who came to earth in Jesus. He is married to Katie and together they have a succulent that recently died.

2018 Summer Guide

Summer 2018

Happy 2018!

 

Silo Cinema – Friday Nights (insert hyperlink: https://www.silopark.co.nz/silo-cinema/ and image)

 

Outdoor movies, food trucks, bars, picnic blankets and long summer nights! Head down to Silo Park from 4pm, movies begin at 9pm. This season they’re showing a variety of films, I’m particularly keen for Lion, Spookers, La La Land, The Princess Bride, Dunkirk and Thor: Ragnarok. Friday night is sorted!

 

Auckland Zoo – Daily (insert hyperlink: https://www.aucklandzoo.co.nz/ and image)

 

The zoo is a classic. Spend a day wandering around in the sun, searching enclosures for animals and dodging all the tiny children running around. Then reward yourself with an (overpriced) ice cream! Auckland zoo has recently upgraded/rebuilt it’s Safari/Meercat section which is awesome and totally worth the visit alone. Fun fact – it’s cheaper if you book online!

Also, we will be there, so if you want to come with us, click here.

 

PS – the GC is heading to the zoo at night! Join us from 5pm on Thursday, 15 February. RSVP here. (Insert fb event link).

 

Wenderholm

 

40 minutes from Auckland, Wenderholm is a beautiful swimming beach with an even more beautiful shaded tree/grass/reading area. Having a swim then spend hours chilled out under (or in) the trees napping or with a good book.

 

Matakana

 

This small town ticks all the boxes. 1 hour from Auckland, near the beach, cinema, amazing food, shopping, pub, pizza and picturesque river. Their Saturday morning Farmer’s market is a highlight and has your artisan cheese collection sorted. The cinema is worth it for the interior decoration alone; each of the three different screening rooms is decorated to a different concept.

 

Pop Up Globe

 

Outdoor setting, $10 standing tickets, amazing costumes, sets and acting, what more could you want from a summers evening? If Shakespeare isn’t your thing, head along to A Midsummer Nights Dream and you mind will be changed for sure – just make sure you dodge all the fake blood! Don’t worry too much, it washes out eventually (I know from experience).

The Lillies and the Sparrows

Lillies and Sparros Media

“Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” – Matthew chapter 6 verse 27
Yesterday I asked a group of young adults that I meet with weekly a question:
What are some of the most common fears people have about the future?

Their responses:
1. Being judged by others
2. Jobs
3. Failure
4. Finances
5. Rejection
6. Being alone

Sometimes I wonder how many hours of my own life have been spent worrying about these things; about whether or not I’m good enough, whether I’m meeting some insurmountable standard that I’m not even sure who set.

I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed dreaming, or hoping, or creating, because it seems like there’s no room. “I have more important things to worry about now.”

I think I’ve forgotten how to feel.
My mind can’t remember how to wander, it couldn’t get lost if it tried.
I used to wonder about whether we could really shame the wise with the wisdom of foolish love, I used to wonder what it would look like if we all took down our walls and looked eye to eye at the human standing in front of us and saw only that, a human, a brother. I used to indulge in these outlandish fantasies, even if momentarily.

And now I’m wondering how I can fit all these tasks in, how I can produce more, how I can impress you, how I can prove that I’m a success, and you,
you took my pen from my hand and said stop dreaming girl. Join the line, fit the mould, work harder, straighten up, straighten out every single crease and bump until your flat and lifeless and no longer a threat to our culture of productivity,

I used to dream.

A wise man spoke some harsh truth to me the other night.
He told me, breathe.
You’re so frantic, so stuck in this cycle of systematic production, so anxious about doing everything right that you’re doing nothing well. Not because it isn’t good enough. But because you’re not in it. You feel nothing for it. You are not changed by it. You are surrounded by life but you’ve become so bound by the factory formula that compels you to do more, produce more, have more…
that you have nothing. And you’re moving faster than ever. But you are empty.

He said, you are flying past the life you’ve been dreaming of.
In pursuit of the next best thing because you’re afraid that what you’ve got and who you are is not good enough.

Pause. Listen.. Feel. Taste. See. Be. Pause. Breathe.

By all means pursue your dreams but remember to check that they are actually yours. By all means compete. By all means be driven. But too much competition and drive will keep you reaching forever and stop you from being thankful for what is in your hands.

 

 

And he was right.

I came into this world with nothing and I will leave it with nothing.
In a world of 7 billion people there is an incredibly minute chance that I will be remembered. That is quite a freeing thought. Not that my life is worthless, but that it’s worthless wasting it worrying.

Because if you do remember me, God forbid it be for the fact that I was too busy to care. To worried about my to do list that I never enjoyed doing.

If you do remember me for anything, I hope it is for loving, deeply. For noticing the outsider and creating space for her. For sitting with you in your hurt. For filling rooms with joy. . I hope you remember my laugh. My eyes that took the time to really see you. For being fearless in challenging the things in life that keep us captive and isolated.

Not for being too afraid to try.

 
About the Author:

Katie is a social work student at Massey University and part time youth pastor at North West Anglican. Katie is originally from the UK, giving our GC team the ‘cool accent’ factor. Katie loves food, people and fitness, and is always off on a hike or run somewhere exciting. She speaks at and MC’s our cafe events, and writes for the blog.

A letter to my best friend

Letter

Dear Best Friend, Thank you for being my friend.

I’m unsure if I could ever thank you enough for being there during the hardest years of my life. With your help, I am now in a place of positive mental well-being, I like myself and I feel valued.

I know that it was hard to be my friend.

I was not only sad and unhappy, but I often got angry at you and made you feel bad.

I know that it was hard listening to me talk about things so negatively… and that you didn’t always know how to respond. But let me tell you now – you made such an impact.

Long ago, I wrote a song and some of the lyrics went like this… “they say it’s easier to calm a crying man, more than a man who is down”, because more often than not, that was my experience. However, this never stopped you from trying. No words can explain how much that meant to me, despite maybe not showing it at the time.

I appreciate that you always listened to me and made me feel valued.

I appreciate that you cared about me and made me feel needed.

I appreciate that you tried to make me smile, even when I wasn’t responding.

I appreciate all of the time and effort you placed into our friendship.

I also really appreciate that you made me handle things on my own sometimes. It was tough at the time, but in the long run, it helped.

You always let me know you were there for me, but that you also weren’t always able to put your own life on hold in order to comfort me. Although it sometimes felt harsh, it helped me begin to develop my own coping mechanisms and has greatly contributed to my ability to have a healthy and positive mentality. You made sure that I was loved, valued and just that little bit less lonely.

To me, Best Friend, you are a legend.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

 

Anonymous.