Somewhere in the noise is a song. Somewhere in the cacophony is a melody—a sweet sound. The ensemble is our attempt to discover the rhythms, the groanings and the eureka moments of life amongst the noise.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Got a bit on?
Get back to where you once belonged

Balance is a tricky thing. You don't sort it out once then let it take care of itself for the next twenty years. And while there are different checks that help to maintain or move back to balance, it's always going to be an ongoing process.

Depending on how you're wired, if you're left to your own devices and inclinations, you'll either default to a lazy bugger who wishes they didn't struggle with procrastination, or to an over-committed, over-worked maniac. There's a continuum there, but most people are likely to be some darker or lighter shade of grey in the black and white that bounds each end of the scale.

For me, balance has always had to be an intentional thing. Left unattended I head towards the darker end of the scale (yet seem well capable of procrastination at the same time). I think that's called multi-skilled—or an affliction...possibly both.

The trouble is, there's so many fun things to do in life. So many opportunities, 'people to see and places to go', kilometres to run, books to read and stuff to write, work to do, quality conversations to have, people you'd love to invest in, and opportunities to serve God with our heart, soul and mind...but there's only 168 hours in a week. And 24 of those 168 hours he calls us to rest! If only so many of these things weren't enjoyable, fulfilling and inherently good. And if only some of them weren't so incredibly intoxicating.

We all have different sized engines. Our capacities are different. Some are exhausted by a 40-hour week, some thrive on double that. Comparisons aren't helpful although an understanding of our uniqueness is important.

Peter Brock appeared in a television commercial once that contained the line 'I've always said, bite off more than you can chew, then chew like hell'. Great fodder for the Type A's of the world. Also great fodder for dysfunction.

So, a couple of thoughts for the time-poor and balance-impaired to get back to where you once belonged:

1. Submit your schedule to God—He's got a better idea of balance than all of us put together.
2. Passionately pursue what's in you and then get into that stuff. Learn to say no to the alluring and essentially good things that come your way but are beyond either your capacity or your understanding of calling.
3. Get your head around the things that make your life spacious and are typical of your life in balance. Whether it's praying, reading, time alone with God, walking the dog, running, journaling or catching up with friends for coffee; have an understanding of what they are. Knowing what they are might give you a better chance of recognising the early warning signs of the balance shifting.
4. If you no longer have the time to do the things that give you pleasure, or you don't derive pleasure from the things that once did, it's time to make some changes.
5. Surround yourself with some people who know you and your capacity well enough to know when the fulcrum is shifting and needs readjustment. Make yourself accountable to them.
6. Be bold enough to question your load and realign and recalibrate. Create regular times to review so you can track how you're doing.
7. Know your capacity. Continue to grow your awareness of your tipping points.
8. Factor margin. Don't expect things not to grow. Don't expect to have perfect health all the time. Don't expect everything to track along like some controlled lab experiment. Have enough space to accommodate the ebb and flow of life while knowing that from time to time unaccounted for stuff comes along that blows the whole ship out of the water. There are times when you have to chew like crazy—don't drop your bundle, chew!
9. Teachers have DOTT time, others have TOIL or RDOs, make sure you've got yours.
10. Have the ability to name your Sabbath and the ways you keep it holy.
11. Don't use a list like this as a reason for saying 'no' to any new thing, but understand that commitments work in concert with everything else, not in isolation.
12. Understand motive. Some of the reasons you'll commit to stuff maybe a bit warped.
13. Perspective is a beautiful thing when it comes to balance. A change of location or context allows us to think things over again.
14. Don't beat yourself up. Unless you're some kind of freak, or comatose, you're likely to get out of whack every now and then.

Paul said in Galatians 6:4, ' Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.' The easiest thing to do in all of this is compare yourself to others as justification or to puff yourself up or deflate yourself. Don't. It's about who you are and the work you've been given.

Got to go...there's some re-aligning to do.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Occasional Ensemblee Series:
Caitlin D'Arrietta offers a Top 5 to whistle along to
Top 5: Best Music Video Clips

Music video clips have played a pivotal role in the life of Cailin D'Arrietta. Since the age of 5, video clips have provided the soundtrack for her life and times.

'A good video clip is like a movie compressed into three minutes', Caitlin says.

And, in a spirit consistent with her fervour and devotion, she invites you to nominate the music video clips that have moved you, changed your destiny...or that you've thought were just pretty good. Like 'Big' by Peter Gabriel for example. Just saying...


Friday, September 28, 2007

Do schools kill creativity?

A fellow cacophonist, Amanda Powell, sent this through the other day. It's worth investing 20 minutes...perhaps a number of times.


How far is too far?

No, I’m not talking about dating in high school. I’m talking about to what extent we let something grab us—how much time, energy and money do we give to a particular passion/hobby/fixation?

Since embarking on the journey to making great coffee, I’ve met some extremely passionate people. These people sit as far as possible on the other end of the spectrum from those who see coffee as nothing more than a hot energy drink. For them, coffee is a story rooted in history, it’s a science, it’s a life-long romance. In the pursuit of consistent perfection, there are options such as single origin milk (milk from the same paddock of cows), heated debates on whether ‘to tap or not to tap’ and the availability of $13,000 espresso machines employing the latest technology. Those in the game say their mission is never complete; they will always be searching for new ways to perfect the espresso.

This kind of devotion isn’t peculiar to caffeine-lovers; one can go as far as one wants along any given path in the pursuit of excellence. If it’s the Lord of the Rings you’re into, you don’t need to stop at reading the book and watching the movies. You can learn the language of Elvish, join a virtual Middle Earth community and subscribe to the Lord of the Rings Fan Club glossy, bi-monthly magazine.

If it’s mountain climbing that takes your fancy, you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars buying the necessary equipment (and life insurance) and hundreds of hours training mentally and physically.

I find this single-mindedness and wholehearted dedication to pursuing excellence inspiring. These sort of people often make good business people because it’s always easier to sell something you’re sold on yourself. They’re also the sort of people who corner you at parties to tell you all about their passion.

I think the apostle Paul was a fan of extreme devotion. (He might also have been a bit annoying at parties). He tells Timothy in a letter: “Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to…”

I think we’re wired to get into things. It’s interesting that when something is taken to the extreme, there’s often no other way to describe it other than in religious terms. In espresso, the perfect shot is called a ‘godshot’. Those who stand on the top of Everest usually describe it as a spiritual experience. And we all know Lord of the Rings geeks are part of a cult.

So the answer to how far is too far? I think the sky’s the limit. The challenge is to apply our passions to the way we relate to God and our purpose for being here—to wholeheartedly pursue righteousness. Is there something you’re into in a big way? That’s great. Just try and demand the same level of devotion from yourself in regards to your faith.

Any suggestions as to how this can be done?


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Work. Rest. Play.
Part Three: Play

Sure, it's taken me a while to get to Part Three, but I've had reasons: 1) What do you say about play if your work has a facet of play? 2) what do you say about play if you rest has a facet of play? and 3) the lack of intentionality about embracing the play component that would have got this post written earlier! Procrastination probably deserves a dishonorable mention as well.
I guess a good place to start would be with the intersection of work, rest and play.

If I only define work as 'that activity that generates an income that sustains me and my family' then I leave out a lot of 'work'. For as enjoyable and rewarding as some rest and play is, there's generally some work involved as well. As enjoyable as a good run might be (it would feature in my rest and play), it can be hard work as well. So, there'll always be overlap.

I think it takes work simply to make the space to play. Intentionality at least. To meet up with friends requires organisation, planning or spontaneity and coincidence. With the exception of coincidence, you've got to do something!

Anyway, back to play.

I scribbled down a bunch of reasons why 'play' is a better than good thing while I was waiting for someone the other day. I'm running with the loose definition of 'play' as some physical, spiritual, social or intellectual activity that invigorates, recreates or stimulates the mind, body or soul - yep, that's pretty broad.

Here we go:

1. Play takes us beyond ourselves
All work and no play can make Jack a dull boy. Healthy play (ie. non-destructive play) has the potential to drag us out of the introverted caves of our mind into spacious places.

2. Play breathes life into us
Without play, it's easy to furrow a pretty deep rut or dig a pretty deep hole that makes it difficult to look beyond ourselves. A rest/work/rest/work cycle has the habit of grinding us down by degrees. When we're acutely aware of what's going on, we can arrest the decline and be intentional but it's possible to dig so far down that we create a new normal where our lives as boring farts become so much 'us' that we know no different.

3. Play gives reason for rest.
If all work and no play make Jack dull, the solution isn't to ditch all the work and play all day. Work, rest and play operate in concert. Rest all day for too long and you'll probably end up in some disengaged, numb funk. Work all day for too long and you'll end up slowly or rapidly dislocating yourself from the world around you. Play all day for too long and you'll a) go broke pretty quickly, b) find that your play begins to lack meaning and purpose, c) find yourself chasing ever-greater 'highs' to top the last great experience.

I think there's a God-ordained rhythm at work with the trinity of work/rest/play that makes a lot of sense. Whether it's an unhealthy over-developed protestant work ethic or not, I find that I enjoy my play more when I've done a decent chunk of work to make sense of the play. After a long, hard week, play is something to revel in as a way to recreate and hit refresh. If it's been a tawdry week of work, I'm less inclined to even feel like playing—I'm more likely to continue the trend and waste away the weekend as well.

4. Play activates the body's rhythm
If you're in a deep hole, play can be the catalyst for extraction. I read a book last week that talked about a runner who, following a big marathon, spent the next twelve years being unable to race or train at the same level. In the end he was recommended a (legal) drug that effectively 'restarted his engine'. The analogy in the book was that he'd been like a truck ascending a hill stuck in a low gear—it didn't matter how hard he pressed the accelerator, it wasn't going to make much difference to the speed the truck traveled up the hill. What would change the speed was getting the truck to change into a different gear. The drug 'unstuck' the athlete.

I think play is helpful in getting 'unstuck' sometimes. It can remind us what it means to be fully human all over again. It can reset the rhythm of our body to enjoy the work/rest/play cycle in a way that's sustainable.

6. Play is contagious
Most play involves other people. There's an element of community, camaraderie or journey about it. Your decision to play can be the kick-starter for another person as well. Parties happen because someone (or a bunch of people) gets highly contagious with their play—in a good way.

7. Play = Rest (sometimes)
Often the things that wake us up through play invigorate us as well. There's rest embedded within some forms of play.

Final thoughts
Something that I realised as I ruminated over the whole work/rest/play deal was that we fill our time with some things that don't fit into any of these three categories. Procrastination certainly doesn't. There's a whole lot of TV watching that would fall in the 'mind-numbing category' rather than having a play or rest element.

And where does ministry fit into this? Work? Rest? Play? All three?

And how about parenting, relationships, volunteering, discipling or a bunch of other intrinsically worthwhile endeavours?

While rest and work may be necessary for our survival (physically and financially), without play it can yield a life that simply exists rather than one that embraces a spacious appreciation of people, creation and the essence of ourselves.

I think I'm discovering that I need each of these three and yet knowing you need something doesn't necessarily lead to action. There needs to be an intentionality as well. There's nothing attractive nor enjoyable about being a slob...but few people arrive at being a slob intentionally—it's a product of a myriad of non-decisions. Not just physical slobbery either, but mental slobbery as well. There's plenty of people who find themselves in front of seedy late-night infomercials and struggling with lustful thoughts because they didn't make the decision to go to bed 3 hours ago. Just a thought...

Work is good. Rest is good. Play is good. None should be exclusively flogged to death or it will flog you to death.

Yep, I'm out.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Top 5: Most Frequented Websites

Most folks have a bunch of on-line favourites that are trawled through on a daily (hourly?) basis to make ensure that they don't miss a moment's action in their area of interest.

When it comes to e-destinations, what piques your curiosity and keeps you coming back for more? Are they seasonal or regardless of the phases of the moon?

Share your internet indulgences with the 'hood and some rationale if the mood takes you there.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Starbucks or Waffle House

Reprinted with no permission from Relevant Magazine. I think perhaps the metaphor is lost with the brandnames causing a skewed meaning but, anyway... Maybe Five Senses or International Roast would have done the job.

In my Sunday service adventures, I've come across two types of churches: in my mind, I classify them as Starbucks and Waffle House.

Starbucks churches are really chic. They've got all new sound equipment, a rockin'band, awesome praise and worship, and relevant teaching. No dress code is required, although most dress for success at this type of church. That may include the latest thrift store find and a new pair of Puma shoes, or it could be as dressy as suits and ties. It seems everyone has a fashion sense.

I love my Starbucks churches. Portrayed on the wall without fail are the words for the music on three huge screens and some nifty graphic background that pertains to the song. They always pass out a really cool, shiny bulletin, which is filled with upcoming mission trips, home groups and fun stuff to do. Some even have coffee bars. The church in itself appeals to all five senses.

Then you've got your Waffle House churches. These are naturally set in the country and often, it takes an hour to get there from any major freeway. Complete with a steeple (I almost forgot what those were!) and pews, you've always got your staple hymnal book to accompany the worship time. This worship time may consist of one piano player and a singer, or maybe just a singer and a tape deck.

The sermon is usually more to the point with the occasional country dialect and straightforward delivery. Someone may even talk about their weekend fishing trip to humor the congregation. There is always an altar call. The preacher will talk until he gets through. What's lunch? This is God's time. When God's ready to let you eat, He will let the preacher know.

I attended a Waffle House church today. You know what? It was humbling. Sometimes you just need the coffee and without all the foam.

I'm not stating that one church is better than the other. Personally, I like my Starbucks church. But, I think it's good to experience a different service every once and a while. I felt like I was in a different country. I was so blessed by the preacher's message. He was so on fire. I was blessed by the people who took turns getting on stage to sing their hearts out to God—and how communal it was; how simple and pure.

I know that God has no preference as long as we are concentrating on Him. We are all His children. I know that the delivery of Gospel has evolved for the upcoming generation, and I believe that's necessary.

It's still coffee. It's still fresh. It's just packaged differently.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Top 5: Guitar Solos

Let's get the fly wheel moving before the doom loop takes over. It's Top 5 Thursday!

It's time to grab your axe, push up the doof-doof and party like it's 1999—ideally without making one skerric of noise. Air guitar is the only way to savour the aural pleasure of a genuinely great guitar solo (that's assuming you have to be doing anything beyond listening).

So, what's yours? Bit of Jimi? Bit of Jimmy? Bit of Eddie? Bit of Slash? Bit of Edge? Bit of Eric? Bit of Lyndsay? Bit of Mark? Bit of Steve?

Your call.

Yep, the Top 5 is back and we're on the hunt for classic guitar solos (at least as far as you're concerned).

Step up and swing hard (Pete Townshend-style).


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Occasional Ensemblee Series:
We're all alone.

I sms'd a mate last night with a wee poem I'd just read:
I believe in myself slowly
It takes all the doubt I have
It takes my wonder

With his kind permission, here's his interaction with the poem in the small hours of Tuesday morning:

he loneliness in me is hard to hide, it’s my humanity. I’m lonely when I realise there’s more to life than my own small minded desires and needs; beyond the bounds of my existence there is a vastness my life can never fill or exceed, encompass or capture. We gain nothing real as we pretend to be complete in ourselves. To be a hero and disown our most human aches is a facile denial. Far harder to accept the frailty of time passing like water through grasping hands. Greatness is found by learning not to lie to ourselves. A bravery that doesn’t feel or recognise the anguish of loss can’t honestly be called courage. There’s nothing profound about certain or unshakeable faith; The conviction of our faith is found as we’re rocked to the core of our certainty, buffeted and tried by the vast unknown storms as we struggle to hear the voice of the wind. I am here awaiting. This is hope and it’s a lonely intimacy; I can’t share a map of my heart with you at midnight. This is hope and it’s borne out of my loss. This is hope, that there’s something other than myself.

Loneliness is our reminder of company and a promise that companionship has meaning. If I feel an overwhelming solitude, it’s only because I can remember a time I wasn’t alone. I can’t truly regret something I haven’t experienced. We live in deferral, waiting to be reunited. Held in our humanly discrete moments, we’re hoping to understand the continuum bridging the gaps between us. Loneliness itself is part of the continuum: a reminder, a memory and a longing for all the prodigal moments to return. Loneliness is the emptiness of a heart that’s given blood and waits for time and effort to pump it back around.

Loneliness isn’t the end. Why do we stay alone like we’ve been backed into a corner when our solitude reminds us, is beckoning us to remember all the discrete, abandoned moments we’ve left behind in our search for newer, more thrilling relationships? We’ve been contented with spun concoctions and fragile crystalline ephemera, insubstantial gossamer rewards that can’t sustain our weight instead of the ties that should bind us together. There is no reason for surviving in this moment unless we help each other survive it together.

Let me not be swayed by the convictions of this modern life, that the organic and holistic nature of feeling is insufficient and requires an upgrade. In the absence of anguish we become content with imitation plastic and pacemakers, where once we had a living heart of most human flesh. Let the bad always help me recognise my responsibility to return what is good in my life.


Funeral Faux Pas

I went to a funeral this week to say goodbye to a family friend. He left behind five daughters and as I stood next to one after the burial, I was a witness to a number of interruptions by various people—some of whom were close to her, some she’d never seen before. Now I’m the queen of foot-in-mouth action but over the course of the afternoon, I managed to calmly observe that the comments of many well-wishers were completely inappropriate.

Things NOT to say/do at a funeral based on this experience:
• Ask how they’re feeling. (Okay, I said this too—it depends on the tone)
• “You seem to be holding up well.”
• Question: Did your mum tell you girls how to behave today because you’ve been great?
Answer: No.
• “Your dad would have loved this funeral.” (What the…)
• Squeeze person’s hand and look wistfully into their eyes.
• Laugh excessively then turn around, catch person’s eye and suddenly look really sad.
• Comment on how good the sandwiches are.
• Discuss your observance that the grief sometimes only hits a person later.

Here’s some free advice for anyone attending a funeral:
• Don’t say much
• Avoid clichés
• Keep your pop psychology to yourself
• Don’t try and say anything to make someone feel better on the day of their dad’s funeral—they’re just not going to.
• Share your memories about the person who’s died for a future time and place.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Top 5: Australian Citizenship Questions

The federal government unveiled their likely guidelines for Australian citizenship yesterday.

Among the guidelines are 20 rudimentary questions (that will be asked randomly from a pool of 200 questions) that are likely to be asked were:
1. In what year did Federation take place?
2. Which day of the year is Australia Day?
3. Who was the first Prime Minister of Australia?
4. What is the first line of Australia's national anthem?
5. What is the floral emblem of Australia?
6. What is the population of Australia? (approx 21 million)
7. In what city is the Parliament House of the Commonwealth Parliament located?
8. Who is the Queen's representative in Australia?
9. How are Members of Parliament chosen?
10. Who do Members of Parliament represent?
11. After a federal election, who forms the new government?
12. What are the colours on the Australian flag?
13. Who is the head of the Australian Government?
14. What are the three levels of government in Australia?
15. In what year did the European settlement of Australia start?
16. Serving on a jury if required is a responsibility of Australian citizenship: true or false?
17. In Australia, everyone is free to practise the religion of their choice, or practise no religion: true of false?
18. To be elected to the Commonwealth Parliament you must be an Australian citizen: true or false?
19. As an Australian citizen, I have the right to register my baby born overseas as an Australian citizen: true or false?
20. Australian citizens aged 18 years or over are required to enrol on the electoral register: true or false?

I was thinking that we could probably add a few random questions of our own. Perhaps if we generate enough Top 5's amongst us, we'd have our own random 200.

Anyway, here's an initial 5 to get the ball rolling:
1. What was Don Bradman's Test batting average?
2. In Cold Chisel's 'Khe Sahn', how many quiet hours does it take to get to Hong Kong?
3. What is the average meat content of an Australian meat pie?
4. What name did Toyota give to their first crack at the 6 cylinder market?
5. When the first name of your town is Wagga, why do you have to say it twice?

Step up.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Raspy Bob gets his inflection and gathers no moss.

I saw Dylan live on Thursday night at the Burswood Dome.
Now, before I get going, there's a couple of things you need to face up to before you make your entry into a Dylan concert.

First, you're seeing one of the living legends and great poets of our time doing his thing. And, second: Bob's thing is Bob's thing.

There's a few more things you should know about a Dylan concert. Unless you make some serendipitous stumble of the highest order, you're probably going to be seeing him in a venue way larger than ideal. This was certainly true of the Burswood Dome (as it was when I saw him in 2002 at the Perth Entertainment Centre).

The next thing you need to understand is that you're not going to see a display of breathtaking pyrotechnics and laser lights. Nor will you see electrifying dance moves (although that seemingly rubber left leg can be kind of cute). Indeed, a slick stage is unlikely too—
it's not often you see gear on stage at a big show these days, but you could spot Vox amplifiers from a mile off.

You're not coming to see some backing dancers in tight clothes gyrating behind the front man as he 'gets the audience jumpin', jumpin' either. And I realised some way in to the show that being able to do laid back from a position of absolute authenticity is way different to the disinterested charade paraded by some of the generations of artists that have followed in Bob's footsteps.

You shouldn't expect to develop a personal relationship with Bob either. Back in 2002, the extent of his conversing with the audience was a simple
'hello' (or complex? it was hard to tell by the intonation) after about the 10th song. During the day at work, we'd taken punts on the likely word count for Bob. One punter suggested an outrageous 23 words. I was optimistically rooting for 8.

And—final disclaimer—you're not coming to hear dulcet and supple vocal techniques paraded for your aural satisfaction.

But, let's face it, you signed up to see a Bob Dylan never expected to see or hear any of that stuff.

So, with that out the way, on to the concert.

As Brad, Sherri and I walked across the park from where I work in Burswood
to join the others we were Dylan-ing with, I commented that this would be a lousy concert to lay down the ultimatum that 'he better do such-and-such-a-song'. Let's just say the back catalogue is extensive.

We had tidy seats. Silver seats apparently. Beige buckets seats in reality, but well-positioned. I'm pretty sure that someone had lit up incense near our seats. Part of the territory I guess. It was a gentle reminder of Bob's roots and longevity.

He was announced in a similar way to a heavy-weight boxer making his entry into the ring to defend his title. The pre-recorded announcer skimmed Bob's life with intro something like 'Welcome to the stage a poet laureate of the ages. A man who defined the folk era of the 60s, who lost the 70s through substance abuse, who found Jesus in the 80s and reinvented himself in the 90s...'. There he was: 66-year old Raspy Bob inflecting away with a sensational ensemble of players who could well and truly cut it.

And we were off.

Bob and his band carved there way through a swag of songs with only enough time in between to remind themselves what was coming next. You get the feeling with Bob that the words and music are loosely connected at best. Depending on your take, Bob is either a sublime phraser of vocal lines...or he has scant regard for phrasing altogether. I'm not sure which.

It's a little tricky reeling off the set list for Bob. He can play a song that you heard for the first time when you were 10 years old (and many times since) yet you can be half way through the tune before you recognise it. I'm not sure whether every night is different, but there's a fresh interpretation both musically and vocally to so many tunes that you can find yourself mesmerised by the artistic convolution.

What I can tell you is that he and his band effortlessly sauntered through Tangled up in Blue, Lay, Lady, Lay; Don't Think Twice, Highway 61, A Hard Rain's A-Gonna fall, It Ain't Me, Babe. And I can tell you that one of the two encore songs was Like a Rolling Stone.

For the most part though, I found myself sitting there knowing that I was watching an artist who'd had a profound impact on the landscape of music for over 40 years. And that Bob had not only wandered through the wilderness in that time, but seen glimpses of the promised land. Occasionally I asked myself the question; 'why does someone come along to a Bob Dylan concert?'. Sure, the songs have stood the test of time and and the rich texture of his work has not wavered in decades (meandered, sure...but still remained textural!). I think the answer lies in the fact that people recognise greatness above hyperbole.

For the record Bob said three words on Thursday night (if we exclude his introduction of the players of the band). During the encore I was joking with Alsie (Brad's uncle) about the word count betting ring we had going at work. He told me that there were reports that in an earlier concert in the tour he had fixed on 'Thank you friends'. That's what we got—a three word count. It was plenty.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wrangers let their hair down

From the wires...

REDHEADS are becoming rarer and could be extinct in 100 years, according to genetic scientists.

The current National Geographic magazine reports that less than two per cent of the world's population has natural red hair, created by a mutation in northern Europe thousands of years ago.

Global intermingling, which broadens the availability of possible partners, has reduced the chances of redheads meeting and producing little redheads of their own.

It takes only one red-haired parent to produce ginger-headed babies, but two redheads obviously create a much stronger possibility.

If the gingers really want to save themselves they should move to Scotland.

An estimated 40 per cent of Scots carry the red gene and 13 per cent actually have red hair.

Some experts say that redheads could be gone as early as 2060, but others say the gene can be dormant for generations before returning.

National Geographic says the gene at first had the beneficial effect of increasing the body's ability to make vitamin D from sunlight.

However, today's carriers are more prone to skin cancer and have a higher sensitivity to heat and cold-related pain.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Work. Rest. Play.
Part Two: Rest

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

In Part One we were all about work. In Part Two we're talking about a Sabbath and a rest. Without wishing to warble the theology of the Old Testament, I'm wondering whether the two are very different things. Perhaps it's possible to enjoy them both on the same day, but it's worth figuring out the distinction as we go along.

Pretty much any biblical reference to the Sabbath that I mention here will be well known. And that's a pretty good place to start. We all know the premise that God was laying down within the story of His creation. So often though, the premise and praxis find trouble connecting.
God hasn't had a break since so His rest was more likely a not-so-subtle nod and a wink in our direction rather the result of him being all tuckered out.

So, let's kick off with the Sabbath. It's always a good way to start or end a week (depending on how you've decided it makes the most sense or what church you've grown up in).

The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.

Informed by a healthy Protestant work ethic (or unhealthy - depends on your worldview), I'd always figured that observing a Sabbath infered that you're working the other six days. That's not an unreasonable assumption, nor an unreasonable practice. Yet I read verses like Exodus 35:31 (It is a sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance), and my opinion starts to waver.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

Our Sabbath is for God. It's not for our indulgence. It may be a day for serving Him in different ways (worship, hospitality, administration, justice, mercy...the list is long) or it may be a time for resting from those things (if they're what's work for us) so that we can keep a day holy. And what does keeping a day holy mean? It means a day dedicated and consecrated to Him. A day of rest probably isn't frenetic or ridden with anxiety—a day centred on God is unlikely to yield those outcomes.

While we're at it, is it good enough to say that we can rest and Sabbath on the same day, or are we indulging ourselves on God's clock? Without getting legalistic yet staying biblically faithful, what does a great sabbath look like? Even as I tap away I'm reminded of the Essenes, a bunch of hard core blokes before Jesus time, who believed that if Israel could just muster one perfect Sabbath, it would trigger the coming of the Messiah. Must have been a bummer when someone stuffed up...

The perfect Sabbath doesn't come from our legalism, the perfect Sabbath rest comes when we submit our all to the Lord, accepting joyfully his promised guidance through a “narrow way” to the Kingdom. It's when we rest from our own works, from all effort to justify ourselves. We confess ourselves to be imperfect and unworthy of Divine grace, and unable to make ourselves worthy. And we gratefully accept Divine mercy extended toward us in our redemption through Jesus.

So, if our Sabbath is a time for denying ourselves and seeking God, when does the rest come? Sure, we find our rest in God but, in the context of work, rest and play, where does the rest fit in.

Fortunately, we're not left with a Torah alone to navigate through our weeks. Jesus came to fulfill the law. And what does he say about the Sabbath? Far a start He declares himself Lord of the Sabbath. Then he puts the Sabbath in perspective by saying: "The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren't made to serve the Sabbath. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath. He's in charge!" (I'm not completely sure he said 'lackey'—I think that's Eugene's work.) You can tell me what you make of Jesus' words, but what I get out of it is that the practice of a Sabbath was designed to bring us back to God; a trigger for re-consecrating ourselves. The Sabbath is the period in the paragraph. It resets the meter of things.

So often, we deviate by degrees. We don't so much go awol and take out the guy who won't give us breakfast, more often we just veer a little, then a little more, to the left or right of true north. I think the Sabbath is intended to recalibrate our souls so that again we respond to our God. Maybe we haven't drifted at all. Maybe we're ready to raise the rafters with our God-songs and God-deeds, but maybe we need to raise our heads and bow our heads to discover His greatness and glory covering our brokenness. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said 'the sabbath was made for man'. I think this is what the Sabbath's all about.

And where does rest fit in?

Some of the activities and practices that become part of a well-intentioned Sabbath can make us blimmin' tired. They tire me sometimes. So, where does the rest fit in? If our Sabbaths are intended to be days of self-denial, when do we recover? While we work? On the job? Or is there room for rest somewhere or somehow else?

And what is rest to you? Because my guess it's different for each of us. My first thought when I hear the word 'rest' is a good sleep, but in the context of recalibration and rejuvenation it's quite different. A restful weekend for me (the best place to get me some rest) would probably contain a decent run, some writing, breakfast at a café, a bit of reading, some cricket or AFL viewing while lying on the floor, and some cooking. If I put my head on the pillow on a Sunday having worked some or all of these around some Sabbath action, I'd be well-rested.

That needn't be you. I think my brother-in-law would stick pretty rigidly to 'a good sleep' as a definition for rest. And his not wrong. Some people would find a few hours of shopping restful. Yeah, that's not me. The big deal about resting well is figuring out what you classify as 'activities of rest' and practicing them.

I know some excellent 'resters' (see the above paragraph for an example). I don't mean that they're lazy. They work hard in their jobs, they offer themselves freely outside of their working lives, but they know how to rest and when to rest. Either they've figured out or wrestled with the biblical principle of the Sabbath and grown in the discipline of rest, or they're naturally predisposed.

Both a Sabbath and a scheduled time of rest require discipline. It often requires discipline to do things that ultimately or immediately restore us. I don't think that's contradictory, it's just life. Sometimes we're so lazy we don't even do the things that give us rest. Weird, but true.

Work requires rest. And rest assumes that we go back to work. And somewhere in there we've got to play a bit as well. So as not to get all dull and stuff.

Until we play, rest up!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

I feel the earth move....

Well, actually, up here in the Andes I didn't feel a thing, but plenty of people in Lima and southern Peru did, so much so that 337 are dead and nearly 1000 are injured.

I was on the phone to Simone when it happened. She was in Starbucks (yes we can forgive her) and she said to me "I'm now standing in the carpark, cars are rocking, we are having trouble standing up, buildings are swaying, everyone is panicking".

Thank the Lord, we are fine, our friends are fine, and there is no evident damage to any property where we live. However, the small town of Pisco in southern Peru, where we went for a holiday after Christmas, is all but levelled. The quake was a 7.9 at the epicentre, a 7.7 at the southern coast, and a 7.5 in Lima. I could put a bunch of links about it, but you all know how to use Google I'm sure.

Please pray for this country. Peru has a long way to go in its development. The areas hardest hit are simple villages based on agriculture and fishing. Villages in the Andes were hit too and the winters are bitterly cold, so much so that people have been dying because they don't have enough clothes for the winter. Many people will have lost everything they have, and insurance is non-existent, let alone affordable for people who cant afford clothes.

We are hooked up with a great church here, and I can bet that this Sunday the church will be sending donations and aid to help out. Let us know if you're interested and we'll find a way to get your money in the right spot. Sorry for the nature of this post, but some things in this world can't be intellectualised. Often times finding the symphony in the noise is as simple as being the proverbial hands and feet. After all, we are all a global community, right?


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Church goer tips God for excellent week

This from my favorite satirical online newspaper - the onion. But sometimes it's all too true.

CHARLESTON, SC—Churchgoer Brad Thaden, 48, reportedly tipped God a little something extra Sunday, claiming that the Almighty had done a better job than usual that week, especially with the weather and his children's behavior.

"Hey Big Guy, here's a five-spot for ya," Thaden silently prayed while placing the bill in the church collection plate. "If you keep it up, and make sure Mom doesn't have one of her spells at dinner on Wednesday, there's more where that came from."

According to God, five dollars is "basically nothing" after He tips out the the priest, the pope, the altar boys, and the Holy Spirit.


The Occasional Ensemblee Series:
Mikey B gets his jury on.

I got home yesterday and checked the mail. Wow, how exciting! What a dynamic fun-filled life I live. You're right, I don't. I have a toddler and a 6 month old, getting the mail is my equivalent of a single person going to da club and picking up.

Anyway, the pity party is over. In the mail was a summons for jury duty. Yep, the opportunity for me to do my civic and national duty has arrived. So why do I have the urge to join about 95% of Australians and want to apply for an excusement of attendance? Surely I should want to do my bit for the country and the principles upon which it stands? Surely there are things that are more important than my desires? Maybe Dennis Denuto was right in The Castle? Maybe it is about the constitution? Maybe I just want the swine found guilty by default? Maybe I can't be stuffed waiting around a court house with a bunch of ferals in case some lawyer in a funny wig wants me to sit there with 11 other poor souls and listen to evidence that demands a verdict (thanks Josh McDowell). HELP ME!

It's even worse for me as I wasn't born here. I actually wanted citizenship and national identity of this mighty fine nation called Australia. I actually signed up for this. Most of you lot were Aussies at birth so you didn't know any better. I knew this was a possibility. It was part of the questions they asked me.

I have been summoned before but had a genuine reason to get out of it but this time I kind of could get out of it but probably it's not a genuine hardship to do jury duty. Surely it's truly Australian to want to opt out, to weasel out of this? Wouldn't any true blue Aussie do the same?

Am I being stupid? Are you with me? What would you do? Hey, what would Jesus do (hehehehe)? Help, advice required, interaction needed!


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rove McManus resigns as
Chief Strategist for Bush

I just thought Kim Beazley should know.

It seems Bush is finding it hard to hold on to the funny guys these days.


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Work. Rest. Play.
Part One: Work

A couple of stories I read and heard a couple of weeks back got me thinking about the logical rhythm of life we were created to live as opposed to the contrived, distorted and perhaps more artificial version to which we've adapted in our third millennium convalescence.

The first story I heard was about the prevalence of diabetes due to poor diet. Effectively, obesity-induced bad health.

The second was the effective treatment of severe depression amongst middle-aged men.

And the third was the treatment of the most appropriate treatment for women enduring the effects of menopause in their middle-age.

Each of these stories were utterly independent of each other yet, perhaps predictably to some, the treatment for the relief, reduction, or apprehension of these conditions was the same: exercise. In fact, in the case of the depressed cohort, exercise outperformed the most effective drug by quite a margin.

It got me thinking about the nature of our lifestyle in 2007 versus God's original intention for us. Before I wind back the clock and get all agrarian on you, I just want to talk about pattern and rhythm. Largely because what we've done, through great, convenient, time-saving, life-giving advancements, is create an environment that allows us to ignore the work, rest, play rhythms of life.

Where do I start?

Let's start with this: work is good. A hard day's work is good. And a hard day's labour is great. God followed a 6 day on, 1 day off pattern and it worked pretty well for him. The creation story tells of no plant having sprung up in the field because man wasn't yet available to work the soil. The concept of work is pre-fall. That's to say: it's consistent with a humanity fully restored to its creator. Genesis 2 reads: The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

This is one of the 538 references to work in the
NIV. Admittedly not all of them are in the context of work that I'm talking here, but you can bet that a whole bunch of them are.

When a gaggle of slackers in the church at Thessalonica (I can't come up with a better collective noun for slackers than gaggle on the fly) decide that Jesus is coming soon so they best give up their day jobs and wait for the rapture, Paul rains on their tedious parade and says: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." Paul was a bit of a worker too.

Solomon was also partial to a little work. He has the Proverbs 31 woman pretty much running the universe on her own and throws out a stern rebuke or warning to the idle in Proverbs 6 with this little gem:
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

I don't really need advocates for the idea of work though, I just need a little more justification for the benefits. This is where it will get a little tough to keep the 3 parts of the Mars Bar separate. And that's appropriate, because from get-go God has been all about integration. The idea that work, rest and play should be connected and overlap is a little obvious. For the sake of a three-part strategy though, let's try and contain this post to

While I'm no medical practitioner (not even a closet one) I reckon the reason behind exercise being a solutions to a multitude of maladies has a whole lot to do with endorphins. Endorphins are a by-product of hard labour. And they make you feel good. They have an
analgaesic effect Prolonged physical exercise will do it for you although a bunch of scientists have hypothesised that the high comes comes as much from completing a challenge as it does from exertion. Either way, it works for me. Through their analgesic effect on the body, the release of endorphins results in a state of euphoria for the satisfied receiver.

So here's what I'm thinking: in the rhythm of life that we were created to enjoy, our work was part of the healthy mind/healthy body balance. While my work is largely sedentary and needs to be supplemented with exercise to attain this balance, the rhythm of life back in the day would have yielded a bunch of endorphins each day. Dad went off to work and worked hard. Dad was fit. Dad ate plenty because he was hungry from a hard day's work. But he was also blimmin' satisfied in his labour. The endorphins released by his effort and accomplishments made sure of it.

Obviously it's not all about work. For a start that wouldn't make for a trinity of posts. And it would eventualy make Jack a dull boy—though perhaps not as quickly as all play and no work would.

I've got to stop as my body clock is calling for the second installment of the series right now.

Before I go though, what's your experience of work? Does it energise you? Reward you? If you're in an active job, do you come home tired and satisfied...or just plain tired. And how is it linked to your spirituality and your relationships. Is it connected or is it separate? How do you address the sedentary nature of your job with a body that craves endorphins for its own sanity?


Monday, August 6, 2007

Send it down

Last Friday, there was 2136,000,000 litres less in our dams compared to 2006. Today, there's 172,000,000 more in our dams than this time last year. (The black line below tells the tale)

Rain's a great thing. Nah, really, it is. Just saying...