All Posts Tagged ‘eucharisteo

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Kiwi Christmas

We Kiwi Christians can be a bit confused when it comes to celebrating Christmas. Easter is easier – Easter bunny is clearly a crock and we find it reasonably easy to claim Easter as a Christian occasion because for the unbelievers around us it is just a long weekend and an excuse to eat chocolate.

Christmas downunder

Christmas, however, has all sorts of cultural baggage and expectations which make us feel quite out of sorts here downunder in a secular society attempting to celebrate what is effectively a northern hemisphere midwinter festival. People hang up lights to decorate their houses despite it still being light at 10pm. We gorge ourselves with food then flop around getting sunburnt. Songs like “Let it Snow”, “Jingle Bells” and “In the Bleak Midwinter” play in shopping malls that are selling bathing suits, camping gear and cricket sets. It really doesn’t work, it’s like some collage of Christmas clutter dumped into a jumbled heap on the beach. Yet we still have plenty to be thankful for in our Kiwi Christmas celebrations.

Pointers to Christ

It is summer, most people are on holiday, and even despite the pre-Christmas madness in a time to relax. Let’s treasure that, Jesus came to give us rest – while flopping around after Christmas dinner too full to move much, enjoy the rest and consider God who came to gain it for us.

Christmas in New Zealand is blessed with fresh fruit and vegetables; cherries, strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, new potatoes, baby peas… Jesus is the true vine, He came to bless the earth and make it bountiful, He plants the seeds of the great harvest. For us Christmas is like a harvest festival and we are right to rejoice in the bounty of God’s blessing.

Particularly here in the deep south, Christmas day is long – it gets light at about 5am and stays light until after 10pm. Seventeen hours of glorious light, almost two-thirds of the day! And here under the ozone hole it is bright light, a taste of what dazzled those shepherds and a reminder that He who dwells in unapproachable light came to abide with us. Every time you put on the sunnies and sun hat (and sunscreen) be reminded of the Light who dawned upon the whole earth in the advent.

An element of the nativity story that we obviously can identify with in New Zealand is the sheep (mmm… roast lamb for Christmas dinner!). Now, aside from the obvious anomaly of a lamb being present in the Christmas story if it was mid-winter, we know about sheep here, despite the Fonterra take over. Jesus is the Lamb of God, leading up to Christmas lambs are everywhere you look in this country – we get to remember the Passover, the feast of weeks (harvest) and the Advent all in one!

Christmas is a time when families like to get together, with all the strife this entails. Spare a thought for Mary and Joseph – they had travelled for days to get there, had lousy accommodation, were both isolated and lonely for home yet were in a town full of their relatives and then had a load of complete strangers turn up for supper! So whether lonely for company or overwhelmed by too much of it, you can at least feel for someone in the advent story.

Kiwis often get the barbeque out on Christmas day. Mary and Joseph quite likely cooked in a similar way on the very day Jesus was born. They certainly didn’t microwave last night’s leftovers!

Another way in which Kiwis have an empathetic perspective on the nativity story is our smallness and insignificance on the world stage. God chose to be born as a baby into a poor family in a stable in Bethlehem – an insignificant town. He then grew up in Nazareth, an even more lowly village. God chooses the insignificant place to come as God incarnate. Christ will come to us and dwell even here at the bottom of the world, we can be sure of this because He has already done it before – 2,000 years ago.


Gifts I have noticed recently:

750) Children asleep.
751) Friendly neighbours.
752) Christian work colleagues.
753) Headache forcing me away from the computer.
754) Spring growth (and a lawnmower!).

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Cultural values

For Father’s Day in September my wife gave me tickets to take our daughters to The Sleeping Beauty by the Royal New Zealand Ballet. After a long wait, the weekend finally arrived to take them and amazingly we were also given tickets to the Saturday evening performance. So Heather went on Saturday evening with a friend, and I took the girls on Sunday afternoon.
I thoroughly enjoyed taking my daughters to the ballet and spoiling them with treats. It is wonderful going to an event at which everyone is dressed up and excited to watch a world class performance. The dancers were incredible and their costumes stunning, accompanied by the music of Tchaikovsky played by a live orchestra. The whole experience enveloped us, entrancing us in it’s magnificence.

There are times when I feel as though other nationalities or ethnic groups have rich cultural tradition but we don’t. Thinking over our ballet experience proves me wrong – we do have a rich cultural heritage and even get the benefit of a blending of European, Maori and Polynesian cultures in this nation.

However, culture takes effort. Performance requires practise, skill, discipline and training. It seems a lot to expend for a three hour public performance. Added to this, cultural groups rarely ‘pay their way’ – even with full houses orchestras, ballet troupes, theatres and other cultural or artistic groups require additional funding in order to survive. They are not a ‘practical’ necessity, so is culture a cost to society or an essential part of being human?

I would argue that the very nature of culture requiring work against the status quo proves its worth. We know that human nature is sinful, if you bow to the status quo and lowest common denominator what results is decline, banality, trivia and anarchy. Proof of our humanity lies in fighting such decline and going beyond what is merely a functional necessity of life to express art.

Art and culture will not save us, but they do prove that God has placed within humanity much more than animal desires and instinct. Art is a reaching for God, even when corrupted by sin the motivation to express, to create, is from God.


Gifts I have noticed recently:

691) Art, making life more than making do.
692) Delight on girls faces.
693) A daughter wanting to imitate my Bible reading habits
694) Rekindled desire to play music.
695) End of my working day.
696) The wonder of a gull in flight.
697) Apples are cheaper than chocolate.
698) My wife, who I could not live without.
699) Daily, grace beyond anything I could ever deserve.
700) Guilt when I lazily take others for granted.

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A rugby great


As a wimp and a geek myself, rugby has never been my favourite sport. However, I have been surprised that even I have been interested in the Rugby World Cup currently being contested in NZ.
There have been some impressive games and watching rugby being played at this level is quite awesome – these are big, powerful men moving with great skill and agility in a brutal game. Any one of those tackles would put me in hospital for a week!

The commitment, training and practise needed to be an All Black is beyond anything most of us would be prepared to do. They really do need to be obsessed with rugby to make the grade. It takes absolute passion for the game to even be considered for selection.

Then there are some players who are exceptional, standing out amongst these top athletes even. Every Kiwi knows who Jonah Lomu is, a mighty man amongst mighty men (see him in action here).

Other players stand out not only for their athletic ability but also for the stand they take for Christ in an environment dominated by very macho attitudes. Men such as Michael Jones who refused to play on Sundays, leading to criticism and not being selected for some international tours. Yet the good he has done as a role model for Samoan youth is beyond measure.

Euan Murray training

I was impressed to discover that a member of the Scottish rugby team, Euan Murray is taking a similar stance regarding playing on Sundays. I love what he is quoted as saying:

 “It’s basically all or nothing, following Jesus. I don’t believe in pick ‘n’ mix Christianity. I believe the Bible is the word of God, so who am I to ignore something from it?”
“I might as well tear out that page then keep tearing out pages as and when it suits me. If I started out like that there would soon be nothing left.”
(BBC Sport)

Even for ‘non-sporting types’ like me there is inspiration, an example and a rebuke to be gained from top athletes, more so when they are intentionally giving glory to God for their abilities. We can all appreciate the discipline, training and all out dedication to the sport exhibited by sports people. Paul encourages us to put their example to work in our devotion to Christ.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
(1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV)


Gifts I have noticed this week:


642) A devout rugby player.
643) People around to talk to instead of my own slightly mad company.
644) Pleasant evening with my parents.
645) Cleaning the oven (my wife’s most-hated item on her To-Do list).
646) Building momentum for the October month of prayer for the Shan.
647) Warm nor-easter.
648) Trampoline.
649) Waving Gospel firebrands at the ‘black dog’ to keep it at bay.
650) Freedom to worship without harassment.
651) Clean water.
652) Little hands washed before lunch.
653) A couple dedicating themselves to work with the Shan.
654) Toy tractors in the vege garden.

Image of RWC official ball: iStock
Photo of Euan Murray Training: Stu Forster

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Self-induced anxiety

When I start justifying my own choices to myself, it is a good indication I’m probably heading down the wrong road.

I found this to be the case in deciding upon the best option for hosting this blog. There was a low limit on how much disc space was provided with the plan I was paying for at my previous host, meaning I genuinely needed to assess whether an alternative would be better than paying for more data.

After some research I decided upon another provider and transferred the blog. However, the new option was slightly more expensive than what I’d been previously paying. With a small blog and low visitor numbers my heart was telling me that paying for huge bandwidth and storage capacity was overkill.

For a blog which is growing rapidly and generating an income from advertising it would be an excellent option, but that is not the direction I want to take. Yet this was the path I was burdening myself with in order to justify an more expensive hosting option.

As I have engaged with the blogging community, particularly those who have positioned themselves as experts, the general assumption is that most bloggers seek more visitors to generate income through advertising and other mechanisms. Although I never completely embraced this as my own goal, I did assume the principles used to make a blog successful in that way would also make my own blog better. There is some truth in this, also some self-deception.

If money, popularity or growth is the primary goal then more and bigger is better; more visitors, a bigger audience. Is this my goal?

Growth had in fact become my goal, wanting reassurance that there is some merit in what I write because more visitors arrive at the blog. Yet a reasonable proportion of these visitors arrive here via random Google searches for stuff I don’t even focus on – how does that ‘show’ any merit in my writing?

This goal of growth is one I gave myself. It is certainly not a goal given to me from God. I am convinced that what I should be doing is to write stuff that honours God and builds up other Christians. To quote Ann Voskamp:

A successful blogger is a serving blogger
(What is Success?)

In the Kingdom of God the values we are accustomed to in this world are turned on their head, it is an ‘upside-down kingdom’. To be successful as a child of God I must become a servant, even as I write.

The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
(Matthew 23:11-12 ESV)

So my crucial tools for blogging in the Kingdom of God are not Google Analytics, PHP, CSS or an awesome web host; rather the crucial ‘tools’ are to love God and serve Him.

You, with a keyboard – you are an artist.
You with a blog – you are filled with the Holy Spirit.
You telling your story – speak it with boldness.
Ann Voskamp, (What is Success – Life in the Upside Down Kingdom)


Gifts I have noticed this week:

626) Little boy miraculously returned home apparently unharmed after being abducted.
627) The flower poked under my windscreen wiper.
628) All the people working through the night to provide services essential to our society.
629) The prickly old holly hedge clippings transformed into rich garden compost.
630) Daughter spending her pocket money to get lollies for her Mum, Dad, brother and sister rather than herself.
631) Blog shifted to where it should be.
632) Stepping out the door from artificial worlds into the coolness of light, sun, fresh air and birdsong.
633) Internet down, so I get other jobs done this evening.
634) My little boy ‘helping’ me as I do odd jobs.
635) A cheap haircut.
636) Knowing I am saving myself $10 per month elsewhere before the letter arrived asking for an $8 per month increase to our child sponsorship.
637) That my eldest daughter still wants hugs with her Dad.
638) Electricity at the flick of a switch.
639) A box full of fun.
640) A new toilet.
641) Being scolded for overindulging the kids with dessert treats.

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Simplicity

Eventually the only thing remaining that is good for my soul is what God has done.

Fortunately my wife realizes this before I and arranges for us all to get away for a weekend.

Forty-five minutes up the road to a simple little cottage, the legacy of a lady who lived a hundred years. Now we sit in the sun room of her little cottage by the sea, soaking up sunlight and beauty.

Why do we need to escape to a little cottage by the sea when that is where we already live?

We go to a cottage that is even smaller than our own, even closer to the sea. It has less stuff in it, no computer, and does not come with our schedule or agendas attached. We need a break from the life we have made for ourselves.

So in our earthly tents we stay in a borrowed house. Just a little family together with the little we need for a few days and the book God wrote, enjoying the world He made.

Then we come back ‘home’, to our house (borrowed from the bank!), to live in the world and trying to remember we are not of the world. To this we are called, and then when He is ready He will call us each home.

Better is a little with the fear of the LORD
than great treasure and trouble with it.
(Proverbs 15:16 ESV)


Gifts I have noticed this week:

576) Birdsong at dawn.
577) At home sick with youngest daughter watching Sleeping Beauty together.
578) Blue skies after two weeks of gray.
579) A weekend break away.
580) Rainbow in the sink!
581) Getting away from our usual routine.
582) Getting away from my usual time-wasting computer habits.
583) Excited, hyped-up children.
584) All being together as a family.
585) Holiday cottage reminding me of my grandparents.
586) Realizing how poor some of my ancestors were.
587) Waking up to birdsong and beauty.
588) Pottery coffee mug.
589) Sunshine.
590) Peaceful walk on Moeraki beach.
591) Enormous ocean calmness.
592) Making sand mountains with my son.
593) Him stomping the mountain down!
594) Persistent dog with a stick.
595) A warm wind for drying washing.
596) Reminders of the need for, and power of, praying.