23 December, 2008

on a lighter note...

Please forgive me for this, but I thought I'd share something sure to bring a smile... --->ENJOY<---

~ Rob

20 December, 2008

My crazy 48 hours...

This week has been a great 'hind sight' week. One of those gems God gives you every once in a while to teach you a lesson you would rather learn from a book. Without going into the gory and personal details, the drama involved an illness that required some urgent medical attention. Now those moments, while worrisome and painful are often supported with the best medical treatment the public system can offer. This time however, came within a foreign country. Not a problem in usual circumstances, however given it was a preexisting condition we found that travel insurance would not cover us. Hmmm...so there we were, requiring medical assistance which could not wait, but facing at $5000-$10000 medical bill. What do you do? Do you pay it? Do you hope for the best and not seek the medical help? Do you reach out to wealthier friends and contacts? Do you pray for healing? Do you stop to ponder the plight of the poor in developing nations who face this or worse scenarios every day? Well, I did a lot of the first questions, but the latter was only considered when I reached blog day!

It's an interesting place to be, and one that truly tests your faith, and your values. In regard to faith, you pray for healing, and there is no problem with that course of action. It should always be the first point of call. Having said that, in this case, God had a lesson for us that would not have been learnt by a 'mere' healing. For me, my faith drove me to the realisation that God is good and faithful. His purposes will prevail if we seek Him. That meant forking out some money. Money we had, and could have spent elsewhere without blinking an eye. You see, it wasn't the lack of money, but the value of money that tripped us up. We had the money, but we didn't want to spend it at a hospital! I found myself praying things like "If you heal him, then I could spend the money on mission!" Interesting the bargains you make with God when you are desperate. The point however is this, we value gifts from God, but not always the way He wants us to value them. We value money, and security and safety and health, but we value them because they comfort us, and not always because they help the kingdom. That was a good lesson.

My test of values really came in the form of abandonment. I found myself asking how a country in the developed world could charge 'me' so much for a simple doctors appointment. There must be a way 'I' can scam my way without paying?! And praise God, He found a way for me to do so. However, this is not always the case for all people. Perhaps I value myself, my culture, my nationality, my status too highly, and know that I am allowed certain perks because of it. But do I think that other cultures who don't have access, in their own country, deserve less than I? I guess what I am saying is this. To be without an essential because you can’t, for whatever reason, access what you need, is a terrible experience. I had the resources to cope. Many don’t. It is no less a scary experience for them. I sought help, and it was given. God be with those who seek help and find none. And let us be led by Him so that we can do a better job of making sure there is not a single person who goes without.

Be generous this season...to the people who need your generosity. Merry Christmas!

Gen

17 December, 2008

Revolution Formal

Hi everyone,

I apologise AGAIN for a lack of blogging! I think I need to make more regular bloggin my new year's resolution!

This past Friday night, we held a formal for the kids that attend our Friday Night youth program 'Revolution' at Ingle Farm Salvos, South Australia. A large majority of our kids come from the community through youth accommodation programs tied in with our corps and are therefore often marginalised in society. The idea behind the formal was pretty simple: not many of our kids stay in school through to year 12 and therefore don't get to experience a school formal. But more than this, we wanted a night where our kids would feel like royalty! So we pulled out all the stops: we had the decorations, the food, the hosts to seat them, the lights, the music, everything! Needless to say, it was a great night and our kids had a blast. I will never forget the look on their faces as they walked into the 'formalised' main hall of our corps!

Throughout the course of the night, each of the kids (and leaders) that attended were called up to receive an individial award describing something of their personality or character eg. the "I don't like to sing in public even though everyone knows I have an amazing voice" award! It was so beautiful to see these kids receiving awards for being themselves!

Everyone deserves to feel special. Everyone is important, valuable and unique. Everyone is created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27)- young and old, rich or poor, educated or not. When justice reigns, the playing field gets levelled - equality rules. So we hope that justice was served as our kids were given the same opportunity as most other teenagers receive... even if it is as simple as putting on a formal! The relationships that we are continuing to build with kids at Revolution are all about life transformation that sees them finding a Father who is full of grace and truth; A Father who is Justice and who doesn't see what they have or don't have but sees who they really are - a child of the King.

Have a blessed Christmas!
Sarah Brinkley

14 December, 2008

Weeds and Flowers

I have come to you a little later than usual, as I thought I would let Liam have his day in the sun!

I have had enough to say about excess and the misappropriation of wealth for a little while I think. Perhaps it is time to go back to the topic of inequality and how we intend to combat it.

I was in an interesting conversation today, which discussed the running of a country in the model of a business. In a classic business model, it is essential to make a profit. This is always the bottom line. We must find the weeds that prevent growth and un-root them in order to allow the effective blooming of flowers. The issue for a country therefore becomes how you un-root the weeds and then to decide what you do with them.

It is simply not ethical to ‘un-root’ the weeds. We cannot continue to throw the residual waste into the torturous vault known as the safety net. We must learn how to tend weeds, and see them as beautiful in their own right. Perhaps it will force us to adjust our image of beauty and begin at last to value the wild flowers that dot our communities.

What can you do with weeds? Well, I think it is important to recognize that all of God’s creations have a purpose. We must start to find God’s purposes, rather than attempting to squeeze weeds into our own man-made structures that suit our man-made needs.

For me though, the foundational question becomes how and why people become a ‘weed’ in the first place? Perhaps they have not been tended. Perhaps they were neglected to the point where they grew and grew unnoticed. That tends to happen when we take our attention and care off a particular section. Is that the weeds fault?

The reality is, we cannot run a country, or an education system, or a heath care system, or an employment system…as a business. And as The Salvation Army, surely some of our responsibility is in correcting the reckless neo-liberal economy that has driven its citizens to demand individual profit from their nation to the neglect of the ‘weeds’. I believe too, that it is important for us to stop engaging in the same system that perpetuates the relegating and neglect of weeds. We must start to be counter cultural, and stop joining the world in their schemes.

Well, a little abstract today, but if you can get something out of it, then good on you!

Till next week,

Genevieve

11 December, 2008

Holidays

I was away on holidays two weeks ago and I had a lovely time. I got to thinking about the need people have for holidays, especially those people in our society who would never have an opportunity for a holiday.
People like a single mum who lives on Centrelink benefits or a person suffering from severe mental health issues who lives in a boarding house.

The more I thought about the situation the clearer the solution became in my mind, so I thought I would share it with you incomplete though it is.

I saw an organisation (or a church, or a wealthy family, etc.) purchasing an accommodation facility at a semi-popular tourist destination. Not too popular as the entertainment and food in the town might be too expensive for the clientele. The venue would be run as a retreat centre for people in need of a low cost holiday. Because the venture needs to be profitable it would also need to cater for business retreats and conventions as a revenue-raising side business. This would also ensure that the accommodation and food is of a quality standard, rather than a slap dash charity deal.

Being a retreat centre it would offer a range of activities for people who might not otherwise know how to organise their own holiday. It would offer free children's activities and a crèche so parents are able to have a day or two to themselves. Of course it would offer opportunities for spiritual reflection and guided retreats.

The retreat would be staffed by local people who were being reskilled and retrained after long term unemployment. It could also offer opportunities to people returning to the workforce from situations that might otherwise make it difficult to get employment, e.g.. mental health issues or prison. If the manager/owner was savvy enough then this could be facilitated by Job Network funding or Work for the Dole programs.

Obviously people would need to be referred to the retreat centre and there would be a rule that the person who refers someone has to accompany them on their holiday. Imagine a social worker relaxing on the beach with a client. A church family joining a family from their local community to wander through the bush and enjoy God’s creation together. By charging people a percentage of their income this would also help to make the venture more economically viable.

Obviously there are a number of issues that would need to be worked out but I am sure there are people reading this blog who are entrepreneurial enough to work through them.

Wouldn’t a place like that be an example of the kingdom of God breaking into our world?

Liam
PS. sorry for the long break in posts.

05 December, 2008

I am obviously still in shock over the Wal Mart incident…

Ok, so last week, I went a little extreme. And from the overwhelming response evidenced by the ‘comments’ section, I can see that I really made an impact, and hit home hard. Well, just for fun, I thought I would stick to the same theme. After all, we are in December and tis the season!

I was reading the Bible in my usual systematic way, and could you believe it, I stumbled upon this passage from 2 Kings.

7:16-17 "Then the people of Samaria rushed out and plundered the Aramean camp. So it was true that five quarts of choice flour were sold that day for one piece of silver, and ten quarts of barley grain were sold for one piece of silver, just as the LORD had promised. The king appointed his officer to control the traffic at the gate, but he was knocked down and trampled to death as the people rushed out."

Wow! The Wal Mart incident happened in Bible times too! So there is precedent for mob madness during a sale!

I was about to take my entire rant and challenge of last week back, but thought I should look more closely. Now, I know it’s totally annoying when a preacher puts ‘context’ in the way of a good wholesome lesson like ‘prosperity’ or ‘holy consumerism’, but let’s have a little look at the chapter before, just for fun, and find out what was going on before the ‘big sale’ stampede.

6:26-30 "One day as the king of Israel was walking along the wall of the city, a woman called to him, “Please help me, my lord the king!” He answered, “If the LORD doesn’t help you, what can I do? I have neither food from the threshing floor nor wine from the press to give you.” But then the king asked, “What is the matter?” She replied, “This woman said to me: ‘Come on, let’s eat your son today, then we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. Then the next day I said to her, ‘Kill your son so we can eat him,’ but she has hidden her son.” When the king heard this, he tore his clothes in despair."

It seems that the famine was so dire, mothers were prepared to eat their own children. Think about that for a few seconds.

When the people of Samaria rushed out and plundered the camp, they were desperate. They were more than desperate, they were insane with hunger. Completely irrational.
The people waiting to rush into Wal Mart however, were not desperate for food. They were desperate for blenders, coffee machines and foot spas. Think about that for a few seconds.

My point is simply this. There are people in our world so desperate they are willing to sell their children into slavery. And, there are people in another part of the world so desperate they are prepared to trample another to death in a shopping center.

We insist that we ‘need’ to shop. We ‘need’ to buy others presents for Christmas, we ‘need’ another t-shirt, we ‘need’ a new ipod, we need another digital camera. Well this ‘need’ has driven us insane. And all I am asking, is that you take a breath and make a decision. What do you ‘need’, and what are you prepared to pay for it?

Your first reaction is likely to be ‘yeah, I don’t really spend that much, so this isn’t me. I would never go shopping on a major sale day’. Well, great. Good for you. Maybe you should just halve your spending instead of cutting it altogether.

Surely there is someone out there who agrees, and is prepared to take a stand. Are you prepared to make a pact? No unnecessary spending. Are you prepared to purchase presents from ‘justgifts’ instead of from the stores? Are you prepared to start the chain-reaction to end the madness that has gripped our world? I am praying that you will be prepared, and that you will have the strength and honour to follow through. Or, you can continue to pretend that in some crazy way, you are justified. Pray it though, please.

Have a great week praising the prodiver and not the provision,
Genevieve

04 December, 2008

Flesh Mapping: vancouver markets pacific women

some great information here in the Vancouver fight against trafficking... props to REED and Michelle Miller. Fight on.

03 December, 2008

Obama's Ethic of Responsibility

I need you to understand that I read more than just Jim Wallis, but lately he (and his friends) has been producing such good stuff that I can't help but share with as many people as possible. Today is no exception.

Recently, Barack Obama was interviewed by Barbara Walters. In this interview, he made the following remarks: "When people are pulling down hundred million dollar bonuses on Wall Street, and taking enormous risks with other people’s money, that indicates a sense that you don’t have any perspective on what’s happening to ordinary Americans."

Brian MacLaren is a contributor to Wallis' Blog site, God's Politics. MacLaren gave his perspective on Obama's remarks in this blog - "God's Politics." Granted, not everyone is a fan of Barack Obama, but you can't discount the fact that it is refreshing to hear such words from a high-level politician, let alone the next president of the US.

For your reference, remember Jesus' words in Luke 12:48b: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."


~ Rob