Simple Christianity for a sunburnt country
Dr Phil Jauncey is a friend of Rugby League super-coach Wayne Bennett. He is sometimes referred to as Wayne's 'secret weapon'. In Jauncey's book 'Managing yourself and others', he reveals his counselling philosophy which is taken directly from the Bible:
"I have found tremendously helpful (to the point of being my counselling philosophy) the Christian Bible verse (1 Corinthians 10:13) that says that there is no situation in life that is too difficult for us to handle if we use the internal God given power to deal with that problem." (p. 56)
What challenges are you facing? What trials confront you? May I suggest you accept the good Doctor's advice.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
I use an Old Skool diary (so sue me;)). One small advantage is that it marks the passing of time; like rings in a tree trunk. You can see the days past - all gritty and well used. Then the fresh days ahead - clean and clear. And, wedged in there somewhere is today- a ribbon dividing time.
Today - with all its burdens and breakthroughs - is a 'blue ribbon' day. It's edges already a little soiled. A day being lived - and, hopefully, lived well.
The Christian life is a wisdom journey. All of us humbly serving in the hopes of adding value to the people around us. Helping others see what's important. Making the most of the life we've been given.
And part of growing in wisdom, is to pray for it. Just as the Psalmist did (Ps. 90:12). Doing our best not to waste a day, or an opportunity, to learn a little more. We seek spiritual wisdom - for ourselves and for others.
So pause today, even for a moment, and reflect on this 'blue ribbon' day. It might be gritty, but do your best to ensure it's well-used! What are the wisdom lessons that can be learned or passed on?
So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom
Ali and George have hit the road again. Meeting people, sharing life and faith, and generally having a blast! They use social media to help create community with those they meet on the red dirt road.
Red Dirt Church - Simple churches for a sunburnt country.
Red Dirt Church is a growing network of 'Simple Churches'. Each Simple Church develops its own distinctive ways following Jesus. Simple Church requires minimal infrastructure with no major capital projects, has a collaborative governance culture and is led by a voluntary or bi-vocational leader.
On this day in 1873, William Gosse sighted Uluru and named it after the Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers. Not long after, Ernest Giles was the first European to climb the rock in the company of an Afghan camel driver. Of course, Aboriginal people had known of the marvellous rock for many thousands of years. In 1993, what was known to many as ‘Ayers Rock’ became the first Aussie icon to be given back its indigenous name – ‘Uluru’.
Uluru National Park notes explain the Aboriginal understanding of Uluru in the following story: “In the beginning the world was unformed and featureless. Ancestral beings emerged from this void and journeyed widely, creating all the living species and the characteristic features of the desert landscape you see today.” That recounting, remarkably echoes the creation account in the Bible.
I’ll be there in around ten day’s time. And, I won’t be climbing it out of respect for the wishes of many local, indigenous people.
Here are some more facts about Australia's iconic rock formation in the Northern Territory.*
Uluru stands 348 metres above sea level at its tallest point (24m higher than the Eiffel Tower), yet it resembles a “land iceberg” as the vast majority of its mass is actually underground - almost 2.5km worth!
The greater Uluru area is considered a sacred site by native Aborigines, particularly the local Anangu tribe who are considered its traditional landowners.
While climbing the rock is not illegal, it is still considered disrespectful to the Aboriginal culture and has resulted in 37 deaths since the 1950's.
Uluru was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site back in 1987.
The closest and largest town to Uluru is Alice Springs, which is around 450km away.
Uluru has one of the best sunsets in the country - in fact, it was voted in the Australia's Top 10 Sunsets - due to the amazing red that comes from a combination of the angle of the sun, minerals in the rock and the reflection of the surrounding soil.
We all know that religious practice is declining in the West. Religious disinclination accelerates sharply for those under 24 years of age. A recent UK YouGov survey reported that while young people are optimistic about their prospects in terms of physical health, educational opportunities and overall prospects, in the 'meaning-of-life' department things weren't so positive.*
The survey didn't mention religion, yet probed a number of aspects of life where religion has traditionally provided content and meaning. For example, only 14% of British young people feel better off than their parents in terms of 'having a sense of purpose' (50% think they are worse off). A low 13% feel they are better off than their parents when it comes to 'having a sense of belonging in your community' (59% think they are worse off - see last week's post on loneliness). Only 11% feel better off in terms of 'overall happiness/good mental health' (69% think they are worse off).*
Freddie Sayers (who identifies as "not a religious person") commented: "Now I'm not saying that the decline in religious faith causes these bleak numbers in any simple way, but it seems fair enough to bring them into the same conversation."*
This is an ideal conversation starter. We must be careful not to assert that one caused the other, but there is a definite correlation that could generate interesting discussions.
We'll explore this further in the coming weeks.
*Search: Unherd; 'Why Polly Toynbee is wrong about God'
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As NAIDOC week wraps up for 2019, we move forward a little more hopeful. While it is not everyone's experience, there is a rising groundswell of goodwill towards officially recognising the original custodianship of Australia by indigenous peoples and towards closing the gap. Goodwill isn't everything, but it's an important prerequisite to positive changes.
I found this photograph in an op shop earlier this year. I've no idea how old it is, where it was taken or who the children are. For me, it portrays indigenous children who are 'young and free'. Lord, may it be!
NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life.
A couple of years ago, I began praying for Australia town by town. I make small circles on a map of Australia and pray for everything and everyone inside it.
About a year back, I added another layer of praying, this time for indigenous people. Part of the map of 'Aboriginal Australia' can be seen above. While the exact country of each people-group can be a matter of conjecture, and some of these nations don't exists recognisably any more, the concept remains: I pray for those families that make up 2.4% of our population.
I was born on Mandandanji land (present day Roma). That country is part of my story. But first, it was theirs...
There were over 500 different clan groups or 'nations' around the continent, many with distinctive cultures, beliefs and languages. Today, Indigenous people make up 2.4 per cent of the total Australian population.
I first met Aunty Jean (pictured in the photo) in the 1990s when the church I was serving (Ipswich Baptist Church) hosted a reconciliation event in the church hall. The senior minister at the time, Rev. Steve Cooper, was instrumental in orchestrating this gathering. It was heart-felt, and sometimes heated, but a significant occasion for all involved. I didn’t know then how rare this sort of thing was in the 90s..
Since then, Aunty Jean has kept in touch and continued to encourage me to play a small, positive part in this nation’s journey to make things better. She works across all the churches and is known for being both gracious and forthright (not an easy posture to maintain). In it all, I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with this godly, indigenous woman who truly believes that the Christian faith holds a key to reconciliation in this country.
A couple of years ago, she presented me with the cross picture here. It hangs on the wall above my desk.
People are amazing. Someone stacks some stones in an expression of spontaneous creativity > and then others say "let's do that too!" > and before you know it...
Movements begin this way. First someone > then others > and before you know it, it becomes a thing.
[Photo taken on the Captain Cook Highway between Cairns and Port Douglas.]
RED DIRT ROADS
From Red Hill in the Pilbra,
you traverse the scarlet dunes of the Great Sandy Desert
before resting up in the carmine oasis of Mount Isa.
Then it’s on and down to Byron Bay,
to some rustic, red-track hideaway.
From the ruby plains of outback Queensland,
you amble sou-west down the Birdsville Track
before skirting the blushing Flinders Ranges.
Then it’s all-aboard across the Backstairs Passage,
to hike the ruddy trails on Kangaroo Island.
From the incarnadine escarpments of Arnhem Land,
you beat a path through Australia’s Red Heart
before surveying the Red Cliffs of Sunraysia in rural Victoria.
Then it’s southward atop the swells of Bass Strait,
to the red-apple loam of Bernie.
From the blood-stained sands of west Shark Bay,
you fly over the Nullabor’s red runway
before basking in the rust-coloured hues of Broken Hill.
Then it’s east and north to hale and harbor,
toward the sunburnt soils of Port Macquarie.
Red Dirt Churches are simple, non-denominational Australian churches. We use the word ‘church’ the way it was originally intended by Jesus; that is, to describe a community of people who follow him devotedly, although not perfectly. Red Dirt Churches are personal, biblical, transformational and missional.