November 13, 2013 § Leave a comment
Last night my wife and I had a good ole chin wag about everything and nothing. The topic on this particular occasion was, “people born in 1992?” Hmmmm! What was I doing in 1992!? Well you’d be delighted to know that my beard stroking moment became the end of a perfectly fine evening. After that point, things very quickly got way out of hand. Short of rolling on the floor with my thumb in my mouth I have to say I wasn’t a pretty sight for 2 minutes or thereabouts (Sallee would possibly suggest that it was significantly longer than that). Many things crossed my mind while I was writhing on the floor in mental anguish, including:
Maybe the time had come for me to invest early – invest right now – in a walking stick.
Maybe the time had come for a man to accept that “the ancient one” shall be my new name.
Well, a good nights sleep sorted out all that malarkey. But it did give me some food for thought. So today, as Gandalf in training I decided that I’d share with you 7 of the most exciting and occasionally dark things Iv’e learnt since 1992.
1. Christian people are sometimes cruel:
I am always surprised at how much venom there is in churches. VENOM. I remember as a teenager passionately loving my church, and wanting to serve out of sheer love for young people and God . The problem was that in order to do this, I always had to wrestle with some old guy who valued power more than anything else. On one occasion the frustration got so difficult for one leader that he went Kung Fu on me. Now seriously. When I was younger , I have to admit, I was a bit ridiculous sometimes, but is that a reason to bring out the nunchucks? I think the world in general could do with less of this. Actually it is imperative.
2. Friendships are hard. I have lost a few:
There are a truck load of people I wish I had invested more into. I have lost friends for ridiculous reasons. Then one day all the guilt tripping changed. You see, I was the guy who always felt like I was letting people down if I didn’t stay in touch. One day, after eating an omelette…. I remember it well. It was a tuesday. I think there was cheese involved….; I thought these people aren’t thinking of me right now. So STOP running them down and trying to please them. That’s what I did. That decision opened wonderful opportunities for new experiences and people to come into my life.
3. I love my wife:
That’s right you heard me Sallee! Sigh! I remember when I first met my wife. That lady I am convinced was sent for ME. Before her I was ridiculous at relationships and would certainly be classed as “a suspicious fella.” God’s such a romantic.
4. Christian extremists:
Do these people have anything else better to do than send me emails about the end of the world, what symbols Beyonce used in her last concert, or post and endorse on Facebook totally inappropriate posts of homosexuals being attacked in different parts of the world. Sigh! Some of the most warm, loving people I have ever met in the world are atheists, lesbians, chronic swearers, ‘erb smoking Rastafarians. I love them. I still love Jesus. Deal with it!
5. Smile a little more:
Sallee keeps reminding me of this. Damn those frown lines. Crap! I said Damn. Oh no! I said crap. It’s all going down hill from there…
I simply love my family. I love my friends. I love the new people I meet . I love hearing their stories. I love this church that we are building, I love that we don’t always have the answers. I love the ideas that we are dreaming. I love that Jesus is forefront of everything that we do and that it doesn’t mean that we have to turn into another type of person to do it. I love our christian extremists and our venomous friends. They make me realise so much about the character of Jesus.
Inspired by : Matthew 22:35-39
October 9, 2013 § Leave a comment
There are heaps of people logging on to social networks this morning and leaving deflated. Everyone else’s lives look so incredibly amaaaazing.
Wow! Her Instagram pictures are so full of life and colour.
He’s looks like he’s having fun. Luckeeee!
She is so funny when she tweets. She must have a million followers.
Human beings are such excellent artisans. No matter what’s going on in our lives, we have that ability to filter our 24 hrs into something amazing, to present the world with the edited version of ourselves. We ask people “How was your day?” They in turn reply “Good!” Liar! Actually your manager crapped all over your desk this morning and you are angry. Very angry.
Sharing our true selves is not the easiest thing. Often and especially in religious culture, there is an unfortunate expectation that 24 hrs a day, one ought to live their life to a certain gold standard and to deviate or have a life that was less than perfect would result in punishment of the severest kind. So naturally many people think it’s easier to keep life filtered or edited.
The fact is that no one loves a story where everything is easy. Getting rid of the conflict element of our lives not only makes for an uninteresting, unbelievable and uninspiring story but also, our lives lose a bit of meaning and clarity.
1. Share your Story – Be challenged
We all have a story to tell. Everyone of us. It’s absolutely tempting to share an easy story, but we all know that life is not that easy. When we get up in the morning, some of us drink our coffees, close our eyes and talk to God. In the same breath, we open our papers or read online the stories of people who believe in that same God; dying, because of religious differences. What does that do to us? Not only are the triumphs important, but also the challenges and tragedies.
2. Your Story is best shared in community or with “that person.”
Superman had Lois. Captain Kirk had Spock. King David had Nathan. Sallee has Robbie. The point is, your story is connected and is most powerful when people get together. I have to admit, most people tend to have friends who are the soft and floppy kind. They are the careful, tiptoeing kind who are forever thinking, “How can I say this without hurting his feelings”?
Maybe the kind of people we need around us are friends who are not afraid to be radically honest in the big and little things. Someone who is able to speak directly into our hearts and go beyond simple advice. We all need the sort of friend with the courage to take the time, be strong and lovingly hear our stories so that we can have the confidence to live our stories.
3. About the Author (my story):
Joel is a singer songwriter, pastor youngling, as well as creative director for Templeway Church. He has an unnatural fear of wet hair and the word moist . Until recently Joel believed whole heartedly that he was alone in the world… until he met Sallee. They have been married to each other since 2011 and can’t believe their great fortune in finding another person as passionate as they are about friends, family, food, God, community and worship.
Inspired by Psalm 107:2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.”
September 10, 2013 § Leave a comment
Shall we be honest? Like really honest? There is this idea that church should be perfect. Like laboratory perfect. Any person walking into its doors ought to find a pristine environment where not one hair is out of the place. So in the end many people simply stay away from the things that matter to people. Depression, failure, a difficult marriage, drug abuse. Many people have no idea how to deal with that stuff. But… we know how to ace a bible study!
When a person steps into a church and says,
- I am gay
- I just got divorced
- I am 19 and enjoy cherry flavoured condoms
- I am very very enthusiastic this morning… Actually I am very very high
- I get a tingly feeling all over my body every time I walk into Tesco’s and walk out with a baguette, block of cheese and a head of lettuce in my trouser leg…
When a person walks into our church with that sort of admission, we grab for ammunition and find the only thing we know: The Bible; and so we whack the poor unsuspecting individual over the head with “thou shalt not“ until bloodied from the nose.
“This place ought to be perfect, and you have just unbalanced my mojo.”
When we first dreamt Templeway, we decided that our community ought to be an environment that is a welcome place for anyone to share their stories and do life together. So we created what we call our ‘Love Huddles’. The main gene of these Huddles is this: What is your story? Everyone has one. Churches ask for perfection but we should know better than anyone that our stories aren’t perfect. There is pain and hardship. There is David, Abraham, Tamar, Moses.
- A place where leaders have faults and are not invulnerable
- A place where depression isn’t something from another planet
- A place where pain is not a myth
- A place where homosexuals aren’t hiding in the back, or under the earth
- A place where we acknowledge brokenness
A place where our stories are part of of a bigger story, of a people in community sharing the triumphs, sharing the challenges, sharing the story of Jesus.
*Inspired by Psalm 107:2 “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.”
Photo by L. Aylen & B. Abbott
September 4, 2013 § Leave a comment
I know a guy who has a thing about getting naked. He literally salivates at the sight of anything green or running water. These earthy objects, it seems, serve as a psychological signal that invariably shout to him,
“Get back to nature!”
Frankly, it made me rather uncomfortable. What was going on with this guy?
I often had a minor bit of a wobble agonising over possible scenarios which may present themselves. Like what if he saw me one day and mid-greeting had an episode.
“Get back to nature!”
What if in his “Garden of Eden” moment he decided to greet me, casting off his regular sideways man hug, deciding instead to go full frontal?
There was another “thing” I also never really understood about this guy. Curiously, in his time of nakedness, hunger would invariably rear its head. He was a bread and fish sort of man and I leaned more towards a pizza arrangement; Like that nice one from Dominoes with lots of garlic sauce. Everybody knows its all about those little extra satchels of garlic mayonnaise! Guaranteed!
We were really different. I kept my stuff on and he loved casting his off. To be honest, this guy unnerved me.
Now before you call in the etiquette police, I need to say something about this naked behaviour. First of all, this guy’s penchant for taking it off wasn’t anything near to what you may be thinking about. His nakedness had nothing to do with clothes and a glistening chest in the evening sun. But rather he had quite honestly a thing for sharing his life with others and being downright real with people. His whole mantra was,
“I’d like to know the real you. But naturally we can’t get there unless I show you who I am really am.”
And so he often shared with those willing to listen to his story; he was a thirty-something single parent called Gary who adored his little girl, Lilly. He didn’t care very much for football but had a secret crush on everything ping-pong. On Tuesdays, he sat down with a mug of hot chocolate, and dragged on his Captain Picard uniform to watch old episodes of Star Trek, Next Generation. Gary gets really emotional when talking about his marriage. You know when he is upset when the Dolly Parton cd’s come on. Many would find the thought of a thirty-something man banging out Dolly Parton quite disturbing. But the truth is that there was nothing wrong with Gary. He was just different.
Incredibly, despite everything, he was always hungry to share stories about his life and the daughter he loved. Hungry to talk about his failures and the job he went to every day. For example, he’d often wished his boss was more liked David Brent from “The Office.”
“He’d be a cool manager, no doubt.”
When we first met, to be honest, I did give him a hard time. He dreamt of being naked. He was prepared to look stupid and vulnerable and I criticised him for it. But I have to admit, after a while I actually started enjoying these moments of clarity. I really began to know this guy. Our conversations went beyond twitter limitations. Despite my preconceptions that there was something gravely wrong with him, I actually think he was possibly the smartest guy in the room.
His nakedness meant that there was simply no place to hide. His triumphs and worries were out there for all to see. He wanted a friendship where he could share who he really was, a friendship where I was not the irritated onlooker, but the understanding friend. Gary spent his days wanting to be naked, to open himself up to the possibility of real community.
I am certainly not a naked guru. I do have a lot of ugly red “life jumpers”, and weighty “life is rubbish” backpacks. You would think that it makes a lot of sense to dump the whole lot. Im possibly a bit of an emotional hoarder…
Like I said. Maybe ??Gary was the brightest guy in the room.
Maybe we all need to be naked.
Inspired by Matthew 25:35
August 19, 2013 § Leave a comment
“I am sorry but I AM a bit anal”
That’s how Alexis described herself. Not particularly a classic way to start off a conversation nor a blog.
“I can’t let go of crap.”
“I’m stubborn, inflexible and in an unhealthy way, pay way too much attention to detail.”
For most of her life people ignored Alexis because she was the difficult one. She didn’t get invited to stuff. If she was in attendance, the air was always filled with a certain awkward cloud which suggested, “Why is she HERE? We don’t know how to deal with this! Can someone ask her to sit in a corner?”
For many people, Alexis’ story was that disgusting place behind the toilet filled with dropped toothbrushes. That place where nobody goes. There was an expectation that while Alexis was HERE that life at this place should always be happy. That the air should be filled with laughter and celebration. That all should be perfect and that her mess really should be left at home.
The problem was, that Alexis didn’t have a home. In fact nothing about her was perfect. As far as she could remember, her life was one of constant suffering and hardship. She lived with depression for most of her life and she often felt that death in whatever form was the way out.
Then one day, Alexis did not come HERE anymore. She simply disappeared. Some people wondered and spoke about her for a moment, but mainly people seemed relieved. She was a bit “anal” after all and so her story was retired to the back of everyone’s minds and served as stark reminder of the sort of place they didn’t want HERE to be.
There are stories that are important. This is one of those. That’s why I decided to revive Alexis’ story. Mostly because there was something powerful there that wasn’t Hollywood. No-one believes the movie where the hero magically overcomes every obstacle. The fact is that despite her broken life, Alexis loved being HERE. She met some people who thought that she was the most colourful and engaging person they had ever met. They loved her because without her brokenness, her story would have been as empty as HERE- unbelievable and uninspiring.
1. At or in this place: