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Singing Home

It was hard not to have a tear.

It's even harder to distinguish whether the tear had materialized because of sadness or joy, because both are found in equal proportion.

I heard people singing this morning.

Sure, I hear music on the radio. I hear heavily manipulated voices resonating beautifully, reverbed to perfection, highlighted by dulcet backing vocals. These songs play well through speakers and I tap my hands on the steering wheel to the beat.

But nothing compares to human voices surrounding you in unison, singing the song of home.

We had staff devotions and prayer at the school this morning. The staff, lead by a group of teachers, sang songs of hope, songs of lament, songs of joy as they were designed. I wasn't really prepared to be moved by it, nor was I completely aware of how much I missed it. I realized that I'd taken group singing for granted.

Throughout history, people have always sung, and they've done this for a variety of reasons. Recently, most singing i…
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9 Criteria of Success

This poem is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson:
How do you measure success? To laugh often and much;  To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty; To find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a redeemed social condition or a job well done; To know even one other life has breathed because you lived
- this is to have succeeded.
There are times when all of us struggle with self-worth brought on by perceived valuations by other people. I don't make enough money. I haven't met a deadline. My schoolwork is lacking. I missed three notes in my recital. When I look in the mirror, I don't see beauty, I hear voices picking me to pieces.
When I read the poem above, something shifted inside of me - scales-fell-from-my-eyes sort of thing, and I began to see that perhaps this is a better/best definition of success that i…

Disquiet

I have many fears at this time.

I fear that this disquiet will go unabated for quite some time.

I fear that this disquiet will end too quickly.

I fear that people all over the world will succumb to hopelessness and tear everything down - not simply physical things, not man-made temples, nor palaces built for kings, nor edifices built to reflect idols of avarice, pride, envy, anger and lust, we could throw sloth and gluttony in there, too - but a demolition of love and trust, care and community.

I fear that we will live in a constant state of terror and chaos, not because we have to, but because we choose to.

I fear that we will remain unmovable, stuck, frozen in the latest way to hate other people.

I fear that we have reached this place in Isaiah 32:6,7

For the fool speaks folly, his mind is busy with evil. 
He practices ungodliness and spreads error concerning the Lord;
the hungry he leaves empty and from the thirsty he withholds water.
The scoudrels methods are wicked, he makes up evil …

Rage Against Asphyxiation

I sat on a small plastic green chair yesterday as school chapel was about to begin. It is a weekly moment. It used to be (how often do we use those words now) that the entirety of the school would gather together in the sanctuary to sing, dance, talk, listen, pray, but now that the worship world has paused, we are separated to classrooms to watch worship take place on screens.

The call to worship was spoken: the leader's hand was raised in the air for blessing - 'We begin in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.' - and she made the sign of the cross towards the screen. We had invited God to be involved in the process.

I looked around as the invocation was being spoken. The room was chock full of four and five-year-olds, their eager expressions redolent with joy. Worship was an exciting departure from what could sometimes be mundane. Their little heads, faced forward, expectantly awaiting what would come next, seemed to bob in anticipation.

And then, wi…

Family Feud

The Bible is replete with tragic heroes.

Some of them appear as rugged individualists bent on conquest and pushing into the land that God promised, while others show up unfiltered in their thoughts and reflections, men and women who struggle with the thought of a God who they believe is omnipotent yet strangely absent in times of greatest need. These heroes desire a different life and different view of this all-powerful God: they want to feel and experience the presence of the omni-loving God.

God does not always appear when most wanted, but when most needed.

For we who are neither biblical figures or particularly heroic (although it feels somewhat daunting to stay in lockdown), the need to connect and be loved by both God and family is still present. Especially in uncertain times, to feel valued is an important way to deal with isolation and separation.

I think this is seen most poignantly in the life of arguably the most tragic heroine in the Bible: Leah, the first wife of Jacob.

As…

Social Dis-connection

I like to walk - to feel the breeze on my face before the chill of winter hits, and to see the glittering blue sky, gem-like over the eucalypts - I am aware that I am not alone: dozens of people are feeling the necessity to do exactly the same thing that I am. Escape from the isolation, and yet strangely, the isolation lingers because we have been told that we cannot interact with other people.

We must keep our social distance.

If there is any one phrase that I want to deliberately scratch from my reality, it is this one. Social Distance. Social disconnection.

Let's be honest, we've been socially distancing for years, we just called it something else. We called it take away food, or conference calling, or even connecting via social media. Each of these carries with it a sense that being in physical presence of others is a dangerous thing - we could catch something.

We could catch something, all right. We could catch on to the fact that relationships, although fraught with poss…

Are You Lonely Tonight?

Some of the loneliest people I know come from the largest families.

It seems counterintuitive, I suppose. If there are lots of people, lots of blood relations, then relationships should be easy to come by and to maintain. But the more I talk to people, the more I begin to see the pattern: the bigger the family reunion, the scarcer the attention.

Here is an example.

I'm not sure how old I was when my parents were invited to 'Ye Olde Family Reunion.' For most kids, the words 'family reunion' are a source of trepidation. To engage with the extended family was not what young people would call a good time. To mix with long lost (or never met) relatives, eat hotdogs and chips and gather together at the end of the day for the dystopian family photo where seventy-five sweaty people are crammed together in a kind of multi-layered genetic sandwich (so everyone could have a photo of great grandpa and grandma with all their progeny before they died) was not what I would have c…