Monthly Archives: October 2013

I’m A Little Bit Jealous Of Wil Anderson’s New Job

I’ve been something of a fan of comedian Wil Anderson for quite a few years now. I think the Glasshouse and Gruen shows have been some of Australian TV’s high points for me over the past decade. I went to see his “Wil of God” show in Adelaide a few years ago and ended up using his conclusion in my sermon the next morning. While he and I obviously have some quite different perspectives on life, not to mention fairly different ways of talking about them, I find that the questions he is asking about life are actually quite similar to my own – and sometimes his are much better and force me to ground my own thoughts in the realities of the wider culture in which I live. Plus he is just really good at making me laugh!

So last week I listened to his new podcast, “Wilosophy.” And to be honest I was a tiny bit jealous. Because what he is doing seems like one of the best jobs I can imagine: sitting down in a room with a person you find really interesting and talking about their story and their perspective on life, asking good questions and together reflecting on what it might all mean. I would love someone to pay me to do that!

Okay, to be fair, when I was working as a school chaplain and then as a pastor, there is a sense that I was being paid to do just that. I loved chatting with the girls at school and when they asked, “Am I keeping you from doing your job?” being able to say, “This IS my job!” There’s something truly wonderful about taking the time to listen to someone’s story, asking questions that help them reflect and put some of the pieces together, and seeking to learn how it might fit into the bigger picture of life that each of you sees.

So last week Wil was interviewing Redesign My Brain’s Todd Sampson and they spoke about some of the people they called “nodes”: people who your life comes into contact with and you are changed, inspired, provoked, sent in a new direction. Although I wouldn’t use the same terminology, I absolutely believe that God has used people in my life in that way. Some have been friends and mentors. Others have been strangers and even people I strongly disagree with. I love that I can be inspired, challenged, and shaped by all different kinds of people. I look at who I follow on Twitter and it seems like a completely random assortment of theologians, friends, politicians, comedians, writers, acquaintances, thinkers, and bloggers. But hopefully it means I’m listening to some small pieces of their stories and being challenged, inspired, confronted, interested, affirmed and amused by how what they say intersects with my story.

The most important person who has changed my life, however, is Jesus. It’s hard to say that without it sounding clichéd or even corny. But it’s true. My life would not look anything like it does today if I hadn’t met Jesus and I hope my life in the future will look quite different from how it looks today because of the things He still has to show and teach me.

So Wil Anderson if you’re reading this (yeah right :)), maybe you are a little bit of a “node” for me. I don’t see things the same way as you do all the time, but I appreciate the way you challenge my thinking. And if you want to shoot the breeze on life stories and philosophy with a relatively normal, thinking out-loud Aussie who happens to have found hope in Jesus, give me a call!

Today Would Be A Nice Day To Be In Istanbul

In the past eight years I’ve done a fair bit of travelling (some of my friends would say more than my fair share!) Getting to Malawi in June this year brought my total of countries visited to forty. Which is pretty amazing, although I still have a long way to go when you consider that this 24-year-old British guy just completed a visit to all 196 countries in five years.

But I learned pretty early on in my travels that I don’t want to visit new places just to say I’ve been there. What I love most about traveling is meeting people from different cultures and seeing the ways they do life and faith. I also love visiting historical places for the same reason – it’s just that the people I’m learning from don’t happen to be there anymore!

Since I’m not always a huge fan of Monday mornings, I thought it might be a good day to post a reflection on somewhere else it would be nice to be. So today I’m thinking it would be nice to be spending the day in Istanbul.

What do I love about Istanbul?
Looking from Asia to Europe
Looking from Asia to Europe

The clear blue skies, the smells of the spice market, the friendly people, the uniquely beautiful underground basilica, yummy authentic Turkish delight, the craziness of the Grand Bazaar, the ancient treasures in the Museum, wandering around one of the world’s oldest churches, soaking up the smell of Turkish coffee, catching the funny little trams, walking from Europe to Asia and back, finding baklava to die for.

The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque

It’s a city brimming with life and full of contrasts. From little cobbled back alleyways to the opulence of Topkapi Palace, from the open waterways of the Bosphorus River to the dark corners of the Grand Bazaar, there’s nowhere quite like it.

The Basilica Cistern
The Basilica Cistern
What did I learn from the people I met in Istanbul?

I think perhaps that it can be difficult to live in a city that straddles two cultures much the same way it straddles two continents. Wanting to hold on to the rich heritage of the past and also wanting to keep up with the pace of modern life. I think in Turkey I saw more than anywhere else some of the tensions of living in a place where East meets West.

Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia

I also saw pure appreciation for life and all its goodness. It’s no accident that about half the things on my list above about Istanbul are to do with food and smell! This is a city where people know how to take time to enjoy. A day spent in Istanbul would have to include eating and drinking and soaking in those incredible aromas. So even if I’m not able to spend the day there today … perhaps it’s a good reminder to enjoy what I do get to enjoy today wherever I am!

The Spice Market
The Spice Market

Junia Who?

I came across the Junia Project only recently but have been really impressed with the quality of their posts. For those who don’t know, Junia is the name of a woman from Rome in the first century and she is called an apostle in the New Testament. (Romans 16:7) However for the last hundred years or so most English translations gave her the masculine name Junias, hiding the fact that she was a woman in ministry.

Obviously I too am a woman in ministry. But the “issue” of women in ministry has been one I’ve sometimes been a bit reluctant to talk too loudly about. Partly because I hate the thought that my life and work is an “issue”! I don’t want to be defined by this debate, nor do I wish to be seen as pushing an agenda. I didn’t go into ministry to prove anything to anyone; I simply responded to God’s call on my life and listened to the affirmation of the family of churches He placed me in.

I have been privileged to have male friends, colleagues and pastors who have been and are incredible advocates for me and for all women serving in our churches. I am grateful to them because we all need to hear their voices. They can say things that I cannot and say them far more powerfully than I ever could.

But I have also been given opportunities to speak around this topic and others because of my still relatively rare circumstance. When I was ordained I was the only ordained woman in my denomination in my state. Now, ten years later, I am one of four. Our family of churches have been wonderfully supportive, but we still face challenges in really listening to women’s voices in all their diversity of ministry experiences.

I‘m still figuring out how best to use my voice on this topic. But the Junia Project is challenging and inspiring me. I found this article on How To Avoid Undermining Your Theology Of Gender  particularly helpful. Sometimes it is the more subtle things we do that risk undermining what we overtly say we believe. I would think nearly every Christian woman I know would have personal experiences of the kinds of things this article is talking about, and many of us have also done some of the things it challenges us to avoid. We’re all learning together how to navigate the implications of the gospel in a culture still heavily influenced by ‘gender wars.’

Without wanting to jump on any soapboxes, high-horses or bandwagons, because none of those sound like particularly fun places to be, I’m looking forward to listening and exploring more of what it means to use my voice and influence well when it comes to the challenges facing women in the church and in the world today.