Monthly Archives: April 2014


“Stay here while I go over there and pray.”


20140418-121140.jpg“This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”


“My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”


“Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger.”


“There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything with God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”


“My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way.”


“My time is up, the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the hands of sinners. Get up! Let’s get going! My betrayer is here.”


“Put your sword back where it belongs. All who use swords are destroyed by swords.”


“Don’t you realise that I am able right now to call to my Father, and twelve companies – more, if I want them – of fighting angels would be here, battle-ready? But if I did that, how would the Scriptures come true that say this is the way it has to be?”


“What is this – coming after me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal? Day after day I have been sitting in the Temple teaching, and you never so much as lifted a hand against me. You’ve done it this way to confirm and fulfil the prophetic writings.”


(Words of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Taken from Matthew 26:36-56, The Message)


Rainbows: Today would be a good day to be at Victoria Falls

There is some debate over what makes the world’s largest waterfall, but Victoria Falls on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border can make a fairly good claim to the title, and it is absolutely breathtaking.

Falls 3b

What makes it even more special is if you visit the day before, day of, or day after a full moon – which I have happened to do both times I’ve been there, by chance rather than by design, and which is also the case this week. Night visitors are permitted for these three dates each month, and the Falls by night themselves are spectacular. The big attraction, however, is the remarkable phenomenon of the lunar rainbow (more easily viewable here than some other places in the world due to the lack of nearby city lights).

Lunar Rainbow

What did I love about Victoria Falls?

Victoria Falls are 1.7km in length, a gaping chasm in the earth, and there is no one place on the ground from where you can stand back and see the whole thing.


But walking along the length gives an impressive view nonetheless.

Zim falls

Visitors to the Falls will get wet! Up close it’s a little like being in a tropical monsoon, except that the rain is coming up rather than down.

Looks like rain

Walking between Zambia and Zimbabwe, you have the chance to look back on where you have previously been, and see how small you are in comparison to the thundering falls.

Misty bridge

Mostly, I have loved visiting at night, seeing the rainbows from the interplay of the moon and the water.

Night rainbow 2

No photo can quite do it justice, but if you have the chance to visit during the full moon, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Night Rainbow

What did I learn from Victoria Falls?

The name Mosi-Oa-Tunya means the smoke or mist that thunders, and you can see and hear why locals gave the falls this name.

Mist off the water

Walking between two countries is always a learning experience, and the Rainbow Bridge border between Zambia and Zimbabwe is no different. I learned much from the people I met on both sides about generosity and hospitality, as well as suffering and living ordinary life in the midst of political turmoil … but those are all topics for other days and other posts.

Rainbow Bridge

Victoria Falls themselves remind me of the majesty and beauty of this earth … and how small I am in comparison. Being there made me think of the psalmist’s prayer: “When I consider the work of your hands … what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for us? (Psalm 8:3-4)

Zim falls 2

Not only did we happen to be at the Falls during a full moon last year, but it was the “supermoon,” or largest moon of the year, which was apparently 30% brighter than normal. I enjoy learning a little bit about these kinds of astronomical phenomena, but at the end of the day, I also just enjoy being amazed and in awe at the magnificence of the universe without needing to understand it all.

Super moon

Similarly, the abundance of rainbows at Victoria Falls, both day and night, makes me marvel anew at this beautiful phenomenon. Again I can understand something of the optical and meteorological explanations …

Double Rainbow

… but I also love the reminder that this is a promise from God. The rainbow is the divine archer’s bow, turned away from the earth; God in effect “laying down his weapons” against us. That the God who holds the entire universe in His hands, in light of which we are like mere dust, has promised us that we have nothing to fear from Him, is a truly remarkable wonder to ponder.

Rainbow Bridge

The lunar rainbow at Victoria Falls also reminds me to experience the wonder and beauty of this earth with my own senses and not just through the lens of a camera! The photo below may not look very impressive, but it is a memento of an amazing experience. Standing on a narrow, rickety footbridge, high above the ground, in the middle of the night, with nobody else around, getting soaking wet, with a rainbow forming a full 360 degree ring around us, was a “wow” moment I will not soon forget.

Standing in the rainbow

Public faith: links to some challenging ideas from Rethinking2014

Rethinking 2014

As I’ve expressed in two previous posts, I am still processing many ideas from the Rethinking Conference in Sydney 3 weeks ago. It seems I am not the only one! Here are a few links, both to reflections from those who attended the conference, and to some transcripts and summaries of ideas from those who presented at the conference.

Mike Stevens

My friend Mike blogged his three key “learns” from the conference:

  1. Develop a thick faith
  2. Engage in robust conversation
  3. Pursue gospel outcomes

If you want to unpack what Mike means by that, read his whole post here.

Will Briggs

Another conference attendee, Will Briggs from Tassie, has blogged a “brain dump” of what he gleaned from the conference in three parts, starting here, which contains some excellent summaries of the whole range of speakers and topics.

Mark Scott

One of the sessions that I most enjoyed was a talk by Mark Scott, Managing Director of the ABC. I’d love to get a transcript, but at this stage all I can find is this brief article highlighting a few key ideas.

Mark spoke about the challenges of the “new media” environment and its inherent contradictions. Most significantly, he spoke about the challenges for Christianity, which no longer has a dominant voice in our society. He encouraged Christians to see themselves as outsiders, who should not expect a presence in public conversation as an entitlement, but as based around the compelling nature of the contribution we have to make. We need to be thoughtful and intelligent contributors to public debate, as demonstrated by Volf so well on QandA.

Mark also highlighted the danger in the new media environment that Christians will retreat and create their own echo chambers, living only in that bubble. He suggested that our best example for how to engage in a post-Christian culture is to look to the pre-Christian engagement of the early church, finding points of connection to engage with people, demonstrating who we are in how we engage, and providing a compelling alternative as we engage with issues around the whole of life.

Greg Lake

I’d encourage you to read the transcript of Greg Lake’s talk given at rethinking, which is on his blog. Greg got lots of people at the conference talking with his honest insights into both the realities and the political complexities of issues surrounding Australia’s response to asylum seekers. He worked in management at both Christmas Island and Nauru, but ultimately found himself unable to reconcile his faith with what he was being asked to do in his job. That is not to say that he now sees himself as a “whistle-blower” or even a refugee advocate, and I was impressed by the way he worked hard to maintain his integrity in the way he left the Department. But I think his perspective is a really important one to listen to when it comes to our conversations around this issue, and particularly engaging with many in our country who may not be asking the same questions I am. The Centre for Public Christianity have a 10 minute audio interview with him as well.

Miroslav Volf

Finally, if you want to know more about why I found Miroslav Volf’s talks so engaging, CPX also have a 10 minute video interview with him, which gives a great overview of his position on public faith. If you have more time, you can also listen to the session he did in Adelaide on a different topic – forgiveness and reconciliation – where he shares some of his own personal story which powerfully illustrates his theological argument. (His main talk starts at the 7 minute 55 mark, and goes for about 40 minutes, followed by some Q & A.)