The Real Santa Claus

I read this great article on Tom and Christine Sine’s site and couldn’t help but share it  –

By Samantha Evens of InnerCHANGE Cambodia

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As a parent at Christmastime, I am more fortunate than most. My family lives in the Buddhist country of Cambodia, so we get to miss most of the commercialization of Christmas. Christmas isn’t even a day off here. But still, we sit at home on the 25th with our coffee cake and stockings in the tropical heat while our neighbors go to work and school.

No matter where we live, many of us are searching for new wineskins for the traditions we have inherited. Being in another culture and not having television has given me the opportunity to re-frame and rediscover the traditions that make up my faith without distraction. In the West, Christmas is a season fraught with empty sentimentality and traditions whose roots have been lost in time and eventually co-opted and commercialized to serve the goals of consumerism. But in Cambodia, I have space to sort through the intersection between my faith and the culture in which I grew up, and I can more intentionally choose with what traditions I will raise my kids.

As a child, I greatly enjoyed the anticipation of Santa Claus and the delicious agony of trying to stay up all night to catch a glimpse of reindeer. But as an adult, I struggled with whether I wanted to go down that road with my own kids, laden as it is with Coca-Cola ads and an emphasis on presents over the gift of God’s Son. Santa as we know him today feels so far from the baby born in poverty, who became a refugee in a politically violent age and a fragile, yet powerful, hope for a dark world. My indecision on the whole Santa thing led to me do a little research—my very own quest for the historical Santa.

Santa, or rather Saint Nicholas, was a real person, though it takes a little digging to sort through fact and fiction and figure out from which specific person he was actually derived. But as far as I can tell, the real Saint Nicholas is worth telling our kids about—more so, I would argue, than the overweight director of toy distribution working out of the North Pole that has evolved over time.

The original Saint Nicholas was a bishop from Myra in Asia Minor (today Turkey) around 300 AD. His parents died when he was young, and he gave away all his inheritance to help the poor and sick. He was also imprisoned for a time when the Romans were persecuting Christians and capturing Christian leadership, but was released when the Emperor Constantine politically legitimized Christianity.

The legend of Santa Claus came about when Bishop Nicholas decided to help a widower who had three daughters. The widower couldn’t support his daughters, and the girls didn’t have dowries, He felt the only way to save his family was to sell them into prostitution. Nicholas heard of this, and remembering the biblical value of giving in secret, left a bag of gold under the cover of darkness to provide for the dowry of the first daughter. When the second came of age, he left another bag of gold, and then once more for the third. Some say that he threw the bags of gold down the chimney.

Bishop Nicholas also helped free three innocent men from execution. The governor of the area had accepted a bribe to imprison and execute them, but when Nicholas found out about it, he physically halted the executioner before verbally upbraiding the governor until the governor confessed and repented. The men were set free.

Until recently, Saint Nicholas was remembered as a man who was generous to the poor, prevented human trafficking, and stood up against injustice in the name of Christ—all values that, I believe, are close to the heart of Christ, and values that I would love my children to embrace as they grow. The true story of Santa may be one worth telling after all. Justice and mercy in action are far more compelling than sentimentality any day. As we sift and sort the historical mishaps and debris that have collected around our important faith celebrations, we can bring new life to some traditions, discard some entirely, and in others, like that of Saint Nicholas, we may be able to rediscover with the light of truth.

Great Story!

The Fish and the Shadow (as retold by Richard Trudgen in Why warriors lie down and die, 2000, pp. 161-163). This story was originally told by an Yolngu man (Arnhem Land, NT), Tony Binalany Gunbalga, in response to a government worker who was trying to get their community to embrace unemployment benefits in the late 1970’s. The government worker couldn’t understand why the old people were resisting the generous offer…

He told the following story.

A long time ago, somewhere near here, there was a billabong. It was very beautiful, with calm clear water and water lilies growing across the surface. In the water lived some fish families – mother and father fish, old fish, young fish. They were very happy and loved their home.

Every morning the fish woke up and went about their work. The mother and father fish went off hunting for food, working hard all day. The young fish went with them, learning everything they could from their parents: where to find the best food, how to catch it and how to be on guard against sea eagles, ducks and other enemies. Their parents taught them many things about life while they worked together.

In the evening all the fish came together and shared the different types of food they had found during the day. They also told stories about the day’s activities. If any fish had done something funny during the day, other fish acted it out, making everybody laugh. At night the fish went to sleep early, tired from their day’s work.

The old fish taught the younger ones discipline of mind, body and soul, giving them direction and advice on all aspects of life. The young ones listened in awe to their wise counsel, hoping not to miss or forget even one word. The fish all shared responsibility for life in the billabong. They lived well and were very happy. They didn’t depend on anyone else or leave their work to others.

Then one day about four o’clock in the afternoon, the fish saw a shadow fall across the water. Something stood near the billabong. The fish had not seen anything like it before. The shadow threw something white into the water. The fish saw it land on the surface, sending rings out across the billabong. They all shrank back, fearful as the white stuff sank to the bottom.

After a while a couple of brave fish – there are always a couple in any mob – swam up gingerly to the white stuff. They nibbled it, finding the taste funny at first. But they nibbled it again and again until there was none left. When the white stuff and the shadow had gone, all the fish went back to their hunting and other work.

Four o’clock the next day the shadow came again. This time, because all the fish had been talking about the shadow and the white stuff, many more came out of hiding to taste it.

The shadow came again and again at four o’clock every afternoon. Now the fish quickly grabbed at bits of this white stuff, trying to eat as much as they could because it was free for the taking. The fish found the taste bland but it filled them up. As time went on they named the white stuff ‘bread’. The shadow threw bread to the fish every day, giving it freely.

Slowly the life of the fish started to change. They waited for the shadow to come every afternoon. At first they still went out in the morning to gather some tasty food for themselves and returned in the afternoon for the shadow. But when the shadow saw that lots of fish were interested in the bread, it threw more and more into the billabong. Soon the fish were not going out in the morning any more. They just waited around for the shadow to feed them.

For the first time in their existence, the fish found themselves bored at night. There were no more interesting stories to tell about the day’s experiences and they were not tired because they had done no work. Many stayed up most of the night because sleep would not come until the early hours of the morning. They started to find other ways to take up their time, gambling and things like that. This caused many arguments. Soon the fish were getting up late, but this was not a problem because they only had to wait for a while before the shadow came. The bread was still bland, but it was easy food and the fish had grown too lazy to care.

Trouble, however, was brewing. Some fish, completely forgetting their old cooperative ways, raced to get to the bread first. ‘We were the first to taste the bread when you were all scared, so the shadow’s bread belongs to us. You mob go away and find your own shadow,’ they argued. Others said, ‘the shadow comes to our end of the billabong. That means the bread belongs to us.’ They fought and jostled each other out of the way. Fish got hurt, which caused arguments between families. Sometimes these arguments went on for a long time, causing bigger fights. The fish had stopped thinking about each other; they only thought about themselves.

Then the old fish became very sad because the young fish had no respect any more. They did whatever they liked, following their undisciplined desires. It was all too hard to deal with. Many old fish became so sad that they died.

More and more the fish’s life changed. They didn’t teach their young ones the old ways any more. And they took and kept the bread for themselves, wanting it desperately, their hearts held by it. Many fish mistakenly thought the bread must be good for them because it made them all very fat.

Then the shadow began to change. Usually it came right on time and the fish were happy. But sometimes the shadow came a little late. This made the fish angry. ‘Why is it keeping us waiting?’ It knows we’ve been waiting all day,’ they cried. Then the day came when the shadow forgot to bring bread at all. As this became more frequent, the fish got really mad, swearing at the shadow and even threatening to hurt it in some way. But these threats only made the fish feel very weak because they knew their threats were hollow. They could not hurt the shadow; it was too powerful. It lived outside the billabong where no fish had ever lived. And only it knew the source of the bread on which they had come to depend.

There was now a deep feeling of emptiness and shame within the fish. They didn’t value or even think about anything other than bread any more. They lived badly, unhappily, with their hearts and spirits bound. Their lives became powerless and meaningless. They got sick because of their troubled thinking and couldn’t sleep at night. They had no peace of mind and felt deeply insecure, not knowing who they were or where they belonged.

Then came the time when the shadow no longer fell on the water. maybe the source of the bread had dried up. All the fish grew skinny and lamented its passing, because they were too weak to go hunting for themselves or didn’t know how. They had forgotten the way of the ngurrnggitj (black charcoal) – the time-honoured way of their ancestors.

More Gold From David Timms

With Him

We’ve made it too complicated. Like the Pharisees of old who mired Judaism in legalism and made it discouragingly unattainable for the common people, we’ve complicated Christian faith and buried the basics.

Our new covenant regulations, dressed up as “principles,” build a deep bog from which we struggle to extricate ourselves.

It’s honorable to want to be a “Christian husband or wife” a “Christian father or mother” and a “Christian worker.” But somehow in the process of defining these ideals, we often sideline Christ Himself. We define appropriate (and inappropriate) behavior and preach the subtle secrets to successful living. We dissect the biblical text, finding (or creating) additional layers of meaning, and packaging the principles in neat, crisp, linear points that do little (usually) to redirect our focus to Christ, the Living Word.

The term “Christian” subtly changes Continue reading “More Gold From David Timms”

New Book from a favorite Author!

I was in Syd this week, caught up with an old friend from school days, she is a singer with Australian Opera company, just landed a lead role in My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle!
Anyway we got to talking about books and it turns out one of her best reads was Affluenza by Hamilton (one of my favorites!), and as I read this weekend in The Australian, he has just released a new book. A topic (secular spirituality) I have read much about from others including Mackay and Tacey, but I thought you might like to read the article.

CLIVE Hamilton has considerable drawing power among the reading public, but will a book about non-religious spirituality based on the premise that we need to be good for goodness’s sake walk off the shelves?

Professor Hamilton took to the airwaves yesterday morning to talk up his latest offering, The Freedom Paradox: Towards a Post-secular Ethics.

He explained to Radio National Breakfast host Fran Kelly that despite a surfeit of material possessions, people were unhappy and there was “a deep anxiety because people do want to know moral rules to live by”.

They needed “inner freedom”, which was “the ability to act on the basis of own considered will”.

His solution was not a return to traditional religious faith, but a new metaphysics. He said people identified fundamentally with other human beings and by articulating and building on that sense of a “moral self”, a new moral certainty could be constructed.

Professor Hamilton founded the Australia Institute think tank, which he left in February after 14years.

Recently appointed the professor of public ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, a joint centre of the Australian National University, Charles Sturt University and the University of Melbourne, he is also a prolific writer.

His books include Affluenza, co-written with Richard Denniss, Silencing Dissent (edited with Sarah Maddison) and Scorcher: The dirty politics of climate change.

When canvassed, several other public intellectuals were of mixed opinions.

Former NSW premier Bob Carr was supportive of the professor’s take on the meaning of life.

“Good luck to him,” Mr Carr, a fellow environmentalist, said. “Few people who survived Auschwitz continued to believe in the all-powerful all-good heavenly Father or the scriptures.

“Therefore Clive Hamilton seems to pick up this challenge, ignore the illusions of secular prosperity and lead us to something different. Who would not see some value in it?

“I think the environmental urgency he responds to forces us to new thinking about the mysteries of existence.”

But columnist and Sydney Institute executive director Gerard Henderson was scathing.

“What’s next? The meaning of death?” he asked. “It’s not very fashionable to espouse religious views (so) he’s espousing a non-spiritual spirituality, which leaves everyone feeling somewhat confused. He didn’t know the solution, it seems to be to charge up with some communal force but he doesn’t say what it is or what it means.”

University of Western Sydney’s history and politics senior lecturer David Burchell identified a personal transition with Professor Hamilton.

“He’s become a sage,” Dr Burchell said. “It’s the idea of the classic philosopher’s life where you set yourself up as critical of modern life.”

It reminded him of “Western takes on Eastern philosophy”.

But he said Professor Hamilton had picked up on a general feeling among some parts of the community, where the mix of elements including living simply, being anti-materialist and spiritual, and this was exacerbated by extreme anxiety about climate change. “It’s incredibly emotionally persuasive.”

Melbourne Business School’s Paul Kerin was concerned about whose moral standards should apply. “The big issue for me is this is all about morals and has political implications that are not spelled out,” he said.

“I don’t want someone deciding political implications on (the basis of) their own morals, which would impinge on my freedom.”

Prominent Melbourne Anglican Ian Harper said truth was a thing that was being discovered all the time.

“What I would endorse is that Clive Hamilton is resonating with a very ancient religious and philosophical tradition,” Professor Harper said.

The book will be launched on Tuesday in Canberra by High Court judge Michael Kirby.

Source

Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27

I have for some time been quietly stressed about what my life will look like next year. It’s that balance of having enough (whatever THAT looks like!) money coming in with as much time to do and be mission/relationship/family as possible as well I guess is the fact that I one day want my vocation, life family job, community to kind of all bleed into one as much as that could be done. I don’t wont to be pulled in a million different directions yet at the same time I want a good diversity as I get restless with only one focus. I want to do things that honour my passions and sense of calling, yet I don’t feel I HAVE to always be paid to fulfill all these passions and ‘callings’. I then have the ugly issue of being a bit of a people pleaser, so when someone says, ‘let’s do this’ – I am thinking, ‘sure, if that would make you happy, or like me more or...’, or someone comes to me and suggests, ‘you would be great at this job‘, it pats my ego and I think, ‘yes I would be wouldn’t I!‘.

So when I read a devotional thought today by Charles Ringma on the theme of peace, I thought it was very comforting as was the scriptural theme (above). So I thought I would type the lot out!

Finding Peace Within
Learning to Be At Home With Ourselves.

We need to come to an inner peace if our life is to be perennially productive. Such inner peace is a fruit of the way we consistently live. It is not the product of an escape from our circumstances – although we frequently think that a change in our circumstances will provide us with the answers we seek and the peace we long for.
Peace comes from being at home with ourselves. It comes from being thankful for the way God has made us and gifted us. It comes from the joy of giving and an appreciation for all that we receive. It comes from accepting ourselves and celebrating all that is good, while working on what needs to change.
Peace comes from being loved and having the satisfaction of achievement and the challenge of new goals. Peace wells up from within, but is clearly related to the way we live and the choices we make.
But it is seldom the result of much-having. It does not necessarily come with great success. Instead it is the unexpected gift. It is the surprise. It is there even when we didn’t expect it. It remains even when the going is tough. And it can grow even in the midst of pain and difficulty.
If peace finds its expression in being at home with ourselves, we clearly need to stop looking elsewhere. Henri Nouwen laments the fact that “we do not trust our inner most self as an intimate place.” He notes that we “anxiously wander around hoping to find [peace] where we are not.” Because peace is not simply the fruit of our circumstances, it can only come from within. And it can only abide there if we are at peace with ourselves.

Charles Ringma
“Dare To Journey with Henri Nouwen”

Hope you appreciated these thoughts as I did.
Shalom

Scott

Mark Sayers makes a point

I am looking at a young man’s car parked close to mine. On the dashboard of the car is a plastic figurine, it is Bart Simpson, he is pulling down his pants, and ‘mooning’ the world. Normally I would not stop and think about this, but this time I am shocked. I am not shocked out of a sense of oversensitive Christian piety, I have grown up with the Simpsons, and when it comes to butts I am the owner of one myself which has provided me with great support during my life. I am shocked however because I think of all the passionate, stubborn, activist, wildly revolutionary young people of history, who have fought to change the world, to bring down corrupt governments, overturn oppressive laws and regimes, who have given their lives on battlefields to improve the world. Sometimes they were right, sometimes they were misguided, but they believed in something. Of all the slogans, of all the messages that this young man could have sent the world, he chose this one. Bart’s nihilistic, plastic moon, exposes more than just are bare butt, it exposes our total lack of cultural depth, and reveals to us just how superflat our culture has become…Read full article at Mark Sayers brilliant blog

Stuff We Use

Have you ever considered that caring for our planet is one of your values?
What about reducing your waste (no not your waist!!)?
Recycling? Using less?
Living in smaller communities, closer to home?
Considering the lives of the people who produce the stuff we consume in our western culture?
Do you consider ‘Creation Care’ a part of your stewardship?

Are these some of your values?

Then you will enjoy and maybe even be challenged by this teaching clip. (Which is being Temperamental today)

It kind of says it all, sit down take a few minutes. I think kids should watch it too, I guess tweenagers upwards.

Here is a great (or not so great) quote, quoted in the video by the commentator, it was said by Victor Lebeau, a leading post war economist-

“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption … we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever accelerating rate.”

Love Rules

Folks, you need to see this example of the love of Christ at work in our city.
Seriously, if you are wanting someone to come and share with your family, your church, your small group, your youth ministry, your elderly congregation, your play group mums, your craft group, you left wing anti-nuclear group, your right wing people for high morals group, your men’s wood working group, ladies bible study group…your whatever group – Jarrod McKenna will bless you and challenge you to think more deeply about living out the message of Christ in ‘real life’ tangible ways.
email me [Scott] for Jarrod’s contact details.

Click here for the full story.

Joondalup Community Garden and TEMENOS

Temenos (τέμενος) is a Greek word meaning “Sacred Space”.
I desire our new community garden to be just that, a sacred space in which our lives intersect with each other and with God as we journey together.
Not everyone in our little group in the northern suburbs will be keen gardeners, but my prayer is that we all might discover a safe, even sacred space in this dedicated block of land in Joondalup. Maybe a place of prayer, work, worship, mate-ship, a place of service and community – who knows!

Presently it is a pile a weeds, black sand and rubble.
Presently we are a confused group of dreamers not too sure if this dream will become anything like we have dreamed about, but willing to give it a go and willing to make the construction stage just as important as the ongoing seasonal stages of sowing and reaping.

We have decided to create a separate blog mainly for people connected to the garden in some way shape or another.
So if the community garden thing presses you buttons have a look.