Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cluster Bombs put children and civilians lives at risk in Georgia

I received a press release from Dani at Survivor Corp. yesterday (a link to the release is at the bottom of this post). It details Russia's use of cluster bombs in it's recent military action against Georgia.

Cluster bombs, along with their close cousins, land mines, have been responsible for horrific injuries to children and non-combatants in current and former conflict zones around the world.

In May this year 107 countries signed a treaty in Ireland, agreeing to cease production and use of cluster bombs in armed conflict. Several countries have avoided signing the treaty and are downplaying the dangers of the bombs to the civilian population in conflict zones. Most notable among those refusing to sign are the governments of the USA, Australia and Russia.

As an Australian I am appalled at the Australian governments stance on these weapons and the lame excuses they are offering for refusing to sign the treaty.

Australia is a signatory. I made a mistake! See this post for more information (updated 1 Sept 2008).
I would encourage all readers to follow the links included in this post to get a better understanding of the problems these weapons are causing around the world. Working in former conflict zones I have seen the results similar weapons, such as landmines and other unexploded ballistics, have on the unsuspecting civilian population. Even years after conflict has ceased, these weapons still pose a significant risk to life and limb.

As citizens of the world I think it is imperative we speak out against, and raise awareness of, actions that put the lives and standard of living of the vulnerable at risk. The more people who are aware of the situation in Georgia, and are aware of the significant number of Western governments condoning Russia's action through their own refusal to support the ban on these weapons, the more likely it is we will see a change in the way things happen.

People! Write to your politicians about this. Tell people you meet about this. Raise awareness of the fact that our your government (if you are an American or a Russian) wants to freely use similar weaponry in a similar way in other parts of the world.

The first link here is to Survivor Corps' media release. I'd encourage other bloggers to post the release or a report on Russia's unacceptable actions in invading a sovereign territory and use of cluster bombs. The remaining links are to related news articles.

Please drop him an email or send him a letter telling him how abhorrent it is telling how glad you are that a modern, western nation like Australia would refuse agree to sign a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs. The more people who speak out against this the more likely they are to change their approach to this issue.
I'd also encourage you to contact your local Federal members, this is an important issue of global responsibility taking and accountability.

Thanks Dani for bringing this issue to the fore!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Busting Frames - Paradigm Shift in the Church

About a month ago I wrote about Brian McLaren's coverage of, what he calls, "framing stories" in his book Everything Must Change.

The concept of framing stories is not anything new. In the past they have been referred to as "world-views" and could also be called paradigms. Paradigms exist at many different levels in culture and society.

The interesting thing about a paradigm is it creates an interpretive lens through, if we think of it as a frame, everything within its boundaries is viewed. Evidence supporting the paradigm is kept and evidence refuting it is re-interpreted until it fits or, if this isn't possible, it's discarded. The problem with paradigms is they can be extremely difficult to refute, particularly where they become the common currency and voices of dissent are marginalised, no matter how convincing their evidence.

The tendencies with paradigms, however, is once the evidence against them becomes overwhelming a shift takes place. The old paradigm is toppled, like a dictator in a coup, and replaced with a new paradigm. The new paradigm takes over as the interpretive lens.

This process of paradigm shifts is very evident in the history of the church, no more so than now. The "old" paradigm, that of the Christendom church, is being challenged by a "new" paradigm and a shift is taking place. Originally (and even now in many places) the evidence against the old paradigm was refused, ignored, or assimilated. More recently a clear division began to appear - the old paradigm on one side and the new on the other.

For those of us involved in the process of transition within established churches the goal is essentially that of instigating a paradigm shift. But it is slow and it is painful, particularly where a lack of awareness exists of the manner in which the old paradigm affects (or dictates) the way the church is viewed and should operate. It's possible for two people to be discussing the same thing and to be at complete odds with one another simply because their paradigms are different. For example, what is "the gospel" in an institutionalised, Christendom setting may not be "the gospel" in an EMC setting.

If we don't fully appreciate this we are never going to be able to fully understand the process of transition. It will seem to those looking at the EMC through the interpretive lens of the old paradigm that there is something wrong, something missing. That the things being talked about and the actions being taken are somehow not right. That while there may be some merit in the approach being advocated to fully accept it is to "throw the baby out with the bath water". In the example I gave above, if "the gospel" seems to mean something other than (or more than) Jesus substitutionary death on the cross it's considered suspect, and often, no matter how hard we try to explain it and make it make sense it just won't. Simply because the other party is viewing it through a completely different lens. A lens that essentially has to be smashed if any significant move forward is to be made.

The great photo at the top of this post is from Rubenshito and is used with permission.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Creating Community from Scratch

One of the questions I am wrestling with at the moment is how to create community from scratch? Particularly with reluctant, or at least suspicious participants.

I've been toying with this question for most of this year, specially as it relates to the affordable housing project I currently working on with the Alternate[Or] crew in Bunbury. One of the key parts of the project is the community engagement aspect - this is where we introduce participants in the project to a supportive community, rather than simply book them in for an appointment with the program social worker.

It's been this theoretical aspect of the project that has gained the most interest from those we have presented it to. Most people (particularly those without a hard commitment to particular aspects of professional helping & social work theory), including a couple of politicians, recognise the benefits of engaging disengaged people within a supportive community, instead of just plugging them into the professional merry-go-round. Of course there is a place for professional services - all of the members of the organising team from Alternate[Or] are also involved in the community services sector in a professional capacity.

This is a real problem - particularly in a demographic that has been over-referred and knows the professional machinery, and how to manipulate it, all to well. People prefer what they know, and are going to be reluctant to step into something new - particularly if it is being suggested by people with a spiritual bent.

Obviously there are some important ethical considerations at play as well. We can't be manipulative, or deceptive about what we are trying to achieve, we can't demand participation and, some would say, we can't make engagement in the community aspect compulsory for participation in the project.

So how do we effectively navigate these new waters? How should we approach the dark, less travelled roads that exist between the real community - the one where everyday people live, work, struggle and die, and the world of professional helping?

I have an idea of my own, it comes from my African experiences, and I will post it here later on. In the meantime, if you have any experience with this I would love to hear what you have to say. Suggestions and ideas based on other peoples efforts in tackling this same problem are very much welcome.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Paintballing - Battlefield wounds

Andrew (left) & Sam, before the injury

WARNING: If you have a weak stomach, you might not want to look at the last photo posted below. It contains gore.

Alyssa and I took a bunch of young guys (16-19) paintballing yesterday in Dwellingup. We had never been before and I was looking forward to it.

Lyss was pretty nervous, but got involved anyway and the other guys were all pretty gung ho about it all.

Things started out pretty cool, we played a couple of team games and then, in a game of "capture the flag" one of our guys, Sam, decided to make a break for the flag, which was planted in a bunker of sorts. We covered him with paintball fire and he dived headfirst into the bunker. When he didn't resurface after about 30 seconds I began calling out to him. Then he appeared, mask off yelling "don't f...n fire, don't f...n fire!". Of course everyone did keep firing, the other team turning him into the paintball equivalent of a Pollock canvas.

I made a run for him when I saw a steady stream of blood flowing down his left arm and noticed a gaping wound along his wrist. He had badly gashed his left wrist, exposing a pumping artery and a few tendons in the process. It seems the bunker was lined with bits of colourbond patio decking (really a stupid idea) - essentially roofing iron. It was mostly covered by bits of old carpet, but Sam's wrist came into contact with a section which wasn't covered and worked like a razor blade along his wrist.

We got him off to hospital in an ambulance from where he was sent home, his wrist in a bandage but unstitched, because there were no surgeons available to look at his wrist and severed tendons. He was told to front up to the emergency department of the Bunbury hospital at 8 o'clock this morning, where (as of 15 minutes ago - it's now 12pm Sunday) he's still sitting waiting to be seen. Our medical system is shot - when a 19 year old with severed wrist tendons can't be seen to immediately and is turned away from 3 different hospitals there has got to be big problems. West Aussies take note - we have an election coming up in two weeks time, what is our government doing to fix our pathetic healthcare system?

Here are the photos (the last one is the gory one):

The Binningup Lads on the field - Ready for action

That's my girl! Lyss on the field. Girls were provided with extra padding - the black vest (on top of the God given stuff).

Sam (on the ground), Alyssa and Andrew after the injury - Sam's left wrist - the one with my hand wrapped around it - is the injured one.

The injury - the white bits are tendons. He partially severed at least one (click to enlarge).

The guy running the paintballing didn't seem to have much first aid experience - which was a bit of a concern - and was happy to let Alyssa and me take care of things. I asked for a first aid kit and was presented with a single gauze pad and gauze bandage. Not really sufficient given the amount of blood leaving the wound.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Rose coloured formaldehyde

Over 20 or more years hanging around the edges of church and the last 10 or so years playing an active role as part of it, I've heard many stories of the "old saints". People who's lives exemplified Christian living. People who we should strive to be like.

The interesting thing about many of these stories of men (I can't think of any women among them) who rose at 4am every morning to read the Bible in the original Greek, and who prayed on their knees for 2 hours each day and who never swore, or complained, or farted (ok, I added that), is the way they imply perfection.

I have often wondered if the reality about these guys lives, paraded like protestant versions of All Saints Day icons, is really as impressive as the legends would have us believe. I have also often wondered if these stories have really served to spur on those who hear them to better things, or, as in my case, they simply served to further instil a sense of alienation in people who where already struggling with their own inadequacies, weaknesses and failings.

Personally, I think the only perfect example we need is that of Christ. That's not to say we shouldn't look to the examples set by godly men and women through the ages, but we should do so in the recognition that they are not the icons of perfections some in the past have made them out to be. Perhaps we need to throw out the rose coloured formaldehyde so widely used in the preservation of the lives of the "old saints" over the last 100 years or so and get back to being real about the struggles, joys and difficulties of life lived as a disciple of Jesus Christ - the one, true icon of perfection.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Grass Roots Movement

I snapped this on my trusty phone camera just now while out walking through the barren wasteland of "Lakewood Shores stage 4".

Nope, it's not supposed to be Mary or Mother Theresa, rather it's a cross formed from live buffalo grass. A combined reminder of the relationship between the cross of Christ and the call for his church to return to its origins as a grass roots movement.

There aint no such thing as a coincidence!


The whole idea of 21st century people observing their way to faith (see my last post) is incredibly important to understanding evangelism and discipleship. This is one area that keeps spinning me out in terms of our Bunbury experiment.

We made action an important part of our group from the start. This has included things such as a street-side awareness campaign on child cocoa slaves in West Africa, and collecting money (our weekly 'offering') to give to local organisations involved in helping people at the street level. We also talk about it a lot at our meetings - why it's important and the way it's intrinsically linked to the message of Jesus.

It's really exciting to see these values rub off on the young blokes, and even more so to see them willingly and actively taking initiative in their own lives in this area. It goes to show how critically effective the "observing and talking" side of things is when compared to the more traditional discipleship approaches.

I think when we try and separate action from discipleship (someone recently commented that action wasn't "spiritual") we end up with a lopsided, ineffectively narrow version of the gospel - one that may make sense on an academic level but is difficult to apply to life in the real world.

It's also really encouraging (although not essential to our commitment to action) to hear the stories we get back from the groups we have helped. Stories of making a real difference in individuals lives. These stories spur us on and encourage us to keep doing, in Jesus name, the things we are doing.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Talking and observing the way to the faith...

Most people are seeking a spiritual aspect of life. Spiritual transformation into Christlikesness has always been the right thing to do. We now know that the reputation of Christianity and thus effective evangelism, hangs upon it. Current research shows that un-Christian, un-Christ-formed faith and practice is the single biggest obstacle to making new disciples of Jesus.

It used to be that people primarily listened their way into the faith; today they tend to talk and observe their way into the faith. Thus two primary roles of Jesus’ followers are listening and embodying authentic Christianity. Through re-practicing Christianity we can break the negative word-of-mouth of what has been called an “un-Christian” faith.

From Todd Hunter's "Three is Enough groups" blog.

Beijing Olympics, Commercial TV & School Projects

I was watching the 7 Network's (my old employer) morning news show, Sunrise, this morning and was taken by the "big sell" they are doing on China. Of course it's all because of the Olympics.

The show was broadcast live from Beijing and all the presenters and guests were sprouting praise for China; it's military precision in everything from street cleaning to flag raising and the wonderful way in which the country had embraced the "Olympic spirit".

I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I am finding the way in which our commercial media is going gaga over China infuriating. Tienanmen square is only mentioned in terms of it's value as a tourist destination, attempts at cleaning up the place only talked about in terms of aesthetics and no mention whatsoever about China's atrocious record, past and present, on the human rights front.

You could be forgiven for thinking (my tongue's in my cheek) the media had sold-out (or been bought out) by the Chinese regime and were now working for the Chinese equivalent of Orwell's "Ministry for Truth".

For the record, I think anyone who says China's record on this front has nothing to do with sport has their head up their arse. No matter how well the Olympic opening ceremony goes off or how many gold medals our athletes win (or how much money our commercial networks make from selling out to a Communist regime) it will not change the fact that people are living and dying under the oppressive control of one of the worlds worst human rights offenders. Only a few months ago the world was up in arms over the Chinese governments sale of a shipload of weapons to Mugabe's tinpot regime in Zimbabwe. How soon we forget!

My kids are all doing projects at school on the Olympics. I sat down and talked with them about all of this the other night and we are working out a way in which they can make sure they include the truth (in a kiddie way) about China's treatment of its people and minorities in their class presentations.

Please visit Amnesty International's website and check out some of the things you can do to help raise awareness of the situation in China. I would like to propose a synchroblog on this, but as this blog doesn't get many visitors that's not going to work - but if you do read this and own a blog, please consider blogging about it and encouraging your blogging friends to do the same.

Let's not let sport (and the genuine good-will the Olympics generates) become a mask for China to hide behind!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Boom time

My 2 year old printer, which cost me $400 new, broke down a couple of months ago. Every time I tried to print it spat an ambiguous error message at me. I'm a little bit handy with a screwdriver and so I went about poking and prodding it to see if I could find the source of the problem. Unfortunately, to no avail.

I rang Canon to find out who was the "authorised repairer" in my area and was given the number of a local office machine retailer. When I rang them I was told they would look at my printer for a non-refundable inspection fee of $90 and, if I decided to go ahead with the repair they would charge for that on top of the inspection fee.

I said I thought this was a little extreme and was promptly told they didn't care. They had enough business and enough people willing to pay the inspection fee that my business was meaningless to them.

In the end they did me a favour. I hunted around on the net and found a forum dealing with the same error message. A couple of respondents managed to "fix" the problem by turning their printer upside down and banging and shaking it violently. Having nothing to lose, I gave it a go, and it worked! No $90 inspection fee and no need to buy a replacement.

Over the last few days I've been visiting car dealers. It's time to trade our old 6 cylinder, V6 four wheel drive. It's costing us too much in fuel and repairs and we're opting for a smaller, 4 cylinder SUV instead (while I've still got some of my redundancy to spend!).

While most of the dealers were keen to do business with us, I did come across one who didn't seem to give two hoots whether or not we bought a car from him. His best deal was only marginally (talking less than a couple of hundred dollars) better than the recommended retail price on the car manufacturers national website.

I'll pay recommended retail for a can of baked beans at Woolies but not for a new car.

I think there's a link between the car dealer's and the office machine repair centres attitudes. It has something to do with the fact our economy is currently booming. People are happy to part with their money without too much thought given to whether or not they are being taken for a ride.

The problem with this kind of thinking - something the two other car dealers I visited seemed to realise - is that boom times don't last forever. There will come a time (some are saying its almost here) when people are going to be less inclined to pay through the teeth for everything and more inclined to remember where they got a good deal in the past and the way they were treated by the people behind the counter.

Something to think about!