I hear him before I see him. He’s greeting the morning loudly, enthusiastically, defiantly. And why not? He’s won his bid for freedom and set up home for his family in the park at the top of the hill behind my home. I pass by him each morning on my exercise route and, my, he does look pleased with himself. This rooster with his hens has been making his own, independent way in the world for a few months now. I guess they must have escaped from a chook house somewhere nearby but no-one has come to collect them and so they continue to enjoy their liberty. This must come at a price. No-one is supplying their feed anymore; they must forage for their food, hoping for scraps left by picnickers. The hens can’t have an easy time trying to hatch their eggs when there are foxes and other predators about. Their makeshift nests in the dirt, gum leaves and twigs look pretty vulnerable to me. I wonder how this Watership Down-style adventure will end? In the meantime, musing on what might be going on and where it’s headed serves as an analogy for my own responses to matters of constraint, freedom, risk, resourcefulness, pride and responsibility. Does anyone else have thoughts like these? No? So, it’s just me then…
“Spiritual people predisposed to psychological problems.” So reads the headline in today’s Sydney Morning Herald Life & Style section. Link to article A study was conducted by University College in London and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. People were asked to identify themselves as ‘religious’, ‘spiritual’, or ‘neither religious not spiritual’. Right away I’m thinking there’s some slippery methodology here. The meaning of the words ‘religious’ and ‘spiritual’ is not at all precise, so how accurate can any of the conclusions be? To make it worse, Sarah Berry, who wrote the SMH article, easily labels those who describe themselves as ‘neither religious nor spiritual’ as ‘atheists’. Oh dear. That really doesn’t follow, does it? Is this yet another attempt to drum up some sort of pathetic ‘evidence’ in support of the anti-theists? Perhaps not, as the SMH article does make glancing reference to an academic paper proposing that regular spiritual/religious practices have positive psychological benefits. Once you get past the headline and read the full story, you discover that the research from University College, flawed as it may be, does not actually give the atheists much ammunition. Quoting from the SMH article, “Religious people and atheists were on par in regards to prevalence of mental disorders, but the religious were less likely to have ever used drugs or be a heavy drinker. The spiritual people, on the other hand, were 50 per cent more likely to have an anxiety disorder, 72 per cent more likely to suffer from a phobia and 77 per cent more likely to have a drug dependency.” So what do you make of all that?
Flicking through stations on the car radio just before Christmas I briefly caught an announcer saying that he’d asked several church leaders if the world really needed a saviour, as the angel said that Jesus would be. The very question saddened me for two reasons. First, the question hints that many of us have no idea how messed up this world has become and how tragic is the plight of the majority of people around the globe in spite of our own excessive affluence and comfort here in the ‘lucky country’. Second, the question betrays an abject failure of imagination for how wonderful God’s intentions are for his creation; a devastating ignorance of the glorious possibilities there are in the kingdom of God, all of which hinge on the coming of Jesus who is the King. Does the world really need a saviour? Oh yes indeed! We need a saviour and only One will meet that need. He is the Prince of peace and the Lord of justice who will put right the evil still rampant in this world. He is the King of love and the Master of hope who has the power to bring into being the perfect expression of God’s rule in which all of creation and every human being flourishes for the glory of God. Jesus is that Saviour and his first coming assures us that he will return and deliver on the promises made by the angel all those years ago.
On a personal note:
· Ryan’s wedding to Miriam on 18 December was fantastic. What a great day in every way. Heather and I are delighted for them both.
· My preparation and training for walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in May/June is on track. The only unexpected thing is that after nearly 1,000kms of training since July, I’ve begun to wear out my (once) new boots!
· On 5th January Heather and I celebrated 33 years of marriage. Her choice of a perfect way to celebrate? Day 3 of the 3rd Test against Sri Lanka at the SCG. Yes!
· At the end of January I’m off to Bangkok to take part in the second ISUM Summit. This is the group for which I chaired the inaugural gathering last year. I’m very excited that it has grown and developed to include many more leaders from the majority world.
· Anamcara, my consultancy business in Australia is still in its fledgling stage. I’d appreciate your prayers that I’ll get enough work to help make ends meet.
· My work with Together in Mission in the UK moves into another phase on my next trip in February/March. I need to develop a team of trained mentors to take my place at the conclusion of my contract. Again, your prayer support is greatly appreciated.
If you’ve read this blog, I’d love to hear from you. Just a short note would be most welcome. I really do want to keep in touch, so post a comment and let’s have a conversation.
Grace and peace,