I visited my Mum in Adelaide last week. She’s 87 but still plays a tough game of Scrabble. I love the way she’s still such a forward thinking person. She’s one of those rare old-timers: she’s happy to see the church change in any way that will be beneficial for the generation of her grandchildren. May her tribe increase! Many years ago she handed on leadership to the next generation and has continued to cheer them on even when they did things she privately thought were misguided. Now that generation is at the point of handing on to the generation after them, but something has changed. The baby-boomers are having difficulty getting off the stage. Many are not yet ready to release control. But those who are ready to pass the baton strike another difficulty: the next generation are not especially interested in taking over what they have been doing. This presents a greater challenge than that faced by my Mum. Generational change of leadership at this juncture requires faith that God will do a new thing through those who take over and make not small but massive changes to what they inherit. Can the baby-boomers believe that God’s kingdom can go forward using completely different ways and means to the ones with which they were entrusted?
I wonder what I’ll be like at 87. I’ve been mulling this over in the mornings, along with my usual morning routine of praying the Lord’s Prayer. Then I thought, why not try to pray the Lord’s Prayer with the perspective of an octogenarian? I really ought to road test this with my Mum, but I’ll give you the rough version. Maybe you might like to suggest some embellishments or reshaping. As a person in my 80s, I hope I can still pray, “our Father” with a sense of childlike trust in God. I hope I never get so old that I think I’ve outgrown that simple dependence on my heavenly Dad. I hope I can still pray, “Your kingdom come” with passion, with longing, yearning and openness to see God’s reign and rule established in my life, my church, my community and my country. I hope I’m still prepared to base my security in God’s daily supply of my needs – my “daily bread” – rather than close up into assuring my own security by protecting my superannuation and surrounding myself with predictability. I don’t want to end up so risk-averse that I no longer experience the thrill of living by faith. I hope I can maintain a soft, repentant heart to easily ask God to forgive my sin, and a gracious spirit to let go of hurt and offense and forgive others as a matter of course. I hope I don’t get to the point where I think I can handle things by myself; that I’m not liable to temptation. I hope I will always have a right and healthy fear of what I might become if left to chart my own course and pray fervently, “lead me not into temptation”. Finally, I hope I can confidently entrust all my uncertainty and sense of vulnerability and feebleness to the mighty One who can and will “deliver me from evil”.
Are you enjoying your reading these days? I am, so let me give you a few brief reviews. Two recent books on mentoring are worthy of special mention. First up is The Lost Art of Lingering by Rowland Foreman, for which I wrote this commendation:
If you’re hungry for a life of discipleship in the company of others, Foreman’s book is a smorgasbord of the finest fare. With a generous spirit, he embraces a wide range of approaches and distils the essence of ‘one-anothering’ into insightful teaching, engaging reflections and a host of practical tools and resources. This is a book you’ll return to over and over again in the years ahead, such is the wealth of wisdom it contains. This is the most useful and encouraging book on mentoring that I’ve read for many years.
Then I picked up Deep Mentoring by Randy Reese and Robert Loane from the bargain bin at Koorong. And at $10 it really was a bargain. I was drawn in right away by their emphasis on ‘noticing God’s already present action’ in the lives of others. The book relies heavily on Bobby Clinton’s work on leadership, but it manages to overcome the clunky ‘engineer’ feel that characterised much of Clinton’s earlier work. This is a more soulful offering, delivered with lots of engaging, chatty stories. I’ve also been enjoying Father Chris Jamison’s Finding Happiness: Monastic Steps for A Fulfilling Life. After publishing this book in 2008, Jamison became famous through the BBC series ‘The Monastery’ which drew together lessons from his book and daily life at Worth Abbey where he was Abbot at the time. His basic proposals are that vice makes us miserable and that happiness may be achieved by adopting ancient Christian practices that combat the seven deadly sins. My only disagreement is over his treatment of anger, which he says is a sin in itself and must be denied. And then there is Flunking Sainthood by Jana Riess. This book might best be described as devotional comedy. Her subtitle is ‘A year of breaking the Sabbath, forgetting to pray and still loving my neighbor’. She’s both funny and spiritual at the same time. A great read.
The campaign for the Australian Federal election has one week to run. More than in any previous election I’ve followed I am profoundly disappointed with the alternatives we are being offered. I find election media articles and propaganda painful to read; the television ads and programs depressing to watch. I’m ready to admit that I’ve become a grumpy old man but I think the dissatisfaction I feel is not just because I’m hard to please. The bias of some media outlets is breathtaking in its brazenness. The naked lust for power from both the major party leaders is sickening. I’m struck by the obsession with economic policy in this land of plenty and how each position is evaluated on the basis of personal financial impact for the voters. Where are the serious attempts at social policy based on a vision of a just and good society? I’m straining to discern from our politicians any sort of vision for this country that contains echoes of the kingdom of God. I’d like to say that we have a right to expect better than this, but then I recall he truism that a country gets the government it deserves. Oh Lord, you have blessed us with outrageous abundance, yet we are selfish with our wealth and greedy for more. What will you do with us as a nation if we continue to refuse your call to justice, mercy and faith? Please stir your people to speak out for what is right, to apply their private values of grace and truth to matters of public policy and to spread seeds of hope for a new way of living together in this wonderful land in which you have set us. Here endeth the rant. And the Rave.
Grace and peace,