Yeehah!

And God said “Let there be sport” and there was sport…  Yeehah!

I love sport.  It is really good when the Black Caps play to their potential – what a great result in the test series against the West Indies.  I think I might write a series of blogs about sport – I’m convinced sport is an authentic, God given human activity. 

It’s fun at this time of year when we look at all of the sporting highlights of 2013, and make some predictions for 2014.  I hope this will be a year when the Wellington Phoenix score more goals, the Highlanders score more tries, and the big one – Brazil host an awesome football world cup in June and July – 64 games… excellent.   I hope Brazil win, the South American teams will be hard to beat over there. One thing for sure, it will be a party. We can learn a lot about enjoying life from our South American friends – there will be many “yeehah” moments.

That would be a good theme for the year. “Yeehah!”  Let’s declare it today, 1 January 2014, that this will be “The year of the yeehah!”  There is something extremely attractive about the spontaneous cheer. If I am shouting “yeehah” without inhibition or care of others perceptions, then I am having a good time. Scoring a goal, skiing down a mountain, catching the wind with a full sail, celebrating an achievement of someone I love. I’ve been asking people to tell me about times when they have yelled “Yeehah!” spontaneously, and without inhibition.  Most of the answers included being in the outdoors, and playing or watching sport (actually a couple of guys said when they saw a pretty girl, but I’ll explore that one another day).  Sadly, many of us don’t get to have that experience a real exuberant yeehah moment often enough. We have glimpses of joy, and I think everyone would like to experience them more often.

In Christchurch at the moment the District Health Board have a campaign “All Right?” raising our awareness of what it takes to be well following the trauma of the earthquakes.  One of the keys is to “get your sweat on” and be active. We know activity improves our mental health – I would expand that to say, “try and have a yeehah moment.”

Have you ever thought more about that?  What does it take to be able to experience that moment?  It is like a different world is entered where time slows down, nothing else is important, we are fully absorbed in the game and lost in that moment in time (much to the anguish of many wives around the country!) Sociologist Peter Berger describes it well: “No longer is it 11.00am as it is in the “serious” world, but it is the third round, the fourth act, or the second kiss.” Some describe that moment as “a spark of eternity” or a ‘signal of transcendence’ – phenomena that are natural human expressions, but seems to point beyond the reality that we can see.

Writer C.S. Lewis thinks joy gives us the opportunity to encounter the divine. It takes us into the imagination, the world of fantasy, and the transcendent. In that moment, we are fully alive, fully human, and fully free. When we give ourselves to the game, we are free without giving away who we are.

We enter a better world when we play. We take risks, enjoy creation, and celebrate achievements.  In that split second, the feeling of “yeehah!” the place of utter joy – I think that might be a taste of heaven.

2014 is the year of the yeehah! How about we seek to create as many yeehah moments that we can this year – of course that means playing and watching more sport, more sailing, more playing games together, listening to more music, watching more sunrises, or whatever helps you have that moment – and taste heaven as often as possible. As one of my hero’s Jean Luke says, make it so.

Jesus is cool

At Beer & BBQ church we pause from the conversation before eating, and have “Thought for the day.” This post is July’s – What is “cool?” Who is “cool?” 

We know who we think is cool, and it’s easy to know when someone is not!  But what does it even mean?  (we looked a lot of photos of people and identified the cool ones – and not so cool. There was a  lot of yelling 🙂  

A couple of guys did some thinking about being cool, and decided that “Cool is a private state of permanent rebellion.” (Cool Rules – Dick Pountain & David Robins). 

It seems that Levis jeans sales took a dive in the 90’s (their market share halved between 1990 and 1998), and they think it could be because in the 60s and 70s wearing jeans was a statement against authorities (parents etc) but by the 90’s those people were now parents still wearing their levies, and their kids started wearing something else to express their rebellion.

African slaves have to keep their cool. On the outside they may have been obedient, but on the inside their identity was somewhere else. A guy I studied under once for a week, Walter Brueggemann, (one of my best study weeks ever) said the slaves would use songs to remind them of their identity, and their future, with phrases like “whitey doesn’t own me.”

Jesus is cool.  He carried a private state of permanent rebellion. He ate at traitors house with all of the other “scum” of society. He forgave the adulteress when others were ready to smash her with stones. He drank at a well with a woman knowing all of the many reasons why he shouldn’t have been talking to her. He broke the Sabbath rules, or should I say re-engineered them back to their original purpose.  He touched people (or people touched him) that they said were unclean, but he didn’t care.  He caused a riot turning over tables when vulnerable people were getting ripped off in a place where they should have been treated fairly.  He had a habit of turning everything on its head.

His private state of permanent rebellion (which got very public – and ended up getting him killed) was against all that was wrong in the world, including some of the religious institutional thinking at the time.  In my recent class Craig said something like “We have signed up with the same rebel Jesus. Sometimes in church he can become the domesticated Jesus.” That is a tragedy.  I’ve just finished reading The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe to my son, and was reminded of my favourite line in it talking about Aslan, the Christ figure: “He’s wild,’ you know. Not like a tame lion.”  People following him can expect a wild life of unpredictability and adventure. 

Jesus is cool.

 

 

Spock cried

We went to Star Trek Into Darkness (Dir. J J Abrams) the other night. I’ve always loved Star Trek, especially since The Next Generation, with Capt Jean Luke Picard as one of my all time hero’s (and he is very good looking…)

The movie was great – I really like the way the characters reflect the intricacies of the characters in the original TV series (especially Bones – he is hilarious) with one exception…

Spock cried.

Call me soft but it was a great scene.

In the 1960’s Spock is ultra logical, emotions under control, and his thinking usually saved the day.

In the 21st Century portrayal we see his half human side emerge as he realises what it means for Jim Kirk to be “his friend.” There is no greater love but to give up ones life for a friend…  It’s a powerful idea – enough to make a Vulcan cry. 

Tribute to Dallas

Dallas Willard died on May 8 2013 aged 77.  I’ve been watching some clips of him speaking on line and reflecting on my life’s intersection with his.  I spent 10 days in his class in June 2011, a time that shifted the trajectory of my life. I have never met a man like him, and can’t really say I know him – apart from those days in class as he taught us, reading his articles and books, and watching him on Youtube. All the same I shed a tear at his passing. 

I have had the pleasure of listening to some pretty amazing people over the years that have impacted my life. I think Dallas has risen to the top of the list.  If you Google him you will find some people think he was a heretic.  For me, that’s just makes him more attractive! I may not agree with everything he says, but his main message was about formation – growing to be like Christ.  “The Divine Conspiracy” takes a bit to get through, but there is plenty of gold in it, and “Hearing God” is the best book I have read on the topic.  “The Spirit of the Disciplines” is a must if you want to explore the idea of spiritual formation. 

He asked very awkward questions about how our current church models of discipleship were going, and yet never came across critical or mean.  In fact, he was probably the most Christlike person I have ever met – a beautiful man in many senses of the word.  What he said and wrote is great, but being in the same room as him was pretty special.

His favourite message was about loving God and loving our neighbour, and growing in that. Pretty simple really.  Check him out on Youtube – or www.dwillard.org

Thanks Dallas.  

Iron Man 3 – warning spoiler ;-)

I went with our older 2 boys to the movies in the week-end to see the much anticipated (well at least among the males in our house) latest Marvel super hero movie – Iron Man 3. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is a troubled super hero, and a loveable one. It was a fun movie.

It’s the first movie I have watched since returning from my latest course, “Interpretive Leadership, Exploring Theology and Pop Culture.” It was a great week, and we talked about movies a lot.  As a class we watched “Mud” together  – Director Jeff Nichols, an independent film starting Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon – with the star being young Tye Sheridan – it’s a great movie which looks like its coming to NZ soon – look out for it.  Anyway, I didn’t think too deeply during Iron Man 3 – I just enjoyed the super hero winning the day… (or did he?)

Thinking about it since, I remember something someone said in class about how we love this superhero who is vulnerable.  Tony Stark is a more broken person in this movie than in earlier Iron Man movies. After battling with the aliens in “The Avengers” (one of the best movies of all time!) he is struggling. It was suggested in the movie he may have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and he had at least 3 panic attacks I can remember when under stress. A super hero having panic attacks?

This wasn’t just an issue of kryptonite – this was human emotional struggles, and he needs others to help him overcome it – a kid encouraging him over the phone, and his girl (Pepper Potts played by Gwyneth Paltrow) ends up being the one to save the day (sorry if you haven’t seen it yet).  Why?  For love of course – isn’t that why we love the story?

Community, courage against adversity, and putting your life at risk for love.  Love the movies…

Is Ritchie like Jesus?

I love sport. I can list you many sporting hero’s since my childhood, and favourite teams.  I can recount many highlights over the years – Michael Jones scoring in the first rugby world cup final in 1987, Wynton Rufer’s winning goal against China in 1981 to take us to our first football (soccer) world cup. They still feel awesome.

Why is it that sport affects how I feel so much?

Ritchie McCaw is one of the most recognized faces in New Zealand. He is very popular, captain of the world cup winning All Blacks in 2011 – the top of the rugby union world (the All Blacks is the name of our national rugby team). He played those world cup games on a broken foot, and didn’t complain. He typifies the kiwi bloke – tough, hard working, honest, humble, friendly, laid back. I’ve been enjoying his book, and in it he says he can’t bring himself to write the words of his dream, “great All Black” so he puts the initials g.a.b. in his exercise book along with the things he needs to focus on for the game.  Kiwis love that. If he said he was a great All Black, we wouldn’t like that and would criticize him for it (regardless if it was true of not), but because he doesn’t say it, it helps confirm that he is.

We know him by his first name. I stood in front of a group I have never met before in another city a few nights ago and asked, “if I said the name ‘Ritchie,’ who am I talking about?” Almost all of them knew who I meant.

What is it about Ritchie that we love? What is it about celebrities that make us feel a certain way?  It raises other questions for me, for example: Why do I feel sad when my regional rugby team loses, and hasn’t won a game this season? Why, out of the five New Zealand teams do I have a hierarchy of favourites? (If I think about it, I have got a hierarchy of favorite Australian teams as well). My list is formed over years of watching rugby – the team that is on the bottom of my New Zealand list is because in a game once (over 20 years ago) one of their players eye gouged one of our players. When will I let it go? I haven’t actually lived in the region of my team for 26 years. Why are they still my team?  We have lived in the region we live in now for 16 years, but I don’t support the local team as much, and it’s the team my son supports. I like it when the locals win, as long as it’s not against my team.

When I drive towards the city I see a bill board advertising a housing company, with Richie’s photo larger than life, and I ask myself: if I was to build a house, would I use that company so I can be like Ritchie?

In February the sporting world was rocked with the death of Oscar Pistorius’s girlfriend. Pistorius is the South African “Blade Runner” sprinter with prosthetic legs. He is a worldwide sporting celebrity, and he was charged her murder.   On Feb 20th, Radio Sport host Brendon Telfar and his guest were talking about the public reaction to this incident, and Telfar said something like “our sports stars have become like saints.  We look up to them, and when they fail we can’t cope with it,” Interesting use of the word saint – I guess in this context it means someone we all look up to, a person of great virtue or benevolence.  Maybe someone to help us feel better about ourselves? Something about the failure of a hero on the other side of the world unsettled people’s lives. Why is that?

More recently, the high profile cricket star Jessie Ryder was beaten up when leaving a local pub and was in an induced coma in intensive care.  Again, Radio Sport talk back was dominated by a violent incident involving a sporting star.  Mark Watson was the host that morning (30 March 2013, 10.50am). A caller asked: “What is the problem in our society where someone is so violent towards another?” He described how people get so aggressive and angry towards sports people who don’t perform, drop a pass, let the team down and then endure the wrath of fans. Watson’s response: “Sport is so emotional that we live our lives vicariously through the players.”  Vicariously? I thought to myself, are you serious? 

I had only ever heard that word before in theological books. Vicarious – experienced in the imagination through the feelings or actions of another person, like vicarious pleasure. Or acting for another, taking the place of another person – like what Jesus has done for us, re-connecting humanity with a God who loves without qualification. We live our lives through others, and they have the influence to lift us into transcendence, to give meaning, to experience life, to be human.  Their actions can inspire awe and wonder – it helps us feel like a human “fully alive.” They are our people, our tribe, and that gives me identity. Sure, I know I’m not like Ritchie, but I can emulate some of his characteristics that are great. I love sport. Sure it can have its downsides, but I think the upsides far outweigh them.

This weekend, my team, the Highlanders are playing my son’s team, the Crusaders. My team needs to win for some pride. My son’s team needs to win to stay in contention for the finals. His team will probably win, and I will feel sad… again… and embrace the sadness as part of being fully human.

Hide & Seek

I played hide and seek with two of my boys yesterday.  We’ve had a couple of games lately, after a long time of not playing it at all.  Like many games, it’s a complete waste of time isn’t it? While I was crouched behind the tall tomato plants (risking squashing them, but that is a small price to play for the perfect hiding spot – don’t tell my wife) I remembered a book I read once – I can’t remember who by, but he or she described finding God like a game of hide and seek.  The fun is not in the hiding, or looking – it’s in the finding.  It’s true – the longer I stayed undiscovered in my perfect place, the more boring it got. Who hasn’t heard the squeal of delight by a toddler who has been “found” in a game like this? In my case the boys are older, but the fun remains. I could hear interest wane in my son as he walked past my spot looking again, by this time commandeering the help of his recently found brother who also couldn’t find me. The smugness in my competitive nature soon turned to a desire to be “found” and so I went sneaking across the lawn, only to be found amidst a lot of hilarity and questions of where I was. I didn’t tell them.

As the author I read pointed out – God loves to be found.  There is delight in the discovery of the Divine for both parties and (as I learnt again) it is much more fun that way. But that isn’t the point of this reflection.  The reason we were playing hide and seek is my request that the boys (including me) came off screens for a while. I’ve been reading a very disturbing book by Sherry Turkle – Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. It is disturbing as she explores the technological world and asks questions: in the world of robot care for children and elderly what does it means to be present and express care? In virtual worlds like facebook or Secondlife why do relationships seem easier through technology than face to face; with the idea that multi tasking (with smart phones etc) is a skill celebrated in the working world today, does it diminish our effectiveness? And what is it about our “need” to be connected all of the time (I remembered the number of people texting while camping or at the beach last summer and how the activity didn’t seem to fit the context), and am I really connected through texting or facebook– or is the ‘person’ that I want to portray the one connected?

Throughout all of her discussion, the question kept coming up for me, “what does it mean to be ‘present’ for each other?” Now more people can know what I’m doing or thinking through Facebook, but do they care? Do I care? My emails and texts are “vital” for me to keep up with other people’s expectations, but am I really enjoying watching this sports game with my son and are we enjoying each others company, while I’m focused on my screen?

I felt convicted.  I announced we were off screens for a while (much to my wife’s delight.  I think most mothers have a disquiet with technology and the impact it has on relationships), but that wasn’t enough.  I had to be a part of identifying other options of activities we could do together.  Something efficient and productive… something that adds value to the progress of the human race.  So we played. It was great.  And the best thing of all – my perfect hiding place remains a secret… until the next time we waste time…. together.

Why blog?

I’ve often been curious about those who blog, wondering why I would (and would I have the time). Then one day my good friend Rob, the kind of friend who I don’t see very often but love and admire, said “You should blog what you’re thinking Daz – I would read it.”  So, here it is… for Rob

Doing a Jigsaw

One of my favourite quotes discovered in my studies by Graham Cray:

“We do not yet know how best to sustain authentic Christian living here. Our current stage of learning could be compared with having some pieces of a jigsaw, but not knowing which are missing because we don’t have the picture either.[1]

It fits nicely into my dot to dot drawing analogy.  How do we go about making the jigsaw? Or is it more helpful to ask, how do we co-operate with God in creating the jigsaw?


[1] Cray, Graham, Mobsby, Ian & Kennedy. Aaron, eds., New Monasticism as Fresh Expressions of Church ,Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2010, location 215.