July 30, 2006

Tree Day

Ok ok ok ok ... I've been REALLY excited about this all week, and have been waiting to write about it until after we did it. "It", in this case, is National Tree Day, the Australian version of Arbor Day, where everybody takes a day to remember the environment.

Because Liz and I finally have a TV, we occasionally watch the news. During the commercials, an organization called
Planet ARK was trying to promote a partnership they'd formed with Toyota to plant over 1 million trees on tree day. And I thought, perfect - we should do this.

And so we did.

Mimos, at the last minute, changed our plans for a service and instead spent two hours planting over 300 saplings, grass plantings, and other small plants in an area down in Thornbury. Then we went and had lunch.

Planting was fantastic - the weather was beautiful (60 degrees and not a cloud to be seen), the foliage plentiful (as I said, 300 plantings), and the mulch slightly damp (when is it not?).

I'm not sure why I was so excited about this. It's possible that it has something to do with the fact that it was partially my idea to get everybody over to Thornbury to do this. But I think it has more to do with the fact that I've gotten a sense that Christians have lost touch with their mandate to be caretakers of this world. I think we all get that it's ok to use the resources. What we don't get is that those resources were entrusted to us as a gift, and we are supposed to use them responsibly.

We are symbiotes with this world, and what we do to it is done to us in return. While I'm excited that I got to give an idea that worked, I'm more excited about the gusto with which our small church planted all those seedlings. They got REALLY into it! All the kids were filthy by the time it was all over, but - and I love this - they were closely tailed by the adults. Dirt was everywhere; and so were smiles.

Mimos, I'm proud of you guys. Today was a good day.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away ... And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new."
[Revelation 21:1-5]

July 29, 2006

Seed-Planting Sheep

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
[James 1: 2-4, NIV]

So it's getting late, but I feel compelled to lay a few questions to rest for the folks at home. Many of you have heard (or read) bits and pieces of our story here in Australia, of a church called mimos and a dream to live and work with people around us as Jesus did. Many of you have also heard of or know (or read about) a pastor named Ruth who helped bring us together here in Melbourne, in whose mind this dream took hold and began to unfold.

And by now, many of you have heard that Ruth, and her family of six, are moving to Thailand.

The rumors are true. I can tell you this because: 1) Ruth told me so, and 2) Ruth emailed everybody she knows and told them too. The Harrisons are moving to Bong Ti, a small village just northwest of Bangkok near the border with Burma to work at an orphanage, teaching english, doing first-aid, living rustic-style, and all sorts of other goodies. However, the emails she sent out don't tell you how mimos is handling this whole thing.

There are, of course, a range of emotions, from "wow, that was quick" to "we're going to MISS you SO MUCH!!!" That's only normal. But as someone in the mix, I can say that there is an air of confidence in the whole thing. Mimos, as a community, feels confident that God is behind this (no, it's not insanity on Ruth and Colin's part). We as a church support Ruth and Colin with everything we have.

We've been learning that it's a given that change happens regularly, and often when we wouldn't care for it. Ruth and Colin were never meant to live in Melbourne a long time anyway. They (and Liz and I, in fact) were meant only to stay as long as necessary to catalyze people into mission, to motivate people towards Jesus. Ruth and Colin did that, and now they're going to go do it somewhere else.

I love this about the church; I love that we can support each other in the endeavors that God puts into our hearts without reservation because we know that He's taking care of the stuff that matters. I love that we can put even our lives on the line, not worrying about death - because, as followers of Jesus, even death no longer matters.

The reason mimos in particular can be this flexible is that leadership, in our church, is spread amongst us all - each person (children included) take part of leading the community, whether it be the time a family takes to lead communion together or the people who put into words the larger vision. We have a leadership team, yes, but their purpose is not to herd the sheep, their purpose is to be sheep and move at the shepherd's prompting. And so to move from one leader to another is easy - the leader usually come from within, a leader who has been on the same journey.

To tell you the truth, I want to go visit them in Bong Ti. I don't think I'd want to BE them just yet (doing laundry in a river just downstream from a farm full of cows and living as a vegetarian is definitely not my definition of a good time), but ... to grow the way they're going to grow in the next few years is but a hope for me at the moment.

Every follower of Jesus has within them the capacity to start a new church from the ground up if it came to it - God gave us those seeds. And so to the Harrisons - seed-planting sheep, the lot of them - we will miss you, but we send with you our love and our prayers. But don't worry about us, we'll be fine.

We say with confidence, "the Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can human beings do to me?"
[Hebrews 13:6, TNIV]

July 25, 2006


I present, for your enjoyment, an excerpt from Bill Bryson's In A Sunburned Country.

"Eventually, the random dial presented only an uninterrupted cat's hiss of static but for one clear spot near the end of the dial. At first I thought that's all it was - just an empty clear spot - but then I realized I could hear the faint shiftings and stirrings of seated people, and after quite a pause, a voice, calm and reflective, said:

"Pilchard begins his long run in from short stump. He bowls and ... oh, he's out! Yes, he's got him. Longwilly is caught leg-before in middle slops by Grattan. Well, now what do you make of that, Neville?"

"That's definitely one for the books, Bruce. I don't think I've seen offside medium-slow fast-pace bowling to match it since Baden-Powell took Rangachangabanga for a maiden ovary at Bangaldore in 1948."

I had stumbled into the surreal and rewarding world of Cricket on the radio.

After years of patient study (and with cricket there can be no other kind) I have decided that there is nothing wrong with the game that the introduction of golf carts wouldn't fix in a hurry. It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavors look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect. I don't wish to denigrate a sport that is enjoyed by millions, some of them awake and facing the right way, but it is an odd game. It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport where spectators burn as many calories as players - more if they are moderately restless. It is the only competitive activity of any type, other than perhaps baking, in which you can dress in white from head to toe and be as clean at the end of the day as you were at the beginning.

Imagine a form of baseball in which the pitcher, after each delivery, collects the ball from the catcher and walks slowly with it out to center field; and that there, after a minute's pause to collect himself, he turns and runs full tilt toward the pitcher's mound before hurling the ball at the ankles of a man who stands before him wearing a riding hat, heavy gloves of the sort used to handle radioactive isotopes, and a mattress strapped to each leg. Imagine moreover that if the batsman fails to hit the ball in a way that heartens him sufficiently to try to waddle forty feet with mattresses strapped to his legs, he is under no formal compunction to run; he may stand there all day, and, as a rule, does. If by some miracle he is coaxed into making a misstroke that leads to his being put out, all the fielders throw up their arms in triumph and have a hug. Then tea is called and everyone retireshappily to a distant pavilion to fortify for the next siege. Now imagine all this going on for so long that by the time the match concludes autumn has crept in and all your library books are overdue. There you have cricket."

In a Sunburned Country, pgs. 105-106

July 23, 2006

The Unsung Heroes

I've begun a new project, something I'm hoping will be a large part of my mission work here in Australia. I've come to notice that a lot of people do things that emulate Jesus, but nobody ever hears about them. Maybe the best way to describe this is the first post of the blog that will be the visual for this project:

There are so many unsung heroes out there. People who walk around in normal, everyday clothes. But just underneath the jeans and sweaters and dresses and suit jackets are spandex tights and capes and masks. Warriors, champions, legends - Heroes - are born and die everyday with nobody to tell their story, people that nobody will remember because they were too humble and too busy serving and caring for others to take the time to talk about themselves.

I am here to tell their stories.

I am but a disciple of these heroes. I do not embark upon this project for their glory, nor mine. I do not write to inspire you, except, perhaps, to inspire you to take action. To take action and become like these unsung heroes, daring to dream and imagine and reinvent the world around you for the better. May we all grow from the telling. May these stories be a call to action, to show that everyday people - you, me, anyone - can be heroes of the highest sort.

This project is not about me - it's about recognizing the huge amount of mostly unknown work that happens under our noses everyday. Part of this means that I need the help of everybody around me to tell stories. Write to me, tell me about somebody in your life who imitates Jesus, give me stories about people at work, at school, on the street. This is a project for all of us.

July 19, 2006

Discerning the City

When I was at the FORGE intensive, you may recall that two days were spent with Urban Seed, an organization that works with their rather peculiar neighbors (an odd mix of the poor, drug addicts, and businessmen) in the city. While there, we were asked to take ten minutes and walk around the block, or at least, walk around in the general area outside the building, and "discern" the city. And we were to remain quiet the whole time.

I must confess, I had no idea what they were talking about.

How does one "discern" a city? It's not like discerning a situation, really, because that would involve information I could process. It was outside my comfort zone, to be sure. But as I walked around, I began to understand what they meant; discerning a city means seeing it as it is, how it exists right now. This is what I wrote when I got back to the room:

The city has a heartbeat. As I walk through the city, I feel drawn along with the people, like blood pulsing through an artery. But I know I'm not supposed to give into simply being pulled along, I am to observe, to discern; so I stop at the corner of two cross-walks. And I notice that the people simply flow around me. I feel the heartbeat, I feel the rhythm. And I notice how incredibly loud the city is; a cacophony of sound, almost numbing between the trams and people and giggling girls and cars and horns and bells. And then I notice that nobody looks at each other. Ever. So many people passing by each other, eyes glued to the pavement in front of them, or the buildings around them, or the advertisements, but nobody was looks at anybody else.

And it feels sad somehow.

When I finally allow myself to move again, I start moving back to the Urban Seed building. On the way, I notice the trees. It’s autumn here, and the leaves are falling from the trees in the city. Nature trying to reclaim the land of the city, but man simply sweeps the leaves into street sweepers and denies nature too much encroachment. The city is clean again.

As people move around me, it begins to dawn on me; as they aren’t looking at other people, so too are they avoiding any eye-contact with me. They do see me, but not as a person sees another person; rather, as a person sees a tree or a bench, something to be moved around; an object. I feel small, insignificant, pithy. The light I felt this city to have is a facade, covering a sadness.


Looking back, it's a bit odd how negative my experience was, especially since I love Melbourne so much. Ever since I got here, I've enjoyed the feel of the city, the food, the ethnic flavors, the buskers playing or drawing or juggling or singing along the sidewalks. During that walk, though, none of this came through to me; I saw the other side of the city, the darker side that it doesn't want to let out.

But I also heard another music in the city; cacophony is just another way of saying infinitely complex. Chaos may simply be order on a higher level than our minds are capable of dealing with. For example, a tree looks to be chaotic until we realize that the chaos is simply a lot of things working in tandem to make the tree live. So too is the city a dynamic organism, with both light and dark sides, which seem to coexist without noticing each other. Urban Seed, it seems to me now, exists to bring the two together, not to coexist, but so the dark can become light.

July 17, 2006

Feed the Birds

[note: make sure to click on the links in this post, most of them contain pictures!]

A couple of weeks ago, Beck decided that Liz and I had to see some of the "real" Australia. I am in agreement with Bill Bryson when he says that he's confused by the Australian tendency to equate the best parts of their own country with the places where there are the least amount of people; ask an Australian where the real Australia is, and they'll point you towards the bush, the outback, or some other mostly uninhabited plot of land (of which there are a great many here).

But I say this with a generous proportion of humor (aside my confusion), because, while I love the city, the mountain she took us to was unquestionably beautiful. Mount Dandenong, out on the northeastern corner of the city's outer reaches, is a temperate rainforest, a subtropical reserve, and a little slice of eden.

When we got there, we'd been expecting cool weather, but it surprised me how cold it actually was; five or ten degrees (F) cooler than the city - I was glad that I'd brought a second layer to go under my jacket for hiking.

On the trail, and green as far as the eye could see, which wasn't that far because the forest was so dense with ferns (I found out later that this part of the mountain is called "Fern Tree Gully," a most appropriate if slightly understated title). The goal was a small waterfall just inland from the start of the trail. It had been raining, so the trails were mostly mud. Wisdom was absolutely filthy.

We hiked around for an hour or two before heading back to Beck's Yoot (a car ruggedly designed for the outback, with a snorkel for the engine and everything. And when I say rugged, I mean rugged - no power steering, and what steering it had originally the years of use had worn down. Watching Beck muscle the car where she wanted it to go was an exhilerating if somewhat frightening time).

After the bushwalk, Beck took us to a small restaurant at the foot of the mountain where we had lunch, and then fed birds. Lots and lots of birds. Parrots, more parrots, and a few cockatoos.

I was surprised at how much fun I had with the birds. Originally, I had planned to remain inside the restaurant and watch Liz, Missy, and Mackenzie through the large windows that provided ample avian protection. Then Liz kept waving me to come out and take pictures of her with the birds, and I can't resist the opportunity to photograph my wife. So out I went. She handed me the camera, the dog, and the small bag of bird seed they'd bought for a dollar, then stretched out her arms, hands cupped with a little seed in each. Immediately the birds noticed and took the appropriate action: they sat on her. Three, all at once, landed, one on each arm, and one on her head. Then the birds noticed me, and I became the next target.

I'm not quite sure why the birds liked our heads so much. Two of them rather liked my shoulder, and despite the fact that I never had seed in my hand, they planted themselves there quite often, usually after grabbing seed from Liz or Missy, and would crunch noisily away on their newfound prize. Consequently, my shoulders were covered in seed casings. A small price to pay, to be sure.

There were only three
types of birds there, and at that, two were only different by color. And one lone duck, who I think was slightly confused (the ugly parrot?) The first was the Bourke's parrot, a brilliant red parrot with blue highlights, probably the most abundant bird there. These are gentle birds, whose claws are barely noticeable when they grip your hand or shoulder - or head. The second, quite like the first, is the grass parrot, a bright green bird whose claws hurt when the bird - an obnoxious creature, by all rights - squawks the other birds away so it can grab at the seeds in your hand. More often than not, this leads to some sort of brawl, feathers flapping as birds scatter.

The last sort was the
cockatoo, a solid-white bird, save for the yellow crest of feathers on the back of its head. They're huge, comparatively speaking, with large black beaks and massive feet. Missy once had two, one on each arm, which was apparently very heavy.

All in all, a fantastic day.

Tooting My Horn

I had my first orchestra rehearsal tonight. It's the Preston Symphony Orchestra, out of Preston, sponsored by the city of Darebin, in the city of Melbourne. I still don't get how that works around here, why there are cities within cities. Anyhow, the suburb of Preston is just nextdoor to Coburg, our little chunk of concrete here in Australia. It takes me just under half an hour to get to the rehearsal from my place. And then an hour and a half to get home. Why, you ask?

We rehearse in the Preston city hall (but wait, why is it a city hall if Preston is a suburb?), which is just a few miles down the road from us and up a side-street. There is a bus route that runs past our place and can drop me off at the side street, so all I have to do is walk the ten or fifteen minutes up to the city hall. However, we rehearse until 10pm, and the bus routes stop at 8ish. So in order to get home, I have to climb onto a train, go into the city, change trains, and come back out again. Tonight was a bit of an exception, because we ended early and the trains fell into this phenomenal back-to-back order that left me without layover time, cutting a good half hour off of my travel schedule.

It's amazing what a good story public transport can make.

Anyway, the rehearsal was not too bad. It never ceases to amaze me how classical composers think: they make a horn player rest for ages (45 measures) and then think that we can pull a high A out of our collective asses. For you non-horn players, that's near the top of my range, and at the moment, I'm not in the best shape I've ever been in. It's a trifle difficult.

The orchestra itself is made up of fifty or so people, and this concert five additional soloists from local high schools that are each soloing on their respective instruments, while we accompany them. It figures that this would be the concert I'd join the group on (seeing as how it was those sorts of concertos that made me quit orchestra in college). But in a weird sort of way, I really enjoyed it.

It's good to be playing again, and concertos give me a good long warm-up for playing whatever comes the concert after this (the Verdi requiem, I believe). The people are great; they're a tiny little community of their own, and they remind me of my college orchestra (though the director is much more ... normal ... than Dr. Harman was, but I'm still getting used to hearing conducting in an aussie accent). I'm pretty sure that I'm the youngest person there; ah, the world of the community music group.

But they're not bad. In fact, I felt like I'd met musical equals. I didn't know quite what to expect, but I had my doubts when I walked in and the Preston Junior String Orchestra, mid-rehearsal, was mangling a simplified version of a concocted medley from "Titanic." Terrible song, and the playing was painful to listen to. And then we played. I did ok, but everybody around me felt both comfortable with each other and with their instruments.

It's good to be back.

Tomorrow: feeding the birds at Mt. Dandenong, and why I looked like a pirate.

July 13, 2006


[note: I had some really great pictures for this post, but go figure that blogger won't let me upload them. so use your imagination.]

There is a fine line between legalism and self-control. Self-control is when somebody sets guidelines to facilitate Godly behavior in their own life, based on their own issues.

Legalism is when somebody imposes their guidelines for personal self-control on the rest of us.

I think many churches have lapsed into the problem of imposing general guidlines on their people because they figure, "hey, if I have this problem, then everybody else must, and since I know the one possible way to combat the issue, I'll make everybody else do it too! Brilliant!" As if by creating another document, they can once and for all eliminate their congregations' confusion over what Godly behavior looks like.

For example, the latest declaration by the
SBC declares that consuming alcohol is wrong. I think this is really funny: petrol, also known as gasoline, which fuels cars is an alcohol. If we take this statement literally, it means that the SBC is encouraging people to stop using cars, planes, and any other form of electricity that might be an alcohol-derivative. Now, I'm all for environmentalism, and if you can get away with biking or walking instead of driving, fantastic; but something tells me that this isn't what they had in mind.

I know that they're not saying this literally, that they're referring to the sort of ethanol you drink. But if you read the thing, it never excludes gasoline. So much for literal interpretation.

The Wesleyans have had a problem with this for years. Pretty much the entire history of the Wesleyan church involves some form of "don't touch alcohol" or another and often discourages even going to a bar (it might be encouraging people to drink), despite the fact that Wesley himself was often in bars fraternizing with the pub-folk. I know that nobody (SBC or the Wesleyans) can tell you outright not to drink, or else; that's unconstitutional (and for SBC, goes against their coalition-like nature), and even they know that it's easier to guilt someone into doing something than to command them outright.

I'd like to point out to the Wesleyans and the Southern Baptists and anybody else that feels like listening. C.S. Lewis said that a vice is simply a virtue gone wrong. For example, alcohol is not something bad, and in fact, medical research suggests that having one alcoholic beverage (the latest research says it doesn't need to be red wine, as we used to think) each day improves the heart.

But I'd rather just look to scripture on the alcohol debate. Scripture is always a good place to turn, full of exciting and mysteriously confusing advice.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."

"Mother, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My hour has not yet come."

"Do whatever he tells you," she told the servants.

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples put their faith in him.

Yes, that's right: Jesus turned water into wine. He didn't say "oh, you know it's bad for you" to the revelers (many of whom were drunk by now), but he made more. And not only more, but the best there was.

A word of caution: virtues usually turn to vices when the quantity is altered (too much or too little). While we may enjoy alcohol, overuse is probably why we tend to ban it in the first place. So to lead by example (as all leaders should), if we find we have issues with consistently over-consuming the stuff, then yes, deny yourself something that could turn to sin. And yes, we are to not participate in some "permissable" behavior if it causes another to stumble.

Lots of people abuse alcohol, but when they do, they're perverting a gift - turning a virtue into a vice. It's no reason to say "away with alcohol, nobody can drink now!" As leaders, we are to set a good example; partake and enjoy.

July 11, 2006


I admit, it's been a little while. I've actually been quite busy for the last five days, at a conference in Melbourne.

I'm now officially a graduate student. I began grad school with the FORGE internship, which is why I was at the conference all this weekend having my brain twisted, pulled, tweaked, mangled, and otherwise misshapen. I haven't been able to process a lot of the things we talked about, but that's ok - I wrote as much of it down as I could, and I'll go from there. The internship involves several elements: attending the intensives (and they're called intensives out of spite, I think, because intense doesn't quite begin to describe it), working with a mentor, lots of reading and writing, and a practicum where you do a "mission project" in your local community, which should account for roughly 20 hours of each week. All in all, a really great way to be (or learn to be, really) a missionary here in Australia and get some grad school credit.

We also went on our first bushwalk, courtesy of Beck. I'll write a whole other post on that, because there are so many good pictures from the part where we fed a bunch of subtropical birds.


The intensive was, as I said, quite intense. There were a number of distinguished teachers, and because I'm a pompous ass, I'm going to name them because I got to meet some of them, speak with them, etc: Alan Hirsch, Debbie Hirsch, Mark Sayers, Kim Hammond, Darryl Gardener, Baxter Kreuger, Mark Pierson, Shirley Osborne, Olivia McLean, and John Franke. This is not to say I enjoyed all of it, or everything they had to say, but for the most part, I learned a lot. The weird part was how many different points of view and slightly conflicting ideas were presented. Most of it fit well together, like looking at the same object from various angles, lenses, etc. But some of it was just plain conflicting; one person would say that the gospel is about a light burden, the next would say it's about hardship and responsibility.

I know that they did this intentionally, to make sure that we got all sorts of things to think about and not get easy answers to spit out on a test, to develop and expand our minds instead of put them in a box. I liked that part of it, in a way, but it's been so long since college that sometimes I feel like my mind has slipped a bit, and trying to grasp some of the rediculously complex ideas presented (one guy talked about this philosophy that sounded to me like universalism until somebody asked him if it was, and he said no, then talked about how it wasn't, and that sort of made sense too, but ... it was mind numbing. But he was from South Carolina, so maybe that had something to do with it).

In the end, my favorite part of the weekend was twofold: Alan Hirsch's deep and very interesting lectures, and then a presentation from a guy named Marcus. Marcus works at an organization called "Urban Seed," an organization that mostly employs Christians (as opposed to a "christian organization," a term I intend to use as little as possible from here on out). Urban Seed exists in a unique environment, surrounded by corporate business on one side and urban poor on the other. To love their neighbors, then, seems a bit complicated, given that they are so different. So they began the Credo Cafe, where both homeless city folk and corporate businessmen come together to prepare a meal, eat, and clean up as one community.

Then they noticed the back alley of their building: it's the one alley where roughly 20% of Australia's injected drug use happens, especially heroin. Heroin requires water, and the addicts were using a faucet in the back of the church. Most churches would have just turned the faucet off, to discourage people from using drugs, which they did initialy. But then they got thinking when they saw the users come back and instead of the faucet, shoot up with water from the mud puddles in the alley.

And so the people of Urban Seed made a choice. They turned the faucet back on, left the garage door open for a sheltered place, and installed a way of safely disposing of the needles. Not only, but they clean out the alleyway three times a week. They’ve facilitated three mural paintings on the walls of the alley.

What church would do this??? I think our first response is always to say “this will only perpetuate the machine,” that providing the water only aids the addicts in their obsession, like it's our responsibility to make them stop. But how do we explain that the number of deaths due to heroin overdose – and the number of addicts – has dropped significantly since they began their little operation? The time the volunteers use to clean the alley puts them right in the midst of the drug addicts, facilitating conversation and, as I'm told, some rather interesting friendships.

The whole thing had the right kind of confusing to it - the sort of paradox that Jesus would have used in a parable - and I found myself captivated by the sheer lunacy of the idea; and yet to see it working was a beautiful thing. But I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it all.

July 6, 2006


I don't wear much jewelry, but I do have two pieces. The first is my necklace, a Christmas present from my sister, which I wear most of the time. It's a Celtic knot, which, to me, is way better than a cross. I get complimented on it all the time, and as a result, get to tell the story behind it. Fun times.

But that is not what I'm writing about. The second piece, obviously, is my wedding ring. I think that my wedding ring is probably the coolest ring ever. At least, the coolest for a guy (women have so much more to choose from, but that's to be expected since it's obviously not the sort of thing most guys are on about). I was staring at it on a train yesterday and decided that I should mention it here. Since I post whatever whim is on my mind (it is, after all, "random thoughts"), nobody should be surprised.

I love that it's unique; I've never yet seen anybody else with one (and I do look occasionally) like it, though I ordered it from a catalogue at Mann's Jewelers. I love that it matches its counterpart, a white gold number with modern-looking edges, but aged with time and stories.

I love that it's not perfect. If you look closely, there are nicks and scratches all over the surface, imperfections from the wear-and-tear of use. I love that it's simple without compromising its uniqueness; an ordinary band, but the little edge around it gives the light all kinds of ways to play around the edges and ripple across the smooth surfaces in bands. I love that it's comfortable; it sits on my hand without much notice, yet I'm always aware of its presence.

All in all, a good symbol of my marriage.

July 5, 2006

State of Origin

Whoever said that American football is hard never watched a Rugby League game. I'm currently watching "State of Origin," a game where Queensland and New South Wales gather the best rugby players in their respective states, and put together uber-teams. The game is held in Melbourne (so-called "neutral" territory, but I'm not sure there IS such a thing here when it comes to sports).

I was told that Americans wear padding because they're running full-tilt at each other. I think American football players are wussy compared to the Australians I've been watching. Don't get me wrong, I'd never go up against a football player ever; I can barely bike to the park and back without getting winded. But the rugby league players also run full-tilt at each other.

And they don't have padding.

I've never seen so much blood on tv that wasn't part of some murder mystery. In the first fifteen minutes, half of each team already had bloody lips. And these guys aren't built like football players. Football players are like trains - huge everywhere, muscles as big in their fingers as in their calves, and likely weighing over 250 lbs. Rugby players are built more like soccer players; thin, solid muscle, quick, and agile. But at the same time, they can take a hit. I just watched a guy get his legs pried apart by the other team (two other guys, one for each leg) so a third could get the ball from him.

It's like there are no rules; soccer meets football meets hockey. They beat the snot out of each other like in hockey (fighting seems to be the reason half the people come), run the field like football players, and pass like soccer players. Remarkable game, really.

Anyway, I suppose I should choose a team. Usually, I pick my team at the end; whoever won is worthy of my respect. But I don't think that will fly in Melbourne. In the States, there are enough people that don't care that I can fit in. Here, it's sacralige to claim neutrality. And so, without further ado ...

Go Maroons!!!

[post-game report: I chose the right team. Queensland Maroons 16, NSW Blue, 14. Suh-WEET.]

July 4, 2006

Master Plan

It is now 5:54pm and I'm very tired. I've literally been to the other side of the city and back again today. The mission? Travel to Ringwood, a distant land on the outskirts of the East side, and meet with Darren, Deb, and Kim to talk about graduate work.

Ringwood is pretty much the other edge of the universe for me, at the moment. It's in zone 3, which, for all you non-Melbournians, is basically the equivalent of ... well, nowhere in particular, really. Maybe Iowa. That's the problem: it's 40 minutes by train from Flinders Street Station (the center of the city), and then add to that getting to Flinders Street, and it makes for one long trip. Add the breaks in between trains, and the ride is about 1 hour 15 minutes for me, one-way.

Then I came home, grabbed a PBJ sandwich (for you Australians, it's penut butter and jelly, which, as I'm told by most Americans and Australians alike, is an outrageously dumb idea, but that's fine for you, because I like it), and then ran out again to catch a train (which was 20 minutes late) to Kingsley College (two train stops in the other direction from home) to enroll in the FORGE internship for which I'd just had a meeting. [side note: the train passes a station called "Batman Station," which makes me smile every time.]

All this to say, I am now officialy working on my post-graduate degree. I'm hoping to finish an M.Div within about three and a half years, including my time here. The five-year plan, as it stands now:

Now: FORGE internship, Mimos, and the occasional night out with my wife
9 months from now: return from Australia, begin searching for home in Wilmore, KY
1 year from now: enroll at Asbury Theological Seminary, dutifully take classes
4 years from now: graduate with an M.Div
5 years from now: I have no freakin' clue, but I think it involves a PhD and a job as a professor somewhere

It's funny, I've always been so sure about the future, about how everything would work out for my wonderful master plan. Maybe this means I really am growing up.