Between a Hard Rock and a Place.

August 16, 2008

Don’t give up meeting together

Filed under: Church — camharris @ 1:00 am

A lot of the blogs I have been reading for a while have a lot of links to other blogs.  From time to time, I will click on these other blogsites and have a read of what is going on in other parts of the world and other parts of town.  A lot of the primary blogs I read belong to people who have been rethinking church, so it is not surprising that a lot of the sites on their blogrolls belong to people who have also been rethinking church.  When I say ‘a lot of the sites’ – there are a lot of sites talking about church.

There are sites dedicated to the topic of church, from the grumble-bum pew warmer, to the burned out dishevelled ‘worship leader’, to the questioning pragmatist who just can’t understand why church things are done this way.  There are hundreds of them.  It is an interesting phenomenon on its own.

I have had many conversations with many people about the topic of church over the last seven years or so. I am surprising even myself that my first post on this topic isn’t listing the 47 issues, questions and comments regarding the traditional institution of church.

So Christians are told in the Bible to not stop meeting together.  This, I think, is the best idea ever, well one of the best at least.  When I think about ‘meeting together’, I take it to mean that you meet with others who are going to be looking into people’s eyes, they are going to be talking to each other with a level of intimacy and connection.  I take it to mean that you can share freely where you are at with confidence and trust in those with whom you gather.  I take it to mean you can celebrate each other’s triumphs, birthdays, winnings at the horses, graduations and promotions together.  I take it to mean you can mourn together – when grief is ripping one, it is ripping others.

The bittersweet part of meeting together in such a way is that each person is forced to face their own humanity.  If there are things going on in your life that you know are not right, it is going to be quite a job to relate honestly to anyone.  You begin to avoid the eye-contact, you begin to not share what is really going on, you begin to get reluctant to meet together.  This happens because in such a group, you know that you are going to have to face your humanity in relationship, or use all your energy and skills from Year 9 Drama class to convey a message that everything is going fabulously.  Some people can do this well.  I suck at it, thankfully.  I imagine it could become second nature after a time, or people may just come to expect you engage with them to a point, and then no further. 

When Christians are told to not stop meeting together, I think it is mainly because when we are out of such relationship with others, we don’t need to face who we really are.  It is a painful relief when another sees who you really are, warts and all, and doesn’t walk away.  It is disturbingly comforting when another who knows you so well can see right past your blank stare, or empty comment, or superficial conversation and know what you are really thinking.  And of course I am talking from experience, once again, thankfully.

Tangent from talking about church?  Not at all.  For me, I guess it is because I have been in or around churches all my life, and I have been able to quite comfortably get away without this facing up to myself within the church setting.  I have been able to be at the lowest points in my life, scraping the bottom of the spiritual barrel, hurting those close to me, and still lead a kick-arse ‘worship service’ (although I wouldn’t usually introduce it that way), smile while shaking people’s hands, and shown keen involvement in the ‘fellowship’ afterwards (don’t worry, I am confused what this actually means too).

In all honesty, in most church places that I have been a part of, there have been people who I can relate to in this authentic way, and I love them deeply.  It is just that the time to relate to each other in such honesty was very difficult to find at a church service on a Sunday morning.  Besides, the music practices, setting up sound systems, following orders of services, coordinating notices, rosters, pack-ups etc. took up most of the opportunities that may have come about.

I am no longer surprised that I feel a strong sense of this authentic relationship at the chemo-gym I currently go to.  There are few secrets.  People tell you where they are really at, often before you get a chance to ask.  When time is limited and futures uncertain, there are few greater rewards than knowing another human being knows who you really are.  It is in this relationship that you are revealed to yourself – your strengths, weaknesses, joys, hurts, celebrations and sorrows. 

For me, at this point in my life, ‘the church’ is a collective noun wherever Christians are at any point in time and space, and gathering together must be dangerous enough to have our true selves show up through our relationships with others.  I am really not interested in perpetuating or participating in any gathering where the ‘service’ makes it difficult for this relationship and opening up to take place. Besides, I have personally found it way to easy to hide in these church places. It would be understandable to think they were structured to actually discourage this interaction taking place.  There is a real risk that many people may stop coming.

There is a big popular church nearby that has big advertising posters on the street saying “Real People, Real Life, Real” or something like that.  The people pictured with these words are all white, happy, middle-class model citizens with bright-coloured clothing and white teeth.  P-lease.  I guess they didn’t get the version of ClipArt that had pictures of the grieving, the confused, the average-looking or the un-air-brushed.  

So I am not sure if all these people that are rethinking church at this time have had the same kind of experience, or would agree.  Whatever the cause, I think it is a good thing that is going on.  It seems the church is craving to get real, and it involves going through this process.  Maybe these people will chase their tails for 15 years and return back to the congregations of their past, finding comfort in 20 minutes of singing, notices, sermon, more singing and fellowship afterwards. 

No, I don’t think so either.


Please read the following really fast in a monotone voice, disclaimer style:  The writer reserves the right to change his thinking in the future at will and acknowledges he doesn’t have the answers but rather just a lot of questions.  All thoughts are regarded as necessary in the attempt to understand issues the writer deems personally important.  Consult your doctor if pain persists. Fees and charges may apply. 



August 12, 2008

Black marks in history.

Filed under: Uncategorized — camharris @ 10:16 am

I quote my sister’s quote and statement.

“Quotes today from George W Bush after his discussion with Vladimir Putin regarding the bombing in Georgia…
“I said this violence is unacceptable, I expressed my grave concern about the disproportionate response of Russia and that we strongly condemn bombing outside of South Ossetia. I was very firm with Vladimir Putin.”

WHAT?! I can’t articulate my incredulity.”



August 10, 2008

Hazy Perceptions

Filed under: Global — camharris @ 11:22 pm

Having the Olympics on at the moment in China, I am completely gobsmacked as to how naive sporting and news commentators have been in their comments regarding the pollution.  There is no doubt that there is a significant pollution problem. I think the only place that you don’t see haze in the coverage is during the underwater shots in the pool.

So we are seeing a lot of evidence on TV at the moment of ‘China’s pollution problem’.  Bollocks.  Chances are that something you wear, eat, drive, watch, listen to, play or throw out is made in China.  It is your pollution bucko.  It is my pollution.  

It was interesting to see the response of the athletes getting off the planes in Beijing with face masks on because the air was so bad, or the health concerns from team doctors about how this could be damaging to the Olympic competitors.  It seems the world now has been confronted en masse to the reality and normality of the millions of people living in greater Asia affected.  Of course it is unhealthy.  Of course it kills people.  Of course it is getting worse.  But it hasn’t seemed to be that much of a deal until representatives from all over the world have to breath it, see it, taste it.  

But we can all rest easy. I am fairly certain that two weeks after the Olympics are over, it will return to being not much of a big deal again.

August 3, 2008

Mature-age Upstarts

Filed under: Generational — camharris @ 11:24 pm

Starting back at uni this last week has been interesting.  Coming into dual coded units where there is a mixture of post grad students and undergrads presents some challenging dynamics.

One of my tutors is probably about my age, and I feel as though I might be one of only a few post grad students.  The rest seem to be largely Generation Y.  Now I am not going to generalise and say that this group of society need to take a good hard look at themselves, but they do, generally.

During the introductory workshop, we are all in front of computers, one each.  Mr Tutor had about 40 minutes of information to get through and instructions to convey.  During the 40 minutes, my eyes were glued on him, making sure he knew that I was giving him the respect he deserves.  The odd occasion I did look around the room, almost every Gen-Y student were looking at their own computer, playing around with the settings, opening this, closing that, shifting this file to there and so on.  Some gits even had their headphones on while Mr Tutor was speaking.  Not eye contact, no acknowledgement, no response.

‘These young upstarts!’ I thought.  They obviously don’t have a hint of a clue about how you should behave in big-peoples-school.  I felt like giving them all a good verbal clipping of the ear.  Anyway, it seems it didn’t really bother Mr Tutor that much.  He may have become accustomed to it over the years, but it drove me crazy.  I would have written their names on the board by now and given at least 8 crosses, not to mention a few direct stares accompanied by a nasally “I’m waiting!”

Looking back though, and sometimes I do, I can vaguely remember the distinctly immature way I behaved as a weedy undergrad in the presence of tutors and their closest allies, the mature-age students.  As a tutor, if a mutiny is to break out, it would be the mature-age students who would form a human shield of protection and shuffle you to the door, allowing you to escape while they took the blows from the masses.

I remember running up the stairs of a lecture theatre mid lecture in my wet bathers, and then being surprised when the lecturer stopped his monologue to address my disrespectful entrance.  Or the time that a tutor stepped out of the room for a brief moment (all too brief I found out) while a small group of us went through his academic records folder to find out our marks for an assessment.  It was one of those occasions where the two or three others knew when to peel back to their seats, leaving me the only one standing with my nose in his folder when he waltzed back in.  The scolding he gave me sent me back to Year One when I got told off by the gardener for walking on the grass. I am surprised I didn’t actually wet my pants this second time around.  Then there was the time that a friend and I spent the best part of an afternoon turning the gymnasium into the world’s first indoor hovercraft course using gym crash mats.  A few land-speed records were set, but a few crash mats became terminal within a short amount of time.  I could go on.

So I guess these Generation Y upstarts may actually be just a varied version of what us X’ers were in the early nineties.  It also became more apparent to me that history was indeed repeating itself.  Before I knew what was going on, I realised I was probably the oldest student in the class, I had chosen a seat right up the front and I stayed back and talked to the tutor afterwards.  “Could it be possible that the rest of the class thinks that I am a mature-age student?” I thought. 

It wasn’t long before I was working out how to create an effective human shield and memorising the closest exits.

July 28, 2008

People Who Inspire Me

Filed under: Inspirational — camharris @ 10:47 pm

There have been a few people I have caught up with recently who really inspire me.  

Last week, we caught up with a friend Mark who lives in South Australia with his wife and five kids.  They are passionate environmentalists and are not afraid to live in light of their convictions.  They are not connected to power or water, and have a giant worm farm connected to their septic tank.  Mark was telling us with excitement how he was the sole assistant to his wife as she gave birth to their fifth child at their house.  They wanted to experience bringing a child into the world without over-medicalising the process.  The things they learned through the experience were quite amazing.  It is not everyone’s cup of tea, but they are putting their beliefs into action.

Another friend sent an email last week stating that she is giving up chocolate for the rest of the year.  She is doing this to raise money for sanitation resources and education in poverty stricken countries.  Her work involves educating teachers in global health and sustainability issues.  By the sounds of it, if she were to give up the amount of chocolate she would usually consume over this time, she would not only be able to raise enough money to provide suitable toilets and sanitation but be able to bring small countries out of debt also.  Anyway, here is a person who is prepared to do something about a problem she has strong convictions about.

My neighbour also has strong convictions about the environment.  He doesn’t own a car but instead rides an electric scooter to work and usually walks everywhere else.  He is the antithesis of a thunderous bikey – you never hear him come or go as he whispers past on his green machine.  It gets him to work and back which is all he really needs it for, then it charges up overnight ready for the next trip.  The thing is, he has no back up plan.  He has made a decision based on his convictions and understandings and is prepared to commit to that decision.  So when it rains, he rides his scooter, when it is hailing he rides his scooter, when it is hotter than Hades he is on the scooter.

As for me, I like to think that I am concerned about the environment, about poverty, about issues that bug me in conversations, but they don’t bug me enough for me to actually do much about them.  It bugs me that it doesn’t bug me enough.

So I was reminded again about the inconsistencies in my life and how these people inspire me by they way they are prepared to do something about it.  Usually, they do so at a cost, and it is usually this cost that causes me to find excuses or conveniently get busy doing something else.  I don’t like how we currently use oil products, but I still drive a six-cylinder car, and I only drive a six-cylinder because I sold my V8.  I think eating healthily is of the utmost importance, which is why I never remove the lettuce from my bacon double cheeseburger deluxe.  I hate the fact that so much of the world lives in poverty which is why I am happy to put my loose foreign coins into Unicef envelopes at the airport.  Pissweak, really.

So I remain inspired by these people who take their ideas and convictions to the next level where things actually get done and lives are bettered.  I get the feeling that these people are growing in number and you may be living next door to one, if you are not one yourself.  I find that another important factor with the people who I know are inspirational in this way is that they don’t try and convince me to do what they are doing.  They just get on and do what they do.  There is no hint of persuading me to do the same, no guilt trips and no questioning why I am not involved as they are.  This inspires me even more.

July 15, 2008

Well hello, and welcome.

Filed under: Uncategorized — camharris @ 7:27 am

In this blog I will be posting bits and pieces that I want to keep separate from my other blog The Walk Beside.

I can’t take full credit for the title.  I was teaching a Year 6/7 class about 10 years ago and had a chat with a much flustered student as she described a difficult situation she was thinking through.  Now I find it fascinating anyway when people screw up a good cliche or proverb, and this particular student ripped out some classics.  She ended her verbal frenzy with “Honestly Mr Harris, sometimes it feels like I’m stuck between a hard rock and a place!”

Magic.  From that point on, life for me has made more sense as I place it into that framework of thinking. The former cliche “Between a rock and a hard place” means very little to me anymore and, if you think about it, offers little hope.  This student may have been onto something, or just on something. Whatever, credit where credit is due.

I find it easier to write about things than I do explaining them in conversation.  For my own benefit, it helps me process my thoughts by way of having to articulate them succinctly.  I get worked up about many topics, usually due to excitement, sometimes to frustration and often to confusion.  These writings will be a collection of such.  

Without apology, the topics will revolve around faith, beliefs, culture, current events, observations, confusions and possibly things that either just irk me or inspire me.  Sometimes there may be dry spells where I am not thinking of anything in particular, so if you as a reader are considering some issues, please feel free to make your own thoughts known by commenting.  I am thinking that the posts would be appearing about once a week.

See how we go.

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