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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Of the writing of essays there is no end...

I finished "Shantaram" and what a fantastic book it was. Roberts, the author and subject of the book, moved on from the Indian slum to become embroiled in the Mumbai mafia and finally took part in smuggling arms into Afghanistan in the 80s to support the war against the Russians. I guess what kept me immersed in the book was the depth of emotion and the search for love and true meaning in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. Roberts' use of metaphors was beautiful and my essay fell onto the back burner for a while.

I have nearly completed a 3,000 word paper concerning the life of Sir Winston Churchill and how developmental theory can help offer insight into his life-span. It is a demanding but very rewarding essay.

This Saturday is my Developmental Issues exam and then a short break.

Today is Daniel''s first birthday so it is a very jovial home as we prepare for his party this afternoon.

I have been struggling with depression the past 3 or 4 days and "Shantaram" reminded me to keep holding on to the beautiful things of life despite the encroaching darkness.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Rain

Over the past few weeks and months there have been many calls to pray for rain as Australia continues to endure a severe drought with dams at critical levels in some places. About 3 weeks ago there began significant rainfall especially out west in farming communities which have been hardest hit.

Even the Prime Minister had issued a call for fervent prayer. Apart from not understanding what fervent prayer is, lengthier, louder, more words, less words, more sweat, i also have fundamental issues with praying for weather.

I live on one of the driest continents on the planet. When there is drought we shouldn't be surprised. I am not a climatologist but the weather patterns do seem to changing over time. All in all droughts should be expected and we need to do the best we can to conserve water and get through the tough times.

I also believe that if it rains it rains. I consider myself a man of faith but don't see how we can pray for rain when it may suit someone very well to have more sunshine and others want a few weeks of rain but some only want days of rain. Do we rely on God to distribute the precipitation evenly to benefit everyone equally?

When the rains came there was special thanks at church and acknowledgement of God's provision. This weekend there have been terrible storms in this area and to the immediate north-west. The roads were flooded, houses were flooded and power was down, and is still down, for over 200,000 people.

Will there be thanks in church for this? Is this part of God's provision or is it only God when it is "nice" rain?

I realise that this opens up problems for other areas of prayer. I'd certainly appreciate some thoughts.

Shantaram

I am currently reading a wonderful novel by Gregory David Roberts called "Shantaram". Robers is an Australian who committed armed robberies while addicted to Heroin. He eventually fled to India. The book is a novel which is based on his story. Roberts ends up living in a slum and it is here that he begins to discover the beauty of human kindness, acceptance and love.

I am a third of the way through and although I am supposed to be revising for an exam I find it too beautiful and compelling to easily put down. There is a fair share of violence and underworld activity but Roberts' discovery of the light amidst the darkness is written in such magnificent words that he keeps lifting me to heights of wonder.

I thoroughly recommend this as a lengthy but utterly rewarding read. One of the reasons that I am so fussy over the novels that I read is that I like to be taken on a journey that allows me to discover the potential for my own inner discoveries. This is such a book. It will offer an opportunity to look into a place of apparent destitution and find the bonds of true community.

Storms

I have a storm raging in my mind right now which you can peer into at my other blog. This weekend we have been through incredible storms in our part of NSW. We had power out for 30 hours; some friends are still without electricity. We still have a tree in our front garden which snapped at the base and has been lying across the power lines since late Friday night.

At my in-laws a tree fell and squashed their shed and rear fence. The SES (State Emergency Services) volunteers who were chainsawing trees yesterday had come up from Canberra to assist with the recovery. The volunteers had travelled north for 6 hours simply to help with a natural disaster in another part of Australia.

It is incredible to see the commitment of people to help other in a time of need. Here's hoping that the winds stay down for long enough for the city to recover. About an hour north of here there are rivers peaking at 14 metres tonight which will cause more chaos. All of this on a public holiday long weekend.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

After some deliberation I have begun a second blog.

The blog home is linked to Counselling Resource which is a very useful site.

I still intend to blog here but the other blog will be much more personal and will reflect my own, improving, journey with mental illness, my son's possiblr diagnosis on the autism scale and my work with men with mental illnesses.

Feel free to take a look and join me in another aspect of my pilgrimage.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Missional

Following on from the previous post I want to be more intentionally missional in my work environment and in the wider context of ministering to these men. I certainly feel a call to minister to men with mental illnesses of varying degrees. I am concerned to be diligent in my service before God. I am going to explore other ministries that may specifically minister into this area as well as considering how I can best contextualise the gospel message where I am. Any thoughts or links would be greatly appreciated.

What a fortnight...

Where to start?

As people may be aware I am a supervisor for a supported employment organisation. I take men with a variety of mental illnesses on gardening jobs 4 days a week. I really enjoy working with the guys and am seem to be having reasonable success as a I attempt to live and share the gospel in this environment.

The downside is that the money is very poor. With a wife and 3 young boys we find it a challenge to make ends meet although we get through each fortnight. I was becoming very demoralised and started looking for another job. I applied for 3 jobs, each of which I was more than capable of doing. Each of the jobs would pay more than my current role. I felt quietly confident of being able to move into something, possibly less rewarding, but more financially stable. I was doing this for my family.

The first job was as a residential support worker with people with mental illnesses. I didn't get an interview. Next up was very bizarre. I applied for a position on a call centre with a prominent government agency. The interview was a group process and various tests. There were 1200 applicants and I made it to the 60 picked for the selection process leading to a final interview.

Last week I got a phone call from the recruitment agency. I got 100% in the numeracy test, 100% in the literacy test and outstanding in every other area except one; in the telephone role play they felt my empathy skills were not quite up to scratch; this was after a 5 minute role play with an actor on the other end of the phone.

I am not trying to be arrogant but I felt that after a nearless flawless selection process I was hard done by until my pastor, that evening, said that he felt clearly that I wouldn't get the role as it would under utilise my ministry skills to a great extent. This was very encouraging but left me wondering about the future. By this time I felt God say that the third position, a chaplaincy role, was not for me either. It was no surprise to receive an email informing me that I had not even been offered the courtesy of an interview for the chaplaincy position.

I spoke to my pastor again this week to reflect on this process. He affirmed that I needed to see my current job not as underpaid labouring but as ministry. I currently have 3 of the men and one of their partners attending church and we are planning to run an evangelism course. I also have 3 other men showing a strong interest. This is from a team of 21 men. I have never seen myself as evangelistic or missional but over this past week I am beginning to realise that God has put a missional calling to mentally ill men on my heart.

My pastor also surprised me by saying that, as soon as he can, he wants to put me on staff part-time so I can do my current role as well as supporting my local church in a paid position. So, at the end of a strange fortnight I feel that God is making his intentions for my life clear. I have accepted, before God, a call to these men for whom I am their one clear link to Jesus.

Please pray for us. At the present time we still struggle to make ends meet plus I now have to try and find money for text books for my Masters degree. I am planning to publish a prayer letter which will also ask people to consider financially supporting us. I am cautious in taking this approach but I want to let people know that I am walking this path in obedience to God and we, as a family, need support in many ways. I am excited for the future.