De-churched person visits a church – the uncut blow-by-blow commentary

Pre-service
Where’s the toilet? Oh OK thanks.

Getting seated
Open, determined to be open.

The Music
Dont feel the need to be above anyone here
I have some cynical thoughts, but I’m not frothing at the mouth.

I think I’ve evened out a lot, not a sense of desperation. Or emotionalism.

Thoughts of making worship a human experience – not sure what i mean by that. But music is a great access into people.

Limitations to big group of people who worship. It is song. My preference is smaller.

“You’re never gonna let me down.” An expression of faith and truth for those in that faith, but at the core of us as people is the idea that life/God has let us down.
How do we bring this truth in? – The acknowledgement that the fairy tale isn’t real.
The proclamation of faith is made more real by its context of truth of circumstance.

What I believe and where my belief is, is enough.

Can’t mock someone’s real expression. Find respect in my heart for these people.

A Talking Bit
Hard not to acknowlegde the truth of a testimony – but how is it framed? How we tell a testimony is important. We need the truth that connects.

People are impressed by strength but they connect with vulnerability.

How much of church is about connecting or impressing?

Noticing the pretty ladies
Some weapons here though, Jeeeeez.

The Money Bit
There is an element of celebrity to it, but is it noteriety?

That guy is 33 tomorrow. Look at him. And I know thay could be me. But im happy with where I am. With who I am. With my life.

Own your life.

Then theres the bible which we clearly interpret, but are we saying we do?

Concieve of your life as yours. Its hard for church people to concieve as someones life as their own, as they are responsible for it.

Is there a fixation on community which neglects the raw reality that we need to develop as individuals? (Thus enriching the community experience.)

Do groupthink and social loafing make community the default cruise mode? Does the sensation of growth in groupthink numb the sensation of individual struggle/growth?

If God’s love is personal, if we are individuals made very uniquely then we must also be responsible for our lives. For the creation of our lives – for the best stewardship of who we are.

Am convinced that God is working thru all creativity. He is in expressions of himself. Can’t shake it theologically and observationally.

Light.

Garden was a place where God met with humanity. Gardens.

Profoundly impressed by the communication of the message. Not a sermon, but a TV show. Real thought into the structure and communication of this message. Very impressive.

The power of a testimony. Bikie guy.

Tired of that life. Tired. In the presence of my Creator.

Immersed in it. Forget myself and become de-interested in all other things. Church services can be too much of an immersive experience, do we help people lose themselves? Is this real? Is it too much of a highlight?

How do we do church and normalcy? Testimony of LIFE… the dreary hum drum day in day out. He is in it! Just as much as everywhere else.

It does take time to connect with people and gain friends. Be at peace, it takes time. It takes time. Be where you are.

Isolated and depressed well ive been used to this all my life – known in a community, knowing people. Known as a part of something. Im used to it. I found myself in it.

When I put that aside, by my choice, no wonder I became isolated. Slowly it happened slowly but it is not bad, because I’ve met myself. No accidents. Leaving it as a community wasn’t a bad thing.

I met myself. Accepting myself.

Patience. It takes time. Be patient. What if its about being patient about the good things? Love is patient. If you love yourself, you’ll be patient with yourself. Kind to yourself.

In the quiet place.

The End Bit
Chile Con Carne for $7 very decent… the smell lured me!

Sydney skyline

The falling sun reflects onto the Sydney skyscrapers. The colour is a hot burnt orange, although the chill of autumn nights will soon rest upon the city. Darkness around them, they stand like towering torches. Their effect is hypnotic.

This is nature’s Vivid; day’s last light shed upon the man-made glass. Smiling, I watch the light show unfold from my bedroom windows.

Since New York’s skyline became synonymous with terror, I have cherished every dip, peak and oddity of Sydney’s skyline.

From my perch, I can roughly place where our aeroplanes descend and ascend, but the low-lying airport itself is hidden behind green tree tops.

In the foreground, a gigantic yellow frame shuffles shipping containers at a local container terminal, which seems to be nocturnal in its operation.

This is the city whose skyline prompts me to reflect, gain perspective and mute the day’s minutia.

To the north, immediately after the CBD, I see a red beacon flashing to a slow cadence. It is the top of the Harbour Bridge. Throughout my years in this house, the constant fade in and fade out has always drawn my eye. While up-close tourists shoot the bridge from a variety of angles, this is my personal angle from afar, too meaningful to photograph.

Further north, the glowing whites and reds of Chatswood spike into the sky. They mark the end of high-rise and the beginnings of residential Sydney.

As my eye follows the contours of red-roofed residences, it stops at Sydney Olympic Park.

The stadium. Now surrounded by corporate headquarters and people who make their homes in towers, I remember when the site held a flame 17 years ago.

Not from my perch, but facing north on a city-bound train, I caught a glimpse of it. As the train gathered momentum, through the gaps in houses and buildings I saw the Olympic flame. In some ways, I think it saw me too.

It was contained in a cauldron elevated at the back of the stadium. That flame reached past the cameras, the crowd and the sports people to imprint on me a sense of awe. It was as if a long arm of fire locked onto me from afar and as it neared, a single outstretched finger touched my chest.

I gazed at it helplessly, as if it owned me. To this day, I haven’t had such an intense feeling.

The same burnt orange of that flame now lifts to the top of the city’s buildings as the sun retreats to warm another hemisphere. Here I stand, an autumn chill in the air, offering the minutia of my life to Sydney’s skyline once again.

Sunday night salves

The temptation was to gloss over it.

Drown it with alcohol. Mute it with busyness.

But he promised himself he wouldn’t.

The flatness overtook him like darkness on the lee-side. The strong coffee and caramel-sauced waffle in his stomach was his attempt to retrieve a mite of motivation. If it weren’t for them he would continue driving aimlessly through familiar streets, marking time.

He began to realise the descent on a Sunday night from having two zesty and joyful children for four days was critical to manage. Successful Sunday evening self-management was becoming instructive to how effective his evening, indeed next few days, would be. For it would only be three until he had his children again.

The presence of any noun which demands micro-management is a wonderful panacea to an underdeveloped self. Be reminded that many have children, yet are not committed to them in such a manner as to care or be personally inconvenienced by them. (Perhaps these parents are the smart ones.)

He had vowed, upon conception, to be an involved parent; as an actual person to his children. The speed of his 20s and the tendency to look outward for personal validation had led him to this place. A place where he knew intimately the needs of those close, but was dim to his own.

How is it, he regularly questioned, that a life spent in the dimensions of modern Christianity meant he was dim to his own needs? Without pointing the finger, he knew a terrible misstep had occurred.

The class on self-esteem had been postponed, replaced by the class on just-about-everything-else. He could recall years when he had explored the dimensions of faith, denied the doldrums or simply cultivated a frenzied optimism, falsely labelled faith, to deal with any dark diversion of mood. It may have worked. But now he didn’t want it to.

He had vowed, a few months ago, to experience things directly. Be it positive or negative.

In a bid to be himself, he would not seek a salve for any mournful moment, or cap a high feeling.

If it was alcohol, then the bottom of the bottle was his limit. If it was exercise, the breathless retching would halt him. If television, the dawn of new day would signal a night poorly spent peering at meaningless info-mercials.

Experience things directly, he told himself, as he sat at the computer.

A Most Married Man

 

May 17, 3:15pm

That’s virtually like drinking sugar – she remarked from the depths of his conscience, as he poured a nip of green cordial into a long glass of chilled water. As a flaccid retort he would silently question if it was virtually like doing so or literally, or if the tautology was required at all.

Such was his life now, one of still hearing the echoes of someone he loved, but loves no more. The newness was new to him. Whatever the phoenix was, for he had not studied it, if it was a sense of rising from a dormant decade then he felt like a phoenix.

The cavern where his marriage had once lived is now filled with an excitement of learning about his home country, and the freedom to follow his interests, whether or not they are compatible with the closest human being.

Those interests centred around reading and writing – two personal joys he had foregone in the haze and busyness of a life over-committed to another. He was master of his time always, yet lacked the personhood to enforce it. If the loss of a marriage is what it would take to regain this, then so be it. It would be a fantasy, a tailor-made one by a guilty conscience, to imagine even if his personhood were intact and enforced, that the marriage was of a high quality.

But what was marriage? Besides from a covenant between a man, woman and God – as per the book.

He didn’t explore too closely to the fringes of this question, for he didn’t want his affection for the very basics of what he called ‘faith’ to be disarrayed. He had always given things the ‘Retard Test’: If someone impaired in the function of their brain can understand and, at the core of them, accept Jesus, then why are external realities, like divorce or homosexuality or cigarette smoking, of that much concern?

The concern, he feels, was always in the heart of those who had arranged their behaviours and convictions to suit the Church – whatever form or denomination it was.

He had found, in his very self even, the comfort of the approval of that group was synonymous with Godliness. And Godliness had more to do with your reputation for emotional stability (or dullness) and canonical understanding than whatever internal reality which could not be measured by middle-class Australian standards circa 1950s.

For many years this disgusted him, and led him to cease keeping said company. While now he does not keep the company, unless painfully required by family connection, he does not despise it. He now sees it as normal human behaviour, which can be observed in any gathering of likeminded folk.

Thus, its association with the divine, he sees, is entirely false. Not evil, just false. Noble? Perhaps. Helpful? Not to him, no. Human? Entirely.

He had outlined the shape of a biro in his notebook, which is extremely difficult with just one. An arrow pointing to it and the words ‘this is your therapy’ captures his processing of separation and into single-dom – with the added dimension of fatherhood.

In his rejection of her, he knew her proximity was guaranteed because they both had hearts set on being decent parents. Imagine his joy when he learnt at his first and last Dads In Distress therapy group, that a course was run titled ‘Parents not Partners’. He had no clue the world of the Separated was so strong – he had grown up apart from those ‘unfortunate’ enough to divorce. The fact the state and federal governments had poured millions over the years into ensuring that divorced parents still do their parenting competently remains and wonderful comfort to him.

Not that he had attended the course, or even prioritised doing so. But the fact that it was there, somewhere in a directory, was a helpful thought.

The last 6 months had given him much cause to think over his short-term strategies. His accommodation with his parents, as a grown man, was painful but critical. He would have no bed in Syndey, or base from which to parent, if it weren’t for his generous parents.

Thus, he is constantly reminded of three iterations of himself– the one he grew up as, his  married self, and his new life as a single parent. All in the one house.

Some travel many miles and spend thousands for their challenges. His was in the reality of his current dwelling.

He knew this, and all it did was made him mentally more resilient.

There was a time, in his early teens, when the doldrums of a quiet home life made him concede to a destiny of boredom. But he learnt young that you needed your own picture of you, not others’. Your own picture was painted by yourself, and no one can steal this, not even your reality.

How else does a man grow into himself, unless he can first see his preferred self, even faintly, in the recess of his imagination?

Exact specs are not required; it’s just the vague outline and the associated emotions that are needed for the pursuit. One very good bloke, from his previous profession as a consultant, framed his similar personal journey in the title of a powerpoint presentation, as his “journey to real.”