The way of nature
and the way of grace
“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”
– Flannery O’Connor.
In the film, Tree of Life, one of Terrence Malick’s characters says in voiceover, “The nuns taught us there are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.”
But choosing is tough. Even when walking the way of grace you do it right alongside the way of nature.
Jesus referred to that as being in the world, but not of the world. And it’s a specialized balancing act, not one we always get right. At least I don’t.
So my musings here will be about that awkward negotiation between nature and grace, knowing that, as Flannery O’Connor said, we are inclined to resist grace because it hurts to be changed. But in the long run, bottom line, Jesus is king and following the way of grace leads us deeper into the world he’s creating for us.
You probably won’t agree with everything I say, but I’m trying to stimulate a positive, generative conversation. And starting conversations is a good thing, if you ask me. Right?
So join me as I share my thoughts, excerpt my upcoming writing, launch debates and generally rabble-rouse, all in a genuine attempt to figure out what the reign of King Jesus looks like in earthy, real terms, right here, right now.
This week, Donald J Trump will take the oath of office of the president of the United States. A lot of people can't believe it's actually happening. There have been "Not My President" rallies across the country. There's been hopeful talk that Russian hacking scandals...read more
“Sony wants you to stream your whole life online.” “Show off how marvelous your life is.” “Stream your world live to Facebook using the 'Social Live' camera feature.” “Fill YouTube with constant videos of your cat sleeping or your baby dribbling, thanks to the new...read more
An inflatable boat slips into a cove near Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos. It is packed with Syrian asylum seekers wearing orange lifejackets. They have just crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey. One of them waves a lifebuoy triumphantly to the man wading into...read more
“The fundamental cause of the trouble in the modern world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russell Lord Russell wrote that back in 1933 just as Adolf Hitler was being installed as the duly elected...read more
Yesterday I posted a link to Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe acceptance speech on Facebook. You know, her impassioned plea for basic human decency in publc discourse. The speech that referred to how “…the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country...read more
I love this image of a tree growing in a barren plaza, its root system spreading across the cement pavers. I love it, not only because it’s an image of organic life bursting forth from a pretty ugly built environment, but because the trees roots have been shaped by...read more
As you probably know by now, Rogue One is about a small band of rebels, part of the larger Rebel Alliance, who try to steal the design plans for a super-weapon called the Death Star. Even if you’re not that into Star Wars films (which I’m not) you’d enjoy it. It’s...read more
My mother died last week. She was 85 years old and frail. We’d watched her slowly diminish over recent years, like a flame tapering ever smaller. On her last day, that flame barely flickered at all until at the very end it gently extinguished itself. It was peaceful...read more
I’ve been involved in my fair share of public demonstrations. I’ve protested against my government’s decisions on a number of issues. I’ve marched against war and in favor of Aboriginal reconciliation, climate change policy and nuclear disarmament. I’ve been arrested...read more
I’m no music critic, which will be immediately apparent as you read this meditation on Leonard Cohen’s new album. I’m a longtime fan. And I strive, with varying degrees of success, to be a spiritual man. I admit that being both those things makes me biased when it...read more
There’s a reason we dress up the way we do at Halloween, you know. And it’s not just dumb, stupid fun. Your Halloween costume says something important about the world you live in. This year, Americans will spend a cool $8 billion on Halloween celebrations, including...read more
On the east coast of Japan, in the small town of Otsuchi, on a hill overlooking the Pacific, a 70 year old man named Itaru Sasaki has installed an unusual garden feature – a phone booth. Like the ones Clark Kent used to use when he was in hurry to save Metropolis. Or...read more
The final entry in my series of reflections based on ten of the greatest Christmas artworks of all time. Merry Christmas to you all! 10 THE FLIGHT TO EGYPT Artwork: Rest on the Flight to Egypt - Orazio Gentileschi, Birmingham Art Gallery Reading: Matthew...read more
Ten of the greatest pieces of Christian art ever created. Ten Advent reflections. A bit like the ten stations of the Christmas story. Here's No.9. 9. THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI Artwork: Adoration of the Magi – Sandro Botticelli, Uffizi Gallery, Florence...read more
My Advent devotion series, based on the 10 greatest paintings of the Christmas story ever produced. Look carefully at the painting. Read the Bible text. Read the reflection. Recite the prayer. 8. THE MAGI SEARCH FOR THE CHRIST Artwork: The Procession of the...read more
7 Broken Men Series
We come to the last of our 7 Broken Men and I'm going to take a somewhat more serious tone with this one. Recent blog posts in this series have been presented with a lighter touch as we've noted the way our broken men have been used by God for the greater good. And...read more
So far (if you’ve been following along) we’ve discovered that some of the greatest movements of Christianity – Calvinism, Pentecostalism, the Great Century of missions, the Jesus Revolution, and the Australian Baptist church – were all launched by broken men. Welcome...read more
In this series of posts we’ve been looking at “broken men” – fragile souls, charlatans, jerks and screw-ups who were used by God nonetheless to bring great hope and healing to the world. So far we’ve looked at men who were affected by overbearing fathers, childhood...read more
I’m a 20-year veteran of the academy, but I still don’t call myself an academic. On my immigration forms I write “teacher” in the occupation box.
I’ve taught at Morling College in Sydney that whole time and am currently the head of the missiology department there.
My doctorate examined a mission-shaped approach to being and doing church, and I’ve written a bunch of books in that field. Some of them have even been popular. Thank you if you bought one.
I enjoy music by guys who can’t sing that great (Dylan, Cohen, Cave), hiking the national parks of North America (15, so far), and reading Flannery O’Connor. I’ve seen every film made by the Cohen Brothers and Stanley Kubrick and I still hold out hope that Terrence Malick has one more masterpiece in him.
I helped launch the Small Boat Big Sea community in Manly. I co-founded the Forge mission training network. I have won camel races in Kazakhstan, cliff-diving competitions in Thailand, and chess tournaments at the Kremlin. And I have spoken with Elvis (not all this might be true).
And through it all I have been loved by an amazing woman who has stood by me for over 30 years and whose capacity for endurance seemingly knows no bounds, my wife, Caz (this part is definitely true!).
For speaking engagements, permissions, and other general enquiries.