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.
“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that more than half a...read more
This will be my third and last post in a little series looking at sexism. You can find the other two here and here. Julia Gillard was the 27th Prime Minister of Australia from 2010 to 2013. She was the first woman to hold that office. This week she was in London...read more
Exiled Iranian politician, Mahnaz Afkhami once declared, “When women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life. The connection between women's human rights, gender equality, socioeconomic development and peace is...read more
This is not a blog about Donald Trump. Can I just make that clear? It’s about how some men think and speak about women. But I’m going to use Donald Trump’s recent comments as my jumping off point. No doubt you’ve heard (unless you’re newly arrived from Mars) that back...read more
In 1888, the intrepid Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen made the first crossing of the previously impenetrable island of Greenland. He was only 27 years old. Other more famous explorers like Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld and Robert Peary had previously attempted the...read more
I’m sitting in my wife’s hospital room while she sleeps off the effects of a general anesthetic. I’m looking at Jesus. That Jesus in the picture above. This being a Catholic hospital I’m assuming that’s a crucifix on the wall behind her bed, but I can’t help but think...read more
Remember the Moral Majority back in the 1980s? Its name was coined by Paul Weyrich, who believed the majority of Americans were morally conservative but largely ignored in general elections. Weyrich believed this huge silent cohort were opposed to feminism, homosexual...read more
Barely a week goes by when I’m not called a liberal or chastised for promoting a left wing agenda. This week I was accused of “verging towards the liberalism side of the spectrum”, which admittedly is much nicer than the many times I’ve been labelled a “libtard”, a...read more
First up, allow me to make one thing perfectly clear. Despite the uproar about Donald Trump’s recent comments on Hillary Clinton’s appearance, there is definitely such a thing as a “presidential look”. Painful as it is for me to point this out, bald men are pretty...read more
Once there were two brothers. The older brother was very rich. Everything he touched turned to gold. In fact, he was so rich he barely knew what to do with all his wealth. Only one thing was missing. He was childless. After many years of marriage he and his wife had...read more
When you were a kid did you used to have those anxiety dreams about going to school in your pajamas? Or without shoes? Well, I still have those, only my nightmares are about turning up to casual social events in a suit. It’s not that I’m anxious about drawing...read more
My father grew up seriously poor, but when he died over 30 years ago he owned our family home, a two-story, four-bedroom house with a pool on the side of a hill in a beachside suburb of Sydney. He had a portfolio of investments and had put me through university. To...read more
Look carefully at the painting. It’s one of history’s truly great pieces of Christmas-related art. Then read the Bible passage that inspired it. Then read my devotional reflection. Finally, there’s a prayer you can recite at the end. 4. ARRIVAL IN...read more
Look carefully at the painting. It's one of history's truly great pieces of Christmas-related art. Then read the Bible passage that inspired it. Then read my devotional reflection. Finally, there's a prayer you can recite at the end. 3. THE JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM...read more
This Advent, I’m writing a series of devotions, based on ten of the most gorgeous paintings of the Christmas story ever created. From Bruegel and Botticelli to Fra Angelico and Giorgione. Look carefully at the painting. Read the Bible text. Read the reflection. Recite...read more
7 Broken Men Series
In 2013, Eric Metaxas published a collection of biographical sketches titled 7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness. It was a big hit. I saw it in airport bookstores everywhere. I’m sure there’s great benefit in reading about the moral fiber and spiritual greatness...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!).
Books by Mike
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