23 January 2009

Australians, Generalizations

Okay, remember the quote I put on here the other day: Rare is the culture in which all or even half of its members follow all of its customs. Family members tend to select from their culture’s repertoire of customs and ceremonies those behaviors that support their own idiosyncratic patterns, whether they are healthy patterns or neurotic, and pay most attention to those values in their tradition that prevent change. Edwin Friedman

So I've generalized four values/customs/behaviors from my impression of Australians, but I'm in no way saying all or even half of the broad Australian culture.

1. Australians work hard. Very hard. And well. Very hard and very well.
2. Australians have holidays well. They know how to spend a good vacation and do so.
3. While drinking tea, coffee, or beer Australians insult each other politely; it makes you feel like "one of the gang".
4. Australians are averse to religious pomp and certainty, but not to good works or spirituality.

I believe all these values are contagious. For example, tonight, we were drinking tea with several Australians and Corey, the American started laughing because a certain brand of Australian tea prints on the boxes: "How an Australians should enjoy a up of tea . . . boil . . . steep . . . drink tea while politely insulting each other." Right-o!

I believe there is nothing particularly good or evil about any one of these [4] characteristics. I think it's by the grace and truth of the Word that these values can be redeemed and saved for God's good pleasure. As I am invited to join into life here, I approach the invitation with thoughts of my redeeming God.

17 January 2009

New Creation Sermon

When you look at the world, what do you see? frustration, money, brokenness, pain, suffering, . . .

But I believe God is in the business of new creation.

Galatians 6:12-16

In the Smoky Mountains where plants and trees were torn out in order to put down a winding asphalt road, soon plants and trees will bust through the stony ground. What once was bitumen will soon be lush re-growth and life. Who is behind this?

Genesis 1:2, 7

From everything being one jumbled up mess to being separated into different places and paths, God is the One who creates order from chaos.

Genesis 2:7-8, 15

The first gardener, Adam. The first vocation, blessing the earth. How'd Adam do? sin . . . chaos . . . flood--the separated waters went back to being jumbled up in the middle and destroying everything. Sin leads to chaos in creation. But God made a new world out of the destruction.

So then the second gardener, Noah, planted a vineyard in the new creation.

Genesis 9:20

How'd Noah do? sin . . . chaos . . .

Hosea 4:1-3

No acknowledgement of God . . . leads to bloodshed, etc., . . . leads to fish in the sea and birds of the air dying . . . order returns to chaos . . . what a mess

But there's a new gardener:

John 20:11-15

Jesus is the Cosmic Gardener:

God went to the center of creation, the most broken part, to heal it, to make it new again. He had to be all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23)

For God to become all in all isn't easy. Bringing order from disorder isn't easy. Bringing life from death isn't natural. Healing creation isn't easy. God had to heal it from the inside out. The Son is the firstborn of all creation. Without him, none of creation can be reborn. (Colossians 1:15)

His healing begins in you:

Philippians 1:6, "I’m convinced that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it through to completion on the day of Christ Jesus."

There are four circles. In which one are you?

1. The world, the cosmos, is all good.
2. All is wrong with the world.
3. Through Jesus, God is redeeming the world, making it new. Jesus is my Savior.
4. God is sending you and me together into the world to be part of its healing, its being created anew, his will done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus is the Lord of all.

I was in a mall recently, followed the signs to the men's toilets, and found a one stall room occupied and therefore full. I turned to rush to find new signs leading to new toilets. Just as I turned, there was another man going in to the one-stall room. I told him, "There's only one toilet and it's taken." He said, "That is ridiculous!" in a perturbed, frustrated voice. Sufficed to say he beat me to the new toilets. After washing my hands, I was in the fourth circle, so to speak, thankful and ready to do good works. But the man disgruntled at the one stall was drying his hands still with a sourpuss face as if the one-stall situation had ruined the goodness of the new and spacious men's room. He was still stuck in the second circle as if the world were wrong without any hope of redemption.

But I believe God is in the business of new creation. So, whatever truth there is to all four of these circles, I want to be in the fourth circle as much of the time as possible.

Cultural Camouflage

Rare is the culture in which all or even half of its members follow all of its customs. Family members tend to select from their culture’s repertoire of customs and ceremonies those behaviors that support their own idiosyncratic patterns, whether they are healthy patterns or neurotic, and pay most attention to those values in their tradition that prevent change. Edwin Friedman

I must confess that I don't follow all American customs. I've often wondered just how many I do follow. Perhaps like my parents and siblings and church and hometown, though, I selected certain behaviors that suited my own idiosyncratic patterns, good and bad, so I could maintain the emotional processes I was already used to.

Have you ever made generalizations like, "I just don't get along with [those kinds of people]," or "Americans are so loud?" Maybe those statements are appropriate, but to blanket those generalizations on all Americans or on all the people of a particular culture (e.g., Western) or subculture (e.g., church) is ignorant. To say, "I hate Australian culture," is ignorant of the fact that perhaps the Australians with whom I have been acquainted weren't following all or even half of Australia's behaviors.

I'm an American living in Australia, but I'm not defined by my being American. Who or what defines me? Who or what is . . . me? Do I define my self? Or does my self define me? Or does the Creator define me?

What value is it to dialogue with these questions? It's a value to me as I begin a new life in and among various cultures and families. It's important that I don't blame God when it is I who is slack in my responsibilities. It's important that I don't believe in cultural superiority. Culture is neither determining or defining. It simply brings to light society, communities, families, and selves. Culture is neither good nor evil. As Paul put it, "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; what matters is new creation." That is the rule.

1. I will try not to be rash about applying generalizations to individuals based on my impression of generic Australian culture.
2. I will not apply my experience with specific individuals to all Australians.
3. I will seek to find new creation within people no matter what impression of their culture or subculture's stain.
4. I will take responsibility for my behavior--it's not because of my culture or subculture, but because I have succeed or failed in taking steps to follow Jesus whom I regard as my Savior and Lord.

12 January 2009

Three Pictures

Ella with two suiters, Joshua and Jonas.
Ella with "Aunt" Brenna, teammate and friend, just before we took off for Australia.
Teammates, Shawn and his son, Darian.

06 January 2009

Thirteen Pictures

We're here in Memphis briefly, saying goodbye (for a while) to friends like Kari Nieman:

Some of our first friends in Austin that we met in June. We will remember Sami and Abby in prayer:

Another wonderful friend and encouragement in our faith, Jason. Friends since 1993:

Our life for the past few months has been a trip. Thankfully, we always packed light. ;-)

Ella's a triune citizen: of U.S.A., Australia, and Heaven:

Our mission coach, Amos Allen, and his wife, Anne, a mentor:

Shipping our belongings and attachments and accoutrements to Australia, with Ella showing the actual size during tummy time:

Ms. Toni teaching Ella who made the fish:

Mark and Cindy Oswald are some of our most righteous supporters. Mark let me join him in home remodeling work while we lived in Austin. The work he gave me let us "live a little" and also let me see how to work like a Christian. And Cindy demonstrates how to be nice. ;-) Cindy grew up in the same small town in Oklahoma that my dad did, Velma Alma:

Wonderful friends of ours, Ken, Patty, and Alex Kohl! We knew they liked us because they've always given us a hard time. As you can see, Ella punched Alex in the face. He's fine now, though. I think Ella's shaping up to be my million dollar baby (that is, a boxing success):

Our wonderful teammates and friends! The Griffiths are still awaiting their permanent residents visa, so they can't come to Australia yet, but we and the Mullinses are flying on tomorrow. We'll stay in touch through e-mail and video conferencing and of course we will gather 'round the throne together in prayer:

Aunt Missy makes Ella comfortable:

Baby Ella shows Grammy and Papaw how to play UNO: