lessons and seahorses

I was surprised to see a facebook event invite from a uni friend to a memorial service for his wife. With his dark sense of humour, and their relative youth, I thought this was just an amusing way to get in touch.

It was not.

Life was, in this case, demonstrated as far more fragile than our Western expectations would suggest.

And so I spent much of Saturday heading to the Central Coast and back to provide what support a long-absent friend can in a situation like that. I learnt more of a life now over, and we thought together about how short life can be, and the impact that some kindness and encouragement can have on the life of teenagers in particular (my friend’s late wife was a teacher, and a big fan of seahorses, hence the post title).

The encouragement of a Christian worldview was not lost on many of the people assembled. We grieve expecting that we will see our friend again one day.

What I noticed most of all, regrettably, was how fast I returned to the flood of next-actions and to-do-list items, without making much change in the way I engage with people.

If you’re reading this: remember to make the most of the time you have with the people around you. Time flies!

meeting in a premium mediocre space

Premium mediocre

There’s a phrase that I keep coming back to when I’m spending time with people; premium mediocre. It’s was brought back to front-of-mind by a friend, originally attributed to this long, mildly sweary article from 2017 which – on re-reading – starts out talking about the features of mid-range dining options, but is much more of a deep-dive into the purpose of life for millennials, parental aspirations for their children, and the financial stability of different lifestyles.

And there I was thinking it was just about the over-the-top decor at some of the places I have visited recently. Looking around at a more sophisticated online “cafe recommendation” system than existed ten years ago – when I was still writing my hundreds of reviews – it’s more difficult to generate the enthusiasm to write a review of a cafe. 

While I still appreciate a well-made cup of coffee, and my standards for such a cup of coffee are higher than most, it’s increasingly the details of the venue (ambience, noise levels, suitability for conversation, overall price and fussiness of coffee presentation) as the venue is now more the context for the conversation than an end in itself.

When I need to have a difficult conversations with someone, or try and work productively, the issue is not so much where a venue appears on the social hierarchy (though it often needs to be a factor), but whether it helps achieve the aims of the meet-up. It’s not the cup of coffee (here today and gone tomorrow) but the outcome of the conversation (with a person who will – depending on whether we share a faith-shaped worldview – live forever or at least outlive the coffee) that’s the most important.

Is the person I’m meeting with going to be distracted by the venue? Then it’s time to dial it up, or down, away from the premium mediocre setting.

gap in the schedule

Normally a gap in the schedule would encourage me to take some time and write something up, but this time around – the end of my second uni subject and a few weeks’ break before the third one starts, my son’s tenth birthday party and the lead-in to Father’s Day, and full-time work – it seems more difficult than before to get writing.

I suspect it’s the weight of habit: not publishing on a regular basis leads to more not publishing on a regular basis. The stakes seem higher talking to the world these days, where a misplaced word in a public opinion can be costly to reputation, employability, and more.

So instead, I’ve been hunkering down a little more: spending time with the kids, with Kel, even – gasp – with friends, reading a couple of books, even watching a movie or two. But none of it is leading me to creating anything new. Which seems a waste.

More than the last time I was regularly writing, there’s a sense that if an event isn’t shared with the world, it didn’t really happen, or it wasn’t of value.This is patently false, and yet, there’s an air of wanting to share whatever is happening with the world.

I don’t necessarily want to be sharing the specific events of life with everyone – some things are best enjoyed for what they are, without telegraphing them to all and sundry – but when I’m learning something new, I’d like to share it with others.

So I’m going to try a little harder to place some more words here, even as blogs are being read less and less (or, for the ones that are still attracting larger numbers of people, many of them look highly similar to one-another, as I see on a facebook group that provides a community of support to bloggers).

Is there still a place for personal self-expression on the “old” web?

early mornings

Even as I’m struggling to find the hours to spend asleep; hours that I know will help me function better with the next day, and all it may throw in my general direction, there’s something great about watching the sky change colour in the mornings.

A friend and I – who used to live in the same suburb and so walk together – manage an irregular catch-up by phone early on a Saturday morning. With the cold weather, I’ve taken to starting out by driving somewhere, then walking in a different location to the familiar path we used to tread together.

Early morning joggers and walkers – having themselves given in to the siren song of technology – don’t even bat an eyelid as I walk along talking into my Airpods and continuing a wide-ranging conversation.

It’s a practice that fits my continued tendency toward multi-tasking. It’s not enough just to walk and take in nature, there needs to be some other additional task mixed in to redeem the time somehow.

Multitasking has already been a long-term pursuit: when I check Overcast, it tells me that “Smart Speed” (functionality to skip automatically over any silences in that podcast I’m already playing back at double speed or more) has saved me an extra 387 hours beyond speed adjustments alone.

Am I missing out on something valuable by going so fast? Perhaps. Is the goal to experience each podcast at the speed it was recorded? To take in some more of the world’s vast store of information? to stay current on a broad range of topics? To make better decisions by having more information?

Or is this whole obsession with extra information just a distraction from what’s important?

The real change that I’m looking for – how I’m hoping to leverage the benefits of this extra time spent sleeping – is greater concentration on the people to whom I’m talking and listening.

It’s the conversations with people – two eternal creatures spending a slice of their finite earth-bound time together – where I want to make a difference, and not be dragged back to the endless hum of the social media machine, or the roar of the inbox, or the short-term adrenaline rush of the to-do list.

Buy now and pay later – Whitlams 25th anniversary tour

Whitlams at the Metro Theatre

It had been a long time since I’d seen any live music outside a church or camp/conference context, so it was a trip down memory lane to be back at the Metro theatre in the Sydney CBD. An acute reminder of how old I am now, though. Doors opened at 7:30pm, then we were watching the first support act – Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier, from 8pm. Powerful voice, great bluegrass musical stylings, and lots to think about in the lyrics. Then at 9pm, Alex Lloyd was on stage, playing a great set, seated the whole time and playing an acoustic guitar: there was even a bit of audience participation.

So it wasn’t until 10pm that the Whitlams were on stage. The lighting was really great, the atmosphere electric – a room full of people wanting to see a band that was important to them sometime in the last 25 years, and a lot of people singing along to a lot of songs. There was even one song – Charlie #2 – where the audience did the singing, and (vocalist and piano player) Tim Freedman sang the harmony.

A few reflections on watching the band play.

  • It’s been so long since the songs came out that the demographics have changed. “She was one in a million, so there’s 5 more just in New South Wales” (it’s now 7.5 million)
  • Even with so many familiar songs, there were other Whitlams songs among my favourites that weren’t played!
  • As much as “blow up the pokies” is a great, catchy song, it has made no difference to the sad state of gambling in Australia
  • There’s a gap in the lives of non-churchgoing people for public singing; even with no lyrics up, there was huge participation in the room
  • Listening back to the songs of my university days – the time when my thoughts were occupied with the hope of being married one day – but now out at a concert with my wife; it was a prompt to be grateful, and reconfigured that song in my memory for gratitude.
  • Even in his 50’s, Tim Freedman is angry about what has changed about the nightlife of Sydney; encouraging concert-goers at the end of the night to take the train to Badgerys Creek and fly to Melbourne, where they could still find a place that was open.

Perhaps I’m too old now for concerts in the city, but as much as I enjoyed the concert, and I did, it was just too late at night for me.

hyperlinking from one idea to another

I’ve just finished up a uni subject so I have a little more time to devote to the backlog of other projects that have been too quiet.

One of my uni friends referred me to the already gangbusters This is America music video. There are a bunch of reasons you wouldn’t want a child or teenager to watch this one, but with that caveat, it makes a number of points in a profound way that makes the most of the medium.

Having watched the video, I immediately wanted to read everything I could about it, to try and understand the underlying messages and references. And I wanted to share it with Kel. Somehow I managed to share it without explaining that it was a music video, and so she was trying to process it as a movie trailer, which made the visuals even harder to follow.

While at the time I was reading articles to try and understand things, increasingly the way to explain something is to turn to a video explanation instead.

One article I saw this evening was from (American Christian periodical) Relevant Magazine – Why Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ Is a Prophetic Message We Can’t Ignore, but I was pulled out of that article (spending time explaining why saying something is prophetic doesn’t mean you agree with it) because of something I’ve never seen before in a Christian publication.

I understand that times are tough for publishing houses, but if you’re going to make a pull-quote that’s a Bible verse, or a series of them, do you really want to embed ads in there? Here’s a screen grab (I first saw it on mobile, but it’s on the desktop layout as well… it looks like it’s only for particularly long quotes.

Bible verses with built-in display ad

So that’s me going from a conversation with my uni friends to a music video to a commentary about the music video to a Bible verse to a display ad. Quite a journey, but not such a long way to go in our hyperlinked life!

The great strength of the internet is the ability to link from one idea to another, and to treat all types of content as equal, but do we still have the capacity to recognise where that is becoming a problem?

slow death of old iPad (via kottke)

An increasingly common story with technology that I’m noticing more as a Dad, and as I move into a new MacBook Pro, because after three years, my MacBook Air is too slow, and my son “needs” a laptop for school; how much technology is bought to replace perfectly adequate technology in our endless chasing of the new – watching the slow death of an iPad.

Moore St General, Austinmer

Single O coffee. 38 Moore St, Austinmer. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a new place in Austinmer, but I’m glad I made the journey. On Tuesdays, this place is closed, and it’s worth going the extra distance to Thirroul and visiting Buck Hamblin (and in fact I did – about a 20 min walk), but when they’re open, you can get excellent coffee in this place. You need to get up pretty early to see the place this empty:

Moore St General, Austinmer

Inside, it reminds me of At All and Sundry – the furniture is from a different era to the staff, but is homey and comfortable.

Moore St General, Austinmer

Lots of reclaimed timber, a big kitchen and coffee area, and fresh muffins if you’re early enough!

Moore St General, Austinmer

The espresso comes out in one of these single-O handmade cups (on sale at the counter).

Moore St General, Austinmer

When I decide to split the avocado toast with my son, they offer me an extra piece (three instead of 2), and we end up sharing 50-50.

Moore St General, Austinmer

But it’s when I order a pour-over that their work really shines. They take their coffee seriously, and it comes across in the product.

Moore St General, Austinmer

And their logo. It’s a beautiful (if hard to photograph) gilded likeness of their store.

Moore St General, Austinmer

Looking forward to my next visit!

get behind me!

I hesitate to even use the word “get” in a title, after years of being told that it’s not a good word to use in English. Today, we would use “get behind me” to talk about a show of support, but it works a little bit differently in first century language: it’s more like “depart or go away”.  The expression is the same in Matthew and in Mark, and is entirely missing from Luke, who has chosen to leave out that particular rebuke of Peter from his version of events.

Here are the three gospels that each have three incidences of Jesus predicting his own death to his disciples. They seem upset, but confused about it: in fact they all seem blindsided by it when it finally happens.

See what you think: it’s pretty clear from the different stories that Jesus  was expecting to die, but that his followers were unable to form that idea in their heads! In Luke, there even seems to be an expectation that there will be suffering for people who want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

 

MATTHEW

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 

 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 16:21–23.

 

Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. 

 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 17:22–23.

 

Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” 

 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 20:17–19.

MARK

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 

 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mk 8:31–33.

 

Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. 

 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mk 9:30–32.

 

Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” 

 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mk 10:32–34.

 

– 

LUKE

Jesus Foretells His Death

21 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” 

 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 9:21–27.

 

43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God. 

Jesus Again Foretells His Death

But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying. 

 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 9:43–45.

 

Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. 

 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 18:31–34.