Category: general

Genesis 1, and Freedom (part 1)

“Only the one who obeys a rhythm greater than their own is truly free,” claimed Nikos Kanzantakis (my paraphrase). Freedom, one of history’s great rally-cries, is positioned here in terms of ‘obedience’. Certainly, this is contrary to the common conception of freedom.

The issue of freedom leads us to ask some of life’s great questions. What does it mean to be free? How can one become free? What do we need to be free from? Is freedom a right, or a privilege?

All freedom movements, in addressing questions such as these, articulate the following: an identity, an ethic, and an embodiment. An identity is an answer to the question of what it means to be human. An ethic is an endorsed or proposed way of life. An embodiment is a set of habits, designed to form this identity and ethic within us.

We can find each of these articulated in Genesis 1:1-2:4a. It is a freedom text, with its own bold claims and unique assertions about these issues. Why does it explore these things? Because the question of freedom goes to the very heart of life and existence, and is central to the author’s concern. How does it explore them? Part 2, coming [eventually].

Isaiah 58 (in Tom’s words)

[An instruction for Isaiah]

With everything you’ve got, shout!
Use your voice and use it loud,
your sledgehammer words to hold them in their tracks.
Confront the rebellion and resistance of my people, the house of Jacob.
This has to be a hard word.

[The diagnosis]

Day after day they seek me, supposedly aligning themselves with my ways,
acting like they’re a righteous nation,
acting like they’re living in line with my commands.
They’re not.
They ask for righteous judgements, they feign delight in drawing near to me.
“Here we are fasting, don’t you see? Why bother humbling ourselves when you don’t even notice?”

You want the truth?

You fast, but even as we speak you’re utterly preoccupied with your own interests; you oppress your workers, for crying out loud! You only fast so you can quarrel, fight, and beat up on others – yes, you with the wicked fist. I’ll tell you for sure, your voice won’t be heard on high. No way. You’re wasting your time with this so-called ‘fasting’.

Do you really think that this is what I want? A day where you humble yourselves and bow your head, acting lowly and pretending like the world has fallen on you? You think this is a fast, a day that the Almighty God takes delights in?

But try this on for size. Here is the kind of fast I choose.

[The prescription]

Loose the chains of injustice.
Undo the restraints of repression.
Let the oppressed go free, and smash down the walls of captivity.
Share your food with the hungry, your house with the homeless poor,
Honour the personhood of the naked; evict their shame, and cover them.
Stay present, attentive, and involved with your family.

[The promise]

See, now we’re talking.
Live like this, and your light will captivate the earth like the dawn;
your healing will arise quickly, as streams from the ground.
Your vindicator will go ahead of you, and God-the-magnificent will have your back. You’ll call out, and Almighty God will answer; you’ll cry for help, and he’ll respond: “I’m here!”

[Further prescription and promise]

If you demolish strongholds of fear, accusation, and evil,
if you work to keep bellies full and to satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light will rise in the darkness, your dusk will be the brightest daylight.
The LORD Almighty will actively and continuously guide you,
satisfying your needs even in the driest places,
giving you a deeply rooted strength.
You’ll be vibrant and rich like a watered garden,
like a pure alpine spring whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt, and you’ll raise the foundations for the coming generations;
your name will be Repairer of the Broken Wall, Restorer of the Abundant Streets.

If you can hold back from walking all over the sabbath (the day of renewable energy) and chasing your own glory,

and delight, embrace, and claim it as a holy day of God,
if you honour it and allow your life be shaped by it (rather than using it for your agenda),
then you’ll discover deepest delight in the Lord Almighty.
I’ll cut you loose to ride on the heights of the earth;
I’ll nourish and satisfy you with all the riches and abundances of your inheritance from Jacob.

These are my words to you, my people.

I’ve said it with my own mouth.

5Q – Alan Hirsch [Book Review]

Fresh language goes hand-in-hand with fresh thinking. By allowing fresh thoughts to become infused through life in rhythms, practices and habits, space can be made for sustained change.

Alan Hirsch has been consistent in his task to prod the church toward fresh thinking. 5Q is his most recent book, and in it he makes a broad case for the use of some specifically fresh language. The title is a play on ‘intelligence quotient’ (IQ) and other such measurements, and Hirsch has repurposed the idea to describe the form of “symphonic” communal intelligence that arises out of a combination of different perspectives, gifts and motivations.

It’s not like he hasn’t written about this before. Hirsch has basically championed the recovery of the ‘fivefold’ callings/functions (apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, teacher, Ephesians 4:11) for the missional church movement, covering the topic extensively as a co-author in The Permanent Revolution. I personally found that book satisfyingly thorough, and ahead of reading 5Q I wasn’t sure there was much else to say on the APEST gifts. But Hirsch’s writing life has been nothing if not intentional, so I was intrigued. Here’s the breakdown.


The APEST gifts outlined in Ephesians 4 ultimately find their source in the very substance of God’s being. God’s eternal purposes (sentness-missio), holy covenantal heart, saving mercy, loving communal embrace, and infinite truth and wisdom are ways to understand God through the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching lenses. This language is certainly fresh – or perhaps it’s this specific combination of elements making it feel new – and some people won’t like it, I guess. But all-in-all, it seems a theologically astute and comfortable claim.

Common Grace

Traces of God can be found throughout all creation, and even though there is a ‘brokenness’ to the world we can still see the image of God within humanity. Hirsch makes a great case for identifying the distinctive characteristics of God (outlined above and framed using the APEST language) throughout humanity’s founding stories. In addition to dealing with the Genesis account of creation (looking at humanity’s relationality, agency, rationality, creativity, responsibility, and communication), he also deals more broadly with mythology and archetypes. To flesh this out, he does a quick sweep across subjects such as philosophy, biology, living systems, psychology and the social sciences, history, literature and art. It’s a fun chapter. His contention is essentially that the fivefold gifts are laced throughout every aspect of human reality.


This is pretty straight-forward. Jesus is the fulfilment of humanity, and the archetypal expression of each of the 5Q dimensions. The Father sends the Son, and the Father and the Son send the Spirit. In this classical trinitarian formula, Jesus is both sent and sender. He ignites his followers to continue his mission until he returns, and holds them to account for doing so. In all of this he is the ultimate apostle (cf. John 20:21; Hebrews 3:1). In the same way, Hirsch outlines Jesus as the ultimate expression of prophet (cf. John 1:1-14; Revelation 1:5; Hebrews 2:5; Matthew 4:1-11), evangelist (cf. Luke 19:9-10; Ephesians 2:14), shepherd (cf. John 10:11; 1 Peter 2:25), and teacher (cf. John 1:17; Romans 16:26). (Note: I’ve illustrated these points with ‘quick’ Scriptures, but Hirsch takes a much more synthesising approach.)

Followers of Jesus

Given that the church is meant to carry on the work of Christ through the power of the Spirit, then each of these dimensions of Christ’s ministry must be expressed in mature fulness throughout the whole Body of Christ. This is what Ephesians 4:1-16 is all about, and the argument is developed in full form in The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church.

Marks of the Church

Now, this is the really fun bit! This is where the prior work actually lands us, offering both diagnostic tools and a very clear ‘way forward.’ The marks of the church according to the Nicene Creed are “one, holy, catholic, apostolic.” Missiologist Darryl Guder has previously called us to understand these in the reverse order (see Missional Church), which is pretty cool. Hirsch however takes issue with the impossibility of the “catholic” part. For it to be a true mark of the church, “there must be a visible unity of structure and confession.” True catholicity may well exist in a mystical, “communion of the saints” kind of way, joining believers across the boundaries of space and time. But based on our current situation, there can be no truly structural and confessional world-wide “catholic” church. A more helpful way to think of the marks of the true church is using the APEST framework. The true church is marked by Missional impact (A), Covenant faithfulness (P), Gospel proclamation (E), Reconciled community, (S), Deep wisdom (T). I think this is rad :-)


Hirsch provides a compelling case for how the church is to be and act in the world. APEST is “grounded in God, laced into creation, redeemed by Jesus, granted to the church, lived out in the lives of its saints, to the glory of God. [It is a] ‘system’ that goes as deep as it does wide.” The book has a great flow to it, is actually quite a fun read, and comes across with a sort of light-hearted passion. Hirsch doesn’t take himself too seriously, but he takes God and God’s mission very seriously indeed. Putting 5Q into practice should lead to lots of new insights for church life ‘on the ground,’ and the second half of the book is helpful in fleshing some of these out. It will be interesting to see who picks up the challenge posed by Hirsch in the spheres of systematic and trinitarian theology and see what further explorations of 5Q might be undertaken at that level. Most of all, I’ll look forward to seeing a bit of rage (hehe) as people grapple with the fivefold ‘marks of the church’. 5Q is a clear, bold and purpose-filled proposal for the ongoing shaping of the church. I hope that Hirsch’s thesis gets ‘run through the gauntlet’ at both intellectual and practical levels. Let’s see if the implications are as powerful as they sound. | 5Q on Amazon

A New Vitality

This is a call for release…

Release from a captivity of imagination.

Not a call to forsake true identity; a call to take it up!

Ain’t no need to whitewash skill or experience; it’s time to tether these to a new way.

This is a word with intent, determined to call forth hope. A word to look and see what is already here. To lift one’s head and survey the landscape anew. Because although the truth is close, maybe it’s different than you expected…

Look again.

Forget the former things; do not dwell in the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

A new reality has arrived.

The first shoots of spring are breaking through; the early rays of the new dawn are colouring the sky. All that is necessary now is to get down in the dirt and pay attention… to rise from your slumber and be alive.

Awake, sleeper! Get to work, gardener!

… and let the breath of life restore you to your senses, renew your lost vigour, invigorate you with lifeblood, saturate you in splendour.

Come. Come and see. Your dreams no longer belong to the night. The hopes that were dashed are alive with new vitality.

Here is the way, the path so many longed to find. Set your eyes to the horizon and get your feet on the road.

This journey has been waiting for you.

Faith-Filled Prayer

Prayer is a present-moment activity. It requires the direction of our energies in fullness toward God, right here and right now.

But in this present moment, faith-filled prayer takes us on a bit of a time-travel. It takes us forward, into a future not-yet-seen. While we are there – actively attentive to a possibility – we take ownership of that place, in hope… before releasing it to the God who holds all time.

And he deals with it. Faith-filled prayer is:

“To enter and engage the future, and render it a past already dealt with.”

– Peter Roberson: Revival Streams

This is praying ’till you mean it,

Then trusting the One who receives it.

Fresh Verbs

Where has aliveness happened?

Somewhere in our past, distantly / deliberately, new life happened. In all sorts of places, through all sorts of people, new things have sprung forth.

These new things were meaningful then. But the past doesn’t speak to the present without a bit of work…

“The nouns of art (the paintings, scores, recordings, information) are tombstones that mark locations where significant acts of aliveness once took place; they await fresh verbs (attention, personal connection, response, discovery) to bring them back to life.”

 (The Teaching Artist’s Bible by Eric Booth, p.40)

The past wants to speak to us. There are words of wisdom and life, locked away in a multitude of places, just waiting to be opened. They are ready to warn us, exhort us, console us, scold us. The past is holding out the right hand of fellowship, waiting, waiting… do we accept the dare to dive in?

All that’s needed are fresh verbs. All that is needed is a willingness to engage.

An encounter



Unknown / Out In The Open

There is a great hope.

It is like a huge underground lake of fresh water, a storehouse and spring of courage, life and energy. It is a great treasure source of comprehension and fulfilment.

Hidden throughout all the ages, the breath from our lips can utter of it little more than ” M . Y . S . T . E . R . Y . ”

But pay attention. For that which was unknown

Is now out in the open.

“Release Plans”

I spent yester-eve with (bro) Hamish and our mix-engineer Matt Caradus making final moves on the soon-to-be released ‘Black Boy Peaches’ album.

It’s nice to be able to execute a “release plan” (lol) while actually being on deadline, unlike the last time (in the dark-ages of 2010) when we missed the Company Feel Good release-date by over a month!

Anyhow, as good as this is… I may as well say that the concept of planning is dubious, at best. The future is so unpredictably filled with twists and turns that pretending to hold the reigns is a little on the naive side. Typing up a nice looking release hit-list is comforting, sure, and it does help by giving some practical goals to hit. But it is just a one-dimensional view of what is in reality a kaleidoscopic-future, and it is guaranteed not to work as anticipated. If you’ve ever planned anything that involves other people in the slightest (i.e. almost everything ever), you’ll know what it’s like to have missed emails, inconclusive phone calls, and a lack of interest in what you are trying to achieve!

The plan looks great until on the first day when somebody says No!

So, our album release is more to do with intent than planning. Our goal is obviously to give our precious album that we have loved and laboured over as much a chance of filling the airwaves as possible; so, for what it’s worth, we will plan and do everything within our capacity to aid that. But rather than trying to force a narrow, single-lane vision of the future into existence, our release preparation will be focused on a) remaining open to possibilities, b) finding and connecting with people with whom we find resonance, and c) enjoying the mystery of life and the anticipation of new music.

Well, enough with the positive self-talk, better go and finish my release plan!

Focused Breathing

Yesterday, as part of one of my university classes, a Thai monk led an introductory session on Buddhist meditation. He essentially focused on mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

One part of this session included an exercise I already use (sometimes), which is helpful when seeking to focus: breathing practice. While breathing on the whole is clearly easy, breathing with intent is surprisingly difficult. But making the effort to stop and take several deep (and slow) breaths is a great feeling.

I have to focus on doing this while drumming – especially during a pieces that require extra attention. I often find myself holding my breath completely! The practice of disciplined breathing while playing is helpful for being attentive to the performance, but it can be challenging. It actually introduces a different sense of rhythm into the equation: relaxed breathing doesn’t often sync with the song tempo!

The discipline of breathing / the art of breathing… is a good starting point for christian spiritual practice. It allows for attention to God in this moment; for stillness before the Word; and for mobilisation by the Spirit, right here & right now.

Genesis 1:2 … and the breath of God hovered over the waters.

Diminished Chords

I never understood the purpose of diminished chords.

[A diminished chord that appears naturally within a major scale is that which starts in the 7th position of the scale. The chord is completed with two minor-3rd intervals on top (an interval which is 3-half steps up the scale). In C Major, this would be a chord with the notes B – D – F. To contrast this with major and minor chords, B minor == B – D – F# : B major == B – D# – F#.]

Major and minor, these are easy enough. You can play them together, and they sound good. There’s heaps of combinations. But a diminished chord, … ugh. Well, I have just blocked it out as a possible option whenever I’ve been playing.

But! But now I understand. When practising arpeggios up and down through a key (eg. F#, G#m, A#m, B, C#, D#m, Fdim … F#) I found that, yes, there is a musical place for diminished chords. In context, moving slowly and musically through various note-patterns, and (importantly) resolving from the diminished to the home chord, I had my aha moment. It actually sounded nice!

The strange and untenable has its place in a diverse environment where there is movement, (melodic) distinction and resolution.

Enjoy the tension… just keep it moving!

Why I Love Music

I love the joy of hearing new things unfold. I love exploring and discovering new depths in unexpected places. I love how in the diligence and focus of practise there is a clarity of mind awaiting, an uncovering of new ideas. I love music when you can hear a passion, a unique life-expression, a heart-beat, coming from the players and singers. I love the physical part of music: as our body warms up and we commit more fully to the process, the music gets better, and we become more honest.

I love the immediacy of music: It brings me fully into the present. I love its road-mapping possibilities: we’re here now, but we could be anywhere soon! I love the structures within music: there are cathedrals to build – though we are not limited by resource, but only taste. I love the unity of music: when the next section arrives and every person is committed, for a moment there is complete integrity of purpose – the members of the band or group are of one mind.

I love how music has the ability to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. I love that music can cause me to feel confusion, anger, outrage; excitement, hope, or delight. I love listening somebody sing something that causes a change in my thinking: an “oh…” or an “ah!” moment. I love experiencing technical expertise in music. I love when you can sense technical expertise in someone, but even more evident is the constant restraint that they show. I love the endless possibilities within music. I love the process of creating, unfolding, designing. I love the process of putting my heart on my sleeve, and standing behind a song or an idea. I love that we are able to capture moments, capture expressions, capture sounds through recording. I love the complex detail within some recordings, and the surprising simplicity within others.

Music is a 5-minute or 40-minute echo of life; it shapes us, moulds us, mirrors us, exposes us. Music says things about us that we don’t understand. It causes us to say things about ourselves that surprise. Music is a life-breath sometimes, it is an overflow other times; it is addictive, it is bitter, it is medicine, it is poison. Some people live for it, some people thrive on it, some jog to it, some go deaf for it. Music is a wide and broad as the east to the west, as high as the sky is from the depths. It is as personal as it gets, yet as universal as anything can be. Music is wonderful, mysterious, out-of-control, subtle, delicate, outrageous, beautiful.