Monday, March 23, 2009

Hillsong experience...

Saturday evening myself and Jane had the immense pleasure of going to Hillsong church in Sydney. They have two main service venues and about 30 other networks. The main place is in a suburb called the Hills (now I get why it’s called Hillsong!) and the other place is relatively close to the city and I think that’s were it originally started. We went to the one near the city. What a blessing and well worth the 5k walk! I think there’s probably a capacity of 400 people as opposed to about 10,000 in the hills. The place was packed and you could sense that most people who where there were excited about worshipping Jesus. Old and young gathered together as well as many different nationalities (translation was provided for a couple of different languages and sign language for the deaf).
The worship was outstanding. We didn’t know any of the songs but it didn’t matter. When you’re in a room with 400 people singing their hearts out and the guys on stage are obviously loving worshipping Jesus it’s very easy to enjoy the presence of God. Room to breathe, room to sing (shout) out your own praises to God, room to dance. Loved it. I also loved that the musicianship was excellent. Those guys and girls can play and sing.
The whole production was excellent. A lot of people moan that it’s too exuberant and elaborate but I love when things are done well and when you have people in your church who are creative and can give glory to Jesus through the arts and doing things excellently; let them do it.
The preaching was excellent. It definitely wasn’t just life coaching as a lot of naysayers say hillsong is all about. Full of scripture and extremely practical.
It really seems like these guys are reaching out to the local community and doing so much for the poor and broken hearted of Sydney and much farther afield. Faith without deeds is dead and these guys appear to really have that approach.
I’m sure there’s plenty of mistakes these guys make but I’m not called to judge them. My only experience of them is that their music has richly blessed me and my time fellowshipping with them was wonderful. It was hugely refreshing and we really can’t wait for church next Saturday and also very much looking forward to next Sunday as they are recording a live album which will be wonderful to be a part of.

If you’re not familiar with their tunes here’s my top ten according to my play count on itunes...
From the Inside out; More than Life; Came To The Rescue; Saviour King; Fire Fall Down; The Stand; Hosanna; Mighty to Save; Devotion; Salvation is Here.

Grand Slam

What can I say?
Myself and Jane got up at 4:15am to go to possibly the most degenerate bar in Sydney; the only one that seemed to be showing the Irish game and it just so happened to be around the corner from our hotel, nice one. It was packed so for the first 10 minutes or so we had to stand outside the window looking in like muppets until the bouncer came to his senses and let us in.
I’m sure all those reading this who watched the match can attest to it’s intensity. There were a few times I just wished it was over because it was so hard to cope watching a game that was so close and with so much at stake. 61 years waiting for a moment of history that this team has so richly deserved is pretty hard to watch when you know it could be snatched away from you with one kick of a ball. It so very nearly happened and all of us thought the ball was going over with the last kick until we saw the touch judge flags remain down and geordan murphy touch the ball down. To say the place went mental is understatement of the year. Very entertaining. A genuinely emotional moment.
The street was full of dancing Irish people at 6:30am which was a site to see.
Definitely memories to last a lifetime.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

It can be hard to think of titles for posts.

Greetings from Sydney. It's been nearly 2 weeks I think since we last conversed. Again I will blame Australia and it's severe lack of good broadband at campsites!
The past two weeks have been great. After our turnaround and the turn in the weather we decided to stay in one site for a few days. Weather all along the east coast was pretty bad so we figured a place with good coffee and a good bookshop would do us well. It did.
The weather didn't really bother us that much. We've been really enjoying our theologically challenging books so it gave us plenty of time to do some reading and also enjoy the very tasty coffee nearby. As my mind is being stirred a lot (Jane's too) a few musings on Jesus and perhaps theology may be on the way.
We found a church that we got to go to on the Sunday which was great. Not the greatest message I've ever heard but still, always good to fellowship.
The lack of football/rugby viewing over here has been a slight frustration for me. Especially last weekend, Ireland setting themselves up for a first grandslam in 60 years and Liverpool doing Man United in 4-1 (what a beautiful scoreline) at Old Trafford. I walked the streets of the town we were in in search of somewhere to watch the games to no avail. Although I was updated throughout via text from my brother which meant a very late night. It was gracious of him to let me know the United Liverpool score through his tears.
Patricks day was unfortunately a non runner for us. We were in a town which one might call hicksville so there was no chance of a bit of banter. The more we're away from home the more we appreciate it. Not that I particularly appreciate Dublin on Patricks night as it turns into a complete cess pitt but we miss most things Irish. I do have to say that over here at least Australians call it St. Patricks day or St. Paddy's day. Americans call it St. Patty's day. Someone needs to tell them that it wasn't Patricia, it was Patrick. I hope you all had good Patricks day banter.
The weather picked up at the start of last week so we decided to do a 600k drive to a really nice place we'd been to before called Hawk's Nest so we could chill out for a few days and enjoy the amazing beach and weather there. We slept under a canopy of stars. The sky was incredible at night as we were so far from a city so there were no lights to take away from it's glory.
We dropped our little campervan back yesterday in Sydney. A shame to part from it; but we'll be getting another one in New Zealand. Sleeping in a big bed again is so nice. We're staying in the midst of Sydney for a couple of days and then staying with relations of Jane who I think are pretty close to Sydney as well. First impressions are a gorgeous city. And two extremely tasty steaks last night for 5 euro each, one can't complain about that!
Tonight we're off to Hillsong. We're really looking forward to that. Mega churches are not to everyones taste and I definitely don't think I'd attend one as church is all about community; Sunday mornings are more like seminars on how to be the church. However, I'm really looking forward to going to a church who's music has richly blessed me and most believers around the world. I'll let you know how it was.
I'll finish with two things that made me happy yesterday; 1. I found a place that will be showing the Ireland rugby game tonight. Hooray. Yes it's on at 4:30am over here but I don't care, I need to see it. And 2. My brother came up trumps with U2 tickets. Good times.
Till next time...

Monday, March 9, 2009

700km u-turn...

The last couple of days have been pretty eventful due to a cyclone called ‘Hamish’. I used to like the scottish! As I said in my previous post we were pretty much evacuated from a wonderful place called Kinka Beech. The poor owners were freaked that the storm was gonna come their way. Interesting as we were leaving the office she said ‘I was thinking about offering a prayer up to the good Lord but he can’t save everybody’; I told her he actually can and wants to and might surprise her. She looked bemused. It’s true though. Literally in every sense of the word.

We travelled about 500k south to a place called Hervey Bay. Something stupid and miraculous happened on the way there both through the same occurrence. We passed through a town and we noticed my petrol was at the empty end of the gauge, I figured there’d be a station very soon. How wrong was I. 30km up the road was a sign that the next town was 60k away and our petrol light had already been on for 15k. Oops. For those who know my story about running out of petrol in Paris on my own on my motorbike will appreciate my sense of deja vu. Although at least Jane is much better company and prettier than my motorbike and my attitude to asking God to hook us up was much different than it was then. Short story, God kept us going the 85k with our petrol gone. Seemingly small and insignificant I may hear some say but I love that God is in the small things and he works today as much as he ever has. Why he does stuff like that and doesn’t do other things I don’t know, but he’s good and for us and I’m forever grateful for that.

We have been thinking and talking a lot about suffering after hearing some stuff about what’s happening back home and also with the bushfires here and now a cyclone on the way and where is God in the midst of them. This post is not the place for theological musings but God is so much better than we think he is; we’re not going to get to heaven and say ‘Sorry Jesus for overestimating your love, grace, mercy, compassion, kindness and justice’. We’re going to realise that we radically underestimated him. He weeps with us, comforts us, and gives us more hope than we can possible imagine or understand. Life can truly bite because evil exists as a result of Lucifers pride and our sinfulness but God always responds with goodness. Always. It’s in his nature. I could go on forever but just know that truth. God is love and he is especially fond of you.

Hervey Bay isn’t the nicest place but the campsite was fantastic. Probably due to the fact that there were only 4 of us there and it was super clean. Everyone had cleared out the day before due to the storm warning. We found out that there was an evacuation procedure taking place in the very nearby Fraser Island as a result of the storm heading our way. We had a chillin evening and it was so nice that the temperature was fairly reasonable. We actually slept the whole night through without waking up countless times due to being outrageously hot and scratching! Jane scratching her bites and me scratching my still lingering eczema. Charming. Being super hot in a glorified hiace van and not being able to open the windows due to mosquito’s is no fun. Last night’s sleep was great though.

I couldn’t believe that the past week I haven’t been able to get to a music store. Not one in any town we’ve visited. Finally two days ago I got to one and was able to get U2’s new album. Liked it on first listen. Moment of Surrender is definitely the best song on the album. When I put it on though I though I had bought Kings Of Leon’s new album! Jane commented on the same. Anyone else get that? Anyways, I’m looking forward to listening to it some more. Although we’re enjoying Eoghan Heaslip, Hillsong United and Tim Hughes at the moment. Nothing better than a bit of worship tunes while driving. Good for the soul.

We're now back on the sunshine coast. Not very sunny at the moment but there's a great coffee shop here so we can chill out there and bring our books to read. The van can sometimes get a little claustrophobic. I forgot to mention that u2 are playing on my birthday in Croke Park, if anyone wants to get me a ticket as a present please feel free. Oh and they have a new album coming out on November 18th called 'Songs of Ascent'. You heard it here first.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

2,800 km's and counting...

Onward we go. Currently we’re being evacuated from the nicest place we’ve been to yet. The forecast doesn't look good, especially as it contains a cyclone that is category 5. I'll fill you in on what we've been up to so far. It’s a place called Kinka Bay somewhere on the East coast probably 900 or so k north of Brisbane. It’s a gorgeous park, super cheap and really lovely beaches. It also has a pool which is sweet. Glorious sunshine on Thursday and Friday. Still plenty of mosquito’s, lizards, bugs and many other strange things to deal with but we’re starting to get used to them. They’re still mingers and I should leave the mozzies out of the ‘we’re getting used to them’ phrase but we’re doing a relatively good job of ignoring the other strange creatures.
On the way up here we stopped at Byron Bay. I can see why people are so enamored by it. It’s gorgeous. The views are pretty spectacular. I wish I was a surfer cause the waves were monstrous but I’m not that cool. We only paid it a fleeting visit though as it was pretty touristy and we’re getting used to the quiet places. The irony that we’re tourists isn’t lost on me.
After our pit stop in Byron Bay we stayed for a couple of nights on the sunshine coast in a place called Mooloolaba. Again, our park was right by the beach and we had a really nice time there. We came across a christian book store at last; well we came across one in Melbourne but it was full of self help books which isn’t really my scene. This one was great though. We stocked up on some books and cd’s that were on sale. One recently disgraced man of God’s books were on sale for $5. I didn’t know whether to be slightly amused by the fickleness and judgement of some christians or saddened. Either way I bought the books. Just cause a man has fallen doesn’t mean he didn’t have good things to say when he was walking with Jesus.
I’ve had enough of crappy crime novels so I’m looking forward to delving into the books we got. I finished one this morning. Pretty much disagreed with all of the guys main premise but it’s good to think upon things that you disagree with. It can give you more respect for the other guys argument even if you think it's flawed and reading their reasoning can sometimes show errors in your own ways our pre-judgements you've had about theirs. Anyways, most don't care, however I like to think upon these things so it's fun to have some good stuff to read.

An amusing piece of information for you all. We ran three days on the wrong time. Yes, THREE whole days thinking it was a certain time when actually it was an hour earlier. We were wondering why people where looking at us funny for getting up at 7:30 in the morning and clanging our cereal bowls and so on. I soon found out why. Actually that's a lie. It wasn't soon. It was three days later. Jane was giving out about the clock in hungry jacks (australian burger king; forgive us) being the wrong time. I feigned interest and nodded, too interested in the fact that my burger was a bit on the thin side. We drove all day from Mooloolaba to a place called 1770 and arrived just in time at 6pm. When the girl hadn't closed the shop as I was leaving I had a strange feeling and asked her what time it was. She said 5. I said I thought it was 6. She looked at me strange. I asked her when the time changed. She said 'never!'/ I said "no, but when did the time change on the east coast?'. She said, actually she said nothing, just gave me a blank stare. Jane was hiding in the van. I figured that was the best place to be. I left with whatever dignity I had left and informed Jane of our 'misjudgment'. However, we have decided we are working on a better time cause it gets darker earlier being an hour behind so we're still cruising an hour ahead of everyone.

If there's wi-fi in the place we get to tonight I'll fill you in some more. For now we gotta pack up and sing some more Ronald Stein; he wrote 'On the Road Again'; Jane's favourite she says. I disagree that it's her favourite. It's one of her favourites at the moment amongst 'tie my kangaroo down sport' (she bursts into song whenever she see's the kangaroo sign on the road - they're more frequent than you think!); 'kookaburra sits in the old gum tree' and the theme to the Golden Girls. Thank you for being a friend....

Monday, March 2, 2009

On the road again....

Some form of civilization at last. Not that that’s necessarily a good thing, but at least we have wi-fi for an hour. My communication with the outside world has been texts from my brother giving me the more than good news that Ireland beat England in the six nations; preceded by a mixed bag of Liverpool results which I don’t care to talk about. I’m determined to find a place that will show the last two six nations games wherever we may be. I can’t miss out seeing us do something we haven’t done in 60 odd years in winning the grand slam. Bring it.
So our travels have been so much fun. We picked up our ridiculous looking van just over a week ago and so far have done just under 2500km. That’s a lot of driving, taking in some cracking places along the way. Australia has surprised me in more ways than one. I guess the main thing that has surprised us is how many yokels there are. America is known for it’s many rednecks in the south and I’ve certainly met a few in my time but Australia is full of their own special breed of them, in pretty much every place we’ve been to since we left Melbourne.
Last night was a particularly good example of what we’ve found on our travels. We went out to get something to eat, pretty hungry after our 30 cent noodles for lunch; so we went to the only place open which was a local bowls club. In it was a chinese restaurant so as I have a penchant for Asian food I figured we’d check it out. Not that we had a choice but it’s always good to pretend you have. We walked in to a glorified game of bingo with 50 or so people who honestly looked liked they’d just come from a mullet convention. That was the ladies; the guys looked liked they’d come from a dodgy tash / worst clothes ever convention. It was outstanding citizenship. What was actually taking place was a ‘trivia night with added bonus of bingo night’. Clever slogan. The winners got to pick meat out of the fridge to take home with them. I’m telling the truth. When I went to get drinks at the bar I had to become a temporary member and receive a special card; something which I will treasure always. Food was actually pretty tasty.
After Jane had her dinner and we left the Mosquito’s then had their dinner which was Jane. They like her for some reason. They like me too, but not as much. And as I’ve unfortunately become used to trying not to scratch due to my being stricken with near on leprosy in December I’m used to it but poor Jane has some serious bites. Stinger; literally and metaphorically. Jane has found a new profession; ‘the mosquito hunter’. She’s like a ninja. We’ll be sitting outside the van drinking our cheap ribena and all of a sudden ‘BAM’ on some area of my body and clung to me will be the remnants of a mosquito. Ming. Although I’d rather a dead mosquito on me than a live one.
I wonder what stance animal lovers take on mosquito’s. Do they pet them? Do they let them eat them for lunch of do they secretly kill them and lament for days on the loss of a soul? They most definitely do not have souls. It baffles me that Jesus through whom all things were made thought it was a good idea to make mosquito’s. Perhaps they are the missing link in a devious form of evolution. Not like primordial soup to man, that’s just plain ridiculous but a nice little fly to an evil mosquito. s.i.n. as I’ve heard it called before, sin in nature.
I think the nicest place we’ve stayed in so far has been a place called Hawk’s nest. A great caravan park right beside the beach which it turned out we pretty much had to ourselves. So nice. It’s definitely times like those when I wish I had some of my new theology books that are sitting on my shelf at home waiting to be read and digested.
There’s a lot to be said for the simple life. No t.v., no newspapers, no internet. All we have is a bit of music and also 40 mins of west wing before we go to bed. I’m surprisingly really enjoying it. Although sometimes the lack of friends on the road can be a bit weird. Also no guitar is a huge shame but such is life.
I should probably stop here because most people don’t read blogs that are long so I’ll bid you farewell. I’ll try upload some photo’s when I get some batteries for my camera.