Wednesday, March 19, 2008

turning eighty

My Dad turns 80 on Easter Sunday. I reckon that is pretty cool. It has caused me to reflect on some of the things for which I am grateful about my Dad (and my Mum) who is now more frail as Parkinsons accompanies him through these later years. I'd like to pay tribute to him, if I may...

1. My Dad showed me what living for Jesus looks like
My own testimony doesn't contain a lightning strike, just a gradual dawning. I don't have a clear sense of moving from darkness to light. In fact I spent many years wondering if I had a testimony at all. Living for Jesus was the air we breathed. It was the water in which we little fish learned to swim. I knew nothing else. But as I've got older I've realised that the grace which trickles down through the generations is just as amazing as the grace which arrests people on their own Damascus Rd.

2. My Dad extended to me the privilege of growing up in India
I am a missionary kid. I grew up as a guest in someone else's country. I love all that this has brought into my life, not the least being the reality that 'the one who has lived in many villages is unlikely to remain a prisoner to his own village' (Newbigin). John Stott rightly affirms that all Christians should be 'committed internationalists'. This comes so naturally to me because Dad took me to India.

3. My Dad demonstrated to me how calling comes before gifting
God does not so much call us to what we are gifted for - he calls us first and then gifts us in a way which enables an obedience to that call. If Dad had allowed his gifts to determine his calling - he might have remained a concert pianist or become a rugby legend or a cardio-thoracic surgeon or a mission executive or a college principal... The story of his life is a story of dramatic turns away from that for which he had proven an outstanding gifting. To the human eye it has been a wasted life. Professional suicides and vocational harekares one after the other... But there is no waste in the divine economy. That economy - within that sovereignty - works best when it works with open-hearted anywhere-goes obedience. He may have counted the cost of obedience, but he quickly forgot the numbers. I admire my Dad so much for these decisions and I consider that admiration to be the decisive human factor in my lingering desire to follow Jesus all the days of my life.

4. My Dad showed me how to lead with a servant-heart and without ambition
I know that JO Sanders wrote about 'God-sanctioned ambition' but I didn't see this in Dad. He seemed to have no grand plans regarding himself, happy as he is to be led by God here and there. He seems to have little ambition beyond the 'trust and obey, for there is no other way' life. And he loved to serve and to help. One of the stand-out features of his missionary career in post-colonial India was the quality of his friendship with national leaders. I like to think I get a little reluctance in leadership, a preference for leading from behind, and a discomfort with the limelight from my Dad. While these features do not fit everyone's model of leadership I am at peace with them basically because they mean I might be like my Dad.

5. My Dad taught me to invest in surrogate parenting
He has a remarkable capacity to hold in his heart the children of friends and colleagues. His parental heart enlarges to incorporate so many of them - particularly those who are not following Jesus. He is "Uncle Ray" to so very many people. When staying in peoples' homes he took time to engage a spouse in conversation and then walk away with the names of the children in his prayers.
But there is more to it than this... With boarding school and other separations from Dad being a part of my story, my life is all the richer for numerous surrogate dads who stepped into the gap left vacant temporarily by my own Dad. While this was not always easy, I do find in my heart a deep gratitude to these men as well.

6. My Dad showed me how influential character can be
Over the decade of my time as Principal of Carey Baptist College I have preached in Baptist churches all around New Zealand - maybe 80 or more. You are not going to believe this - but it is true. I have yet to visit a church where someone (usually more elderly) doesn't come up alongside me and question me about my pedigree and then shows such delight when they discover I am 'Ray's son' - and sometimes also 'Gwennie's boy'. Admittedly many of the Otago women look a little flushed and might even admit to once having a crush on the handsome university lad ... but far more often it is some little story that is still imprinted on their lives decades later, related to his character and commitment to Jesus ... and that is when I realise that his life has not been wasted.
Being known as the "son of ..." might curdle the emotions of many in my generation - but I love it.

Sure - my Dad will have his failings and shortcomings but that is not the purpose of this post!

May I also say that this post was also sparked by reading a review by Os Guinness (entitled "Fathers and Sons") of this dreadful book by Frank Schaeffer (Crazy for God) where he is so 'cruel' towards his parents, Francis and Edith Schaeffer. It is worth reading.

nice chatting

Paul Windsor

Sunday, March 09, 2008

oh, to wave a wand

Here are some reflections on the 5th New Zealand Christian Leaders' Congress held last week in Waikanae. I had mixed feelings, with question marks living alongside exclamation marks.

4 Exclamation Marks:

1. We have some remarkable leaders in New Zealand! Kim Workman, soon to retire as Director of Prison Fellowship (NZ), is one of my favourites. I find his story, his words, and his manner to be compelling. He facilitated a Crime & Punishment focus with issues of retributive vs restorative justice being debated. One provocative statistic? Did you know that the apprehension rate (by the police) of Maori in Nelson and Canterbury is 50% higher than anywher else? And Kim's wry comment? "Maori in these regions must be 50% more evil than in Hamilton or Rotorua ... Given the 80+% rate for re-offending what we are doing in these regions is creating criminals."
If I could wave a wand it would be to have the Christian community reclaim forgiveness to be at the heart of transformation and bring it to bear in this gaping wound in our society.

2. Another couple of favourites are Sam Chapman and Murray Robertson. Murray spoke from the Nazareth Manifesto in Luke 4 and noted how 'disturbing' Jesus' listeners found his message (Luke 4:28, 29). Our message is too personal, too boring, too comfortable to be disturbing today. Then Sam retells the 60 Minutes story of the Notorius Mongrel Mob leader to whom he offered not "a hand-out, or a hand-up - but just a hand"(available on the site). Not exactly boring or comfortable - and quite disturbing for many of us.
If I could wave a wand it would be to have the Christian community sit under the Word of God more faithfully and more fully so that we hear how it stings (as well as sings) and wounds (as well as heals) ... disturbing the comfortable (as well as comforting the disturbed).

3. A book was published alongside the Congress. A mammoth task! Edited by Bruce Patrick and others. I tried to skim-read the book during the Congress and thought I'd mark up the Table of Contents page, placing an asterix next to those chapters I thought were worthwhile. I have a lot of asterixes! The editors and writers are to be commended.
If I could wave a wand I'd get that book into the hands of leaders up and down the country and have them absorb even just 2-3 chapters of relevance - and let it reshape the way they think and live for Jesus.

4. When it comes to facilitating musical worship, David Lyle Morris is simply the best (if I may be permitted to express it like this). He has sensitivity, maturity, balance, grace, humility ...
If I could wave a wand I'd make personal coaching from David (as well as completing the One Step Ahead worship course developed by Stephen Worsley - see for every 'worship team' in the country!

2 Question Marks

1. Why do we give so much time and space to Christian political parties? A bunch of representatives from these parties were interviewed one evening. They were asked "what will you do to prevent the Christian community being embarassed by you?" Good question - partly because there was plenty of cringe and embarassment going on in front of us. One likened his 'mistreatment' by the media to the sufferings of Christ ... another took the opportunity to hand out a party promotions folder during the event ... then there were some soap-box speeches ... not to mention them dredging up that dreadful day last year when two of them botched a merger in front of the nation - in order to have another go at apportioning blame.
If I could wave a wand I'd rid the political landscape of these Christian parties. I just can't see what they contribute. I don't resonate with their hunger for political clout as the hope for transformation. I'd rather commend those Jesus-followers who know God's call into public life and carry this out through diverse political parties.

2. How did this event move from being a specifically evangelical gathering to being a merely Christian one? The purpose has broadened out. The desire is to have as wide as possible a representation of Christian leaders present. The goal is 'flowing together in unity'. While this is praiseworthy I remain unconvinced about how much such a movement can achieve. Even John 17 places 'that they may be one' in the context of shared truth and holiness and mission around which an authentic unity gathers. If the truth that is shared spreads too thinly then what unites us will lack strong adhesive qualities ... and missional outcomes will suffer. I sense this danger is before us.
If I could wave a wand I would target the event for leaders who easily own a spacious evangelical confessional stance like The Lausanne Covenant with their most articulate theologians and practitioners being the ones who spark the debates. For whatever reason, too many of these people were sitting and listening.

In reality I have no wands to wave. It is probably just as well. I will keep working and praying toward these ends in the meantime.

nice chatting


Sunday, March 02, 2008


This week I had a friend ask my opinion on home-schooling. His little family is reaching that stage where a decision needs to be made. Knowing that Barby and I had chosen to public-school, he wanted to hear some reasons for doing so.

The arguments can go on forever. I realise that.

Our view is that our children are not ours. They belong to God. So our basic purpose as parents is to disciple our children and prepare them as best we can to be participants in the mission of God in the world wherever that may lead them. Everything else - and I mean 'everything' - is secondary.

Now, as followers of Jesus, the basic stance for such participation is as 'salt' and 'light'. There is tension with these two. Being salt has us mixing-in and participating in society, helping to stop the rot ... whereas being light has us standing apart, being distinctive, helping to show the way. They sound contradictory. But Jesus calls us to participate and then to be distinctive as we do so.

Our view is that our children need to experience this tension in the life of following Jesus from the earliest possible time. We want them to wrestle with the difficulties associated with mixing in and standing apart at the same time. The earlier they start the more likely it is to become a way of life for them. Each age and stage carries its own challenge. From discovering how people respond when Jesus keeps being drawn into their written stories in Year One right through to making decisions about alcohol and sexuality and language-use and movies and music in Year Twelve.

While I have softened over the years and become more sympathetic to the motivation of home-schoolers we could never have made that decision ourselves. And if we had our five children all over again we still wouldn't make that decision.

To us the decision to home-school appears to be one which involves too much light and not enough salt.

nice chatting