Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Brain surgery, take two!

Ok, here’s the good news! (and the story behind it)
My view from my room in St Vincents Hospital

I had radiation therapy in October to get rid of the last of the tumour (or at least arrest it’s renewed growth). That went perfect. I went to the Radiologist last Wednesday (Jan 21) for a three month check-up. He asked all the usual questions. All good. Then he said, “Anything else to report?” I told him there was a little leakage from the wound over the past month. He had a look and was truly surprised. “That’s not good, Dave. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s clear. Could be CSF (Cerebrospinal Fluid) and that is not good.” Leaking CSF can cause meningitis… often a death sentence. He wrote an Email to the Surgeon right then and asked me to watch. He was very serious. I love Mike Daly. Google him, you will too!
The next day was my first day back at school as Chaplain at Sunbury Downs College. At about 10AM I received a call from Jane, my Neurosurgeon’s Personal Assistant. “Dave, I have an email here from Mike. Not good! I need you to have a CT Scan tomorrow and come in to see Paul (Neurosurgeon) next Tuesday when he is back in the office. So, I did.
Dr Smith was befuddled. “Never seen anything like it, Dave. Two years after the surgery the wound opens and leaks CSF? I saw the wound a year ago and it was perfect! First time I’ve even heard of such a thing!” I said, “Well, I do love to be first! Maybe you can write a paper about it and be famous!” He laughed and then sent me to get an MRI.
Then straight into hospital. I mean right then. MRI 45 mins after my neurosurgeon saw the wound. Admitted that afternoon. That was yesterday.
Yesterday’s MRI revealed no leak.
Neither did the CT Scan from last Friday.
But the fluid and hole in the scar were very evident.
They slotted me in for surgery today. They said they would open the scar, find the leak with a microscope, seal the leak, patch the wound with muscle and tissue from my leg and close up the wound. If necessary, they would move jaw muscles to assist in strengthening the area. An ENT came in yesterday afternoon and walked me through the possibilities of major reconstruction if they needed invade the aural canal. Jin, the assisting Neurosurgeon came in last night and ran me through the possibilities – Including death. Such is surgery when you are going fully under for awhile.
At 11:50 they drove my bed (It’s a Rolls-Royce convertible! Remote control seat—back and feet, drop down rails on all four sides, powered-adjustable height suspension, built in TV (when parked in my room) and… It has wheels!) to the Surgery ward. I met the Anaesthesiologist, Andrew. He was really nice guy but was a chronic wrist squeezer (mine not his). Then there was the nurse who was prepping me. I wish I could remember his name! He was cracking me up. I hadn’t had any meds yet, he was just very funny. He turned the three tone beep of one machine into a song. He said it was a hymn to make me feel at home.
They wheeled my Rolls into the surgery room. The previous time I was completely out by the time I reached this room. Interestingly, I recognised the lights on the ceiling. Two huge spotlights on long arms. I told the doctors and they said, “This was the same room you were in last time.” In the days after my brain surgery (two years ago) I had memories of a moment in the surgery room. I had wondered if those memories were invented, or true somehow. I must have had a sentient moment!
They pushed my Rolls (sideways drive, even!) against the operating table and helped me change to a new bed. The two Neurosurgeons checked my head/neck mobility and allowed me to stay on my back and turn my head sideways for the surgery. SO MUCH BETTER than last time when they had me on my side for the nine hour surgery. I had a bone-bruised hip for weeks afterward – couldn’t walk for two days!
Once I was on the operating table, they put an oxygen mask on and started the drip. Bye Bye, Davy!
Soon, I heard my name (well the Australian version which sounds like ‘Dye-vud’) off in the distance. I was back in my Rolls! And new people were looking in through the open roof. They wanted Dye-vud to open his eyes. They really wanted that. The kept calling him. Finally I decided to help. He couldn’t be that far away with them all looking for him in my Rolls.
Compared to last time, coming too was soooo much better. No vomiting. No chipmunk voice (I had a speech therapist on call last time and the warning that my voice may never be the way it was before the surgery) from the breathing tube. I’m only a little hoarse this time (like a Shetland pony vs a Clydesdale). I’m still speaking in bass range. No teasing from my three teenagers! Sorry guys.
Once I was able to help the nurses with their chronic disorientation (they are always asking for their current location and the present date–maybe calendar and map skills should be in their training…”OK Google”) I flexed my leg muscles to see if I could feel where the doctors took muscle and tissue from. I could not. I lifted my sheet and saw a new tattoo on my leg. It was a cross. I smiled, “Funny-man nurse strikes again!” Then I realised what the tattoo meant. They had prepped a spot for removal of flesh and then not taken any. I asked why. They said, “It was quick and easy. All good. A doctor will come and explain everything once you’re back in your room.”  
After I helped a nurse with the time – 4:30pm – I asked how long the surgery had been. “Just about an hour. We’ve been having a tough time waking you up.” Perhaps if they had an American on staff to yell “DAY-VID” I may have come down the dark alleyway toward the voice with the suspiciously friendly tone. In all seriousness, they had to give me an extra dose of wakey wakey juice. And then it still took some time. Oh, well, it’s all the same to me – I got my Rolls back.  
Back in my room, I got to see my lovely wife again. She is my strength and the most beautiful thing in my life! She is so supportive and compassionate. She watched me nap. She rubbed my feet. She kissed my cheek. She went down two elevators to the basement and bought me Iced Coffee. Love that lady!
A few hours later, Jin the Neurosurgeon, came in and explained things:
He told me it was not CSF and there is no leak.
He said, there was dead tissue between my skull and the scar. The tissue had been breaking down into fluid and looking for way out. So, it made a way through the scar. The dead tissue-become-fluid was most likely tissue killed by the radiation in October, slowly desolving.
They removed all the dead tissue, moved a bit of muscle in my head to strengthen the wound and sewed me up. They sent a sample of the fluid to the lab to have it analysed. And so, when the lab results come back in, they will tell me all about it.
He said my leg was still intact because they didn’t need muscle and fatty tissue.
For now, the news is, I no longer have dead tissue behind the wound, I have a renewed scar and Endone every three hours. Can we say, “Ahhhh, Endone!”
Oh, and a random staple in my forehead… forgot to ask about that. (Funny-man nurse again?)

Thanks for your prayers, Peeps. You rock my world!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sabbath School Starter — 2015 Q1 L4

The Beginning of Wisdom 

From Dave's Sabbath School Resource page
Truth, naked and cold, had been turned away from every door in the village. Her nakedness frightened the people. When Parable found her she was huddled in a corner, shivering and hungry. Taking pity on her, Parable gathered her up and took her home. There, she dressed Truth in story, warmed her and sent her out again. Clothed in story, Truth knocked again at the doors and was readily welcomed into the villagers' houses. They invited her to eat at their tables and warm herself by their fires.    -- Jewish Teaching Story
To explore this idea more fully, read “A Story Like Jesus” on my blog.
Two Types of Travellers
Read Proverbs 1:20, 8:1-4, 9:1-6
Where is she shouting from? Whose attention is Wisdom trying to get?
What kind of woman is she? What has she been doing? What is she preparing for?
Who is likely to be drawn to her calls?
Who is likely to resist? Why?

Read Proverbs 9:13-18
Where is she shouting from? Whose attention is Folly trying to get?
What kind of woman is she? What has she been doing? What is she preparing for?
Who is likely to be drawn to her calls?
Who is likely to resist? Why?

The battle for the mind is a territorial war over common ground—a walk through town—not the high places or the deep places. Both Wisdom and Folly approach the common person in everyday life, hoping to unsettle their step on the gentle rise and fall of daily terrain. It is the little steps—the small choices of attention, focus and interest—that lead toward the embrace of one or the other, Folly or Wisdom. The mind is formed first in infancy through baby steps, then in toddler tumbling and finally in practice, practice, practice. The big successes and mistakes are really not so big at all but simply the destinations reached by consistent trudging in one direction day after day.

Read Proverbs 8:17 and 36
What is the result of loving Wisdom? What does this look like in real life?
What is the result of hating Wisdom? What does this look like in real life?

Reflect on the Jewish teaching story from the top of this discussion guide.
“Truth wrapped in story (parable) is loved and embraced by common people.”
How did the teaching style and content of Jesus illustrate this?
How does the idea of “Truth wrapped in Story” help you approach the book of Proverbs?
How does it give you pause at each pithy parable and short story that pass so quickly in this book of Wisdom?

Three Worldviews

In the past 50 year or so, the western world has been shifting worldviews from Modern to the Post-Modern. As the Modern (Industrial/Scientific) Worldview developed and strengthened from the 1700’s until the mid-1900’s its adherents learned that truth was provable. The Scientific Method was born and—as much as we twist, turn, squish and squirm—in most areas of life, you and I understand the world (think/believe) using this worldview. In the Modern worldview, truth is provable. The Scientific Method tells us, when we receive new information, to create a theory, test it, retest it forming proof, show our proof (and entire working process) to others in order to demonstrate that what we are teaching is TRUTH because it is verifiable and reproducible.

The Post-Modern worldview is so named because, largely, it is a reaction to the excesses of the Modern worldview. Science as truth led to some amazing discoveries (vaccines, air travel, global communication) but it also deposited a post-apocalyptic wasteland in its wake because PROOF=TRUTH needs no conscience or compassion. Right is right. Right? Not for Post-Moderns. Your right may be provable and reproducible but it may be very wrong indeed. While it is easy to demonstrate what the Post-Modern mindset stands against, it is difficult to articulate it as a worldview that stands on its own. For the Post-Modern: Truth, to be believed, must be experienced.

The Proverbs were written to a world and within a worldview completely different than anything around today. To understand the Bible and Proverbs particularly (due to their direct, truncated format) it is immeasurably helpful to understand the world and worldview of that day. There are many books available on this topic. Have a look at last week’s study guide for a quick intro. In a nutshell the Ancient Biblical Worldview was that all reality (truth included) is brought forth from God and then God commissions His creation to bring forth more of its kind. I call it the God-begat Worldview.

God begat Wisdom (Proverbs 8:22) then God begat Creation (Genesis 1:1). Creation (earth/ground) begat flora (Genesis 1:11,2:9) and Fauna (Genesis 1:24, 2:19); Mankind was brought forth from the ground (Genesis 2:7); Adam and Eve begat children; They begat children until Abraham begat Jacob (Israel); And, in time, Israel begat the Messiah—Jesus the only begotten Son of God. See how it works?

Humanity, created by God in the Image of God, has the special task to begat children not just physically but spiritually—shaping them in the image of God. That’s why the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) is important—as we explored last week. Likewise, Proverbs teaches us, our nature continues forming after we leave our place of nurture. Lady Wisdom calls us from her well-built house and invites us to enter in. God is proposing a life-long relationship with us. “I commissioned your parents to begat you, then to shape you as you went in and out of their house. Now I want you to join with me so that my Glory might be made complete in you.”

Yeah, it can be a bit weird thinking about God as a Lover. He doesn’t shy away from it, though. He created us. He knows how we think. And He wants us close. Close enough to keep us away from Folly—she’s calling as well.  

So, that’s the God-begat Worldview. It’s a bit science and a bit love-story. It’s almost Modern or Post-Modern… but, it’s not. To avoid altering our worldview, we go through the Bible squeezing, chopping, sanitizing, fluffing and cherry-picking verses to suit us. Imagine if we stopped forcing God to fit into our worldview and invited Him to fit us into His. It’s not easy to change worldviews. It requires letting go. And holding on. If we resist the temptation to make God in our image, He will be able to continue making us in His.

The Beginning of Wisdom

Read Proverbs 9:9-12
These are Wisdom’s final words. What touches you most deeply? Why?
Verse 9 & 10 are set between Wisdom and Folly, portrayed as two women. If we succumb to her calls, what will we begat with each woman? How are these two verses the key to choosing the right woman?

Proverbs chapter 9 is the conclusion of the Wisdom letters. The rest of the book of Proverbs is filled with the short pithy sayings we typically think of when we talk about Proverbs. We have set a foundation—a worldview—for Wisdom. Wisdoms teaching is only truly useful, the short one-liners are only truly meaningful and accurate, if we build them on the understanding that “The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom.” Then it will all make sense.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sabbath School Starter – 2015 Q1 L3

From Dave's Sabbath School Resource page
Godly Parents

In Exodus 20 we find the telling of the Ten Commandments memorised by children and (most often) referred to in Bible studies by adults. In the book of Deuteronomy, there is a retelling of the Ten Commandments. In this retelling, Moses tells the people the story of the day they received the commandments. In this retelling, Moses has a point to make–a teaching point.
Compare the telling of the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:1-21. Next, explore the context of the story in Exodus 19:1-25, 20:18-21 and Deuteronomy 5:22-6:9.
(This is a sizable portion of scripture and will take some time. You may want to prepare an overview with the key points that stand out to you in the way you want to present the lesson).
What is different about the settings of the two stories? (Exodus 19:1-25, Deuteronomy 5:22-6:9)
How does the telling in Deuteronomy add to/develop the story in Exodus?
What is different about the way the presence of God is experienced by the people?
What is different about the way the various commandments are presented?
What did the people ask for after hearing God’s voice? (Deut 5:23-27)
What was God’s Response? (Deut 5:28-29)
Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Who does Moses single out as the primary ‘retellers’ of the Law?
What ways does he suggest to create physical reminders of the Law?
It is said that repetition is the best teacher. How would these physical reminders reinforce the Law?
How would this benefit children?
The telling and retelling of God’s Law we have just studied was much more than a Bible study to God’s people in Solomon’s day. It was even more than a lifestyle. It was, in every sense, a worldview. By the words, actions and lifestyle of parents—day in and day out, as they slept, arose, ate, walked, worked and rested—the Law of the Lord was impressed upon their children.
Read Proverbs 6:20-23
Imagine you were raised as a Hebrew and lived in Solomon’s day. As a young person, about to leave home, you receive a letter from the Wiseman with the advice of Proverbs 6:20-23.
What would you have heard? What would it have reminded you of?
How would it have spoken into your worldview?
   (How is this passage reinforcing Deuteronomy 6:4-9?)
How would it have challenged what you have been taught?
   (How is this passage extending upon Deuteronomy 6:4-9?)
How is “the way of life” set for a young person by Godly parents?
This week, parents around the South Pacific Division (us included) welcomed over 8,000 children home from Pathfinder Camporee. How does a shared worldview give thousands of parents the confidence to entrust their children to the care of other adults? What does this demonstrate about a community who share common faith and values?
How does all of the wisdom in Proverbs rely on an understanding of the worldview implied in Proverbs 6:20-23? Why is this important?


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Sabbath School Starter – 2015 Q1 L2

The Protection of Wisdom

From Dave's Sabbath School Resource page
Have you ever had a time when you needed to be protected? Tell that story. Who protected you? From what? How did they protect you?

Have you ever had a time when you protected someone else? Tell that story. Who needed protection? From what? How did you protect them?

When you think of being protected, what kind of situations come to mind? When do we need protection?

Public Protection
How seriously do world governments take their responsibility to protect their people? How do they demonstrate this? What roles in society exist to provide various levels of protection to the public?

Private Protection
Some people take the protection of their family very seriously. What are some examples you have seen? What does a responsible level of family protection look like?

When a country wants to protect itself, men and women are trained to protect others. Consider the various levels of leadership required to ensure a safe nation—Soldiers, Generals, Commander in Chief—and all the various levels in-between. Compare that ‘public protection’ with the ‘private protection’ of you family. How are the roles, from actual combat to strategic leadership, filled by you? How have you trained for these responsibilities?

Personal Protection
Consider the following question before and as you read Proverbs 6:1-19. Take turns reading. Ask the group members to stop when they have an answer to the question. Have someone take notes in two columns: “Protection Needed” – “Suggested Action”

Q. What is personal protection and how is it put into practice?
Group Reading Instructions: As you read the passage, whenever you read something that we each need protection from, stop and mention that thing. Whenever you read something that says what we need to do to protect ourselves, stop and mention that thing. We want to create a list of things we need to protect ourselves from and strategies to apply to ensure our safety!
Read Proverbs 6:1-19

When the world’s wisest man collected and created wise sayings, they all demonstrated one core reality – “Before it is anything else, Leadership is Character”. How is personal character related to protection of personal, private and public relationships?

Read back over your list. What does each suggested action demonstrate character strength and wisdom?

Add to the list. What other things do we need personal protection from? What strategies of “Suggested Action” can we apply to develop character and accomplish safety in each area?

Many Blessings as you explore and Experience Sabbath School this week!

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Sabbath School Starter – 2015 Q1 L1

Three “ifs” of Gaining Wisdom

Read Proverbs 2:1-5
From Dave's Sabbath School Resource page
Q1. This passage reveals three “if” clauses for gaining wisdom. What are they?

1st Level of wisdom – A Gift to be received. 
2nd Level of wisdom – An Answer to be heard.  
3rd Level of wisdom – A Discovery to be found.  

Q2. What physical things in your life have come in these three ways? When? From whom?

Q3. What “Advice” have you received in these 3 ways? When? From whom?

Q4. How do these three levels of Wisdom apply to your life as a follower of Jesus?

1st Level of wisdom – A Gift. Given to those who willingly receive. Open the gift of salvation.
2nd Level of wisdom – An Answer. Given to those who call out for understanding. Call out in prayer.
3rd Level of wisdom – A Discovery. Given to those who search long and hard. Search God’s Word.

Many Blessings as you explore and Experience Sabbath School this week!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Secret of our Strength

          From the Sabbath School Section of this blog
 There is nothing more destructive for a household than a strongman who has lost his vision. From personal experience, I have witnessed this truth in all its desperate agony. I have also experienced the rediscovery of vision and rebuilding of strength that comes through the restorative beauty of a Christ-like family.
   While I’m happy to tell you my own story over a hot drink; in this article, I wish to explore the journey of another strongman and his lost vision. This strongman is the church I love.

Samson's Story
   A few thousand years ago, a strongman was born. His parents were told he would be a deliverer of God’s people. He was to be set aside at birth, consecrated as special to God. As one who had taken the Nazerite vow, he was not to cut his hair, ever. His parents named him Samson.
   Samson was strong. He ripped gates off their hinges—not garden gates from a picket fence but city gates ripped up with the supporting posts still attached. He killed a thousand men with a piece of bone and a lion with his bare hands. His strength became the stuff of legend and men made sport of trying to defeat him, always to their detriment. Because of his fame, it didn’t take long for him to become full of pride. Samson lost his vision long before his eyes were gouged out.
   Samson started toying with evil. He ate honey scooped from within a lion carcass (a Nazerite was not to touch a corpse), fed some to his parents, then spun the occasion into a riddle to trick 30 men, which caused them to want him dead and him to kill 30 other men. He tortured 300 foxes, tying them in pairs by their tails and fixing lit torches to each pair of tails before releasing them in grain fields of his enemies.
   Like many a fallen strongman, Samson had a weakness for the ladies. He married a woman his parents disapproved of, slept with a prostitute and shacked up with another beautiful woman (Not all at once, mind you!).  The final woman, the beautiful Delilah, constantly tried to discover the secret of his strength. She had been promised 1100 pieces of silver for the secret by men who wished to stop Samson and the Israelites he represented.
   Samson lied to Delilah many times. Finally, wearied to the point of death by her nagging, Samson revealed that the secret to his strength was his hair. In doing so, he didn’t only ask for a haircut but recommended a shave. “I was dedicated to God as a Nazerite from birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as anyone else” (Judges 16:17). The next time he had a nap, Delilah shaved his head and sold him out.
   Samson had never been without his strength. He didn’t know what it was like to be normal. When he woke and was set upon by an overwhelming group of men, he punched and kicked and fought like every other time but to no avail. He was swallowed up in the brutality of the hoard.
   His captors jabbed a hot poker in his eyes and threw him in prison. Occasionally they would bring him out for entertainment. “Step right up! Take your best shot at the legendary strongman, Samson!” The laugher was inevitable as Samson swatted at blows after they made contact. “Body blow! Head shot! Come on, Samson, defend yourself!”
   Time passed. His hair grew. Samson wondered, “Would God still honour the vow even after I have treated it with such disdain?” Another party. Another call for Samson the clown. After being mocked, punched and tired out, Samson said, “Place my hands against the pillars that hold up the temple. I want to rest against them” (Judges 16:26). Once his hands were in place, Samson prayed and pushed.    And the strongman, who had lost his vision, killed himself along with every man, woman and child in the house of Dagon that day.
   An oft-quoted proverb states, “Without vision, people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). This was certainly true with Samson. One strongman without vision and thousands perished. During his lifetime, he wrecked havoc in numerous random attacks before finally, like a dragon who knows his time is short, he tore the house down. All of this would have been very different if Samson had embraced his vow and lived true to the calling placed on his life from birth.

A New View
   I recently saw something familiar from a new perspective. This unique vantage point allowed me a new view an old thing, as if seeing it again for the first time. In the town where I serve as a state high school chaplain, I have been honoured to participate in numerous church services. In the last three months of 2014, I preached at an ecumenical youth program, a Baptist church, a Lutheran church, a children’s “Messy Church” program, a Uniting church, an Anglican church and a church in a pub. I worshipped in the style of high church, low church, traditional church, contemporary church, kids church, youth church and pub church!
   In each church I met generous, loving, godly people. Every service presented heart-felt worship to God, community for His people and a listening ear to me as I spoke about chaplaincy and Jesus’ heart for each of us.
   But, I noticed something missing. Or, more accurately, I missed something in each setting—something that, for me, is integral and meaningful in church attendance. What I missed is something deeply embedded in my experience of worship, due to my Seventh-day Adventist upbringing, something present weekly in my denominational tradition.
   I missed the time of small-group discussion in which the Bible is opened, read, studied and prayed over. I missed the circle of believers listening to each other’s needs and praying together. In short, I missed Sabbath school.
   Even though I had attended Sabbath school the previous day at my own church, I missed it each Sunday because I felt a desire to know each new group of believers more fully. For me, church is about connecting to each other as well as connecting to God. I felt the need for Sabbath school because I am accustomed to knowing those to whom I will preach, even if only in a quick fashion on the day. Instead, in nearly every situation, I drove into an empty car park, walked into an empty church, watched both fill up, then preached a few minutes later. It was only after the service that I met people, and then in a casual social manner rather than a spiritually nurturing time of sharing.
   The people at each church seemed to know each other well, so there must be more going on than just the quick worship service on Sunday. What I realised, more than anything, is that I love Sabbath school and am blessed by the group togetherness it provides which leads to a feeling of knowing the people of God joined together in worship on the day.

Haircuts and Hairstyles
   Like Samson, the Seventh-day Adventist movement started with a vow. Since our beginning we have been called the “People of the Book” because of our vow to study the Bible constantly—individually and together—reviewing and revising our understanding as the Word speaks more clearly to us. We are a creedless people, relying instead on the living, breathing Word of God. Sabbath school is the place where we learn, practice and model this constant commitment to studying the Bible.
   Adventists sat in the circle of Sabbath school long before they lined pews to listen to doctrinal dissertations, lifestyle lectures or other monotonous monologues. We engaged in discussion, enlivened through private study and personal relationships. Life was brought to us and through us as we engaged with the Word of God in conversation. Engaging in Bible study together increased our spiritual maturity. We grew from small group Bible studies into church communities worshipping together.
   Like Samson’s hair, Sabbath school has always been our strength. At our strongest, we are a people in active group discussion. To reduce the strength of the Adventist people, cut Sabbath school. Focus on only one or two of the four purposes of Sabbath school and ignore the others. Tell us we don’t have time to share our stories. Tell us mission—both global and local—isn’t part of Sabbath school. Turn it into a sermon rather than a group Bible study. Teach us what to think rather than teaching us how to think.
   There’s nothing wrong with a new hairstyle. Doing Sabbath school differently demonstrates life. But failing to build our church around a robust purpose-filled Sabbath school causes our people to avoid Sabbath school, and our strength is sapped. It is easy (and almost seems wise!) to cut Sabbath school when we loose the vision of what it means to truly be a Seventh-day Adventist people. We are not just a denomination with doctrines. We are a Sabbath school class; reaching in, out, up and across.
   Sacrificing any of the four purposes of Sabbath school demonstrates that we have lost our vision, or at least are beginning to let it become blurry. What are the four purposes, you ask? They are Nurture (reaching in), Local Evangelism (reaching out), Worship (reaching up), and Global Mission (reaching across the world). These four purposes have been the foundation of Sabbath school for more than 150 years! They build a people of God individually, locally, globally and eternally.
   A church without healthy Sabbath school groups can create very cold, judgmental people who are committed to Truth more than Love. The emotional maturity gained in patiently listening to others during Sabbath school discussions shapes a Christ like people. We need more than sermons to become loving people! The relationships of church members with each other and the reputation of the church in the wider community are tied closely to the health of Sabbath school. This is because a healthy Sabbath school teaches our people how to treat others with patience, respect and love.

Regaining our Vision
   To save our house, more than anything, we need our strongmen to have clear vision. In our Sabbath school classes, we learn to listen to viewpoints that differ from our own and give the people airing those views the benefit of the doubt because we care for them. The judgmental nature of some Adventists emerges from a failure to remain in harmonious dialogue as a people. Disciples who have spent years learning through listening—in addition to private study—are inclined to show mercy.
   Unfortunately, those who practice brutal honesty usually enjoy the brutality more than the honesty. A church with clear vision and a four-pillared Sabbath school foundation does not breed this type of strongman. When our vision is healthy and clear, we are proactive and use our ever-increasing strength to build others up, empowering them to glorify God.
   When our vision is lost or blurry, we are reactive and use our ever-decreasing strength to tear down others indiscriminately. People outside our church are derided, maligned and demonised. People inside are critiqued, pigeonholed and demoralised. We do this, not because we are evil but, like a blinded warrior, because we struggle with our own usefulness and the foggy memory of a purpose that once felt sure. A regained vision will lead to healthy relationships both inside and outside the church walls.
   Samson regained his strength and used it within the confines of his sightless reality. Our sight still remains, not yet lost completely. Only through fully regained vision and a renewing of Sabbath school will the church reclaim its strength.
   For now, having not lost our vision completely, we need not tear down anything, or anyone, for we can see. Our vision of the Kingdom—a people of the Book glorifying God together in word and action—will compel and constrain our strength to be used for increase rather than decrease, for shaping rather than slaughtering, for mercy rather than might.
   Sabbath school, our strength, done with clear vision creates growth in faith, mission, purpose and passion for the growth of the Kingdom of God. With Sabbath school as our foundation—actively reaching in, out, up and across—the Seventh-day Adventist movement will be a People of the Book, changing the world as we grow into the lovely and loving image of Jesus.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Christmas Story

Christmas has been around for a long time. There are a thousand ways of telling the Christmas story, each slightly different because it came from a slightly different time, place and culture.

The oldest stories we can find go back thousands of years, to celebrations of early Europeans who celebrated light and birth during the darkest and coldest times of the year—winter solstice, hoping to bring about the next season when light, growth and warmth would return.

This celebration changed into a time of feasting in Scandinavia when the Norse celebrated Yule starting on December 21. They would light huge logs and feast until the logs burnt out. The best logs could last up to 12 days! 

Sometime later, as Christianity was spreading through the world, it brought with it new reasons to celebrate. The celebration of the birth of Jesus didn’t have a fixed day until Christian leaders decided to match dates with the ancient holiday happening during winter and call it Christmas. As this new holiday, a time of gift giving and family togetherness, spread around the world, Santa Clause was born. This jolly man, with his bag of toys, quickly became the story many people told their children about Christmas.

Today, the story and meaning of Christmas is a little different in each part of the world. Here in Australia, our story is quite unique. Christmas is during the middle of summer. We can hardly build snowmen and we try to avoid lighting fires. Families meet together for outdoor cricket, BBQ’s, beach trips, Carols by Candlelight and late night drives to look at houses covered in lights. 

No matter where you are in the world, one thing remains the same on Christmas. It is a time of giving. Gifts are given by parents to children. Families pass plates of delicious food. People participate in donating gifts to their community. Churches provide free meals for struggling families and individuals. At Christmas, everyone should feel joy and love.

May you have a wonderful Christmas
   as you share your gifts with others.
May your family be blessed and joyful
   as you share conversation and food.
May you experience peace and love
   as you consider the Christmas story.
And may the Christmas story you tell  
   bring new life, meaning and purpose to all.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Purpose

Our purpose in Sabbath School—in all of Christianity—is to win people to the Love of Christ. Facts do not win hearts. Love wins hearts. The primary focus of passionate Jesus followers needs to be to Love first. Love Jesus. Love others. Love ourselves. Love the world Jesus made. Redemption comes from the knowledge of Love not the knowledge of facts.

There are too many denominations. Too many right people.
We need more righteous people.

To be right is to know the facts of Truth. To be righteous is to know the Truth of Love.
Only Love saves the lost. Facts just give us better report cards.
Wouldn't it be nice of our report cards mattered?
Only Jesus' report card matters.

Our good deeds just point to Him, His Love and His offer of a new report card - His.
That's Love! And that is a songsheet worth singing from!

So, what should Sabbath School be? It should be a worldview altering picture of Jesus. A picture that shows the Kingdom of Jesus' Love and the Grace that leads there. The truth experienced in Sabbath School should lead to the Truth of His eternal, forgiving, Loving way with words!

That was fun to write. Now I just need to start living it! :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Church Debates

This is every church debate ever ...

Thanks, kids. You said it all!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Hidden Path - 12 - Saying Goodbye

“Oh, no” Susie said. “I totally forgot, I promised Mom I’d help her prepare for tonight’s special dinner.” She stood to leave.

Henry looked at her like she was forgetting something really obvious. “Susie, I don’t think we are going anywhere. We are prisoners.”

“Prisoners?” The dragon said, almost crying. “You came to see me!”

“Then we can leave?” Henry asked.

“Leave?” The dragon’s voice took a steely tone. “Why would you want to leave?”

Henry looked at Susie. “See,” he said. “Told you.”

Susie walked up to the dragon’s cheek and patted it. “I promise to come back, and when I do, I’ll bring the ruby I found on the path.”

Henry, understanding what Susie was doing, pulled the pouch off his neck. “You can have these back, too!” he dumped the five nuggets into his palm. “Here are the five gold nuggets I took yesterday.”

The dragon purred like a huge cat at seeing his gold again. “My hoard!” He said, “Please just drop them there.”

Henry dropped the nuggets. The dragon pulled his head away from the cave entrance. As the two children headed out of the cave, the dragon said, “Can I ask you one last favour?”

Susie and Henry stopped and looked at the dragon, waiting for his request.

“Show me your town,” the dragon said. “I would love to see all the happy people laughing and talking to each other.”

“How can we do that?” Henry said, “If we bring you down there, people will be terrified and try to kill you!”

“With the ruby,” the dragon said. “I can see all the ruby sees.”

“You can?" the children said together, completely surprised.

“Yes, that’s why I’m letting you go,” the dragon said. “Henry, I saw you share the ruby with your sister. And Susie, I saw you take the ruby to the jewellers to have a necklace made for your mother. You are the kind of friends I would love to have!”

Susie looked at Henry. “He’s telling the truth,” she said. “How else would he know those things happened?” Henry nodded his head.

“Please keep the ruby and ask your mother to wear it wherever she goes,” the dragon said. “Then I will know the stories of the many friends in my new village!”

“We will,” Henry said. 

“We promise,” Susie added.

The two children walked out of the dragon’s cave and on to the path. A gentle rain was starting to fall.

“I would also love a visit, now and then,” the old dragon said from behind them. “If you can spare the time.”
The Hidden Path
a fairytale by David Edgren

“We will definitely come back!” Henry said.

“We’re your friends, now,” Susie said. “We will be back as often as we can.”

“Thank you,” the dragon said. “I’ll be waiting here and watching all you show me. Bye, my friends.”

“Bye!” Henry and Susie said together.

---X-X-X---   THE END   ---X-X-X---

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Hidden Path - 11 - Fireballs

11. Fireballs

As the children passed into the cave, the dragon’s tail slid into position along the wall next to them, his head followed them into the cave. As he drew his head back inside, he used it to block the cave entrance. His huge bronze body, now in a huge C-shape, filled most of the cave. As the children passed the end of his tail the dragon flicked it behind them and laid his head on it. Now they were trapped inside a huge circle of dragon. 

“Have a seat,” The dragon rumbled. “Sit on my tail at whatever height suits you.”

Susie walked along the tail of the dragon until she reached a spot as high as a chair. She felt the dragon’s huge scales and sat in the middle of one. Henry sat next to her.

The dragon let out a huge sigh of relief. “Ahh, It feels so good to have some friends, again!” 

Henry looked at Susie and mouthed the word, “Friends?” Susie shrugged.

“I used to have a princess,” the dragon continued. “She was so beautiful! Her hair was like strings of gold and her eyes were as blue as sapphires. She was a sight to behold. She was proud and confident. And she was smart. Oh, the conversations we had! We had a couple of wonderful years together.” The dragon’s huge eye half closed as he got lost in his thoughts.

Susie looked over at Henry and raised her hands, as if to say, “What now?”

Henry said, “We are not royalty. We’re just village kids.”

“I know who you are,” The dragon said. “I’ve been watching you just like I watched the princess before she came to live with me.”

“What happened to the princess,” Susie said in a scared whisper.

The dragon breathed a rapid ragged breath and whimpered a tiny sob. Then he coughed trying to cover the sob. When he coughed, a fireball burst from his nose and flared against the wall in front of his face. His eye flew open and darted around the room until it found Henry and Susie. Seeing them, the dragon let out another sigh of relief.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to make fire. It just happens, these days,” the dragon said. “It was a knight. Shiniest armour I ever saw. He came raging in here like he owned the place. The sun was just setting outside the cave and his armour lit up like a thousands diamonds in the sun. I was blinded, just for a moment. But, that was long enough for him to grab the princess and run.” The dragon went quiet for a couple of seconds, then added, “She was my best friend, ever. She was mine, and he just took her.” The dragon’s eye glistened wetly until a massive tear fell to the ground. His huge eyelid, like a warriors shield, closed over his eye.

Susie grimaced at Henry, she’d obviously hit a sore spot in his story. “Are you lonely?” Susie asked the dragon.

The dragon remained quiet and unresponsive. 

Henry thought a change of topic might be good. “Why do you keep sneezing fireballs?”

The eye opened and focused on Henry. “I’m just getting old.” The dragon said. “In my warrior years, I would save up my fire and scare entire armies of men with huge bursts that covered an entire valley. Now, I just snort and sneeze fireballs without meaning to.”

“That must be embarrassing!”  Henry said.

“Yes, but it’s worse than embarrassing,” the dragon said. “I had a pet frog a few months back. He told me a joke that made me laugh and I fried him to a crisp.”
The Hidden Path
a fairytale by David Edgren

“Awww, that’s sad!” Susie said. “Is that why you never face us? You always look at us with just one eye.”

“Exactly,” the dragon said. “I keep my head above or to the side of whoever I’m with. I don’t want any more accidentally fried friends.”

“Thanks for that,” Henry said.

The Dragon laughed a small fireball. “You’re welcome, kid.”

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Hidden Path - 10 - The Invitation

Susie peered carefully around the corner and into the cave. The sunlight cast a hard shadow a few metres into the cave making it nearly impossible to see inside. Susie focused into the depth of the cave and let her eyes adjust. What took shape before her was beyond belief. Laying just past the line of shadow, blocking the entire cave entrance, was a huge dragon. His head was by the far wall and turned into the cave. His tail was in front of Susie, curled in an S-shape, its tip just inside the cave shadow.

A huge sniffing sound came from the dragon. A sorrowful sob of sadness rattled down the dragon from his head to the tip of his tail. Each scale shook gently, giving the sound of a thousand shields clattering against each other. The dragon took in a slow deep laboured breath and then sneezed. 

Suddenly the cave lit up with a burst of fire. The dragon’s sneeze had been accompanied with a fireball snort! In the burst of firelight, Susie saw the entire dragon. Like a camera flash, the fireball burnt an image into Susie’s mind causing her to jump back around the corner.

“It’s a huge golden dragon!” She shouted with excitement. As soon as she spoke she clapped her hand to her mouth. Then she whispered, “He’s sitting just inside the cave!”

“You could see him?” Henry said in amazement.

“He sneezed a fireball!” Susie laughed, her eyes wide with excitement. “I saw his entire golden body!”

An impossibly deep voice, far too close, rumbled, “Bronze, actually.”

Henry, who was facing Susie, saw it first. 

Behind Susie a huge snout came into the sunlight. The dragon had heard Susie shout and now he was staring at both of them. 

Susie saw Henry’s eyes before she heard the dragon’s voice. Henry stared above Susie’s head and turned white enough to pass for a piece of chalk.

Susie spun around and took in a shocked breath. The dragon’s head was completely out of the cave, one huge eye looking directly at the children. Sussie stared directly into the dragon’s eye. Divided into fractals, like a diamond, the eye stared back at her unblinking. 

Henry and Susie were too petrified to move. Like thousand year-old trees, they stood rooted in place. What could they do? 

Just then, the eye slammed shut and the dragon sneezed again. A fireball shot out of his nose and over the valley floor below the cave entrance. Susie felt the heat of it as if she had been standing close to a bonfire for too long. 
The Hidden Path
a fairytale by David Edgren

The dragon’s eye opened wide, in what looked like a brief moment of panic. “Sorry,” he said. “Accident.” 

The dragon pulled his head away from the children, making an opening into the cave. “Do come in,” he said. It was both a request and, clearly, a command.

Susie looked at Henry, took his hand, and the two children walked into the Dragon’s cave.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Hidden Path - 9 - Dragon’s Hoard

It seemed like it only took seconds for Henry to race past the waterwheel, the powerstation, across the bridge and up the hidden path opposite the generator house.

He was half way up the path before he slowed to catch his breath.

“Susie! Susie?” Henry called, hoping she hadn’t reached the cave yet. 

There was no response.

What have I done? Henry thought. I should have been honest with Susie. Why did I lie. 

He kept walking as fast as he could up the steep rocky path.

Then again, if I had told her about the dragon… she wouldn’t have believed me! 

The trees were thinning. Henry realised he was nearly to the cliff side. He would be at the cave soon.

I still should have told her the cave was dangerous. Really Dangerous! Then, maybe she would have stayed away. Henry wasn’t too sure of that. Susie was stubborn. If she wanted to do something, she would do it—no matter what other people said. She probably would have just thought I was trying to keep more gold and jewels for myself.

He was so lost in his raging storm of thought and argument, Henry nearly ran straight into Susie as she came running around a corner in the path. 

Susie spun sideways to miss crashing into her brother and continued running down the path. With one hand she grabbed Henry’s arm, pulling him after her.

“RUN!” she shouted.

She’s seen the dragon! Henry thought with a rush of relief. And she’s alive! 

As Henry started to run after his sister there was an earth-shaking roar behind them followed by an odd sounding cry, “COME BACK!”

Henry grabbed Susie’s arm and pulled her to a stop. “Did you hear that?” he asked. 

Susie took a three big breaths, recovering from her sprint. “Yes,” she said, “The dragon is very upset that you took his hoard.” Susie took two more long breaths. “He thought I was you. He shot a fireball over my head from the back of his cave. The he shouted that I should bring back his gold.”

Henry thought for a moment. “do you think it is really a dragon?”

“What else would it be?” Susie asked.

“Well,” Henry said, “Five little chunks of gold isn’t much of a hoard for a fire-breathing dragon. Shouldn’t he have a massive treasure trove?”

“Maybe he does,” Susie said. “Maybe you just found a tiny bit of it. Maybe it was bait, to get you to go in the cave.”

“And maybe the Ruby and gold flake were bait to keep me going up the trail!” Henry added.

Susie had a new look in her eyes and rubbed her hands together. “Let’s sneak back, real quiet, and see if we can find anything else.”

The Hidden Path
a fairytale by David Edgren
“YES!” Henry said. 

Quickly, but quietly, they made their way back up the trail and stood just outside the cave. They paused and listened for any sounds of the dragon. From inside the cave, they heard a noise very different too what they were expecting.

“What is that?” Henry whispered.

Susie took a step forward, and listened. Finally she stepped back and said, “It sounds like someone crying.”

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Energize your Sabbath School - Workshop

Does your Sabbath School class reach it's full potential?

Make it so, number one!