Tag Archives: Stillness

Sabbath – Wayne Muller

I finally got around to reading this amazing book – a must read for leaders, those who seek the spiritual, the busy people…let’s go with everyone!

A “successful” life has become a violent enterprise. We make war on our own bodies, pushing them beyond their  limits; war on our children, because we cannot find enough time to be with them when they are hurt and afraid, and need our company; war on our spirit, because we are too preoccupied to listen to the quiet voices that seek to nourish and refresh us; war on our communities, because we are fearfully
protecting what we have, and do not feel safe enough to be kind and generous, we cannot take the time to place our feet on the ground and allow it to feed us, to taste its blessings and give thanks.


When the Mass begins in a cathedral, the space is transformed the instant the first prayer is offered. The space is not different, but the time has been transformed. When monks enter an ashram or monastery and sit in silence, only when the bell is rung does the meditation begin. The space may be the same, but the time is consecrated by the mindfulness that arises in the striking of the bell. When Muslims are called to prayer five times each day, all work ceases, and all the ancient words, spoken aloud for centuries, rise like fragrance to the skies. Just so, during Sabbath the Jews, by keeping sacred rest, could maintain their spiritual ground wherever they were, even in protracted exile from their own country. It was not Israel that kept the Sabbath, it is said, but the Sabbath kept Israel.

If we forget to rest we will work too hard and forget our more tender mercies, forget those we love, forget our children and our natural wonder. God says: Please, don’t. It is a waste of a tremendous gift I have given you. If you knew the value of your life, you would not waste a single breath. So I give you this commandment: Remember to rest. This is not a lifestyle suggestion, but a commandment—as important as not stealing, not murdering, or not lying. Remember to play and bless and make love and eat with those you love, and take comfort, easy and long, in this gift of sacred rest.


All Jesus’ teaching seems to hinge on this singular truth concerning the nature of life: It is all right. Do not worry about tomorrow. I have come that you might have life abundantly. Be not afraid. Over and over, in parable, story and example, he insists that regardless how it goes for us, we are cared for, we are safe, we are all right. There is a light of the world, a kingdom of heaven inside us that will bear us up, regardless of our sorrow, fear, or loss. Do not wait to enjoy the harvest of your life; you are already blessed. The kingdom of God is already here. It is within you and among you.


Our reluctance to rest—our belief that our joy and delight may somehow steal from the poor, or add to the sorrows of those who suffer—is a dangerous and corrosive myth, because it creates the illusion that service to others is a painful and dreary thing. Jesus says there will always be opportunities to be kind and generous. Just as there is a time for everything under heaven, so is there a time for nourishment and joy, especially among those who would serve.

But we must ask this question: What if we are not going anywhere? What if we are simply living and growing within an ever-deepening cycle of rhythms, perhaps getting wiser, perhaps learning to be kind, and hopefully passing whatever we have learned to our children? What if our life, roughhewn from the stuff of creation, orbits around a God who never ceases to create new beginnings? What if our life is simply a time when we are blessed with both sadness and joy, health and disease, courage and fear—and all the while we work, pray, and love, knowing that the promised land we seek is already present in the very gift of life itself, the inestimable privilege of a human birth? What if this single human life is itself the jewel in the lotus, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price? What if all the way to heaven is
heaven? Sabbath challenges the theology of progress by reminding us that we are already and always on sacred ground.

When we move too fast we shield ourselves from the actual experience of suffering; we see only its outward manifestations and appearances. In our frantic craving for relief, we try to make the appearance of suffering go away. But we risk eradicating the symptoms without ever understanding the disease.


According to Henri Nouwen, Jesus’ three temptations were these:
To be useful. To be important. And to be powerful. Useful, important, and powerful—are not these the attributes that still tempt every one of us who seek to do good in the world?


The word humility, like the word human, comes from ‘humus’, or ‘earth’. We are most human when we do no great things. We are not so important; we are simply dust and spirit—at best, loving midwives, participants in a process much larger than we. If we are quiet and listen and feel how things move., perhaps we will be wise enough to put our hands on what waits to be born and bless it with kindness and care. But in the end, we are granted the tremendous blessing of knowing that we do very little at all by ourselves.


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The waiting room

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in hospital waiting rooms lately. It has provided me with a good amount of time to sit and watch the world go by. I suspect many people in our community have visited Footscray Hospital at some stage of their life and have found that it is not the most pleasant place to visit. The emergency and outpatient areas are particularly depressing, and long waiting times and cramped conditions do little to lift the human spirit.

It is interesting to see different reactions from those sitting beside me in this environment. I have spent many hours waiting for appointments to actually occur and at times have been extremely frustrated at having to wait so long. ‘Don’t they know how important my time is? I’m a busy man!’ I’ve often thought.

As a school principal I am more aware than most of the difficulty of running organizations which are reliant on government funding. I know that long waiting times in hospitals are not necessarily caused by the receptionists, nurses or doctors on the ground looking after me. These issues are caused by problems far beyond their control.

Understanding the situation doesn’t change my feeling of frustration, but it does provide a level of context and understanding. It makes me mindful of the hard words given to us by Christ: ‘You abandon the commandments of God and hold to human tradition’. (Mark 7:8)

Human tradition would encourage me to make a big fuss, have my case heard and get angry with the reception staff for wasting my time.

But in reality, the time isn’t mine; it belongs to God.

The body that the doctors are looking after is not mine; it belongs to God’s creation.

The words that I speak and the thoughts that I think, should be the same as God’s words and thoughts, regardless of circumstances.

As I sat in the outpatient area last week I reflected on the story of the prodigal son. In this story a father is greatly disgraced, hurt and shamed by his son, who leaves his father’s house with a share of the inheritance while his father still lives. When the son returns, he expects to face the consequences of his sin. Yet the father, full of love, does not follow human tradition in repaying hurt with hurt. He follows God’s tradition, and welcomes his son with joy and forgiveness.

As we go about our lives, let us remember God’s tradition of love, hope, forgiveness, patience, compassion and mercy. Let us walk gently and deal patiently with those who rub us the wrong way. You never know when extending understanding and mercy to someone may transform their life and allow the light of Christ to shine brightly.

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Camping in the country

Off to camp, off to camp, off to camp we go…

Did you pack your sleeping bag?

Where is my hat?

Can I sit next to you on the bus?

Mr Brennen, I get car sick!

Look kids, a kangaroo!

Taking 29 students on camp may sound like an easy exercise. While it is very rewarding, it is also a great amount of work for teachers to plan and execute.

The classroom teacher has to find the right camp with the right program to support student progress in the classroom. She also needs to carry out risk assessments and get parental consent. Mr Brennen needs to find room in the school budget, the bursar needs to pay the bill, our school secretary needs to make sure all student medical needs are taken care of… and remind the principal to not forget his phone (or his keys, lunch or pillow for that matter).
What makes all of the planning and stress worthwhile is seeing the students trundle off the bus into the countryside and run into the fresh air. Seeing them enjoy the beauty of God’s Creation. Seeing them engage in activities which build their character and learning. All of these things bring joy to even the most tired and frazzled of teachers.

While great effort is rightly put into what we do at school, much of what really builds student character and learning happens outside of school. It is not only the off-campus school activities like camps and excursions that build healthy young people, but their involvement in life outside of school including church, sporting groups, language school and family events. All of these things help students to develop across the domains of wellbeing.

In Psalm 34, the psalmist encourages us to ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’. A life lived in the richness of friends, family and different experiences should encourage us to remember that the Lord is indeed good.

I consider myself greatly blessed to serve as principal of this great school community. It is my sincere hope and prayer that all of us – students, staff and parents – give thanks to our loving God who has blessed us so richly.

May our thankful response to God be to share his love, his teachings and the resources he has given us with our brothers and sisters both near and far.


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“It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
To declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night…
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
At the works of your hands I sing for joy.” – Psalm 92

Last week saw our 5/6 class journey to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat. It was a wonderful camp and we give thanks for all involved with organising and running it.

At Sovereign Hill, the students had the opportunity to experience what life was like during the 1850s Gold Rush era – including attending school, dressing in period costume and undertaking mining and other trade tasks (even cleaning up manure!)

On the Thursday evening we watched a representation of the Eureka stockade. The students greatly enjoyed learning about history in such a real and tangible way. As I watched the students eagerly take in the unfolding events, I noted the involvement of the church in the person of Father Smyth.

The Eureka Stockade caused significant loss of life from both the protesting miners and the government police forces. In a time of great tension, Father Smyth did what he could to encourage both sides to seek peace. When violence broke out, he placed his life in danger to attend to the wounded and give comfort to the dying. Despite witnessing a terrible event, following the event he wrote “…better times I hope are dawning…May we have the good and just things that our people look for.”

It is not easy to look at the world with this type of hope, a hope that gives thanks to God in both good and bad times. In Australia our lives are generally comfortable; we are well fed, well housed and can freely express our faith and politics. The Eureka Stockade reminds us that it was not always this way in our country and it also calls us to remember those in our community who are not well fed or well housed. We also remember the myriad of nationalities that lost life at the Eureka Stockade in defence of justice and fairness for all.

At Sunshine Christian School, it is important for our community to share Father Smyth’s outlook on the world and to do as the Psalmist encourages us to do, “to declare God’s steadfast love in the morning, and his faithfulness by night”. As our students experienced firsthand, the early migrants to the Goldfields had little. Yet amongst their own problems, many put aside their own comfort in order to uphold the values of God. They suffered in order to protect the weak, to speak for truth, and they looked forward to a better time. Many diligently worshipped God in churches with dirt floors and flimsy cloth walls.

May the hopeful spirit of the early migrants of Australia inspire us to give thanks to our God at all times and work for justice and fairness.


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Supporting executive wellbeing and the third way

When I have a little more time (ironic!) I’ll post a reflection on Dr Adam Fraser’s book ‘The Third Space’. It is a wonderful look at how we can be more present in all of our roles.

For the moment, consider this idea below and a youtube summary of his work.


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Filed under Book reflections, The Desired Life

LEVNT Central Hub Conference – notes from my presentation

LEVNT conference

Hi folks

Please find a link to the slides I used today below.

Thanks for attending.

LEVNT conference powerpoint

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Filed under Articles, Presentations and Sermons, Lutheran Education

Why the modern world is bad for your brain

In discussing information overload with Fortune 500 leaders, top scientists, writers, students, and small business owners, email comes up again and again as a problem. It’s not a philosophical objection to email itself, it’s the mind-numbing number of emails that come in. When the 10-year-old son of my neuroscience colleague Jeff Mogil (head of the Pain Genetics lab at McGill University) was asked what his father does for a living, he responded, “He answers emails.”…We feel obliged to answer our emails, but it seems impossible to do so and get anything else done.

Before email, if you wanted to write to someone, you had to invest some effort in it. You’d sit down with pen and paper, or at a typewriter, and carefully compose a message. There wasn’t anything about the medium that lent itself to dashing off quick notes without giving them much thought, partly because of the ritual involved, and the time it took to write a note, find and address an envelope, add postage, and take the letter to a mailbox. Because the very act of writing a note or letter to someone took this many steps, and was spread out over time, we didn’t go to the trouble unless we had something important to say. Because of email’s immediacy, most of us give little thought to typing up any little thing that pops in our heads and hitting the send button. And email doesn’t cost anything.

– Daniel J Levitin

Levitin’s article is a well written journey through the impact of multitasking on our bodies and thus our productivity.

I have written about (and linked to) issues around the speed at which we live and the impact technology has on us. Email might not ‘cost’ us much in the way of financial resources but me thinks it is costing our society a great deal. Levintin claims that through multitasking we do not receive information into the best part of the brain for long term storage which in turn discourages deep thought and reflection. Cause for thought.

Read the full article here.

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What do you love? (Here are a few things that restore my soul)

Mt Tongariro, New Zealand

Mt Tongariro, New Zealand

Donald Miller wrote a piece recently about things that he loves and their role in what I would call ‘soul restoration’. You can read the piece here.

I have had a chance over the Christmas break to reflect on the things that I love – the things that I find myself getting lost in. As one who has a very heavy workload on a day to day basis I have found it very hard over the last year to find rest and to ‘turn off’. Perhaps by identifying and making time for these things I may find more rest.

So here goes. A few things I love in no particular order.

Getting lost exploring an important idea. I am currently reading Thoreau’s Walden and find myself drinking deep the ruminations on the consumerist nature of our society. Other topics I easily get lost in include Jesus’ social teachings, Martin Luther and radical grace, simplicity and minimalism, the transformation power of education and the importance of holistic education which values creativity and soul. Reflection accompanied by a cup of tea or coffee while overlooking a majestic landscape, sunset or a rainy day gets bonus points. I can get lost in conversation, documentaries, books etc. – it is all wonderful ‘lost’ time.

Drinking wine and eating good food with friends. An extension of the above, the act of meeting with people and discussing topics of passion restores my soul. Wine and food are not necessary but there is something about them that facilitates deeper conversation. I appreciate the celebration of Creation that wine is – the process of selecting, growing and processing the humble grape produces such a wide range of flavours that mirrors the complexity of the individuals that make up humanity. And food, well, as my handwriting skill attest, I struggle to craft things with my hands but I can cook. Taking raw ingredients graciously provided to us by the earth and turning them into meals that nourish others is very satisfying. Cooking can be quite a mindful exercise – fresh food has such a simple but intense scent that reminds me of new beginnings.

Providing the opportunity for others to engage with big ideas and develop as people. I love teaching and know the transformative nature of good education. The ‘light bulb’ moment is wonderful and seeing others create a conclusion that I hadn’t thought of brings deep joy. One of the many joys of working in primary education is having the chance to teach children the importance of serving and looking after each other. Seeing them put it into practice is lovely.

Physical activity  – especially long sessions of cardio.  In times gone by I was quite overweight and shunned all forms of exercise. Things are certainly different now. The mental space provided by a long run or ride is very restorative. While finding quiet and inspiring landscapes is difficult in Melbourne (Melbourne might have the night life but Adelaide has the scenery!), I like to take the opportunity to get out as often as I can. Exercise is the first thing to go when work weeks grow long. I am not alone in believing in the importance of walking and exercise – especially for leaders of larger organisations.

Silence and stillness. Our world is too loud and too busy. We are bombarded with insanely high levels of information and decisions each day. Sitting still and feeling still are important more than ever.

My relationship with my wife. All of the above activities are often present in our relationship and the support provided therein empowers me to serve others. Marriage is indeed work and one must provide the space for it to flourish. The above are enhanced by the presence of my wife.

So what about you? What are the ‘loves’ that restore your soul?

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Filed under Musings, The Desired Life

9 lies that keep our schedules overwhelmed

…we are so busy scurrying from one thing to another we don’t even have the space to realize our schedules have become overwhelmed. We don’t recognize how our overcommitted lives are harming us.

In the final of three Becker articles I have shared recently, we are challenged to think about our overcrowded schedules and the untruths that sit underneath them. As I am a reformer by nature I find the temptation to over schedule to be a constant battle. Following periods of silence, deep rest or retreat, I am always struck by the violent pace at which I live out my life. It is only when I stop and rest that I notice that much of what I does not line up with what I really believe to be important. (This thought will be further explored in the next post)

Becker’s article can be found here.


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We’re skilled at saving time. But I can’t tell you how many shortcuts I’ve taken to get things done faster, only to end up on the couch scrolling through my social media feeds and eating spoonfuls of peanut butter from the jar.

Cadence Turpin asks whether the West’s desire for ever increasing productivity is really that healthy.


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