Thursday, September 28, 2006


Cycling home yesterday, I started off listening to Good Monsters, but by the time I got to the Puhinui Interchange, my body needed something a little more energetic to keep it moving, so I selected The Battle Of Los Angeles.

It’s an album that I’ve listened too many, many times, and one song in particular is my favourite, Born Of A Broken Man, and more specifically, these lyrics:

His thoughts like a hundred moths
Trapped in a lampshade
Somewhere within
Their wings banging and burning

But as my legs were burning and the lyrics thundered through my head one more time my thoughts turned to Aimee, and how sometimes she just can’t cope and is overwhelmed by seemingly simple everyday situations.

It got me thinking about just what was going on inside her curly haired head, and what all the visual and audible cues were doing to her brain as they overloaded her senses.

I understood her a little more in that moment.

Understood, but still felt helpless, as I can’t help Aimee let the moths fly free.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

time with God

I spent an hour with God this morning, travelling through the book of Matthew. At the end of the hour I was feeling like I was actually hearing the audible voice of Jesus.

Of course, listening to the Bible through your iPod will do that to you!

I didn’t really set out to spend time with God this morning. I had made no agreement with Him that we would meet in this way. I didn’t even start with prayer. My attention wasn’t even wholly focussed on the message either, and many parts were drowned out by the close passing of big, fast, trucks.

But cycling to work (for the first time in a long while) God decided to join me. Weather he started out at the same time as me and I just didn’t notice, or if He decided to join me halfway I’m not sure, but at the end of it He was definitely there.

No pearls of wisdom do I have for you however, as this was more of a personal experience, and my method of Bible study doesn’t allow for some essential aspects.

You see, the Word was made new to me as it surrounded me in the auditory sense, Scripture jumped out and made me think, but cycling along some of South Auckland's busiest roads didn’t allow me to make notes.

I’m just gonna have to allow those little nuggets of truth reside in the far reaches of my subconscious until they are required, and the hopefully they will come forward in abundance.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


When Christian leaders go to government to call for sweeping structural change, we have more integrity and power when we can say: "We are part of Christian communities that are already beginning to live out what we are calling you to legislate." Our call for costly changes in foreign policy toward the Two-Thirds World designed to implement greater global economic justice has integrity only if we are a part of Christian congregations that are already beginning to incarnate a more simple lifestyle that points toward a more just, ecologically sustainable planet. Our call for nuclear disarmament and international peace has integrity only if there is growing peace and wholeness in our families and churches.

- Ronald J. Sider

Monday, September 25, 2006

Breaking News

me: oh hi
i wa wondering waht that noise was!
Jean: lol
me: hows wellington?
Jean: mighty mighty cold
stressful but fun
me: fun is good
cooking up a storm?
Jean: cooking up a storm alright!
managed 3rd
me: whoooo hooooo
you go girl
Jean: a little bummed, but knew gold was outta the question though so placing is alright
me: 3rd best in the whole damn country though.... :o)
I'm gonna have to post about it on my blog b4 you do!!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Better Christian Movies or Just More Of Them?

Twentieth Century Fox is officially the first movie company to launch a special unit for Christian-themed movies. FoxFaith will produce and promote small budget productions which will go directly to that niche of viewers who, until now, refused to take part in popular entertainment as they deemed it 'offensive'.

'We want to push the production value, not videotape sermons or proselytize', a spokesperson for Fox said. He also stated that the movies will have a production cost limit of no more than $5 million, while the promotion campaigns will also come under the $5 million limit. Most of the movies, adaptations from best-selling Christian works and novels, will be released directly on DVD and only 6 to 12 will run on the big screens, each year.

But making religious films is a very tricky business, as controversy can spark up of virtually anything. This is something that both the studio executives and the main church representatives are aware of, as neither of them want to have people saying they're taking matters too lightly or preaching via the big screen, respectively.

The first movie to be released by the FoxFaith unit is 'Love's Abiding Joy', based on the fourth part of 'The Love Comes Softly', written by the Christian novelist Janette Oke. It will run in almost 250 theaters all around the United States, staring from October 6th.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Breaking News: Christians Can Enjoy Sex!

Apparently, yes, Christians are now allowed to enjoy sex. Yes, that even includes Christian women. According to Wired News today…

The Bible doesn't say Christian couples can't enjoy sex or sex-tech.

Now here's a conservative, literalist preacher with a sex-positive message that needs to be passed to those Christians who are so confused about sex, they try to tell -- and legislate -- non-Christians how to conduct sexual and romantic relationships.

By "sex-positive" I here mean an enthusiastic view of sex within his belief system. This is not a message about embracing "alternate" forms of sexuality, like sex between one or more unmarried folks. But it's a far cry from "have sex to have kids and don't you dare enjoy it if you're the girl."

“It’s hard,” [preacher Joe Beam of Family Dynamics] continues, “to make the transition from ‘sex is bad’ when you are young and single to ‘sex is good’ when you are married.” In fact, “sex is the most wonderful gift God ever gave Christians.”

Beam, who is studying for a sexology Ph.D. from the University of Sydney in Australia, is all about shining the light. He and a few others like him have concluded that conservative Christians can cope with America’s hypersexualized culture by being given permission to pluck much of its fruit.

The information he dispenses is a mix of scriptural interpretation and mainstream sexology. He does not speak in euphemisms or metaphors and his plain spokeness makes a few listeners squirm, at first. But Beam is also part entertainer with a patter that is almost vaudevillian in its timing: “Why can women be multiorgasmic and men not? Well, I’ve decided God just likes you better! ... What’s the difference between a woman with PMS and a Doberman? Lipstick.”

The humor and the brazen talk, coming from a man who is not only one of them, but a leader who rubs elbows with James Dobson and Jerry Falwell, gives them permission to relax and hear his message.

It’s a simple one: Sex is good. Good sex makes people happy. It deepens relationships. So it helps marriages last and that pleases God and makes society better.

Perhaps if the conservative Christians start having more and better sex with each other, they will become more tolerant and relaxed about the fact that they are not the only belief system in the world.

And of course even if that doesn't happen -- and it wouldn't right away, that's for sure, all major changes take time -- I still hope that they, and everyone else too, finds their way to a pleasurable and fulfilling sex life.

I like what Rev. Beam says about sex toys:

Which sex toys are good, and can we use them at all?

“I usually get the question this way,” Beam answers. “‘What does the Bible say about vibrators?” More laughter. “Can we use a vibrator? Sure you can if you want to.”

Of course, the question still on many minds (well, at least our Southern Baptist brothers) is: Does this mean we’re allowed to dnace?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Who is the enemy?

I have been on the road a lot in the last three months, taking different road-trips to New Orleans, New York City, Nashville, and Dallas. Constantly in the shadow of the endless line of 18-wheelers, I noticed that one particular trucking company had this sign posted on most of their trucks:

Support our troops whenever we go!
No aid or comfort to the enemy!

No way!

So who is the enemy?

Last summer my older cousin Ali was able to come in from Ohio to be at our wedding. I think it was really good for my dad to have someone from back home who was able to be there, and he filled in as my grandmother's escort, sitting with her on the front row.

Ali was forced to serve in the Iraqi Army in the first Gulf War. Other cousins were also conscripted, stationed on the front lines and in Kuwait City. Some of them were rounded up in the mass-surrenders after the ground war began, and they all made it home. But Ali had a different story. He was a field surgeon on the front lines with the Republican Guard. Sadaam thought that if he placed the medical units close enough to the rest of the soldiers then the Americans wouldn't bomb and shell them. He was wrong.

Somehow the Iraqis knew when the American ground troops would be coming over the dunes, and so they were given a five-day pass to go home to Baghdad and say their goodbyes. Ali knew it would be a meat-grinder, and he knew that under Sadaam desertion meant death and trouble for your family. So while he was in Baghdad he had another surgeon friend take out his perfectly good appendix. While he was in the hospital, his entire unit was annihilated.

Around that same time a Marine friend of mine named Nelson had been part of an artillery outfit that was shelling Iraqi positions inside Kuwait. Suddenly an Iraqi artillery shell slammed into the hood of the truck Nelson was standing next to, but it was a dud and didn't go off. He lived to come home and tell me that story.

Also at our wedding, only four rows back from Ali, was my friend Joe, who is an Army Ranger veteran. On the other side of the isle from Ali was one of my two mothers-in-law, whose stepbrother was part of the Army forces that moved through the same area of Kuwait where Ali had been. On another pew was my friend Johanna, whose husband has served in Afghanistan and is now training for Special Forces duty in the Middle East.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The best phrase came from a taxi driver in Cairo, right after the invasion of Iraq three years ago, who upon finding out that my brother was half Iraqi and half American said, "Ahhh ... is funny. Your country is attacking your country."

I have often become frustrated when I have heard people in my church make statements like, "Remember who we're fighting here," before they lead prayers for our military victory. A professor here at Asbury once said that the only two choices we have is to either "convert them or keep them from hurting us."

Well ... first of all you can't fight and win a "war on terror." Terrorism is a method, not a country or ideology. I once heard it said that fighting a war on terror is like having the flu and declaring a war on sneezing: you're only attacking the symptoms. As long as there have been people, there has been terrorism.

But what frightens me is the mindset in this country, and in the church, that seems to think terrorism was born and raised in the Middle East, and if we can take out the Muslim Arabs then the world will be a safer place. Put this idea up against the idea in large segments of the Arab world that America has, in a sense, created terror herself with her policies toward the Middle East. So the cycle continues, and we have "become a monster to defeat a monster."

So who is the enemy? I believe that on this side of the cross, according to the scriptures, that "we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12)

If you track through the whole story of scripture, you see that while God may have fought battles on Israel's behalf in the Old Testament, the trajectory was always towards to the cross, which redeemed God's intention for creation. Jesus set for us an example of living and witnessing that intention through loving, serving, and forgiving our enemies. The way of Christ was not to kill and destroy those who had abused and killed him.

Imagine what would have happened if the entire mass community of Christians who prayed so fervently for our troops to "defeat the enemy" would have instead prayed against the real Enemy and for peace between humanity.

So who is the enemy? We must first remember that the enemies of America are not the enemies of God. I have Iraqi Army veteran family and U.S. Army veteran friends. I have been raised by Southern Methodists and Shiite Muslims. I cannot abdicate the gospel message of Christ to a bomb, but can only bear the cross: the ultimate battlefield victory over the Enemy.

Omar Al-Rikabi is the son of a Southern Methodist mother from Texas and a Shiite Muslim father from Iraq. He is in his final year of earning a Masters of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary, and a declared candidate for ordination in the United Methodist Church.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Never Thirst.

Jesus replied, "I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never thirst".
John 6:35

Sunday night saw the end of the Winter Spirituality Series at Cession, and the guest speaker touched on the above verse. At least I think it was the above verse, but I wasn’t taking notes, so it may have been a similar verse. She did however mention the bit about never thirst.

And it reminded me of something that happened to me at the beginning of this year.

We were camping in the Hunua Ranges, and I decided I’d take my mountain bike, and try a bit of mountain biking. Being a sensible lad I chose what was supposed to be a 5km, undulating course – it sounded easy – undulating in my mind would be gently flowing slopes.

Being that it was only a 5km ride, I didn’t think water was necessary, I was after all used to cycling just under 20km to work most days.

What I didn’t know was that the information I had been given on the trail I was about to attempt was woefully wrong. I was in fact attempting Auckland’s hardest mountain bike trail, one that shouldn’t be attempted by anyone except expert riders, and one that was a lot longer than 5km.

I also set out in the middle of a very hot day, expecting to get plenty of shade.

The shade turned out to be next to none, as the trail followed the ridgeline, and the undulating ridgeline was more akin to mountain climbing.

Mountain climbing in wet clay.

I’m not sure how anyone, even experienced fitness freaks on mountain bikes could cycle up these almost vertical inclines. But holding onto the dream of a nice undulating downhill stretch and believing that I only had a couple of these dastardly cliff faces to climb, I kept going.

I soon got to the point where I couldn’t turn back, as I didn’t know how far I had come, and it would be foolish to turn back if the end was just over the next peak. I was also dehydrated and desperately thirsty.

But on wards, and upwards I went. And at the top of every climb was and equally steep, rutted and unrideable (to me) decent. I spent more time sliding on my bum and riding in the saddle.

Half way up another incline, I’d had enough. I couldn’t physically go on. I needed a drink.

So I cried out to God. I specifically asked him to send me an angel with a bottle of water. I wasn’t full of faith as I cried out, and afterwards I just laid down on the trial, to wasted to do anything else.

About 5 minutes later I heard a noise. I looked down the trail from where I had come and there was a mountain biker coming up the trail. He offered me a drink of water, which I gladly accepted and then went to go on his way, when he paused and asked me if I wanted to keep the bottle.

I said thanks.

He left me with his super sized bottle of Pump, reassured me I was over half way, and went on his way.

The funny thing is, the trail didn’t look like it had been used for some time, and after a drink and a little longer resting I was on my way again, and I could see no signs that the mystery mountain biker who had gone on before me had even been along the trail. There were no tire marks in the clay. No footprints in the impassable boggy parts. No evidence of any one having been, period.

Had God just fulfilled my prayer, word for word? Had he just fulfilled the promise in John 6:35? Did angles really ride mountain bikes?

I don’t know if God sent a supernatural angel, or had just commanded someone to ride that dastardly trail with an unopened bottle of water. What I do know is that if my mountain biking angel hadn’t appeared, I wouldn’t have made it back to camp that day.

The angel was also true to his word about being over half way, after a couple more dastardly hill climbs I was treated to a nice long, sedate downhill stretch before joining the main gravel road back to camp.

I arrived back just in time for dinner, and apologised for taking so long.

My family and the family we were camping with looked puzzled, and said ‘but we were expecting you about now’.

Then I remembered that I had joked before I set off about seeing them in 5 hours.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

More Free Books!

In an effort to reduce clutter, I’m getting rid of a few more books from my bookshelf; if you’re interested, let me know!

He Chose The Nails Max Lucado
Joy In Our Weakness Marva J Dawn
More Movie Based Illustrations For Preaching & Teaching Craig Brian Larson & Lori Quicke

And of course, no one wanted In The Likeness Of God By Philip Yancey & Dr. Paul Brand, so that’s still available.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My McCafe & McDonalds Experience

Cell group got canned tonight, due to events unfolding at the Ritchie residence. So instead of giving the babysitter the night off we decided to go out for a couple of hours, sans kids.

The trouble with only having a couple of hours is that we had to stay local – so we headed off to Manukau. We had dinner at LJS and had a lazy wander around the shops, before heading back to the car to do the obligatory trip to the big red shed.

After the joys of the Warehouse, we decided a coffee and cake, but because we couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of the mall, decided on McCafe.

We entered McDonalds and had a look at what was on display at the McCafe counter, Dione decided she liked the look of the cheesecake, but didn’t know so asked me to enquire as to what it was exactly. Of the two people working, one had his back to me, drying dishes and sharing a joke with his co-worker, who was sitting on the floor having some time out.

I leaned over the counter and got her eye, she seemed annoyed that I had found her, and that she now had to get up to serve me. But she took my order, gave me a number and told us to take a seat. The only problem now was that the seating and tables desperately needed cleaning, so I asked the McCafe dish drier if he could clean up the table that Dione was sat at, which he gladly did.

I now approached the McDonalds counter to order myself a BigMac Combo – not the best but I was hungry for savoury. The trouble with the new McDonalds is that you can now see how they make your burger. It’s not a pretty sight. The meat is kept in a warming draw, and slopped down on the burger - it’s all put together in two parts, and then the lid is closed, sandwiching the contents together – no wonder the burgers are always a mess when you open the box.

My BigMac was a special order, so I knew exactly which one it was – it had a special order receipt on it. It was sitting there ready to be picked up, and it was, but by the wrong person. She took a look at it, figured it wasn’t the burger that she needed and just tossed it back down. Meanwhile the girl who was serving me was nowhere to be seen. I was beginning to think Dione would have finished her Vienna Coffee and cheesecake before I even got to sit down, when the girl who was serving me came out from the back whipping her hands on a dodgy looking cloth. Noticing me still standing there she goes over to see if my burger is ready, looks at the screen to remind herself that I need some fries and a drink cup.

When I finally get my order, I go over to fill my cup, but there is no ice. I ask a passing McDonalds employee if they can get some, they agree to and disappear out the back.

I can see that my wife still hasn’t gotten her Coffee and Cheesecake, despite being the Cafe’s only customer, and decide it’s safe to wait for the ice. The only problem is the guy who’d gone to get the ice obviously had gotten lost, because he didn’t return.

I decided to have my coke at room temperature and forego the ice, and got to our table just in time to see my wife receiving a black coffee. We’d ordered a Vienna coffee, but they had no cream. We asked if they could at least find some milk, which they did.

So instead of a Vienna, Dione got a plain white coffee (and no refund) and a dodgy piece of Cheesecake. My burger was cold and messy; my coke was warm, and my appetite gone.

Next time we’ll certainly be bothered with the hassle of the mall, or just go home for a coffee.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Making America Proud?

I came across this whilst researching for my FOW minatures. It tickled my sense of humour.

Do Something Funny