New Feature: IntenseDebate

Intense Debate

Intense Debate

I’ve just added in a new feature here on TheGeoffRe(y)port, called “IntenseDebate“. It’s a plugin from Automattic (the main WordPress guys), that is designed to improve the commenting functionality of the blog. The main features I can see are that if you want to reply directly to a comment, you can hit the reply button, making it clear who your comment is directed at (play nicely children). Also, you can signify that you agree, or disagree with someone’s comment by giving them a thumbs up or thumbs down, and so comments will end up with a score.

So, have a visit (if you’re an RSS reader), and let me know what you think – I’m not 100% sold on it yet, and I’m not certain that I like having to rely on an external service for my comments to come up. But it’s kinda cool, so I’d love to know what you think.

If you even care.



Twitter of Faith

Adam Walker Cleaveland, blogger extraordinaire at pomomusings, has put out a challenge that I think is worth having a crack at. From the post:

While asking some advice on Twitter, Shawn Coons came up with a nice little challenge called “Twitter of Faith.” While fitting everything you believe is hard enough to do on one page, what if you only had 140 characters to do so? So, if you’re on Twitter (if you want to know why you should try Twitter, read this), please participate in this. This was the initial challenge:

Twitter of Faith: What do you believe? You have 140 characters – give us your statement of faith in 140 characters. #TOF

In order for us to be able to keep track of them, please add the hash tag #TOF to it, and then you can keep up with the results here. If you want to track both the hash tag #TOF and the phrase “Twitter of Faith” – this is a great way to view the results.

I’ve put mine together, so here it is:

Creator God through Jesus his son invites all of us to join with his Spirit in bringing the redemption & restoration of the world

So, get out there and have a go yourself. If you’re twitter-less, feel free to post your own in the comments, or at least give us a link to your twitter account so I can see your heresy take.


Taking a Private Jet To Beg – A Parable

I read this a few days ago, and couldn’t help but to read a profound parable on the state of the western worldview. The article was originally written for the Washington Post, but I found it at The Age.

THERE are 24 daily non-stop flights from Detroit to the Washington area. Richard Wagoner, Alan Mulally and Robert Nardelli probably should have taken one of them.

Instead, the chief executives of America’s Big Three car makers opted to fly their company jets to the US capital for their hearings this week before the Senate and House — an ill-timed display of corporate excess for a trio of executives begging for an additional $US25 billion ($A38.6 billion) from the public trough this week.

“There’s a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, DC, and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hands,” Democrat representative Gary Ackerman advised the pampered executives at a hearing yesterday. “It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high-hat and tuxedo … I mean, couldn’t you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something to get here?”

The Big Three said nothing, prompting another Democrat, Brad Sherman, to rub it in.

“I’m going to ask the three executives here to raise their hand if they flew here commercial,” he said. All still at the witness table.

“I’m going ask you to raise your hand if you’re planning to sell your jet … and fly back commercial,” Mr Sherman said. More stillness.

“Let the record show no hands went up,” he said.

Bosses go begging, but keep the silver spoons | theage.com.au

I’d recommend that you read the entire thing, there’s a bit more in there that illustrates the point further. But basically, a bunch of rich guys who are asking for money from the US government, but not ready to recognise that it ought to cost them something. Now upon reading this story, you’ll likely have had the same initial reaction I had – one of indignance at how such an intelligent group of people could be so detached from reality as to not think taking a flight on a private jet would be a bad idea; and likely give a little tut-tut at the greed of corporate executives. But we can’t look too closely – the log in our own eye will get in the way of that. Because this is a story that speaks loud and clear to the heart of my own consumption-driven lifestyle. That deeply ingrained belief in entitlement.

We’ve embraced the message we hear from every single television advertisement: that we “deserve” what we have (or the things we want), and thus when bad things happen it is someone else’s responsibility to bail us out of trouble. When we receive our paycheck, we’re more than happy to accept that this is what our time and effort  is “worth”, and that anything less is somehow unjust, or ripping you off. And we’ve set our bar for what an acceptable lifestyle looks like ridiculously higher than the level we’re willing to accept for people living in other countries. The feeling of entitlement that caused these executives not to see the ridiculous disparity between asking the government for a bailout whilst travelling by private jet, is the same heart that causes us to believe that we deserve to own a house, deserve to have an iPod to listen to on our train journey, deserve to have a financial safety net, so that misfortune doesn’t have to cost us anything.

So please, read this article again. And get indignant, allow the ridiculous hypocrisy to make you properly mad. But then let that dissatisfaction resonate with your own lifestyle, and the ways you’ve allowed your own life to mirror the messages of a consumeristic worldview, rather than hearing the voice of Jesus, telling a young rich ruler in no uncertain terms that unless he sold all his stuff, that he would struggle to ever be a part of God’s kingdom.


My Beloved is Unwell

So I was walking home from the train station on my way home from work, and saw my dearest travelling in the opposite direction in the car, heading towards the supermarket. Not long after I arrived home, she was drove in the driveway, looking a little unhappy. Apparently her stomach was hurting a little, which I just assumed was the same as when she had felt a little unsettled plenty of other times.

Naturally, within about an hour, my beautiful wife was throwing up and desperately in need of a good lie down. So be nice to her, go visit her blog and say something nice. She’ll appreciate it.



Geoff’s Fillipino-Finnish-Greek Movie Game

I got (disturbingly) inspired by Google Translate, and thought I’d come up with a competition. I’ve taken three movie quotes, and put them through Google Translate: four times. First from English to Fillipino, then Fillipino to Finnish, then Finnish to Greek, then Greek to English again. First person to recognise the source of all three quotes, wins. Prize is dependent on the geographic location of the winner Continue Reading


Leadership

Jonathan Brink put out the call for a synchroblog on leadership, to coincide with the Federal election over in the US. Given that I’m not exactly in that context, I thought that I’d ignore the context to a certain degree, and just take the opportunity to spew out some thoughts on what leadership starts looking like in the post-modern missionary context.

For starters, I think that it’s fair to say that the church model of having one person or a small group of people, authoritatively setting the agenda for “what we do” and “how we do it” is headed for obsolescence. It’s not a match with the relationally-centered, cynical post-modern mindset. The post-modern mind tends to be deeply skeptical of single points of truth, believing that every person has a bias, each is sub-consciously effected by the sliver of the world that they live in, and will only start to believe what they are being told when they feel they understand where some of those preferences and biases have come from.

So the easiest solution naturally seems to be to reject the concept of leaders and leadership, and instead opt for some kind of mob rule. But of course, this is completely unsustainable. Communities gather and grow together because they share something, whether that is a shared interest, a shared need, or shared goals. Without leadership, community either becomes a hostage of the loudest voices or else it loses all sense of purpose. There will always be leadership in churches and communities: an absence of leadership gets filled – just not always positively.

What then, does good leadership look like in the context of a relational, participatory community necessary to take seriously the post-modern culture we are hurtling towards? The role of the leader must become about building a community who are clear on “Who we want to be” a long way before being defined by “what we do”. And that must be a consistent and clear message – it’s first and foremost about how you act, how you lead your own life, how you interact and the priorities you have in your own life that has the opportunity to lead others.

And that’s the scariest part. A culture that has rejected positional authority as a barometer for reliability, will not believe leaders whose message they cannot see. Though the church has been frightened of post-modernity, we could discover that post-modernity will force the church to rediscover the need to incarnate the message we preach, if we are to survive at all.

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This post is part of a Synchroblog on Leadership.  The following blogs took part in the experiment:

Jonathan Brink – Letter To The President

Adam Gonnerman – Aspiring to the Episcopate

Kai – Leadership – Is Servant Leadership a Broken Model?

Sally Coleman – In the world but not of it- servant leadership for the 21st Century Church

Alan Knox – Submission is given not taken

Joe Miller – Elders Lead a Healthy Family: The Future

Cobus van Wyngaard – Empowering leadership

Steve Hayes – Servant leadership

Geoff Matheson – Leadership

John Smulo – Australian Leadership Lessons

Helen Mildenhall – Leadership

Tyler Savage – Moral Leadership – Is it what we need?

Bryan Riley – Leading is to Listen and Obey

Susan Barnes – Give someone else a turn!

Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls…

Lionel Woods – Why Diverse Leadership is Good for America

Julie Clawson – Leadership Expectations

Ellen Haroutunian – A New Kind Of Leadership

Matt Stone – Converting Leadership

Steve Bradley – Lording or Leading?

Adam Myers – Two types of Leadership

Bethany Stedman – A Leadership Mosaic

Kathy Escobar – I’m Pretty Sure This Book Won’t Make It On The Bestseller List

Fuzzy Orthodoxy – Self Leadership

Sonja Andrews – Leadership In An Age of Cholera

Tara Hull – Leadership & Being A Single Mom

Glen Hager – Election Day Ponderings On Leadership

Beth Patterson – Leadership:Being The River

Bill Ellis – Spiritual Leadership And The Rehumanizing Of Our World

Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls


Coffeehouse Theology – An Enticing Introduction

Coffeehouse Theology, by Ed Cyzewski

Coffeehouse Theology, by Ed Cyzewski

When theology blogger and author, Ed Cyzewski was about to release his book “Coffeehouse Theology”, he sent out copies of aforementioned book to a heap of christian bloggers, if they would participate in a “blog tour” (meaning people review the book, each posting on a different day). Due to Rebecca having a really well written and widely read blog, Ed asked if my beloved would mind joining the tour.

Unfortunately, a combination of a really slow postal system, and Rebecca being flat-chat with assignments in the lead up to the end of semester, she has not (yet) read “Coffehouse Theology”, and being the inquisitive, literate person that I am, I pinched the free copy myself (which becomes legal now that we’re married), and had a read. So there’s your disclaimers – I didn’t pay for this book.

Despite a title that a friend called a little bit “touchy-feely-emergenty”, this book is a really worthwhile read. Up until now I’d have described Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind Of Christian” series as the best introduction to post-modernism and the ramifications for the church, but (with a completely different approach), Ed Cyzewski provides a very gentle, very thorough and balanced understanding of what post-modernism really is and how it effects how we think about God. Ed has a way of writing that makes him almost impossible to disagree with: you feel like he’s articulating the way you already felt, even as he takes you to places you’ve never been before.

“Coffeehouse Theology” provides a compelling case for contextual theology, and a clear and conscise methodology for theological contemplation. Ed doesn’t turn theological thinking into an academic exercise, but instead invites his readers to think about their Christianity, and to recognise that we follow Jesus in a time and place. “Coffehouse Theology” was great to read for myself, but in many ways it feels like I’ve only got about a quarter of the value out of this book, because this is a book that I will, without doubt, hand to someone else to have a read (and if you’re reading Ed, I’ll then encourage them to get out there and buy a copy themself! :)).

Coffeehouse Theology is the sort of bridge-building book that provides a real chance for the mainstream church to see that in so many ways, they are on the same side as “emerging” type thinkers. Because the road to syncretism and heresy doesn’t come from looking seriously at the culture we find ourselves immersed in, and recognise the benefits as well as the dangers of our culture, but rather it starts when we pretend that culture does not and has not effected us. Ed (it’s much easier to type than “Cyzewski”) is certainly pushing the church in a direction it needs to go, and is doing with an approach that doesn’t throw away the wider church tradition as we consider the words of Scripture.

Basically guys, it’s a really good book. If you get a chance – pick it up!

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WordPress 2.7 – Just Makes Sense

The New WordPress 2.7 beta 1 dashboard

The New WordPress 2.7 beta 1 dashboard

I’ve been a big fan of the WordPress platform since the moment I started blogging on wordpress.com (I had one of the early invites and managed to snag “geoff.wordpress.com” – it now seems a shame that I’m not really using it), and I would love one day to put the tedium of Oracle Database Administration behind me and just spend my days modifying WordPress as a CMS for small to medium enterprises. So in short, I’m a big wordpress fan.

So once I saw that the latest beta was out (version 2.7), I went ahead and installed pretty much straight away. There are a whole bunch of niggling little issues that this version is fixing beautifully. For starters, the entire UI has received a complete overhaul – which seems a little premature seeing as it was less than a year ago that they revamped for 2.6, but I really doubt that anyone could be complaining. After 2.6 came out, the wordpress team copped some flak with regard to the usability aspect, so they got experts in. And now, everything has just started making sense.

One of the biggest frustrations I had previously, was that in order to schedule a post to publish in the future, you would set the date that the post should appear, and then press publish. But when you press publish, you always had that fear that the publish button was going to override your scheduled date, and that you should be pressing “save” instead. But now, the geniuses have made everything make sense: the words on the button change when you alter the publish date. So as soon as the date gets set, the button text changes from saying “Publish” to saying “Schedule”. It’s a tiny little thing, but the mindset means that you could feel confident in trying to teach less advanced users to use the really cool features, because the User Interface just works.

The screen real estate in the back end is much more efficient, and reduces the likelihood that you’ll actually need to scroll down the page – a common niggle with the previous setup. The dashboard has been changed again, and I think they’ve finally nailed a setup that really encompasses the things you want to know when you first log in. They’ve made pretty much all of the backend pages available through drop-down menus, which makes life a bunch easier when you’re trying to find that obscure option you’ve changed once before.

Basically, while I wouldn’t want to be the person saying you should upgrade to a beta version, you should definitely be looking forward to the next release of WordPress. 2.7 is a great step forward in the evolution of the world’s best blogging system.