Baz Lurhmann on Great Gatsby, materialism and meaning

I love the book and I’m a believer in the movie. Nikki and I are going to see it on Saturday.

I reckon Baz is a great director. I really loved Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet. And Moulin Rouge was an ordinary film with some great songs and visuals. Australia. Well. Let’s pretend that never happened. But I reckon Gatsby will be great. It give me heart that David Stratton liked it. I’m more of a David man than a Margaret man.

I heard this fairly brief interview with Baz on Triple J yesterday. I love his voice and his humour and manner. Good times. The interview itself it typical Triple J fluff. But this quote at the end is brilliant:

It speaks about who we are where we are.


Is there a lot of razzle dazzle that be people go on? Yes.

Are there parties? Fantastic.

Can you dress up? Go for it.

But at the end there’s a contemplation. There are basically four characters in a room, five characters in a room, saying ‘But you love him?’ and it ends with a devastated young man going: ‘Materialism cannot be the focus of your life. It might be nice to have a good suit and go to a great party, drink a few cocktails… but you gotta have a purpose and you’ve gotta have a cause. And that’s what he learns from Jay Gatsby: have a point to your life.

(listen here from 11:56-12:39)

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Quotes about Death 3: Jean-Paul Sartre

From the short story The Wall:

At that moment I felt that I had my whole life in front of me and Ithought, “It’s a damned lie.” It was worth nothing because it was finished. I wondered how I’d been able to walk, to laugh with the girls: I wouldn’t have moved so much as my little finger if I had only imagined I would die like this. My life was in front of me,shut, closed, like a bag and yet everything inside of it was unfinished. For an instant I tried to judge it. I wanted to tell myself, this is a beautiful life. But I couldn’t pass judgment on it; it was only a sketch; I had spent my time counterfeiting eternity, I had understood nothing. I missed nothing: there were so many things I could have missed,the taste of manzanilla or the baths I took in summerin a little creek near Cadiz; but death had disenchanted everything. ....

Tom was alone too but not in the same way. Sitting cross‐legged, he had begun to stare at the bench with a sort of smile, he looked amazed. He put out his hand and touched the wood cautiously asif he were afraid of breaking something,then drew back his hand quickly and shuddered. If I had been Tom I wouldn’t have amused myself by touching the bench; this was some more Irish nonsense, but I too found that objects had a funny look; they were more obliterated, less dense than usual. It was enough for me to look at the bench, the lamp, the pile of coal dust to feel that I was going to die. Naturally I couldn’t think clearly about my death but I saw in the way things fell back and kept their distance, discreetly, as people who speak quietly at the bedside of a dying man. It was his death which Tom has just touched on the bench.

In the state I wasin, ifsomeone had come and toldme I could go home quietly, that they would leave my life whole, it would have left me cold: several hours or several years of waiting is all the same when you have lost the illusion of being eternal. I clung to nothing, in a way I was calm. But it was a horrible calm - because of my; my body, I saw with its eyes, I heard with its ears, but it was no longer me; it sweated and trembled by itself and I didn’t recognize it anymore. I had to touch it and look at it to find out what was happening, as if it were the body of someone else. At times I could still feel it, I felt sinkings, and fallings, as when you’re in a plane taking a nose dive, or I felt my heart beating. But that didn’t reassure me. Everything that came from my body was all cockeyed. Most of the time it was quiet and I felt no more than a sort of weight, a filthy presence against me; I had the impression of being tied to an enormous ermin.Once I felt my pants and I felt they were damp; I didn’t know whether it was sweat or urine, but I went to piss on the coal pile as a precaution.

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Church Community Builder Implementation Journal Part 8: Implementation pace

It is important to come up with some kind of basic roll-out plan, for something like this. And better to do it slower and steadier than you think. People feel unsettled by fast new changes: give them time to get used to it. There will inevitably be bugs, so better to fix them with a smaller group of people affected. After you’ve spent ages getting your head around the software, the different features are all obvious, but it is too confusing to give them all at once to someone cold.

I recommend planning a communication schedule, where you will talk about the introduction of the Church Community Builder, why you are introducing it, how you are introducing it and so on. This should be done through emails, announcements and even in leadership meetings.

And then gradually roll it out, talking about what you are going to do, before you do it, step by step by step. Baby steps like:

  1. Get leaders to log in and update a photo and adjust their privacy and communication settings: 2-3 weeks

  2. Start using it for broadcast emails: 2-3 weeks

It might seem annoyingly slow. But each step will be more fully understood, more widely adopted and more effectively implemented.

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Ministry work hours 4: The lay leader works a 40 hour week plus 10 hours for church?

Although I probably end up at a similar conclusion, I think the logic of this common maths equation is unhelpful:

The committed church member works in their job for 40-50 hours and then works 10-15 hours for church. The minister should do at least the same amount.

I think it is unhelpful because it introduces a whole bunch of categories for thinking about ministry work: that it has to be ‘fair’ compared to a lay leader, that it is about ‘duty’ vs ‘free service’. I don’t think this perspectives are especially constructive for the mindset of the paid minister or for the lay leaders.

Moreover, I think it is misleading because the kind of work and work hours are incommensurate. School teachers get big holidays. But a mate of mine who’s a school teacher commonly responds to those who complain about this: “Well why don’t you become a teacher then?” :-)

Here are a couple of ways that the lay leaders’ 10 hours overtime for church doesn’t quite match the paid minister’s 10 hours:

  1. For the lay leader, this work is a recreational and social break: finally getting to see church friends and do something that matters. For the minister this is more of their day job.

  2. For the lay leader, even if it is harder stuff (doing finances for church, sitting on an elders board), there is the satisfaction of doing something that makes a lasting, eternal difference.

  3. For the lay leader, church social function can be purely an enjoyable occasional, for the ministry leader even the most pleasant church social occasion has a dimension of ‘work’ to it.

  4. For the lay leader, they have the free choice to invest this discretionary time with church - shouldn’t a paid minister have similar discretion to perhaps give this time to a range of causes: The Australian Kendo Renmei, political lobbying, the parent-teacher association, writing the Great Australian Novel, involvement in some parachurch ministry?

This list might not be complete, nor completely true for every paid minister or lay leader, every paid ministry or lay leadership position. But it is an example of why trying to do work out a simple analogy just doesn’t work. I suppose you could spend time and effort trying to find the closest possible analogy and get some benefit from this process. But largely I think it is a red herring, that will be both inaccurate in terms of thinking about the work and psychologically unhealthy for everyone involved.

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Mirrors 25th May 2013

  1. Why Shiloh likes the idea of homeschooling.

  2. When meeting with a team member, make sure you regularly ask, ‘Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?’, suggests Dave Moore. I love the Manager Tools suggestion that the first 15 minutes of every such meeting should be focussed on just that question.

  3. How respectful is your Facebooking about your little kids? Will they be hurt by your comments when they are older?:
    Parents, before you post about your small children, imagine a 13-year-old version of them reading over your shoulder. Your child bears the image of God just as you do. Does what you communicate honor them as equal image-bearers? Does it provide short-term gratification for you or honor long-term relationship with them? Does it potentially expose them to ridicule or label them? Does it record a negative sentiment that an adult would recognize as fleeting but an adolescent might not?

  4. The legacy of Keith Green. I loved that book ‘No Compromise’, but I must admit, I could never get into his Billy Joel sort of music. I could never get into Billy Joel either.

  5. Ed Stetzer reminds us that the horror story of the Cleveland sex slavery kidnappings gets repeated millions of times the world over, through the sex trade.

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Quotes about Death 2: Hamlet

To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether ‘tis Nobler in the mind to suffer

The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,

Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep

No more; and by a sleep, to say we end

The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks

That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep,

To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes Calamity of so long life:

For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,

The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,

The pangs of disprized Love, the Law’s delay,

The insolence of Office, and the Spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his Quietus make

With a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn

No Traveller returns, Puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have,

Than fly to others that we know not of.

Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,

And thus the Native hue of Resolution

Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment,

With this regard their Currents turn awry,

And lose the name of Action.

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The internet is not the problem, you are the problem

I find doom and gloom pieces about how social media kills community and learning and small puppies annoying. There are new risks that the internet brings. But it’s silly and simplistic to invest the internet with these unique and disastrous powers.

Paul Miller spent a year offline. And this was his discovery:

As it turned out, a dozen letters a week could prove to be as overwhelming as a hundred emails a day. And that was the way it went in most aspects of my life. A good book took motivation to read, whether I had the internet as an alternative or not. Leaving the house to hang out with people took just as much courage as it ever did.

By late 2012, I’d learned how to make a new style of wrong choices off the internet. I abandoned my positive offline habits, and discovered new offline vices. Instead of taking boredom and lack of stimulation and turning them into learning and creativity, I turned toward passive consumption and social retreat.

A year in, I don’t ride my bike so much. My frisbee gathers dust. Most weeks I don’t go out with people even once. My favorite place is the couch. I prop my feet up on the coffee table, play a video game, and listen to an audiobook. I pick a mindless game, like Borderlands 2 or Skate 3, and absently thumb the sticks through the game-world while my mind rests on the audiobook, or maybe just on nothing.

Tim Challies reflects:

It has long fascinated me that our technologies don’t do anything to us that we don’t want. We can say we hate the Internet or email or cell phones, but if we hated them as much as we insist, we’d do something about them. We may hate them, but we love them just a little bit more.

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Quotes about Death 1: Julian Barnes

From his great little book, Metroland:

There were a few private things which I didn’t confide to Toni. Actually, only one: the thing about dying. We always laughed about it, except on the rare occasions when we knew the person involved. Lucas, for instance, wing-forward int eh Thirds, was found one morning by his mother, gassed. But even then, we were more interested in the rumours than in the fact of his death. A girl friend? The family way? Unable to face the parents?

There must, I suppose have been some causal connection between the arrival in my head of the fear of the Big D, and the departure of God; but if so, it was a loose exchange, with no formal process of reasoning present. God, who had turned up in my life a decade earlier without proof or argument, got the boot for a number of reaosns, none of which, I suspect will seem wholly sufficient: the boringness of Sundays, the creeps who took it all seriously at school, Buadelaire and Rimbaud, the pleasure of blasphemy (dangerous, this one), humn-singing and organ music and the language of prayer, inability any longer to think of wanking as a sin, and - as a clincher - an unwillingness to believe that dead realtives were watching what I was doing.

So, the whole package had to go, though its loss diminished neither the boringness of Sundays nor the guilt of wanking. Within weeks, however, as if to punish me, the infrequent but paralysing horror of Big D invaded my life. I don’t claim any originality for the timing and location of my bouts of fear (when in bed, unable to sleep), but I do claim one touch of particularity. The fear of death would always arrive while I was lying on my right side, facing towards the window and the distant railway line. It would never come when I was on my left side, facing my bookshelves and the rest of the house. ONce sarted, the fear could not be diminished by simply turning over: it had to be played out to the end. To this day I have a preference for sleeping on my left side.

What was the fear life? Is t different for other people? I don’t know. A sudden, rising terror which takes you unawares; a surging need to scream, which the house rules forbid (they always do), so that you lie there with your mouth open in a trembling panic; total wakefulness, which takes an hour or so to subside; and all this as background to and symptom of the central image, part-visual, part-intellectual, of non-existence. A picture of endlessly retreating stars, taken I expect - with the crass bathos of the unconscious - from the opening credits of a Universal Pictures film; a sensation of total aloneness within your pyjamaed, shaking body; a realisation of Time (always capitalised) going on without you for ever and ever; and a persecuted sense of having been trapped into the present situation by person or persons unknown.

The fear of dying meant, of course, not the fear of dying but the fear of being dead. Few fallacies depressed me more than the line: ‘I don’t mind being dead; it’s just like being asleep. Its the dying I can’t face.’ Nothing seemed clearer to me in my nocturnal terrors than that death bore no resemblance to sleep. I wouldn’t mind Dying at all, I thought, as long as I didn’t end up Dead at the end of it.

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You should go and work with my mate Dan

Dan Godden has become a good friend of mine over the last few years. We really got to know each other during a junket to the USA in 2011. It turns out that when you order a ‘double room’ in the US it means ‘double bed’... you get to know someone well when you have hotel check in clerks thinking you’re a gay couple, and when you have to drive on the right side of the road in a foreign city while jet lagged.

ANYWAY. It’s really exciting what God is doing through Dan and his team in the Salt Church church plant in Wollongong. I can say that it would be a great ministry to be a part of and Dan would be a great guy to work with.

Maybe you should apply? (Eccles 11:1-6)

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Ministry work hours 2: Stipend not salary

Ministry is not best talked about in hours-worked at all really.

Ministry payment is not a wage paid on a per hour basis or a salary for a full-time or part-time job. Not really.

Better to think of ministry payment as a stipend to free someone up for the task. Any particular tasks, duties, meetings, hours that might give some form to this are very much secondary.

You are paid to be freed up to be you. You are paid to be freed up to fulfil a role. Particular tasks or particular hours are a sometimes necessary and very inadequate proxy for this.

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Mirrors 11th May 2013

  1. The Briefing’s latest critique of Hillsong Conference. Note the positive observations of the workshops:
    Off that main platform, however, my constant impression was that everyone involved was keen to be shaped by how God has revealed himself in his word, and to align their ministry and understanding of church to that. For sure, they came up with conclusions that at times I disagreed with, but the principle of carefully reading Scripture and forming how you act on that foundation was both clearly in place, and widespread.

    I was surprised at home positive they were about the lyrics of ‘Beneath The Waters’ and other such songs. I was disappointed with how ordinary the lyrics of these songs are. They have a lot more atonement terminology, but it seems sort of jumbled together, like it’s been pulled out of a scrabble bag (This is my revelation, Christ Jesus crucified, Salvation through repentance At the cross on which He died[?! What does this even mean?])... but good that they are seeing the good and acknowledging it, even while giving a pretty harsh critique!

  2. A cute little image from Challies about why he always turns around to look at the groom’s face when a bride walks into the church building:
    Now here’s the tip: When those doors open, steal a quick glance at the groom. I know the bride is the star of the show and you don’t want to miss her, but it’s okay to look to the front of the church for just a moment. The more I read and understand Ephesians 5:22-33 and the more I come to grasp the deepest meaning of marriage, the more I find myself not wanting to miss what happens at the front of the room. Because in that moment the groom is just a small picture, a dim reflection, of the love Jesus Christ has for his bride, the church. There is nothing quite like the expression on a groom’s face when his bride appears before him. There is joy there. There is delight and desire and such love. There is the knowledge that his longing for a bride is being fulfilled and that she will soon be his, that in just moments they will be united together forever.

  3. A silly-but-cool AFES fundraising drive. Fundraising drives are good gimmicks, but must never be the heart of our fundraising strategies in gospel ministry. Because we are not FUNDRAISING, we are not MERCHANDISING, we are raising up GOSPEL PARTNERS. However, as one minor strategy amongst many, things like this can be great - and a fun entry point for genuine gospel partnerships.

  4. A great new MTS blog post about adjusting to ministry as work.

  5. Joe shares the speech Tasmanian MP Jacqui Petrusma gave for why she opposed the recent abortion bill.

  6. Dove has recently done some excellent commercials. It’s quite touching to see these women realise that others see them as much more beautiful than they see themselves… and that the perception of others are more accurate! The three minute version The six minute version

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Bring a printer and a power board to conferences

A handy little bit of advice I learned from working with Alan Reader was: always bring a printer, paper and a power-board to conferences you are organising. They always come in mega-handy.

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Church Community Builder Implementation Journal Part 8: Departments


One helpful general piece of advice from Grahame from EV Church (thanks for your help Grahame!) was: ‘Make sure you set up your departments and groups to reflect reality’. That’s a hard thing to do in practice. But it’s a good reminder to think hard about how you will actually use the software. Don’t give this setup job to an IT geek or office lady in your church who doesn’t really get how your ministry functions. It is a ministry tool, not an admin tool.

We went for the ‘Standard’ solution rather than ‘Deluxe’ and I think that was a wise move. However, if I had fully understood what ‘Coaches’ and ‘Departments’ were, I would have been tempted to adopt ‘Deluxe’: after all it is not that much more expensive - maybe $200 more a year?

The advantage of ‘Departments’ is that it allows you to have several layers of leaders and communication:

  1. A Department Head: say ‘Small Groups Department Leader’

  2. Coaches: say ‘Small Group Regional Overseers’

  3. Leaders and Assistant Leaders: the leaders of the individual groups

Not only does this allow you to give a bit more organisation to how your groups are ordered, it also helps with, for example communication.

Rather than having to create a separate group called ‘Small Group Leaders’ in order to bulk message them, or a separate group called ‘Small Group Regional Leaders’ to bulk message THEM - and then make sure that everyone is in every group they need to be in… You can simply put them in the one group and then email:

  1. Everyone in the department: eg all small group members, leaders, regional overseers

  2. All the leaders: eg all of the small group leaders, across all the groups and regions

  3. All the leaders or all the members in a region

  4. All the coaches: eg all the regional leaders

Unfortunately Departments and Coaches can’t host events. These need to be hosted by one group which then invites all the others. Or a dummy group called ‘Host Group’ could be created to host these events.

Departments and the Standard Version

The Standard Version has at least three things lacking from this setup:

  1. No coaches feature. So there’s one level in the hierarchy missing - you have to create a separate group for regional leaders

  2. No message a department feature: You have to use Mail Merge to do that

  3. No custom-departments: you have to use their out-of-the-box departments.

We used the ‘out-of-the-box’ department ‘Teaching / Management’ for our Small Groups, so that rather than creating a separate group called ‘Small Group Leaders’ we can simply go to ‘Mail Merge’ and email all the leaders in the Teaching / Management Department.

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Staff versus contracted workers

A conversation with my friend Joe that followed on from this blog post about startups raised the pros and cons of employing staff compared to paying external workers.

Advantages of Contracted External Workers

  1. You can get someone who is super good and super efficient at a few key things and pay them for that, rather than an all-rounder who is not necessarily great or fast at any of the jobs they have

  2. You don’t have to oversee staff administration, personal development and so on

  3. You can chop and change until you find the right person… and maybe eventual invite them to join the staff team down the track

  4. A part-time or full-time staff member will inevitably have unfocussed and unproductive time. A contracted person can just not be paid when you don’t need them

  5. A part-time or full-time staff member will do other work-related stuff ‘on the clock’: answer emails, get trained, build relationships, plan their work whereas much of this stuff the contracted worker will have to do in their own time

  6. They are able to give an outsider’s perspective on the ministry

  7. You can bring them on for a very discreet period of time to boost your work or propel things forward - for example running a major mission event or moving to a new database system

Advantages of Staff

  1. You can establish the ministry relationships dynamics much more easily with staff. As a result you are modelling and growing in the gospel, rather than just getting jobs done

  2. You have a higher stability: they are more likely to be available and responsive - not busy doing other freelance work.

  3. They are easier to retain because they have invested a larger amount of their livelihood in the role. There is a greater risk of losing a contracted worker at short notice and having to rush to find someone to take over all the work they were doing.They are in a better position to let their overall understanding of the ministry vision, culture and people shape the way they do their work

  4. You have less people to manage - if you employed lots of contract work, you have lots of different people to delegate to and communicate with

  5. Staff are usually cheaper-per-hour

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Ministry work hours 1: 70 hours a week? REALLY?

Every now and then some busy person talks about their 70 or even 80 hour weeks. REALLY?

  1. Have you actually done the maths on that? Are you sure that’s right? That’s twelve hours a day SIX DAYS A WEEK? Sure maybe in busy seasons, but all the time? #notsosure

  2. And even if you did, how efficient and effective are you really being? I can’t imagine your productivity and clarity of thought (or godliness of relating to others) is going to be as good at hour 58…?

  3. How much kinda-work stuff gets shovelled into this? Travel? Blobbing around the office? Going to things you probably don’t need to be at and staying longer than you probably need to?

  4. Is number of hours worked even the best measure of ministry? Even of diligent ministry? It is, after all possible to work hard because you are working dumb.

  5. What does sustained 70 hour a week work habits do to your mental, physical and family health?

  6. What does talking about a 70 hour a week work do to the confidence of those who can’t sustain it? Is talking about these kind of work hours like Paul talking about his visions in the third heaven?

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Mirrors 3rd May 2013

  1. What can we learn from African Christians?

  2. Jason sent me this link ‘In Defence of Religion in Bioshock Infinite’. I haven’t read it, but even though I’m not a gamer, I am intrigued:

  3. Will Briggs links to 2 Tasmanian thinkers worth reading.

  4. A creative, TED-talk style conference on evangelism - cool to see a conference on EVANGELISM.

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