800px-Dark_roasted_espresso_blend_coffee_beans_1It’s been eighteen months since my last roundup of coffee places in Hobart.  It’s about time I updated, but I’m not going to give some sort of league table.  Here are the coffee shops I know about and enjoy.   All of them would be in my “Tier 1” (coffee is their speciality) or “Tier 2” (they do coffee well) categories.  All links are to facebook pages.

1) Vilicia Coffee is reasonably new in town.  It opened while we were away on our trip with baristas we knew from other places around town.  Code Black beans are used to their best.  Being close to my work, this is my current “sit down” coffee shop where I go for conversations.  A really friendly atmosphere.

2) Yellow Bernard is right next door to Vilicia.  It’s my current “take-away” coffee shop.  Their “Project Yellow” blend is consistently good, and they know how to make a single origin with high notes zing.  Friendly staff who handle their busy demand really well.

3) Parklane Espresso is where I go when I’m in Salamanca.  It’s a little hard to find – a hole-in-the-wall behind the Mercury Building in Salamanca Square, but well worth seeking out.  Excellent, particularly at the shorter end (macchiato, piccolo).  A small amount of seating is available.

4) Pilgrim Coffee is an old favourite, but I usually only get there now for the “gathering thoughts” time between services on a Sunday, or when visiting the hospital (over the road).  They still know how to make a single origin sing and have that perfect balance of cozy-with-enough-room-to-sit-down.

5) Nextdoor is a reasonably new discovery.  There’s a clear passion for excellence.  They remember me and hand me a top-notch piccolo whenever I’m in.  This place deserves more attention.

Honourable mention: Westend Pumphouse, which is more a restaurant, and hasn’t always been impressive in the coffee stakes.  But it is an excellent place for a long conversation and the coffee standard is on the rise.  Also Boutique Espresso which I haven’t visited for a while, but were consistently good when I did.

But what about? Hobart coffee drinkers will note the absence of Villino.  It’s not because it’s bad coffee, it’s just that I hardly ever get to that part of town, and when I do there is nowhere to sit down.  Their hole in the wall, Ecru, commits the sin of not having EFTPOS facilities.

Photo credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dark_roasted_espresso_blend_coffee_beans_1.jpg

Atlas-Shrugged-Paperback-L9780452286368You don’t often get to read a book that’s a philosophical-economic-apocalyptic-thriller.  Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is that, and more.  It is also 1950’s capitalist propaganda, but of a reasonably intelligent sort.

The story begins in ordinary post-war America.  Dagny Taggart, a railroad heiress and a true industrialist (and therefore the heroine of the book), is going about her job as Operations Manager of “Taggart Transcontinental”.  Frustrated in her attempts to tap new markets and improve infrastructure she runs into some boardroom intrigue and some political power-plays.  She eventually succeeds at refurbishing a branch-line with a new metal developed by another industrialist (and therefore another hero), Hank Rearden.  At this stage I almost gave up on the book as a slightly more coal-dusted version of Madmen: interesting characters, an insight into an era, but not much more than a soap opera.

But the end of the story is reached, everything is different.  The heroic industrialists have slowly been squeezed out of power by a socialist-pietist elite.  These elite have first undermined, and then nationalised, all the good selfishly-motivated but prosperity-generating industry of the heroes.

In broad brush strokes, this is just another socialism-is-the-end-of-the-world tirade from the reds-under-the-bed ’50s, penned by an angst-ridden author whose father was impoverished by the soviets in the early part of the twentieth century.  The unique factor, however, is what Rand does with her heroes:

As the economic apocalyptic horsemen appear the industrialists of America begin to disappear.  They lay down their factories and vanish off the face of the earth.  “Where have they gone?” is asked time and time again.  “Who is John Galt?” is the enigmatic answer, a phrase that has come to mean “Who knows?”

At the same time Dagny Taggart, now in the midst of an utterly rational sexual affair with Rearden, is searching after the inventor of a revolutionary new piece of technology.  This inventor is out there, somewhere, a messianic figure of self-made virtue.  Of course, she eventually finds him.  He has hidden himself away, and with his perfect philosophy and rhetorical flair has convinced the oppressed industrialists to join him.  Together, they have gone on “strike” – unwilling to exercise their virtue for the sake of the “looters”, the socialists who would seize by force what they have not earned.  This man is none other than John Galt, the man of memetic legend.

Galt is their perfect leader.  The heroes, including Taggart and Rearden, swoon before his intellect and Rearden relinquishes his romantic attachment to someone so much higher than he.  As Galt’s identity is revealed the socialist overlords also swoon, bending their knee; “We need you, we need you!” they cry, aware of their inability for industry.  But he remains solid, immovable, even as they attempt to torture him into submission.  The world falls apart, and yet Galt remains, untainted by mere affectation, ready and willing to lead his industrialists back into darkened cities to bring forth light and power and a brave new world, stamped by his creed:

I swear by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

In summary, that’s it.  That’s the story.  A bit tedious at times.  Intriguing and attractive characters are marred by unrealistic soliloquies and monologues that drone like lecturers who are unaware of their pretentiousness.  Have you ever had a book where you feel an attachment to the characters but are angry at the author for turning them into puppets?  That’s this book.

But underneath it all there’s actually a coherent (if naïve) philosophy that’s worth engaging with.  It’s Rand’s own philosophy, which she dubbed objectivism.  Some notes at the end of the book, helpfully summarise this worldview in Rand’s own words:

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute”

And the essence of objectivism is presented:

1. Metaphysics: Objective reality
2. Epistemology: Reason
3. Ethics: Self-interest
4. Politics: Capitalism

What Rand has done in this novel is build caricatures: objectivist heroes, anti-objectivist villains, and a couple of people who transition from one side to the other to highlight the contrast.  While quite exhaustive in scope, there is very little nuance.  She builds straw men, into which anyone from the postmodern or communist to the religious conservative could fit, and burns it to the ground in a world over which she alone has control.

Consider her metaphysics of objective reality. In a three hour rant from Galt, on hijacked airwaves, Rand unleashes her rhetoric.  Chief amongst it is the metaphysical assertion “A is A.”  In practice, the antithesis is this:

To a savage the world is a place of unintelligible miracles where anything is possible to inanimate matter and nothing is possible to him.  His world is not the unknown, but that irrational horror: the unknowable  He believes that physical objects are endowed with mysterious volition, moved by causeless, unpredictable whims, while he is a helpless pawn at the mercy of forces beyond his control.

The industrialist can prosper because he embraces causes, and becomes a cause. The “looting” mystic simply wants and refuses to answer questions such as “how?” and “is it possible?”  The fear-driven mystic simply asserts and demands the fruit of a realist’s virtue.

Rand’s affirmation of reality is a worthy thing.  The errors of Rand’s looters are manifold and there are some connections with the errors and troubles of the contemporary world where the double-speak of self-constructed “progressive” worlds are apparent.

But Rand’s problem is that her world is not just real it is also entirely known.  Her realism is mediated through almost-omniscient and almost-omnipotent reason-bearers.  Amongst Rand’s Galt-led objectivists there are no disputes, not even debates, about the real world.  Everything simply “is,” in an unreal containment of the obvious.

With any assertion of objectivity, there’s always the question “who is the subject?”  Rand avoids that problem by avoiding situations in which her heroes must grapple with disunity, difference of opinion, diverging rational arguments, and incomplete evidence.  Objective reality is best conceived teleologically – as goal or purpose or direction.  Rand’s reality is static, and captured by characters that are therefore eventually, and disappointingly, arrogant.

Each of her other tenets are similarly affected: robust only within her fictional world they avoid the questions of the real one.  The serene rational man of Rand’s world is the unfeeling utilitarian of real experience.  The ethics of self-interest, while refreshingly honest about how many of our “sacrifices” are actually expressions of what we actually want to do, allows no other boundary than that drawn around the individual; it is noteworthy that Rand only explores sexual and fraternal relationships in this book for I don’t think she could contain maternal or familial relationships. And her capitalism conveniently assumes a common sense of fairness (an unreal innate altruism) and avoids the propensity for exploitation that we see around us.

We are all so quick to caricature the 1950’s with their repressive picket fences.  It’s a constructed world that we shy away from.  Rand’s constructed world doesn’t have picket fences, but it is still an unreal caricature, useful for drawing on for allusions and similes, but not for constructing a coherent picture of the real world.

For the last three years we have lived in a house just south of Hobart.  It’s a funny old place, a rental provided as part of my work for the church.  It’s modern but quirky, obviously designed by a non-kitchen-aware man.  It’s squishy for two adults and four large (and increasingly larger) children and frustrates our yearning for hospitality.

But it’s been a home to us over these last three years.  We’ve filled it with our memories now… of birthday parties and recoveries from surgery, of budgerigars and baking, tears and laughs, arguments and hugs.

Chief of its blessings has been the view.  We’ve had a bush-block out the back. Wallabies have come and eaten our lawn.  Kookaburras have landed on our fence.  Our budgie has been to visit the wrens out there (and returned), twice!  That view has framed the seasons.  It has been a place to escape, for walks and imaginings, and get-to-know-you conversations with new friends.

And now this has happened, you can see the before and after:

bush

We knew it was coming.  There had been talk for a while.  The planning permission signs had gone up.  But then it happened, and it happened quickly.  As our children said, Mordor came to our windows, and we didn’t want to open the curtains.

It is, for us, the epitome of a current season of endings.  Significant school years are finishing.  A child is turning eighteen. Ministry tasks concluded or handed on.  There is a time for everything, it says in Ecclesiasates, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. This current season clearly is not a planting time, and it feels, literally, uprooted.

The task in all seasons is a step of honesty, and a step of faith:

We must be honest about what is happening.  This is where we are at, and this is the season we are in.  We must grieve what we need to grieve.  There is a certain amount of emptiness to embrace.  Planting season involves planning and prepping and dreaming for what might be.  Growing time involves pruning and caring and dealing with surprising things that have grown up at the same time.  Harvest is busy busy busy with laughs and the promise of productivity-blessed rest.  But this?  This time of conclusion, how do we allow the fallow?

Which is where the faith step calls.  For there are some temptations.  It’s very easy to wallow.  It’s very easy to scream and beat the air as things fall away (although that can sometimes be a very honest catharsis).  A muddy despondency is close.  But there is also:

1) Simplification.  Trappings are gone.  It’s just the bare earth of life now, for a while.  Oh Lord, what will you plant in us?  For me, these are the days of reading, and pondering, and praying.  There’s some foundations down here somewhere, under the detritus of a decade’s-worth of things-that-have-happened.

2) Approbation.  A celebration, almost, but not in great parties that fade away, but in the fruit that has lasted the turn of the seasons.  This fruit is people, relationships, and love.  Unconditional, Jesus stuff.  Things may come and things may go, but down here, under the ground, there’s a treasure of great value – I know because I’ve seen it.

3) Contemplation.  Not in some ethereal sense, but in the sense of looking ahead and contemplating “what’s next?”  Because this isn’t the end.  God-willing, there is much much more to come.  And while this is not the season of striving, neither is it a season to batten the hatches and ignore the world.  There are conversations to be had, surprises to be encountered, and possibilities to be cogitated upon.  There’s a path down here on this bare earth, there’s somewhere to place and move my feet.

There is a season.
Turn.
Turn.
TURN!

1077693_30363053(Originally a facebook post, in response to a blog post from Mike Breen).

Is there a Lifeshape for kenosis*?

“Emptiness” is fundamental to Christian spirituality.  But it’s a slippery thing to grasp. It’s not figurative (or actual) self-flagellation. It’s an emptiness that comes when you’re in a place where you can’t just lead, you must also carry, and you realise that such a thing is beyond you. Your own fumes of strength are quickly burned away and you find yourself feeling something of the pain of God for his people, as well as a strengthening and a protection that is now utterly and totally and clearly from him alone.

You see it in the drama of Paul’s life whose apostolic burden had him “become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day” (1 Cor 4:13) and who even at the end of his fighting the good fight, described himself as being “poured out like a drink offering” (2 Tim 4:6). No wonder he taught the Philippians that song in 2:5-11!

To avoid pain and risk, is to avoid this emptying out. To fall into his arms in the midst of (seeming) failure, disappointment, frustration, and ennui is the spiritual task. You can tell when a leader has passed through that fire… and when they haven’t. And sometimes, when you get to the end of a season of rest and recovery, you long for it again, because in that dynamic emptiness you breathe His vigour and His life.

* kenosis, from the Greek κενόω (kenoō), meaning “to empty”

Photo credit: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1077693

Another blessing from a random track selection on the drive to work.

I don’t know what this day will bringSouthern_Outlet,_Hobart
Will it be disappointing, filled with longed for things?
I don’t know what tomorrow holds
Still I know, I can trust Your faithfulness

I don’t know if these clouds mean rain
If they do, will they pour down blessing or pain?
I don’t know what the future holds
Still I know, I can trust Your faithfulness

Certain as the rivers reach the sea
Certain as the sunrise in the east
I can rest in Your faithfulness
Surer than a mother’s tender love
Surer than the stars still shine above
I can rest in Your faithfulness

I don’t know how or when I’ll die
Will it be a thief, or will I have a chance to say goodbye?
No, I don’t know how much time is left
But in the end, I will know Your faithfulness

When darkness overwhelms my soul
When thoughts and storms of doubt
Still I trust, You are always faithful
Always faithful

Certain as the rivers reach the sea
Certain as the sunrise in the east
I can rest in Your faithfulness
Surer than a mother’s tender love
Surer than the stars still shine above
I can rest in Your faithfulness
I can rest in Your faithfulness

I don’t know what this day will bring
Will it be disappointing, filled with longed for things?
I don’t know what tomorrow holds
Still I know, I can trust Your faithfulness

Photo credit: CC http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Southern_Outlet,_Hobart.jpg

My car audio is currently circulating through random songs from our music collection.  Sometimes there’s a gift in which is contained, for a moment, the chief end of man.

IMG_20141028_085331Lamp unto my feet
Light unto my path
It is You, Jesus
It is You

This treasure that I hold
More than finest gold
It is You, Jesus
It is You

With all my heart
With all my soul
I live to worship You
And praise forevermore
Praise forevermore

Lord, everyday
I need You more
On wings of Heaven, I will soar
With You

This treasure that I hold
More than finest gold
It is You, Jesus
It is You

With all my heart
With all my soul
I live to worship You
And praise forevermore
Praise forevermore

Lord, everyday
I need You more
On wings of Heaven, I will soar
With You

Lord, everyday
I need You more
On wings of Heaven, I will soar
With You

You take my brokenness
And call me to yourself
There You stand
Heal me in Your hand

You take my brokenness
Call me to yourself
There You stand
Heal me in Your hand

With all my heart
With all my soul
I live to worship You
And praise forevermore
Praise forevermore

Lord, everyday
I need You more
On wings of Heaven, I will soar
With You

Lord, everyday
I need You more
On wings of Heaven, I will soar
With You

61V19ZRJDZLI’ve just finished reading Matthew’s Gospel in David H. Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible (CJB), “An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B’Rit Hadashah (New Testament).”  It’s quite fascinating.

Stern’s translation philosophy stems from a Messianic Judaism which seeks to emphasise the unity of Scripture.  That is to say that the whole Bible is Jewish.  In my short experience of the CJB I have noted that Stern expresses this in two ways:

Firstly, in his choice of vocabulary.  This is clearly evident in that Hebrew transliterations are used for the names of people.  Jesus is Yeshua.  Peter is Shi’mon, or Kefa etc.

On top of this, certain key words and phrases are not translated into English but into Hebrew words which are intended to not only provided connecting threads between the Testaments, but also (I assume) towards a contemporary Jewish framework.

Consider, for example, the rendering of the Great Commission with keywords used for disciples (talmidim) and the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) and the more literal “immersing” rather than “baptising.”

Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim, immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son and the Ruach HaKodesh, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Secondly, there is a covenant centrism.

For instance, the word “Hosanna” in the Triumphal Entry is rendered according to its semantics of deliverance.  The crowd’s cry as Yeshua enters Jerusalem is shown to be an exilic one, a longing for a new exodus.  I’m not convinced by the break down of the sentence structure here, but the sentiment encapsulates a covenant cry:

The crowds ahead of him and behind shouted,

“Please! Deliver us!”

to the Son of David;

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of ADONAI!”
“You in the highest heaven! Please! Deliver us!” (Matthew 21:9)

A deep correlation between blessing and Torah is evident:

…and many people’s love will grow cold because of increased distance from Torah. (Matthew 24:12)

The Son of Man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all the things that cause people to sin and all the people who are far from Torah; (Matthew 13:41)

And in the “salt and light” exhortation of the Sermon on the Mount, the parallelism is exposed such that saltiness is applied to the Land (a clear covenant connection with the Promised Land) and the light extends that blessing to the whole world (covenantal blessedness that is a blessing…)

You are salt for the Land….  You are light for the world. (Matthew 5:13,14)

Finally, there is an eschatology that emphasises the gathering of the diaspora and the regeneration of the earth – a more grounded hope that stands against a modern tendency for escapism.

Yeshua said to them, “Yes. I tell you that in the regenerated world, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Isra’el. (Matthew 19:28)

He will send out his angels with a great shofar and they will gather together his chosen people from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:31)

General thoughts:  While there is a clear agenda in these translation choices (there always is!), for most of us it provides a positive de-hellenizing corrective.  In my limited exposure I have certainly found it to be a refreshing and a deepening experience.  I read Matthew using the Kindle version of the text.  The vocabulary, together with understated chapter and verse markings, and a single-column layout, had me engaged in a way that I have not experienced for a long time.

I was introduced to the author and the text through a group of Christians who are drawing on Messianic Judaism as a means of enriching and expressing their faith.  It is a worthy means.

There are also resonances with projects such as New Perspectives which seek to re-engage with the Jewish foundations of the New Testament.  The CJB certainly aides in the push-back against the dilution of gospel to a mere assuaging-the-conscience-of-the-individual.

Here is a coherent re-engagement in the pages of Scripture with covenant community and grounded eschatological hope.  Here also, I believe, are the anchor points for an effective contemporary apologia, which is my own ongoing passion.  But more on that some other time.

Some books I’ve read while I’ve been off-air, in 30 seconds each:

The Warden and the Wolf KingThe Warden & The Wolf King (Andrew Peterson).  The last book in the absolutely fabulous Wingfeather Saga.  A tale full of adventure through both fantastical lands and through the valleys and mountains of personal identity and purpose.  Humour, suspense, and deep deep characters.  Challenge and redemption, courage and reliance, solitude and compassion, separation and belonging.

When the Money Runs OutWhen the Money Runs Out (Stephen D. King).  Subtitled “The End of Western Affluence.”  This book is by an economist, and one with UK point of view no less.  A tough read for the lay-person with only a cursory understanding of macro-economics.  This book lays out the problems associated with the Global Financial Crisis, and the further problems laid out by the attempts to solve it.  Places the GFC in history and compares it with other greater economic crises of the 20th Century and, indeed, throughout much of Western history.  In the end King resolves things down to one consideration: the Western World has bought into the lie that our wealth will always increase; in a flattened global economy this by no means certain, and the assumption that it is will make things worse.

Building a Discipling CultureBuilding a Discipling Culture (Mike Breen and the 3DM Team).  A good follow-up read from Launching Missional Communities this book gives a brief outline of the philosophy that undergirds MC’s, namely that of holistic, intentional discipleship.  Like Launching MC’s this is a very practical book.  In particular, it is the definitive articulation of the LifeShapes tools – mnemonical aids that help discipling relationships be necessarily broad and necessarily deep.  For the theologically precise there are a number of “ouch” moments but they are generally superficial or excusable.  I continue to find 3dm material resonating with my spiritual and ecclesiological DNA: as if someone has taken what we have experienced and learned over the last decade and a half and actually articulated it.  A useful, helpful, fruitful read.

McCabe P.M.McCabe P.M. (John Rowe). How often do you get to read a 1970’s Australian political thriller?  I even had to buy this book off and ebay and read a copy that was printed on to paper!  A friend had mentioned the plot line and it intrigued me – a Liberal politician suddenly becomes Prime Minister in the early 1970’s (pre-Whitlam), three months out from a general election.  Over those three months a sequence of seemingly-benign occurrences accelerate into a conclusion in which martial law is declared and consideration is being made of bombing Western Australia.  It’s a “do you really think this couldn’t happen here?” story which transcends it’s contemporary issues (e.g. militant Aboriginal activism) and style (e.g. sexual revolution pulp fiction).  The only disconnection is a bewildering idealism on both sides of its politics – perhaps the only thing keeping us from descending into similar holes in 2014 is the utter cynicism of our political classes.

Center ChurchCenter Church (Timothy Keller).  A surprisingly disappointing book to read.  Maybe that’s a bit unfair: this book is self-confessedly not designed to bring scintillating new ideas to the task of growing the church.  Consequently it contains a lot of wisdom.  And it is perfectly titled – it’s all about the “center” and finding the balance: e.g. between church that is separated from society and church that is syncretised; between church that focuses on evangelism, and church that nurtures the existing; about church that holds to the old, and church that finds new forms of expression etc. etc.  Good stuff, but I don’t find myself often going through a book and finding myself internally saying “well, duh!”  But it’s still well-written, and did prick my conscience and my passion in places.  At the very least it’s a solid reminder that the hard yards and joys of being church is found in the practice, not in the theory.

Currently reading: N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God; Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged; and wading through Moreland and Craig’s, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview.

After a brief hiatus the Journeyman Blog is back.

There’s a number of reasons why I took the blog down, some of which I’ll be talking about over the next little while.  Suffice to say, it needed a reboot.

It needed a reboot in terms of look and feel and operation.  You’ll notice there’s a lot of differences.  And please bear with me while I iron out the kinks.

But above all it needed a reboot in terms of content.  I was not happy with some of the directions it was going in: reactive rather than initiative, quick and shallow rather than being thoughtful and deep.  Now my family and I are in the midst of a transition season, the shape of which is uncertain.  Shaking off the detritus, this will be a place to think through the explorations and discoveries that are a necessary part of that.

You will notice, therefore, that a lot of the old content is gone.  It’s not absolutely gone.  I have an implemented a means of “expiring content” – which means while it won’t be available through the ordinary archive or search mechanisms.  But if you still have the original link to old content it will work; I don’t like to break the internet. All old content now comes with a caveat: this is a blog, my life has moved on, and my thoughts may have as well.

Thank you reading, and being an audience to a journey.  Feel free to share the sights and the sites with me and join me along the way for a bit.

Will.

 

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