Thursday, January 26, 2012

a white dove on Australia Day

As I walked outside today, Australia Day, I encountered a white dove. (Australia has over 20 types of pigeons and doves. It looked like a Pied Imperial Pigeon, but they are meant to be in the north of the country). I stopped, hoping it might come closer. Slowly it walked toward me, head cocked. It got to within a feet. I could see it’s dark eye, carefully studying me. Slowly it circled in front of me, and then slowly walked off.

It felt profound. Christianity has a long history of paying attention to animals. In Matthew 6, Jesus invites his disciples to learn from flowers and birds. Saint Cuthbert had many God encounters through animals (For more, see St. Cuthbert and the Animals’).

Today, this dove offered me trust, responding to my newness, my largeness, my stepping into their world, with an open curiousity about who I might be and how I might respond.

It spoke of how I would like people to treat, and be treated. That we would greet what is new and different with a simple curiousity, a coming closer to know more.

Yesterday, a speaker at the Storyweaving conference stated that “Australia is a country of strangers.” It is so easy when we encounter what is strange to laugh, giggle, spot the difference, seek to make them like us.

The white dove, today, on Australia Day, offered me another way of being in the world, in which we respond to what is new with a trusting curiousity.

(This is another entry in dictionary of everyday spirituality, under the heading W is for white doves).

Posted by steve at 09:42 AM

Monday, January 16, 2012

a prayer for the year coming

Lindisfarne Scriptorium produce A Call to Pray as a discipleship resource. It includes 13 cards, each with an artistic image, each with a prayer. They are wallet-sized, so over the summer holiday, they’ve been great to sit with at the beginning of each day. Or to place in your pocket as you go for a reflective walk.

Sunday I headed up a hill for a 2 hour walk, with the following prayer. As I walked and pondered, some questions began to emerge, which helped me as I began to pray for the year ahead.

Please God
grant us the grace
to change our hearts,
to open our minds

To ponder: What are the images of God in which you find grace?

Grant us the grace
to bless our small corner,
to encourage each other

To ponder: What is your “small corner”/refuge/sanctuary? What will bless it?

Grant us the grace
to pray for the world,
to care to much.

To ponder: How can you care too much for the world?

Grant us the grace, please Lord.

Prayer from Lindisfarne Scriptorium. Reflective questions by Steve and Kayli Taylor.

Further links:
- Photo essay of Lindisfarne here.
- Lindisfarne spiritual legacy here.
- Further discipleship resources here.

Posted by steve at 04:25 PM

Monday, December 19, 2011

my most re-creative space?

This is one of my most re-creative spaces. I woke up this morning to this


and ate breakfast with the kids looking at this


It is what we call the “out of bounds bach.” The back story is that we used the author advance from my The Out of Bounds Church? book back in 2005 to invest in a place of retreat and memory creation. It’s about 40 minutes from Christchurch, so was a great place to find solitude while in ministry at Opawa Baptist.

If you ever think I’m burning out, or sense I’m losing my soul, ask me how long since I’ve been here? And how long till I plan to return?

Now we live in Australia, it’s a wonderful holiday spot, our sense of turangawaewae.

Literally tūranga (standing place), waewae (feet), it is often translated as ‘a place to stand’. Tūrangawaewae are places where we feel especially empowered and connected. They are our foundation, our place in the world, our home.

My task this week is to write from here. What joy.

Posted by steve at 10:10 AM

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What would I use iPAD aps for?

Now this looks a fantastic ap for an iPAD. On Saturday I was scrawling an idea on a piece of paper – it was a decision making tree to help a church reflect on its mission future – and a friend commented, “I bet your house is full of those scraps.”

It is.

And I don’t find any of my existing software (Word/pages/paint etc) easy to mix both diagrams and text. So an ap that I can doodle, draw, journal, all in one place!

And so a followup to my – what would I use an iPAD for – post yesterday:

What iPAD aps might intentionally re-source and re-plenish (cf consume, distract, show-off)?

Posted by steve at 08:11 AM

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

what would I use an iPAD for?

I’ve been given a monetary gift. It’s a thankyou in response to working quite intensely over a recent weekend, a period that left me quite drained.

So it would be nice to use this gift to intentionally re-source and re-plenish myself, to be able to point to something and say ‘this is a blessing back, for being a blessing out.’

Books, music and art are (definite) possibilities. Another suggestion is that I buy an iPAD. I already have a kindle (which I use for reading and love the new reading horizons) and a laptop (for work) and I’m not not convinced about more technological acquisition.

So, fellow readers what really – usefully, resourcefully – would I use an iPAD for? How would it help re-source and re-plenish me, in ways that a kindle or laptop couldn’t?

Posted by steve at 08:06 AM

Sunday, December 04, 2011

this is the house that Up built

The Up house is for real. And for sale.

A house modelled after the home featured in the animated movie “Up” has been sold to a family who are self-described Disney and Pixar fanatics … Builder Adam Bangerter has said the blueprints for the house were drawn based entirely on details found in the popular movie. Much of the home had to be custom-designed. (here)

It’s amazing to consider how an animated movie, can shape real life.

It’s also amazing to consider how that animated movie has shaped my real life. It was September 14, 2009 and we had taken the kids to see the movie. We loved it and I blogged about it here.

It’s the plot that makes Up great; that good old-fashioned ability to engage an audience by telling a story, in this case of childhoon dreams lost, the pain of life and the possibility of imagination rekindled.

At the time, we were considering whether or not to move to Adelaide, as the founding Director of Missiology at Uniting College. I was getting cold feet, considering the pain it would cause for us, for Opawa, for our family and friends. Watching Up, I felt it had some messages for me. Would I be like the old man in Up, Carl Fredricksen, who had been too scared to actually put an adventure into reality? Or would I, and team Taylor, be willing to trust God and go on a new adventure? Which became worship that Sunday. And was a part of our discernment and journey toward Australia.

So again, an animated movie shaping real life. The power of popular culture. To quote Tom Beaudoin:

The fact that popular media culture is an imaginative palette for faith … the church has to take that imaginative palette seriously… if part of the pastoral task of the church is to communicate God’s mercy and God’s freedom in a way that people understand then you have to use the language that they’re using, you have to use the metaphors and forms of experience that are already familiar to them.

Posted by steve at 09:00 PM

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

a moment in the process of becoming a Principal

Solvitur Ambulando
“It is solved by walking.” – St. Augustine

On the morning of Monday 28 October I was interviewed for the role of Principal of Uniting College. After lunch, I went for a walk. Uniting College is located on the grounds of the Adelaide College of Divinity, which has a labyrinth. So rather than walk the block, I walked the labyrinth, praying the Lords prayer.

The phrase “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done” was particularly meaningful, as I prayed for myself, for the Joint Nominating Committee, for the other applicants.

The labyrinth at Adelaide College of Divinity campus was specifically designed by an Adelaide stained glass artist Cedar Prest. The opening is in the shape of a large communion cup, laid in beautiful mosaics, while the centre is in the shape of a central wafer. As I paused at the centre, I had a strong impression, the realisation that there is plenty of space in the centre to be truly me.

I began to walk out, reflecting on how the pattern of the labyrinth take you from edge to centre, and out to the edge again. It struck me that there were parallels with my own life at that moment, that my interest in mission and fresh expressions might be seen as on the edge, while being a Principal of a theological college is getting pretty close to the centre. It is a role that comes with plenty of expectations of what a Principal should do and be.

And the impression returned: that there is plenty of space in the centre to be truly me.

At that moment, my cell phone rang. It was an ironic moment, interrupted by a cell phone in the midst of the peaceful contemplation of a labyrinth. It was a delightful moment for the call was about the matter I was praying about, a request to attend a further interview in the Principal process.

Standing there holding the phone, it all felt profound, that in praying Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, might I actually be able to experience plenty of space in the Principal role to be truly me.

Posted by steve at 10:33 AM

Friday, November 25, 2011

happy “international” thanksgiving

We’re not Americans. But last night was Thanksgiving and it somehow seemed important to gather some folk to be thankful with. A friend and their family for each of the kids. Some international folk known to Lynne and I.

An invitation, to bring food your whole family were thankful for. A school night, so an offer of a prompt start and the promise of a early night.

The meal began with bubbles, passed around the group, blow some bubbles. naming things were thankful for. Kiwi, Australian, Scottish accents. Folk unknown to each other, now connected by food, laughter, companionship.

It felt spiritual, in a very earthy, thankful, friendly sort of way.

(This is another entry in dictionary of everyday spirituality, under the heading T is for thanksgiving).

Posted by steve at 09:27 PM

Saturday, November 19, 2011

a second pioneer icon

I painted my first icon back in April. Being a first, having no obvious teacher, simply having a go, it seemed to me to deserve to be called a “pioneer” icon, because that is what pioneer leadership is all about – having a go, learning by doing. As I completed it, I suddenly realised who I was doing it for and I gave it as a thankyou gift to a visiting pioneer.

I completed another icon back in July. It became quite an experience, looking great to the final varnish, when it all turned to crap, with the gold leaf tarnishing and the varnish beading. That mystery continues, with the varnish manufacturer still scratching their heads.

So after a number of months to sit with the sadness, I returned and began work on another “pioneer” icon. Which I have just completed. There was a great deal of nervousness last night as I applied the final coat of varnish. But this morning, it seems OK.

Although, oddly, as with the first pioneer icon, as it neared completion, I again realised who I was doing it for, another couple of pioneers!

Posted by steve at 07:51 AM

Thursday, October 27, 2011

airports and contemporary pilgrimage

At 7 am yesterday I needed to navigate from the Domestic terminal, to the International terminal at Auckland Airport. There are two options.

A bus.

Or a walk, of about 15 minutes.

Being a fine morning, and having been up since 4 am, I needed a stretch. On the spur of the moment, I decided not only to walk, but to walk holding a small carved wooden pilgrims cross I had brought near Durham Cathedral in September.

It transformed the walk. What was a stroll became a spiritual exercise.

As I walked, I found myself reminded of other times I had walked holding the cross, especially at Holy Island. (See my photo essay here). During that walk, I was overwhelmed with the realisation of how many others in history have walked the walk and what it means to consider the life journey as one surrounded by pilgrims.

This turned my walk between airport terminals into prayer – for those walking with me, for those I passed, for those who have walked before and will walk into the future.

A walk + small hand held wooden cross + memory = a moment of spiritual engagement.

Posted by steve at 08:04 AM

Saturday, August 20, 2011

vocation as listening for voice

Vocation does not come from wilfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about – quite apart from what I would like to be about – or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.

That insight is hidden in the word vocation itself, which is rooted in the Latin for “voice.” Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live – but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.

It has been good to be back in Auckland, a city which has so shaped my life and ministry. I trained for denominational ministry in this city, planted a church, had 2 children, experienced doors open and close. It has been good to be back at Laidlaw College, among a community of scholars that shaped my life and ministry, my thinking and my passion.

The place, the memories, the renewed relationships, the questions over coffee breaks and dinner, have all been a rich palate, a reminder of the decisions and implications in the move from New Zealand to Australia. I spent over two years before the shift with a spiritual director, pondering the shape of my life, seeking the discern “voice” – in me and in my life journey, in my family and faith community (Opawa Baptist Church).

There have been moments in the move to Australia when I have doubted how well I have heard that voice. Such realisations have been humbling and disturbing. I suspect they will continue.

As I have walked this city of memories, I have been reminded that listening never stops. That the voice I listened for 18 months ago needs to be listened too again. Constantly.

Life continually offers me an array of possibilities and tasks. Some are bad. Others are good. But what about my voice? The unique fingerprint that is Steve Taylor and the Taylor family? Who am I and who are we and what does it mean to live out of that?

Thanks Auckland, thanks Laidlaw, thanks Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation for reminding me of the importance, and the struggle, of listening for vocational voice.

God, give me the courage to hear that more clearly, more truly, this day and in the coming days.

Posted by steve at 04:10 PM

Sunday, July 31, 2011

garden church anyone?

Fabulous morning. Sun shining. Dirt in fingers. Trees planted in hope of different environmental futures. Conversations about sustainability and spirituality, about human things like rugby and migration. Advice given about mission action projects (guerrilla gardening in Seacliff). Contact details shared with a fellow spiritual seeker. Food and hospitality enjoyed. Kingdom coming on earth.

No, not a church programme or building, but joining something that is – tree planting with a local urban community garden collective.

For related:
Composting as a spiritual practice
Diggers club as model for a fresh expression
Ministerial leader as gardener
Grow your own – Great movie on garden spirituality

Posted by steve at 04:59 PM

Monday, July 25, 2011

mother of God icon: one coat turns it to crap

This is my second icon- Mary, mother of God. (My first, a pioneer icon, is here). I’ve been working on it for about 3 months. A lot of evenings, a lot of weekends. It’s been relaxing and enjoying.

I chose it because of the way Jesus is snuggled into Mary. I love the intimacy and humanity of that moment. As I painted, it felt more and more like the arm of Mary was making a gesture of embrace, inviting me to join the intimacy, to appreciate the humanity and warmth.

Over the weekend I applied the gold halo and finished the final etching. Which meant it was done and so last nite I applied a coat of clear varnish to help protect it.

I don’t know what happened, but it turned to crap. The gold halo is now all tarnished brown, rather than gold and shiny. The varnish has formed bubbles and looks all pock marked. The final finishing coat, after months of work. Sorry mother of God, but you look how I feel. Crap!

Posted by steve at 10:25 PM

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

facing the dark places of ministry and leadership

On Friday, I provided the opening address at a lay training event. The topic was God at earth – what it means to follow a God who in Jesus is real, local and grounded. In preparation I began to reflect on the feelings of Jesus – Jesus who feels

  • sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • tears at the death of a friend, Lazarus
  • anger in the temple
  • compassion at the crowds harrassed and helpless
  • radical love when faced by the rich young ruler.

As I did, I began to sense some implications for mission, for our following of God at earth. In response to compassion, Jesus sends the disciples on mission. In response to anger, Jesus enacts justice. In response to radical love, Jesus challenges in radical discipleship. So often mission comes out of our heads. But what might it mean to connect our feelings with the feelings of God?

In preparing for the evening, I reflected on my feelings – the pain we feel in leaving Christchurch to move to Adelaide, the suffering watching our city experience major earthquakes in recent months.

Coincidentally (?), the last week has been really hard. I’ve been a swirl in sadness. I began to wonder if I was losing it, burning out. In hindsight I wonder if I was simply processing the talk, working through the pain of my past, the pain of my city, the pain of being the Christ, holding the cup of suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Is this ridiculous? Or is this what it means to connect our feelings with the feelings of God for a world broken and in pain?

Some talks you can give easily.

Do others demand a depth of emotional engagement, the dark side which leaves one exhausted, depleted, vulnerable and fragile? If so, how does one care for oneself, be a good father, a corteous employer, in such places?

I am not sure I have many answers. But I do sense that in these dark places, in our feelings, are some leadership lessons essential for our following of Jesus today.

Posted by steve at 09:20 PM