Rethinking ‘Doubting’ Thomas This Easter

It’s Easter, which means at some point we will focus on poor old Thomas. Doubting Thomas as you probably know him. Thomas has been taught to most christians as the guy that had no faith. That he doubted everything. And so we’ve kinda latched on to him as the pin-up boy for those who doubt and require evidence before believing. Which is most of us at one point or another.

Well, I think we have misread Thomas and connected some doubting dots that don’t really exist. Let me explain.

Thomas is only mentioned a few times in Scripture, which seems a little odd for one of the disciples. Apart from when he was called to follow Jesus, he only appears on three occasions. I want to focus on two of them.

The first comes in John 14:5-9. Here’s how the conversation rolls:

Thomas: Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the path?

Jesus: I am the path, the truth, and the energy of life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you know Me, you know the Father. Rest assured now; you know Him and have seen Him.

Thomas asks a very specific and direct question to Jesus. He had the audacity to ask, and Jesus clearly honours his question with a simple and profound response. Thomas bypasses everyone else, even the other disciples and experts around him. He wants to talk with Jesus for the real answer.

Remember, because Thomas is a disciple he’d be following Jesus all day and night. For whatever reason he isn’t mentioned more, which makes this dialogue even more important.

And then good ‘ol Philip chimes in with a question of clarification:

Philip: Lord, all I am asking is that You show us the Father.

Jesus (to Philip): I have lived with you all this time, and you still don’t know who I am? If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father. How can you keep asking to see the Father?

Philip, who we can safely assume is in on the conversation with Jesus and Thomas, asks for further confirmation. Maybe we see the emergence of doubting Philip? I’d be banking on Philip to be the doubting one at this point, not Thomas.

* * * * *

The second mention for Thommo comes in John 20:24-28 after the resurrection. It goes like this:

All of the eleven were present with the exception of Thomas. Thomas heard the accounts of each brother’s interaction with the Lord.

The absence of Thomas stands out here. Why isn’t he with his friends mourning the death of their close friend? We don’t really know, but he probably needs some space to digest it. Or maybe it’s some of Thomas’ personality coming out. Introvert tendencies maybe?

The Other Disciples: We have seen the Lord!

Just quietly, that’s a pretty compelling statement right there from Thomas’ friends. Or it’s a really nasty prank, playing on the sadness Thomas is surely feeling after the death of Jesus. Nevertheless, Thomas isn’t swayed. Read his response to his mates:

Thomas: Until I see His hands, feel the wounds of the nails, and put my hand to His side, I won’t believe what you are saying.

Eight days later, they gathered again behind locked doors; and Jesus reappeared. This time Thomas was with them.

Jesus: May each one of you be at peace.

Then He drew close to Thomas.

These five words reveal the extent of the relationship Jesus and Thomas shared. Intimacy between them abounds in this tender exchange of words.

Jesus: Reach out and touch Me. See the punctures in My hands; reach out your hand, and put it to My side; leave behind your faithlessness, and believe.

Thomas (filled with emotion): You are the one True God and Lord of my life.

The direct words of Jesus confirm what he hoped to be true. Jesus confronts Thomas’ faithlessness and honors their relationship and Thomas’ desire to know beyond all doubt that he is in fact alive. This new-found knowledge for Thomas is not based on a friends testimony and experience, but the very revelation of God himself. A truth that will stay with him forever.

* * * * *

These two examples show Thomas is anything but doubting. I’d rather say he is incredibly discerning. It’s not Jesus he is doubting, but his friends. Thomas shows he has more confidence in the words of Jesus than Philip! That’s profound.

Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t leave us hanging when we have moments of faithlessness. When our friends tell us something of God, it can often seem too good to be true. But when we’re not sure, Jesus gently leads us deeper into himself, opens up his wounds and proves he is alive. With direct revelation like that, who wouldn’t be moved to worship and obedience? Thomas certainly was.

So this easter, don’t rely on the words of other people for a revelation of Jesus. Don’t put all your faith and hope in the words of mere mortals and the second-hand experience of your friends, pastor or bible expert. Instead, open your ears and your heart to the words of life that really matter, the words of Jesus himself.

Let go of the latest gossip, research or theory about Jesus and search out a one-to-one encounter. Be like Thomas and desire a response direct from the man himself.

And when you do, you too will join Thomas and declare You are the one True God and Lord of my life!”

Coming Soon! Baby Doecke #2

Jess, Sienna and I are stoked to announce that we are expecting baby number 2!

We’re over the moon that our little family will be growing. We have a due date of mid August and things have gone smoothly so far.

Baby #2

I’m sure you’ll see photos and random posts of the journey as we progress. But for now, join us in celebrating the new life that is being formed and that things will progress just as they should.

Love, Trav, Jess, Sienna & our .3 addition.

*Photo credit: Jessica Doecke, Sunshine Coast.

A Parenting Lesson From The Playground

child-on-swing

I had an epiphany this morning as she yelled ‘higher, higher!’  I was pushing Sienna on the swing, watching her blonde curls float in the breeze. Here smile was radiant, but I’d never before taken it in like I did this morning. I’d never fully realised the significance time together in the park would have. 

We are nearly at the end of the “terrible” twos. Or as I once heard them optimistically called, “terrific twos. At first, I was wary. Nearly every parent on the planet will tell you how much challenge comes in the 12-18 months surrounding the 2-year-old age bracket. But for me, they have simply been adorable.

These months are a critical foundation for the rest of a child’s life. I have enjoyed it because Sienna has been like putty in my hands*. It is an incredible responsibility for any parent to craft and shape their child, and to do it with gentleness and tender compassion. The instruction we give her will grow and shape her into a respectable young lady, who has a solid christ-like character and understands simple values of respect, love, honour, ‘please’, ‘thankyou’ and forgiveness.

You see, if I don’t have fun with Sienna — if I don’t engage her smiles, cuddle her, kick the ball in the backyard, push her on the swing, read her stories, give her raspberries on her belly, tickle her when we have snuggles in bed and share a babycino at the local cafe, my ability to set that solid foundation is prevented, if not impossible. My authority and place in her life as her daddy means nothing. It’s worthless. It becomes pointless to her. She wouldn’t listen to my instruction. The good intentions I may have to teach her and bring correction to her behaviour never happen. Let alone have the emotional space to actually enjoy her as my daughter! Instead, she becomes a burden to me and my lifestyle.

I’ve seen it. Dads trying to tell their children off or simply bring some correction and order to their house are unable because they don’t have the trust credits in the bank. Credits that are only compounded through the foundation of play, connection and fun.

It wasn’t always like this though. I remember switching on the TV on a sunday morning (probably the fourth weekend in a row) so she was out of my way and I could go get some things done around the house. Her little inquisitive mind was a problem in my desire to complete tasks. Her inclination to learn and understand the world was hindered by my big headedness to tick things off my list.

Since then, I now slow down. We sit and play Duplo for hours at a time. We dance around the lounge room to her favourite songs. I’ll push her on the swing and enjoy the smiles. We’ll pay the cost of wasting water in the shower to enjoy the father/daughter cuddles. I’ll let her push the lawnmower even if it takes me an extra 20 minutes. All of these activities set the foundation of healthy respect for me as her father. They show her that I’m here, that I’m listening and that I’m interested. They show her that I’m on her team, and that I want the best for her.

All of these things make the discipline, correction and teachable moments effective because she knows me and knows that I love her. The time invested in play, can be withdrawn in these moments when I need to teach her.

The healthy authority she needs to learn from her father only comes from a beautiful relationship of play which is grounded in smiles, time and love.

Oh, and building stacks of Duplo cities!

*Not all the time. Trust me!

A New Year: Where Hope Must Run a Marathon

hope-must-run-a-marathon2Another year begins.

There is something special about turning over the calendar from December to January. It’s like we are given a chance to erase the problems of the past and begin again. Christmas and New Year is a joyous time, and we seem to forget the worries and problems of our regular, day-to-day life. Even if most of it is a blur.

That’s the lure of this holiday season.

We finish work preparing for Christmas, ready to relax and embrace the holiday season. We celebrate with friends, open presents, pop champagne, eat scrumptious food and watch the worries of normal life fade into the background.

New Years Eve especially does this to us. It’s like for 24 hours we all enter a dream where there is no pain, no hurt, no worry and no need to engage in the issues of actual life. We become characters in a story that childhood fairy tales are made off.

Everyday over the holiday season is like we are at Disneyland. Our bank account is a bottomless pit of cash. We eat like our bodies will recover like elite athletes. And we mingle with family like we are the societal standard for inter personal relationships.

It’s all a little bit surreal. Maybe a little bit fake…?

* * * * *

Then it happens. We suddenly wake up on New Years Day from our man-made nirvana. Last nights party needs to be cleaned up. Our tummies grumble as they process the food we consumed. The bank starts to send letters requesting payment for the use of their credit card. In one almighty thud, we come back to earth. We slowly start to remember what normal life looks like. We begin to wake up out of dreamy state.

Most of us made some sort of new years resolution. Whether we voiced them publicly or just thought about them in the shower, we all considered what the future might bring. And probably, you’re hoping that 2014 is better than last year. Even if last year was good, you want this year to be better.

The problem is, we did this last year. And the year before that, and the year before that. We’ve been here before, only to discover that the hope we wished for was short-lived. What if 2014 fails you? What if the hope of a better year lasts as long as  your resolutions? Then what?

* * * * *

In a few days, my two weeks leave will be over. Like many of you, it means heading back to the daily grind. The cycle that we escaped from two weeks ago reappears with the same struggles and battles as last year. The normality of life is about to resume.

And as it resumes I realise that the hope and joy I experienced over the holidays needs to run a marathon. It needs to be my lifeblood. The very vein that keeps me going. I don’t want the hope of a better life to last for just the holiday season, or a single night when my calendar changes years.

The hope that I need has to see me through to next Christmas, and many years into the future. It needs to ride the highs and lows with me. It needs to push through the barriers that appear. When I’m tired and the reality of my mortal, pain riddled life takes hold, I need to be reminded of a hope that never fades.

Hope that runs a marathon means patiently pursuing your dream of having a job you love.

Hope that runs a marathon means forgiving that person who hurt you so that the bitterness won’t hold you back.

Hope that runs a marathon means continuing to pursue the lengthy and costly process of IVF to one day realise your desire of being a father or mother.

Hope that runs a marathon means persisting with your fight of the injustice caused to children in countries that are being oppressed.

Hope that runs a marathon means forgiving and overseeing your spouse’s faults, so you can enjoy them for the gift they are to you.

That kind of hope can’t run a sprint, lest it be short lived with no substance. A life that wants those things, fulfilling things, depends upon a hope that is able to withstand the rigours of a world that is far from perfect.

So go ahead, dream, imagine, plan and resolve that 2014 will be your best year yet. Because it may just be the case. Every year that Jesus continues to guide your life and permeate your future, hope is present and the purposes of God are being fulfilled.

Hope is not a mirage on the horizon like New Years Eve celebrations would suggest. It’s a baby born in a feeding trough, giving you the keys to unlock a life that will see you through for all of eternity – not simply until your holidays are over or your resolutions come true.

Hope runs a marathon in the person of Jesus.

I resolve for that to be my future.

Upskilling to Create Opportunities

upskillI read somewhere that the prized employees of the future will be those who have a demonstrated wealth of experience, courage to attempt and exhibit success in a variety of fields, and a willingness to adapt to an ever-changing world. I think this sentiment is right on the money.

In light of the decision that Holden will leave Australia, the need to reinvent ourselves as employees has been thrust into the national spotlight. I can’t help but feel for the thousands of workers. Sadly though, it seems some of them are playing the victim card, seeking compensation for the loss of their livelihoods, rather than exploring the opportunities that abound for those who wish to see it.

I was chatting to our neighbour during the week. He’s about 65 years old and makes swimsuits and costumes for schools and dance companies all across Australia. 30 years ago, he employed dozens of people – now, it’s him, his wife and daughter. The boom in textiles and cheap labour in China and other overseas countries made it impossible for him to do business in Australia. What is happening to the automotive industry today, happened to the textile industry 30 years ago he said. It’s simply a case of the cost of employment and production being cheaper elsewhere in the world. He wasn’t grumpy, just stating facts.

He’s right. And there’s no point getting upset about the loss of a livelihood. When this happens, it’s time to get smarter and secure our own future, not reliant upon handouts, welfare and other government initiatives.

* * * * *

I’ve been where the Holden workers are. Sort of. Twelve months ago I decided to leave the career I had trained for and become a specialist in. We had a love/hate relationship for a few years, so leaving became the best option. I wasn’t sacked and the industry didn’t move off shore, I just had an increasing feeling that I didn’t belong and it was time to move. I’ve written about leaving the institutional church many times and won’t say much more here. But I left with a theology degree and 10 years experience being a professional Christian. The problem was, in the real world, a theology degree doesn’t mean much, and doesn’t enhance your employability ranking.

I realised I needed to up skill myself to keep pace with the rapidly changing world. I needed to increase my skill set across a wide range of areas, experiences and disciplines that make enhance my employability. For example, the things I have learnt about online business, social media, blogging etc from simply having this blog has been phenomenal. These skills hold me in good stead for a future that is increasingly using online media to drive sales, make connections and increase demand for the services we provide.

It’s these realisations that led me to begin some more study.

I have just enrolled in a Certificate IV in Life Coaching. It’ll take about 12-24 months to complete. I’ll be specialising in Life Cycle and Workplace coaching which are two of my favourite areas. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but my allegiance to the ministry path gave me reason not to enrol.

* * * * *

Coaching has been a boom industry over the past decade or so, but also home to some dodgy practices. There are a lot of sharks within the coaching/personal development industry who are making a lot of money from unsuspecting people. People who are sincere in their desire for answers, but hugely misguided in what takes to achieve real joy and the sublime peace they crave. I have a feeling that this step to embark on some study will be the first of many on the road to unleashing some kingdom ethics into a sub-culture that desperately needs it.

I guess too, when I look at Jesus, his whole ministry was one of coaching and helping people to be who he’d created them to be. His deepest desire was to see people in right relationship with the Father, and enjoy the freedom of becoming who we are meant to be.

I’m not sure where it’ll lead, but I’m super keen to start coaching others and finding a niche within an industry that continues to grow. I feel like there is a place for me in the coaching sphere. And now that I’ve walked away from professional Christian ministry, life coaching is the closest thing I could find that suited the description of what I truly loved about my previous career life.

Sometimes the future we need to embrace is one that is forced upon us to make a move. Sometimes we choose to move ourselves. Donald Miller says that unless we take deliberate steps to move our story along, we just become another extra in someone else’s story. And being an extra isn’t much fun.

I’m pretty sure this is the first step in a whole new direction as my story takes a twist and I live wide open to the future.

How are you upskilling yourself?

Accidentally Disrupting Things

DisruptionHave you ever taken steps in a new direction that leads you to places you never imagined, and you find things you never thought existed? It may have been a simple ‘stick ya toe in the water‘ or ‘suck it and see‘, but years later you are in a place where you become strangely loathed but deeply content.

Well, that’s where I find myself.

Five and half years ago Wifey and I made the trip to Adelaide to set up our new life following our wedding in Brisbane. In doing so, it meant we had to find a church to call home. We shopped around for about 9 months, but never found anything we liked. We visited Lutheran churches to fulfil the duty our heritage would require. We ventured into Baptist land, into Uniting church world, and visited the 7pm night service with the Anglicans. Even the happy-clappy Pentecostals welcomed us with free coffee and loud music!

But we never found something that felt right.

I was sharing my church shopping struggles with my dad. This wasn’t unusual. Dad and I chat about lots of things. Dad being the kind, generous and helpful man he is put me in touch with someone who he said I’d be interested in chatting with. No more details, just a phone number. What the heck I thought, I’ll give him a call.

* * * * *

His name was Craig. I’d met him a few times before but we’d kind of lost contact through living in different states. We caught up for coffee. He ordered a long black I think. Me, a latte. Skinny milk back then. Craig shared with me his story of how he and a friend had felt the call to leave church as we know it to plant a network of house churches. I had never even heard about house church or simple church or kingdom gatherings or any of the books he’d been reading or podcasts he’d been listening to. My head was spinning.

As I listened, something started to come alive in my heart. Questions began to flood my mind and the potential of being church in a new and different manner connected with me in a way I can’t explain. And so the journey down the simple church path began.

We started meeting with some friends in our lounge rooms and over the kitchen table as we ate dinner and shared. We had no idea what we were doing. Frankly, we spent much of our time bagging out the places and churches we’d come from. We had no pastor, no sermon, no kids program, no songs, no liturgy, no bread, no wine, no ushers, no treasurer and no organ. Nothing except one another, a heart to do something different and the spirit of God. And it all seemed so civil and normal. ‘We’ll give it a go and see what happens’ I thought.

* * * * *

Four years later, I now realise it was an innocent step in a direction that has taken us to places we never imagined. It has closed doors for me and ended dreams. It has illuminated to us parts of scripture that never made sense in a large, clergy centric setting. We have met fellow travellers who were also fed up with the Christianity around us. We have fought battles with normal Christians we never would have touched without the aid of a pastor. We have learnt to become reliant upon the body of believers, the scriptures and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Our steps in the early days were painting a target on our backs for other believers to take pot shots at. I guess, that what happens when you step out of the conga line.

We have moments where we lie awake in bed wondering if the risks, challenges and pain is worth it. We wonder if the road we have taken is the right one, or whether there will be a time where we come across a ‘dead end’ sign. We get asked all sorts of questions, from well-meaning Christians, that now don’t even make sense because of the new paradigm we find ourselves. I often hear myself saying things that are really disruptive and offensive to people who are still in the big church system, even without meaning to offend.

But for some reason we continue on. In our moments of discontent and fear, we hear a small voice whisper ‘keep going’. So we do.

* * * * *

There are times where people set out to disrupt and annoy people, for the purpose of their own gratification. Other times, simple steps forward can take on a snowball effect, gather momentum and a life of their own.

When I look back on those early days, never once did we expect to find ourselves where we do, in stark contrast to the church life that grew us up. But it reminds me that sometimes the smallest, seemingly insignificant choices are the ones that make the greatest difference in the long run. A quiet coffee with Craig four years ago opened a can of worms in my heart, that to this very day seem to be uncovering more questions than it is gaining answers. And I’m ok with that.

You can’t necessarily choose what you disrupt. Sometimes it chooses you.

Where to Gift Your Extra Money

gift moneyWhenever we discover a lump sum of cash is coming our way, we go about deciding who we can bless from the blessing we have received. It’s actually quite fun.

As I was thinking this through, I realised there are three main places we can give and I wanted to share them with you:

1: to PEOPLE – identify some people who may need a few extra bucks. Don’t think too much about it. See who comes to mind. Get a cheque written out and post it to them. You can do this anonymously or not. That’s up to you. It might be to your local pastor, neighbour, uncle, random person you meet, workmate, sports team member, homeless guy etc. It’s pretty fun. Give it a go!

2: to a PROJECT – this is where you hook in with a cause that has really scratched your itch. We generally know them as a charities or not-for-profits these days. A specific arm of the St Vinnies, Operation Christmas Child or Daffodil Day are all options. You may even consider a building project or giving to the local school community in some way.

3: or to a PLACE – is there a part of the world that breaks your heart? A country, a suburb, a region that every time you think about it something churns in your stomach? If it is, find a service or people or projects in that area and contribute to it financially. Let the service decide where your money should be spent, because they know best. But be glad that your $’s are helping to eradicate social issues in a location that burns in your heart.

In the end, it’s about being generous. Share abundantly with others and give to a good cause and you will reap the benefits that generosity brings.

I hope these have sparked something in you and given you some guidance the next time you have some money lying around.

When the Church Gathers

church gathersWhen the church gathers, everyone takes a seat at the table. The conversation flows, living water is spilt and the bread of life takes His place.

When the church gathers, egos retreat, the apostles linger, prophets emerge, teachers teach and shepherds pastor — all in majestic symmetry.

When the church gathers, the people of God listen to the head, that is Christ the Lord, the giver of life, the wellspring of living water.

When the church gathers, the children lead the adults with their boldness of faith. The simplicity they possess captivates the Father. The gift of children bring tears to papa’s eyes. He is proud.

When the church gathers, there is no performance. There is no mask. There is no fear.

When the church gathers, the potent power of the gospel draws near. The key that frees men from bondage explodes locks and death has power no more.

When the church gathers, shadows give way to light, despair departs as hope rises.

When the church gathers, jealousy is abandoned and mutual acts of love come in to view.

When the church gathers, the scattered flock becomes one.

When the church gathers, words of prophetic zeal plant seeds of hope, seeds of new creation potential. These seeds grow behind a door, the gateway for the coming harvest.

When the church gathers, families are strengthened as the spirit of God leads them into places of freedom and bountiful blessing.

When the church gathers, the word becomes flesh. The words of Jesus are on our lips, transported to our hearts, depositing strength, implanting courage.

When the church gathers, the wounded receive healing and confession embraces forgiveness.

When the church gathers, the boat is repaired and the crew are replenished. Though the seas rise and the waves crash, not one of the crew will be lost.

When the church gathers, it’s real, it’s good, but it’s not the point — it’s incomplete. It’s a taste of our eternal future. It’s not about us.

When the church gathers, scripture is proclaimed and every person plays their part — sharing a word, song, tongue or prayer.

When the church gathers, the body is edified, by the body.

When the church gathers, it has one eye on going home. Home is where life happens and where the purpose of the gatherings is fulfilled.

When the church gathers, Christ is exalted above all else.

Hello!

Hiya! Great to meet you.

This is my little corner of the internet. my place to rant and question. My place to shout and to whisper. I’ll probably find myself off on tangents at random times. That’s ok. This is a place for me to share with you what is happening for me.

Generally you’ll find me writing about God, rethinking common held beliefs, analysis and opinion on our culture and life hacks.

It’s a bit like a banquet… there will be something for everyone.

There are few rules here, but pretend we are around the kitchen table. What you would do there you can do here.

So grab a cuppa (or something stronger), and pull up a seat. Read away and prepare to have your mind strengthened, your spirit lifted and a fresh approach to life gleaned.

Welcome.