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There is a buzz-word in Educational circles called “continous improvement”.  It is the idea that what we teach, the environment we teach in, the learning spaces, the administrative processes, the staff and everything involved can continue to improve.

Now at one level this is unrealistic.  There is a point I expect when someone says I am the best I can and will be and an institution realises it is at its peak.

The other level is that no institution can ever say we have no challenges and nowhere we can improve.

So continuous improvement is a term we will need to live with for a while.

Interestingly it is a reflection of a similar idea in Christian Theology – sanctification, which is both position and process but that is not todays work.

There is both a delight and a sadness in marking.  Delight when it is obvious someone has learnt.  Sadness when they have not.

I am in the midst of this rollercoaster ride as I get towards the end of my marking.

Oh well better get back to it.

This week has been a bit of a funny week.  Busy with work, busy with a small course I am completing, and busy catching up and meeting people.

In the move to Melbourne my wonderful wife has found that friends of hers from yonks ago are now down here and she has finally had us all meet up.  That was Tuesday.

Tonight a friend of ours who has experienced a bit of a tragedy at his work will be coming with his family to dinner.

So we are a bit busy, a bit snowed under and on top of it all this morning we had a blackout due to rain, thunder and lightning.

So we are catching up with life, what about you?

A few conversations I have had over the last year have been about how in the midst of doing church, talking theology, studying ministry or practising pastor that somewhere along the way something becomes more important than Jesus.

Within some traditions this may be the tradition, the worship, the acts of social justice, the structure of the church or the role of Scripture or something else.  In the end this thing that is supposed to point you to and help you toward Jesus somehow stops you seeing Jesus.  As I put it the other day we eclipse Jesus.

Now when I think of eclipses I think of the solar eclipse whereby something gets in the way of the sun and the earth (the moon) and stops us seeing the sun correctly.  It is just the same with some of our church practices, they get in the way of us seeing the Son.

Now prevention is better than cure but how do you stop the moon getting between the Earth and the Sun?  As we know the Earth is smaller than the sun and the moon smaller than the Earth.  Similarly in our spiritual lives it can be the smaller things that trip us up.  It is not like for an eclipse we have a sun eater destroying the sun, or a big black cloud blocking the son but a relatively small object getting in the way.

Thus to prevent these sort of problems you need to choose what is orbiting you.  What are the distractions or things that are attractive and can make you focus where you shouldn’t.  I remember at the last solar eclipse being told not to look at the sun as I would go blind but this was not the issue of the sun per se but an issue of looking at the occluded sun.  The reality it is not the sun that blinds but the thing that blocks the sun that focusses the rays.  Retinal damage can occur if you look and don’t notice the harmful radiation.

So what might be getting in your way of the Son?

Recently I was talking to someone and they lamented that all their friends were now married, getting married or in de facto relationships.  In the course of the conversation I wanted to say, “you mean shacking up”, as the people being talked about had only been together for a short time.

Soon after I read about the guy on Google Street View who wanted to make a better second proposal to his wife.  Please note his words concerning this on http://www.marrymeleslie.com

Let’s start at the beginning. Some time ago, I met a wonderful girl named Leslie. We fell in love, eventually moved in together, and have been building a life with each other ever since. Things were great! As a result, I decided to do the obvious thing: I proposed (“Proposal 1.0”). And within moments, she said YES!

There is this idea that the natural course of relationships is to have what the British call a “common law wife”, Aussies call a de facto, Americans call moving in together.  I am aware of a study in Britain that this has been the major trend of relationships for centuries so I am not condemning this just wanting to get the facts out.

So what do these things mean?  Within Victoria, where I live, I was interested to note the law states that the following are considered relevant in deciding if a domestic relationship exists:

(a) the duration of the relationship;

(b) the nature and extent of common residence;

(c) whether or not a sexual relationship exists;

(d) the degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support, between the parties;

(e) the ownership, use and acquisition of property;

(f) the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;

(g) the care and support of children;

(h) the reputation and public aspects of the relationship.

In other words “shacking up” may or may not mean you are now married in the sight of the law.  It means you are literally together but if there are no kids, no financial sharing, no joint property and not a lot of commitment then what becomes of the reputation and public aspects of the relationship?

Put this next to Hosea who was an object lesson for Israel.  Hosea was commanded to marry a prostitute to remind Israel of its unfaithfulness.  The description above “no kids, no joint property and not a lot of commitment” sounds like Israel.    The financial sharing may have been mutual but I suspect in reality there was little of this really going on.  God gave but the Israelistes ignored where their blessings came from.  Hosea ends up having kids with Gomer, and the kids themselves are walking descriptions of what God thinks of Israel.

God’s heart is for faithfulness.  Not relatonships that have no mutual commitment to a shared life.  God shared his life most clearly with us in sending His son Jesus Christ to redeem us and sending the Spirit to empower us.  God ha lived with us and wants us to be in relationship with him.

So what sort of relationship are you having with God?

I have lived in three countries, Australia, the US and the UK and three different states in Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.  This year is the first year I have been in Victoria during the great horse race known as the Melbourne Cup and thankfully a year when I was not in the US during election season.  The results of both races run on the first Tuesday of November are important media events.

So at this time I am not going into bashing Yankees or other Americans or deplore the $150 million bet on a race.  I want to reflect on some aspects the state of the US from the perspective of someone who has lived there.

Today I read how watching sexy TV programs becomes an indicator of kids getting pregnant.  The article in The Age is here.

I also read how as one blogger put it, he must submit a post about the results of the election.  That post which is very good no matter who you wanted to win is here.

So what is the state of the US?  It is in need of change.  No surprise there.  But then so is there need for change in our lives.  Nothing is perfect in a country or a person.  Putting a Christian in government or Christ in charge of one’s life does not automatically mean everything gets better.  Scripture talks about the fact that Christ’s foes are still arrayed against him and until Christ returns and death is finally defeated then there will be battles in a country and a life on how best to do something.

You see we can hate what happens in another place or love the result of an election.  Regardless we need to see Christ being glorified by the Church.  God’s Spirit has not stopped working just because someone was or was not elected.  The Spirit of Christ still continues to work in your life and may even do so with the disappointment that someone was or was not elected.

So what is the state of your union?

Today is my first student free day for the rest of the year.

I have a love/hate relationship with these sort of days as it usually means:

1) No students are around

2) I have marking to do

3) I can find other work to do

4) I have projects to works on

5) I can remember other things I want to work on (planning) when I shoudl be marking

6) I get depressed at reading bad assignments.

7) I think about writing more on this blog

So that’s my day