Editorial: Reflection before action

On the cover of this edition we’ve pictured a ballet dancer practicing in a studio. Apart from the obvious choice of the view of  the mirror for the theme, we felt this image also told a story of how our reflections can affect our lives.

A dancer watches their reflection so they can gain insight to how they move, how they hold themselves and how they smile  as they glide over the dance floor. Upon seeing their reflection, they look for ways of improving – and they act on it.

Reflection goes hand in hand with action. Without action, a reflection is merely a stagnant view of what is – not what could  be. This reminds me of Harry Potter as he stares into the mirror of Erised, a mirror which only shows the deepest desire of  those who look into it. The name ‘Erised’ is ‘desire’ spelt backwards, as it would be in a mirrored reflection (kids and adults  alike can try out this experiment; click here for more details). Continue Reading

Moderator’s column: Moving towards Christ and community

A few weeks ago, I had a ‘near miss’ experience. I was driving to an unfamiliar destination and was running late. I was trying to glance at my street directory, as well as keep my eye on the traffic – multiskilling is not one of my gifts. As a consequence to my haste, I nearly clipped a parked car. I pulled over for a moment of reflection, knowing I needed to slow down and get myself a GPS.

One of the enemies of a well-formed Christian life is the foe of too much rush. Going too fast through life eventually ends up  in relational collision or spiritual burnout. One of the arts of staying spiritually centred and balanced, is the art of spiritual  reflection. At best, this is a daily discipline that includes taking time out for intentional prayer, meditative attention to  Scripture and seeking both the refreshment of the Spirit and the discernment of the will of God. I find without moments like  this woven into my day, I am reduced to being in Eugene Peterson’s words, “the busy pastor, rather than the contemplative  pastor”. Continue Reading

Act, reflect, connect: Getting the balance right

At 11.45 every morning, three soothing bells chime out from my iPhone. “Do you want to meditate?” comes the helpful enquiry from my screen, sent each day without fail by my ‘Mindfulness’  app (with handy alerts and tools to track my progress as an enlightened member of the human race).

I glance at my screen. “Seriously? Meditate now? I’m driving/typing/hanging out washing/reading at my child’s school/masterminding the incoming reign of peace and justice for the world.  Maybe later…”

The philosopher Socrates famously suggested that the unexamined life was not worth living. It’s a pretty bold statement. Are we all to be philosophers, floating through life clad in yoga pants, clutching our Mindfulness apps and gazing earnestly at our navels? Or did Socrates have something more balanced in mind?

Church communities have typically been big on reflection – worship, preaching, Bible study and prayer all encourage us to examine our lives carefully. For me, no matter what chaos the week  has held, our lay preachers seldom fail to produce the gem of an idea to polish throughout the week. Too often, though, nothing much happens beyond mental activity. I find it relatively easy to ponder. It’s harder to act. And there’s been no shortage of criticism fired at the church over exactly this tendency.

How do we get the balance right between thought, belief and action? Continue Reading

Tragedy brings forth passion

Can you identify an event or a time in your childhood that impacted so hugely it defined your life from then on?

Alison Xamon links her passion for mental health and its effect on family members, especially children, to the suicide of her father when she was 11 years old. Alison’s father, Rev Alan Miller,  was the minster at Duncraig Uniting Church at the time of his death. His illness and death rocked, and continues to define, Alison’s life – emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.

Today Alison is a lawyer, happily married with three children, and a member of the Star Street congregation. A former  member (2009 -2013) of the State Parliament Upper House for the  Greens, Alison’s focus is now on advocacy for mental health and suicide prevention. She is president of the WA Association for Mental Health, the peak body for mental health services in this  state, and vice-chair of Community Mental Health Australia, a national body. She is also on the board of Mental Health Australia, the peak body nationally, and sits on the Ministerial Council  for Suicide Prevention. She is excited to be a co-leader of the newly established Mental Health Network under the auspices of the Department of Health. This network brings together mental health clinicians, NGO’s, carers and mental health consumers and aims to address cultural change and drive the need for mental health reforms. Continue Reading