Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Garage '07

Next year, two of my mates - Matt Waters and Jono Croxford - and I are running a small group. It's called The Garage, because we're taking over the garage underneath the church office. None of these silly names like 'KidZone'. It's going to be for the boys in Grade 5 to Year 8. The reason for this is, the boys a bit old for singing childish songs about Jesus and doing silly actions, but maybe not ready for the intensity of something like Vetamorphus or a VCE small group. When I was that age, I pretty much thought I was 'too cool' for church or any of that stuff, mainly because I had nothing to explore in or ask my own questions. It wasn't until this year and Vetamorphus that I've had that, and now that I do, I see how good it would be for the boys to have it too.

After a meeting today with Jono and Matt, we came up with this working vision statement of our six reasons for doing The Garage:

  • To help the boys realise their potential as young leaders in church and the wider community
  • To present other options in ways of life and support them as they grow into young men
  • To create a space to build courage and strength in their ability to help, assist, change, question, answer and be.
  • To create a comfortable environment to explore questions of faith.
  • To create an environment of trust and support between boys and leaders.
  • To be their friends.

I'm really excited about doing this, because I feel I'm finally giving like I should be, rather than just a bit. I hope it'll be good, we'll see. Starting date is Feb 4th, I'll write more about it after then.

Monday, December 25, 2006

And so this is Christmas...

It has been a while since my last post. I've been to Phillip Island for the Young Adults Retreat, I've been to Mt. Martha for my final Vetamorphus Retreat, exam results have come out, I went back to Phillip Island for a week with friends, and now it is Christmas.

The Young Adults Retreat was cool, it was only two days, but a good time anyway. Mostly relaxing, with a little bit of reflection. Kinda weird to be considered an adult now, I still feel pretty childish.

A few days later, I was off to Mt. Martha. The final Vetamorphus Retreat. As always, there were parts, and people, on the weekend that made me angry and frustrated. One particular session, on Christian relationships, as in boyfriend/girlfriend and pre-marital sex, made me especially angry, for reasons I won't put here. If you'd like to know, ask me. Anyway, the best part of the weekend was this: On the final day, in the final session, we did positive affirmations. Everyone sat around in a circle, and as we went around the circle, everyone was given the opportunity to say something affirming about the person whose turn it was. Now, when Vetamorphus started, there were some very big personalities, and, at times, I felt like hitting them over the head with a fish. I found, and still find, it so very easy to pick up all the faults in people. However, these people who I wanted to take out my frustrations on with marine animals, were the ones who found it easiest to see the best in people. They were the ones who were first to affirm others, and the ones to affirm the most. It made me realise that maybe I was the one who needed an attitude change.

Exams results went well. I got 90s, but well over what I was hoping for. So that was nice.

On Friday, I came back from a week at the Jolly Retreat in Phillip Island. There were about 15 people in the house at any given time, and it was just a great week away. As always, there was a little drama, but nothing too damaging. I even found space for quiet time and meditation on the beach. However, the highlight was definitely the Kris Kringle on the last night. It was the best one ever, simply because the presents had effort and care put into them, rather than any care about a money limit. In fact, most of the presents were costfree anyway. The fact that someone had put in a personal effort meant much more than any $10 token present.

Finally, today is Christmas. My brothers aren't home, so it's just me and mum and dad. We don't even have a Christmas tree up. But it doesn't matter, it's been a great Christmas. Reflective midnight service Christmas Eve, big Christmas service this morning, lunch with family friends, dinner with girlfriend, now watching old-school movies.

And now, as I sit here watching the Grumpy Old Men movies, I can safely say it's been a great holiday so far, and quite possibly the best year of my life. All the reasons, I'll write about later, but it's been awesome. So merry Christmas everyone, let's hope next year is even better.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Crocs - Like or Hate?

Crocs shoes... don't own them. Don't like them. Irritate me with their weird look. Plus people who I've met while they were wearing them... "Ooo look at me, I'm different because my shoes are like clogs but plastic or foam or whatever they're made out of." Haha that's my rant today. Like them, or not like them? Comment.

Anyways, off to Phillip Island for Donny Young Adults Retreat. Shall post about it when I come back.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Vetamorphus Homework: New Age Christianity

Scrolling through Mr. Learning Exercise #8, I came upon this:

"When Bono of U2 said, 'I still haven't found what I'm looking for', many evangelicals despaired, thinking that he had lost his way spiritually, but he was quite clear: 'You broke the bonds, you loosed the chains, you carried the cross and my shame. You know I believe it... but I still haven't found what I'm looking for.' This is not a statement of confusion, or spiritual ambivalence: quite the reverse, it is a positive recognition of the frailty of human experience and human comprehension. We all know only in part, we experience only in part, and in a postmodern world it is crucial that we are honest about this limitation."

What does it mean? Well the article talks about today's postmodern society, in which spiritual conversations aren't that hard to come by, and are engaged much more openly than previous generations. It suggests that everyone today has their own journey spiritually, and it's not a matter of one straight path and you at a certain point on it, but a series of encounters and experiences that appear through one's life. Christians believe that God will have been evidently present and at work, and this may be even if the person does not acknowledge a God in their life.

I like this, it's something I put into most of my seminars for Vetamorphus, into my talks at school chapel, into my 'sermon' I did this year. We've all got our own journey, built upon our maturity, understanding, belief, experiences, etc. As a Christian, I've never believed in 'saving' people, or forcing them to believe for fear of being stabbed by devils with tridents... only in sharing and going that journey with them. Yes I believe, but I, too, still haven't what I'm looking for.

Monday, November 20, 2006

MakePovertyHistory Concert 2006

Well Friday was a fun night. Last week I had training at the Oaktree Foundation to be a Youth Ambassador for the MPH concert. It was pretty good. There were lots of people my age there, most excited about making a difference in the world, which is cool. But there were also too many stats and figures thrown around, like "40% of women in 294 countries have goats who are sick." That might be a made up fact, but some people there were throwing out rubbish like that, and trying to show how smart they are. I don't know lots of stats, I can't tell lots of stories about poor children in Africa or women who didn't know that it was ok to say no to sex, all I know is that I want to make a difference - and that anyone can.

Anyways, my mate Matt and I were partners, and Kel (girlfriend) and Lauren (friend/sister) were also there, partnering up. Our job was to explain to the crowd what MakePovertyHistory was trying to do, to elaborate on the 8 Millenium Goals, ask for support through petitions, and - to me, most importantly - to show them that it doesn't take power, money or age to make a difference. The concert was the idea of Dan Adams, who is only 19 this year. A few weeks ago, the Stand Up campaign was the idea of three uni students that occured over coffee. That's the sort of stuff that encourages me - that people my age can do things that hit people hard.

The concert was awesome. Our passes let us down into the front seated area. We saw... Bono, The Edge, Pearl Jam, Lior, Amiel, Evermore, Eskimo Joe, Hilltop Hoods, Sarah Blasko, Jet, Paul Kelly, John Butler Trio, and there were even indigenous artists. We also heard speeches from... Tim Costello, Hugh Evans (founder/leader of Oaktree - only 24), Irene Banda (human rights activist in Zambia), Trisha Broadbridge and Dan Adams. Oh, and John So. All in all, probably the best gig I'll ever see. DVD out about December 8th.

I took this picture of the opening act - 'UJam' - Bono, The Edge, Pearl Jam. I'll put a link to my other ones later.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Goliaths of the modern world

At church tonight, they talked about David and Goliath, and how David - a young person who was not very important to anyone - was ready to engage Goliath - the problem so big that an army of adults did not want to face it. Then the goliaths of today's world were discussed, such as poverty, and how each of us, as ordinary people, should be ready to engage and stand up to these problems.

The problem for me is, how many times have I heard people tell others to engage? How many times have I, myself, told people to engage? The best you get back is people telling you that you're inspiring and that you did a really good speech. But that's not why you speak - just for compliments. You speak because you want to make a difference, because you want to see people realising the power they have to make a change. Maybe I'm expecting too much. Maybe I'm too idealistic. But then again, any change is slow and it may be working in a way I just can't see. It's not that most people are bad, selfish or lazy - it's just that they find it hard to grasp that they can do something, and then how to do what they can do. It took me 18 years to realise that.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

iTunes Shuffle

1) Put your music player on shuffle.
2) Press forward for each question.
3) Use the song title as the answer to the question.
4) No Cheating.

1) How am I feeling today?
Unwell – Matchbox 20 (works but false)

2) Where will I get married?
Forever Young – Youth Group (not growing up, peter pan style)

3) What is my best friend's theme song?
Dammit – Blink 182

4) What is/was highschool like?
Sitting, Waiting, Wishing – Jack Johnson

5) What is the best thing about me?
You Stand Alone – Hillsong Music Australia (unique. or loner)

6) How is today going to be?
The Best Day Ever – Spongebob Movie Soundtrack (No joke!)

7) What is in store for this week?
In the jungle – the byrds (excursion)

8) What song describes my parents?
Afternoon Delight – Anchorman Soundtrack (…awesome)

9) How is my life going?
Hallelujah, I love her so – Ray Charles

10) What song will they play at my funeral?
Bohemian Like You – The Dandy Warhols

11) How does the world see me?
Cannonball – Damien Rice

12) What do my friends really think of me?
Call Me Papa – Donavon Frankenreiter

13) How can I make myself happy?
Bring it all back – S Club 7 (… exactly)

14) What should I do with my life?
Turn a square – The Shins

15) Will I be happy?
Wild World – Me First & The Gimme Gimmes

16) What is some good advice?
These Days – Powderfinger

17) What do I think my current theme song is?
Heartbeats – Jose Gonzalez

18) What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
Seasons of Love – Rent Soundtrack (ha…)

19) What type of men/women do I like?
Fox – Millencolin (foxes obviously, or motorcycles)

20) Will you get married?
The Way You Move - Outkast

21) What should I do with my love life?
Clumsy – Lazy Susan

22) Where will you live?
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free – Nina Simone (in jail)

23) What will your dying words be?
Rough Diamonds – End of Fashion (well, if you know the song, that's kinda nice)

Jesus: an example, not an existence?

This is something that popped into my head over Easter, and also before that, after hearing a presentation by Lauren, from my Vetamorphus group, about "What do you think of the Messiah, and who He was?"

Does it really matter if Jesus existed or not? Is my role as a Christian to live to spread the message of being a good person, or is to defend the existence or share the story of Jesus the person? Or is it both? Or do they overlap, and help make each other happen?

At our school Easter service, a dude from TEAR Australia had a chat to us. He spoke about this doctor from Ethiopia, who got the chance to get educated in the USA. However, after becoming a recognised doctor, this guy decided to give up on all the stuff he had in the States, and return to put his knowledge into use in his homeland. He founded the 'Hope' program, which provides everything for children, especially orphans. The message was that it was because of this guy's faith in Jesus that he did these things. But what I took away was this: Does it matter if Jesus existed? Even if he was only a story with a meaning, but not actually historically real, who could discredit such a good thing happening because of a faith in Jesus? Whether or not this faith is in something real, something positive came out of it, so does it matter?

Me personally, I am thinking that maybe one of the roles of a Christian is to try and live the life of Jesus, treating other people right, and in doing so spread our reason. But if I wanted to set any type of example, it would be encourage people to live a good life, even if they don't come to believe. This blog isn't going to be some Christian propaganda thing, it's just stuff I believe in. I'd much rather see a world of people doing good things for others than a world of people feeling uncomfortable with a Christian faith.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Very First

Well this isn't my first blog, but hopefully it lasts longer than all the other ones. I try to write stuff that means something, but there is the occasional ramble or bit of garbage. I guess I'll just tell you a bit about me, to leave you with a slightly better understanding of who I am.

My name's Benjamin J. Chong. The 'J' could stand for anything from Jellyfish to Judas. But it's not. I'm 18, finishing school and hopefully studying Arts/Theology next year at Monash University and Christian Churches Theological College. I'm a Christian, belong to Churches of Christ, but still trying to understand what that really means. I do a young Christians' VET course, called Vetamorphus, which is pretty mad. I'm also trying to lead a boys aged 9 - 15 small group next year with some mates, if I can make it happen.

I guess my greatest passion is helping those who aren't as lucky as me. I reckon that in I've been blessed, whether by a God or not, with so many good things that I'd be wasting my life if I didn't try to share them with others. I run a student-founded charity called Africa Aid, and we're moving into other schools and churches next year. I hope to someday teach in a school in Africa or do some missionary work, as well as keep the Africa Aid stuff going.

I like soccer, Liverpool FC are favs. Various other liked sports are basketball, ultimate frisbee, footy, dodgeball, lacrosse, gymnastics, volleyball. There's probably more, but it's late.

I also like playing the piano and the odd bit of jazz flute... well, I dabble. Music's pretty cool, this blog is named after a song of probably my favourite band - Lazy Susan. I don't think there's a single song of theirs I don't like. I'm pretty open to most music and I try to know a little bit about who's who and what's good. Ask me.

Well that's about it. I'm sure I'll reveal a bit more about myself as the posts go on.