My role in The Hobbit: I was the Fairest of the Elves

The Hobbit premieres tomorrow. My daughter Elizabeth attended a special opening event in Wellington but we are all waiting for the real thing to release. I think most people would agree that my role was pivotal to the success of the movie and, indeed, I was the fairest of the Elves. 

But before I tell you about that, something strange happened a few weeks ago. After driving by Mount Doom with my family we stopped at some natural thermal pools near Taupo for a swim. In the bottom of the pool, under the sand and rock, my daugther Hannah discovered a ring with writing on it. Really! She showed me and I dropped it and we tussled a little to find it but eventually she retrieved it from the warm waters and she still has it today. We all thought we should go to Mount Doom where she could ceremoniously throw it into the center and watch it vanish into  . . who knows what. But as it stands, she is quite attached to her little precious and doesnt want to part with it. 

What does the writing say?

Not sure. I think its in Elvish . . . no . .  actually its in English and its the name of the couple that lost their ring. Its that you, let me know.

But back to my acting role in The Hobbit. How mysterious, that after wandering the earth for 30 years, I should return to New Zealand just in time for the filming of the Hobbit. And how strange that there was such a need for tall skinny fair skinned people to play elves. More than coincidence??

hobbit casting

Which is how I ended up at the big casting call amidst all the other actors and wanna-be actors. As it turned out, more people than expected turned up to audition and even I, despite being the fairest of the elves, did not make it into the interviews. Even my tall, fair, elvish son missed out. But I think my presence at that big day added to the excitement to the whole thing and I am sure that Peter Jackson will one day thank me for turning up all the way there and back again . . . What a journey!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens tomorrow. We will see it when the crowds die down.

Hanging with the Brethren Church

We visited my old Brethren church yesterday which is now called Orewa Community Church. I attended the youth group here as a teenager and a few people remembered me. I have been away overseas for 30 years so I thought it would be just POLITE to return and say hi, and thanks.

Good Bible teaching, as always. I much prefer a good old Bible study over a motivational talk with quaint illustrations and tedious stories. I like to bring my Bible into a church and get to actually use it. Which I did. The worship was a little too quasi-Hillsong for my liking - think Willow Creek on a budget - but the people seemed to enjoy it. Great missions focus and we hooked up with a few missos over tea.

We had lunch afterwards at the invitation of Phil Tait who is connected with SIM, the Langham Partnership and who recently wrote on the state of the Brethren churches in New Zealand. 38,000 Kiwis are Brethren, apparently,  which is not a lot but they make a big splash overseas.

Thanks to Murray and Linda Barclay of Puhoi for the wonderful mutton and venison sausages that fed a big crowd.

Catholic Worker Community in Hokianga

We are spending a few days up in the north with the Catholic Worker community who are spread over various low-tech farms in the Whirnaki/Opononi area of the Hokianga harbour, a site famous for the entry of Methodist and Catholic missionaries into New Zealand in the 1700's.

House truck

Great people. Some of them are fourth generation Catholic family members who have been here since Peter Land - philosopher/farmer - moved here a few decades ago. The community here is "screen free" so I am blogging near the beach so I don't have to violate the vibe. Like Dorothy Day, there is an anarchist bent here which is related more to pacifism than vandalism and, mixed with a Catholic ethos and a heart for the poor, its a good place view the world from Christ's perspective.


We have parked the truck at St Francis Farm but the kids have been hanging out at the "Clarehouse" in Opononi which is where a lot of the hospitality to travelers takes place.

What are we learning?

We are learning that despite how simple and sacrificial we think our nomadic lifestyle is, these people really know how to live with less and live off the land in a way that is effective and happy without being weird or self-righteous. They use solar power, hand-powered everything, clydesdales to pull carts, and one of husbands told me the most expensive thing they buy is tea leaves. We are talking of further downgrading our lifestyle and not being so OPULENT. 

One of the signs here, next to a 1940's house truck, says "Live simply so that others may simply live."

Live simply so that others may simply live

Other bloggers who have been here: Fiona and Lauren.

Related on TSK: What Dorothy Day might teach bloggers on TSK

American Christians and the Mormon factor

Right now is an interesting time in American politics and religion. There are plenty of conservative evangelical Christians in USA who are about to vote for a Mormon to be their president. Who woulda thunk???

I read a few snippets on Billy Graham removing the "cult" status on the BGEA website. I would be curious to hear from Steve Knight on this.

Interesting quote from Norman Geisler, who wrote the textbook on "Inerrancy" and once chastized the emerging church for relativism. Regarding today's election choice, he says,

" First, even if as voters we wanted to apply such a test, we do not have a really good choice religiously. We face a painful dilemma of voting for a liberal professing Christian (Obama) with Muslim leanings or a cultist Mormon who claims to be Christian. The truth is that we do not live in an ideal world; we live in a real world. Realistically, we have only two candidates who could win the election, and we can only vote for one . . .

Secondly, we do not live in a black-and-white world. There is a lot of grey. So, on the question of good, we don’t have a purely good or evil choice in this election. There is both good and evil in each choice."

Brian McLaren said something very similar yesterday in acknowledging that all parties have their weaknesses and their virtues.

Norman Geisler and Brian McLaren. Probably a different name on their ballots but finally on the same page. Interesting times indeed! Who woulda thunk?



Now that we are on the road again and living with reduced electricity, I am trying to adjust my blogging and social media accordingly. Blogsy for iPad might help me blog more often and easier. Worth a try. This is my first post from Blogsy.

OK heres a test ride.

A few videos thrown in . . .

ahhhh i cant see how to add a tweet. let me look into it . . .


Why I decided to become a follower of CHRISLAM

You know when a word has real scare potential when Hal Lindsay starts using it on TV. Like the word "CHRISLAM".

insider movements, mission, chrislam

Last year, televangelist Jack Van Impe got kicked off TBN for calling Rick Warren a 'Chrislam' promoter. Rick Warren says the newspaper reports were false and he does not promote Chrislam, but the damage had already been done: Van Impe still hasn't got his job back on Christian television which is a shame for all his TV-watching fans and for the hair-spray company that has lost a loyal customer.

It's a silly word. Can we please stop using it?


Chrislam is a tiny religion in Nigeria that happily mixes Islam and Christianity and counts about 1500 people in two churches in Lagos. I really don't think this group is any more a threat to American Protestantism than my daughter's dough recipe is a threat to Pizza Hut.

Today a conference is happening in Asia which tackles the "insider movements". One of the lectures scheduled for this afternoon is entitled "The Whoredom of so-called Contextualization: 'Spreading our Legs' for the Latest Religious Ideas." The book under discussion is called "Chrislam: How MIssionaries are Promoting a Islamicized Gospel" and it is published by the same people that are hosting the conference. I really hope its a balanced discussion today and not a one-sided witch hunt. Is anyone blogging it???

HEY - Lets talk about the controversial issues in missions, including contextualization and insider movements, but let's also try NOT to use scary words that freak out elderly evangelical ladies and drive extremists into tight corners. Like the word "Chrislam".

So why am I following CHRISLAM?

Because I was thinking that the blame for the end-times deception and the horrendous deviation of the past three decades of Christian mission should not be shouldered by a Vancouver based graphic designer named Chris Lam. Or a British breakdancer named Chris Lam, who I emailed this morning and apologized if people were blaming him for the destruction of the world as we know it.

So I am now following both Chris Lams. But I chose not to follow Chris Lam the MMA boxing/judo enthusiast as @cagedocbecause he looks as though he could kick my ass.

chrislam, insider, chris lam

Related: Emerging Muslim Followers of Jesus, Christianity's Next Challenge, Insider Movements and Wycliffe's Translation

Coming up soon: Is the Insider Movement the new Emergent Church Controversy of this decade?

BEST THING I saw recently on the Insider Movement was Cody Lorance's response to John Piper, summarized here by Warren Farah.

Global Church Forum

A really important missions gathering is happening from Tuesday to Thursday in Chicago and is being streamed. I was invited to be there and blog the conference but I am still in the southern hemisphere and couldn't make it. But I hope it goes well.

Global church forum

A lot of my friends are speaking there and I think this would be a conference thats worth following the streams and conversation.

Global:Church Forum for the live stream.

Twitter: #gcf12

Blog Action Day: The Power of We

Today is NewImageBlog Action Day when bloggers from 100+ countries post something on the changing the world. You may remember my earlier posts on the themes of poverty (2008) and water (2010). This year's theme is "The Power of We".

No urination jokes, thank you very much you Australians, even though I am sure it probably WOULD, in fact, run a turbine and power a small village if enough men would stand around the alternative energy contraption. . .

But I am actually talking about community and togetherness and so I want to share a picture of a t-shirt I saw in Cairo last year.

One of the young guys we met was part of the Arab Spring protests along with his brother. When his brother went missing on the streets of Cairo, he searched everywhere and after three days, he found his brother's dead body. He continued protesting for peace and created a t-shirt that portrayed his hope that his people would join together against injustice. I can't show you his face but in this picture he is holding the t-shirt. 

6a00d8341c5bb353ef015393649894970b pi

We happened to be in Egypt just a few weeks after a terrible massacre of Orthodox Christians. The Christians decided not to retaliate but to hold a prayer meeting and invite other streams of the church, including Catholic and evangelical.

It doesn't sound like a big deal but they had NEVER done this before.

So they hosted an all night prayer meeting. I went along with some friends but we were the only foreigners we saw. And then something crazy happened - 70,000 people showed up to pray, people from all walks of life, even Muslims. I had a video camera on me and took some shaky footage which might interest you. But what's important is that a tired, beaten, exhausted, humiliated people took a risk, stepped over some personal and religious boundaries and turned up together around a common cause. The result was incredible and the story is not finished yet.

That's the power of we. 

We can accomplish more together than by ourselves, but we cannot do it without breaking some of our own taboos.

You can also follow Blog Action Day on Facebook.

Twitter: #BAD2012 and #powerofwe

Living Simply in a Complex World

UPDATE: Living Simply in a Complex World - Videos on YouTube are here: Part 1, 2, 3, 4. If you are interested in buying the DVD, please contact the people at

ORIGINAL POSTSusan Pitchford was in town recently, at the invitation of the Third Order Society of St Francis, and I was asked to video the sessions and handle the media. Susan is a sociology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle and also the author of Following Francis: The Franciscan Way for Everyone. She was invited to speak at the Convocation of the TSSF, of which she is a professed member, on the subject of "Living Simply in a Complex World". And I have to tell you that the group of about 75 Third Order Franciscans ABSOLUTELY LOVED HER!!! American speakers often struggle to connect on a deep level with a Kiwi audience but Susan had an inherent humility that bordered on self-depreciation (but balanced and non-flagellent, for you hard-core monks who are reading this ) and she seemed like very approachable, almost Kiwi-like, in her manner. Which is why I think you will like her presentation.

There are 4 videos to view and I will put links to them all here, eventually, as well as the podcasts I hope to rip in a few days. You can also get your hands on the DVD that is being produced from the TSSF. But for now, check out the first session of Susan Pitchford on Living Simply. 

And I am doing the cover art for the DVD also. This is kind of how it looks so far.

Living simply susan pitchford cover