Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Hope and assurance

And here is a story of genuine pathos from Tim Challies.


There's a little boy standing at the counter of the corner shop,

He's been waiting down there waiting half the day,

they never ever see him from the top,

He gets pushed around, knocked to the ground,

He gets to his feet and he says...

What about me? It isn't fair

I've had enough now i want my share

Can't you see I wanna Live,

But you just take more than you give.

My heart is breaking as I type and there is a tear in my eye. This song is pure pathos. Sorry about the pronting errs.

Hmm, OK, back to work.

Oh, Shannon Noll I believe.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Security in cars

Why do security guards drive around in the sort of cars normally associated with females in the 18-25 year old age group (I'm talking Ford Festivas and the like)?

They don't look all that secure.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Went to a conference with 1500 of my closest friends

It was up at Katoomba, and I better get these thoughts down before they fade away into one of the 52 weekends of the year.

Katoomba is great isn't it? Every time I go there, at least at the moment, it looks less like a parole office and more like a place where someone funky (I'm thinking me, and I know you are as well) would hang out.

Anyway, let me just talk about the bad things, because there were so many good things that they are hard to keep track of. Amongst the really great things were the talks, and we had 6 of them and it still felt like a relaxed weekend, so I have no idea how you managed that Andrew Nixon and team, but thank you! We loved it, meaning the 30 or so of us who were staying at the Youth Hostel in Katoomba, with snorers in one room and I don't know why I was put there, and non-snorers in the other.

And Therese, thanks for just keeping on fiddling around with food, transport, sitting us in the right place, keeping chocolate—good chocolate—and chips getting passed around, making sure the stuff that people needed to think about didn't need to be thought about.

Justin, the way you helped us look at Jeremiah 2 helped me think about sin in all sorts of ways that I just wouldn't normally, and made me realize that I'm part of the problem too, which I know, but don't like being reminded about.

Isn't this a searing verse (as you pointed out)

Have you not brought this upon yourself
by forsaking the LORD your God,
when he led you in the way?

-Jeremiah 2:17

Thanks J. Though I did not appreciate it at the time.

Daylight saving etc

A big weekend up at Katoomba, with the church. Daylight saving began, so we lost an hour of sleep on Saturday night. Preaching last night.

As Kevin Rudd might say "Am I feeling the hurt this morning? Yes I am. Will the people of Australia get to hear about it sooner rather than later? Yes they will."

Friday, 26 October 2007

Katoomba anyone?

This weekend I'm going up to the ENGAGE conference at Katoomba.

Due to the glories and joys of facebook, I've cyber-hitched a lift.

Probably from the good buddies I would've phoned in the first instance if facebook hadn't existed, but that's not the point hey.

Friendship and fellowship

Broughton Knox writes about the happiest human experience of all:

Fellowship springs out of friendship, or it may create friendship. It cements friendship. Fellowship is also a word hard to define. It is friends engaged in a common activity. It is friendship expressed in joint endeavour, friends doing things together. It makes friendship even more enjoyable. It is the happiest human experience. Friendship implies sharing a common possession leading to a common activity on the basis of that sharing.

In Christian fellowship the common possession which Christians share is the Holy Spirit, God himself. As a consequence, the activities they engage in is the work that God is engaged in. They share him, and they share in his work. It is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit in which they partake.

-"The Biblical Concept of Fellowship", pp. 57-58 in D. Broughton Knox, Selected Works Volume II: Church and Ministry

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Death in Cuba

Andrew M points out in my blog comments that despite how generally triffic permaculture is, not all the statistics coming out of Cuba ought to be believed.


I've been making Facebook friends like nobody's business, sitting here clicking away on people's profiles, people who I vaguely remember having passed some time in the street in Adelaide in 1985 (just an example Frank, I don't mean you buddy).

Suddenly a message pops into my inbox, saying something like, "Yes I remember you, and you obviously remember me, but I'm not your friend. Never was, never will be. Goodbye."

Now all this is fair enough, no hard feelings, free world etc. But gentle blog reader, I'm sitting here bleeding arterial blood, straight from a wound to my heart, and into the keyboard of my laptop. Help me out here. It will probably take at least 10 of you adding yourself on as my friends before I recover from the hurt of this one.

And don't worry, if you request me as a friend, then like America's Statue of Liberty I will never turn y'all away. Well, perhaps you David. Oh, and you, Andrew. But the rest of you poor huddled masses, pile on in.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

battery operated mice

Just had to replace the batteries on my mouse.

It occurred to me that if you were a battery and you turned out to be claustrophobic, life after the supermarket would be one unending scream of terror. After adjusting to life in the kitchen drawer, you would be taken out and placed in a small, dark cavity. There would be no room to move, no air to breathe, and the lid of your coffin would be screwed firmly into place. BURIED ALIVE!

Imagine if you thought you were up to the job, like that guy I heard about who got through his submariner training no problems at all, and then when he was finally in the submarine and heading out of Sydney Harbour, cracked and was overcome by the howling heebie jeebies. They had to turn the sub around and bring him back home, and that was the end of his submarine career.

Not to mention that if you were a battery and you were using up your energy with a perpetual shriek, you wouldn't last long.

Cuba's peak oil crisis

Last week we had a family outing to Permaculture North, a group of which Fifi is a part (if you click through on that link and look carefully, you will see that in the top photo Fifi is there! Back row, third from left, dark blue t-shirt).

We trooped into the council chambers at Ryde Civic Centre, a six story modernist block built in the year of my birth, and watched a fascinating documentary called The Power of Community: How Cuba survived Peak Oil. After the collapse of the former Soviet Union and during the early 90s they lost more than 50% of their oil supply virtually overnight, rendering most of their cars obsolete and having massive effects on agriculture and trade. They lost 80% of their export market, imports fell by 80% and Gross Domestic Product by 30%. The average Cuban lost 30 pounds in weight, due to food shortages.

To cut a long story short the place is a permaculturalist's dream— permaculture being a system that emphasizes sustainable organic agriculture at a local level. This is what they've done in Cuba, among many other things.

The most impressive statistic I saw in the film is that the life expectancy of the average Cuban has not gone down, despite the crisis, and remains on a level with the life expectancy of the average US citizen. Their infant mortality rate is actually slightly lower than that of the US.

The girls made it through about 2/3 of the movie before I had to take them outside for pizza!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Clergy sexual ethics

The Anglican Church in Australia is implenting a register of clergy who have been formally accused of extra-marital sexual relationships.

This is a great move, and overdue. Sydney diocese has been leading the push. You ought to be able to expect that clergy would be held to a higher standard of accountability than the rest of the community, but until now all manner of heinous things have too often been covered up in the name of clergy privilege.


I used to think that the first thing that disappeared from a distinctively Christian life under pressure was prayerfulness. But it's not.

Like Israel in the wilderness hardening their hearts, the first thing to disappear is not prayerfulness but hope, followed by faith and love. The disappearance of these three great Christian characteristics is evidenced outwardly and firstly by thanklessness.

Israel in the wilderness, as recorded in the Exodus story, still made their desires known—more food! more water! more meat! better leadership! (sounds not unlike Australians in the lead-up to an election campaign). They did so in an indirect way, addressing Moses and not God, the way complaining people often do. But most of all they did it with a singular lack of thankfulness for the extraordinary grace and goodness of God both past and promised.

So with me, and a lot of other people I see experiencing suffering. They don't stop praying, at least at first. Their prayers in fact become more urgent and more desperate, even to the point of bargaining with God, like the proverbial drowning man who cries out for rescue and promises to serve God forever if he will only save him. They pray because others around them are praying. They pray because it is a part of their routine.

But the idea of being content with God and his good gifts is as far from them as the east is from the west. Even the suggestion that we should be thankful meets with bitterness and incredulity.

It is understandable, of course, and I have done it myself and will do it again. But I don't think it's very good.

1    Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3 For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6    Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”

-Psalm 95

Slightly frightening here is the note of final judgement.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

ah! bright wings.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

—Gerard Manley Hopkins, God's Grandeur

Eye infection

Woke up this morning as sick as a dog that is sick and getting sicker, which is very.

Eye infection. This picture, unfortunately, gives you a feel for it (thanks Neil, and for changing it on your blog too)

Anyway instead of going to church I am sitting at home, often in the back garden, reading Al's book and feeling thankful.

Thankful for what?

Wives and daughters.

Oh, that reminds me Al, there are a couple of pronting errs I picked up. Just one or two. Lilliput. Pethidine. P-E-T-H-I-D-I-N-E. Pethidine. And it's 'eking' not 'eeking'. Biddulph not Bhidulpbfxq, or whatever it is you had in the endnotes. I’ll stop there for the moment. Should've gone with Matthias Media mate. ;-)

Serious hat back on for a moment. It is a really good book and I have already given one away, the first of many. When gardens, water, sunlight and all the rest have been taken away, we will still have the grace of God through the mercy of Jesus Christ, and the hope of the new creation. As you say, in different words, along with other things.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

More thoughts on Lady Jane

The other thought is that for all the tragedy of it, God knew what he was doing when he made Mary Queen of England, resulting in the deaths of many fearless Protestant leaders (nearly 300). Here were otherwise law-abiding citizens and leaders who were prepared to give their lives rather than acknowledge that the priest's work in supposedly bringing about transubstantiation of bread and wine during mass would in any way assist people to heaven. Behind this lay the firm conviction that in the matter of our salvation from God's wrath, all glory and honour should go to Christ alone—and that his death on the cross was completely sufficient to bring about our forgiveness.

The terrible deaths of those martyrs hastened their passage to heaven and convinced many witnesses that what they believed was not some temporary intellectual fad or heresy, but a truth of ultimate importance.

10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

-Hebrews 10:11-14


Got my thesis back, with comments. I've got a few things to fix before resubmitting on June 20 2008!

The two markers' comments were quite at variance with another, even contradictory. However I fear the one who knew what he was talking about was the one who wanted the bigger fixes.

Don't expect to hear much more about it on this blog. Fifi is not amused!

Friday, 19 October 2007

Book launch

Just been to a book launch of Al Stewart's book Men: Firing through all of life. I am guessing that this will be one of those that you buy in bunches, as Phillip Jensen said at the launch, and give away to many friends.

But the marketing department got hold of this one, and Al drove up in a red Cadillac.

Al, what were you thinking, my pig-hunting friend. We know you're having a mid-life crisis, you don't need to rub our faces in it. At least we know it's Cadillac tail-lights on the cover of the book, now, and not some weird new type of lippie.

But the book—this one has the look and sound of a winner, just on a brief leaf-through. It looks and sounds like you talking in front of people, Al; straightforward, clear and honest.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Lady Jane Grey

I read this story of Lady Jane Grey's execution recently:

Bookish, bartered and betrayed: few girls, even in the British Royal Family, were as hounded as Lady Jane Grey. Almost three hundred years after her execution, Charles Dickens, who made a specialty of exploited children, wrote that the English axe "never struck so cruel and so vile a blow." Jane was a cousin of Edward VI, the only son of Henry VIII. As
Edward lay dying, he tried to secure the legacy of his father's Reformation by making Jane, an ardent Protestant, queen. She was fifteen. The scheme failed—her reign lasted nine days, the shortest of any British monarch—and she was held in the Tower of London [for seven months]. The icy morning of her death, in February, 1554, Jane watched from a window as the headless corpse of her husband, Guilford Dudley, returned from Tower Hill in a cart. On the scaffold, she asked for forgiveness in accepting the crown but maintained her innocence in the plot that had resulted in her succession. She recited the Fifty-first Psalm—"Let the bones you have crushed rejoice"—and asked the executioner to kill her quickly. Her nurses shrank back, in tears. Jane, blindfolded, knelt and groped for the block, asking, "What shall I do? Where is it?"

—Cynthia Zarin, "Teen Queen: Looking for Lady Jane." The New Yorker, October 15, 2007.

The day before Jane Grey was executed she wrote a letter to her younger sister on a page of a Greek New Testament. she wrote: "Consider that I shall be delivered of this corruption". She was only 16 years old at the time of her death, yet showed (true) grace under pressure.

Reflecting on these event as a Protestant Christian, a number of thoughts come to mind.

First, what did God think he was doing? Under Edward VI the formal structure of the Church of England, including the Prayer Book used throughout the country, was being established on a firmly biblical basis on the clear understanding that God saved his people by grace alone, through faith alone. (The 2001 book by Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Boy King: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation is the best around on this subject). Yet instead of Lady Jane, we got Mary—a Roman Catholic Queen who within a reign of just under five years had killed nearly 300 Protestants for their faith, mainly by burning them at the stake.

Lots more thoughts too, and that one is incomplete, but let's stop there for the moment.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Term kick-off

I caught up with some old friends and a great group of Bible study leaders at St Luke's Miranda last night. Various Garlatos were there (hi Amanda and Ben!), and young Stephen Gibson, the minister (he went to school with me, so he must be young).

It was their regular term bible study kick-off and I led them through an introduction to the studies on early Genesis that I've written (you can download study one for free if you click through on that link).

As well as this once a term kick-off (which is a terrific idea, by the way, and which a number of churches are in the habit of doing), the Bible study leaders also meet weekly for preparation. I can't think of a better way of keeping in touch with leaders and communicating to them how important their work is to the life of the church, while at the same time strengthening both the quality of Bible studies and fellowship in God's word.

If any churches in Sydney want to use a Matthias Media product for their Bible study groups, I am happy to come and meet with leaders to talk about the studies as our mutual timetables allow. You can get into contact with me via the details on the Matthias Media website, or just leave a comment for me on this blog with your details (you can mark your comment 'Do not publish').

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Lying to a four year old

A bit of pre-school dialogue.

Lily (age 4): Where's my puppet?

Dad: [thinks: uh-oh.]

Lily: Daddy did you take my puppet out of my bag?

Dad: [thinks: you mean that crushed brown paper bag with the texta marks and the strands of different coloured wool randomly stuck on with glue?] I don't know. Quick Lily, get your bag on, we're going out the door.

Lily : Did you throw it in the bin, Daddy?

Dad: [thinks: oopsy, looks like I did. I just thought the pre-school teachers were throwing their rubbish out again, in my daughters' bags like they usually do instead of using the bin!] Come on Lily we're not talking about that right now, we're going to the car.

Lily : Can I sit in the back-back [the third row of seats in the car] like my stisters*, Daddy? Why not? Why do I have to sit here?

Dad: [thinks: yes!!]

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for my three daughters. Thank you that the brown paper bag with texta marks and wool glued onto it was not covered with yoghurt and rancid oil when I pulled it out of the garbage bin. Please may it dry out and stop smelling. Thank you for sibling rivalry.


Comments on this and related ethical dilemmas always welcome.

*not a typo

Monday, 15 October 2007

Al Gored

A climate scientist with no concerns about losing grant money (he's 78) critiques Al Gore on climate change.

What do you want to be when you leave school?

What Uncle Ian (Fiona's sister Jenny's husband) asked Matilda, Ruby and Lily, when we visited them in Canberra.

Matilda age 8: "A writer and an illustrator."
Ruby age 6: "A chef."
Lily age 4: "I'm not even at school yet." But then, eventually, "a butterfly."

Lily has now changed her mind and decided she wants to be a mermaid.

Oh, and we're back. 3 weeks of enjoyable holiday, visiting Leura, Canberra and Austinmer. Made asparagus risotto. Basil is coming in now so made a great salsa verde with basil, anchovies, olive oil, mint and garlic. Great with the risotto and fried chicken breasts.

Just about finished reading Personal History by Katherine Graham, and got through a few chapters of Spiritual Depression by Martin Lloyd Jones. I'd recommend the latter to anyone. He begins his book with these verses:

Psalm 42

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation
6 and my God.


11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.