All posts filed under: Keeping the Faith

“You Disappear When You Get Old,” She Said.

It was a mild autumn afternoon by the river, the water still and the light all toffee and caramel. We were ambling along the water’s edge when an elderly lady came walking her puppy – a silky terrier no larger than a rodent. The pup made instant friends with our two-year-old. There were giggles and face-licking, shrill yapping and shivers of excitement. So it was that I got chatting to a complete stranger. The elegant lady shared openly of her life, a story of immense sorrow and high joys. Her journey was intriguing – I was captivated. I must have stood there with this woman for 20 minutes, until she became self-conscious, realising she had interrupted our stroll. We exchanged names, shook hands and walked our separate ways. In all that she said, there was one sentence that resounded – because it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it. “You disappear when you get old,” she said sadly. My friend (let’s call her Liz), now in her 80s, said those very words no more than a week …

My Last Keeping the Faith Column…

Word. Light. Flesh. This triptych is featured in a Bible passage that I love. Don’t zone out. Give me at least a few more paragraphs to explain. Because the five verses I’m speaking of are a masterpiece, a work of mystery and enlightenment that at once confuse me and draw me nearer to understanding God. It goes like this: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:1-5) Truth is, I feel an affinity with this excerpt because of my particular love affair with words. Literary expression is my fairy floss. If you told me to paint it – you would see a dense rainforest, glossy with dew; a place of quenching and wandering, deeper and deeper into …

What Does Inclusive Mean?

What does INCLUSIVE mean? Yes, I just asked you a really simple question that isn’t the least bit simple to answer. It seems we do all these well-meaning things to be a more inclusive society, but are they working? Last week there was yet another call to remove The Lord’s Prayer from Tasmanian parliament so that it’s a more “inclusive” space. It’s an interesting thought – excluding something that is meaningful to a part of the population to keep the rest happy. Exclusion to maintain inclusion? Elsewhere, we’re busy adding to the Australian cultural space to become more inclusive. Adding prayer rooms for Muslims, adding acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land, adding the Safe Schools program to the curriculum for greater understanding of LGBTI people. We’re adding this and subtracting that, all to achieve the holy grail of inclusivity. My son has an allergy to dairy foods. Often he will go to parties and not be able to eat a lot of the food. He’s cool with it – he understands that dairy products …

Why Young People are Playing the Drug Game

People were leaving the room. They left in groups and pairs, digesting the information in a noise of conversation, shuffling feet and doors swinging open to the bright day outside. One young man held back, waiting. He finally approached the speaker when the room had cleared, tears falling, broken. Tanya Cavanagh and the Teen Challenge team had just delivered the Not Even Once project to a Tasmanian high school, giving information, empowerment and hope to young people faced with the option of substance abuse. She said her heart broke when she met this guy. He opened up to her, explaining his extreme emotional pain and the fear that he would fall into substance abuse to cope. He had no sense of self worth; he felt useless and hated himself. “It was an honour to sit with this brave young man and talk with him about the enormous step he just took to come and speak with us; to show him the gifting he has and that there is a brighter future than the darkness and …

Look at the Beautiful Clouds

Have you noticed the clouds? Seems they’ve been particularly spectacular of late. Were you a neighbour you might have seen me standing precariously on a rickety bench seat on the deck, neck craned to watch the cloud formations as they balloon and morph in a moody panorama. There are those sweet little fluffy white ones, the kind in children’s books, harmless as a bunny loping in the sun. There are the clouds that multiply into an expansive pattern, repeated like ripples in sand stretching out ad infinitum. And (my favourite), there are the clouds that growl. They have steely edges and are backlit to give the illusion of added dimensions. Crispest white is contrasted with rumbling grey, deep and violent against a passive blue backdrop. Can you picture them? Billowing, curling like meringue, and dramatic as the stage makeup for a Broadway show. I balance there, watching the performance, snapping a few pics with my SLR even while sensing the impending disappointment – because my awe always outstrips my technical know-how with a camera. I learnt …

The Boy Who Needs Our Prayers

The whiff of smoke gets up your nose, doesn’t it? That acrid smell of destruction has become familiar this summer to the point where it lurks right here in my home. I’ve carried it in on clothes unpegged from the clothesline and it’s been known to slink indoors as I kick off my shoes. This smoke that lingers like the grief of countless trees bowed to flames – it makes me think of the grief that has curled around Tasmanians who heard of 24-year-old Sarah Paino who died in Hobart on an early Friday morning a week and a half back, after she dropped her baker partner to work. Sarah was a mother of two. Her two-year-old son was in the back seat and her 32-week-gestation baby was delivered alive after her death. The grief has held such sting because of the injustice, the sad unfairness of a family fractured due to the choices of a 15-year-old boy who allegedly stole a car and was taking it for a joy ride when he collided with …

Why We’re So Intrigued By Injury

Every parent knows that a Bandaid on a child is so much more than an adhesive strip to mop up blood and keep dirt out of a scrape. The power of these magical stickers should never be underestimated. What’s more, the colourful cartoon characters printed on the more expensive varieties are a novelty du force. The humble Bandaid is a gallant defender of the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ maxim that most parents cling to. Have you noticed how the fine motor skills required to tear open the packet, peel away the fiddly leaves and then smooth the apparatus across the lesion without touching the site of grief brings a beautiful distraction from the trauma of the incident itself? Wonderful invention. But the most perplexing result is observed beyond adult supervision, in the playground, with another little mate seated beside. They are peeling the Bandaid away to, “Come look!” and “Awww!” and to boast “I cut it on dad’s fishing lure!” Yep. There’s the little blubbering mess suddenly dry-eyed, ripping off the dressing to show …

The NY Resolution that Exceeded Expectation.

Flicking to my journal entries from this time last year was a deflating exercise – not only because there were so few pages to flick through, but because the scribblings under the heading New Years Resolutions were largely unrealised. I made some feeble initial efforts, but life shouldered in on these well-intentioned plans to build character, skill and achievement. Oh well, there’s always 2016! But I want to tell you about the one aspiration that did become a reality – and so much better than I could have anticipated. I love reading. For me, the holiday sensation comes when I am diving headlong into fiction narrative – from the comfort of an armchair, banana lounge or hammock. I read to escape. Which is why, pre-2015, were you to espouse the merits of so-and-so’s latest autobiography, self-help book or account of lifechange, my eyes would have glazed over. I wanted to like those books. I wanted to allow my life to be altered by them. I wanted to rave with friends over the way those books had opened …

The Nativity Pig

There’s a pig in our nativity.

My makeshift Christmas scene is made from plastic animal figurines bought from the local toyshop. They sit on the mantelpiece beneath a glass cloche with a hessian star hanging from the top – an idea from one of those home-decorating mags. Jesus is a little piece of rolled-up cheesecloth sitting atop half a bird’s nest.

Porky is the latest addition.

Santa’s Dead.

She was cheerful, spritely even, as she scanned our purchases. Chattering away to Master-Four, she asked the obvious question for the time of year, “What’s Santa going to bring you?” He didn’t even hesitate. Didn’t even blink before bleating his reply. “Santa’s dead.” Did the whole store go silent, or was it just my imagination? The sharp intake of breath sounded like something elicited from heavy industrial equipment rather than a few pairs of lungs. We laughed nervously and I tried to explain that we celebrated Jesus at Christmastime, that Santa was more of a cartoon character to my son. Her mouth stretched across her face but her eyes were hard – it was clear I’d been branded unfit for motherhood. What kind of mother tells her child that Santa’s dead?! This incident happened a few days after we Googled Saint Nicholas. We had explained that the fiction of Santa was based on the truth of Saint Nicholas, a real man who lived long ago. St Nick’s story is intriguing. Young Nicholas was born to wealthy parents in …