All posts filed under: Keeping the Faith

An Easter Question: Who is Greater?

“He saved others, but he can’t save himself!” – one of many taunts that were spat at Jesus while he hung dying on a cross more than 2000 years ago. Limp. Parched. Bleeding. Hurting. The notice describing the charge and basis for Jesus’ death penalty read: “The King of the Jews”. He was the king of an oppressed people, living under the merciless Roman occupation. They mocked him because, what kind of king bows to death? Here was a self-proclaimed king who not only accepted an unfair death sentence but willingly and humbly permitted the torture. When I think of the great warriors and kings of history – Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great, Richard the Lionheart, the gladiator Spartacus, Genghis Khan – none approached leadership as Jesus did. As far as my limited command of history recalls, not one of the great warriors, leaders and kings of old took their army to the frontline of the battlefield and suddenly cried, “Stop!” and, “I’ll take it from here.” None turned their army back to take on …

I Don’t Give a Rats About the Gender Pay Gap!

I sat down to write this column about five times. First time, my son convinced me to help him build a cubby house instead – great fun! It was like an Arabian boudoir in there. Second time, my baby girl woke up from her nap, testing the strength of her lungs. They’re strong. Third time, mouths needed feeding. You get the idea. I love being a stay-at-home mum, I only wish people would believe me. Warning: rant ahead. Because stitched into every story on the gender pay gap or women’s rights is the assumption that I would prefer to be out there earning $ in the workforce, rather than colouring-in with my son or mopping the mouth of my daughter. Smart people like journalist Annabel Crabb talk about the asymmetric rate of “wife-having” while influential people like Governor Kate Warner quote statistics like this one: 60 per cent of all Australian families with children under the age of 15 had full-time working fathers, and mothers who worked part-time or not at all. Apparently just 3 …

Four People Died in the Biddeston Shooting. Not Three.

Amber Elizabeth Rose died last week. Quickly. Invisibly. Tragically. She hadn’t even reached her birth date. The newspapers reported the devastating news of the murder-suicide in the rural town of Biddeston near Toowoomba. They reported three deaths – Kris-Deann Sharpley, her seven-year-old son Jackson and her father Derek. Amber was not in the headcount. Her life was not counted. Over and over it was reported that Kris-Deann was “heavily pregnant”, that she was on maternity leave awaiting the birth of her daughter, that she had chosen her name and was sharing the excitement with her son Jackson. But no one counted Amber’s life. Before her death Kris-Deann, a nurse, told her family how Jackson spent time chatting to his baby sister through her bulging belly. He kissed her and told her he was her big brother, that he was boss! On Facebook, Kris-Deann shared a photo montage under the words “My Beautiful Children”. The two photos were of her son and a 3D ultrasound image of her unborn daughter. In curling script beneath were their names; …

The Most Generous Gift – And He Gave it to Me

I want to dedicate today’s column centimetres to a charming old man called Denis. Last weekend I volunteered at Launceston’s Harvest Market, standing at one of the gates to proffer a friendly welcome, hand out brochures and give directions to the loos. It was a two-hour shift on a sweltering day, but my gate had the most shade and the least numbers, so I had a wealth of time to sip coffee and people-watch. I’m always strangely thankful for these pockets of idle time when washing, children and inbox aren’t vying for my headspace. Then you walked through the gate, Denis, leaning heavily on your walking stick but so free with your smile. We chatted about the wonderful atmosphere of the market, the best way to cook fish and the smaller details of life, and you ended up standing beside me for at least 40 minutes. Much of that time was spent in what I can only describe as companionable silence. You were comfortable in the hush, in my presence, which was infectious. I was …

Can You Teach Compassion?

My almost-four-year-old has a sponsor child with the grandiose name of Giovanni. Giovanni Gonzalez Velasquez. He’s from Mexico and is the same age, which was strategic. I want them to grow up together. I want my privileged, white, Anglo, middle class boy to be aware that his lot is not the status quo. That just as he had no control over the fact he was born into a family rated in the top 10 per cent of the world’s wealth (Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, 2014), Giovanni had no control over the fact he was born into poverty. I know. These are grand concepts for a toddler, but that’s the great thing about sponsoring a child – it’s a journey. Here are two boys who will learn about each other and themselves during that impressionable conduit to adulthood. Giovanni’s photo is propped beside my son’s bed and we talk about him, explain the differences in culture as well as the similarities in interests, and we pray for him; for health, safety, provision, family and faith. …

Baby, the World’s a Crazy Place

Surely this is the most luminous point of life. Right here where I hold the gaze of two sets of blue-spangled eyes, their innocence and adoration as naked as their bums at bath time. The daily heart-swells of gratitude for my children are a serendipitous part of my day. I hope they never stop. What a charmed space to occupy; wiping their tears, singing them to sleep, making them giggle, helping them learn, watching their firsts. This little window of blissful simplicity is where we place the greatest value on life. Infancy is the peak of human worth. When life at this point is marred, the injustice leaves our faith in humanity black and blue. I stroke the downy back of my baby girl’s neck and her whole face flushes with glee. Her legs kick and her arms shiver with excitement. “You have a world of contradictions to contend with, my sweet,” I whisper into her hair. I wonder if she will grasp the truth amongst the mixed messages. The contradiction of Valentines Day, to begin. This …

Why Chan and Sukumaran Deserve Mercy

Better to know your hour of death, or not? Great dinner party conversation starter there, albeit macabre. Generally the consensus is in the negative. With knowledge, we can make a controlled exit; one without loose ends, skeletons in closets or untended grievances. Without knowledge, we can slip away blissfully unaware. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will know the date, hour, place and method of their death. It’s looking less and less likely that the two Australians of the Bali Nine drug smugglers will receive clemency from the Indonesian government and judiciary, meaning their executions will be carried out in coming weeks. They have languished in prison since their arrest in 2005 – since they made the mother-of-all stupid decisions. “Mercy!” the international community has cried. But letters and petitions and events and pleas have fallen on the deaf ears of president Joko Widodo who is intent on upholding the death-by-firing-squad sentence for their crimes. It’s the way things have been done since 1964. I wonder if they will need to be woken. Seventy-two hours after they have …

No Extremists Allowed

“The world would be a better place without religion.” A statement spoken with as much vehemence as frequency of late, and largely in response to the IS terror campaign. Another is the borderline apologetic, “All religions have their extremists.” What does a Christian gal say to such hostility? How does she respond when her faith is muddled with all the other myriad religions and their disparate gods and motivations? She groans inwardly, I can tell you that, and she is saddened that the owners of these statements don’t try to understand her beliefs – a faith free of religion. In attempting to read a little of the Bible every day this year, I came to Ecclesiastes, believed to have been written by Solomon who is well-known for his writings on wisdom. This is where I stopped: “In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: a righteous man perishing in his righteousness, and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.” I hear you, Solomon. The world is unchanged on that front. He …

Keep Your Heart Soft as Soil

It’s shaping up to be a dirty year… but perhaps you hadn’t heard. Today we celebrate a special patch of soil we call Australia and I thought it fitting to point out that 2015 is the International Year of Soils – as declared by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations. They want us to focus on the foundational importance of soil in producing sustainable food systems. “Healthy soils for a healthy life” is the motto. I like dirt. Dirt is the evidence of fun times on my son’s clothes when I dress him for bed. It’s the earthy womb that bears carrots and tomatoes and potatoes and beans to our table. People tell me it’s a special kind of therapy to sink your hands into it, sun-warmed and smelling sweet with decay, sifting weeds from its rich granules. Dirt is also the substance Jesus used to explain the state of the human heart in his story titled The Parable of the Sower. In Matthew 13 you will read of four different landscapes where …

“To Make An End Is To Make A Beginning”

Why is time divvied up into all the relevant portions? Centuries and decades and years and months and weeks and days and hours and minutes and seconds. Of course there’s the importance of measuring time for recording purposes. But time has been measured before we had instruments to measure it with. Nature measures time through seasons, life cycles, tides and shifting sands. You can measure the age of a tree by counting the rings in a cross-section of its trunk, a horse by the length of its teeth. Time propels us forward – the hands of the clock keep cycling, pushing us to the next and the next and the next. I believe there is a spiritual reason for the measures of time locked within nature. Humanity has borrowed these calculations to construct the rigid framework we build our lives around. But perhaps we forget their more organic purpose. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17. The pattern of God’s love …