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Friday, July 6, 2018

A Dog's Eye: to say goodbye

My Nana died on June 11 aged 96. Last Wednesday, July 4, the funeral was held at Woronora Cemetery, followed by a wake at The Bridge restaurant on Woronora River. The funeral was delayed to allow for family members who were overseas, like myself, to be there to say goodbye to a woman who lived a life few of us who remain could imagine.

I belong to a wonderful extended family and for this I am truly grateful to God who holds all of our lives in his mighty hand.

Here is the speech I delivered at the service* on behalf of my cousins. It was bookended by a terrific eulogy by my mum, and a speech by my son on behalf of the great grandchildren.

How do you encapsulate a life in a few moments. And such a long life as Nana had. The bible says we are given three score and ten years, but he granted Nana nearly five score. Wow. 96 years. How do you summarise such a long and amazing life. Well, I think Mum did a great job in her eulogy.

Think of your own life, the highs and the lows but in between so much of the mundane. What can I say about Nana? I can really only speak about the impact she had on my life, and to a lesser, more general extent, about the impact she had on the lives of my cousins. Imagine living to see your grandchildren grow up and have their own children. Think about what Nana saw, what she experienced in her 96 years. I remember speaking at her 70th birthday party about historical events which occurred in the year she was born: 1922. Think of how she saw the world change so dramatically.

For most of the major moments in our lives, she was there. She lived, she loved and she reveled in the achievements of her grandchildren. I remember the sparkle in her eyes, and her undivided attention when I spoke with her and told her all about what was going on in my life from time time to time. I remember how she filled me in on details from the rest of the family. How she remembered stuff, and how proud she was of all of us. I remember how baffled she sometimes was as well, not because there was anything wrong with her mind, but simply from astonishment I guess. Amazed at what we were doing and what we achieved. How we travelled the world, for example, as though it were nothing more than a family camping trip down to Cudmirrah. How great were those family holidays!

I felt especially close to Nana and Grandad particularly during and as a result of the time I lived with them in Oatley when I started high school. During a tumultuous time for me, I remember Oatley as being a safe place. I remember the peace and the quiet. I remember developing a love for dark chocolate which we ate after dinner while watching TV together. For those six months Nana and Grandad were my parents. When I think of Nana, I think of intelligent and wide ranging conversations about books and politics and life in general. I think about playing Scrabble and cups of tea and bikkies.

We'll all treasure our memories of Nana. What a blessed life we have had and how wonderful that we got to share so much of it with her. Sure, we're sad, but i think most of all we feel grateful. We honour the dead by how we continue to live and live well. There is a saying that while there is life there is hope. Nana is dead, but I think hope is eternal. It goes beyond the grave. Jesus Christ is our eternal hope, and I'm looking forward to seeing Nana again one day.

Rest in peace, Eileen Rayner. We love you and we'll miss you Nana.

*I wrote out the speech, but left it in my pocket as I spoke. Consequently I added and deleted some things. The words above are the best my memory can do to recall what I actually said. It was such an emotional day, but so great. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

A Dog's Eye: pushing the envelope

A video came up in my news feed on Facebook this morning of a guy reviewing some spectacular football 'dives'. Overlooking the liberal use of expletives, it was quite funny so I shared it. I had already been thinking about this issue for a few days, since Australia lost to France in their World Cup 2018 opener.

Image result for the beautiful gameFootball, or soccer as we call it here and in the United States, is truly the world game. The FIFA World Cup is a larger event than the Olympic Games.With an estimated global television audience of nearly half the population of the whole world, and ticket sales of nearly 1.7 million, it is impossible to deny the popularity of what many call 'the beautiful game'.

I don't watch a lot of soccer. I watch Australia's World Cup qualifiers when they are on at a sensible time, and I check out as much of the World Cup action as I can. There is a blight on the beautiful game. An embarrassment which even casual viewers like myself cannot help but notice and shake our heads at. The dive.

Image result for soccer divesPlayers often take dramatic falls and have exaggerated reactions to minor injuries. This is particularly laughable for fans of rugby league which is perhaps the most physically violent of all sports. The collisions between players in rugby league make mortals shudder and wonder how they can keep playing. The thing is even in rugby league, players 'dive'. It does not happen as often as it does in soccer but it happens.

The purpose of diving is to win a penalty or free kick for your team. In league it is known as 'milking', and you will occasionally hear the referee refuse to give a penalty by actually calling out 'milking'. 

I don't like this at all. To me, it is not in the spirit of the game, but the laws of the game-both soccer and rugby league- are such that decisions about foul play or illegal tackles are in the hands of the referees who must exercise their judgement as to the severity and genuineness of the offence. With such subjective assessments and enforcement of the rules, mistakes are bound to occur.

Players push the envelope to gain every possible advantage for their team. If they can get away with it, if they can dupe the referee into awarding a penalty or free kick, then why not? Why not? Because it's poor sportsmanship. I would say that the majority of players don't do it. I wish no one did it, but sport, particularly professional sport which involves such ridiculous amounts of money, is a microcosm of life.

Nearly everyone drives above the speed limits. Normally just a little bit over: pushing the envelope. That's just one example. In every arena of life, people try to bend and stretch the rules to suit themselves, to gain every possible advantage. It's normal right?

It is normal, but it speaks clearly of the rebellious heart within us all. A resistance to authority and to rules. We just don't like being told what to do. In sport, and in life in general the stakes are high, so we feel it is necessary to push the envelope regardless of how we may embarrass or injure ourselves or other people in the process.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

relationDips: crabs

Image result for crabs
Fortunately I had a caring tablemate- two of them in fact- who served me by doing the hard yakka of cracking the crab shells and extracting what little meat was contained therein. Had I been left to my own devices, I might not have bothered. In fact, I seldom do trouble myself with crabs or lobsters because I simply don't feel it is worth the effort.

I can be bothered with prawns though, but prawns are easy to peel or shell - whatever the correct term is. Crabs are not. The thing is the meat tastes nice. The problem is there is very little of it. Having been fed for about twenty minutes on tiny little pieces of the sweet white meat, I felt as though I had eaten nothing. As more courses arrived, including tiny shells containing even tinier portions of flesh, I decided I had to contribute to the work. I cracked some shells and picked away, helping my dinner companion finish all the crabs.

Looking at the impressive pile of shells left behind only made me smile, as I fought the desire to cross the road and order a big steak.

My dinner partner loves seafood. It is her first choice and she delights in the labour intensive consumption of crabs. I'm a little bit of a lazy eater. Although I referred to steak, I rarely eat it, preferring rice and pasta dishes instead which are very easy to consume. Had my stomach been big enough I could have easily wolfed down a couple of plates of stir fry ostrich with rice in the same time it took to eat maybe 50g of crab.

As I do, I reflected on this event. Good relationships, like eating crabs, require a lot of work: patient toil to reap sometimes only a small reward. The cumulative effect of these small rewards is invariably quite satisfying. There is no rush to finish the crabs. Crab lovers understand the process takes time and they enjoy it. It's not about eating, it's about enjoying a meal.

Perhaps this is why so many relationships struggle. Firstly, a lack of patience. Secondly, a lack of understanding of the process. Thirdly, an over emphasis on the result, and finally a lack of commitment to the necessary work.

I may never be a crab lover, but I believe I can learn to be better at relationships. Even if I never fully appreciate crabs, I am thankful for this experience of eating them, and I do appreciate the importance of good relationships.

Image result for crabsTo finish I must honour the servant heart of the beautiful lady who served me that night. Both she and her daughter literally had me eating out of the palm of their hands, because they thought nothing of helping me to enjoy a meal with them. Crack! One incy wincey piece of crab for you...crack! One incy wincey piece of crab meat for me.

Wow! There's a radical idea. What if the husband and wife served each other in humility. Now there's a marriage made in heaven.

Friday, June 1, 2018

relationDips: Samson and Delilah

It's a familiar story, even if you are not a Bible reader or believer.
When people want to commend men on their strength they'll often call them Samson. The name of this Biblical judge who led Israel for 20 years is synonymous with strength, but just as significant as his superhuman strength was his weakness for women. One cannot think of Samson without also thinking of Delilah. She was the instrument of his ultimate downfall, but Samson had been playing with fire ever since his hormones kicked in.

Much to the disappointment of his parents, Samson chose a Philistine, a foreigner, as his first wife. The wedding night ended in disaster. Samson did not get to marry the woman he desired, and as a result of her betraying him, he blew his stack and went on a murderous rampage. The woman was then given to another man. We are also told in the book of Judges that Samson visited a prostitute on one occasion. No doubt that wasn't the only time, and some time afterwards he met Delilah, and he fell hard.

Samson seems to have enjoyed games. The riddle he posed to the Philistines who attended his wedding had a wager attached to it, and his toying with Delilah resulted in her getting angry with him and accusing him of not loving her. What Samson didn't know was that she had been paid a hefty sum of money to find out the secret of Samson's strength. Three times he gave her false information and three times she betrayed him. A guy with his head screwed on, one who wasn't thinking with his penis, would have decided after the first betrayal that perhaps Delilah was not someone he could trust. Given his position as Judge of Israel and the fact that he was a Nazarite (dedicated to God from birth: no strong drink or haircuts), some may wonder why he played such dangerous games.

Image result for samson' storyWhen Delilah played the 'you don't love me card' she easily manipulated Samson into revealing his secret. She cut his hair while he slept then called in her Philistine paymasters who burned out Samson's eyes and dragged him away into slavery. Imagine how he felt, blind and chained to a grinding mill walking in circles day after day.

He had a lot of time to reflect on what had happened and I suspect at some point he realized what a fool he had been, and surely accepted his fate as the consequence of putting his relationships with women above his calling from God. He might have wondered how his life would have turned out differently if he had taken his parents' advice and married an Israelite. If he had been content. If he had been obedient. If he had used his brain to make decisions. If he had not sought exotic food and sensual stimulation.

The thing is most men will face this struggle with their sex drive at some stage. Men who become addicted to sex. Men who allow resentment to fuel sexual misconduct. Men who allow boredom to drive them to dangerous pursuits. Men who grow weary of sandwiches and want to eat seafood platters. Men who aren't satisfied with one serving. 

Leaving aside Samson's superhuman strength, his story is something to which many people can relate. An inability to control appetite, and the suffering brought about by poor choices.

Samson repented and asked God for a grand finale to his life: one last display of his faith and God's power. He died in a glorious manifestation of the superhuman strength which was his gift from God: a gift which he had wasted and abused.

Despite Samson's bizarre life, of which we only read a little in the book of Judges- chapters13-16, he is considered to be a hero of the Christian faith. Hebrews 11:32-34 mentions Samson alongside David, arguably Israel's greatest king. (David also had a big problem with women, but that's another story.) Hebrews 11 states that these men and all the others listed, conquered kingdoms, administered justice and had their weakness turned into strength.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Dog's Eye: sliding into disaster

Image result for physicsI know it's simple physics - is that an oxymoron? - but I can't help thinking there's more to it. As a non-scientific person whose brain does not easily travel to the land of 'matter and its motion and behaviour through space and time', I glibly accept that there are universal laws which govern such things. I take gravity for granted except when it works against me. When something that I don't want to move, doesn't move for a while, but then does move, I curse gravity which is really silly, but there you go.

I'm a reasonably logical person, but only to a point. At a certain level of relentless logic, I flounder. I just can't follow it. Sometimes, I even wonder why I need to comprehend such things.

So it is, that as I walk along the footpath, my gym bag works its way off my shoulder. Every so often I have to move the strap back to its start position: the one I think is comfortable and immutable. Of course, it stays for a while, right where I want it to...but inevitably it begins to move. The most obvious explanation has something to do with the slope of my shoulder, and the rocking, swaying movement of the bag as I walk. Nevertheless, I wonder.

Image result for physicsI listen to music on my iPod shuffle as I walk. I have earphones with hooks to lock onto my ears because my ears are the wrong shape to hold earbuds. That's genetics, which incidentally is another thing about which I have a very rudimentary knowledge. The earphone cord moves as well. It sways like the bag, so that every so often it is no longer loose on my chest, but tight. Tight enough to tug the cord and cause discomfort to my ears. I have to keep moving it back to the start position, because it won't stay there. Dammit.

Even on the cross trainer, I am endangered by this progression towards the wrong place. (Does anyone have any idea where I'm going with this?) The earphone cord, now plugged into the cross trainer's console so I can enjoy The Chase as I awkwardly walk/run with my arms in an unnatural position, swings. Of course it does. It's physics. Every now and then, randomly or so it seems to the non scientific brain, it swings so high that my thumb which is wrapped around the handle of the cross trainer, snags it and jerks it upwards. I'm sure I don't need to say anything more about trauma to my ears.

My stunning conclusion? Everything in life moves into an awkward position. And with that ludicrous and unscientific generalization, I leave you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Snake Oil: make your own rules

Image result for powerball australiaDespite the astronomically small chance of winning the major prize, a massive number of people continue to religiously invest in the dream of future wealth by buying lottery tickets. I think I bought a few a long time ago, but these days my 'gambling' is restricted to an NRL footy tipping competition which doubles as a fundraiser for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Naturally, advertising for the various versions of the pick the lucky numbers game doesn't mention how heavily the odds are stacked against you. It's all about the dream. How your life will change dramatically for the better when you win.

The latest television ad for Powerball is the least appealing one I've ever seen. (I apologize for using the most abused adverb in the English language: 'ever'. I hate what they've done to you poor 'ever'.)

The scene in the ad is a party in a lavish mansion, attended by all manner of unusual and interesting types of people. A song is playing. The repeating line is there's a beast inside you. A guy shows up at the end to deliver the tag, the catchphrase. Powerball: play by your own rules.

So when I am rich, I can make up my own rules? Hmmm...aren't the rich already doing that to some extent? Haven't they always done that? Won't they always do that? Do you want to join them? I want in. I want to be a member of the wealthy and powerful elite for whom money is the answer to every problem. It's probably enough that you can go to fancy parties, isn't it? That's all I need. I need money, and a truckload of it, so I can live the lifestyle of the rich and famous, and make my own rules...and go to parties.

Let's all make up our own rules, and hope the values we hold which will necessarily underpin those rules, align at least to some degree with the rules of others. I'm sure they will. She'll be right mate.Let's do away with such anachronisms as rule of law. We live in a post modern age so absolutes are for fools. You decide what's true and what's right, and use your millions to make sure any dissent is extinguished.

Play by your own rules? Sounds awesome. I'm off to use all of my disposable income to buy Powerball tickets. Stuff it. I'll go without food this week so I can buy more tickets and increase my chances of winning. It's only a few days until I get paid again, and I desperately want to play by my own rules. Who's with me? 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

relationDips: junk food and junk sex

Image result for junk food
You know when you've been snacking all day, and then too close to dinner, you just can't hold on so you buy some Maccas? You get home and your wife has prepared an awesome meal for you, as usual, in fact it's your favourite. The problem is you have lost your appetite. Lost is being kind. You actually murdered your appetite by your lack of self control. What your wife cooked for you out of love now seems pretty unappealing because you filled up on junk.

It's a funny situation, isn't it? It's probably happened to every one at least once. Your wife will notice how lethargically you attempt to eat. She'll probably ask you what's wrong, and you'll probably lie so as to not hurt her feelings. Those white lies...aren't they precious? What relationship saviours they are. If she doesn't say anything, you will kid yourself that she didn't notice and that she's not offended. However, she'll store the information. She'll make a mental note.

You know what else is funny? Have you heard the saying: it doesn't matter where you get your appetite as long as you come home for dinner. 'Dinner' is of course a euphemism for sex, and this is something guys say to each other or whisper to themselves when they've spent their day filling up on junk sex. And the men laugh and wink at each other knowingly, enjoying the conspiracy.

Junk sex? Dr. Allen Meyer uses this phrase to refer to flirting, fantasy and pornography (the latter two, either with or without masturbation - that lonely act of self indulgence).

You know what's really funny? That saying is total BS. A complete lie. Don't believe me? Ask your wife. Ask her if she's cool with you flirting outrageously with a beautiful young lady at work, and bringing the hormone surge home and letting it out on her. Ask her if she's okay with you ogling every second woman who catches your eye, then enjoying a few lustful moments inside your head with her. Ask her if she's okay with you masturbating while watching pornographic videos, as she sleeps in the next room. She was tired and didn't feel like making poor thing. You have needs. What's a bloke supposed to do?

Ask her if she's okay with you becoming emotionally attached to other women in your life because you spend more time with them than her.

I'll tell you what: it definitely matters where you get your appetite. I was locked into exactly the sort of behaviour I described above for decades, yes decades. The lie has been exposed. The truth is junk sex is rubbish. Not just second best, but off the chart worst option. It rips you off, and it rips your wife off. Keeping all those dirty little secrets in your mind is poisoning your relationship. Your wife deserves better than that, and so do you. Much better.

You've seen how cockroaches scurry away into dark hiding places when a light is turned on. They're afraid of the light, but they'll be back when the light goes out. You have to kill them. They won't return then, will they? Kill those dirty little things. 

Be a real man by giving your wife everything you've got. Can't control your sex drive? Get some help. Drop me a line if you want to talk about it.