new short story collection. Out now!

Friday, December 30, 2011

No More Resolutions

Today we say goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012. It's the last day of the year but apart from being an excuse for another party does it really mean anything to anyone? When the clock strikes midnight does anything magical or mysterious happen? Does anything change? It's like birthdays: one day you're a certain age and the next day you're older but you are still the same person as you were the day before. Nothing has changed.

The beginning of a new year is a time for making resolutions as we look forward with hope that life will get better, that we will become better people. Tradition holds that on New Year's Eve,we resolve to change things in our life with which we are unhappy or dissatisfied. Lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more, look for a new job, spend more time with the family etcetera.

Naturally, people make these kinds of decisions about their lives all through the year but there is feeling, a mystical belief that a New Year's Resolution will provide the extra will power needed to achieve that particular goal.

The last time I made a New Year's Resolution was in 1989 when I stated before my friends as we sat on the beach in Molokai, that I wanted to be more consistent in the practical application of my faith in Christ. Even though I achieved that desire with God's help, I don't make resolutions anymore. I just pray that God will continue to make me more like Jesus as he deals with the things in my life which hurt me and sadden him.

The problem with new year's resolutions is that they rely on will power, and will power is notoriously fickle. Some possess it in spades while others are bereft. Will power may be available, and useful, to tackle over eating but it may go AWOL or simply fail in the battle against nicotine addiction. Is will power as dependable as some make it out to be? Ask yourself the question. Think about it. Romans 7:15-20 is an explicit indictment of will power. The fact is, will power is overrated, and all the best intended new year's resolutions in the world won't be strong enough to change our hearts, or our minds. New Year's Resolutions are simply another one of society's band-aids. We need more help than we can possibly give ourselves.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Deliciously Ugly

Many years ago. there was an ad for Cadbury Picnic, a chocolate, caramel and peanut bar. The unusual but effective epithet was "deliciously ugly". Picnics do look a bit rough and lumpy when you take off the wrapper but after the first bite, you forget what the thing looks like, and only remember the great taste.

The ad played with the well known adage "you can't judge a book by its cover". This saying warns that very little of what can be known about a person can be ascertained from observing their cover, that is their outward appearance. Most of what a person is lies hidden from others, beneath the surface, behind the physical curtain of flesh. To judge a person solely on what you see, in other words, what they look like or what they do, is foolish and unfair to the person.

Obviously people make superficial judgments about other people all the time. We can't help ourselves. Perhaps the maxim should be changed to say, "Don't judge a book by its cover". You can judge a book by its cover but you shouldn't because you might be wrong. Just as God told Samuel when he went to see the sons of Jesse to anoint from among them a successor for Saul to the throne of Israel. (1 Samuel 17:7)Jesus said, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement." (John 7:24)

It's Christmas, and I'm reminded of how the baby Jesus was wrongly judged by some, and again later as he grew to boyhood and then into a man. God incarnate, deity in human flesh. He was subjected to the folly, the bigotry and the cruelty of men who did not know, who could not see, who he really was. Those who saw just another man, were very much mistaken. Some still are.

Returning to the deliciously ugly Picnic. One day, I grabbed one for morning tea and was of course keenly anticipating the joy of eating it. I'm not put off by appearance, and I know they taste great. However, when I opened the brightly coloured wrapper there was nothing inside. True story. The message is clear. Looks can be deceiving so it's wise to take time to get to know the real person inside the mortal wrapper. Look inside, because that's where God is always looking... into the heart.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Don't Tell me What to do

The flight attendant made the announcement as the plane touched down at the airport and began its taxi to the terminal. "Please remain in your seats with your safety belts fastened until the plane comes to a complete stop," she said. As soon as she had finished speaking, half a dozen people unclicked their seatbelts, stood up and began to gather their belongings from the overhead storage compartments.

The lifeguard blew his whistle three times, pointing and gesturing to a group of people, children and adults, who were swimming outside the flags at the beach. Because they ignored him, he was forced to move closer to the water and repeat his warnings. Shortly after, this group finally heeded the lifeguard and left the water. At the same time, another smaller group entered the ocean and began swimming outside the flags.

People still get booked for speeding, not wearing seatbelts and drink driving. These rules are designed for our protection, but some people apparently don't want to be protected. Some people think that only they know what is best for them. "Don't tell me what to do, " they say. "Don't tell me what's best for me. I'll be the judge of that."

God's "rules" are for our protection and benefit but most of us think that we know better than God. Pride is a huge obstacle to salvation, and rebellion is seated deep in the hearts of us all.

Monday, December 12, 2011

How Low Can We Go?

I discovered an unknown direct debit coming out of my wife's bank account so I called the bank to check it out but they wouldn't talk to me because I am not the account holder. I explained the problem knowing full well that the person to whom I was speaking would probably not help me. I was right. Even on a hypothetical question, this guy stuck to the company line. I called a second time and spoke to someone else who was more helpful although likewise unwilling to actually do anything. Customer service person number one even threatened me by mentioning the law and the fact that if he knew the account number and password, he would put a stop on the account to prevent me accessing my wife's information.

I understand the rationale behind this policy. Stringent privacy provisions are needed to protect people. I might be trying to steal from my wife, or gain some advantage over her by accessing her financial details. I could be doing something wrong and potentially harmful to her. The person on the phone doesn't know me from a bar of soap. Just because I say that I have my wife's permission to access her account, doesn't mean, from their point of view, that I do.

Because some people lie, everyone is a potential liar. This is the world we live in. The default position is mistrust. My word counts for nothing with strangers because of all the people who can't be believed. Honesty surprises us because dishonesty has become so acceptable. We all say tsk tsk, what a shame, most people are good but the few rotten apples spoil the basket. The problem is that we are all living under the rules and regulations foisted upon us by those trying to protect us from the rotten apples. A worse problem is that we are all rotten apples but we keep pretending we are not. We tell ourselves we are the good guys and we sit around lamenting the tragic decline of standards in our communities but we have contributed to that degeneration, either by our actions or our inaction.

Imagine a world where people could trust each other. No need to lock the car or the house. People would be respectful and polite. No one would be self serving. Our teenagers wouldn't be having sex and getting drunk, and killing themselves by driving their cars too fast. No one would be trying to rip anybody off. Money wouldn't dictate what can be done and what can't be done.

If you think all this sounds too fanciful, too utopian, if you want to call me an idealist then go ahead but know this: such criticism implies that you have given up and accepted the new norm, the new low standards. If you are willing to keep on lowering the bar just to keep people happy, consider the end result of such thinking. Consider the future we are heading for if this slide continues. Everyone else is doing it, is not a statement of tolerance, it's an admission of weakness and defeat. We should keep fighting.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

If You can't Stand the Heat

I have a massive beef with cookbooks. I've been cooking a lot more over the last couple of months and whilst I am more than competent with the basics, I feel the need to try new things and attempt to improve my craft. I like variety and I don't mind having a go at something a bit different: exotic even. However, I have no natural flair for culinary pursuits. The limit of my gastronomic innovation is the addition of chopped mushrooms to the mince and jar pasta sauce. And so I turn to cookbooks.

There are several problems with many cookbooks: they are written in chefinese, they use ingredients which you can only buy in Bolovian street markets, and the instructions are so vague that the novice may as well be trying to prove Pythagoras' theorem on the back of a beer coaster.

If your kitchen pantry is not stocked as well as the shelves of Woolworths or Coles then it soon will be if you try to follow the recipes found in their respective advertorial cookbooks and brochures. And I haven't mentioned the fact that the portions which you end up with aren't sufficient to feed the family of pet mice in your office, let alone the human stomachs you are trying to fill.

Somebody has probably already written it but I am still waiting for the perfect cookbook. You know the one with chicken instead of spatchcock or quail. Mushrooms don't have to be fresh shittake which you have to travel to Japan to buy. There's no mention of Jerusalem artichokes, tagliatelle, witlof, pancetta or pimento stuffed green olives. Four maryland chickens won't feed a single teenage boy so the fair dinkum cookbook doesn't pretend that the whole family will be satisfied. The cookbook I am looking for tells me whether to use Riesling, Chardonnay, Semillon or Sauvignon. It doesn't just say white wine. It doesn't say season to taste, or cook the meat to your liking. It doesn't say process the flour and polenta briefly. It warns you about soggy bottomed pies, and tells you how to avoid them because even though your children like soggy bottoms, you still feel like you've failed.

The bottom line is that, as a slave to recipes, I am at the mercy of chefs who speak a foreign language, chefinese, and who don't overcook or undercook anything. Cooks who evenly multiply ingredients, cut things up just right, and don't murder roast pumpkin salads with lethal doses of parsley.

My success rate is running at about 50%. Everything is edible but sometimes it's only possible to eat after including a prayer for protection with my prayer of thanks.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Creative Juice

It was while drinking a glass of orange juice one morning that I had a burst of creativity. In just a few minutes, as the sweet citrus danced on my taste buds en route to my stomach via my throat, I came up with three ideas. This post is one of them.

The idea for my most recently published short story, Goyyou, came to me in a dream. Another time, I was standing at a urinal in a public toilet in Greta when the idea for a story about a small group of insects meeting in a awkward social situation struck me. It became the story, A Place of Refuge which was published by Countdown: School Magazine.

Virtually no one reads Square Pegs so I feel there is no harm in blowing my own trumpet. However, that's not what I'm trying to do. Here's my point: I have lots of ideas. I'm always coming up with interesting characters and plots and weird situations. I've written over 60 short stories and I have plenty more to come. I'm a creative person. God made me creative.I love to write and I feel exhilarated by the process of writing. When I write a story, I feel "right". It is one of my escapes. One of my pressure release valves. Writing helps me maintain my sanity. I have to write.

To paraphrase a quote I read a long time ago, "why wouldn't God, having made me this way, not provide opportunities for me to use my talent to bless others and glorify Him?"

It seems as logical to me as orange juice and toast for breakfast. I have a way with words. I'm not Shakespeare but I can write and I love it, so why shouldn't I pursue it? The answer is, that I am, but it can be awfully frustrating. Writers want readers but I have so few that if my readers were books they wouldn't even occupy one shelf in a small library. For thirteen years I have been working on my craft; writing stories, using valuable writing time to research markets and fiddle with the formatting to satisfy various submission criteria. Submitting stories, waiting sometimes for months, sometimes literally forever, and then having those stories rejected, frequently. Finding time to write more stories and repeating the whole process. It can be terribly disheartening but what can I do? It is no overstatement to say that I was born to write. I love writing. I am a writer so I'll just keep writing.

And so ends my self indulgent post for this week. To my army of readers...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

There is something that both amazes and pleases many parents, at the same time, about their children's behaviour. Your son for example, spends some time at a friend's place and you speak to the friend's parent, thanking them for looking after your son, and they say, it was a pleasure having him. No trouble at all! He's so quiet. You ask yourself: who are they talking about? Not my son. It couldn't be. Quiet? He's not quiet at home.

Hands up if you've ever had that experience? It's not that much of a mystery at all really. Most children subconsciously modify their behaviour depending on their circumstances. They reserve their worst behaviour for the people they know best: their parents. Most of those children grow into adults who consciously alter their behaviour depending on the situation in which they find themselves. Do you only show your worst to the people you know best? Familiarity breeds contempt. Ouch! That shouldn't be true, but it is.

In different groups of people, we act differently. Especially when we are new to that group. Or is just me? Am I the only one who bites my tongue when I strongly disagree with someone I have just me, and with whom I am going to have to spend more than five minutes? Aren't we all naturally more relaxed and friendly when the people we are with are chilled and amiable? Am I the only one who doesn't say much until he figures out the dynamics of a new group?

Sometimes I actually admire those people who apparently aren't bound by the aformentioned conventions. They act the same, speak the same to all people, in every situation. They are seemingly so comfortable with themselves that they can be themselves all the time. Or is it a lack of self awareness and sensitivity rather than a supreme sense of comfort in their own skin, that makes them act so?

Take the guy who drops the F-bomb regardless of who hears it. Or the woman whose breasts always overflow her low cut dresses. Or the man who makes tasteless jokes, which he thinks are funny, just to break the ice. What about the woman who laughs like a woodpecker, or the fella who has to virtually touch his nose to yours in order to speak with you? Or how about those who have loud personal conversations in public places?

When does 'just being yourself' end, and causing offence, or public nuisance, begin? When does adjusting your behaviour, (controlling yourself) out of sensitivity or simple shyness or caution end, and being a faker, or a game player begin?

If you have simple answers to these questions, I'd love to hear them but Solomon's been dead for thousands of years, and I'm just bumbling through life by the grace of God. Sometimes I don't know who I am.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Household anti-rules

One of the best pieces of advice you can give, or receive, with respect to managing the inevitable problems which arise out of co habitation is "choose your battles".

Basically conflict is unavoidable because people have a propensity to annoy other people. However, if you want to fight about, or pick on everything that someone you share a house or home with does, then you are essentially precipitating nuclear war. One of the cute acronyms which arose from the arms race between the USSR (now defunct)and the USA (now sliding down the toilet on its way to defunct) was M.A.D. Mutually Assured Destruction, and that's basically what you get if you don't know how to choose your battles at home.

In the spirit of acceptance and tolerance, and of forgiveness and grace, I would like to present the following household anti rules.

1. Don't park the car in the empty garage. It must be left on the driveway so the birds can have their evil way with it.

2. Don't hang the hand towel on the rack after you use it. It looks much better, and dries much better if it is left screwed up on the bathroom floor.

3. Rinse the dishes in dirty, oily water and leave them there overnight as this will make them easier to clean in the morning.

Do you have any of your own household anti rules to suggest. I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Truth Hurts

Truth is a hammer
Truth is a fist
Truth is a lightning strike that will not miss you
Stand up. Face it. Be a man.
Don’t be afraid of pain. Pain is good.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Destination Unkown

If you catch a train to work, you arrive at the train station knowing what time your train is due. It might arrive on schedule or late, or even be cancelled, but eventually you will get to your destination. The trip itself will be predictable and unless you have a good book, somewhat boring. After eight hours or so, you will ride the train home again. You paid for a return ticket because you don't want to stay at your destination. You want to go home.

Maybe you are about to take a long overdue and well earned vacation. You have chosen a destination from literally thousands of possibilities, a place where you really want to get away from it all and relax. You might catch a ship or fly, you'll find when your transport departs and from where, and you'll be there, on time and ready to go.

The time spent travelling to your holiday destination may be predicable and not especially enjoyable but when you get there you'll have bucket loads of fun. After a week or two you'll have to go home, and although you might want to stay on vacation a little longer, you can't. You bought a return ticket, so you have to go home. In fact, part of you wants to go home.

It doesn't matter where we go, or how long we stay, or for what reason we are travelling. Most of us will always want to go home eventually. Home is where we belong.

Life is often described as journey, and it is a good analogy. It is a voyage which we must all make and one for which we cannot purchase a return ticket. We do not choose to be born, and death is unavoidable. Much of what happens in between is beyond our control. Sometimes we feel as though we have very little choice, or worse; no choice at all.

We do however have a choice about the final destination of our souls. The Bible says that choice is simple. Hell is eternity without God. Heaven is eternity with God.

Of the two, heaven is the preferred destination, and the only way to get there is to choose to repent of your sin and place your faith in Jesus Christ. Climb aboard the train which is bound for the glory of our eternal home. It is where we belong.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Two Baskets of Mysteries

Why does tragedy scar some people's lives while others escape the carnage of apparently random misfortune? We all have only partial control of what happens to us. Most of the time we are weak and vulnerable. Any single car journey I make could be my last. I am relatively healthy now but I could be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow. Anything could happen to me or anyone else in this crazy rollercoaster ride called life. But what's the point? So far I have pretty much cruised through life unscathed. Why have I been so blessed when others have been hammered? If 1 in 4 children have been sexually abused, why wasn't I one of them? We hear so many stories of children with serious illness, yet the worst thing my teenagers have been afflicted with is a 24 hour gastro bug.

I could spend the rest of my life presenting examples of the seeming randomness of life but I still wouldn't be able to answer the question, "why?" Perhaps a better question would be: is it even possible to answer the question "why?"

The latter question I can answer. There is much in life which can only be described as inexplicable, as mystery. There is a difference however between mystery that isn't understood, and mystery which can't be understood. Mystery that isn't understood suggests that it is at least possible to find some rational explanation for the unknown. Much like an Agatha Christie novel, one only needs to investigate the clues and apply logic, and the mystery can be solved. Life is not like that.

The mystery of life and its irregular bestowal of blessings and curses upon participating individuals, that is, all of us, cannot be understood. It is, I believe, very wise to know your own limitations. The mystery of random suffering cannot be solved.

There are then, if you accept this premise, two possible responses. Many people take the philosophical view that is so eloquently summarized in the bumper sticker slogan, "shit happens". They accept life as it is without needing a reason or an explanation. That's just the way it is. Others don't need an explanation because they know if they were told the answer, they would not understand it anyway. They do, however, like me, believe that there is a reason. That reason can't be comprehended by feeble finite minds because it emanates from the infinite and indescribable awesomeness of God. There is a reason. There is purpose.

Many say the purpose of life is simply to be born, to live, breed, eat drink and be merry, suffer, ride the rollercoaster, and then die. If that's all there is, then I want my money back. What a rip off! What a waste of precious time. Almost as great a mystery as the question of suffering, is the question why people accept the philosophy that we live, we suffer and then we die, and there is no point to it. That's not good enough for me. I need to know there is more, even if I can't understand it, and I do...and I can't.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Law is my Mother

Apparently there have been a number of cases of pedestrians walking into the paths of oncoming emergency vehicles and receiving injuries and occasionally death for their carelessness. The cause is earphones, or more specifically the music screaming from them into the eardrums of those with the aforementioned items inserted into their ears.

Deafened by their audio entertainment, they step forward, oblivious of rapidly approaching catastrophe. Pedestrians can be pretty stupid. Lazy. Reckless. Careless. Pedestrians are people. Speeding emergency service vehicles are not.

Anyway, I've heard a suggestion from some relevant authority; one of the blessed and chosen ones who speak publicly on behalf of others and have the pleasure of witnessing their wise counsel reduced to silly soundbites. He said, he thinks we need a law to force earphone users to only plug one ear when they are in public.

Awesome idea. Let's disengage police officers from crime fighting duties to arrest people for using two ear phones to listen to their mobile music players in public. Let's beat them with canes in public so people learn to act more sensibly, and take more thought with their actions, and the possible consequences of said actions.

I love laws which attempt to protect people, not from others, but from themselves. What about a law that forces people to brush their teeth twice a day. We have a shortage of dentists, so if people take better care of their teeth, they won't need dentists. Let's publicly abuse people with poor oral hygiene to make sure they get the point. Humiliation is great for modifying behaviour.

We need the law to be our mother: to tell us what to do and to threaten punishments if we don't obey. Finally, a law I would really like to see introduced is one that makes it illegal for my wife to say that I don't listen to her. Are you with me fellas?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Design Flaws

British adventurer, Ranulph Fiennes once said, when talking about preparing a team for an Artic region expedition, that "human beings are very badly designed for getting on with each other. Basically they don't. if you put two of them into a confined space like your average home you get, at the moment, a one in three divorce rate which is just a symptom of this bad design factor."

Are we poorly designed for good relationships? We have many of them, but is that because there's something wrong with the way we were made, or with the we behave, or the choices we make? Is there something wrong with us? We certainly have the capacity for healthy relationships.

If we only talk about our bodies then we have to take our hats off and give a standing ovation to our Designer. The human body is an engineering masterpiece. An unbelievably sophisticated machine. Yet one which is susceptible to the poison spread by microscopic bacteria and viruses. Should we have been better constructed to be impervious to infection? Perhaps that is a question for another day...or one for your Maker when you meet Him.

The complexity of our design extends to the area of our intellect and our emotions, and to the interplay between them and the x-factor known as free will. We have the ability to make good and bad choices and therefore the ability, at least potentially, to have both good and bad relationships. We can choose right. We can be selfless. The problem is we often lack the power to choose wisely and lovingly at crucial moments of human interaction. When humility is required. When compassion, and forgiveness are required. Can you rightly describe this failing, on our part, to properly exercise the gift of free will, as a flaw in our design?

I believe my Creator is perfect, and He made me in His image. If He created all of us in His image, why are we so messed up?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Masochist Within

We must all be masochists. Gluttons for punishment. When it hurts we cry a river then we run back for a second helping. Please sir, can I have some more? We fall but we struggle up on our feet again. We want what we can't have and we drive ourselves insane in futile pursuit of it. Or if do we achieve the desired outcome, we find it's taste is not as sweet as we imagined and are forced to pretend it is delicious. We are fearlessly fragile. Knowing we are broken and vulnerable doesn't stop us from lining up for more pain. We warmly embrace suffering. We are mad, aren't we?

There is an alternative lifestyle available. It is peaceful and harmless, and experiencing the pleasure it promises only requires our surrender. All we need to do is give up. Stop trying. Stop striving. Want nothing more than what you have. Don't love anyone or allow them to love you because that is way too risky. Close your heart. Close your mind. Block out the misery and misfortune of others. Don't try to change what cannot be changed. Accept injustice.

How does that sound? Sounds to me like the pain is worth it. I choose option A. Thank you very much. I'm not going to go searching for trouble and problems but I'm not going to faint with fright when they come, and they will come. Nor am I going to run away. I choose to fight though I may suffer injury. I already carry the scars of previous battles and I cherish them. They have made me who I am. I won't invite suffering into my life, that would be stupid, but when it comes, and it will come, I will welcome it as irrefutable evidence that I am alive. I am really living not just passing the time. If that makes me a masochist...so be it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In the arms of my father

I don't remember what it felt like as a child, to be hugged by my father. I know he did it and it must have felt good to be carried or just held in his strong arms. It must have felt safe and secure, and it must have made me feel important, but I don't remember the feeling itself.

I was in church one Sunday, more than ten years ago, standing and singing the song, In the Arms of my Father, while my daughter Alana slept in my arms. Undisturbed by the volume of the music or my loud singing right above her head, she slept peacefully. I had the full weight of her little body in my arms and I cried. I was happy.

As I held my daughter and sang to give thanks to my Father in Heaven, I had a fresh revelation of exactly what kind of love God has for us, his children. It's the kind of love I'm not sure I would have or even could have understood without the experience of being a father myself.

I can't remember what it felt like as a child to be in the arms of my earthly father, and it's unlikely Alana will remember when, God willing, she reaches my age and perhaps holds a child of her own. However, I do remember exactly what it felt like that day in church with Alana in my arms. I vividly recall being 'hugged' by my Father in Heaven that day, and I have felt it again since.

There is nothing in all of the universe that even comes close to the power of God's love for us, and I am so grateful to Him. So with Father's Day coming up, remember to thank your perfect supernatural Dad.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What do our Schools Produce?

The idea of successful learners suggests achievement. To be considered successful what must one do? How is success measured? Is society's view of what may be deemed “success” as important, more important or less important than the individual student’s own conception of success?

Although “Successful learners” is a little vague, significant benchmarks have been introduced into the Australian education system, such as NAPLAN, which do a reasonable job of measuring academic achievement. The question is, I guess, is academic achievement our only goal?

What about confident and creative students? It could be easily argued that confidence is a non academic measure of success. Creativity, however, is not a measure of success. It is debatable whether or not creativity can be taught, or even enhanced in those individuals who are naturally creative. Some people are successful without being especially creative.

Hardworking people who may or may not be creative, can be, and often are, very successful. In my view, perhaps turning out creative individuals should not be a goal of the education system. I just don’t know whether you can create creative students.

Active and informed are good goals but what does active mean exactly? Are we expecting our students to all become champions of various causes, members of political parties, unionists, community volunteers? I guess that’s not unreasonable. While “active” may be debatable, “informed” is not. Ignorance is one of the biggest problems we have, not only in our schools, but in society in general. It’s one thing for students not to want to know what’s going on, to be socially aware, quite another for educators to accept, in any way shape or form, the questionable maxim, “ignorance is bliss”.

I think they only thing missing from these goals is diligence but I suppose it is implied in conceptions of success and active involvement. As a Christian I wonder where is the mention of making a primary goal of education the development of loving and caring people who respect others and work to promote peace in society by building good relationships. Perhaps such talk is too “Christian” or “religious” for our secular system.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A way that seems right

A footpath curves to the left away from the road and around a landscaped garden with a bench for the weary traveller. Between the garden and the road was intended to be a lovely green grassed area but it is bisected by a terrible scar running across it in a direct line to where the path curves back towards the road.The scar was caused by many lazy feet walking across it, making their own path instead of using the one built for them.

A woman ran across the road in between two sets of traffic lights, both with pedestrian signals. Had she walked an extra fifty metres, either to her left or to her right, and used the crossing she would not have been knocked down by a car and injured.

The Bible says, "There is a way that seems right to man but its end is the way to death." (Proverbs 14:12)There was a way that seemed right to the many who took the shortcut across the grass, widening and deepening the scar with each step. There was a way that seemed right to the woman who risked her life for the sake of convenience to run across the road between the lights. There is a way that seems right to the Buddhist, to the Muslim, to the Humanist, and to the man who says he has no religion but worships the gods of his favourite sport. These ways lead to death.

There is a way that leads to life. Jesus is that way, (the only way), the truth, (the only truth) and Jesus is the life, (the only life). (John 14:6). There is no other way.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dark Light

Whether you are perceived by others, or even see yourself, as a good or a bad person does not alter the fact that you are, at the very least potentially, both good and bad. People have the capacity for both good and evil. Given the right set of circumstances, anyone is capable of producing uncharacteristically bad deeds or unusually good deeds.To dispute this is to deceive yourself.

Light is a metaphor for goodness and dark is a metaphor for evil. Light represents not just goodness, but truth. Here is truth: God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. Here is another truth: If you claim to be without sin, you are a liar.

For those who are offended by God and the positive influence of his followers, here is a question: What would the world be like without any light? What would the world be like if there was no truth? Would you like to live in a world where evil reigns? What is it that restrains evil?

God is light. If you turn off the light, you invite death.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Smarter Devils

Why do we teach others, and learn things for ourselves? Why is education so highly esteemed by the majority of people, in a majority of cultures, in a majority of countries? Why do we speak of educated men and women as though they are better than uneducated men and women? Do we truly believe that more knowledge is the answer to the world's problems? Are we learning more and doing more? Are we knowing more and loving more?

Knowledge is not the ultimate goal of education. The Bible says that knowledge "puffs" a person up with pride when it is pursued as an end in itself. If then, education should be a means to an end, what is it we are attempting to achieve? What is the end?

Humanists believe that increases in knowledge lead to improvements in society. The more we know, the better able we are to avoid problems or to fix them when we can't dodge them. Education makes people better and therefore leads to a better, more efficient, more caring, more peaceful society. That's the theory. Reality tells a different story. But even allowing for this beautiful albeit Utopian ideology, I want to ask why. What is the point of striving for the betterment of mankind? Why bother? Don't say education is a universal right. It may well be, but that is not an answer to the question. In fact, it only leads to another question about the basis for human rights.

The fault in the argument put forward by Humanists and arrogant athiests like Dawkins is that it has no moral foundation. Humans are intrinsically moral, and to remove morality from education is to render the latter, an exercise in futility. Education does not produce angels but rather, as C.S.Lewis puts it, "education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make a more clever devil."

All education should have as its goal, the edification of mankind which is itself ultimately for the Glory of God. God has given me a brain so I should use it to learn and grow but I must also share and apply my knowledge to help and encourage others; not to become better people but to recognize their need for God. To accept weakness and failure is to become complete. The purpose of life is to know God and to make Him known. Education alone will never achieve this objective, never fulfill this purpose, and it will never make the world all right. The world is all wrong and education is only a treatment, not a cure.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Taxing my Patience

Not too long ago, the majority of people, according to the ubiquitous and irritating polls, accepted climate change (formerly known as global warming which is a discredited term), and the need to do something about it.

Now that the government has released the details of its temporary carbon tax, and may I emphasize the word temporary because it is a precursor to a market based emissions trading scheme, nobody wants to pay for it.

For those of us in the minority who will not receive compensation, the imposition will be around $400 per annum. I will have to sell my car to pay for that, won't I?

The rubbish and lies being flung about the place these days are driving me insane. Don't get me started. I just want to say three quick things.

First, I am a climate change skeptic but I am not against reducing pollution. Asking ridiculous questions about the exact temperature drop which will result from the carbon tax in forty years time is not helpful to the discussion. Nor are tongue in cheek references to taxing volcanoes. Second, Australia is not going out on its own with a carbon tax. That is wrong. Other countries have had carbon taxes for years. Third, Julia Gillard lied about the carbon tax. Big deal! Politicans lie frequently. Either directly or by diversion, obsfucation or omission. Sometimes they just change their minds. God forbid. Twenty odd years ago, I didn't want to ever own a house, nor did I want to finish high school. I didn't see value in those things at the time. Surprise, surprise, now I do.

Stop whining about the lie about the carbon tax. Stop whining about the tax. Stop whining Australia. Just lay back, close your eyes and I promise you won't feel a thing.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Riding Bulldogs

In 1999, after the war (the war between Newscorp and the Australian Rugby League)the South Sydney Rabbitohs were excluded from the premier Rugby League competition in the world by the new administrators of the game. I will never forget seeing the reaction of the fans to that monumental decision. It was as though a family member had been murdered. One image is indelibly printed on my mind: that of a Rabbitohs fan, dressed in full club colours and regalia, as though he had raided the supporters shop before being filmed, facing the camera and crying, blubbering over the demise of his beloved footy team. I could not believe all the snot and hot tears. This was a staggering manifestation of an illogical yet undeniable emotional attachment.

In 1979, aged 11, I fled the living room of a family member in horror and disgust as my team, the Canterbury Bulldogs, crashed to an insurmountable 17-0 deficit at half time of that year's Grand Final against the St.George Dragons. In the 1994 season decider, I spent more time in the toilet than in front of the television as the Bulldogs fumbled and bumbled their way to a shellacking at the hands of the Canberra Raiders. I have been nervous before matches and exhausted after them. I have paced the floor, groaned and complained, lambasted the opposition, the referees, and my own players. I have punched the air in triumph and punched pillows in anguish. I have experienced the thrill of victory, and the devastation of loss. For 32 years I have been riding the rollercoaster, following my team through the highs and the lows. From Premiership glory to the ignominy of the Wooden Spoon.

When I watch the Bulldogs play, I fall into another dimension. I escape the real world to live, albeit temporarily, in a fantasy universe where a sporting contest has eternal significance. The thrill is addictive, the tension is electric, the pain is real. I lose myself in the epic battle in which superb athletes brutally collide with each other as they struggle for supremacy.

This year, 2011, the Canterbury Bulldogs are embarrassing me with their onfield performances. Not only losing but playing poorly. They are a shadow of a football team, a spiritless gaggle of brightly uniformed geese. Nevertheless they will remain my team. I won't dump them, I won't walk way. I am committed. They are a habit I cannot break. As much a part of me as my job and my church, and all the other interests I have in life.

Having said that, you will never find me shedding tears over them. I will never plummet into a pit of depression because of what they do, or don't do. It took some time, but I have learned a little perspective. I love the joyride I get to take every footy season courtesy of my team. For eighty minutes, the suffering is contained and focused, the emotion is raw, there is only the battle. There are cheers and boos ans sometimes too personal abuse. There are winners and losers, and people get hurt, but no one dies, and when it's over...it's over but only until next week, or next season. Being a fan of a football team can be heartbreaking but that's life.I love it.

When you invest yourself in something, or someone, you should expect to suffer. To live and to love is to feel pain, and in a way that makes most of us just a little bit masochistic, doesn't it?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Let the Whales Save Themselves

The mutilated and sadly deceased sperm whale which was washed ashore at Newport Beach, in Sydney recently, got me thinking about the mysterious phenomenon of whales beaching themselves. The ten metre Sperm whale at Newport needs to be moved because its rotting flesh is stinking the place out, and its blood is attracting sharks, but if it was alive when it landed, then people would have flooded the beach and worked together day and night to save it.

Scientists do not yet understand why whales beach themselves. I think their best bet is to contact Science Officer Spock, from the planet Vulcan, and ask him to communicate directly with the whales and ask them why they do it. As this is a somewhat unrealistic suggestion, we must simply accept the fact that beaching is a part of the life cycle of whales. It happens. It's a natural behaviour.

That being the case, why do we interfere? Why do we expend so much time, effort and money to move the stranded aquatic beasts back into the ocean? There must be more to it than the selfish desire to avoid putrefaction and grab a spot on the evening news.

We like whales. That's why we do it. They are the gentle giants of the seven seas. Naturally we want to save them, either from commercial hunters or self destruction, because it is inhumane to allow suffering. Even the Bible says that the righteous man is kind to his animals. Motivated by compassion, efforts to help these cuddly cetaceans are commendable.

However, there are some who take kindness to animals to extremes by placing animal welfare above human welfare. These people dispute mankind's God given dominion over the earth. They advocate vegetarianism because they say it's cruel to kill and eat animals. We should shut down entire industries and cause people to lose their jobs because cows don't die happily. Even if it is natural for whales to beach themselves, we should still try to save them.

Such people have their priorities all wrong. All the energy and passion invested in the protection of animals and other environmental causes would be much better spent on trying to eradicate human suffering and misery. Let the whales save themselves.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ash Clouds Over our Future

While the boring debate about human induced climate debate is enthusiastically participated in by zealots on both sides and dismissed by the majority of people who have more important things to worry about, the Earth, this planet we temporarily inhabit, keeps delivering reminders of its frightening power, and absolute disregard for us.

There have been more earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, and a volcano in Chile which would not have made the news in our part of the world but for the tragic fact that it messed up the travel plans of tens of thousands of air commuters and holiday makers. That damn ash cloud also cost the airlines a lot of moolah: Australian airlines reported losses of around one hundred million dollars. Rainy days ruin picnics, and cause the cancellation of junior football matches. Windy days make people crazy. Cold snaps mean we fire up our various heating devices, as do heatwaves necessitate more power for cooling. Electricity costs money and, is mostly generated by coal fired power stations in Australia. Shame on us. Why can't we control the elements and live more low or zero cost, 'minimal impact on the environment' lifestyles?

The Chilean ash cloud is a curiosity to me. I was fascinated to learn that it is largely composed of bits of pulverised rock and glass, and amazed when it circumnavigated the globe and then did it again. Cool. My interstate plans were not interrupted. I didn't lose any money or any sleep. It had no effect whatsoever on my life other than the fact that I had to listen to, and watch dull, repetitive news reporting on the issue. Usually we get a break in the news cycle between stories of similar or identical bent, but within a week of the first load of tripe about the ash cloud and the poor little aeroplanes which couldn't fly through or around or under it, we received more of the same riveting coverage delivered by beautiful reporters standing in airports.

We care most about what directly affects us most. While it is easy to feel great sadness and genuine empathy for a woman in Japan whose whole family was killed and her house completely destroyed by the tsunami, that emotion is nothing compared with the grief the woman herself feels and will always feel because of what the Earth did to her. This is not intended to be a lesson on perspective. Perspective lessons suck! I'm into sympathy and empathy. Telling someone that there are people worse off than them, is patronizing and insulting. My point is that we cannot totally control what happens to us, and there are times when we should just accept that fact, and stop trying so hard to be masters of our own destinies.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review of The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (Angus & Robertson Classics)The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith by Thomas Keneally

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was the second time I read The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith. Loved it again. I felt such incredible empathy for Jimmie and anger towards the racist mean spirited pigs who exploited him. I wanted Jimmie to succeed but there was in the book, and in life I suspect, a sense that somethings are inevitable and that good does not always triumph over evil.



Keneally is a terrific writer, I love his books. The way he writes, understating and overstating at the same time with crisp, vivid descriptions of people and places, and pulsing narratives that bubble with historical authenticity. The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is deservedly considered an Australian classic.



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Saturday, June 18, 2011

In Support of People Swapping

I know he is the Opposition Spokesman for Immigration but could somebody please shut Scott Morrison up. Him and his boss, the chronically disagreeable and compulsively anti everything, Tony Abbott, are barking up the wrong tree with their back to the future solution to the problem of the marauding hordes of asylum seekers who are invading our shores.

The government said no to using Nauru again as a processing centre but Tony Abbott went there anyway. Screaming Scott is off to Malaysia soon to find fellow oppositionists, co conspirators against a common sense approach to reality. Of course he will find many of like mind, with respect to the yet to be signed agreement between Malaysia and Australia for a people swap. There are many here who oppose the idea. The parliament is split which accurately reflects public opinion.

Despite all the whining from alleged humanitarians, the Australian government seems determined to push on with the arrangement, and the official word from Malaysia is also positive. I say, good on the government. The stupid and ubiquitous polls tell a tale of woe for the Prime Minister but she remains dogged. Hoo - bloody - ray! John Howard did not let even worse numbers in the polls deter him from introducing the GST, and that's exactly what I want from my leaders. Not populism. Leadership.

The message to people smugglers and the desperate unfortunates they are trying to "help" is that if you make it to Australia, and think you've made it to the front of the queue, think again. Here's a one way ticket to Malaysia where they use canes for discipline in their gaols, sorry, detention centres, and by the way you'll probably never reach Australia.

Here's a few alternatives to the government's people swapping policy. Locate the asylum seekers in their rickety boats and murder them. Sink the boats and let them drown, or shoot them all and then sink the boat. Or let the boats reach our shores and then kill the queue jumpers. Maybe we could, let them come, and lock them up for the term of their natural lives. After all, Australia was founded as a penal colony. How about this one? Let them come, provide with them with truck loads of cash and let them disappear into their ethnic communities.

This is the one I like the most: send them to the back of the queue in Malaysia, and allow, in exchange, 4000 genuine refugees, who have already been processed, to migrate to Australia. Then watch them make a wonderful contribution to our society as have 99.9% of all the refugees and migrants who have come before them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Cows Win

I'm disappointed with the government's decision to suspend live cattle exports to Indonesia. I think they are weak for caving in to whining vegetarians and animalarians (I invented that word) who have more compassion for dumb animals than human beings.

With no thought for the impact on Australian families whose livelihoods have been stripped away with a stroke of an overly-sensitive-to-public-opinion bureaucratic pen, the Federal government has made yet another mistake. What about a phasing out of trade with Indonesia if they cannot improve the treatment of cattle in their slaughterhouses? What about allowing time for a shift to more humane slaughter methods? What about insisting that some of the aid money we send to Indonesia be used to buy stun guns for their abottoirs, and education programs on how to use them? What about some common sense?

What about people? What about compensation for businesses and families affected by this knee jerk reaction? The Prime Minister says they'll continue to consult the industry. How impressive. More consultation. What about Indonesian families who will be forced to pay higher prices for meat due to the sudden drop in supply? Who cares right? As long as those four legged factories are looked after, and the government doesn't have to put up with protests from bleeding heart animal lovers.

review of Good News, Bad news

Good News, Bad NewsGood News, Bad News by David Wolstencroft

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Good News, Bad News is a story about a very complicated relationship between two spies, Charlie and George. Author, Wolstencroft paints a dark picture of the destructive nature of duplicity. It makes you wonder about those who lie because they have to, because it's their job to lie. It presents a credible challenge to the idea that honesty is the best policy. Sometimes people are faced with painful and difficult choices about what they reveal about themselves.



On the negative side, I found Charlie a bit annoying occasionally and I wasn't sure at times whether I was reading comedy or serious fiction. Overall, Good News Bad News didn't really grab me and shake me, but I enjoyed it and recommend it.It was a fast paced story with lots of twists and surprises. I liked that, and the slow reveal of back story. I also enjoyed the developing friendship between Charlie and George.







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Friday, June 3, 2011

Prevent Cruelty to Australian Families

60% of Australia's live cattle exports go to Indonesia where, we have learned this week, they are being inhumanely treated on slaughterhouse floors: stabbed multiple times, garroted with blunt blades, and tormented, before dying to feed the voracious appetite of our large northern neighbor.

Now that many Australians have seen what goes on in Indonesian abbatoirs, courtesy of the Four Corners report, the cry of outrage is shaking the walls of parliament. What do the people want? A ban on live animal export trade. But should we turn our back on a $351 million dollar trade arrangement to prevent the suffering of the innocent bovines? Should we sacrifice Australian jobs for the sake of the poor cows? How far should we go to protect these loveable four legged factories?

Actually, the answer is simple. Blame the backward, cruel Muslims, and wail about how evil they are, and then start a war against some terrorist organisation in Afghanistan, and tell everyone we are fighting for the cows in Indonesia.

I do believe that animals should be killed humanely. Cruelty is ungodly, but I'm a bit tired of the excessive moral outrage people express when animals suffer, compared with the relative silence when people do. By the way, if you think that some cows aren't mistreated right here in our backyard, then think again, and, may I suggest you re-examine your priorities. Did I hear someone say hypocrisy?

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Weariness of Exhaustion

Tiger Airways have a problem with their aircrew flying tired. So tired in fact, that they can't be bothered reporting their weariness to the supervisors. According to Captain Tim Berry, who is the Director of Operations for Tiger, crew who were fatigued sometimes lacked the energy even to fill out a report.

How many times have you uttered the words, "whatever", in response to some suggestion that you didn't understand or like, or to some unpleasant or unsatisfactory situation in which you found yourself? Rather than fight, we sometimes simply throw up our hands and surrender. Why? Because we are tired. We've had enough. It can get so bad that we can't even find the strength to protest. Ever heard the saying, no use complaining because no one listens anyway. Why waste breath on a pointless gripe which won't change or achieve anything? What's the point?

Many people adopt this pose as they confront life. They lay down and accept what life dishes out to them because opposition requires too much effort and promises too little compensation. Others are engaged in battle all the time. For them conflict is the reason for existence. Winston Churchill's immortal speech about fighting them on the beaches etcetera is engraved in their mind. To live is to fight.

While the warrior group may be extremists, they are closer to the truth. Life is a war and there are things worth fighting for. The trick is to figure out which battles to wage. There are some causes which should not be championed and some enemies which should not be pursued. Marked by human frailty and brokenness, we cannot fight everyone and everything, but neither should we lie down and allow life to kick us in the ribs and stomp on our heads.

Wisely choose your battles, and carefully select your allies because no one has ever won a war by themselves. And if you get worn out, make sure you tell someone. And get some rest!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review: Hit List by Lawrence Block

Hit List (Keller, #2)Hit List by Lawrence Block

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Having read Hope to Die previously, I expected a bit from this Block novel. Unfortunately I was disappointed. I didn't find the KC, Keller, believable. Perhaps because he was not backgrounded. A killer without a conscience who collects stamps. I just din't get him. A lot of the dialogue, especially between Dot and Keller was trite and boring and a bit try hard, trying to be funny that is. As for Dot, I didn't like her at all.

The narrative kept me interested but it was too punctuated by other stuff and the ending was anti-climatic which I think was a comment of mine about Hope to Die. One thing I did really like and appreciate was the lack of detail in relation to Keller's hits. It made the violence in the novel seem...I can't think of what I want to say. Anyway, overall, not such a good read.



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Friday, May 20, 2011

Life is not a Roundabout

I remember when that wonderful innovation called "roundabouts" were introduced to our roads and we, as children riding bicycles, considered them a wonderful novelty. There was a time before roundabouts, chicanes, speed humps, pedestrian refuges, and other so called traffic calming devices. In that marvelous era, roads were wide, footpaths were narrow and street furniture was not even a twinkle in the eye of an under-worked town planner.

I seriously doubt whether any of these things are anywhere near as effective as their designers intended, but they do provide an excellent series of analogies for life and the human condition.

Roundabout signs are triangular in shape for a very good reason. Give Way signs are also triangular. As the former came into being along time before the latter the message is clear. Cars approaching roundabouts are supposed to slow down and give way to traffic already in the roundabout. That is the rule. That is the correct way to use a roundabout.

I have observed, and you probably have as well, two other ways drivers use roundabouts. First, they slow on approach, as one should, then they look to the right and when it's clear, they proceed. They don't look to the left or even directly ahead sometimes. In life, it's okay to be cautious, quite sensible in fact, and it's not a bad thing to only look one way...unless it's the wrong way.

The second group approach at speed, ignore the give way sign and drive straight through, oblivious to any other motorists. People get hurt by other people who tear inconsiderately and recklessly through life.

Just because other people have successfully negotiated roundabouts time after time does not mean they are doing it properly. It's likely to be more a case of good luck rather than good management. Look around you. Other people may seem to successfully handle life and its inherent and inevitable problems but looks can be deceiving. And even if they are, it does not automatically follow that they are living life right in God's eyes.

Life is not a roundabout but there is a wrong way and a right way to live.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Sauce of all Problems

Adam Jonathan Meyer was ordered by a judge to pay compensation to Gordon Price for repeatedly squirting him with soy sauce in a Brisbane shopping mall. Meyer pleaded guilty to assault, and had apparently attacked price on other occasions in the same way, although Price said he did not know Meyer.

In London, a dissatisfied customer tried to break into a pub to prove the chef had used HP sauce instead of the home made chili sauce promised on the menu. During the dinner an argument erupted over the authenticity of the sauce. Infuriated, the man and his wife, both professional chefs, stormed out of the restaurant. Several hours later, the man, armed with a hammer, returned to the restaurant wearing a balaclava, black gloves and a combat jacket, intending to break in and discover whether the kitchen had HP sauce in it or not. His attempt failed and he was fined $210 for damaging the door of the pub.

These stories are funny but they demonstrate a major flaw in human nature. Everyday all over the world, people are going to 'war' over such unbelievably trivial things. It's no wonder none of the serious problems society faces can be solved when people struggle to sort out minor disagreements peacefully.

Romans 12:17, 18-21 says, "Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all...do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

The source of all problems is our failure to live by these words.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

An Eye for an Eye

"With the death of Osama bin Laden, the world is now a safer and better place."

This may be the most ridiculous statement I've ever heard or will ever hear. I know, as president of the United States, Barrack Obama had to say it but when I heard it, I almost laughed out loud.

The 10 year old shameful war against terror which has already cost thousands of lives will continue unabated despite the assassination of the the world's most wanted man. The world is not safer or better. In fact, it may, at least in the short term, be even more dangerous for the enemies of Islamic fundamentalists. Revenge is sure to be high on the agenda of Allah's warriors.

Did you know that Osama bin Laden was found many years ago and could have easily been killed then? The order was not given.* How did you feel when you heard the news that the Al Qaeda leader was dead? Did you feel differently when you learned that despite being unarmed, he was shot in the head and murdered? Did it make you feel a little uncomfortable to see video footage of the U.S. President watch the assassination of bin Laden live on a television? What about the news that his body had been quickly removed then dumped in the sea? Does it make you scratch your head to learn that he was found in a million dollar, high walled compound in a militarized Pakistani city? Do you wonder if perhaps Osama has simply moved to Graceland?

Osama bin Laden achieved exactly what he wanted: he changed the world, made us fearful, and died a victorious martyr's death. Even with his violent demise, he has defeated us again by evading true justice. An eye for an eye is not justice.

* Michael Scheuer was head of the CIA's Osama bin Laden Tracking Unit. He was interviewed by Richard Fidler on the ABC radio program Conversations, in 2007.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Saints with Parkinson's Disease

Leaving aside the fact that the transformation of mortals into patron saints who can be prayed to, that is, what the Roman Catholic church calls beatification, is not possible, I want to say something about JP II.

By most accounts, Karol Wojtyla, a.k.a. Pope John Paul II was a great man. A popular and influential leader of one of the world's major religions. A man of God, highly respected and loved, and rightly so.

His recent beatification places him one step away from being canonized. This means he will be officially recognized as a saint. The Bible says that all Christ followers are saints. The 'b' word and the 'c' word are made up words which honour certain members of the church as greater than others. Nasty. I don't like that. I wonder what God thinks of it?

Anyway, to be beatified, JP II, had to have a genuine verified miracle accredited to him. His miracle was to cure a woman of Parkinson's disease. There is no medical cure for this cruel disease, and the irony is, that not many years after healing this woman, JP II himself was killed by the same scourge.

Saints and sinners alike are born to die and then to face judgement. So it is written. So it is.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Frog in Love

Why do people feel the need to criticize things which are good and nice? Why do we, as humans, tend so often to tear down rather than build up? Why is a negative thought always so readily available? Why can't my dog make up his mind whether he wants to be inside or outside? Why are we so intent on dying rather than living?

Perhaps you might like to answer those questions but I'm not going to because a man and a woman were married yesterday. William and Kate are in love, and on the 29th day of April in Westminster Abbey, they exchanged vows and, in the sight of God, their family and friends, and a couple of billion spectators, became husband and wife. Naturally this wedding was not an average nuptial ceremony. It cost truckloads of cash, and attracted huge amounts of attention and why shouldn't it have? A prince married the woman he loves and she has become a princess. Who doesn't love a fairytale?

The vision of the beautifully happy and totally in love young couple that I watched on my television screen last night melted my heart. As for the extravagance of the occasion, the opulence of the setting, the cost of security, and the political irrelevance of royalty...so what? Hear me loud and clear: it was lovely and delightful. Yes, I used those adjectives willingly, and I am not ashamed.

I see nothing wrong with people celebrating love. If you have ever been in love or are in love right now, then you know how all consuming the passion is. You know the dizziness, the butterflies, the joy. You know how love makes you crazy and gives you strength. Like the Frog who fell in love with the Duck*, you know that love crosses all divides of race and religion. You know it is worth celebrating, and if you had as much money as the British royal family, you would spend it without a second thought to tell the world how magnificent and wonderful love is, especially your love.

Given a choice, I would not have watched the wedding instead of the football last night. However, I was happy the match was delayed so that I could see William and Kate in love and getting married because it made me feel good. I pray their love and happiness never ends.

* Frog in Love, by Max Velthuijs, Anderson Press (1989)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fighting Losing Battles

Sometimes you can try your hardest to do something but it won't be good enough to achieve success. Sometimes you can play as well as you possibly can, but it won't be good enough to avoid defeat. We may fight with everything we have, with strength, bravery, skill and doggedness, but sometimes everything is not enough. Nobody wins every battle they fight. There are some wars which simply cannot be won, and some enemies which cannot be defeated. There are times when we need someone else to fight for us.

This brings us to the common theme of Easter and Anzac Day: sacrifice. Our soldiers fight our battles for us and many of them lose their lives. In the great wars of the past many have died to save others. Our troops are still dying as they fight unwinnable wars. Without wishing to cause offence though, I believe Easter is of greater importance because of the nature of the enemy, and the totality of the victory.

We are fighting a losing battle against ourselves, our selfishness, our pride, our greed, and our brokenness. Death is the certain outcome of this war and the casualties are mounting. Look around you, listen to people's stories, learn of the pain and suffering which defines our lives. We do not have the resources to win this fight. We are far too weak. We need some else to fight for us.

Jesus Christ sacrificed himself so that those who believe in him could have their sins forgiven, and be healed of their pain. He was broken so that we could be fixed. Three days later, he rose from the grave having defeated the ultimate enemy, death itself, and in doing so he made true, meaningful and eternal life possible.

If you are tired of battling alone, struggling through one war after another. If you are on the verge of surrendering because of exhaustion and hopelessness, hear the words of your saviour, Jesus Christ: "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Our Men Are Afraid

Some fool over in Afghanistan, a local politician or something, added his two cents to our current debate about allowing women in the Australian Defense Forces to serve in frontline positions. Obviously an ignorant sexist with a flare for being offensive, he said that we must be considering women for combat roles because our men are afraid. Fair enough, this may have been a juicy example of hyperbolic rhetoric but it really annoyed me. What a stupid thing to say when our men, our soldiers, are dying in his God forsaken country to try and secure a peaceful future for them.

The re-ignited public discussion about women in combat roles is also stupid. As with just about everything kicked around in the forum of the vox populi, it is largely drivel. People have a right to their opinions but we should all be aware that there is a difference between points of view which are informed by relevant knowledge and/or experience, and hot air fuelled by ignorance and prejudice.

Women and men are not the same but they can do the same things. The only pre-requisite for employment in a particular profession, in this case, the armed forces, should be a person's ability to do the job. Are they physically, intellectually and emotionally capable of executing their duties? The presence of a penis between the candidate's legs, or lack thereof is not a relevant criterion.

Speaking of penises: have you heard the one about how women on the front line may get raped if captured? Men get raped too. What about that women are too soft and they might not be able to handle the terror of combat? Men have had their insides ripped out, literally and metaphorically, ever since they first raised arms against one another after they were expelled from Paradise. What about the one that says men will feel overly protective of the females in their unit? I believe that the bonds that exist between members of a combat unit are unbreakable; thicker than blood in some cases.

I don't know anything about war other than what I read, listen to, and watch. I've been to the War Memorial, and I've felt the intensity of overwhelming emotions when I think of what has been sacrificed by our armed forces, but I have never experienced it. Saying that I know about war is like stating I understand brain surgery because I watched a edited version of it on RPA.

To say that I admire the bravery of people who go into armed combat is such an understatement that I feel embarrassed to write it. The debate about whether courageous women should serve on the frontline is best left to people who know what they are talking about. Ignorance, like that demonstrated by our Afghan friend, is not helpful.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Straight Shooting

I am embarrassed sometimes when I hear our political leaders speak. In fact, I don't think many of them deserve to be called leaders. Let's just call them politicians and we all know what politicians are like, don't we? What a tragedy that we live in a country where we don't believe what our politicians say. What a shame that we laughingly accept truisms like, all politicians lie and break promises. They can't even lie straight in bed. Not only do they lie and say whatever is politically expedient at the time, but they can't even do it convincingly. If you expect an honest, direct answer to a question, then you are dreaming, living in a fantasy world where politicians say what they mean, and mean what they say.

I know that not all of the current crop of politicians are crooked doublespeakers, and I also know that many who come across that way, are probably different in private. They may well be honest, passionate people who ooze integrity but I want to see those qualities in their public life. I want leaders who are not allergic to straight answers, not afraid to say what they think, and who actually act instead of mouthing empty rhetoric.

With incessant and totally justified bagging of our politicians a completely normal, and totally acceptable national pastime, I want to break away and offer some praise. This week, two men stood tall. Take a bow, Federal Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, and NSW Minister for Roads, Duncan Gay.

Leaving aside the issue of the secret filming and broadcasting of some horizontal folk dancing by an army cadet, I want to rap Stephen Smith for speaking very strongly against how the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) is handling the matter. Until his intervention, the decision by the female cadet at the centre of the maelstrom to go public had left her bullied and isolated without any offer of counselling, and under implied orders from her superiors that she would have to apologize publicly to her fellow cadets for embarrassing them. She was then hauled before a disciplinary committee on unrelated charges. Mr Smith described the decision to conduct her hearing at this time as either inappropriate, insensitive or completely stupid. Yes, he used the words completely stupid. Bravo! Furthermore, he refused to give his support to the ADFA Commandant. Full marks for straight shooting and direct intervention.

Newly appointed Minister for Roads, Duncan Gay, was interviewed on radio during the the week in relation to the government's plan to audit the state's fixed speed cameras. In response to public concerns that speed cameras are revenue raisers and not safety devices, the government wants to know factually, whether or not fixed speed cameras have reduced accident rates. People feel that many of the fixed cameras are simply in place to raise money by catching drivers unawares in tricky locations, for example, the bottom of hills, around bends or in multiple speed zones. Said Duncan Gay, 'it's hard to argue against that, and that's why we are independently auditing the system' He also said that having marked police cars on our roads was in many instances a much more acceptable option. Common sense and genuine empathy with the public? Minister Gay sounds like a representative of the people. Hats off to you sir.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Great Expectations

School awards ceremonies, a.k.a presentation nights are notoriously dull. Dutiful yet proud parents rock up to these events wishing they could fast forward all the other bits to get to the moment when their child receives an accolade. Prepared for boredom as a succession of names are read out, and ready for lame attempts at humour from the emcee, they endure the momentary pain for the somewhat longer lasting pleasure of seeing their child's achievements formally recognised.

These occasions almost always have a highlight or two. I remember one ceremony I attended in which a Year 6 boy come up to receive an award for maths and was audibly heard to say, 'But I hate maths!'

The other highlight on that night, was watching the same boy, and a Year 6 girl snagging nine or ten awards between them. With academic achievements, sports awards and library service recognition, these two were clearly the stars of the show.

I recall thinking at the time that they were the big frogs preparing to jump out of the pond of primary school and into the lake of high school the following year. I wonder how well they did. What sort of expectations would have been placed upon them? By themselves? Their peers? Their parents? How did they respond?

Most parents want their children to do well at school or at sport, but some mothers and fathers expect big things. Early success is a portent of future greatness. The eager anticipation that these children will produce glorious fruit as older children, and then as adults can hang above their heads like a storm cloud. Some parents attempt to live their lives again through their children to try to somehow atone for their own perceived failures, or lack of success. The weight of these often unrealistic and unfair expectations crushes many young spirits by sucking the fun out of their lives.

God does not place such expectations on his children. As a parent who expects great things from God, my expectations for my children revolve around them finding meaning and satisfaction in living in obedience to God's will, and in them learning to love God and others more than themselves. Who they are matters more to me than what they do. God is more interested in our characters than our achievements but for those who follow Him, and love like Him, the awards ceremony in Heaven will be the most awesome party of all time. I hope to see you there.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tamper Proof Seals

Have you noticed how ridiculously hard it can be these days to get what you want out of a bottle, a jar or a box? Whether it's food, medicine or simply a new toy, the glues, plastic and wires of packaging, or the wickedly engineered variety of tamper proof seals and caps; the everyday act of opening these vessels has been rendered a challenge of biblical proportions.

The manufacturers of these various products design their containers and packages to be difficult to open because they want to ensure that the only person who gets what's inside, is the person for whom the product is intended. Sometimes packaging is intensely intricate to protect the contents during travel. Fair enough, but sometimes it's so hard to get into what you want that you wonder if it's going to be truly worth the effort.

In the case of food and medicine, tamper proof seals are used to protect the contents from contamination. To ensure it's purity. When you buy a drink for example, and break the seal as you unscrew the cap, you can be reasonably sure that the liquid inside the bottle is exactly what the producer intended you to consume. No hidden nasties.

Because God is holy, nothing impure or sinful can enter his presence and so, in a sense, Heaven is sealed against contamination, and entering it requires much more than any mere human attempt to break the seal. You cannot force your way into heaven either by sheer volume of good deeds or by an extreme effort of will power or wishful thinking. Your "goodness" will never be sufficient.

The only way in is through faith; faith in the redeeming power of Christ whose body was broken and blood shed that we might be able to have a relationship with God. It was our Maker's plan that the tamper proof seal of Heaven could only be broken by a violent and sacrificial act. Jesus broke the seal by his death and resurrection. He made a way for us to enter the perfectly pure peace of Heaven.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Headbanging with Wolves

The story of a Norwegian boy who frightened off a pack of wolves who were surrounding him by blasting them with a heavy metal track, made me think about the significant times in my life when music in general, or a particular song, has been inextricably linked.

Every time I hear 'I See Red' by Splitz Enz, I recall sitting next to my mum in the car when another car rear ended her as she waited to turn into the driveway of my uncle's house. Hearing Tears for Fears always makes me think of an old girlfriend. Songs by my boyhood bands, Australian legends, like Midnight Oil and The Angels, transport me back in time. I associate Stryper with my early years as a Christian when I abandoned all my heavy metal music, including giving away my 15 album strong KISS collection. It was time when I needed to hear 'To Hell with the Devil', by Stryper rather than 'we worship you Satan' by Possessed.

At different times and in different situations, the lyrics of particular songs can be remarkably poignant. "Wherever you Go" by Richard Marx is our song. The words were so appropriate as my wife and I spent most of our courtship separated by thousands of kilometres. In this song we heard our own voices, our emotions, our thoughts expressed better than we could have done ourselves.

This is the real power of music: to connect to the heart of the listener. Regardless of the style of music, (everyone knows metal rules anyway), the songs I love, speak to me. They provide words when I cannot find them. Have you ever listened to the lyric of a song and thought it was written for you, or to you, or about you?

Sometimes these kinds of high impact songs can be helpful, they provide happiness, empathy and even comfort, but sometimes they can be harmful. How many times can you listen to a song before you know the lyric, and at what point do you believe it? When does it become a part of you forever? When does it transform your mind? When does it convince you? When does it drag you into dark places and lock you up? When does it seditiously plant lies in your mind?

When wolves surround you, how will you scare them away? Are the songs in your head powerful enough to defeat your enemies, or are they eroding your will, weakening your resolve, leaving your vulnerable. Hugely popular heavy metal band, Disturbed, have called their current tour, Music as a Weapon. I rest my case.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Abstract Distractions

A man and a woman, finding their way into love, meet each other at an art gallery, and they spend the afternoon wandering around gazing at paintings on walls.The art they see generates discussion, and evokes some mirth, as they learn more about each other, in a very indirect and non threatening way.This is a cliche which belongs in the middle of a romantic comedy but there is something profoundly true about how people react to art, and both find and reveal themselves through it.

Yesterday I was at the Art Gallery of New South Wales with my daughter. We came upon a wall size portrait which took my breath away. I stood and stared at it for a long time, fascinated by the way the family in the painting seemed so lifelike yet very ethereal at the same time. The artist, Zhang Xiaogang, had captured the watery sheen of the human eye yet there was a strong unreality about the faces. Maybe it was the size of the portrait. Maybe it was the haunting shades of grey Xiaogang used to depict the husband, wife and child. Whatever it was, it was magical. Kiwi artist Godfrey Miller, used straight lines and colour to amazing effect in his Nude and the Moon. I was entranced as I imagined the passionate dedication required to bring his vision to life on canvas. If I could afford such masterpieces, I would love to hang them in my home.

On the other hand, there were paintings which left us shaking our heads and suppressing laughter at why they should be considered worthy of a place on the wall of our state gallery. I was very disappointed with Brett Whitely's half hearted attempt to paint a shower rose in one of his works, and Tony Tuckson, needs to explain to an art heathen like myself, what he had in mind when he brushed five vertical strokes on a canvas and called it Five White Lines.

I appreciated the hours and hours of labour that must have gone in to the production of these works of art. I admired the dedication to craft, and I could feel the intensity with which the artists had painted. Some of the works were eye catching, clever, and thought provoking. I was taken on a journey as a strolled the polished floor of the gallery. It was beautiful and I was awestruck at the creation of such sublime artistry.

Then I thought of God who spoke this magnificent earth, and the mind numbingly massive diversity of life upon it, into existence, and I was humbled.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Illegal. Immoral or Both?

Apparently generous Commonwealth bank ATMs were dispensing more money than requested by customers earlier this week. The bank said people were deliberately overdrawing their accounts, and that this was possible because the ATM's were offline, and therefore not connected to the bank's database.For those collecting the bonus cash, it must have seemed like a miracle but banks don't give money away. It's not like Monopoly where a bank error in your favour can net you a cool $200. The beneficiaries of the surprise cash have been told to return the money. Fraud squad is involved, and advising people that keeping money which does not belong to them is a crime which may result in prosecution and a 10 year jail term. That seems a bit over the top, doesn't it? These people aren't criminals...or are they?

You can be fined for littering, but is it immoral? It's against the law to use a handheld mobile phone while you're driving, but it's okay to eat, drink, smoke, have a conversation, or listen to the radio - or even do all five things at once. Is talking on the phone while driving immoral? Is it even criminal?

The possession and/or use of heroin is a crime even though it is less harmful to the body than tobacco which is a legal product. Slander is illegal but it's not a crime to assassinate someone's character in a secret whisper. You can be fined for staying ten minutes too long in a parking space. It's illegal to exceed the speed limit but you can't be fined for overstepping the boundaries of truth in order to manipulate somebody, or their opinion of you. Telling lies is, in many instances, perfectly legal. It's not against the law to be greedy or selfish or to fornicate or to commit adultery, but it is illegal to cut down a tree on your own property without permission.

Consider these many examples and ask yourself the question: Is every illegal act also an immoral act? Or try this one: Should all immoral acts be illegal?

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Suffering is Greater than Yours

Two tragic situations weigh heavily on my mind like crushing weights upon my back: the earthquake in Christchurch and the revolution in Libya. The only thing these have in common though, is death.

With 113 confirmed deaths and 228 still missing, presumed deceased, the violent indiscriminate wrath of nature manifested itself yet again in New Zealand recently. Aftershocks continue. There is fear, shock and great sadness. I feel it from afar but I'm not there. It's not my suffering. I cannot experience it, nor can I imagine it.

Inspired by their Arab brothers and sisters in Tunisia and Egypt, the people of Libya began a revolution. Their leader, the despot Gadaffi responded to calls for his departure and a transition to democracy with angry defiance and bloodshed. He went on state television and called his own people cockroaches. He told them he would send soldiers to hunt them down and kill them. Libyan protesters, who were doing something which we take for granted in our free nation, were shot mercilessly in the streets by hired guns. Firing from the ground, and from the air in helicopter gunships, mercenaries murdered innocent people. Libya is closed. Nobody really knows what's going on there and we have seen very few pictures of the carnage. I feel great rage towards the madman Gadaffi, and tremendous sorrow for those who have suffered death and injury. It will continue but I'm not there. I cannot experience it or imagine it.

When we are suffering we tell ourselves that there is always someone worse off than us. It's a way of reassuring ourselves. Our loved ones, or even acquaintances, may offer similar platitudes in an effort to rescue us from despair or from the mire of self pity. But no one knows a person's suffering better than that person themselves. Making comparisons with other people's tragedies may provide a quantum of solace but it doesn't necessarily ease the pain or remove the source of suffering.

I long for the day when suffering and sorrow will cease and every tear will be wiped away, but until then the only encouragement I can offer is that it won't last forever. Even if it lasts a lifetime. Even if it seems to be endless, suffering will end one day. While we wait for that glorious release from this prison, let's be wise and sensitive, and above all gracious, kind and loving. It's not hard. In one way or another, we are all suffering together.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Survival of the Meekest

A wise and Godly man once encouraged his readers to think positively, to dwell on excellent and pure things, to ponder righteous deeds, to praise generosity and celebrate goodness and kindness.

This man, Paul, was a follower of arguably the most influential figure in history, Jesus Christ. In perhaps his most famous sermon, the one on the Mount, Jesus told his audience that the meek would inherit the earth. Jesus disappointed many people with his talk of meeknessweakness because they wanted strength. They wanted displays of divine power, they wanted direct intervention to relive their suffering.

The so called Enlightened One, a.k.a. Buddha, correctly identified suffering as a universal characteristic of human existence. He was also right, at least partially, in saying that suffering comes from desire. Jesus clarified the issue by pointing out that war has its origins in illicit desire, and that much suffering in this world results from individuals desiring things they shouldn't and suing whatever means they deem necessary to satisfy their lust. Greed is, nine times out of ten, bad.

People who believe in a personal God, expect that deity to help them, to bless them, to rescue them from danger, to alleviate their suffering. These people know, however, that their God does not usually step in to fight their battles. This adds to their pain and in some instances causes them to attempt all manner of "home remedies" and some of these cures are worse than the disease. Desperate times may require desperate measures but do we have the strength to fight and be victorious in all these battles.Are we strong enough in our selves to overcome all our suffering?

From Darwinism comes the adage "survival of the fittest". If you are strong you will make it through, if you are weak you will die. The strong prey upon the weak in this dog eat dog world. Dog eat dog doesn't exactly conjure up pleasant images in my mind. I see nothing admirable or excellent in people devouring one another for personal gain. The kind of self reliant strength which often gets labelled as the allegedly indomitable human spirit is not worthy of exultation, nor is it true strength.

True strength is in weakness, in the confession of dependence, in the forgiveness of failure in yourself, and the acceptance of it in others. In humility, or meekness as Jesus said. It was Paul again, who noted that God's power was made perfect in Paul's weakness. Embrace weakness and brokenness, humble yourself and be truly strong.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Give Me a Dictator

All right, I don't really want a dictator. Just because Hosni Mubarak unified and protected Egypt, made her strong, and got her out of debt and back into the Arab Alliance, does not mean that I, if I was an Egyptian citizen, would be prepared to put up with that degree of corruption, despotism and fascism. The prospect of being locked up simply for criticizing the government is not one which holds any appeal.

Australia would need to start a penal colony in the desert or on some far flung Pacific island if our government starting arresting people for bagging it. Thank God that's not the case, and I am free to write of my extreme disappointment with our political leaders.

Our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and her predecessor, Kevin Rudd spent a great deal of time talking about making tough decisions. All the government minsters do the same thing, as they dribble out the nausea inducing phrase, 'what's best for the national interest'. They don't follow through though. Lots of talk, and very little action.It happens at the state level as well. They make some big announcement, they encounter opposition, they say they will resist that opposition and make it happen, but the criticism increases, the political heat rises, and they back down.

Kevin Rudd gave the states an ultimatum on health. Sort yourselves out, he said, or I will. When he first talked about nationalising the health care system, I could have hugged him. There is insufficient time here to go in to the details as to why this was and still is, not only a great idea, but absolutely necessary. The point is when the deadline arrived the Prime Minster caved in and went for a namby pamby compromise which he tried to sell to the public as some sort of revolution. It was nothing of the sort, but it was at least a start. Julie Gillard announced this week that the government has decided to ditch that allegedly revolutionary deal. Why? Too much opposition from the states. Who wears the pants in this country, Julia?

Politicians speak as though their every word, tone of voice and facial expression will become the subject of intense scrutiny. That's because it will. They waste endless words justifying and explaining themselves. They can't talk straight and they can't back up their rhetoric with action. Why? No courage. They are afraid of the polls, afraid of the media, afraid of being unpopular. Tell me how many great leaders throughout human history cared about their popularity. Great leaders, I said. Whether they were good or bad men or women is beside the point. I'm talking about leadership.

Where are the true leaders; the courageous, the visionary, the passionate and the single minded? I'm so sick of poll driven, media boot licking, indecisive political leaders who talk the talk but don't walk the walk.

Monday, February 7, 2011

No talking please, I'm driving.

Last year nearly 50 000 people were fined for mobile phone offences whilst driving their cars. Everyone knows it's against the law to talk or text and everyone knows it's dangerous but 50 000 is a fair whack of naughty people. Surely that is only the tip of the iceberg. Think of all those who didn't get caught. How many did you see today?

A new study, hands up if you have had a gutful of studies, has shown that talking on your mobile phone even using a hands free system, dramatically increases your crash casualty risk. Presumably it's not the use of the hands that is the problem, but the use of the mouth, ears and brain that causes people to become distracted from the task of driving, sometimes with terrible consequences.

The response to this study has been so predictable that it makes you wonder why we needed the research done in the first place. What can we do about this newly revealed hazard? Ban all mobile phone use, including hands free.

Let's ignore the fact that any new laws will join the swollen throng of stupid, paternalistic and impractical ones already on the books. (Did you know you can be booked for leaving your car unlocked in a public place?) Let's also ignore the fact that eating, drinking and smoking are allowed in private cars as well as all sorts of other interesting pastimes like reading, and playing drums on the steering wheel,for example. Let's say it's a great idea. Anything we can do to reduce accidents, injury and loss of life is good. Right?

Wrong! Even with such a ban people will still talk and I want to know what the difference is between a conversation with a present person and a conversation with an absent person? No, any new law must ban conversation in cars all together. Actually why not ban all conversation during your favourite television show? Ban all chit chat which interferes with, either the execution of your work duty, or the enjoyment of your passive hobby, whatever it may be. What about banning all conversation that doesn't interest you? What else? Help me out here because everyone knows what the world really needs is not love and peace, or even common sense. What the world needs is more stupid laws telling us how to, or how not to live.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Aussie Spirit

I love how parochial we Australians get in times of disaster when we pull together and help each other. The never ending media coverage on the recent floods and the even more recent storm of the century, has strongly focussed on the efforts of people in assisting other people in times of need. Strangers helping strangers and neighbours helping neighbours. Everyone pitching in to alleviate the suffering and clean up the mess. And all those people who weren't able to physically help out have donated huge amounts of money. Unity in suffering.

(By the way, if you didn't give anything you are a bad Australian, an uncaring, and mean spirited person. But don't worry the flood levy might still extract your contribution.)

The Aussie spirit of helping your mate has been frequently mentioned and continually held up and celebrated as though it is unique. As though it is a thing which lives in all of us and bursts forth when required. We must feel great sorrow for people in other countries when they face disasters because the only people who rush to their rescue are Australians. And if we don't charge in to save the day then they are all damned. The only people who give money are Australians because we are the most generous people on the planet. Praise the Aussie spirit. Go Australia.

Too much? Sure but, obviously Australians aren't the only ones who help their neighbours. It does add to the feelgood vibe post catastrophe though, and that's okay. Of course, people help each other in times of need. People even risk their own lives for others. People are certainly capable of generosity, goodness and sacrificial love. This is excellent and praiseworthy but it's not some mystical Aussie Spirit, or even the so called human spirit. These characteristics that are manifested in troubled times are Godly characteristics. They originate with God. We can be generous and good and we can risk our lives for each other because that is what we were designed to do. Made in the image of our Creator who is the ultimate source of all that is good.

Let's celebrate goodness by all means but is it too much to ask that we give God some credit? Rabbitting on about alleged triumphs of the human spirit stinks of conceit when we exclude God and claim divine attributes for our pitiful selves. When was the last time you gave God a bit of glory and praise?