Saturday, 30 June 2007

Cookie Monster asks "Is me really monster?"

Tony Payne pointed me in the direction of Timothy McSweeney's Internet site recently. He wanted to show me the piece with David Caruso as the guy in CSI telling off the cat for going poo on the kitchen floor, but the one I laughed at even more was this one.

Me know. Me have problem.

Me love cookies. Me tend to get out of control when me see cookies. Me know it not natural to react so strongly to cookies, but me have weakness. Me know me do wrong. Me know it isn't normal. Me see disapproving looks. Me see stares. Me hurt inside.

I e-mailed it to Tony Wright and he liked it too.

David comments on our bookshelf

Davd M commented on the previous post that our bookshelf (made famous by yesterday's photo in the SMH) looks chockers.

It's true David. All bookcases in our house are chockers. Then there are the books I have in my office. When we lived down in Melbourne we had an entire wall of the study out back lined with shelves, and we could've fitted more then, but ever since moving back to Sydney it's all been too squeezy. I remember when the packers for our move to Sydney came to our house. All was well until they went out the back for a look-see, and then I saw the chief packer's shoulders distinctly slump.

Now I realize that if I want a book, the library is the best first option! They will mind the book for me when I'm not reading it. Although now that I've finished my Masters it may mean that my reading interests broaden out again. I may finally finish Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, on Yugoslavia; also Paul Johnson's Modern Times. Tim Booker told me that a lot of the 3RAR guys he knew loved the Flashman series, and he thought they were a terrific read too, so I may see if I can track them down.

Anyone else got any recommendations?

Friday, 29 June 2007

Lily and fifi in the paper

Adele Horin from the Sydney Morning Herald rang to ask fifi some questions.

Here's the link, they're in the paper!

No photo unfortunately, you have to buy the actual physical paper to get that. How last millennium is that!?

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Cranmer's martyrdom

I've just sent off another op-ed piece to the Daily Tele on how Australian Anglicans are level-pegging with the 'no religion' category, according to the 2006 census.

If it gets in, I will provide a link here. Meanwhile, here's a picture, with thanks to Michael Jensen, of the martyrdom of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Notice how he sticks his hand into the flame—the hand which signed the recantation of Protestant doctrines, a recantation which he recanted both by word and here, by deed.

Cussin' God

I also blog over at the Matthias Media website.

Check out a letter I wrote that ended in the Age letter editor's e-bin. And while you're there, have a look at this piece that Fiona Macdonald sent in about the aboriginal crisis.


Earlier this year in a report in the February 19 and 26 New Yorker, Jane Mayer talks about the use of torture on the TV show 24, featuring the unshakeable patriot Jack Bauer, who goes round foiling plots to nuke bits of America. According to the Parents Television Council there were 67 incidents of torture in the first 5 seasons of this show. Those who have watched it know that the torture almost always works in breaking the baddie and in getting much needed information—except with Jack, who was tortured for two years by the Chinese and has bounced back to annoy evil terrorists as if he'd experienced nothing more than an uncomfortably hot shower and too many repeats of Play School.

Some high up US army interrogation types actually went to meet with the producers of 24. Not, as you might think, to congratulate them on their patriotism.

Here are some words from one of the Army folk, Tony Lagouranis, a former interrogator in Iraq:

People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they've just seen...In Iraq, I never saw pain produce intelligence. I worked with someone who used waterboarding [an interrogation method involving the repeated near-drowning of a suspect]. I used severe hypothermia, dogs, and sleep deprivation. I saw suspects after soldiers had gone into their homes and broken their bones, or made them sit on a Humvee's hot exhaust pipes until they got third-degree burns. Nothing happened...

[Some people] gave confessions. But they just told us what we already knew. It never opened up a stream of new information...physical pain can strengthen the resolve to clam up.

The show is a bit of action based fluff and fun, if you realize you are watching fantasy. Unfortunately, many people don't—including people being trained for war in Iraq. That's why the US interrogators were complaining, and it bothers me, too.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Aboriginal troubles—my op-ed in the Daily Tele

There's been a lot of talk in recent days about the government's response to reports of Aboriginal child abuse and related issues in the Northern Territory.

I give some perspectives from the Bible here, in the Daily Telegraph.

RESPONSES to recent government action on child abuse, paedophilia, drunkenness, incest and pornography in remote Aboriginal communities in the Territory have been varied. Some have also been stupid.

popular abstract demand

By popular demand (one person asked), here is the abstract of my thesis.

Full title of thesis:


The development in Thomas Cartwright’s (1535-1603) views of church government is noted, placed in historical context, and traced with reference to primary sources. This thesis investigates how this development can be understood and explained, with a particular focus on Cartwright’s exegetical methods and theological assumptions as highlighted in his Confutation of the Rhemist Testament, an important work in the context of this controversy that has received scant scholarly attention. We are in broad sympathy with A.F. Scott Pearson’s view that Cartwright moved from being a destructive critic to a loyal, constructive and friendly reformer, and we seek to test this position and, if appropriate, establish it on a firmer basis.

A direct comparison is made between Cartwright’s early ecclesiological views, as expressed during the Admonition controversy, and his later ecclesiological views as expressed in private correspondence and in the Confutation. A similar comparison is made concerning Cartwright's implicit and explicit use of scripture, tradition and reason.

We conclude that Cartwright's essential attitude to scripture, tradition and reason did not alter, but that his moderated position can be understood in terms of his belief that scripture mandated loyalty to the Queen in matters of ecclesiological government. Pearson’s view is thus substantiated, and some suggestions made that comment on Cartwright's place within contemporary scholarship.

There you go, bush baptist!

Bob Dylan reads

From Bob's early years in New York:

Standing in this room you could take it all for a joke. There were all types of things in here, books on typography, epigraphy, philosophy, political ideologies. The stuff that could make you bugged-eyed. Books like Fox's Book of Martyrs, The Twelve Caesars, Tacitus' lectures and letters to Brutus. Pericles' Ideal State of Democracy, Thucydides' The Athenian General—a narrative which would give you chills. It was written four hundred years before Christ and it talks about how human nature is always the enemy of anything superior. Thucydides writes about how words in his time have changed from their ordinary meaning, how actions and opinions can be altered in the blink of any eye. It's like nothing has changed from his time to mine.

There were novels by Gogol and Balzac, Maupassant, Hugo and Dickens. I usually opened up some book to the middle, read a few pages and if I liked it went back to the beginning. Materia Medica (the causes and cures for diseases)—that was a good one. I was looking for the part of my education that I never got. Sometimes I'd open up a book and see a handwitten note scribbled in the front, like in Machiavelli's The Prince, there was written, "The spirit of the hustler". "The cosmopolitan man" was written on the title page in Dante's Inferno. The books weren't arranged in an particular order or subject matter. Rousseau's Social Contract was next to Temptation of St. Anthony, and Ovid's Metamorphoses, the scary horror tale, was next to the autobiography of Davy Crockett. Endless rows of books—Sophocles' book on the nature and function of the gods—why there are only two sexes. Alexander the Great's march into Persia. When he conquered Persia, in order to keep it conquered, he had all of his men marry local women. After that, he never had any trouble with the population, no uprisings or anything. Alexander knew how to get absolute control. There was Simon Bolivar's biography, too. I wanted to read all these books, but I would have to have been in a rest home or something in order to do that. I read some of The Sound and the Fury, didn't quite get it, but Faulkner was powerful. I read some of the Albertus Magnus book...the guy who mixed up scientific theories with theology. It was lightweight compared to Thucydides. Magnus seemed like a guy who couldn't sleep, writing this stuff late at night, clothes stuck to his clammy body. A lot of these books were too big to read, like giant shoes fitted for large-footed people. I read the poetry books, mostly. Byron and Shelley and Longfellow and Poe. I memorized Poe's poem "The Bells" and strummed it to a melody on my guitar. There was a book there on Joseph Smith, the authentic American prophet who identifies himself with Enoch in the Bible and says that Adam was the first man-god. This stuff pales in comparison to Thucydides, too. The books make the room vibrate in a nauseating and forceful way. The words of "La Vita Solitaria" by Leopardi seemed to come out of the trunk of a tree, hopeless, uncrushable sentiments.

—Bob Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004), pp. 36-37.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Colin Buchanan and Lily's pre-school service

Lily's pre-school service was on two days ago. It's our third-last one, and is always on close to the end of pre-school term. Really fantastic opportunity for getting the gospel out to mums and dads.

This one was especially good, with a testimony from Sarah, one of the Hub club leaders about why she is doing gospel work rather than primary school teaching, and a clear message that "Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6) from Andrew Mitchell, Bruce Linton, Ruth, and Griz the Tim-Tam eating orange puppet.

The kids sang three songs, the best one being Colin Buchanan's Be Strong and Courageous:

Be strong and courageous
The Lord of the Ages
Holds all His little ones Safe by His side
Be strong and courageous
The Lord of the Ages
Holds all His little ones safe

Do not fear the fire
Do not fear the water
Do not fear the thunder
Jesus has conquered them all

...and so on. It reminds me of, and may be based on, Isaiah 43:1-2

Is. 43:1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

and I have to say that this was the first time in attending four and a half years' worth of pre-school services at Christ Church Gladesville (actually, more like seven, seeing as how I worked there before Matilda was in the pre-school) that I have heard all the words. The childrens' singing was really sweet. Yay Miss Meriel, Miss Kathryn, Miss Karen and all the other preschool teachers for organizing it and giving up a Sudnay morning to be there.

It is a furphy that the only music children will really enjoy is noisy, bouncy, or boppy. Getting the kids to sing a song like this means the parents actually pay attention to more than noise, bounce and bop.

Kerstin Gustavsson

Was a dear friend of my mother. I just heard from my aunt Elsy in Sweden that she has died, so I am feeling a little sad.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

After netball

After netball today I took two of the girls home. We were listening to Michael Murray playing Bach on the organ at St Andreas Kirche in Hildesheim, as one does, and despite the fat balding family nature of our wagon it does have a mighty fine sound system. So we pulled up next to a white rumble grunt boof boof Nissan with a girlfriend in the passenger seat and a young lad playing I know not what with a bass beat on his car stereo.

I believe my pipe organ was bigger than his. So I got a slightly childish glee out of blasting him with a bit of Bach in much the same way as he was blasting the rest of suburban Eastwood with his version of something or other.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Gordon Ramsay cooks

Food and its preparation.

Ramsay examined a rabbit leg on the pass, the shelf where a completed dish is set before it is picked up and taken into the dining room. The leg had been sliced in three, and some stuffing had spilled out. Ramsay stared at the stuffing. An established item in the repertoire had been diminished by a bit of last-minute sloppiness, and the sight enraged him.

The culprit was Stuart Collins, twenty-three, adolescently thin, long-limbed, with big ears and the quick-twitch temperament of a racing animal. (Most members of the fine-dining kitchen—the bar was served by a different operation—made me think of overbred greyhounds, not a woman among them, all of them skilled and clearly capable of instantaneous nervous collapse.)


"More oil in your pan! You're not cooking it. You're scorching it. Did you hear me? You're ruining the dish."

"Yes chef." Stuart quickly added oil to his pan.

"Why are you scorching it?"

"I don't know, chef."

"You don't know! Will you get a grip?"

"Yes, chef."

"Will you focus?"

"Yes, chef."

Ramsay stared, bewildered. In his kitchen, meat was browned with butter and oil, the pan tilted every now and then, and the fat spooned on top. Stuart, under scrutiny, was shovelling the fat at an astonishing speed, spoon after spoon, like a cartoon on fast-forward—anything to keep him from having to look up. Ramsay wasn't moving.

From the New Yorker, April 2, 2007


Back in 1984, well before big Arnie was governor of California, I was visiting a friend in Melbourne and we went to see him in the movie The Terminator, in which Arnie doesn't say a lot, but spends most of the movie playing a cyborg chasing a terrified woman in order to prevent her having a child that will cause problems for him in the future

(the old time travel paradox—second time this week I've fallen for that trick!)

By the time the movie terminates Arnie has crashed twice, been shot several times, been set on fire, blown up, and eventually crushed by a big machine in a factory (sorry if that spoils the ending for you).

The most surreal moment of the movie for me, however, was the two little old ladies sitting behind us, one of whom said to the other as the credits rolled "Well, you've got to give him ten out of ten for tenacity!"

Today, God willing and barring accidents, I'm going to submit two copies of the thesis for the M.Th. I've been working on since 1988. For some reason that little old lady in the movie theatre came to mind.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

New Facebook group for Briefing readers

An internet friend just pointed me in the direction of a new Facebook group for Briefing readers, started by a Briefing reader in the UK.

Check it out! Thanks Ben for pointing it out.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Song I like

I have three brothers and they are at rest
Their arms are folded on their breast
But a poor simple sailor just like me
Must be tossed and driven on the dark blue sea

Nova Scotia

I don't really like the midi file you get here, but it gives you an idea. Here's a copy of the music.

Osea, that's very funny

What Osea said:

Rules for becoming a successful Evil Overlord No. 220: Whatever my one vulnerability is, I will fake a different one. For example, ordering all mirrors removed from the palace, screaming and flinching whenever someone accidentally holds up a mirror, etc. In the climax when the hero whips out a mirror and thrusts it at my face, my reaction will be "Hmm...I think I need a shave."

Anyone got an answer to this?

This silly letter was in today's Age.

Test of faith

AN EXCRUCIATING number of sportsmen (and women) seem determined to attribute victories to God/Their Lord/Jesus. When victorious they can't shut up about Him/Her.

It occurred to me yesterday, when they fail horribly (Aaron Baddeley-style), the same Lord seems to avoid any blame — I'd be interested to know whether these moments test their faith?

I'd truly love to see Zach Johnson, or Andre Agassi rant and rave in anger at God for letting them down — it would make as much sense as thanking him/her for the win.

Tim Heughan, Abbotsford

Have you got a good response? I just sent mine off. (

Singles and childless couples supporting others

Apparently, my fellow Australians, you're doing more than your fair share of subsidizing the poor, sick and elderly in our society.

Apart from that, if this report is accurate the tax system generally seems to be redistributing money from the rich to the poor, which is great.

Early prayer

I woke unaccountably early this morning and eventually worked out it was 5.30 am. So I decided to pray and promptly fell back to sleep.

Well, Satan, you won't get away with that one. Heavenly Father, please bless the leaders of 5.00 congregation, including Liam, Chloe, Osea, Campbell and Melanie, Alan, Lyn and all the wonderful Bible Study leaders. Give them a rich knowledge of your blessings shown in Christ and a firm expectation and hope of your return in glory to judge the living and the dead. May Dan enjoy his birthday today, and may Therese and he grow in love for each other and for you.


Tuesday, 19 June 2007

In the paper

Because of being in the Religion Report I got mentioned by Gerard Henderson in the Sydney Morning Herald as a critic of George Pell.

However on the two big issues for which Big George is currently in the spotlight—human cloning and the right of anyone (religious or not) to speak out on public issues—I am with him 100%.

It's really good that the Roman Catholic church has such a strong public position on embryonic stem cells, and I wish other denominations and people from other religions would make their voices heard on this too.

Act today if you live in NSW

If you live in NSW, today (not tomorrow but today) would be a good day to e-mail and ask individual members of the Upper House of NSW Parliament to block legislation on embryonic stem-cell research that would allow therapeutic cloning.

Today is the day the legislation is being introduced into the legislative council (ie the Upper House.

Find the e-mail addresses of the members here.

To get on top of the issues, look here.

Monday, 18 June 2007

One for Paul Keating fans

When I was PM in the early 90s, we never used to have rain like this. These days it rains all the time.

Food allergies on the rise

Matilda suffers nut allergies, although (thank God) she is now free of her egg allergy.

This report in the Sydney Morning Herald says food allergies in preschoolers have increased fivefold in just ten years. That matches with my observation of the kids at school. Allergies are now well known, and the kids directly affected wear a gold band around their hat, which is a good reminder.

Children's work at church

These guys are fantastic.

So Matilda went to the Sparks sports and games 'avo' (see below) on Saturday, and had a wonderful time playing various games. As well as the usual church friends there were six other kids who had been invited along. By the end of the afternoon they had all learned a memory verse: "Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:39)

The leaders of the kid's groups at church (Ruby and Lily go to Munchkin and Beagles), and also Hub club at Gladesville on Friday nights (where Matilda goes) do a superb job of teaching the Bible faithfully. It makes me and Fifi very thankful to God.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Art gallery

Went to the NSW Art Gallery today. They seem to have the names of at least three of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (heroes in a half-shell) listed at the top of the front of the building. And is "Michael Angelo" really spelt like that?

They seemed to be a bit paranoid after the theft of the Cavalier the other day. But then perhaps artsy gallery security types are always fussing about the place whatever the occasion. I'd brought along a Phillips head screwdriver just in case there was an opportunity to pull a small heist, but the girls kept interrupting me with their complaints.

Matilda liked the big picture with the horses and the army charging. Ruby liked the animals. Lily liked the bottoms.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Britain's got talent

And here's Paul Potts in the semifinal.

He's got an entry in wikipedia here, and here's an article in the Melbourne Age.

Watch and weep

This made me cry!

(Thanks Craig for the link)

Bury stillborn in backyard

This story from The Australian newspaper leaves me gasping with horror.

In it, a couple is told by the doctors at the hospital in the Northern Territory that their baby, stillborn at seventeen weeks, can be taken home and buried in the backyard. Then they are handed the stilborn child in a kidney dish and left to their own devices.

What a humiliating and traumatizing way to treat the death of a child. But the legislation in the Northern Territory doesn't even allow the issue of a birth certificate or a death certificate, since at this stage of gestation the baby is viewed in law as nothing more than a bunch of cells that the mother's body rejected. Not only is there the sorrow of death, but there is refusal, by those who ought to care for both parents and child, to acknowledge that anything serious has even happened.

God will certainly judge us for the way we treat his little ones.

Apprehended Violence Order?

My eldest, Matilda, has been invited to a "Sparks Sports and Games Avo".

Sparks I understand, it's the primary school age youth group at 9.00 church. Sports and games is easy to work out too.

But 'AVO'? That's 'Apprehended Violence Order' isn't it?

This is going to be a rough session.

Euthanasia's big question

The question that the euthanasia advocate can't know the answer to is whether or not euthanasia will deliver on the promise to end suffering.

What if you woke up from having been euthanased, and the suffering you were experiencing was worse?

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Ryde Liberry can rest easy.

Found the other library book!

Ryde Library can rest easy, knowing that Cai mi yu, xue yu wem—zi ran chang shi, wen yi yong pin, jia ju young p— will be available for reading by yet more young oriental children.

Beware of homophones

You've got to beware when you're typing fast. You may end up typing a homophone, which is not quite as bad as stereotyping a homophobe, but still embarrassing.

Beware for be where, or even be ware or bee wear. You're for your or your for you're, or yaw 4 your. Witch for which, the bells of Shoreditch, and even the Keeng for the King. It makes ewe look illiterate.

Early to work.

An early start at work today. On the bus to Kingsford. It feels like I'm walking out the door at midnight, even though it is 6.30 am.

It will be fun to catch up with my good friend from Strasbourg, Paul Keeng.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Transcript of me on ABC Religion Report

The transcript of comments I made about Archbishop Pell and embryonic stem cell research are now available online. You can also listen to the programme online, or download to your iPod.

Veal with vinegar

Normally you put red wine in a veal stew, but we visited Fifi's mother a while ago and she had a Mediterranean cookbook that suggested you use red wine vinegar. I couldn't find any red wine vinegar, but we had some balsamic vinegar so I used that. Really very nice! Been having the stew with mushrooms over the last two nights.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Quadriplegics and embryonic stem cells

Here's an important blog in today's Oz by a young man who is a quadriplegic, and is sick of having his condition exploited by politicians and others who want to promote embryonic stem cell research.

It's a passionate statement. Here's a feel for what the writer, Anthony Succar, is saying:

It is all the more heartbreaking knowing the frailest and most vulnerable in our society are being used by politicians and pharmaceutical companies to sell their lies. In addition to holding back authentic medical research, choosing an avenue with no foreseeable benefits over documented evidence of success, politicians have also opened the door for anyone to legally assault and destroy human life.

The Church Missionary Society

Also known as CMS.

Their slogan here in Australia is

1.Pray/ 2. Care/ 3. Give/ 4. Go.

and I think it is a terrific attitude with which to approach mission.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Keep praying for persecuted Christians.

I'm often uncomfortably aware of how little I know of persecuted Christians outside the media spotlight. This letter in the Oz was a good reminder today to pray for Christians in Iraq.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

-Revelation 6:9-11

God save the Queen!

"Because nothing will save the Governor General", as everyone who was around in 1975 is able to respond.

This is the Queen's Birthday weekend. They don't celebrate it in England, but we celebrate it here (Our six y.o.: "Are we going to go?"). It's not even her proper birthday. Like with Horse's Birthday, they pick an arbitrary date and you celebrate it then.

I remember leading one of my first church meetings back in 1984, at St Matthias' Centennial Park. Phillip Jensen was the rector, and his dad Arthur was in the morning congregation. I asked for prayer points, and Arthur said in a stern tone "I think it's about time we prayed for the Queen.

So we did.

I like that Australia is still a constitutional monarchy. The Queen is never around, so it seems to me that you preserve the best bits of the system without having to worry to much about all the palaver and hoo-ha that goes with Queens riding past in carriages, living in palaces that you have to pay for, and generally making an expensive tourist attraction of themselves. While West Australia is still one of the six states (and two mainland territories) that make up the Commonwealth of Australia, we will remain a monarchy no matter how many referenda we have on the question.

Hej Svenska kusiner!

Hej Svenska kusiner! Hur mor du?

I lost a bit of stuff in a hard drive crash, including some e-mail addresses for my cousins. I've now found the addresses again (thanks Ingrid!) so this is a hello to my Swedish cousins.

I used this site to check my spelling of "cousin" in Swedish but it seems a bit limited. What do all you other people out there who are speakers of Swedish and English tend to use for translation?

Feel free to answer in Swedish or English.

Du kan svara i Svensk eller Engelsk! Vi och vår flickarna mor bra; papa också. Hej da!

Sunday, 10 June 2007

It's really raining.

And lives are being lost, as well as property. Some jokers running oil tankers off the Newcastle docks got grounded, despite warnings to put out to sea and get rid of water ballast.

We drove down to Fiona's mum's place in Austinmer and have never seen the water off the Illawarra look as wild as it did, whipped up by strong winds and with waves breaking really high up on rocks and cliffs. The beach car park was covered in sand that had been dumped there by water at high tide, and we realized there was also sand on the opposite side of the road from the car park, a good fifty metres further inland. I have no idea how it got there; whether it was wind, water or both that carried it there and left it behind.

Still it was good to make the trip, as Fiona's mum has had some bad health news, and we were able to catch up with Fiona's sisters and two of the girls' cousins. Hi J and A!


I'm really sad that in our public prayer, confession seems to have disappeared.

Here's what we used to say each week in the days when we used the prayer book:

Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
maker of all things, judge of all people,
we acknowledge with shame the sins we have committed,
by thought, word and deed, against your divine majesty,
provoking most justly your wrath and indignation against us.
We earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for all our misdoings.

Have mercy on us, most merciful Father.
For your Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake
forgive us all that is past,
and grant that from this time forward
we may serve and please you in newness of life,
to the honour and glory of your name,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I'm leading church tonight, so I might get us to pray this together. If I can get that most excellent PowerPoint set up in time.

Sam the butcher and family for dinner

We had Sam the butcher and his wife and two boys around last night. Their eldest, P, was at preschool with Matilda. Their youngest, L. was at preschool with Ruby. I always feel a bit self conscious firing up the barbecue in front of Sam; he's a man with definite ideas on how meat ought to be treated. No problem last night though, as I did the tried and tested chicken curry on the stove.

Lovely couple, Sam and J. J especially takes her Catholicism seriously and is looking forward to the Pope's visit next year. It's going to raise the profile of religious debate in the community a huge amount, which can only be a good thing for sparking up conversation.

Saturday, 9 June 2007


It's raining in Sydney and other parts of NSW, and will keep doing so for the rest of the week, we're told.

This would be a good day to play Chopin's Raindrop Prelude (D flat major), except Fifi doesn't like the middle section. Perhaps I'll just play the beginning and the end. If someone drove a new car past the piano while I was doing it we'd have the start of a really good TV ad.

This article shows the first line of the autograph edition. What elegant handwriting!

Friday, 8 June 2007

No, I really love PowerPoint.

Justin commented on the previous post:

I've got visions of Martin Luther King using PPT for "I have a Dream"

Apparently, Justin, your wish is PowerPoint's command. (scroll down, past the PowerPoint version of Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.)

Overview: A jocular response is called for.

Point 1. It is to laugh.

Summary of key ideas: Tee hee.

I love PowerPoint

I blogged about how much I love PowerPoint for church presentations for a Matthias Media CHN.

After that, Rob Forsyth sent me an absolutely hilarious PowerPoint presentation of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. It is almost incomprehensible.

For those who prefer their rhetoric original, here y' go:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The Religion Report

I got home yesterday to a message from Stephen Crittenden of the ABC's Religion Report, asking me if I was available to go on the programme next week to make some comment.

Honestly, I find this whole process bizarre. Prior to this I couldn't even hold down a job as an assistant minister, and was in danger of joining the long term unemployed. I actually was unemployed for eight months. Now I'm like the bloke equivalent of Dame Edna's housewife superstar, or something equally ridiculous, being asked for comment on—well, I don't know what, I guess I'll have to wait and see.

There's a piece of near-doggerel that they have at the player's entrance to Wimbledon's centre court, from Rudyard Kipling's poem "If—", and it keeps coming to mind at the moment:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same...

However if I think about it more carefully, the far more fitting verses are Paul's: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Rom 8:28). Read the whole passage to find context, it'll do you good as it did me!

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Blogging about stem cell research

Today I got a rather last-minute opportunity to blog about stem cell research in the Daily Telegraph, as the Lower House of NSW Parliament voted to allow therapeutic cloning.

Also some controversy because George Pell came out suggesting that Catholics who voted for this were going to jeopardise their standing with the Roman Catholic Church. So I made some mention of this.

We ought to pray that this legislation doesn't pass the Upper House. It all gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Fish and chips

Is what Fifi and I had for dinner when I got back from an absolutely sterling presentation of Exodus 19 (among other things) from David Jackman at the MTS conference.

I will blog about this conference over on the Matthias Media CHN site. If you look over there really quickly and right now you will see some of my thoughts on a marriage seminar I was helping out with last week.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007


I have a group of friends (let’s leave it at that), one of whom is among another group of friends who have suddenly found themselves at the centre of influence of a power structure, the shoot from the stump of Jesse, so to speak.


I think because they stayed friends. Everything else fell apart around them, and there they were, still friends.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Cup of tea?

I used to be a coffee person, then went through a brief hot water phase during which I discovered just how gunky the teapots they sometimes fill with boiling water at conferences can be.

Now I'm sitting here in the morning drinking my cup of tea (black, infused for about three to five minutes, no sugar thanks) and thinking that it is a jolly fine way to start the day.

Heavenly Father, help David Jackman inspire us from your word to preach the gospel more truthfully and effectively, as he speaks at the MTS conference today and tomorrow.

100 of my closest friends

Ed Vaughan, one of my closest friends now in Ireland, talks about going to parties and getting together with 100 of his closest friends.

Fifi and I did something similar last night—and actually, Ben and Emma Pfahlert are amongst our closest friends in the world; godparents to Matilda and people to whom I would trust my life. And there were 98 others—some friends, some yet to be friends—at this dinner which was set up to support the Ministry Training Strategy, of which Ben Pfahlert is now the National Director.

You can get the lowdown on this extraordinary network, started by Colin Marshall and Phillip Jensen, here.

In human terms it is one of the most amazing opportunities for raising up the next generation of gospel workers that I've seen. At the heart of it is the idea of the two-year, full-time apprenticeship in ministry, undertaken before progressing on to theological study. It is Reformed and conservative evangelical in its stance (or as I prefer to call it, genuinely evangelical) and thoughtfully pragmatic in its outlook. I did it back in 1983-1984 under Phillip and Colin, before heading off to train at Moore college in 1985-1988. We went to Melbourne and trained, among other people, Ben and Emma Pfahlert. They helped establish the strategy in Melbourne and Victoria, and Ben is now charged with continuing to spearhead its growth (under God in Australia and at last count nearly a dozen other countries.

This bible verse captures what is going on:

2 Timothy 2:2 ... and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

It's about passing on the gospel.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Answered prayer

I had some really lovely and wonderful answers to prayer at church yesterday.

Gary preached an absolute blinder of a sermon on...prayer. One prayer in particular; the prayer of Paul in Ephesians 3:14-19. What a marvellous model of what we should, can and must pray for:

Eph. 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

It is both a privilege and a delight to pray, and one of the reasons we pray is because we can! Gary reminded us that not everyone can pray, contrary to popular belief. Only those who have access into the Heavenly Father's throne room, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, can enjoy this privilege.

Then that evening I had a quite unexpected conversation with H, who is seriously close to committing himself to the lordship and forgiveness of Jesus. We prayed; or rather I prayed with him. We will talk again in a week or two, and he will keep reading his Bible and may start to pray.

I pray, Heavenly Father, that H will do just that—that H may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ's love that surpasses knowledge, and may be filled with all the fulness of God.

I still didn't find that library book, but. Perhaps the Lord wants me to boost the meagre income of the local library by paying for a new book at a ridiculously inflated price.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Three sisters with three dogs

One too many.

Dogs that is.


Heavenly Father, please help me to pray more!

Thank you for my family and our church. Help Gary, myself and the other people preaching today to tell the truth about you. Help us to preach Christ. Thank you also for the leaders at Munchkins, Sparks and Beagles, and that our three girls so much appreciate going and learning about you in those places. I pray that as well as the fun and games, they will see you clearly through your word. Thank you for the memory verse they keep being taught, "God keeps all his promises."

Thank you for the support group for Martin and Julie Field and the rest of the family, happening today. Please help us be good supporters. Thank you that Martin will be speaking on Zephaniah at 5.00 church for the next 3 Sundays. What a pain in the neck that their visa for Argentina hasn't come through. But how wonderful that in your grace you allow us to hear from Martin and to build our relationship with him in this way, through the teaching of your word.

Father, may your kingdom come, and your will be done. Please help me to remember to pray and act as if you are returning, because I keep forgetting. Help me to remind the family, and I pray for the people in my family and the people I know who don't know you, that they will prepare themselves for your Son's return in terrible glory. Help me to believe it too.

I'm so sick of working on my Masters, and Fiona's pretty bored of it too, so thank you that it's about to get handed in. I pray that the work I've done will be useful to someone other than just me, and remind people of the day-to-day reality of working out faith in practise.

Since it's Sunday: please bless Bruce, our rector, and his wife Rose and their whole family. Thank you for Bruce's many faithful years of gospel preaching at Carlingford, and his leadership of so many people in gospel ministry. I pray that as we hear your gospel of forgiveness, we may come to rely on it, and you, in ever increasing dependence, joy, hope and thankfulness.


Oh, and please help me find that library book.

Saturday, 2 June 2007


I love thinking about God. And I love thinking about God in Trinity, even though it is hard work. I am thankful for people who are not only able to think about God in Trinity, but to write about Him as they do.

Check out Andrew Moody's latest response to the confused Kevin Giles, posted as a Briefing web extra. The Son is relationally subordinate to the Father, yet equal to him at one and the same time. And even Kevin Giles seems sometimes to recognize this!

It was forty years ago today

It was twenty years ago today,
Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play,
They've been going in and out of style,
but they're guaranteed to raise a smile.

So let me introduce to you,
the act you've known for all these years,
Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band!

Today is the fortieth anniversary of the release of this album by the Beatles. OK, it was June 1 in the UK and June 2 in the US, but as I am typing this it is still June 1 by GMT. So let's just celebrate the Beatles for two days, that would seem to be the fab thing to do. I have this album sitting on my desk at work. It is still an extraordinary piece of work, growing in stature over the years rather than diminishing.

If you have it, take it out and play it today. If you don't, you must buy it and listen to it.

Letters to the editor

Last year, I wrote an article for The Briefing in which I exhorted all Christians everywhere to write letters to the newspapers from a Christian angle (The Briefing #339). As if to show that I am a man of words and not of deeds, like a garden full of weeds, I promptly stopped writing letters—which possibly shows that I am not even a man of words.

There was no good reason to stop, apart from the general busyness of life with a family and three children, and having other things to work on and an over-full brain. But yesterday I thought I should at least attempt to restart the process, and to my own astonishment managed to get two different letters into two different Saturday papers. I've never scored the daily double before!

The first letter was to the local rag, the Sydney Morning Herald. A bit of history: in the mid '70s, five Australian journalists were shot in Indonesia while doing their job. The truth of the matter—who shot them and why—was never fully revealed. And, not to put too fine a point on it, it looks like the Indonesian military did it and hid it. As a plethora of articles like this have uncovered. The letter I wrote was a direct response to this.

I understand the need to ask nicely, but if an Indonesian is suspected of being involved in a war crime wouldn't he want to clear his name? And what's with the apology? Shouldn't Indonesia be apologising to us?

Gordon Cheng, Kingsford

I mean, when you run it makes you look guilty, doesn't it?

The other letter was a response to this opinion piece in yesterday's Age, the Melbourne Fairfax publication.

Turn hatred into love

CHRISTIANITY is regularly criticised by people who feel bitter about it. We respond by trying to live out the same principles of love, mercy and forgiveness that Jesus showed when he was crucified by extremely bitter people. If the Islamic religion is truly strong, it will be able to repay hatred with love in the same way.

Reverend Gordon Cheng, Kingsford, NSW

Friday, 1 June 2007


My toothpaste has stripes in it!

It feels like I have a stripey slug on my toothbrush.

Gotta hand it in

June 22nd looms as a bit of a deadline for me. I have to submit my thesis (30 000 words) on Thomas Cartwright, Elizabethan Presbyterian.

I've been dawdling along with this since I first enrolled in 1988. It will be nice to get it done and dusted. Basically just editing work right now, and a conclusion.


As most of you know, I'm half Swedish.

We were last over there in 1999, and saw Olle, Elsy, Karin, Gun (she died last year), Eva, Åsa, Åke and the rest of the familjen and friends.

Matilda was 9 months old at the time and we travelled around various cities (Stockholm, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Rome) with her tightly held to my front using one of those Baby Bjorn slings. Wonderful.

Not quite so wonderful in Amsterdam, where we fed her some omelette for the first time and she suffered a serious anaphylactic reaction and spent the night in St Lukas hospital. Something weird happened in Barcelona and we had to take her to hospital there too with an asthma attack.

On return to Australia, she was diagnosed as severely anaphylactic to eggs and peanuts.

Fast forward through seven and a half years of justifiable paranoia, with medical paraphernalia always on hand and many briefings to school teachers and others. Last Friday we took Matilda to the RPA allergy clinic and, under close observation, fed her three and a half muffins. She is now officially not allergic to eggs! We are thankful to God.

Peanuts are still a problem, and we and she will always have to be careful. The paediatrician's opinion is that a large number of the asthma deaths in Australia relate to undiagnosed anaphylaxis.