Sunday, 30 December 2007

Christmas reading: Espresso Tales

From the book by Alexander McCall Smith, p. 4:

Australia was a world away, and it was full of possibilities. Anybody might be forgiven for going to Melbourne or Sydney—or even to Perth—and discovering that life in those places was fuller than the one they had led before. There was more space in Australia, and more light—but it was also true that there was there an exhilarating freedom, precisely the sort of freedom that might appeal to a nineteen-year-old. And there were young men, too, who must have been an additional lure. She might meet one of these and stay forever, forgetful of the fact that vigorous Australian males within a few years mutated into homo Australiensis suburbis, into drinkers of beer and into addicts of televised footie, butterflies, thus, into caterpillars.

Not to mention the cricket. Nice to see India beaten into early submission in the Boxing Day Test.

"As a batsman, if you don't have runs flowing, you're under the pump," said Gilchrist after India were bowled out for 161 in their second innings to secure a 337-run victory, with the last five wickets collapsing in 10 overs for a mere 27 runs. "They [the Australian bowlers] were a great pack of bowlers that worked well and hunted well."

Christmas 2007

Went down to Austinmer for a few days, including Christmas. Matilda and I looked at a bit of Ecclesiastes together, because she'd picked it out as something she wanted to read.

1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2    Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3 What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
7 All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
8 All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be

-Ecclesiastes 1.

I asked her what she thought of it, and she said she didn't really understand it. I said, that's not surprising, I don't think I understood it the first time I read it. It's in the Bible so we know that God said it, but it's almost like he's pretending that he doesn't believe in God.

We prayed that God would help us to understand his word, even the tricky bits.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Flood news

"The Bogan River in the state's far west is in minor flood."

So we're told, anyway. The surrounding countryside has been inundated by mullets.

With apologies to the overseas reader. You, dear friend, will need to spend a bit of time googling for 'Bogan' and 'mullet' in order to undertstand this local yokel jokel.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Peter Garrett, burning the Midnight Oil

Mate. What have you done.

Not sure, really, but I'd say Traceee is not alone.

Check this blog

Here's another blog that I am going to be checking regularly, because I so much enjoyed the previous incarnation. AB is putting his leftover sermon bits and pieces here, and like the Gentiles (or the dogs under the table), I am grateful to log in and pick up the occasional scraps.

Thanks for tossing them out, AB!

You got nothin'

"Political life is about listening to the different sides and finding a way forward, and I think Anglicanism is a bit like that."

-Philip Aspinall, buried somewhere here.

That's pathetic, Phil. You got nothin'.

Re: Your Christmas newsletter

Dear A and B,

We love you dearly, but if you send a file that busts our monthly download limit in one hit, we will delete you.

Well, not you, but every last one of the megabytes you sent.

Photos are the big thing. One photo of you is lovely. Two is equally lovely. Three, your message gets deleted. Five, we get our ex SAS friend to hunt you down, insert himself strategically into your study, and use C4 explosives to blow up your computer the next time you hit 'send'.

Now look.

Unless you have suffered a terrible disfiguring disease or an industrial, automotive or military accident during the last 12 months, we have a reasonable idea of what you look like, and have no urgent need to see the most recent photo. If that changes and we do find that we need to remind ourselves about you, then we will check your blog, find you via the facebook status update, or fire off a quick Christmas message of our own to let you know that we need that piccie, and we need it now.

Notwithstanding: if you really feel you need to get that information through, send it via snail-mail or try again in January. January is a quiet month, and we are unlikely to exceed 20 MB, and that will handle at least the first 23 of your photos.

Your annual friends,

Gordo, Fifi, matilda, ruby and lily

PS Happy Christmas.

Friday, 21 December 2007

facebook chess II

Since I blogged about facebook chess I not only haven't picked up any opponents, I appear to have scared off a few of you and even paralyzed one of you into chessboard inaction.

*throws head back and laughs*:mwahahahahahaaaa!

But seriously, send me a challenge, someone. I'm not that good, really.

In all honesty

Here's a terrific blog. Jean was president of the Melbourne Uni Christian Union when I worked down there, and her husband Steve now works for the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students, at RMIT Christian Union.

Jean is a latter-day Puritan in the entirely positive and good sense of that word, and her reflections on being a wife and mother, and the nature of sin and grace, are well worth a close look. She is a specialist on puritans actually, with a Doctorate from Melbourne Uni which she received under Ian Breward (the same man who sent my thesis back recently with lots of metaphorical and well deserved red pen scribbles all over it).

More good reasons for preachers to minister 1-1

The fertile ground of the comments section of my previous post on Richard Baxter appears to have been sown with weeds!! (See Matthew 13:25)

So let me ask again if any of you can think of more good reasons why preachers should also do one-to-one ministry.

And Jensen! Stay away from that 'post comment' button! The rest of you, have at it.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Ten great reasons for preachers to work at one-to-one ministry

With the help of The Reformed Pastor (written by Richard Baxter) and the Bible (written by God); and in no particular order, I have thought of ten good reasons why preachers should work hard at one-to-one ministry.

First, in conversation with people, we can find out whether or not they actually understand what they are hearing in our sermons and in our other teaching.

If we were interested in depressing or confusing ourselves with statistics, there would be any number of studies that demonstrated how the average hearer retained very little of what was said from the average sermon.

Amongst the many possible responses to this is the obvious observation that, scripturally speaking, the models of ministry that we have in the New Testament rely on all sorts of ways of speaking the gospel, not just pulpiteering. When we speak to people one-to-one, it’s a matter of moments to see whether or not our meaning is clear. If we haven’t been clear, then we can take all the time we want to explain further any of the basic questions that need to be worked on. If the person is not as sharp or as quick to pick up ideas as others, then we can simply go over the basics again.

Second, as we talk to people individually our personal relationship with them will become stronger, and our communication with them will become more effective. If people like and respect us, they will be more likely to pay attention to what we say and give it due weight as an explanation and application of God’s word.

While we can often hear of how hypocrisy in churches turns people away from the gospel, we are less likely to hear the corresponding truth: that as people see and hear the good example of their minister, they are more likely to respond with trust and obedience in their heavenly Father. More than once the apostle Paul points people to his own example and those of other Christian leaders as something that confirms the truth of the gospel and lends weight to his words (eg 2 Tim 3:10, cf Phil 2:22; 1 Cor 4:15-17).

Third, personal contact with people will also improve our public preaching. We will be able to pray for our hearers more specifically, and we will be able to apply our public sermons more carefully, thoughtfully and thoroughly.

Fourth, as we talk about individuals about spiritual matters, we will ourselves be more open to being challenged by God’s word and by our conversation and prayers. If we are dealing with someone about their lying or their gluttony, for example, we will be reading Scripture and holding conversations where we ourselves are exposed to rebuke (and encouragement) in our areas of weakness.

When we are in conversation, there is far more opportunity for specific spiritual application both to ourselves and others. Many ministers know first hand the joy of going to visit a member of their congregation, only to discover that they come away more strengthened by the conversation possibly even than the person they were speaking to.

Fifth, we will be better able to minister to people at times of crisis. They will be more willing to seek us out, and we will be better able to help them, if there is a pre-existing strong relationship.

Sixth, getting to know people personally, reading the Bible and praying with them sets an example that they will be able to repeat with others, especially members of their own families. This can be particularly significant in men’s ministry, since the role of the man within a marriage is to work to help his wife and children to grow in godliness. The husband is to “love [his wife] as Christ loved the church” (Eph 5:25), which means doing whatever he can to help her grow in godliness. Likewise, the father has a responsibility not to provoke his children to anger, “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).

Seventh, people are more likely to support the work of ministry that they themselves have benefited from; and one-to-one ministry has obvious, immediate and direct benefit.

Eighth, when people see and benefit from effective personal ministry first-hand, they are more likely both to do it themselves and support and encourage others in doing it.

Ninth, personal ministry gives us the opportunity to assess more carefully and closely the state of someone’s spiritual life, and so work out whether we should be further encouraging them in ministry and in leadership.

Tenth, personal ministry reduces the opportunity for laziness and complacency on our part, in a job that can tempt us into both sins by the fact that we are not observed at work by many people for most of the week. Of course, we should always “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col 3:22)—but our regular contact with others who share our desire to see the gospel go out has great potential to help us in this area.

No doubt there are plenty of other reasons, both practical and theological, for considering how to minister the gospel to others in this one-to-one way. Some of them are related to our concern for God’s glory. Some of them are related to obeying the command to love our neighbours as ourselves. Some of them have to do with a right concern and fear for our own spiritual state, that we might be living out what we are teaching, “lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:27). Some reasons will be more persuasive to us than others, and some have more theological significance than others. Whatever the case, the net result ought to be for us that we make this type of ministry a large and regular part of our teaching in a church, and encourage others in our congregations to do likewise.

Can anyone think of more?

More Baxter on preaching and discipleship

Richard Baxter speaks again:

Let them that have taken most pains in public, examine their people, and try whether many of them are not nearly as ignorant and careless as if they had never heard the gospel. For my part, I study to speak as plainly and movingly as I can…and yet I frequently meet with those that have been my hearers eight or ten years, who know not whether Christ be God or man, and wonder when I tell them the history of his birth and life and death as if they had never head it before.

But most of them have an ungrounded trust in Christ, hoping that he will pardon, justify and save them, while the world hath their hearts, and they live to the flesh. And this trust they take for justifying faith. I have found by experience, that some ignorant persons, who have been so long unprofitable hearers, have got more knowledge and remorse in half an hour’s close discourse, than they did from ten years’ public preaching. I know that preaching the gospel publicly is the most excellent means, because we speak to many at once. But it is usually far more effectual to preach it privately to a particular sinner….’

-Richard Baxter, quoted by J.I. Packer, “Introduction” to The Reformed Pastor p 18

Remember, this is not a man who is against preaching. Rather, he is so much for preaching that he wants the message to reach each one of his hearers with maximum effectiveness.

You can fill bottles (your hearers) by trying to line them up and spray water through a firehose into all of them. Or you can take the same bottles individually, and fill them under the tap. Not a perfect analogy by any means, but helps illustrate why both gospel preaching and one-to-one gospel work are worth attempting.

Oopsy, sky not falling.

Sorry about that false alarm a few days ago, folks, and put away the umbrellas. The sky is not falling, and NASA suggests that the Arctic may not be melting after all. Oopsy.

And apparently the temperature in Antarctica has remained exactly stable for a period of thirty two years.

Speak, you global warmenists! If you can see through the fog and mist of this unseasonably cold Sydney winter, er, summer, to see these words on your screen.

Thanks to Andrew Bolt, who has a few words to say, and Tim Blair, who is frequently a very funny person. Here he thanks Kevin Rudd for recent Australian rain.

facebook chess

It's the first time I've played chess in years. I used to play all the time in primary school.

I remember that Sherlock Holmes used to play chess by post in the Conan Doyle stories. [edit: no I don't. see comments]

Anyone want a game, feel free to challenge on facebook. I have a lot of writing to do and I need the brain working. I promise to make at least two unforced blunders per game.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Monday, 17 December 2007


Mate! They're eating our tomatoes! They are top tomatoes too.

What to do, what to do...

Rudd and climate change

From somewhere in today's SMH:

Climate change. The first thing Rudd did was sign the Kyoto Protocol. Great symbolism. Then he went to the Bali conference on climate change and promptly reverted to the substance of the Howard position.

I don't want to be the one to say 'I told you so'. And I won't be, either, because I didn't say so. But it doesn't surprise me in the least.

Rudd has that canny combination of knowing what to promise and knowing when to be careful with words and say nothing, while appearing to say something. It will eventually annoy people in the same way that it did with Howard. But not for a little while.

This non-commitment at Bali was undoubtedly a sensible thing, giving Rudd time to decide what he's actually going to do—or not, as the case may be.

Who knows, by 2009 I'm sure the icecaps will have melted anyway—so the experts tell me—and that will be one less policy issue for Big Kev to deal with.

Here's the article. Pretty sensible really (code for: I agree with it).

The best cycleway in the world

This would get me back on my bike. Here's the article in the SMH, with a picture.

what a great weekend activity with the kids, too.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Thank you Christ Church pre-school

Getting my thoughts here because Fifi and I are about to be interviewed at the end-of-term pre-school service at Christ Church Gladesville. Here are a few drafty thoughts, which I will try to remember when I get up in front of people in just over an hour. But if I don't, I hope at least some of you who will be there will log in here as well, and realize how grateful to God we are for the blessing that the pre-school has been to us.

So what am I thankful for? We’ve been linked to the pre-school for 5 years now, through one daughter or another, so there is a lot to be thankful for, a heap actually, but I think I can summarize it by saying relationships, and stuff.

Relationships: The teachers are great, the girls have loved them,

Claire Zucchini and Miss Annette, all the others too, Miss Merry the director, the list should be longer of specific people but isn’t—sorry about that! You are all great and we don’t want to leave anyone off the list so we are leaving most of you, but we remember you all with affection.
Also relationships because the girls have loved being at pre-school, never once complained, and it has been the start of relationships which have continued on into school years.

Stuff: We have loved every little bit of stuff that has come home from pre-school , except for the uneaten lunches and crushed bananas. Oh, and I admit that I did one time ask Miss Claire why the staff kept dropping empty chocolate wrappers and other rubbish into their bags just before home time. But amongst all the ‘stuff’ that has materialized in their bags have been the most delightful artworks, models, stuffed animals, candy canes, cards, party invitations, photographs, letters and various items that we have kept the best of in various random piles at home, and will keep for a very long time, God willing.

One of the biggest bits of ’stuff’ that has come home is stuff about God, and it is also one of the things we are most grateful for. We want our children to love Jesus and be ready to meet him like we are. We find that they have all come back from pre-school just naturally thinking and talking about God, so that it is not at all a strange thing for them to speak to God, to ask him for things, to read the bible, or to talk to us about Jesus.

Which we love, and it is part of our learning as well.

There are a heap of good things about pre-school, but that really is the best of all. The kids are always looking forward to the next thing in life, which they are sure is going to be bigger and better than what came before. But we sometimes remind them to look back as well, and thank God for what they learned in their times at pre-school.

Thank you to the Christ Church Gladesville pre-school, to the teachers and other staff, to the friends we and our children have made, and most of all to our Heavenly Father who gives all good things.

Friday, 14 December 2007

A special name

It will be yours, and yours alone, and no sales offer attaches to it, and it will be an expression of Jesus' love for you.

I read it with Matilda just tonight:

Rev. 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

Compare Isaiah 62:2

The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will give.

That hidden manna sounds rather marvellous, too.

Preaching and book writing

A non-blog commenter e-mailed me with this question:

Interesting to read your take on writing as a form of preaching… I’ve often thought so too…

But that leaves with a serious question… why is it OK to read female writers, but not listen to them preach in public?

Thanks for the question! To be precise, I don't see any biblical restriction on the activity of preaching by women, only on the context. No preaching to men or to mixed congregations. (1 Tim 2:12). And of course, prophesying to a mixed congregation is fine too (1 Cor 11:5-6).

Just another observation to chuck in; I don't think there is even a whisper of a hint that the authors or editors of any of the Bible books were women, although in Proverbs their words are recorded as authoritative in some parts, eg King Lemuel's mum.

I don't think the reasons are entirely clear, but I speculate that certain types of communication are more inherently authoritative than others, and that the more authoritative they become, the less fitting it is for a woman to exercise such authority.

Books and writing just aren't that authoritative, I think. With the single exception of the Bible.

Ask me why, though, and things get a bit vague.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

The sky is falling

It's predictions like this that make regular citizens think that climate change prophesiers are eejits.

I think climate change is probably happening, but when the headlines and the bloggerizers begin to shriek about an ice-free Arctic by 2013, you know you've entered the world of sci-fi. It also makes the likelihood of serious and constructive responses, to something that may turn out to be a real problem, just that much more difficult.

Panic now, folks. The Lord Jesus may return tonight, but this apocalyptic scenario is as nothing compared to the reality that the Arctic will be ice-free within minutes.

Preaching and children's Bibles

For what it's worth, I reckon children's Bibles are a form of preaching too. Not always good preaching, but preaching nonetheless.

Which reminds me, still worth hunting down Sally Lloyd-Jones's The Jesus Storybook Bible as a Christmas purchase, all you parental and avuncular types out there. That storybook Bible really is good preaching, in my broader use of the term.

OK, a bit more on preaching then

Here is an extract from R.H. Mounce's article on "Preaching" in the New Bible Dictionary (Leicester: IVP, 1962).

The choice of verbs in the Greek New Testament for the activity of preaching points us back to its original meaning. The most characteristic (occurring more than sixty times) is kerysso, to proclaim as a herald'. In the ancient world the herald was a figure of considerable importance...A man of integrity and character, he was employed by the king or State to make all public proclamations. Preaching is heralding; the message proclaimed is the glad tidings of salvation. While kerysso tells us something about the activity of preaching, euangelizomai, 'to bring good news' (from the primitive eus, 'good' and the verb angello 'to announce'), a common verb, used over fifty times in the New Testament, emphasizes the quality of the message itself. It is worthy of note that the RV has not followed the AV in those places where it translates the verbs diangello, laleo, katangello and dialegomai by 'to preach'. This helps to bring into sharper focus the basic meaning of preaching.

This assists in seeing Richard Baxter's 1655 comment (see here) in its correct polemical context. It's almost certain that Baxter was working off the 1611 AV (Authorised Version) translation of the Bible when he speaks of 'preaching'. But it also highlights the wide New Testament vocabulary that revolves around the function of teaching: not just proclaiming (or 'preaching') but also evangelising, announcing, speaking, declaring, dialoguing (or possibly disputing, arguing, reasoning, or debating), not to mention plain old didasko, teaching.

Each and every one of these teaching activities, and more, come with dominical and apostolic authority and precedent, and should alert us to the wide range of possibilities for authoritatively communicating the divine and inerrant Word of God to our hearers.

Not to mention the humble task of being a writer, another piece of authoritative communication that the New Testament authors seem to have found time for.

I know that Klaas Runia makes a virtually identical point about the New Testament vocabulary of 'teaching' in his book The Sermon Under Attack, his 1983 Moore College lectures. But do you think I could find it this morning?

At least the desk is just marginally tidier here in the Matthias Media office. But I just wasted twenty minutes of my life looking for the Runia book. No way would Richard Baxter approve of that. There's gospel ministry to be getting on with, and here am I trying to footnote!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

A bit less on preaching, please.

I've never really agreed with the evangelical emphasis on preaching, and never quite understood how evangelicals make so much more of this than of other forms of teaching. It seems to me that the emphasis on public preaching, or should I say perhaps 'pulpiteering'—as against private and personal ministry through, for example, conversation or Bible study groups—is quite unbiblical.

So I was heartened today to pick up Richard Baxter’s old but still revolutionary work The Reformed Pastor to discover that he agrees with me. He makes this sharp and relevant observation about ministry through conversation (or as he calls it, 'interlocution'):

I hope there are none so silly as to think this conference is not preaching. What? doth the number we speak to make it preaching? Or doth interlocution make it none? Surely a man may as truly preach to one, as to a thousand. And… if you examine, you will find that most of the preaching recorded in the New Testament, was by conference, and frequently interlocutory, and that with one or two, fewer or more, as opportunity served. Thus Christ himself did most commonly preach.

Baxter gets around the difficulty I'm thinking about by redefining preaching, which is fair enough, I suppose. The quote is from p. 228 of my Banner of Truth edition, which I got for just under five bucks, a little while ago.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Pull the other one, man!

Atheist Philip Pullman's book The Golden Compass got turned into a movie, On Golden Pond or some such.

From the review by Stephanie Zacharek in

There's also a giant warrior bear, Iorek Byrnison (his voice belongs to Ian McKellen), the most believable of the movie's fake-looking talking animals: He's a soulful creature who has endured much suffering, although not as much as this movie puts us through.

I just wonder if this one is best left alone, like the rats one of our three dogs occasionally insists on leaving mortally wounded beneath our trampoline.

Boiling the house

When you boil something, you really know that it's clean. The boiling point of water is 100 degrees centigrade, at normal atmospheric pressure. Once you've boiled something for ten minutes—a syringe, or a dummy—you know the little microbes that were sitting on it have been well and truly fried. Knowing this, I clean kitchen wettexes by sticking them in the microwave for 1 minute and 11 seconds on high.

it's easier to push 1-1-1-start than 1-0-0-start. Rice gets cooked for 12 minutes 22 seconds for a similar reason.

It occurs to me that one way of cleaning a house would be to warm every surface in it to 100 degrees for 10 minutes. Of course, this would be impractical, but even restricting the heating to kitchen and bathroom surfaces would represent a useful and immediate increase in the level of household hygiene. I imagine the nests of cockroaches hiding behind the oven, microwave, refrigerator and under the sink would be perturbed by the experience as well. And it would be a good way of heating the house in winter.

Imagine being able to phone up your kitchen and bathroom when you were fifteen minutes from home and instructing them to fry all microbes for 10 minutes, and to have a nice cup of tea waiting as well.

This seems to me so obvious that it is a wonder that no-one has thought of the idea before now.

How are you?

Our German friends A and M were puzzled by this regular question from people they have never met before, ranging from people at church through to waitresses in coffee shops.

Fifi explained to them that the answer, in Australia at least, is always 'fine, thankyou' for any condition of life ranging from a mild headache through to having your kidney stolen from you while unconscious in the hotel bathroom.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Yeltsin story

The former British conservative prime minister John Major, after he was tipped out of office by Tony Blair in 1997, used to tell a great dinner party story about his dealings with the Russian leader Boris Yeltsin.

"I asked Boris to tell me briefly what the situation in Russia was like," Major recalled. "'Good', he said. I asked for a longer version. 'Not good', he replied."

-from Annabel Crabb

Gospel of Judas—oopsy

Just a few little errors in the recent publicity surrounding the so-called Gospel of Judas:

Amid much publicity last year, the National Geographic Society announced that a lost third-century religious text had been found, the Gospel of Judas Iscariot.

The shocker: Judas didn't betray Jesus. Instead, Jesus asked Judas, his most trusted and beloved disciple, to hand him over to be killed. And what was Judas's reward? Ascent to heaven and exaltation above the other disciples.

It was a great story. Unfortunately, after re-translating the society's transcription of the Coptic text, I have found the actual meaning is vastly different.

The full article is here.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Fetal homicide or abortion?

Thanks to Nicole for this story of attempted murder:

Nicole makes two observations:

1. It seems difficult to explain why a father killing his child is 'fetal homicide' and a mother killing her child is legally sanctioned 'termination of the pregnancy'.

2. The warnings about the potential for a black market in RU486 beyond medically supervised contexts were not far fetched scare mongering.

Rudd's code of conduct

Here's a good move. Rudd is barring ministers from the Federal government from owning shares, and from working in the corporate sector for one year after they quit Parliament.

It removes a couple of possible sources of corruption and the perception of corruption.

Georg's blog

Thank you to those of you who drop by and make comments on my blog. Today I received a nice comment from a blogger named Georg, in France, about this entry on PG Wodehouse.

He has some pretty photos on his blog and I enjoyed reading what he had to say about heating the house:

The main idea of this text is to pay homage to the kind of heating generated by oak logs. The place is warm but it is NOT the warmth you get from a central heating system.

This warmth is like a winter kiss, gentle and firm. Wood heat radiates right through you and those everchanging flames behind the glass wall makes you feel splendid. In fact, the feeling is difficult to explain, like colour to a blind.

We are short of oak trees around here but this makes we want to plant one, come back in 20 years, cut it down and burn it just to experience what Georg is talking about.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Caring for aboriginals

A powerful opinion piece by Miranda Devine highlights a problem with aboriginal child care. Taking children away from terrible situations leaves governments open to the charge of another 'stolen generation'. But leaving them is horrendous.

No doubt children were taken who shouldn't have been, and serious mistakes were made. But many lives were saved too, and that shouldn't be forgotten in the haste to make an ideological case for what happened in the past.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007


A tedious necessity for sanity, but the place does feel better to live in afterwards. My housework principle is that 60% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Disturbed sleep

Again! And it wasn't even a sleepover. Was awake from 3.30 to 5.30, so made myself a cup of tea and read the paper. The brain was too fuzzy for proper operation, and maybe still is. This is bad news. Things are quite busy, deadlines loom.

'I've got to think!' as the Larsen moose said.

Anyway, read a bit more on Gehl's ideas for Sydney. Knock down the Cahill expressway, bury the eastern distributor and the railway at Circular Quay. Yep, yep, all good. That area backside of Circular Quay is disappointingly sleazy and grimy, and it doesn't have to be.

Monday, 3 December 2007

The other Bad blog

Jen Baddeley has a blog too, and it is is just as terrific in its terrificness as the other Bad blog:

I read again during the week that 'knowledge about God is insufficient compared with knowledge of God'. The writer was trying to show that a personal relationship with God can't be generated by knowing a lot of facts about God.

I have no quarrel with this per se. But it tends towards the view that ignorance is an excellent way to know God, and that knowledge about God gets in the way of knowing God. And I know more than one person who exults in their limited knowledge as a kind of badge of spiritual honour. It's a cute position because there is no argument against it. You can't even engage with it; if you do, you demonstrate knowledge and so are obviously spiritually inferior and not worth listening to.

Having spent a chunk of time this week looking at how knowledge functions in John's Gospel, I am more convinced that ever that this view is neither helpful nor particularly Christian. In fact, I'm beginning to think its sheer laziness masquerading as spiritual righteousness.

Yeah! Check the full entry here.

Paul Sheehan on the Greens

Here. He writes

I would have voted Green in a heartbeat if it was a truly environmental party. Instead, it is a sly party which uses the green brand to expend the bulk of its political capital on George Bush, East Timor, West Papua, gays' rights, drug laws, refugees and numerous issues that have little to do with climate change, global warming and water shortages.

Not to mention euthanasia. What's green about that?

More on improving Sydney

The Sydney Morning Herald has taken on Jan Gehl's report Public Spaces, Public Life for the City of Sydney with all the fervour of a religious crusade, which I have to admit makes the whole proposal less attractive to me. Anything the SMH favours I treat with almost automatic suspicion, as they tend to be cynically anti-Christian whenever they report or opine on religious affairs, and given to inaccuracy.

However the man himself talks sense. From the piece:

To do this you need a long-term plan. Two great acts would symbolise this change in thinking: to demolish the Cahill Expressway and train station that sever the city from its harbour (the trains then go underground); and to bury the Western Distributor, whose spaghetti-tangle throttles Darling Harbour and cuts it off from the lifeblood of the city.

Freed from these constricting bands, the city centre will breathe again and be open to its harbour. It will be a welcoming place for people from all over greater Sydney.

Meanwhile, there are other steps to take. Sydney needs a coherent, attractive, walkable north-south link. All great cities have such a street - think of the Champs-Elysees in Paris or the Ramblas in Barcelona. It could be George Street, the city's most historic street, linking the two great doorsteps of Circular Quay and Central Station. But who would dream of walking this great street, clogged as it is with buses and angry traffic?

But close it to vehicles, allowing only buses and bicycles, provide wider footpaths, canopies of trees, and three great public squares at Circular Quay, Town Hall and Central Station, and watch what will happen.

It becomes the great organising spine, with a network of vibrant lanes such as Angel Place and small plazas such as Regimental Square running off it.

As well as observing that the city is choked by the internal combustion engine, Jan Gehl notes the key symptoms of this, which is the near-absence of the very young and the very old from the city centre. Think: where in the city can you find a children's playground? And why, in its current choked state, would you take a child to play there?

Pete wondered in his comment on this entry whether Prof Gehl's vision was utopian; however it is worth noting that he has seen a similar transformation to the one he proposes take place in Copenhagen over the last 30 years.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Little robots

The girls at Matilda's sleepover made little robots. A lot of fun! You can see where Fifi got the idea for the robots here.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

9 little girls

will be sleeping in the house tonight, or more likely, not sleeping. Matilda wanted a sleepover for her 9th birthday. Eek!

It's going to be a lot of fun, though.

Pedestrians of the world, unite!

You have nothing to lose but your lives.

As this report, noting the difficulties of negotiating Sydney streets, observes.

And in this report, also from the SMH, a great question:

Upon completing his report, Public Spaces, Public Life For The City Of Sydney, Professor Gehl asks: "We have one question for this city: what do you value more - your people, or your cars?"

Prof Gehl speaks truth! Buy the man a Danish pastry.

How to do theology

A seminal quote from Luther's Heidelberg Disputation:

19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened [Rom. 1.20].
20. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.
21. A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.

Thanks Mark B.