Monday, 27 December 2010

New Year organization: dropbox, scanning

I've got plans...plans!

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. My last New Year's resolution involved attempting to smoke more. That was about 10 years ago, and I failed miserably.

But the sad reality is that my plans to get myself well organized for 2011 happen to largely coincide with the approach of New Year's day, which is annoying but not sufficient to stop me resolving to make it happen anyway. Does that count as a resolution, or can I claim exemption because I've been working on this project since April? Which, by freaky coincidence, is when New Year's Day used to be (9 months before Christmas—get it?)

Anyway the first part of the plan involves getting you, dear reader, to click through on this link and installing a most excellent back-up system called Dropbox, which allows you to sync your computers (eg home and work, desktop and laptop) and back up all your important files to the internet for free. It's brilliant and has saved me an enormous amount of time and stress since I've used it.

If you use that link I get an extra bit of free storage (thank you!). They are counting on it being so useful that eventually the people who use the free stuff will want to buy extra storage, which in my case may actually happen when I bite the bullet and scan a couple of decades worth of old photos onto one of my computers. But this system is so easy that it actually answers the question 'Yes, but what if I scan all my old photos and my hard drive crashes?'The beauty of this solution is that even if the Dropbox system goes out of business, the scanned photos don't disappear from any of my dropbox-linked computers.

Which brings me to the other thing I've been plotting for a while. I bought a cheap flat-bed scanner which has come in quite useful in getting some paperwork a bit more organized, and in dealing with bureaucracies where, on occasion, they lose the copy of the paperwork you sent them and need it in a hurry. Also, for scanning occasional artworks from my children, and for scanning photos that are precious but needed for school projects and news. Also, for copying music I don't want to lose and occasionally need copies of to give to other musicians (eg Christmas carols at Christmas time).

I've decided to bite the bullet and get rid of a ton of paper in the next month, something I've had in mind to do for decades but had to wait for the technology to catch up. Well, I think it has. You need to be able to scan things cheaply and easily, and you need to be sure that once scanned, you won't lose the thing scanned through a hard drive crash, or because you can't find what folder you put them in within the computer (Apple's Spotlight function helps here). Check, check and check. So, inspired by having a bit of time in the next month, and sparked by this article, I'm going to have a go.

Here's the Dropbox link again if you're feeling similarly motivated.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

O Christmas tree

It's almost, but not quite, too late for this:

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!

Sung to the tune of 'O Christmas tree'.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Wicked Mitch of the West!

Peter Roebuck:

By now there was electricity in the air. Everyone could feel it, the crowd, players of both sides, even the fleeing gulls. Johnson surged in again and sent down a delivery as sinuous and slithery and spitting as a snake. Trott shuffled across his crease and too late realised that the ball was changing course. The swinger thundered into his pads and all Australia celebrated as umpire Erasmus raised his arm.

"All Australia celebrated"!

From here.

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Greens are nutters

So argues Paul Sheehan in today's SMH, in this article entitled 'Green by name, flaky by nature'.

He doesn't mention euthanasia (on which, for some reason, the Greens are not only supportive but activist), but does mention banks, same-sex marriage, immigration policy, X-rated pornography, Zionism and a range of other issues on which you would think that ecologically concerned people—who exist on both sides of politics—should be free to take differing views on.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

A waste of space (NT Wright)

I am personally convinced that there is an element of sarcasm in the title, "What NT Wright really said".

Friday, 26 November 2010

No presents this Christmas please

At least, not donated to charity in my name:

While I do agree that a lot of rubbish changes hands over Christmas, I cannot get behind the ''a-donation-has-been-made-in-your-name'' gift. Let me see if I understand this correctly. I spent all the money that I wanted to on myself during the year but the money I was going to spend on a gift for you I gave to charity instead. And then I told you about it. Can it get any more parsimonious?

From Nikki Lesley in today's SMH.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

New NIV (2011)

There is a new translation of the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible out and about, at least online. You can only get hold of the NIV (2011) in Cyberia, that is to say, by going to and poking around.

One significant trouble with the Old New New International Version, the TNIV (Today's New International Version) was their attitude to gender-specific language to describe male and female. They ironed it out ('they' instead of 'he', 'humanity' instead of 'mankind', etc), sometimes with disastrous translational and theological consequences.

The Council For Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) were among the early objectors to these changes, and a lot of people followed them on it. So much so that the publishers of TNIV saw their sales figures significantly affected, and realized they had a problem. I blogged some of their response here.

That is a long introduction to explain why I'm linking the CBMW's initial response to the NIV (2011) here.

There have been significant improvements, but significant concerns remain.

As for me, I am continuing to appreciate the good though not perfect English Standard Version, not primarily because of the gender question which is at best a sidetrack, but more because it has restored conjunctions to the text. Hooray for 'and', 'but' and 'therefore', which add significantly to meaning and comprehension of all sorts of things, mainly sentences within paragraphs and paragraphs within documents.

I am reading the ESV at breakfast time to my 7 year old, 9 year old and 11 year old, and all three daughters seem able to cope and answer questions about what we're reading. In fact, eldest daughter managed to pick up from our genealogy reading in Luke 3 some important facts about history which she was able to use in an evangelistic conversation with her friends. But that is another post.

Monday, 22 November 2010

And Do They So?

Henry Vaughan:

And Do They So?

'Etenim res creatoe exerto capite observantes
expectant revelationem Filiorum Dei.'

'For created things, watching with head erect,
await the revelation of the Sons of God.'

And do they so? Have they a sense
Of aught but influence?
Can they their heads lift, and expect,
And groan too? Why the elect
Can do no more; my volumes said
They were all dull, and dead;
They judged them senseless, and their state
Wholly inanimate.
Go, go, seal up thy looks,
And burn thy books.

I would I were a stone, or tree,
Or flower, by pedigree,
Or some poor highway herb, or spring
To flow, or bird to sing!
Then should I, tied to one sure state,
All day expect my date;
But I am sadly loose, and stray
A giddy blast each way;
O let me not thus range,
Thou canst not change!

Sometimes I sit with Thee and tarry
An hour or so, then vary;
Thy other creatures in this scene
Thee only aim and mean;
Some rise to seek Thee, and with heads
Erect, peep from their beds;
Others, whose birth is in the tomb,
And cannot quit the womb,
Sigh there, and groan for Thee,
Their liberty.

O let me not do less! Shall they
Watch, while I sleep or play?
Shall I thy mercies still abuse
With fancies, friends, or news?
O brook it not! Thy blood is mine,
And my soul should be Thine;
O brook it not! why wilt Thou stop,
After whole showers, one drop?
Sure Thou wilt joy to see
Thy sheep with Thee.

With thanks to Mr Kirsop.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

A dying man explains why euthanasia is so dangerous.

I'm republishing this letter from ethicist Nicholas Tonti-Fillipini in full. Originally on Andrew Bolt's blog:

Dear Mr Premier,

Re: Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2010

I write this letter to you my own name only and not in the name of my institute, of any Government Committees in which I am involved, or of any organisation. I write because what happens in South Australia on this matter will affect all Australians, particularly those who, like me, meet the requirements of the Bill.

Relevant to this matter is the fact that I am dealing with my own terminal illness (combination of renal failure, advanced ischaemic heart disease and Rheumatoid auto-immune disease) and am dependant on haemodialysis and palliative care. I have undergone 15 angioplasty procedures and the placement of eight stents to attempt to recover some blood flow after the failure of coronary bypass surgery. The last such procedure was unsuccessful as the blocked artery could not be accessed. The Rheumatoid disease causes chronic pleuropericarditis. I mention these matters only to establish that I am no stranger to suffering and disability, and am well aware of the limitations of palliative care. It is particularly difficult to control chronic pain because the effectiveness of most forms of pain relief is of limited duration, given the development of therapeutic tolerance. I have reached the limits of what palliative care can offer.

I cannot speak for all people who suffer from illness and disability, but think I can speak more credibly about suffering, illness and disability than those people who advocate for euthanasia presenting an ideological view of suffering and disability. Facing illness and disability takes courage and we do not need those euthanasia advocates to tell us that we are so lacking dignity and have such a poor quality of life that our lives are not worth living.

Professionally, I have been involved with issues to do with the care of the terminally ill for many years, having been Australia’s first hospital ethicist, twenty-eight years ago, at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, where I was also Director of Bioethics for a period of eight years.

Since then I have been a consultant ethicist in private practice and have taught ethics in the medical faculties of the University of Melbourne and Monash University, before taking my current position at the John Paul II Institute. The Institute is associated with the Lateran University in Rome and is a registered Higher Education Provider in Australian offering accredited specialist graduate courses in Bioethics and in Theological Studies in Marriage and Family.

Also relevant is that recently I had the experience of chairing a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Working Committee preparing guidelines for the care of people in an unresponsive state or a minimally responsive state and receiving a large number of public submissions on that topic. The topic is closely related to the topic of your enquiry. The strength of submissions from people who care daily for Australia’s most dependant and needy individuals was overwhelming and I highly recommend that you read the public submissions on the NHMRC’s web-site or at least read the NHMRC Ethical Guidelines for the Care of People in an Unresponsive State or a Minimally Responsive State (2008). Importantly, the guidelines provide a careful analysis of the way in which care decisions may be made so as to preserve respect for the dignity and worth of people who are so profoundly disabled and to provide care for the families and others who care for people with PCU or MRS.

I have also had a long-term association with a home hospice service that serves the eastern area of Melbourne. I would like to record my own view that it would not benefit seriously ill South Australians, particularly those who are terminally ill and suffering intractably, if the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill became law. The current legal situation in South Australia, while not perfect, does provide a measure of protection against the terminally ill being regarded as a burden. As a chronically ill person I know well what it is to feel that one is a burden to others, to both family and community, how isolating illness and disability can be, and how difficult it is to maintain hope in the circumstances of illness, disability and severe pain, especially chronic pain.

For several years, until I objected, I received from my health insurer a letter that tells me how much it costs the fund to maintain my health care. I dreaded receiving that letter and the psychological reasoning that would seem to have motivated it. Each year I was reminded how much of a burden I am to my community. The fear of being a burden is a major risk to the survival of those who are chronically ill. If euthanasia were lawful, that sense of burden would be greatly increased for there would be even greater moral pressure to relinquish one’s hold on a burdensome life. Seriously ill people do not need euthanasia. We need better provision of palliative care services aimed at managing symptoms and maximising function, especially as we approach death. Rather than help to die, the cause of dignity would be more greatly helped if more was done to help people live more fully with the dying process.

The proposal to make provision for a terminally person who is suffering to request, and a doctor to provide, assistance to die makes it less likely that adequate efforts will be made to make better provision for palliative care services. Legalised euthanasia would give those responsible for funding and providing palliative care a political “out” in that respect.

In Australia, too little is done to make adequate palliative care available to those who need it:
• Current entry requirements for palliative care usually exclude people with chronic pain and is often limited to people who are in the last stage of cancer with a prognosis of less than eight weeks;
• The pharmaceutical subsidies for the more effective forms of pain relief are often restricted to cancer patients;
• People living outside major cities have little access to palliative care facilities.
• Few doctors are adequately trained to provide palliative care.
• Such palliative care services as exist are chronically underfunded and struggle to provide the complex range of services that are needed to assist a person to live with pain and disability.
• Most pain clinics are over subscribed and have long waiting lists. For people who are left suffering, such waiting is unconscionable.

Medical research in this area indicates that the desire for euthanasia is not confined to physical or psychosocial concerns relating to advanced disease, but incorporates hidden existential yearnings for connectedness, care and respect, understood within the context of the patient’s lived experience. Euthanasia requests cannot be taken at face value but require in-depth exploration of their covert meaning, in order to ensure that the patients’ needs are being addressed adequately. In Australia, what is needed is often not available or not available in time. It is distressing to note that in the US State of Oregon in 2009, none of the patients who were lawfully killed at their own request were referred for formal psychiatric or psychological evaluation. It is also distressing to note that two thirds of people lawfully killed under euthanasia laws, in those jurisdictions that permit it, are women.

If euthanasia is a legitimate option with a determined structure, such as was the case in the Northern Territory for a brief period, and is now proposed for South Australia, then life for the chronically seriously ill would become contingent upon maintaining a desire to continue in the face of being classified as a burden to others. Essentially the Bill involves setting up a category for people whose lives may be deliberately ended. Their protected status as a member of the South Australian and Australian communities depends on a contingency. Passage of the Bill would imply that our community considers that our continued survival depends on us not succumbing to the effects of pain and suffering, depends on us not losing hope.

I ask simply that the committee find in favour of the status quo in this respect. We need protection and encouragement from our community, we do not need this form of discrimination. Far from protecting the dignity of those who are seriously ill and suffering, the Bill would undermine dignity by undermining our sense of individual worth as a person, no matter our suffering and disability.

It should also be noted that of the seven deaths that happened under the terms of the Rights of the Terminally Act in the Northern Territory that permitted euthanasia, four did not actually meet the criteria . The legislation was manifestly unsafe and I would argue that legislation that permits euthanasia could never be made safe for those of us who have serious chronic illnesses, because the essence of such legislation is to make respect for our lives contingent upon the strength of our will to survive. Such legislation depends on each of us, who have a serious illness and are suffering, not losing hope. If euthanasia is lawful then the question about whether our lives are overly burdensome will be in not only our minds, but the minds of those health professionals and those family members on whose support and encouragement we depend. The mere existence of the option will affect attitudes to our care, and hence our own willingness to continue.

That desire to live is often tenuous in the face of suffering and in the face of the burden our illnesses impose on others, our families and the wider community. You would gain nothing worthwhile for us by supporting the legalisation of deliberately ending the life of those who request death. Such requests warrant a response in solidarity from our community, a response that seeks to give us more support and better care, rather than termination of both life and care.

I note that the Bill has some safeguards including:
• REQUIREMENTS for two doctors, including a specialist, to examine the person making the request.
• DEMANDING a psychiatrist be consulted if either doctor believes the person is not of sound mind or acting under “undue influence”.
• CREATING a Voluntary Euthanasia Board with powers to intervene if any relevant medical practitioner believes a request for euthanasia should not be granted.
• There will be strict obligations on witnesses, jail terms of up to 20 years for misleading statements, and a ban on for-profit centres and the promotion of voluntary euthanasia by insurance companies

However there are many problems with the Bill, in summary:

• The Bill has a very wide scope, it affects not just those who are imminently dying. The definition of “terminal illness” includes people who may be months or years away from their illness causing death. As a person whose life depends on extraordinary care, including haemodialysis for four x four hour sessions each week, on that basis alone, I fit the description. I also have severe angina throughout those sessions, caused by the haemodynamics of the treatment and my own compromised coronary flows, and I have many other episodes of pain throughout the day, including waking at night in pain. Whether that is a profound level of pain and/or distress depends on the support that I receive from those close to me, as much as it depends on my own will. That euthanasia is not offered to me is important to that response. People who are ill and disabled need that support and encouragement and the knowledge that those around them value them.

• The Bill has not been generated by a broad-based enquiry that took into account the interests of all South Australians, and especially those with chronic or terminal illness. It is a narrow approach that excludes the provision of adequate care and support for those in need, and appears to be more a matter of ideology than a genuine attempt to respond to the range of matters that affect us.

• The Bill would expect the doctors involved to prescribe a drug not for legitimate purposes that define the medical vocation, such as the care of the patient or the treatment of illness, but to intentionally and actively intervene to end the life of the patient. In that respect, the Bill is not supported by the Australian Medical Association or any of the medical Colleges. The AMA’s policy on euthanasia is to “strongly oppose any bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia, as these practices are fundamentally inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer” .

• The Bill has not been supported by organizations and institutions directly involved in aged care, the care of the dying or the care of those with chronic illness. Those involved in the day to day care are generally not in favour of being given the capacity to end the lives of those they care for.

• The Bill would not benefit South Australians who suffer from chronic illnesses. Instead it would make protection of their lives dependant on the strength of their will to continue. The fear of being a burden is a major risk to the survival of those who are chronically ill. If euthanasia were lawful, that sense of burden would be greatly increased for there would be even greater moral pressure to relinquish one’s hold on a burdensome life and to remove that burden from the lives of others.

• The Bill is based on a notion of unbearable pain. A major part of pain experience and our capacity to tolerate it is what is sometimes called “existential pain”. Pain of an existential nature arises usually from loneliness and a lack of sense of self worth. The option of euthanasia provides an out for families and carers, and the fact that the option exists would be likely to make someone who had a burdensome illness feel even less valued and increase the likelihood that they would choose death over dying alone or being a burden to others. Serious illness and dying are times when a person needs the support of others so that others can share empathy with that person . The possibility of opting instead for a fatal prescription would cast a shadow over those relationships and would be likely to undermine the person’s wish to be wanted and valued.

• Pain and suffering are complex involving physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual elements. Palliative care seeks to address the needs of those who are suffering in a multi-disciplinary way that reflects the many elements involved . Crucial to good palliative care is the support of the patients socially, emotionally and spiritually. It is not simply a matter of relieving physical pain. For those who continue to live with a burdensome illness, the option of euthanasia would undermine one of the essential elements of good pain relief, the notion that the person is supported, loved and wanted.

• In other places, such as the United Kingdom, for instance, which have adopted very liberal policies on other social policies, such as reproductive technology, gay unions and abortion, the Parliaments have strongly opposed euthanasia because euthanasia cannot be made safe for people who are seriously ill and thus vulnerable. It is worth noting that jurisdictions such as the Netherlands and Belgium that legalised euthanasia, lacked the availability of the kind of palliative care services that developed in the UK.

• Euthanasia law cannot be made safe. The Northern Territory briefly had similar law. As discussed above, several of those for whom the legislation was implemented did not in fact meet the criteria of the Act despite the safeguards. This is reflected also in the Dutch experience where much larger numbers than were expected have been subject to the law, raising human rights concerns, see United Nations’ concern below.
• Euthanasia is contrary to the International Human rights instruments. When the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations considered a euthanasia law enacted in the Netherlands to codify what had become euthanasia practice, the Committee said that where a State party seeks to relax legal protection with respect to an act deliberately intended to put an end to human life, the Committee believes that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights obliges it to apply the most rigorous scrutiny to determine whether the State party’s obligations to ensure the right to life are being complied with (articles 2 and 6 of the Covenant). The Committee expressed the concerns that the new Act (in the Netherland) contains a number of conditions under which the physician is not punishable when he or she terminates the life of a person, inter alia at the “voluntary and well-considered request” of the patient in a situation of “unbearable suffering” offering “no prospect of improvement” and “no other reasonable solution”. The Committee also expressed concern lest such a system may fail to detect and prevent situations where undue pressure could lead to these criteria being circumvented. The Committee was also concerned that, with the passage of time, such a practice may lead to routinization and insensitivity to the strict application of the requirements in a way not anticipated. The Committee learnt with unease that under the present legal system more than 2,000 cases of euthanasia and assisted suicide (or a combination of both) were reported to the Netherlands’ review committee in the year 2000 and that the review committee came to a negative assessment only in three cases. The large numbers involved raise doubts whether the present system is only being used in extreme cases in which all the substantive conditions are scrupulously maintained.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this letter and the matters raised by the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2010 further.

Yours sincerely,

Assoc Prof Nicholas Tonti-Filippini PhD


Saturday, 20 November 2010


That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection

Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs ' they throng;
they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash,
wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle in long '
lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous '
ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest’s creases; in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed '
dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks '
treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, '
nature’s bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest '
to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, '
his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig '
nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, '
death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time '
beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping, joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam.
Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; world’s wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

With thanks to Jennie Baddeley, who reminded me of it again the day before preaching on this.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Building theology carefully

Whenever I am tempted to consign all theologians everywhere to the basket marked 'brood of vipers' for their slippery ways of sliding over hard texts into defective and dangerous thinking, I stumble across a Mark Thompson who reassures me that it is possible to deal well with matters of life and death.

This post, on what used to be one of my favourite quotes until I discovered it wasn't, is typical of the man's integrity and attention to detail.

To a louse

Robert Burns:

On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet at Church

Ha! whare ye gaun' ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely
Owre gauze and lace,
Tho faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn'd by saunt an sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her--
Sae fine a lady!
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.

Swith! in some beggar's hauffet squattle;
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle;
Wi' ither kindred, jumping cattle;
In shoals and nations;
Whare horn nor bane ne'er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.

Now haud you there! ye're out o' sight,
Below the fatt'rils, snug an tight,
Na, faith ye yet! ye'll no be right,
Till ye've got on it--
The vera tapmost, tow'rin height
O' Miss's bonnet.

My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an grey as onie grozet:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I'd gie you sic a hearty dose o't,
Wad dress your droddum!

I wad na been surpris'd to spy
You on an auld wife's flainen toy
Or aiblins some bit duddie boy,
On's wyliecoat;
But Miss's fine Lunardi! fye!
How daur ye do't?

O Jeany, dinna toss your head,
An set your beauties a' abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie's makin!
Thae winks an finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin!

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An foolish notion:
What airs in dress an gait wad lea'es us,
An ev'n devotion!

Aye laddie! Me spell chek's goin' crazy!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Love—not the basis for a good or gay marriage

Read Murray Campbell's excellent short article on ABC's the Drum website to find why love is no basis for marriage of any sort, including gay marriage.

A burst of productivity!

A productive morning, working out with the repair man's help that the leak in our washing machine didn't mean we needed to replace anything, just that I needed to wipe around the door seal with a wettex.

Now I could expatiate at some length as to why that actually counts as productive, but I would rather you save your time and mine and go instead to my post today on the Sola Panel, which tells you why genuine productivity only really comes from those who trust the gospel of the Lord Jesus.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Blue Collar worker

I was talking to my friend Andrew Beddoe (scroll down on that link) about developing ministry to blue collar workers when it came to me with a bit of a start that I am one! I'm currently working part-time as a hearse driver and musician. My work as a minister (unpaid) on the team of St Paul's Carlingford won't start until next year.

So I'm a blue collar worker!

By the way, if you are interested in blue collar ministry, check out what Andrew's doing with the excellent people at MTS (Ministry Training Strategy).

Friday, 5 November 2010

Friends in the US

It's wonderful to see The Trellis and the Vine getting attention amongst friends.

Here is a link to various workshops that are being organized around the book, which is really about how you help your church to get on with the gospel ministry it should be getting on with.


From Sandra Juto's blog.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Desiring God and Matthias Media

The Desiring God blog has given Matthias Media, my former employers, a nice plug.

Saturday, 30 October 2010


I have to give a kid's talk at church tomorrow on Halloween.

I've drafted a script:

Anyone here scared of spiders?

Hands up who wants to tell me what they're scared of?

I've got a scary joke book here. [visual aid: scary joke book. Read random joke]

I heard a programme on the radio this week where a lady said she was scared of lettuce.

Anyone scared of Pumpkins? [visual aid: Pumpkin]

Anyway it's Halloween time so there are a lot of pumpkins about, I hope you kids are going to be OK and that your parents will make sure that there are no pumpkins in your house or anywhere in the garden.

The Bible talks about scary stuff. Jesus actually met some of the things we're scared about. I can't tell you if he met any pumpkins, maybe after church some of you will be able to let me know about that. But he did meet a lot of other scary stuff. There was the time where he met a man who was full of demons.

(Insert summary of Mark 5:1-20 here. Punchline: 'You see how Jesus is much more powerful than even 2000 scary things?')

I guess if you see something scary today, which is Halloween, especially if something scary dressed like a pumpkin comes to your door, you get a choice of at least two things.

1. You can go out for pizza with your family. The pumpkin won't know where you are and will go to the next house. We do that quite a lot at Halloween, even though we sort of like pumpkins.

2. You can say hello pumpkin, have a lolly. Did you know Jesus is more powerful than any pumpkin, or any powerful thing in the whole world? Happy Halloween.

If you comment in the next 24 hours, you will earn another 300 points for the house of Hufflepuff.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Stalking my wife

Fifi follows all sorts of interesting blogs. Sometimes she shows them to me, sometimes I go online by myself and stalk her.

If you want to stalk me stalking her, you could do worse than start here.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Wind power, Christians, and good stewardship

Christians and right-thinking people everywhere should support renewable energy, correct? Because good stewardship and care for our world means limiting the use of finite resources, yes?

So to be a supporter of wind power should be an absolute no-brainer. Or should it?

Pastor Jay Dennis, who according to his byline is senior advisor to the Cornwall Alliance for Stewardship of Creation, explains why not.

From the article:

Wind turbine farms need ten times more steel and concrete than a nuclear, coal or gas power plant for the same amount of electricity. You also need thousands of tons of raw materials for the backup generators and the thousands of miles of new transmission lines to get the electricity to cities hundreds of miles from the wind farms. All these materials have to be dug out of the ground someplace.

All that mining and manufacturing is powered by fossil fuels, which requires more mining and drilling. The backup power plants have to be running constantly – and then roar to full strength every time the wind dies down. That’s like having to stop your car repeatedly for red lights along miles of highway: idling and then gunning it to 55 mph over and over. That uses huge amounts of fuel and emits enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and pollutants. In the end, we barely reduce America’s CO2 emissions – and may actually increase them.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Saints above (and below)

From the SMH today:

So Australia has its first Catholic saint. Yet we lowly Protestants in Australia have had millions of saints over the years - the Bible says every follower of Jesus is a saint. Most of the Apostle Paul's letters refer to believers as saints. Jesus himself taught believers to pray to God the Father, by the Son, through the Holy Spirit. It is a terrible offence to God to pray to (or through) a person other than Christ.

Edward Francis, Canterbury

See here.

The Roman Catholic idea of sainthood simply reinforces the Roman Catholic idea that simple trust in God is not sufficient to receive the full and free gift of his approval in Christ. No good work or miracle is sufficient to make us right with God, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). But here's the good news.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Petition on Freedom of Belief

Here's a petition to the UN Secretary General on freedom to believe without persecution.

The text of the petition reads:

To: The Honourable Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General

We believe that 'everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.' (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18).

We are deeply concerned that the Defamation of Religions Resolution has the effect of severely restricting these foundational freedoms and undermines the right to religious liberty. We urge that everything possible should be done to ensure that the United Nations rejects this resolution.

I'm not much of a petition signer but I've signed this one; why not do the same?

Thanks to Craig Schwarze.

Huffington Post

I put this blog into google reader yesterday. It will appear in this blog's sidebar from time to time.

Here's something on family meals.

From the article:

The National Center for Addiction at Columbia University released a decade-long study in 2008 that remains true in showing teens who have dinner with their families fewer than three times per week are twice as likely to use tobacco and marijuana than teens who have more frequent dinners, and that infrequent family dinners raises the risk of depression and eating disorders.

(Even if that means eating leftovers in front of Junior Masterchef!)

NSW State Labor

They will be walking the plank at the next election. Everyone knows it, but when their own team sticks the boot in publicly, that's got to hurt.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Joan Sutherland

Died today.

Wisdom of years on euthanasia

From today's SMH:

During my early medical postgraduate years I was a strong supporter of end-of-life patient requests for euthanasia. Now, in my middle years, with more wisdom and having worked for more than 20 years in government health facilities, I am quite sure no amount of safety nets, protocols or regulations would protect patients from deleterious personality types that are not uncommon within the various professions.

Even one life ended by use of medical misappropriation, deception or abuse of power should remain unacceptable.

Dr Linda Mayer, Pyree

Very few people in the public debate take the idea of sin seriously. This letter at least begins to.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Back and check the sidebar

Back from a lovely week with family in Tathra on the NSW South Coast. I am now catching up on my blog reading.

If you read this blog via an rss feed or on facebook, Click through to my blog, look at the sidebar and check out a few of the many things I'm reading online. It's a bit like reading over my shoulder, only polite!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Lionel blogs on righteousness

Lionel Windsor has resolved to blog more regularly, and begins his new expedition into prolixity with this absolute cracker on righteousness.

If this is what he produces, long may his resolve hold! Delete a few of the more long-winded blogs from your rss feeds, dear friends, and follow The Lionel.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

A man who dares

At last! A man—a Christian man—who will publicly slight Bono for his vapidity and (at least by implication) his inability to find a stadium large enough to contain his own ego:

Personally, I blame Bono. That you have the ability to wear ridiculous sunglasses with confidence and the ability to write lyrics that sound cool but do not actually mean anything should not qualify you to have any more significance in the shaping of society than the single vote your nation's constitution allows you come election time; and, in my opinion, as soon as rock music starts to take itself seriously, something crucial (I think it is called `fun') in the genre dies. Whatever one thinks of Bush's legacy, I trust that we can all agree that taking the U2 frontman seriously and giving him a platform was one of his least helpful actions during his tenure as US President.

Carl Trueman, the small but ever defiant group of U2 dislikers, of whom I am an insignificant and lowly member, salute you.

By the way, and totally unrelated to anything, but how many times have you heard the argument that because God made this world beautiful, so we should make every effort to praise and worship him in a beautiful way?

Poppycock and faradiddle, as they said in an Enid Blyton book I read one time. God made all sorts of things, and his making of them doesn't necessarily mean anything for the way we approach him. He made slugs. He made rat droppings. He made those little bits of diced carrot that appear when babies vomit. He made things functional, prosaic, quotidian, ugly, excessive, flat, sleepy, containing traces of nuts, and gaseous. And this means what for the way we approach him?

That's right. Absolutely nothing!

Now don't ask because I'm not telling.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Robert Frost: The exposed nest.

A poem by Robert Frost:

You were forever finding some new play.
So when I saw you down on hands and knees
In the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay,
Trying, I thought, to set it up on end,
I went to show you how to make it stay,
If that was your idea, against the breeze,
And, if you asked me, even help pretend
To make it root again and grow afresh.
But 'twas no make-believe with you today,
Nor was the grass itself your real concern,
Though I found your hand full of wilted fern,
Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clovers.
'Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground
The cutter-bar had just gone champing over
(Miraculously without tasking flesh)
And left defenseless to the heat and light.
You wanted to restore them to their right
Of something interposed between their sight
And too much world at once--could means be found.
The way the nest-full every time we stirred
Stood up to us as to a mother-bird
Whose coming home has been too long deferred,
Made me ask would the mother-bird return
And care for them in such a change of scene
And might our meddling make her more afraid.
That was a thing we could not wait to learn.
We saw the risk we took in doing good,
But dared not spare to do the best we could
Though harm should come of it; so built the screen
You had begun, and gave them back their shade.
All this to prove we cared. Why is there then
No more to tell? We turned to other things.
I haven't any memory--have you?--
Of ever coming to the place again
To see if the birds lived the first night through,
And so at last to learn to use their wings.

I like this bit: "We saw the risk we took in doing good,
But dared not spare to do the best we could
Though harm should come of it".

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Mark Durie on the Ground Zero mosque

Mark Durie is an Anglican minister in Melbourne who I know from our time down there. He is an expert on Islam, and everything he writes about it is well worth a read. Here's his take on the proposed mosque at Ground Zero.

He says:

America is in deep trouble. It seems impossible to have any substantive debate about Islam. Facts no longer matter, and genuine analysis has been replaced by prejudice and paralysing, fear-driven denial. A politically correct narrative has taken hold among the elites —that Islam has been hijacked by a few extremists — and a principle of censorship — that we must not offend the sensibilities of the other Muslims. The effect is that Islam is being given a higher place than that accorded to other religions.

A lot of his observations about the cringing way the American elites have approached Islam can be directly applied across to similar ignorances here in Australia.

Definitely have a look not just at this post but his whole website.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Time for some Andy Goldsworthy

At least, that's who I think did it. From one of my favourite websites, Things Organized Neatly.

Preaching hell from the Bible

The most recent 9 Marks e-journal prompted me to write this post for the Sola Panel on 'Preaching Hell from the Bible'.

If you read it, don't miss Mark Dever's article in which he explains why fear tactics are a good thing.

Of course, it’s good to teach our children not to be scared by shadows, and to be wary of those who use fear to sell us something. But what if there really is something to fear?

A fine question, and inviting of follow-up.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


Excellent letter from Ian Powell in today's SMH:

I hope Matthew Smith (Letters, September 4-5) has learnt his lesson. It has seemed for some years that you cannot disagree with gay rights advocates on anything without being accused of being filled with hate, anger and homophobia. So Smith is rebuked by Peter Lloyd (Letters, September 6), and David Clarke is attacked by John Greenway. Agree, be silent or put on your helmet.

I thought tolerance was the leading virtue for our times, and yet tolerance has been confused with agreement. Tolerance is the willingness to treat people kindly and respectfully when their views deeply annoy and hurt us.

I visited the University of Sydney recently and saw a fine example of real tolerance. The much maligned Evangelical Union held a large forum on world religions. These Christians gave over two-thirds of the time to people with whom they clearly disagree, speaking for atheism, Buddhism and Islam. This, I thought, was a demonstration of real tolerance, which Herald writers could imitate - where different views and convictions can be discussed without slandering those with whom we disagree.

Ian Powell, Annandale

From here.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Something good: buying back guns.

The SMH reports on one of the greatest legacies of former PM John Howard.

It's the unexpected saving of 200 lives per year from the guns buy-back in 1996, following the Port Arthur massacre.

From the report:

TEN years of suicide data after John Howard's decision to ban and then buy back 600,000 semi-automatic rifles and shotguns has had a stunning effect.

The buyback cut firearm suicides by 74 per cent, saving 200 lives a year, according to research to be published in The American Law and Economics Review.

A former Australian Treasury economist, Christine Neill, now with Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, said she found the research result so surprising she tried to redo her calculations on the off chance the total could have been smaller.

''I fully expected to find no effect at all,'' she told the Herald. ''That we found such a big effect and that it meshed with a range of other data was just shocking, completely unexpected.''

Mr Howard's agreement with the states to ban and buy back more than 600,000 weapons after the massacre at Port Arthur in April 1996 cut the country's stock of firearms by 20 per cent and roughly halved the number of households with access to guns.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Speaking of good books, here's another (probably)

Well I have to say "probably", because I haven't read it. But I know the preacher and his preaching, and this is his book about that preaching, written together with Paul Grimmond.

It's The Archer and the Arrow, a book all about preaching the gospel from one of Australia's greatest preachers, Phillip Jensen.

Tim Challies reviews it here.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Check these kids' books out!

Matthias Media, the buddies I used to work for, have some new kids books out. They are well worth a look.

Here's the Rag Doll by Stephanie Carmichael, and here's Over the Fence, also by Stephanie.

I would have definitely bought both of these for my 3 girls when they were younger. They were supposed to stay the same forever, but they never did. So now I look at books like these and think wistful thoughts.

I also think 'aha! who do I know with little kids?' Christmas approaches...

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Doing theology Luther's way

Carl Trueman points out:

I want to draw attention to the fact that Luther does not talk about what constitutes theology but about what makes a theologian. This is somewhat characteristic of his approach: many people have noted the importance of his "theology of the cross," which he articulated most dramatically at the Heidelberg Disputation in 1518; but the text of the disputation theses do not speak of a theology of the cross; rather they speak of a theologian of the cross. Theology, for Luther, is the words spoken by human beings in response to the words God has first spoken to them; thus, theology is a personal action; and therefore, there can be no discussion of theology without first discussing the agent, the one who speaks theologically. Theology is an abstraction unless it is understood as the action of the theologian.

From here.

It's not first and foremost an intellectual exercise! The failure to realize that is what distresses me about some of the theology I read from time to time.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Kevin Rudd is back

You may or may not have noticed that we're having a Federal Election. You may or may not also have noticed that Kevin Rudd is back!

See here.

PS It's funny.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

A bit of Yeats

Sailing To Byzantium, by William Butler Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
--Those dying generations--at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Pray for Indonesian Christians

The SMH today reports on their persecution by Muslims in cities around Jakarta.

Today would be a good day to pray for these brothers and sisters.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Part time job

I have a part time job as a funeral director's assistant. My first job was today. I drove a car, attended two funerals, and helped lower a body into a grave.

More news to follow; I am also planning, God willing to return to regularly teaching the Bible in some capacity, not too long from now.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Christians building buildings

This letter was in today's SMH amongst some other predictably hostile correspondence:

So a ''coalition of evangelical and pentacostal churches'' is going to build a classroom for $40,000. $40,000? Let's disregard the scientific and educational merits of this arrangement. These people should be put in charge of the schools building program.

Jenny Mooney, Karuah

Read the original story here.

Leave aside for a moment the question of whether churches should build buildings for schools, or whether we like the underlying theology of those doing the funding. This particular story only came to the attention of the SMH because it fits the SMH's current campaign do diminish church involvement in schools within their communities.

But the key statement from the original article, which helps explain the ridiculously low price tag that the amazed letter writer refers to, is that "the donation included materials and labour".

The secular world has no comprehension of the generosity of the Christian community and individuals within it. Stories of this type of generosity could be told a thousand times over, across denominations, and with examples that go well beyond just building projects.

If the offer sounds, in financial terms, too good to be true, it's because it is. Christian generosity far beyond mere goodness. Christian generosity is grace; the grace first shown to us by the Lord Jesus.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Bad news for Holland

Not only did they lose the World Cup but their country is going to sink. In about a hundred years. Maybe.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Should I forgive?

Yes, just as God has forgiven us. Sort of. As Mark Baddeley begins to argue in this most excellent post on the Sola Panel.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Selective schools

Quite a few letters in today's SMH on the subject of selective schools.

We've had to work through decisions about this lately, as Matilda will be going into secondary school next year. Our main consideration, however, has been about whether she will find opportunity to be encouraged in her Christian understanding and living. At one of the schools where she might have gone, we asked the principal about Christian activities and got the response 'Well, er, I think a few of them meet for a barbecue sometimes on a Thursday lunchtime'.

Now I have no issue with state schools or selective schools (I went to James Ruse, which is both, and Fifi went to Sydney Girls, which is both), but if the choice is between that and another school where 1/3 of the students are in voluntary Bible studies, let me say that the choice is a no-brainer.

The idea of coaching kids to get into selective schools seems weirdly obsessive to me, but no more weirdly obsessive than coaching kids to get to a world-class level in sports. My own weird obsession is about fitting my girls for the kingdom of heaven, hence questions to school principals about Christian groups.

Becoming clearer

Thank you to those of you who have been praying about tough decisions. Things are becoming a bit clearer, in a good way, and soon I will be able to give a bit more detail. I am trying to work out, in consultation with friends and family, a more workable arrangement for home and work commitments.

I am hoping that the final arrangements will mean a mixture of campus work, writing, family but as you can no doubt appreciate, these things take time to work out.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Latham on Gillard

Former ALP leader Mark Latham is so full of bile towards his old party that you almost feel that he may be telling the truth as he predicts the fall of Gillard, just so that he gets to say nasty things about other people.

The winner of Mahut-Isner? Tennis reportage

Play resumes at 59 games all in the 5th set.

Geoff Dyer:

If not war, then how about its nearest sporting equivalent, boxing? Recalling the 14th round of the 1975 fight in Manila between Muhammad Ali and George Frazier, Ali's doctor, Ferdie Pacheco, said, "That's what gets people killed in boxing, when the fight becomes more important than life and death." It's never that extreme in tennis and this particular game could never become more important than life itself for the simple reason that it was life itself. They were toiling away not for any ultimate meaning or purpose (as John McEnroe said, after a set-to like this, neither of them have a hope in hell of winning their next-round match) but because, within those white lines, a very simple logic holds sway: he hits a ball and you try to hit it back. And so, through some perverse compatibility – those marriages that last for ages because of an insatiable and shared appetite for bickering – they settled into a tranced deadlock. Normally, a player would be under immense pressure when serving to stay in the tournament but there were no nerves because, after a while – after the first two or three hours, I mean – there was no expectation that anything unusual might happen.

Writing in the Guardian.

PS Oh, you want to know who won? Oh, alright then.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

This will be remembered longer

This tennis match will be remembered longer than Kevin Rudd.

Kevin Rudd gone

You heard it here, 593rd. Well, I don't think I could claim first in good conscience, do you? Here, for example, a New Zealand paper reports on it.

Credit to Andrew Bolt, who called it on May 31.

When you break promises, such as canning an Emissions Trading Scheme designed to confront 'the greatest moral challenge of our time'; when you make a lot of your Christian credentials and get publicly exposed as a swear bear, when you invite an ill-thought out fight with the mining lobby; it's hardly surprising that it might come back and bite you.

What is surprising is how quickly it's happened. Just over six months ago, Rudd was unassailable.

UPDATE 1: The SMH report.

Did Kevin Rudd have any friends at all?

UPDATE 2: Nicole Starling gives the right perspective on this.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Tough decisions coming

I have some tough decisions coming. Those in the habit of praying might like to pray that God will, as usual, control all things to his glory and our good.

Romans 8:28 says "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

Here is that verse in its immediate context.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

K Rudd

Kevin Rudd, surely not long for this political world.

When left-leaning David Marr kicks off an article in the Good Weekend with a quote from Prime Minister Rudd, full of various brands of expletives, and proceeds to ask whether the man is driven by anger, you know that the press gallery is about to turn. As Andrew Bolt documents.

The SMH letter writers have their say as well, and it doesn't look good for our PM.

What surprises me is the number of Christians who were willing to take his profession of church allegiance at face value, without asking deeper questions about visits to strip clubs and the emerging evidence of a foul temper matched by equally foul language.

I'm disappointed because he seemed to offer a more humane response to asylum seekers arriving by boat; but the detention centres around the place are full to overflowing and the rhetoric has turned to how tough the government is being on these people. That's a flip-flop.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Rules of engagement

If I went in for wordy rules of engagement on blog comments (and I don't), these from Triablogue are absolutely the best I've seen.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

What matters matter?

Because I'm on leave and because I want to use the time on leave well, I've made up a list of seventeen review questions about my own life. The aim is to make reasonable progress on all seventeen, in discussion with some of those closest to me, and to come back to them from time to time to see how the answers are changing (or staying the same).

Galatians 2:20 is preamble:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Here are the 17 questions:

1. What glorifies God?
2. What relationships has God placed me in?
3. Which of these relationships take priority?
4. What roles flow out of those relationships?
5. What activities flow out of those roles?
6. What causes stress?
7. What gives enjoyment?
8. What has significance?
9. What strengths do I/we have?
10. What weaknesses do I we/have?
11. What opportunities do I/we have?
12. What threats do I/we face?
13. Review existing personal mission statement.
14. What is important enough to schedule daily?
15. What is important enough to schedule weekly?
16. What is important enough to schedule monthly?
17. What is important enough to schedule annually?

I'm trying to apply Galatians 2:20 by looking at these questions in the context of daily prayer and Bible reading. Unlike a lot of the good secular advice out there, I want to start with the assumption that Jesus is Lord of all, that I am a helpless sinner in need of his forgiveness, and therefore that any progress I might make in answering big questions about life revolve around Jesus' work as the Lord who has bought me by his death, and is now changing me by his Spirit.

For some reason, and unfortunately, I'm now thinking of George and Step 9. Once I get past that feeling, I'll return to the 17 questions.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Ruby's work

Ruby's teacher started a class blog and put some students' work on it. Here's Ruby's effort:

I think tomatoes don't taste very nice but I think they look COOL!!
They have a deep, brightish colour and a sprout of green on top like a bunch of grass placed right at the top of a grassy, green hill. Maybe if a baby saw a tomato it might think it's a ball and start kicking it around.

As I said on the blog, 'Yay Rubes!'

Getting organized—Dropbox

One of the things I'm doing while on leave is just trying to take a few baby steps towards getting organized. Anyone who has worked with me or had to live with me will be quietly applauding right about now.

Along these lines one of the things that has caused me the greatest joy during the last week or two has been the discovery of this extremely nifty site called Dropbox, which I got onto via Productivity501, which I think I got onto via Unclutterer, which I got onto because I am (half) Swedish and am constitutionally attracted to neatness and order, even if I am not personally capable of achieving it.

Dropbox is totally excellent (so far), and has allowed me to sync *all* my important files (and many unimportant ones) between my laptop and my desktop—and then keep them synched without my needing to pay any attention whatsoever, as well as giving me 2.2+ gig of storage on the internet for free. As far as I can tell they make their profit by me, or people like me deciding that it is too valuable to do without, and so wanting to buy extra storage space. I'm not there yet, but if I decide to get serious about photo and video storage I can see the day coming.

What's more, the other day I was around at my Dad's doing a bit of work for him and realized that I'd forgotten the powercord to my laptop. No problem! I logged onto his computer, found my Dropbox files and was able to work on them over the internet. When I got home and powered up my desktop and laptop, they synched the files I'd been working on with no difficulty whatsoever.

It's a pretty teensy-weensy thing to get excited about in the big scheme of things, but excited I am. Give it a shot yourself, here.


Those of you who are prayer supporters of the work at Cumbo ECU will know that I'm current on leave for stress and depression. Things are going well, thanks, God is gracious and the people at AFES have been extraordinarily generous in allowing me an indefinite amount of time to recover; likewise my good buddies at Cumbo ECU have been wonderfully patient and kind both now, and, as you can imagine, in the period leading up to when I went on leave. Not to mention the eternally patient Fifi and the rest of my family—including the church family at St Paul's Carlingford.

I really believe that the way God shows his grace most normally is not through remarkable extra-biblical revelation, nor through astonishing miracles that run against the course of nature, but just through the regular stuff that happens and the people that God chooses to surround us with.

(See Ps 19, Ruth, Job 38-42, Matt 5:45, Acts 8:29 come immediately to mind.)

More thoughts as they come.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Should we apologize for the Crusades?

Justin Taylor links to an interview with Rodney Stark. Justin was interested in the bit where Stark talks about how the US left doesn't seem to make headway amongst evangelical Christians (which Stark qualifies very helpfully), but I was more interested in the bits where he talks about Muslims and the Crusades, for example:

Because the Crusades are often understood within a larger framework that says that Islam is the gentle faith and Christianity the violent one. Karen Armstrong would have us believe that Muhammad was a pacifist. Take Major Nidal Hassan, the man responsible for the Fort Hood massacre. Had an evangelical Christian of the nutty sort gotten up in front of Army psychiatrists and talked about how much he respected people who shot abortionists, he would have been out of the Army an hour later. But everybody tiptoes around the issue of Islam.

Several months after 9/11, former President Clinton gave a speech at Georgetown University in which he apologized for the Crusades. He said we had much to be sorry about, and we bore some of the guilt for sending those airplanes plunging into the Twin Towers. Now, Clinton isn't a nut. He's not an anti-American. He's just been miseducated. He's been told a whole lot of nonsense about the Crusades.

The interview itself is from Patheos.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Ethics classes in schools

Polly Seidler gets a letter in the SMH:

I'm all for competition between SRE and a secularist alternative, but please let the competition be fair.

For each course, let there be the same level of advertising from the school, accurate labelling of the philosophical or religious framework (for example, humanist or secularist ethics), and penalties for misleading claims such as the St James Ethics Centre's (Simon Longstaff's) claim that the ethics pilot would be offered only to children who have opted out of SRE, when in fact it was offered to those on the SRE roll, which forms the crux of SRE providers' complaint.

Polly Seidler, Darlinghurst

(SRE = Special Religious Education, which by law needs to be allowed for in the timetables of public schools in NSW)

Not all miracles

Not all miracles are good miracles:

An 83-year-old Indian holy man who says he has spent seven decades without food or water has astounded a team of military doctors who studied him during a two-week observation period.

From today's Sydney Morning Herald. The man in question says that 'he was blessed by a goddess at a young age, which gave him special powers.'

"23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand." (Matt 23)

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Gordon's quick and easy 5-step recipe book

Gordon's quick and easy 5-step recipe book:

1. Look in fridge.
2. Google fridge contents.
3. If you are reading this in Australia, click on first recipe website with '.au' suffix. Otherwise, just click first recipe website.
4. For Asian food, add word 'Asian' at step 2.
5. Cook.

Special offer!: If you have been helped by this recipe book, please send $35 to my account via Paypal (normally $50!), and I will send you a suggestion for a cover photo you may like to use if you end up printing it out.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Ultrasound before abortion

Oklahoma has passed laws to ensure that women about to have an abortion must see an ultrasound of their baby an hour before the operation.

Here's the New York Times report.

The arguments against include the idea that such a move is unconstitutional because it infringes the physician's right to free speech if he is required to describe the foetus. Which seems a bit desperate, to say the least.

Seems to me the mother is being forced to confront the human identity of the one about to die by her decision, which is no bad thing.

The best thing would be to outlaw abortion altogether, but the current view of the US Supreme Court is that this can't be done.

Marriage license revoked?

Belinda Luscombe wrote a great article for Time magazine on marriage, and taking away people's license to marry for multiple infractions:

In no other area of life can grown people flame out so often and so badly and still get official permission to go ahead and do the same thing again. If your driving is hazardous to those around you, your license is suspended. Fail too many courses at college, and you'll get kicked out. You can lose your medical or law license for a single infraction. Stock analyst Henry Blodgett was prohibited from trading securities forever for publicly saying things he knew weren't true. So why do people who are committed vows abusers keep getting handed marriage licenses at city hall? If batters and violent offenders get only three strikes, why should bad spouses get more?

Of course, a lot of people will say this is nobody's business but the bride and groom's. Plus, it's natural. Evolution favors the alpha-male serial monogamist who bonds with a mate until she gets old and is replaced by a more fertile one. Other primates change partners all the time. But other primates also practice infanticide and poop throwing, and we're not about to sanction either of those. So why are we complicit in allowing people to make big public promises they have demonstrated a chronic inability to keep?

The whole article is here.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Man lies dying, ignored.

Awful story:

People ignored the dying man for nearly two hours as he lay in a street in Queens after saving a woman from being mugged.

CCTV footage showed Hugo Tale-Yax, a homeless man, collapsing with stab wounds on a pavement shortly after stopping the mugger, who had been armed with a knife.

From SMH.

Friday, 23 April 2010

God's gonna cut you down (Cash)

Johnny Cash. True it is.


Quoting the friend of a friend: "With so many gorgeous women about, you'd have to be nuts to be a homosexual."

I don't think it was meant to be anti-gay so much as pro-women.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

God's impassibility and your pain

Does God feel your pain?

Does Jesus retreat to impassibility when he ascends to heaven?

If you want to see how brainiac theology of the first order issues forth in deep pastoral comfort, read Mark Baddeley's extraordinary post at the Sola Panel, right here.

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

All my lovin'

Arranged for ukulele.

The Pope versus Polanski

I'm no great fan of popes, but here is a fascinating (because true) article by Dominic Lawson comparing the treatment of the Pope over assumed knowledge of sex abuse, with the treatment of Roman Polanski over actual rape.

From the article:

Last weekend I went to see a new film by a child-abuser. Very good it was, too. Roman Polanski's The Ghost shows no diminution in the artistic powers of one of cinema's most enduring talents: I can understand why the reviewers have been unstinting in their praise. Yet Polanski has not been doing the usual TV interviews that accompany critical acclaim. He is under house arrest in his Swiss chalet, fighting the attempts of a California court to extradite him for the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl, Samantha Geimer, in 1977.

The world of film – indeed, of art in general – regards this (Polanski's arrest, that is, not his abuse of a 13-year-old girl) as a scandal. This attitude was most clearly evident in the remark of the Hollywood actress Whoopi Goldberg, who last year defended him with the observation, "I know it wasn't rape-rape". With this remarkable neologism, Goldberg gave a new gloss to the old line (usually uttered by men) of "she said no, but she meant yes".

Richard Dawkins gets (dis)honourable mention too.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Too much Cross of Christ?

I originally posted this on The Sola Panel.

Is it possible to be too focused on the cross of Christ?

The answer has to be no. In fact, the nastiest pieces of theological misguidance that I've come across have lost any sense that the cross of Christ is where we find everything—our sin, God's love, his judgement, our salvation, and the mystery of Trinitarian theology working itself out in a place beyond our comprehension.

However John Stott brought me up short with this:

… if we dare to call our Judge our Father we must beware of presuming on him. It must even be said that our evangelical emphasis on the atonement is dangerous if we come to it too quickly. We learn to appreciate the access to God which Christ has won for us only after we have first seen God's inaccessibility to sinners. We can cry ‘Hallelujah’ with authenticity only after we have first cried ‘Woe is me, for I am lost’.

That's from The Cross of Christ (p. 109). After Basic Christianity, it is Stott's most useful book.

Translated into English from the English, Stott is saying, “Preach the cross as much as you like. But it is just a piece of stupidity in a distant historical context unless we understand why it is there. It's as ridiculous as taking a pill the doctor offers, without understanding that I'm sick—no, really sick.”

Until I understand that I am a sinner, that God really hates me for it, and that I really am going to the place where the fire burns without being extinguished and the worm does not die, I can't begin understand the love he showed me when his Son died in my place for my sins, bearing the full weight of his Father's wrath against me.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Reasons to be cheerful, part 3

We all know the song by Ian Dury, of course:

But not everyone understands all the reasons why we should be cheerful, so the BBC has helpfully put out this glossary.

Reasons to be cheerful, 1 2 3.

The Bad Man nails it on impassibility and language

Mark Baddeley absolutely nails it with this deconstruction opposing the non-impossibility of using passible language of an impassible God.

Here is the brilliant insight that unlocks what is going on:

But I'd suggest that this concern plays neatly into the hands of one of the bigger conceptual presuppositions behind a lot of modern atheism: good old Kant. The presupposition is that human language just cannot speak about something that is not part of our space-time system, and human reason can't reason about it either.

I freely admit I am too darn lazy to explain, just at the moment, why this is so astonishingly good. Maybe read a bit of Kant, or at least a potted summary, to start on the road here, and then head to the first post in this subseries.

Please note though that Mark is answering a second-level objection to a first-order point, and exactly what that point is (the impassibility of God) you can start reading here and keep reading here and here.

Spend time on it, folks, I urge you! This is theology as it should be done, and it is worth sweating a few bullets as you get past a little bit of the high falutin' language, enjoy the Star Trek references, to the point where you can enjoy just being thankful that God has granted Mark the ability to cut through dangerous sidetracks and errors with such conciseness (yes! conciseness! they are long posts but with good reason) and leading us back to a scripturally

(of course, for how could it be otherwise)

based understanding of God as he reveals himself to be.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Tetris lovers, abandon all hope

This is fully sick, in the older sense of that term.

Thanks Nathan.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Prayer prayed today

In church.

On the roster was confession, sick people, and the 9 am congregation at St Paul's:

Most Merciful God. We humbly admit that we need your help. We confess that we have wandered from your way. We have done wrong and we have failed to do what is right. You alone can save us. Wipe out our sins and teach us to forgive others. Bring forth in us the fruit of the Spirit that we may live as disciples of Christ. This we ask in the name of Jesus our Saviour. Amen.

Dear Father, we pray indeed that you will forgive our sins.

We pray for 9am church - Gary, Evan; those who serve in various ways - welcomers; those who serve morning tea; collectors; prayer; leaders; bible readers.

Please Lord forgive our sins, and guide those who teach us in your word to preach to us as forgiven sinners, desiring to see the coming of your kingdom. We pray for all of us, Father, as we serve in this church, that you will cause us to do so for your glory and in hope of your coming Kingdom, not for our own desire to be recognized. We pray that we will always be ready to explain the hope that we have in you, and that we will do that with love and faithfulness so that those who don’t know you, both in our congregation and in our community, will bring honour to you and serve Jesus as Lord.

We remember and bring before you all those in our congregation who are sick or in sorrow, suffering, need or any other kind of trouble. We remember B— having surgery on 14 April for ligament damage to her right knee. We also remember C—, recovering from surgery, and we also pray for the families of sick people we know. We think of those suffering work and financial pressures, or other family anxieties.

We pray heavenly Father for patience and perseverance in this life, and above all that you will fill us with the hope of your heavenly Kingdom and the joy of seeing you face to face.

We pray for the children of our congregation members as well, dear Lord, thanking you for the teachers who remind them of your word each week here at church, and we pray you will grant them a living faith and ground them firmly in the hope of your eternal kingdom and glory. Please give the children also the opportunity to witness to the risen Lord Jesus.

We pray all these things in Jesus name.


After which we prayed for our gospel partners in Kyrgyzstan, where they've just suffered a violent change of government.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Psalm 27

Here in all its glory.

I love the way that so often in Psalms, the end returns you to the beginning.

So the end of Psalm 27:

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

reminds us of the beginning, where the basis for the Psalmist's confidence is stated:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

The basis for our optimism about the future ("Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage") is not just positive thinking, but the very character of God himself, who is both 'light' and 'salvation'.

I'm looking at ways of changing and lightening my load for the next few weeks, partly in response to the wisdom of friends and family who have sensed or seen that I'm sinking more than I'm swimming; struggling with a feeling of depression and its consequences. One of the things that I find so comforting about the hope that the Psalmists offer is that the hope is only and ever in God himself, the one who sustains us when we can't sustain ourselves.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

From Requiem by Anna Akhmatova

A poem about the women waiting outside Stalin's prison in Leningrad. We sang it last night at the Opera House, to music composed by Moya Henderson.

It's the horror of oppression without the hope of resurrection.

Epilogue II

Once more the day of remembrance draws near.

I see, I hear, I feel you:

The one they almost had to drag at the end,

And the one who tramps her native land no more,

And the one who, tossing her beautiful head,

Said, “Coming here’s like coming home.”

I’d like to name them all by name,

But the list has been confiscated and is nowhere to

be found.

I have woven a wide mantle for them

From their meager, overheard words.

I will remember them always and everywhere,

I will never forget them no matter what comes.

And if they gag my exhausted mouth

Through which a hundred million scream,

Then may the people remember me

On the eve of my remembrance day.

And if ever in this country

They decide to erect a monument to me,

I consent to that honor

Under these conditions— that it stand

Neither by the sea, where I was born:

My last tie with the sea is broken,

Nor in the tsar’s garden near the cherished pine stump,

Where an inconsolable shade looks for me,

But here, where I stood for three hundred hours,

And where they never unbolted the doors for me.

This, lest in blissful death

I forget the rumbling of the Black Marias,

Forget how that detested door slammed shut

And an old woman howled like a wounded animal.

And may the melting snow stream like tears

From my motionless lids of bronze,

And a prison dove coo in the distance,

And the ships of the Neva sail calmly on.

March 1940

From here. Trans. Judith Hemschemeyer

What I prayed this morning

(at church)

Heavenly Father,

Thank you that the Lord Jesus rose again from the dead, and that you gave him a new body, restored and glorified.

We confess, dear Father, that we don’t think often enough of the resurrection and that when we do, we don’t realize its great and glorious implications.

We thank you that because of the resurrection, Jesus Christ is Lord; that you raised him from death to be the ruler of all creation. We thank you that because of the resurrection, the end of the world is coming; that the Lord Jesus will certainly return to judge the living and the dead. We thank you that because of the resurrection, we who were dead in our sins can look forward to a glorious awakening; that we will be saved from your terrible judgement by the forgiveness of our sins.

We thank you too, heavenly Father, that by the resurrection, we don’t need to grieve when one of us dies, as the pagans do, who have no hope; but that our grief is surrounded about by the knowledge of the comfort that you give in the giving of new life.

We pray, Heavenly Father, for our dear friends and family who don’t know the power of the resurrection and so live without life or hope, and we pause briefly to remember them now silently, by name.

We thank you so much, Father, that despite our unbelief and in cure of our unbelief, you give us the evidence and power of the resurrection, and we thank you that by the power of the resurrection you’ve given those of us who trust in you the power of the Holy Spirit. We pray that you will change us by the power of the Spirit into the likeness of the risen Lord Jesus, so that when we come at last to heaven we will reflect his glory face to face. We pray that you will return soon to raise and comfort everyone who has trusted in the power of the resurrection.

We pray this in Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Tom Waits and tramp

Jesus' blood never failed me yet.

Monday, 29 March 2010

The covenant

How does God relate to us?

If you can carve out the time, make sure you head over to Lionel Windsor's blog and spend some time on working out 'covenant':

The larger import of this for Paul’s argument with his opponents is that the covenantal obligations laid upon Abraham (circumcision) and his national seed (the law) as a prerequisite for international blessing are not laid upon the nations as a prerequisite for their own blessing.[6] Abraham’s seed has fulfilled the covenantal obligations. The multitude of nations, therefore, are not called to enter this covenant, but to find blessing in the “seed”, to be “immersed” into Christ, to be “clothed” with Christ (Gal 3:27). This comes about by the Spirit and by faith in Christ (Gal 3:14).

I've skim-read, but will be coming back, God willing, to re-read.

The other thing to say about Lionel is that he doesn't always write technically. In fact, here he offers translations for the rest of us.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Choir singing

This week, Wednesday and Saturday my choir is singing. Including Beethoven's 9th.

See the advert here.