Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Places I've lived.

Viewing peoples' blogs, I see some like to list places they have lived. It can be interesting, so just in case anyone is curious I'll do the same. It makes an unusual selection, now that I think about it.
1) Malta, small island in the Mediterranean Sea. I was born there because my Australian father and English mother were based there with the Air Force.
2) Marshchapel Village, near Grimsby in Lincolnshire, England. Dad was based near there.
3) Ascot, in England. The same place they have the horse races.
4) Rickmansworth, County Hertfordshire, England. By now my father was a civil airlines pilot and it was a handy commuter address.
5) Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia. The family moved there when Dad decided we were best to move back (in his case) to Australia. We had a farm there. We lived in the town for a few months before moving out onto the farm.
6) Nobby's Creek, outside Murwillumbah, where the farm was.
7) Armidale, N.S.W. where I went to the University of New England.
8) Walgett, N.S.W. where I had my first teaching job. Any one who has taught in N.S.W. will have heard of Walgett. It has quite a reputation!
9) Inverell, N.S.W. where we still live.
In that time I've lived at seventeen different postal addresses that I can remember. And until we moved to the house we now live in, I was never under the same roof for more than five years. In Walgett I lived in some deadly dumps, too. Accommodation was hard to get there.
One more slightly unusual feature of my life: the family spent five weeks at sea on an ocean liner when we moved from England to Australia. I can see why not everyone wants to join the navy or the merchant marine. You can become seriously hemmed in and frustrated confined to a ship, even a large one. I like having space to move around in, which is one reason I loved living out in the country on a farm. My life experience has been quite unlike many people I've known, though. They lived in the same house from birth to leaving home at 18 years of age, or whenever.
Sometimes I envy people who've lived in the same area, where their extended family also lives. On my mother's side, there are innumerable relatives, first and second cousins, aunts and uncles I hardly ever saw or do see. On Dad's side, the family are scattered and I have at least one first cousin I've never met. It's odd. I wonder what it would have been like to be surrounded by blood-kin all through childhood. So I suppose that this was God's chosen way for me. This I do know. I became a Christian while living in walgett. There are several factors involved in that. Overall is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in calling me to believe. Humanly speaking, there was a long succession of small witnessing incidents. I recall one American girl I knew at University, quietly counselling me about the claims of Christ. She may never know in this life that her effort led to some results. So take courage, anyone out there who is witnessing to those around them. As they say, one plants the seed, another waters it and God brings the increase. But one factor too is this. In Walgett, a really socially isolating place, I had to come face to face with myself because there was not some great social life and peer group to lose myself in. So I was faced with just what life was, and the need for God.
We all have a spiriual pilgrimage to make in life. God knows what will work best for us. That is easy to say when you're feeling okay, harder when you're miserable or in pain. But that is the way, it seems.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Who's talking!

Back a few years, I taught a class who might be described as GROSS! One girl had such a bad case of tooth decay that she looked like the graphic picture in a health warning. She used to belch loudly, too. One boy used to make fart noises. Several of that class used to make crude remarks that were not funny, usually sexual innuendo of a low-brow nature. And any chance they found to stop the learning process they could take, they seized on like vultures (slow-thinking ones, at least). And that class used to seriously disgust me.
I am not a snob. It is not my way to look down on people as being not good enough for me. But revolting behaviour is obnoxious no matter who it comes from. And that class used to make me wish I was somewhere else. In fact, they aroused my contempt. When I prayed about it, wanting to be taken away from it, I was given a sobering revelation.
To God, that is how I must look! And not only me, but I'll only presume to speak for myself, not about others.
A perfect God, without using the word sarcastically, must find human beings a bitter disappointment considering the start He gave His creation. Having a sinful nature, as fallen humanity does, I must look quite foul to God when He looks at me as I am. And if He turned His back on me in disgust it would be impossible to blame him - and yet how horrifying it would be!
Not long after that I had one of those prayer times when I felt especially close to God. I prayed for His help for those sinners, and in praying for them I said, "What else can I do? I'm just like them!"
It felt good to admit that, because complete honesty with God brings the one praying closer to Him. It is what He calls for.
That being said, it still stops me sometimes when I see people behaving in a really squalid way, really corrupt and evil, and then have to remember that from the standpoint of the Almighty I must look pretty poor as well.
Read some of the Old Testament passages about the duties of a priest in approaching God. It was a really involved ceremony and it included the sacrifice of some animal so that blood was shed for the atonement of sin. I can see that I'm forgiven an enormous amount by God, and He sees Jesus' goodness when He looks at me because I'm covered by the Messiah's sacrifice. But I'd better remember that! Jesus makes me look good by drawing me to Himself. On my own...well...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Each to our time

Just at the moment I've been having some trouble with the computer, either a programme has malfunctioned or there is a virus in it; and it frustrates incredibly when there are things to do which can't be done because the machine is not doing its bit. It makes me think, though; in the western world, with all the technology available, we do not only enjoy the advantage of it (huge! Ask any blogger!) but we get dependent on it. This is not an original thought, but it is a thing worth remembering. There are people still living who can remember when most working families did not have cars, they walked or used bicyles, or rode horses or in sulkies, or took a train, or bus, depending on the distance and where they were going. So now, we all have cars, and some people can't manage without them. If you remember that film "THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY" it showed a woman reversing her car up her driveway to collect mail from the letter box. Of course that was meant to be comic, but it is not much exaggeration. Give people technology, and they don't only use it, they become unable to manage without it. This can be a problem. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad to think that if someone needs getting to hospital, there is a motor powered helicopter to do that, not just a horse-drawn ambulance, or even a terrestrial vehicle when it would be faster to fly them. But I can see why people say we need to get back to the earth sometimes. I know how to milk a cow, because I did so for years when I was going to school and the family kept a house cow for our milk supply. Not so many people would know how to do that nowadays. But I would be in trouble if I had to build a shelter out of natural materials. That is a vanishing skill also.
Still, perhaps we were all born at the time in the world's history when God knew we were most suited. It would not have been better for anyone to live in another historical era than the one they were born into. There is a reason for all things, after all.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Vital words

Something upsetting happened today. Driving through a narrow lane in the town and a young boy who was playing ran in front of the car. We hit him before we could stop, partly because he ran into the car. It knocked him over, and gave Liz and I a bad scare. We're both prone to nervous stress, so we piled out of the car in a panic. The boy had got up, though he was in tears. We found his parents, and told them. Several hours later, and the news is that he's quite alright. A bit bruised and shaken, and is seems nothing more. We had prayed, really hard, that he would be okay. And it shames me to admit it, but I was worried about the legal consequences to me, not just for the welfare of the little boy.
It was one of those moments.
There is a passage of Scripture that stands out, for times of fear or uncertainty. Roman 8-28: "For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
I badly need to go back to those Scriptures. Even knowing God, and being saved, there are times of stress. After all, Christians still bleed when we are cut. Being thrown into a fiery furnace and surviving can happen, as it did to Shadrach, Meshak and Abednego, but that does not mean it simply happens when we want to keep things easy for ourself. Even this year our son lost a friend in a car accident. He was 20 years old, Christian, born to Christian parents and grandparents; and it did not mean nothing terrible could not happen. The family say they have been upheld and had peace about it, thank the Lord; but there are those times when we feel the need for God really acutely.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Our right to our identity

Today's news says that public schools in New South Wales are to stop using the terms 'husband', 'wife', 'Mum and Dad', and others which are gender specific because, it is suggested, they exclude homosexuals by implying that relationships must be between a female and a male. This has been coming for a while; an Orwellian regime of "Nuspeak", meant to build political correctness into people's thinking and speech idioms. I believe that it should be resisted. It compromises the right to freedom of expression and imposes petty bureaucratic censorship on conversation. And a Church affiliated boys' school in this state was asked by some of its students for permission to take 'gay' partners to the school's senior farewell, instead of female ones. Accepting the existence of homosexuality does not mean we have to deny the existence of heterosexuality. Many, indeed most relationships ARE between a male and a female. It is not homophobic to treat that as a norm which can be recognized. Homosexuals, like any other group, do NOT have the right to demand that everything show deference to them. The rest of us can see it our way.
The same goes for legislating that Christian schools may not discriminate against homosexual staff, by refusing to hire them. This was explained well by one writer who put it this way: the homosexual can remain homosexual without working in a Christian school. A Christian school cannot retain its Christian stance if it is forced to hire an open homosexual, and that teacher's open homosexuality is in contravention of the Christian teaching. If you don't agree, don't associate with churches and their schools! They are entitled to act on belief. The same could actually be said for a teacher known to be living in any way which clearly violates their posititon as a Christian exemplar. Some time ago a Catholic school did sack a teacher for living de facto instead of being legally married. The cry went up, discrimination, violating rights, etc, but the school's position was: live according to Christian teaching and doctrine if you expect to be employed by the Church in an official capacity. The woman does not have to work in a Christian school to live as she does. The school cannot ratify a breach of Christian example by its staff and yet remain a Catholic school.
It's been said before: accepting that something is legal is not the same as having to personally approve of it. And minorities should not be allowed to tyranise, yes I use that word deliberately, by claiming censorship over the speech of others. Free speech means that one person can say something another bitterly disagrees with, and that other admits their right to say it; but they do not have to give way and not state their own opinion in turn.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Kindred spirits

I've made a discovery, after several hours spent blogging, and searching 'blogspot' for sites and their owners. I feel quite different talking to a Christian than talking to a non-Christian. Now I do NOT want to have a critical or hostile view of non-Christians. In fact, I'm sure I don't. I know too many people, and get on cordially with too many people who are not Christians, to become one of those people who only wants to know people of like outlook to my own. But it tells me that the Holy Spirit is real. There is quite genuinely a thing of the spirit that makes for empathy between myself and really alive believers. I should admit that I feel humbled or even a bit embarrassed seeing the right up front, radiant way some Christians express their faith, and tell anyone listening where they are coming from. I should follow their example. The Scripture tells us, let our light shine and do not hide it under a bucket (bushell). We are meant to be light to the world. And I'm finding it easier and easier to tell anyone who sees or hears me, that's where I stand. If they are going to reject me for it, that saves time. If they did not at firs realize, and decide when they find out that they do not want to know a 'holy roller', or 'God-botherer', or 'religious hypocrite' or whatever they consider Christians to be then right, so be it. It will save the wasted time. But when I try to e-mail or comment on a blog, talking to a Christian is so much easier. It is not just a state of mind. I have after all come across church members with whom I did not get on. It would be arrogant to suggest that it must reflect on them if we don't have much to say to each other. But there is still a real bond there. It is reassuring to know.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Call a spade a spade

When is some public commentator point out the difference between feminism and female chauvinism? There IS a difference, and it can be serious intellectual dishonesty to deny it. Feminism, I understand, is the entirely legitimate claim that the female human is equal in principle to the male. A woman is not inferior to a man, and should not be treated as a subordinate part of the race. Women should have the same rights to beliefs, conscience, chosen life style and employment as men. It seems outrageous to suggest that women should not have the right to vote, or a married woman the right to own her own property. That is feminism, and I don't see what objection could be raised to that except by someone who also had racist views, and believed in things like denying the vote to non Europeans. So feminism simply insists on the upholding of natural justice and humane treatment of all. But to insist that women are superior to men is not feminism: it is female chauvinism. The logic of language, that words have meanings, tells you that claiming one gender is superior to the other is gender chauvinism, and female chauvinism if argued from a female point of view. Some feminists may not acutally claim that men can do everything better than women, but theydenigrate men, thereby implying that women are of better humanity. To say that all men are rapists is a contemptible slander, just like saying all women are gold diggers or child killers. Obviously SOME men commit barbaric acts against women. Just as obviously, some women have murdered their helpless children and some women will let themselves be had in marriage only if the man has enough money to satisfy them. But it is grossly slanderous to make it a generalization.
Remember "The Truman Show"? If there was such a record of my life, it would prove that given the chance to force myself on a woman I declined to do so, out of respect for what was right. And that was even before I became a Christian. I would not claim to be abnormally good. Millions of men will not violate a woman, just a millions of women will not harm children, or men for that matter.
It is unfortunate that some hard line feminists, or female chauvinists, think that being equal with men is to be just like them. Pursuant of that notion, they imitate the worst sort of behaviour shown by men at their worst: ruthless disregard for others in their determination to get what they want. When men behave like rampant careerists, unrestrained by conscience, their behaviour degenerates to the point where it is hard to see the difference between them and animals. Technologically sophisticated or not, surrounded by the trappings of wealth or not, they behave without moral restraint, just as a crocodile or a tiger simply kills and eats without compassion. It does not have the faculty of conscience to restrain it. So it is with humans when they behave without regard for others. And if the female of the human species emulates the worst sort of male behaviour, then she proves that women are equal to men in that they are just as bad as them.
That being said, I should add: I've found that women can make just as good friends as men. This is not an attack on women. It is only my little home-grown polemic against the pretension that women are superior. Since feminism in its true form is an entirely respectable thing, then it insults feminism to call female chauvisnism by the same name.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The good and the bad. Heads and tails.

I read once that the Israeli army used to send men and women into combat side by side, with no distinction between the genders; and had to change that policy. They found that in combat, the male soldiers would instinctively try to protect the female ones, to the point where it distracted them from following orders. So Israeli female soldiers no longer go into combat. There is much more to this than mens' macho attitudes or possessiveness. Some instincts are built right into a human being. They are part of the way that a human is made in the image of God. And these things in human nature can reflect the glory of God, or be distorted by sin.
It is a really deep seated instinct in a person to drink when they are thirsty. It is not a matter of training or learned reaction, it is a compulsion to do what is needed to survive. The same goes for acquiring the things we need to survive, like shelter and food. If it becomes distorted by sin then it is greed, and can go to the extreme of stealing. But up to a point it is only the gathering of manna as God directed His people to do in the wilderness.
The same goes for protecting those we care for. That to is an instinct, deep in the human psyche. Parents will put their lives at risk, even die, protecting their children if need be. That is a God-given impulse.
And in the same way, men have a God given instinct to protect women, especially those close to them.
It can be a problem sometimes. Did you ever have the feeling that your parents were being over-protective, and not letting you do things you wanted to, because they were concerned for your safety? Very likely, yes. Sure, there are such things as parents who are control freaks, and they can be seriously annoying. But any parent of good conscience has a God given instinct, deep in their spirit, to protect children. And men have the same impulse to protect women. Some men might be over possessive and controlling. And when a man's nature becomes perverted by sin, they may try to exploit women. An evil man wants to victimize a woman, taking advantage of her physical vulnerability by forcing his attentions on her. That is the mentality of the rapist. But a man of good conscience may feel protective towards women, without going to the extent of smothering her. It can annoy a woman if she feels stifled, or treated possessively. But it is important to understand that when God made us He gave the man an impulse to shelter and protect the woman, to love and care for her, not stiflingly or cruelly but givingly. The hard line feminists who call it male chauvinism if a man offers a woman help are denying the God given nature of humans. Certain of their instincts are not merely cultural, they are inate and should be understood and treated properly.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


By Andrew Clarke.

A dialogue between God the Father and God the Son.

"Where are you going to, Beloved Son,
With your heart harshly troubled, my noble young one?"
"I must go to the world to bequeath hope and warning,
To tell fractured hearts a new era is dawning,
There's hope, healing and fire, vile sin and great ire,
And a fearful judgement to come!"

"I see you so lowly, Beloved Son,
That place your were born is a cow-shed, Pure One,
"I'll be no haughty prince in a palatial hall!
I'll be master by being the servant of all,
For the world's petty kings greatly prize earthly things.
But for them there's a sentence to come!"

"Now you hunger and thirst in the desert, My Son,
And the evil one brandished his riches, True One."
"He offered the things of the world, Holy Sire,
Such pelf as will pass and be flakes in the fire!
But the truth should turn all to treasures eternal,
And away from the judgement to come."

"You have told people truths that amazed them, My Son,
And been balm to the crying and hurting, True One!"
"I have healed the blind and twisted and lame;
But their masters on Earth have reviled My Name!
Those that seek to be lords are as brazen as bawds,
And for them retribution will come!'

"You stagger,in pain, You are bleeding, My Son!
Your back scourged, you head torn, your face battered, True One!"
Each limb is impaled on a bleak iron spike!
Your side cruelly gored by the point of a pike!
And "Forive them!" you cried, as You hung there and died!
You would spare them the fury to come!"

The sky has grown dark as a Heavenly Sign;
The body is broken, the Bread and the Wine.
By this mission of mine death itself is thrown down.
The blessed shall rise from the dust and the brine,
They shall rise from their graves, My blood sacrifice saves,
Caught up from the anguish to come.

"Where is that foul place You've descended, My Son?
full of fury and shrieking and hating, True One?"
"I've descended to Hell, to the grim Lake of Fire,
To the cavern of anguish and terrible ire,
It's deep and its dark, there's putrescence and death,
But I've beaten the judgement to come!"

"You pry open Death's talons, Immortalized Son,
And your tomb now lies open, My Chosen True One!"
"Since Hell could not hold me I fly to my throne,
To that realm of rejoicing I'll carry My own,
From all times, young and old, I shall bring them, My gold,
Through the awesome vengeance to come."

By Andrew Clarke. 1985.