Saturday, April 28, 2007

The haves and the have-yachts

I just liked the line in this article that described Sydney as fast becoming a city of the "haves and the have-yachts". The article sounds disturbing, in that most people surveyed apparently didn’t have family high on their list of priorities. But, when you look at the yardstick of the importance of family that was used, it was what sort of a priority is paying for your child’s education.

I dare say that there are people out there for whom family is their very highest priority, but for whom paying for "elite private schools" is NOT a priority when it comes to doing the best thing for their family. The alternatives given did appear to be retiring early and travelling, but that's beside the point of the soap box I am currently on. Since when did buying your children a place at university become the measure of the importance you give to family?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

An Australian Day

Today I did something I have never done before, and went along to the Anzac Day dawn service in Martin Place, Sydney. Now, I thought these dawn services would start at a respectable hour, like say 5:30am, and was rather horrified to discover that this one actually began at 4:15am! I am actually not so sure I even went to sleep last night after going to supper following bible study at a group member’s house, then realising that if I was to get the one-and-only 3:30am bus I needed to leave the house at 3:20am to make sure, and therefore should get up at 2:50am to give myself half an hour to pull myself together. 2:50am! Who ever gets UP at 2:50am?

Anyway, I made it. I stood on the side of the road waiting for the bus thinking I must be crazy but then discovered that it was standing room only in the bus because it was full of people doing the same thing. I was further amazed to discover the swarm of hundreds already gathered at Martin Place before 4:00am. My personal reasons for supporting Anzac Day, and individuals in the defence forces, are captured well in this article by Phillip Jensen, and my involvement with a military Christian group over the last few years has given me a new insight into the difficulties that those who serve our country encounter for themselves and for their families. So, I met a military friend in the crowd, resplendent in Navy dress rig. We couldn’t actually see a thing that went on during the service from our position while it rained, quite a lot, on all those other people who were closer and could see the action. But we decided that our visibility-less spot was quite fantastic after all, because it was under a verandah.

It was quite moving to hear what was happening anyway, and the Last Post and Ode to Remembrance always make me shiver. Interestingly we only sang two verses of each selected hymn, and they seemed to have chosen which two verses at random, so that the hymns lacked their usual progression of the salvation story and would hardly make any sense to those unfamiliar, even if they understood what "Lo, all our pomp of yesterday is one with Nineveh and Tyre!" actually meant. We then sang the New Zealand National Anthem. I think that must be another first for me. There are photos and a slide show of the service available.

After this was my next new experience – the Combined RSL club. I felt the gender imbalance and my absence of a uniform rather keenly but it was interesting to mingle with a group of Navy Submariners. There a few things in this life that I would like to do less than spend time in a submarine, but obviously it appeals, quite strongly, to some, and gives them an unspoken bond with anyone else wearing the dolphins pinned on their coat. It was when I was given a rum and coke, as the nearest thing to caffeine available from the bar, and realised that I was attempting to drink it at 5:30am, and it was soon followed by a second from a generous person I had never met before, that it really struck home that I was a little out of my comfort zone. My companions were perfectly safe, but the experience was all a little foreign. But, then again, how many people actually drink rum and coke at that hour of the morning in an RSL club, as a habit? I held on to the second Bundy for as long as possible then left it on a table, fully intending to come back to it and find some means of surreptitiously disposing of it, but it had been conveniently cleaned away. Then we had the "big breakfast" downstairs. I was just very pleased to sit down and eat something to go with that rum at this point, and I think I have never actually eaten a bigger breakfast.

I was later perusing the medals displayed on the wall and was amused to discover that there was a medal for "Conspicuous Gallantry". No disrespect intended for the actual holders of or awarding of such a medal, but what does one have to do to be awarded conspicuous gallantry (and I wanted to know why my friend didn’t have that one amongst his collection :) ...) – and would it be so gallant if it was so conspicuous?

There seemed to be hours before it was time for the marchers to assemble for their march through the city. The Submariners Association actually set out right near the beginning around 9.00 am (something else I learnt is that the Navy comes first in the hierarchy of the defence forces, followed by the Army, then Airforce), so they were gone. But then it wasn’t till almost 12 pm, with the rain falling again, that another friend came around with HMAS Kanimbla (it seemed that old Navy, Army and Airforce went out first, then the current forces). I was waiting and watching with his wife and kids at this point and it was beginning to get just a little tedious, and I was beginning to wonder who all these marchers were and where they came from (I had been up since 2:50am and it was raining remember!). Finally we had waved and cheered to Dad and could set off to feed these hungry kids and escape the rain. Then it was a walk back to Garden Island to collect their car and thumb a lift home. About 12 hours after getting up I went back to my unmade bed for a snooze.

And that was the end of my educational Australian day (well, there were and still are hours left of the actual day, but I think that's enough to tell for one post).

Monday, April 16, 2007

Flying by

My brother-in-law, as some of you know, is a helicopter pilot with the Australian Army. I often gets emails of some rather spectacular photos, the most spectacular or which unfortunately I can't usually post on the internet, but this one I think is quite harmless. He recently had to fly this little helicopter from Darwin to Melbourne to perform in an Airshow, and so here he is flying by the twelve apostles.

Anyway, I was on leave last week and gadding about Sydney with a very old friend from Tamworth, enjoying myself immensely, after a fabulous weekend at Katoomba Easter Convention, but am now back to many hours of computer time each day.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Happy Easter!

And here is a greeting I was sent for Easter, which I have decided to share with the world. It's an excerpt from Spurgeon's Immanuel.

But yet I know, where'er I go

Today was my Dad's birthday. He would have been 56. It's curious to pause and wonder how today might have been different - a phone call, a birthday dinner perhaps - and what sort of thing he might have liked for a present, and how I might have been different growing up with his influence. I asked my Mum once about how things had changed for her and she said "it's like life was technicolour once, and it's been in black and white ever since". That does remind me of Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality, which I believe he wrote after his Lucy died:

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore; -
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare;
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

I think that is just what happens to your view of the world when the effects of the fall have actually bitten you on the nose.

But it really doesn't bear to think about the "what ifs" and possibilities. There would be a billion alternatives for each of our lives. We have to remember that it is gift from God that we wake up each day and trust to his wisdom. And so I will think of this:

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who reigns above;
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace,
Whose every thought is love.
For every day I have on earth
Is given by the King.
So I will give my life, my all,
To love and follow Him.

Keith Getty and Stuart Townend Copyright © 2003 Thankyou Music

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The right way home

If I know the way home and am walking
along it drunkenly,
is it any less the right way because I am
staggering from side to side?

Leo Tolstoy

I don't actually know at which period of his life Tolstoy wrote this, but I have discussed this quote with Christian friends before, and recently came across it again. There's a lot to think about, along the lines of the objective reality of being a Christian, and holiness, and so on, in answering yes or no ...