Umbrella Cockatoo Dances to ACDC

Tom and I are sitting in the Los Angeles airport waiting for our connecting flight to Seattle and after 14 hours on the trip from Sydney I need to do something mindless to keep me awake. When I have been back to Australia people always ask me What do you miss most? Apart from my family it is always the birds that I most enjoy coming back to. Here are some photos that I took around my mother’s house over the last couple of weeks that i thought you might enjoy – and don’t miss the video at the end – great for a good laugh.

Rainbow lorrikeet on Camelias

Rainbow lorrikeet on Camelias

Rainbow lorikeets are definitely my favourite.

Kookaburra sits on an old gum tree (or anything else)

Kookaburra sits on an old gum tree (or anything else)

kookaburras always make me feel that I am home even when they wake us up at 4 am.

Cockatoos always the most destructive

Cockatoos always the most destructive

Cockatoos stripped the orange tree of fruit while we were there – they can strip paint from a house too. However here is a lighter side of their nature – they love to sing and dance.

Borders is Closing – What Does it Mean

This morning I read with sadness this article on Publishers Weekly about the demise of Borders Books.

The future of Borders has become much clearer with a motion filed late Friday that asks the court to approve a new motion that will permit it to sell “substantially all of its assets” by July 29. If the motion is not approved, or an agreement to sell the company is not reached, Borders said it will liquidate the bookstore chain as quickly as possible.  Read the entire article

I had already read about this in Australia where not only is Borders closing but Angus & Robertsons which is also part of the REDgroup.  The tragedy is that this bookstore chain first opened its doors in 1884 in Sydney and to me is one of the icons of Australian books.  Part of the problem is that it is now cheaper for Australians to buy books online overseas and have them shipped to Australia.

At least it looks cheaper up front but what I wonder is the ongoing cost to society?   Hundreds of jobs are being lost in Australia, and NZ.  The stores in the US may still escape if a sale occurs in July but the impact on thousands of lives is still huge.

The consequences of of actions spreads out in ripples that many of us are not even aware of.  Cheap books online for those who love to read seems like a godsend but it definitely has its downside & the impact of a global marketplace on everything we buy and use is incredible.  Many of us are starting to think about buying locally where food is concerned, but it is hard for us to think to other areas of consumption as well.

Perhaps preserving local bookstores by buying books locally is as important as buying produce that is grown locally. Which brings me to another article on the Publishers’ Weekly website that is easy to overlook.  It talked about the closing of Butterfly Books – the largest independent children’s bookstore in Wisconsin.  Small independent bookstores matter just as local businesses and food production matters.  At least that is what I think.  What do you think?

The Making of Memories – A Glimpse of God’s Kingdom Coming

Sunday is Penecost when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the formation of the church.  It is always for me a special of day of remembering friends and family who provide a glimpse of what God’s wonderful kingdom family will look like.

This year I feel I have had a special preview of that kingdom banquet.  As many of you know I am currently in Australia to celebrate my mother’s 88th birthday.  The big day was yesterday.  We started with a visit to her favourite cafe where the owners delightedly presented her with a special birthday ice cream.

Celebrating at the Little Gem

Shortly after my brother arrived from the Gold Coast and then my uncle and aunt dropped in as an unexpected surprise.   We celebrated with a wonderful luncheon feast, reminisced, shared stories, laughed and enjoyed ourselves.  Today we will celebrate with the rest of the family.

Happy birthday Mum

Hospitality, celebration, the coming together of friends and family are to me, all a foretaste of the kingdom of God. This has been a very special glimpse into the kingdom banquet feast with which we will all be welcomed into God’s resurrection created world.

Family Celebration

Pray for Australia

No one who lived through Hurricane Katrina will forget the size of the monstrous storm that hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, and it’s hard to imagine one could be even larger.   But half a world away, Cyclone Yasi has eclipsed Katrina for sheer size. The typhoon that hit the northeast coast of Australia early Thursday was three times as big as Katrina with winds that gusted to 186 miles per hour and a powerful surge that flooded coastal areas.

Yasi also caused torrential rainfall in an area that has already experienced Australia’s worst flooding in decades, with 35 deaths since November. read the entire report

 

Family Caught in the Floods

 

I have just heard that my 86 year old aunt is having to relocate to higher ground because of the floods.  She has lived in a house on the Brisbane river for the last 60 years and now its survival is in jeopardy.  Of course her situation is nothing compared to that endured by those who have already lost home and family but it is challenging none the less.  Fortunately her daughter and son in law are able to help her to safety and they are all able to take refuge in an apartment that my mother owns that is high above the flood level.

45,000 people in Brisbane have had to relocate and an estimated 20,000 homes will be flooded in the next 24 hours in the worst floods in a century.  Dams are at bursting point and the Port of Brisbane is closed.  read the story here

Prayers appreciated for all those who are affected.

 

 

 

Another town Devastated as Huge Flash Flood Hits Queensland Town

My heart goes out to the people of Toowoomba west of Brisbane today.  It has been hit by this devastating flash flood with a wall of water 8 meters (about 20 feet) high, and the impact is still moving downstream forcing the evacuation of many low lying areas even in the city of Brisbane.  Eight people are known dead and 72 are still missiong.

Floods in Australia – Of Biblical Proportions So Let Us Pray

This morning my prayers and thoughts have been on my home country Australia.  An area of north east Australia as large as France and Germany combined lies under water.  Some are describing it as a flood of Biblical proportions.  200,000 people are impacted which in a country with a population of only 20 million is quite significant.   And for the state of Queensland where most of the flood waters are has a population of only 4.5 million.  Rockhampton and Bundaberg are both inundated and many smaller towns have almost totally been swept off the map.

The impact from this flood could be felt around the world.  Australia is the 4th largest wheat producing country in the world and wheat futures jumped to two-year highs Monday in expectation that this severe flooding could greatly reduce global grain supplies. How many other lives, I wonder will be swept away because they can no longer afford to buy bread for their tables?

My heart aches for those who have lost homes and livelihoods in the midst of this devastation.  Following a ten year drought throughout most of the country many farmers were looking forward to their first decent harvest for a decade, only to watch it wash away in the flood waters.  I can imagine the horror this has caused for many farmers some of whom have decided to leave the land as a result, others have suicided, beaten down by the wreckage of their livelihoods.

Australia is a harsh country.  It is the driest inhabited continent in the world, and most of its population lives in a narrow strip along the Eastern and southern coast.  Australians are used to a grinding cycle of drought, flood and bushfires and have acquired a certain cynicism toward disaster as a result but this is definitely the worst flood for at least 30 years.  But this does not make the situation any easier.  It is hard to know how to pray at a time like this and I have adapted a couple of prayers I wrote after the earthquake in Haiti to use myself which I thought may interest others.

Merciful God

Compassionate Christ

Transforming Spirit

Have mercy on all those who suffer

Rescue the weak and the vulnerable

Protect for the stranded and the helpless

Comfort the displaced and grieving ones

Have mercy on all who are helping

God who loves

Christ who cares

Spirit who comforts

Grant peace to the victims of this flood.

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God grieve with us

Christ grieve in us

Spirit grieve through us

Embrace and comfort all who suffer

God care with us

Christ care in us

Spirit care through us

Heal and renew through our hearts and hands

God love with us

Christ love in us

Spirit love through us

Transform this devastation into eternal life

Christmas is Over Did You get What You Expected?

Tom & I are sitting at Sydney Airport waiting to board our plane to the way back to Seattle.  We have had a wonderful Christmas season with my family here in Australia but are now looking forward to being back ho,e.  This is a good time to reflect on the Christmas season and all that has happened since we left home.  So I thought that I would share some of my thoughts with you .

Christmas Day has come and gone, even the after Christmas sales far more exciting for some than the birth of Christ, are now well behind us.  But did any of us really get what we expected?  This season, long anticipated by many of us as the celebration of the birth of Christ our Saviour, often comes with unexpected consequences.  The gifts never quite meet everyone’s expectations and leave behind mountains of wrapping paper and ribbon that will add yet more indestructible rubbish to the landfills.

The birth of Christ wasn’t quite what was expected either.  Two thousand years ago he appeared in an unexpected place and in an unexpected way. His birth was ignored by the religious leaders who were looking for a king to increase their privilege and power. It threatened the political leaders who retaliated by vengefully killing all infants around Bethlehem.  I am not sure that those who encountered the baby Jesus found what they expected either.  The Magi after their long and arduous journey must have expected far more than an ordinary looking infant born to a young inexperienced mother.  And the shepherds who experienced the incredible spectacle of angels singing in the heavens must have come looking for someone quite extraordinary.

Today too we often find in Jesus what we least expect.  Maybe we have come looking for a child born in a stable, an unassuming infant whose advent makes us feel good but does not impose difficult demands.  Instead we have found a revolutionary leader whose words and actions turned the world upside down.

Babies born in the backwater of civilization are easy to ignore.  Yet even a child disrupts the world of its parents and makes demands that turn their world upside down.  So it is with Jesus.  We welcome him as a cute little baby but if we continue to journey with him, we soon realize that he wants to turn our world upside down.  That cute little baby in the manger scene has indeed become a revolutionary leader who is slowly transforming everything we are  and do.

 

Christmas Greetings from Australia

May the joy of the angels, the excitement of the shepherds, the perseverance of the wise men, the obedience of Joseph, the faithfulness of Mary, and the peace of the Christ Child be yours this Christmas. Adapted from Christmas eve service at St Johns Gordon.)

It is Christmas day in Australia, a beautiful day here in Sydney with sunshine and temps in the 80s.  Last night we attended the Christmas Eve service at the local Anglican church and I wanted to share this delightful Australian Christmas carol that we sang.

Boomerang of flowers

A child is lying cradled here beneath the slender gum

The God of might has left his home and to Australia come

The Kookaburra laughs with glee

The shy koala peeps

The magpie carols blissfully as little Jesus sleeps

What shall we give our infant King?

A boomerang of flowers

To say come back and stay with us and be forever ours.

 

Is This Real?

Last week I posted a couple of articles that deal with our perception of reality and how it is manipulated by the education of the secular world.  There are other forces too that shape our view of reality, not least the creative arts of music, art and more and more TV and the internet which are as much creative arts as our traditional perceptions of art and music.  As I was thinking about this I was reminded of an art exhibit I visited when I was last in Australia.

The art of Ron Mueck is incredibly lifelike and when looking at it in a photo or video you think you are looking at a real person

And then you see the real thing.

I find Ron Mueck’s sculpture fascinating, not least because of the reminder that reality isn’t always obvious it can depend on where and how we see something.  Ron Mueck began his career as a model maker and puppeteer for children’s TV and films helping us to imagine that make believe is real.

As I watched this video showing how Mueck makes one of his sculptures I was struck by how much work went into making an imaginary world look real and it occurred to me that we do the same thing in our lives.  Many of us live in imaginary worlds where life revolves around us and our needs.  Pain and suffering, the destitute and the dying don’t exist in this world.

Even many Christians have I think created imaginary worlds that revolve around a very self centred and hedonistic view of faith.  In its extreme form we end up with the prosperity gospel where Jesus is there to provide us with health and wealth, but unconsciously, even those of us who don’t believe in the prosperity gospel, buy into the imaginary world where faith provides a free pass away from the suffering and pain of the world.  But this imaginary world, like Mueck’s sculptures, are sooner or later shown to be unreal.

The real world of the gospels is an uncomfortable world for those of us who are well off to live in but it is worth uncovering and moving into:

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need of him for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs

God blesses those who mourn for they will be comforted

God blesses those who are humble for they will inherit the whole earth,

God blesses those who  hunger and thirst for justice for they will be satisfied

God blesses those who are merciful for they will be shown mercy

God blesses those whose hearts are pure for they will see God

(Matthew 5:3-8 NLT)