Practice Resurrection – Plan a Party for Your Mother

Together with my Mum - Australia 2011

Together with my Mum – Australia 2011

Last night on Facebook, I posted that I had just booked tickets for Tom and I to go to Australia in June to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. I was amazed at the response, not just the “likes” it received but at the comments by those who remembered special times with their own mothers and fathers. One person shared about taking her mother to Israel when she was in her 80s. Another mentioned that she is heading to Sweden to celebrate her mother’s 85th birthday. Another grieved the fact that she had lost her mother when she was still young and had no opportunity to enjoy the celebrations we are relishing.

When my Dad died nearly 4 years ago, I made a commitment. I decided that I would head down to Australia twice a year to spend time with my Mum. It has not always been easy. The flight is long and gruelling, the work doesn’t stop while I am away and the financial pressure sometimes has me questioning my decision. But the fruit of these visits is immeasurable. The special memories of these last few years are more than I could ever imagine.

Time spent with loved ones needs to be a priority in our lives. If we are too busy or too stressed to party with family and friends then we need to question our priorities. The kingdom of God begins with a great banquet feast and I think that every time we gather with friends and families we catch a glimpse of what that will look like.

Maybe it is not your mother that you need to plan a party for. It could be a friend you have not seen for a long time. Or it could be for your colleagues and co-workers. Or for your neighbours. Celebration is at the heart of God’s kingdom. Jesus’ critics complained that he spent too much time partying – eating and drinking with friends. And he enjoyed that wedding at Cana so much that he made it even more fun for people by turning water into wine. Unfortunately too much partying is not often a criticism people accuse Jesus’ followers of much these days.

So take some time this morning to think about how you could plan a “resurrection party” for those you know and love. What would you need to let go of to free up the time necessary to make it happen?

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.

Whatever Happened to Our Backbones?

Together with my Mum - Australia 2011

Together with my Mum - Australia 2011

Yesterday I arrived in Australia to spend some time with my Mum who has just had back surgery for a collapsed spine. She now has new steel in her back, pins and nails that have strengthened the existing structure and returned some of its youthful vitality. She looks years younger, her face looks less strained and she seems to have gained two inches in height.  It is amazing to see her walking straight and tall for the first time for years. What is sobering however is to realize that even though she has two sons, a daughter and a daughter in law who are doctors, no one really noticed what was happening or the severity of her problem.

As I thought about that this morning I wondered: Have we too lost our backbones and neither we nor anyone has noticed? Has the strength and vitality of our faith collapsed diminishing us to a mere shell of what God intends us to be? What is the backbone of our faith anyway? What are the things that contribute the iron and steel that makes us stand straight and tall in the presence of God and of those around us?

These questions seem very appropriate ones to ask ourselves as we prepare for the celebration of Advent and Christmas. i plan to reflect on them during my time here in Sydney and will post a series of reflections on what I see as the iron and steel of my faith, the pillars that give me inner strength and hopefully, enable me to shine as light for others to see:

  1. The core beliefs of my faith
  2. The spiritual practices that nurture those beliefs
  3. The actions and deeds that reflect   but I would love your thoughts too.

However I would love to hear from you too. What gives iron and steel to your faith? What provides the backbone that keeps you straight and tall?

 

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.

—————————————————————-

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.

 

Population in Australia – Does it Matter

This is a very hurried post as Tom & I are just about to head to Camano Island for our Celtic retreat.  It comes from an email sent to me by Bruce Hulme who lives in Adelaide Australia.  I thought that many of you might find it interesting.

Last night there was a significant documentary by Australian entrepreneur and adventurer, Dick Smith, followed by a panel discussion on a regular show called “q and a”, around what Smith calls ‘the elephant in the room’ – population growth in Australia.

Many of you  will be fascinated to watch both segments, each lasting about an hour.  You can see them here.  The website is also very informative.

We are one week out from a federal election, so the timing of this was pretty interesting.

It will give you a good taste of the scene in Australia around this significant issue, and might be a good , especially for Aussie readers who missed it.  This issue is certainly increasingly in the forefront of Australian’s conscience. I think it also has some interesting theological implications, not least around stewardship, hospitality and the theology of family and fertility

So my question is “What does this have to do with theology?

Stop, Revive, Survive

I have just returned from my trip to Australia where I virtually disconnected from blogs, email and facebook for 2 weeks.  It is the first time that I have done this for a long time.  At first it seemed weird and I did attempt to stay in touch posting the occasional random blog post, but as I relaxed and enjoyed my time with my family I realized how easily I get my priorities out of focus.  Having realized that I didn’t even try to connect to the internet again until I was sitting in the San Francisco airport waiting for my connecting flight back to Seattle.

This has been a very special time especially with my mother.  We drove from Sydney to Brisbane, spent time with other family members including her one remaining sister, visited art galleries and just enjoyed each other’s company.

It was a wonderful and refreshing time though I wish there was a better cure for jetlag.  I have only logged about 6 hours sleep in the last 48 and am definitely feeling a little fuzzy around the edges.  As we drove north along the highway we were continually confronted with this sign – STOP, REVIVE, SURVIVE reminding us of those who have accidents and sometimes kill themselves because they don’t take enough breaks.  It was a great excuse to stop for another cappucino every couple of hours, and along the way we discovered some wonderful out of the way coffee shops – one in an 1880s house with incredible pressed metal work on ceiling and walls, another a beautiful spot on the riverfront at Kempsey – the outside seating was a little chilly on a cold winter’s day but well worth it for the homemade apricot scones we enjoyed.

This trip and the recurring sign – STOP, REVIVE SURVIVE – was a good reminder to me too of my need to rest and refresh myself on a regular basis – though not quite every 2 hours as the signs suggest.  When I get back into work mode it is easy for me to forget that work is not everything – particularly when the garden is overflowing with produce and my email account is bursting at the seams with new messages.

So what are you doing this summer (or winter for those of you Down Under) to STOP, REVIVE and SURVIVE.  And what do you do on a regular basis that maintains the rhythm of rest and revitalization necessary for survival in our high pressured world?