Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Local photos

I have decided to start a "local photo" project. Partly to think more about our community and partly to spice up our church website (eventually). I took this walking home from the station at dusk.

I call it "Full Moon over BWS". Yes, one of the busiest shops around...

Tim Chester has posted about understanding your neighbourhood (here at #1 and  #2) and I'd like to explore some of these questions...

Is it really Science vs. Religion?

Save Our Scripture - Make A Stand seems to have taken over my Facebook newsfeed today. I popped over and read Greg Clarke's article about biblical literacy being important in cultural/historical/literary understanding, as support for continuing scripture in schools. Some of the comments on the article and on the Facebook link were caustic and derisive. There is a fine line between critical evaluation and personal attack apparently.

I have also just listened to "All In The Mind" (Radio National show) podcasts from the World Atheist Conference in Melbourne, last month. PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer and AC Grayling all spoke on the relationship between religion and science.

Not surprisingly, there was little sympathy for religion as an issue of faith and it was roundly dismissed as an academic discipline. The opinions of scientists who have academic credibility and are known to be Christian (eg.Francis Collins - previous head of the Human Genome Project) were described as having "cluttered up our understanding with pointless nuggets of myth".

I was surprised at the way religion was set up as a stereotype and then cheap jokes were made about it. It was obvious that these men had some factual information about biblical content, but their understanding of faith as a value which informs life, experience and choices was pretty limited.

Some of the ideas were...Science as a rational, quantifiable exploration of the truth is what rescues us from the lies and myths of religion. Science is directly in opposition to religion as a way of knowledge. "Faith is not information and it is antithetical to critical examination and honest understanding". It was a dualistic view of the world in which people either believe in "Science" or "Religion". To see them as mutually exclusive seems limited and rigid to me.

"Science is what we do to keep from lying to ourselves" PZ Myers

"Religion is the lies we tell ourselves to justify our biases" PZ Myers

I can see where both of these statements are evident, but the reality of the relationship between opinion, knowledge, gut instinct and critical evaluation is much more complicated. I know instances where scientific method has been used to propogate lies. I also know instances where religion or faith has been the means of identifying and then protesting about accepted human biases. Science was behind the push for eugenics in 1930s Germany while faith drove Wilberforce to work to end slavery, to name just 2 examples.

Where does this leave us? I am more and more convinced that all of us argue from instinct and our own experience - both of life and of knowledge. Some of us just dress it up better and make it look more logical. Deep down, no one has flawless logic and no one really escapes their gut and its drives.

Science is actually a great gift from God. The ability of the human mind to explore, postulate, test and observe are attributes given to us by a God who loves intricate beauty and complicated workings. But science is not itself a truth. It is a theory, a way to understand the world. Testable, repeatable but not infallible.

Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 1 Corinthians 13:12

image from stock.xchng

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gratitude Community Update

holy experience

I have completed 1-250 this week. I have written blithely at times and then had times of deep searching to turn the thankfulness tap on.

Here's a few...

52.  morning porridge
53.  a big glass of water from the tap
54.  patting Bonnie to sleep on my lap
55.  a fresh loaf of bread
56.  an unexpected message
57.  time with old friends
58.  seeing the past in a different way
59.  a friendly chat with the man making coffee
60.  laughter at a meeting
61.  being part of a team
62.  the scent of maraya on the air
63.  panther black sky with pinpoint stars

Why don't you give it a go?
(Let me know, too, please)

Friday, April 23, 2010


Jarrod McKenna posted some thoughts about Anzac Day and the following vimeo on Sojourners blog.

Many people have participated in a whole array of conflicts with deep conviction that they were fighting and serving to protect people, places and traditions which they loved. Many people who also loved the Lord. I don't want to disrespect those people or the acts of sacrifice in which they participated.

War, however, is ugly. No one who has been part of it or experienced its aftermath would deny its horror. Every war in the modern era has spawned its own traumatic effects - battle exhaustion (1800s), soldier's heart (American Civil War), shellshock (WWI), battle fatigue, combat neurosis (WWII), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Vietnam War), and Gulf War Syndrome, are some of the psychological descriptions. 

Families of veterans have experienced death of loved ones, along with the results of trauma in those who return - depression, anxiety, rage, substance abuse, violence to name a few. Children have grown up fatherless or in orphanages as a result of conflicts all over the world. In some countries, those children have become the army when there are not enough adults to fight.

Being Christian is not synonymous with being a pacifist. People of faith can find justification to participate in conflict. History is proof of that.

While I would not want to take part in war (and have always called myself a pacifist), what would I do if my home or family were threatened? If I lived in a place like Rwanda, Sudan or the former Yugoslavia? Am I just blessed to have never had to answer the question for real?

Gallipoli or Calvary from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

The challenge for me here, is how will I respond to conversation about Anzac Day this weekend? Will I let the platitudes slide by? How will I respond if human sacrifice in the depravity and brokenness of battle is equated with the innocent, life-giving, relationship-renewing sacrifice of Jesus?

McKenna quotes Bonhoeffer in a challenge that we are too inclined to be inoffensive. That I would rather let an insult to Jesus and his ministry go than risk offending my mates. I have to plead guilty to that charge, all too often. I am a coward when it comes to controversy. Here goes for trying to be offensive 'for the right reasons'.

Then I need to consider the deep need many people have to identify with this ANZAC sacrifice story. Our local Dawn Service has been growing in attendance over the last few years with many young people and families.

People have a longing for the humble hero. A connection with the someone just like them, who has participated in the transcending narrative, been part of history. Anzac Day is safe, circumscribed and does not demand response, other than respect and admiration - a raising of  the glass to the heroes.

The sacrifice of Jesus, however demands the ultimate paricipation as he calls us to take up our crosses, too.

May people long to participate rather than just admire and raise a glass this Anzac Day.

Monday, April 19, 2010

1000 Gifts

Gratitude is such a healthy attitude. I really want to cultivate it in my family.
I'm starting with nourishing my own gratitude. The challenge is to gather a list of 1000 gifts I already have. I would love to finish by Mother's Day (May 9th). I'll let you know how I'm going...

holy experience

Click the Holy Experience link to

Failing as a mother

I am blown away by this post about grace and parenting. I am often the mum I promised I wouldn't be, also known as the troll who torments my children.

My tiredness, my selfishness, my hurt at not being listened to, my insecurity, my ignorance and lack of understanding, my impatience and my self-absorbtion all drive my angry and spiteful tongue.

Sometimes I don't know what to do about it.

Only the grace of God can make up what I lack.

The first post I linked to, (such inspiring writing!) used this verse from Ephesians to exhort me to consider my words carefully in mothering. Here it is from the translation I often read, but the second version, from the New Century version really made a point about words being able to make people stronger. I love how that roots encouragement into our childrens lives and makes them grow, building tenacity and stability into their beings.

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Eph. 4:29b - NLT)

When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. (Eph. 4:29 - NCV)

Praise God for wise words from other people, may they help me to become stronger.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Midnight Cleaning

Midnight. Saturday Night. The motivation to scrub the toilet bowl is somehow based on shame. My in-laws are visiting after church, tomorrow.

What a faker!!!

I don't mind that my family see my poor hygeine standards, but I must save face before my husbands' mum and sisters. And lately, the more I try to look organised and be hospitable, the worse I am doing.

I am agonising about this.

It is uncomfortable that these people know my failings, my disorganisation. I so want to be the one who has it all together. It is easier to talk about failing, here as I write, than it is to imagine what others think of me as they sit in my house.

As I consider my reactions and shame, it just points me to the pride and conceit that drives me. I find myself confession-blogging.

photo from stock.xchng (no, this is not my toilet - it looks cleaner than mine.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


'Neuroplasticity' is a bit of a buzzword at the moment. Norman Doidge, a North American (Canadian, I think) psychiatrist, has written this book about the development of neuroplasticity as an idea and a basis for treatment in a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

He shares a number of amazing and inspiring stories about recovery from brain injury, congenital brain abnormalities, from obsessions and childhood trauma. The book is interesting and engaging and definitely worth reading.

Until recently, it was generally believed that the brain carried out its various functions in specifically localised areas, and that damage to an area resulted in loss of function, never to be regained. Evidence is mounting that this view is simplistic and that our brains are much more sophisticated in their response to damage or injury.

Contrary to the idea that adult brains are static, people have been retrained in lost function despite permanent brain tissue damage. Other neuronal networks develop the ability to take over the functions of damaged neurons. Damage to neurons stimulates the production of hormones which catalyse the formation of new networks and pathways.

One of the interesting ideas which Doidge proposes is that our brains delight in learning new things. He goes so far as to say that if our brains lack novelty then we begin to become restless. Delight, enjoyment, love, pleasure all stimulate dopamine in the brain. (The dopamine reward pathway in the pre-frontal cortex is thought to mediate addiction.) We can become tolerant to dopamine stimulation and novelty will renew the 'buzz' and enjoyment.

'We must be learning if we are to feel fully alive, and when life, or love, becomes too predictable and it seems like there is little left to learn, we become restless - a protest, perhaps, of the plastic brain when it can no longer perform its essential task.' (p116).

So, learning new skills and concepts is a way to maintain brain stimulation and protect against the pitfalls of plasticity. Doidge 's illustration is of a skier going down a new slope. The first run will create a new path, but as that path is used a number of times, it begins to direct the skier in that path and it is more difficult to divert to an alternate path. Plasticity gives us the ability to create new paths, but can also bind us tightly into faulty pathways, which become tricky to evade.

These are just a couple of ideas from the book. It is worth reading more, especially because of Doidge's readable, informative style.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Today's best question

L:  "What's that new book called, Mum?"

Me: "Psychoanalytic Diagnosis."

L: "Is that the longest word in the world?"

Unexpected Death

A sad day at work, today, as I discovered that one of the doctors I work with died suddenly and unexpectedly yesterday. His wife is expecting their third child later this year and my heart aches for what this little family faces over the next while.

Both he and his wife have worked for a number of years in their busy hospital department and are well liked. A memorial service is being planned and I am sure it will be packed.

Instinctively, I imagine what it would be like if my husband died like this. Somehow, I need to personalise the pain to make it more real. In shock, I find myself drawing on connections to establish a sense of reality. Is it not enough that the pain exists? Somehow it needs to touch me, to be close. I do not like the tinge of voyeurism that comes with another's grief, but it speaks of our need to know and be known.

Losing a dear someone brings so much attention, especially when it is in tragic or sudden circumstances. Attention that can be initially overwhelming but fades all too soon as the world moves on. Moving on, as the people whose lives have been blown apart are left reeling and lost.

This broken, broken world where families are bereft, children fatherless, death uncontrollable. We desperately need someone to bring hope and healing. I cannot fix things. We cannot fix things. Despite our competencies, our professionalism, and our independence, our self- reliance is, in fact, baseless in the deep and lasting matters of existence and purpose. Part of my grief is desperation that we are so powerless, in the end, when it really matters.

The message of Easter is that I am powerless, but God is not. Jesus chose to come in innocence and die. God raised him from death to sit beside him in heaven. Relying on God's power and work to rescue us is based on truth. His power to defeat death has passed the burden of proof. He has already done it.

My grief gestates an urge to trust God more.

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.
But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:54-57.

Please pray that this family will know God's love, comfort and power, now and in the years to come.