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the eighth day

April 16, 2010

Changing Gear

The last week has seen me changing gear in a significant way. A week ago today I submitted my completed thesis - the result of 10 years' work. The past 6-9 months have been intense as I have sacrificed other things in order to bring it to a conclusion. Late nights fuelled with doses of caffeine in the form of chocolate and Coca Cola have left their mark upon me in many ways. Last Saturday, after conducting a wedding, I came home and went on a 20-minute run. It was pain free (well, except for the excessive huffing and puffing, the occasional break to get my breath back and allow my legs to recover) - as a long struggle with plantar fasciitis is now behind me. I have spent much of this week sifting through the detritis of filing, notes, and other resources in order to transfer them into a filing cabinet, both at home and the office. Time will come when I start to cut and dice the thesis for publication in different journals, but for now the focus is upon gaining control of my life again and restoring some balance.

It actually feels good to go for a run with a clear head.

Posted by gary at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2010

Perspective is an Interesting Thing

Our first day in Helsinki - day one of the trip, assuming you don't count the day sitting on an airplane - was... cold. One degree Celsius was in stark contrast to the warm summer behind us in Melbourne. As we meandered around this beautiful capital, wandering in and out of shops, gaining our bearings, and beginning to appreciate the city's culture and architecture, one of the shopkeepers remarked that the weather was "unseasonably warm!" It was a comment that pulled us up in our tracks. I don't ever recall thinking that one degree Celsius could be considered warm. And with the wind chill cutting our ears off at the base, the depiction of warmth was furthest from my mind. But when the forecast for the days ahead included top temperatures lower than -10, and our later journeys in the UK keeping us in temperatures below freezing for days on end, it may be unsurprising to note that when we resurfaced into above-freezing temperatures someone commented on how "warm" it was!
Ah, perspective. What can seem easy to one is a struggle to another. What challenges one person bores someone else. What one embraces as beautiful, another shuns.
The artist John Constable once noted: "I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may, - light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful." Life's richness is rooted in the depth and breadth of perspectives offered by difference. When we experience something on the way up, we are more appreciative than in times of decline.
The tendency to absolutise particular perspectives robs us of learning experiences. To be pushed out of our comfort zones is not something many of us yearn for, yet such experiences teach us to appreciate what we have.
A journey up the Eiffel Tower in January offered us temperatures in the wind which hovered between -10 and -15. At that stage I would have welcomed a single balmy degree above zero. By then I had learned the beauty of many things which had previously been alien to my experience. Perspective is a wonderful gift which has taught me to seek further understanding...

Posted by gary at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2008


You will have noticed how quiet things have been from this desk over the last month or so. It has not been the result of holidays or other equivalent inactivity (much to my own disappointment!) I returned home one February morning to see the dreaded "blue screen" on my computer, which reported a dump in progress and inviting a restart. This could not be good news. In fact, the worst. Restart went OK until the time for the hard drive to kick into action arrived. All I could mount in response was the message "No HDD" and an unwelcome and foreboding clunking sound coming from said HDD. Thus began another journey through the digital world.

Having lost a computer due to break-in many years ago (with no backup), I now have a regular back-up plan. I had recently upgraded to Norton 360, which offers a back-up regime. Having backed up only four days earlier, I was not overly worried about data loss. Until, that is, I went to restore data to the new HDD.

For some reason, Norton had failed to recognise and back up any folders I had created in 2008! This meant the loss of a not-insignificant amount of work. Norton 360 also, for some reason, does not back up non-Microsoft web-browsing and email programs, meaning that Firefox and Thunderbird Mail, contacts, bookmarks and the like had not been backed up at all. Grrr.

At this point I searched for data recovery specialists. The first quote to resurrect the drive came in at a cool $2500. This was reduced to $2200 when I indicated I would take my business elsewhere. Another search brought me a quote of around $700, at which point it seemed worth the effort, particularly with a no-data-no-fee policy.

Meanwhile I began the process of reinstalling programs on my new HDD. Fortunately I had placed all disks in one location, so the process wasn't as fraught as it might have been, although it is a lengthy task. Following installation, the search for updates begins. If you run Windows XP, you'll know how many that can mean, let alone office etc, as well as reinstalling and updating Norton 360 and other programs. It's at least a day's work.

Then, on opening documents once again, you realise that you need to reconfigure all settings. Then you realise that some fonts have not been reinstalled. (Norton 360 doesn't back up fonts either). Obviously one program I didn't reinstall carried a font I had used on a number of documents in DTP.

After recovering the computer and getting it operative once again, I received a call from the Hard Drive Doctor, who indicated that he had recovered the drive with 100% data recovery. Woohoo!

Then becomes the process of recovering and resynchronising data... Having used the new setup for a couple of weeks, there were files which had been edited, others created, and emails sent, read and deleted. When trying to open 'recovered' files, I found that some were corrupted - the FAT had recognised their existence, but sectors were damaged.

I now have recovered copies, reconstructed copies, backup copies and other copies of files on three HDDs. And a new backup regime that also targets the Fonts folder as well as the information under Documents and Settings for all programs.

I'm glad computers can save so much time... I think I have spent a bit of it over the last month getting it all back together.

And the interesting timing? I received the note from the Hard Disk Doctor that he had recovered data on Easter Saturday!

Posted by gary at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2007

Fingerprints of the Divine?

As an experienced student of forensic science (TV style), I have been forcibly informed that we human beings leave parts of ourselves wherever we go. We cannot pass through a place without leaving behind some mark of our presence. Cyber experts offer similar injunctions: our web surfing, our emailing, and other on-line transactions and activities leave a trace which afford some sort of historical profile. Adding in the use of mobile phones, banking and EFTPOS, not to mention the ubiquitous presence of city and road surveillance cameras, and use of an e-tag, it is no wonder that civil libertarians have us looking over our shoulder wondering about Big Brother and trumpeting our need for and right to anonymity. We are subtly trained to frame these fingerprints traces in a negative way – somehow threatening our true self, leaving it subject to the whim of others.
At funerals I am often taken by the fingerprints which a person has left behind: the memories, ideas, passions and values which have left their mark on others, some for life. As I was listening to the unfolding life story of a friend’s mother this week, I came to understand that these fingerprints and traces are an essential aspect of who we are: people with connections, people who are part of a community – interconnected and interwoven with the lives of others in so many different ways. As I listened to the eulogies, I was reminded of Jesus’ injunction at the commencement of his ministry, “The kingdom of God is breaking in upon you.” I began to ponder whether the mark of God’s kingdom is to be found in the many aspects of our DNA which are left in different places and on different people.
In the busyness of life, I often find myself distancing from people, preferring not to be distracted as I commit myself to the tasks before me. I am tempted to move people on quickly so that I can return to my chosen task, seeking my own space, protecting my own privacy in a way, often unaware that I may be turning myself away from the very kingdom I am seeking.
Then once in a while I remember. I pause to talk with an oft-difficult and demanding man sitting on a bench, to listen to his story, and find myself rekindled with a sense of wonder and refreshed by the touch of his humanity. I occasionally choose to walk down the street in the hope of an encounter with someone in the community, sometimes returning disappointed because there has been no encounter.
Does my often fierce protection of personal space and privacy cut me off from the in-breaking presence of God? Are these tell-tale forensic trails really part of the fingerprint of the Divine?
(An edited version appeared in The Sunday Age on 5 August 2007)

Posted by gary at 12:09 PM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2007


A-Available or Married? Married
B-Best Friend? Definitely my wife
C-Cake or Pie? Mostly a cake person - chocolate!
D-Drink of Choice? Coke, hot chocolate (European variety)
E-Essential Item? Computer
F-Favorite Color? Blue
G-Gummi Bears or Worms? Worms - not to eat, but we have a wonderful worm farm which keeps the household waste down
H-Hometown? Born in Adelaide, South Australia, but lived in Melbourne most of my life.
I-Indulgence? Chocolate
J-January or February? What's not to like about January? Middle of summer, school holidays, cricket, tennis...
K-Kids and Names? Caleb, Rachel and Samuel
L-Life is Incomplete Without? Times of quietness
M-Marriage Date? 30-4-1983
N-Number of Siblings? 2, one of each, both older!
O-Oranges or Apples? Oranges if they are juiced, apples if solid
P-Phobias/Fears? Snakes and I have a wonderful agreement: I don't go near them and they don't come near me.
Q-Favorite Quote? Everybody has a choice. You just have to be prepared to live with the consequences.
R-Reason to Smile? Life itself is a reason to smile
S-Season? Autumn
T-Tag 3 People Martin, Megan, Rick
U-Unknown Fact About Me I can't tell you, can I? Then it would no longer be unknown! How about... I was expelled from prep!
V Verrrrry interesting... but stupid! (guess the TV show!)
W-Worst Habit? T?
X marks the spot!
Y-Your Favorite Food? Chocolate (is there any other?)
Z-Zodiac? Is this a new type of sweetener?!

Posted by gary at 07:55 AM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2006

Milk's a Marvellous Drink

...but not for keyboards.
Our family enjoyed some long-awaited Long Service Leave, trekking around Australia for fourteen weeks, enjoying some of the remotest parts of this vast southern continent (see the travel blog for full details). The trek went rather smoothly, but not without mishap. One such mishap involved a milk drink and my computer keyboard while viewing digital photos in Alice Springs. The letters klm,;.i and o became somewhat temperamental. Attempts to clean out said letters resurrected them a little, but weakened the keys.
For three months I have had to put up with pressing the "o" five times to get a response, and pinching the end of my fingers when pushing the plastic piece where the keys ; and . once sat.
No more.
Efforts to get said computer repaired brought quotes approaching $300, not to mention making times for delivery, pick up, service man, etc. I took the short cut and ordered a spare keyboard, which duly arrived yesterday. The first couple of attempts to replace broken keyboard with new one lead only to frustration. Then, the magic Asher arrived, and within ten minutes the keyboard has been replaced, and I only have my poor typing skills to blame once more for the poor reproduction on screen. And all completed for about 10% of the cost!
Milk strengthens bones, reduces need for further solid intake, tastes wonderful with chocolate flavouring mixed through, but is not recommended for computer keyboards.

Posted by gary at 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

October 02, 2006

Back in the saddle

Blog has been quiet for the last three months while my family and I have been travelling around Australia, enjoying something uniquely Australian - Long Service Leave. We have enjoyed visiting some of the most beautiful country in the world, and learning from some of its most primitive and creative and resilient people - Indigenous Australians. We have returned to the place where it all began and are seeing it for the first time.
If you'd like to read something of our journey, take a look at our travel blog. Some aspects of the journey which have shaped our thinking are still being discussed and processed. These thoughts will appear in the days to come.

Posted by gary at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2006

Blog takes a holiday

I am heading away this week on some extended leave, and am unlikely to update this blog until October. You can follow my family's travelling journeys at heardaboutaustralia, as we travel around the centre, north and west of Australia.

Posted by gary at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2006

A Special Message

But you have to go here to see it.

Posted by gary at 10:49 PM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2006

Heading off for a while

In about two weeks we (my family and I) will be heading off on some extended leave, taking in some of the sights of the most remote parts of Australia, as we travel up through the Red Centre of Australia to Darwin, then return through the Kimberleys and down the West Coast of Australia, then crossing the Nullarbor on the way home. If you would like to keep up with our reflections on the journey, head across to our travel blog, which is called "heardaboutaustralia".

With the temperatures hitting a wintry 4 degrees in the morning, Darwin's high 20s look especially alluring!

Posted by gary at 09:27 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2006

Forced Change

I have needed to change to accepting comments from only registered users because I am being spammed with over 100 comments a day. While I can filter them out (they don't hit the site), it is becoming a real headache. So... hopefully that won't deter you from making comments - even if it is a bit more convoluted.

Posted by gary at 04:58 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2006

Up in the air

A recent flight from Seattle to LA began in the clearest of skies. The weather was warm and the sun shining over Mount Rainier, illuminating it with a rare beauty as we bade farewell to Washington State on our journey home. The view from the skies offers a unique perspective on the landscape: rugged mountains, quilted fields growing all manner of foods which will reach tables across the nation (and beyond), as well as provide income for the farming families. One can even make out - for a short time – cars snaking their way south on the I-5: like ants at a picnic streaming to or from the food source. The concerns of the drivers, the farmers, and the lives of many others embroidered as tiny stitches in the landscape, are invisible from 20,000 feet. They weave a unique pattern, exuding a calm and rhythm often missing in the face-to-face encounters.

As we neared our destination, a significant cloud layer took shape below. Our flight continued smoothly in clear blue skies, above a soft carpet of cloud - this peaceful space above the clouds. It was not until we commenced descent into Los Angeles that the realities masked by the cloud layer loomed into view. It began as our plane dipped its wings through the cotton layer, briefly jolting us out of a disconnected comfort before submerging into a different reality. We moved from bright sunshine to a cloudy gloom, from clear skies to polluted air, leaving behind the unhindered freeways of the skies to engage with the clogged arterials of urban LA.

The spiritual classic The Cloud of Unknowing invites us to welcome that clouded space between two realities: between the grounded grittiness of daily life, and the deepest yearning for something transcendent. During those transitional moments between clear sky and urban sprawl, we were immersed in a nether-world, a space without context or meaning, where pilot and craft are guided by instruments informed by signals from far-away places. In the spiritual journey, it is where we are invited to discover realities hidden from the eye – to know and to experience God at work – above and below.

I reflected on the ways that we are called to learn to live in transition through the cloud, able to reach those places ‘above the maelstrom of life’, where a new perspective can be gained, where refreshment can be found, where we can be in touch with our deep humanity, and draw it out afresh from the tangle of pressures which engulf us daily. But this is not a place where we can live perpetually. We are refreshed and renewed to reenter daily life with renewed perspective, a deepened humanity, with the aim of bringing such peace into the life ‘below the clouds’.

To walk by faith is to acknowledge realities which exist beyond our senses, and to recognise that they exist in the present and as possibilities for our future. To live with the knowledge of both realities equally present is the daily challenge we face.

Posted by gary at 10:49 PM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2006

In Seattle

So you've guessed I am in Seattle. Ev and I have come as part of the MSA network to catch up on developments over the past three years, and to take part in a conference scheduled for Friday and Saturday entitled The church has left the building. As we look to the future, and honestly at the present, it is apparent that the institutional church is in decline in the West, and that there are small yet significant shifts in the way people come together in faith communities. Although church attendance in Australia, the UK and the US is on the decline, many christians are found amongst the exodus from the church, clearly searching for a more significant expression of christian faith and practice. For all sorts of reasons, younger generations in particular (although not exclusively) have searched for greener pastures. Some have become part of a movement known as "the emerging church", others are committing themselves to lifestyles and work patterns which allow them to engage with the challenges of our globalised economy - poverty, environment, and other forms of injustiCe, which they do not find high on many local church agendas.

This conference will draw together many people on that journey - at different stages and diverse paths. I will be presenting a session on "Matrix Spirituality" and Ev will be leading a session using art to explore other ways of giving expression to faith.

So far we have had opportunity to catch up with Board and Staff of MSA, exploring some of the dreams they share, and doing some of the physical preparation for the conference, which is to be held on Friday and Saturday.

Posted by gary at 01:29 AM | Comments (1)

April 24, 2006

For the more astute reader

In case you were wondering how it is that my last blog refers to a newspaper which is published on the date following... (of course, you noticed, didn't you!) It is because of where I am writing from at the present... I'll give you a clue.

Guess where

And no, "about to get run over" is not the correct answer.

I'll tell you more shortly.

Posted by gary at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2006

Chasing down old school photos

Having just enjoyed a 30-year reunion with my high school mates, setting up a reunion web site and tracking down all the form photos, I wish I had found this site earlier. It tracks down almost any school photo. Having collected all the high school ones, I went looking for the primary school. Many funny memories came flooding back. Do you remember what was in fashion when you were in school? Wait until you see photos you had long forgotten.

Posted by gary at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2006

School Reunion

Last night I attended the first reunion of my high school class – a journey in education which was completed nearly 30 years ago. I had barely seen a single person since finishing and moving on to university. It turns out I was not alone. We had been dispersed into the wider community following high school, and continued quite separate lives. In the days leading up to the reunion there was a growing sense of excitement… where had life taken us? would we recognise one another? what of those with whom we had conflict?

From the moment the first groups entered the room, a buzz of excitement and conversation emerged, growing with the numbers. Connections were made and re-established with ease, some with a simple look at the face, and others by looking at the name tag! It was fascinating to see the way people who had not seen each other for 30 years were able to pick up and carry on as though they had last seen each other recently. Sharing of memories lead to sharing of stories, as we pieced together our varied journeys. The six years we had spent together (some longer, as we had attended primary school together) established a rich bond which has lasted. As one person commented, “Our years at school are carried in our heads and our hearts, and everyone with it.”

I gained a new sense of community last night. Some of the people I was not close to at school, others I was in conflict with at different times, other friendships had waxed and waned, and others admired from a distance. And I was not alone. I sensed a need to “set some things right”, as the years have made us realise the stupidity - perhaps naivety and innocence - of our actions. To be able to laugh together about many of those misdemeanours and poorly formed intentions is somehow healing and releasing, and life-affirming. We have been allowed to grow and to “place a marker in the ground” affirming that growth, yet at the same time known in our raw reality. We were “real” people a broad sense.

I sense there is something important in a community which allows us to test ourselves and our limits, to learn relationships, to experiment with who we are and what we might be, and not just for our pre-adult years. It is a part of the gospel story to rediscover ourselves and be remade in grace: for Simon to become Peter, Saul to become Paul, Onesimus to be seen as someone able to contribute, and to be welcomed as part of the community, with all our warts and flaws known and keeping us real.

It is a significant challenge to become a safe community where we are able to test and to experiment, to fail and to restore, and in so doing to grow in our understanding of who God has made us to be.

... on a very different note, I also gained a perspective on what it means to have aged. All of the people in the room were teenagers when I last saw them, and are now in their mid-late 40s. It offers an interesting mirror into one's own ageing process! If you want to see what I went through, there is a reunion web site.

Posted by gary at 03:32 PM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2006

Home for three months

SSCN1458.JPGWell, here it is - the place which we will call home for three months later in the year as we explore Australia. (NB: this is the unpacked edition... when it travels it all packs up quite compact - in all the excitement we forgot to take the pre-opened photo!) The kids are rapt, all wanting to sleep in the van instead of their own bed. Bet that will change on the 50th night (or earlier).

It was a weird experience heading off with this humungous contraption looming in the rear window. It takes some getting used to: looking into the mirror and thinking there is a huge transporter about to open your boot. However, it is not too difficult to tow.

We've spent a night in it... the idea of sleeping in takes a battering - every noise outside is totally unmuffled. As is the sunshine. Don't think an alarm clock will be necessary.

Does this mean I've reached middle age? Who cares?! We're going to have some great fun and see some fantastic places.

Posted by gary at 07:18 PM | Comments (3)

January 16, 2006


Today was supposed to be the day in which I turned into one of THOSE drivers we all hate on holiday roads. Yes, we are buying a caravan. Well, not exactly a caravan... it's a camper-trailer (does that excuse me at least a little?).

caravan.jpgThe story before the story: we are planning a LSL trip up through the centre of Australia to Darwin, returning via the West Coast and Nullarbor. Term 3 has been blocked out of the diary, kids are leaving school behind (...relucantly!!! NOT) as we will leave inner-urban Melbourne and head to places where the presence of our family will double the population density! I had proposed touring in a tent, to which my wife proposed divorce - or separate holidays - so we compromised on a camper trailer. We spent the last part of last year exploring all the options, made an order, then approached the bank.

Which brings us to today - the dedicated collection day for said camper-trailer. Having arranged all the documentation for the bank nearly a week ago, I headed to said bank to collect cheque for payment, after which I was to head off to collect trailer and have electric brakes installed on the car. After half an hour of dilly-dallying in the bank, I was left hanging. We did manage to arrange final inspection, installation of brakes, but not delivery of van. Seems the bank has lost some of the documents, delivered over a week ago.

And so we wait. A few phone calls, a long fax, and a promise later, and we should have it tomorrow. When it happens, I'll post a photo - and just for the right touch, include a bowls hat on the back window of the car.

I do have to admit that the idea of careening down a highway with an extra tonne of weight hanging on to the back of the car does not inspire me altogether! I am beginning to appreciate the caravan drivers a little! OR am I getting old?

Posted by gary at 05:23 PM | Comments (3)

January 09, 2006

The CD Collection

itunes.gif Late last year I downloaded iTunes, but left the program uninstalled for a month or so, partly because of the size of the program, and partly because of suspicions related to malware and adware. I overcame these one last Christmas evening, and then began the process of transferring my CD collection onto the computer. I marvel at the convenience of having one's CDs available at the click of a mouse button (left OR right - I am not a Mac user :^0). And the quality is amazing. Unfortunately my car stereo plays mp3 files only and not mp4 files which iTunes converts them all to. So the transfer has been a dual process, converting these CDs to both formats. Why two? Well, mp4 compression means it uses less disk space, so I back up the mp3s once I have converted them...

I don't have a large CD collection, but the length of time it would take to play them all through - so iTunes informs me - is over 4 days! I don't have an iPod either, which I believe holds 5GB of files, but that isn't enough to hold all the music either. I wonder how others with substantial collections get on?!

At least now I don't fret when lending CDs to my children. They have often been returned scratched. Now they can't damage the files... hahahahahahaha... I'm a happy man!

Posted by gary at 04:33 PM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2006

The Desert Places

I've been reflecting in the new year on the place of the desert in our spiritual journey. It struck me that the Christmas story ends with Jesus being driven into the desert (and on to Egypt) to escape Herod. His ministry begins in the same pattern: driven into the desert following baptism. That two significant events bring the same outcome is worthy of thought and reflection. But when you add in the place of the desert in God's dealing with His people in the Old Testament, you begin to realise that the desert places must have significance.

When I think of "going through the desert" in a spiritual sense, it carries negative connotations. Yet the desert remains a place of beginnings: for Jesus and for us. The message through the prophet Hosea, after God had announced His divorce of Israel, is expressed through the delightful words, "And now I will allure her... I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her... I will make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a doorway of hope... A desert becomes a place of new beginning, a centre of hope and renewal.

Surely things are stripped back to essentials in the desert. You only carry what is essential, you must decide what must be done and what can be let go, and you realise what is truly valuable. And maybe it is that in these places we are prepared to let God be whatever God desires to be, allowing God to escape our preconceived notions.

The desert fathers found God in the dry place - they sought God intentionally in the desert. In our land and time of abundance, can we get to such a place?

Posted by gary at 08:25 PM | Comments (1)

December 28, 2005

Church Web Pages shutting down at Christmas?!?!

Things have been very quiet on-line, in stark contrast to the real-world status of life throughout December. Yesterday I managed an actual rest day, spending it at the cricket with the family, watching Australia and South Africa do battle. It was a slow day, but I'm not sure that it was the cricket or simply being in the one space and mind for such a length of time that made it feel so.

We enjoyed a festive Christmas dinner with 15 gathered around the table. It is a joy to meet new people at this time and hear where their journeys have taken them over the past 12 months and brought them to us at Christmas. It was a reminder that the Christmas story is based around travellers: every key person was a traveller to an unfamiliar place: Joseph and Mary, the shepherds came in from the fields, the wise men travelled from afar.... It was in the midst of strangers that the Christ-child was born. In the midst of people who had been strangers to us we encountered the one called Immanuel afresh.

I trust that you are all enjoying a restful and renewing time.

Posted by gary at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2005

It's all been a little quiet over here...

Entries in the blog have been few and far between of late. I am immersed in a research project, perhaps absorbing all my writing energies. I'm not sure how many readers would be interested in the topic, which examines the impact of having an extremely premature infant on the parents and wider family. It's something of a personal journey as well as an academic one, given the arrival of our third child at just over 24 weeks back in 1997.

On the church front we have been studying hell - anticipating summer? - going through scripture from beginning to end, and exploring the journey between. How we moved from the OT Sheol to Gehenna in the new and the version of hell popularly held today has been an interesting discussion. We pause this weekend for the local community festival (Spring Fling) and come back the following week to begin a broader questioning of life after death.

What has been interesting in the discussion on hell has been the discovery of the ways in which The Simpsons pick up and embody much of the popularised teaching on hell, as well as some good biblical examples. Thoughts of the ever-burning tyre dump very much appreciated as a Gehenna-type image brought many smiles and nods.

But the best line comes from the episode Lisa vs The Eighth Commandment when Bart is reproved for using the word "hell". After explaining it was the topic in Sunday Schoo, Bart takes his usual liberties, which prompts Marj to say "Bart, stop swearing. You're not in Sunday School any more!"

Posted by gary at 09:13 PM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2005

Churning the ground

Last Saturday I spent the best part of four hours holding onto a rotary hoe, preparing ground for a spring lawn planting. Some of the ground had not been turned over in years, another part was a large tract where soil had been moved in the previous six months. What I expected to be the worst part was a level plot exposed by some serious landscaping (digging and soil relocation) some six months previous. It did not look like a large area of land - until I came to use a cumbersome machine to turn the soil.

As indicated, it was four hours of HARD work. By the end of the time my hands were cramping on the dead man grip as I tried to work one last tract of stubborn earth. In the following days I was suffering significantly from muscle tightness across the upper body...

The land has, to my knowledge, never been built on. It had been at least twenty years since much of it was disturbed: it was clearly set in its ways and resistant to change. It has taken a combination of forces to reach this stage where seed could be spread in the hope of lawn emerging...

Which makes me wonder about the implications for gospel ministry in an era which almost demands instant results. When soil has been hardened through years, can we expect to simply plough through and harvest instant results? If the exhaustion flowing from my efforts last weekend is a guide, we might have insight into the rapid rate of pastoral turnover in churches and the level of burnout. There are two responses to heavy resistance - bring in the heavy artillery for big effort, or take longer-term organic approaches. Both have a cost.

Some of the soil still to be addressed in our landscaping endeavour is pure clay. No kidding, we could make a pot out of it! Not even heavy artillery will make much of a difference. Short of pulling it out and replacing it with something else, the only option is to work with it, seeking to change its texture. In summer it sets like a rock, in winter it becomes slippery as ice.

Many of the leadership models given us for church are business-oriented, rather than nature-oriented. We are yet to see the full implications of expendability implied in the business approach, where buildings can be pulled down, left behind or reconstructed, and people moved on, merged in or out, or sidelined. It is rare to see businesses grown these days by anything except acquisition and merger. Such is the rate of change in the business world that very few of the top 100 corporations of thirty years ago are still in existence, let alone in the top 100. And we still are tallying the environmental cost, while the people cost is hidden amid the small numbers who have made large financial gains.

There is an organic mindset which endures, and allows for perseverance and endurance. As my hands gripped tighter around the rotary hoe, almost in an involuntary way, I realised that there has been no better way invented which lasts.

And what was it that Jesus said about putting one's hands to the plough....?

Posted by gary at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2005

What's Been Happening...

The last month has seen me making a switch in focus as I turn my attention to a research project which has been on my plate for over six years. I am now devoting half of my time to rounding out this project: looking at the impact on families who have extremely premature infants. I am currently reading in the areas of faith development, looking at the ways in which people's response to the extended crisis of extreme prematurity impacts their world-view. In one sense it is an examination of a faith journey which does not take place within a christian framework. Fowler's Stages of Faith has been the latest read... Fowler seems unable to extricate himself from the framework of a christian worldview, assuming that the ultimate of faith development will lead someone to a christian profession. A healthy contrast is the work of Robert Kegan, whose focus is on the activity of meaning-making as something fundamental to what it is to be human. In his two key works, Kegan takes the approach of embeddedness (we rest within certain frameworks unless prised out) and then that of being "in over our heads".

At the bottom, however, is an uncritical acceptance of development as a paradigm, which assumes that people move from one level of thinking to another, with an implied "best" level to be attained, a view borrowed from psychology. It is a thoroughly modern and linear approach. I'm not sure life is so simple, or sequentially organised.

Further reading and thoughts to follow...

Posted by gary at 08:29 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2005

Treating Extremely Premature Infants

My wife and I were interviewed at length for a forthcoming 7:30 Report insight into the controversy surrounding recent comments by the Victorian Health Minister putting into the public arena debate about treatment of babies born at less than 25 weeks' gestation. Given that our third child was born earlier than this cut off (which has been suggested by an English ethicist and is being actively pursued in Britain, as well as already applicable in the Netherlands), and that our child had "less than the ideal outcome" (he has eyesight difficulties amongst others), we were asked to share our perspective on the debate and share some of our experience of the NICU journey.

The interview covered nearly two hours of conversation with the reporter in front of the camera, following on from conversations over the phone previously. We visited places we had never explored publicly, and some we hadn't visited in our memories for some time. It was a draining experience.

The experience of extreme prematurity is a traumatic one for all concerned. Our son spent 176 days in hospital following his birth, facing over 20 major health challenges - having stared death in the face on many occasions. To be faced with life and death decisions concerning anyone is not something easily prepared for, nor faced. It is not an experience I would wish on anyone. We cannot imagine life without S, although we wonder at what he endured to get through hospital.

Debate on issues such as this are important to have. When medical care takes place at the boundaries of life and death we need to ensure that decision-making processes empower patients and their loved ones, and humanise what is extremely traumatic. Arbitrary cut-off dates for treatment seem absurd at any level. When withdrawal of treatment - death - is the better choice, then it needs to be a choice made with due respect for all concerned.

I anticipate - with some trepidation - the program. When such a long interview needs to be edited into a wider conversation, it is hard to know what my wife and I am going to be heard saying...

Posted by gary at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2005

Parent-Teacher Nights

How Parent-teacher nights have changed through the years. Our three chaired "three-way conferences" as we met with the teacher tonight to discuss their portfolios of work and the progress they had made since the beginning of the year. This level of involvement in monitoring their own progress in education is, I believe, a healthy one. To sit and listen to your 8-9-12 year old children being asked to evaluate their year and to set goals for the second half is to be part of an important life-long skill. It certainly wasn't formally included in my own education.

How valuable - for all of us - to take time out to reflect on where we have come from, where we are presently at, and consider where we might take aim in the next phase. I suspect that this ought to be a regular part of one's spiritual disciplines, and included as part of one's prayer conversations.

Posted by gary at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2005

I am a ....

Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative
















What is Your World View? (updated)
created with

Posted by gary at 09:54 AM | Comments (1)

May 27, 2005

Joys and Sorrows

With three children suffering from pneumonia, we have experienced a household of joys and sorrows over recent weeks. How joys? Each child has enjoyed at least two weeks away from school, much to their delight! Our oldest has, however, missed the school camp. Being able to stay at home is a small consolation for camping under the stars! He has been consoled by the unexpected success of his football team, which has him planning Septemer already! It helps that he, along with his sister, has celebrated a birthday this week.

To have a household of sick children does create extra burdens also, particularly on my wife, who has suffered the greater burden. There isn't much joy for her in caring for them for eight consecutive weeks now, as the five weeks of illness backed onto three weeks of school holidays.

The light is slowly emerging at the end of the tunnel. It may be that next week all three will be back at school, if on modified programs. Even they are looking forward to spending time with friends again. It will be great to have everyone healthy again!

Posted by gary at 05:15 PM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2005

A Bit Quiet...

Our household has been anything but quiet over recent weeks as pneumonia has made its way through the household. Our youngest succumbed a couple of weeks' back and is now back at school, only to change places with his older siblings. I spent a few hours in Emergency at the Children's last night. Hopefully we are at the turning point and things on the improve.

Thus the blog has been a little quiet...

Posted by gary at 03:35 PM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2005

One week later

The eating challenge of a week ago seems a distant memory, although our eating habits have not instantly returned to previous practices. Normally big consumers of milk, this past week we have noted how our consumption has been less than half its previous norm.

The experience of identifying with those who have so little has brought a definite change in outlook amongst us all, particularly as it relates to food. We have learned that we can do with less; we have identified the reality which is luxury over against necessity. One suspects that our systems were cleared of some aspects of our food consumption which had an addictive component. Our bodies were - in some sense - detoxed.

Posted by gary at 11:53 AM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2005

And on the Eighth Day...

...we enjoyed a long glass of milk as celebration!!!

Posted by gary at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2005

The $2 Challenge - Day 7

There is a genuine sense of achievement mixed with relief as we come to the end of the journey. We have all realised that we can make do with less, and that sacrifice such as this is small in comparison with the realities faced by so many others. We have tapped into reservoirs of creativity we had ignored. The requirement to be aware of the impact of one's actions on the rest of the group was an important awakening...

We look forward to passing on the savings to a micro-enterprise project in Africa in the coming week.

Posted by gary at 10:09 PM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2005

The $2 Challenge - Day 6

There are subtle signs ... searching for something to nibble on... looking for a different taste as much as something to satiate hunger. There has been a lot of creativity exhibited as a result of this week. Turning left-overs into another meal (done much more intentionally than normal)... thinking of ways of using the ingredients that we have remaining to create more food options.

What has been a totally unexpected side-effect is the decrease in household waste, particularly plastic and paper packaging. We can see how our ecological footprint has reduced this week.

Posted by gary at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2005

The $2 Challenge - Day 5

The children have encountered difficult moments at school, particularly when they have seen what their friends have been eating. We spoke about how it must feel for many people in the world to see what we have available to us, and whether there is a parallel to their own feelings on this occasion.

As supplies run low, we look to the weekend and see that there will be further sacrifices to be made. Low margarine supplies are being earmarked for our youngest, who has struggled with bronchitis this week.

R has commented that she has enjoyed her school lunches more because of greater variety. C comments that he is finding it harder the further the week progresses.

We are appreciating the value of each piece of food more, and lamenting what is wasted.

Posted by gary at 09:19 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2005

The $2 Challenge - Day 4

There are two competing desires in eating... hunger and savour. When our food resources are limited, we focus more on satisfying hunger: feeding the body so it is resourced for the day's events and nourished at its end. In the normal course of events, this desire is balanced with that of taste: what would I "like" to eat tonight? What do I "feel" like eating?

All of the children have commented that, although they have not been underfed, they find themselves desiring other tastes which are denied them. Seeing other children with all that they have is difficult.

Posted by gary at 10:39 PM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2005

The $2 Challenge - Day 3

It is starting to have an effect on all of us. Our two older children have indicated that they are feeling hungry during the day. Our youngest was away from school today with bronchitis. We have all noted how much more we are enjoying meals. I was required to undertake manual labour today in 25-degree temperature. It was hard going.

Still, E's creativity in the kitchen is showing through!

Posted by gary at 07:50 PM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2005

The $2 Challenge - Day 2

Some comments from day 1...

S (youngest @ 8) "I wonder how much small tins of Milo cost"

R (middle (@ 8) "This was harder than I thought it would be..."

C (oldest @ 11) "I miss the cartons of milk, the powdered milk tastes like cream..."

E "We made breadcrumbs out of the crusts of the bread. It feels like a desperate thing to do to eke out the hamburgers... Our pantry is obscene - we could live out of it for a year"

It's amazing how much food is a habit, and can be a time filler. With it removed, there much more time available, although not as much energy to use it with.

Posted by gary at 10:04 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2005

The $2 Challenge - Day 1

We are keeping a journal of comments for the week. All are asked to write something about the journey and how we are experiencing it. I'd have to say that it has increased the hunger levels of at least one of our children. R, who would normally require force feeding at the breakfast table at heartily and was complaining within an hour or so that she was starving!

The level of creativity has risen also. One person ate an apple, so another used the peel and core to make an apple tea drink. To think that so many live with less than this each day in total... we are simply limiting it to food.

Posted by gary at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2005

This week's challenge

Starting tomorrow, our family is taking on the challenge to live on $2 per day. Given that one billion people live on one dollar a day or less, without choice, we agreed that it would be a way of identifying with the challenges faced by one in five of the world's people, and learning first-hand. We have spent the last week preparing: deciding on what to purchase, what we could and couldn't eat, what sacrifices needed to be made, etc. We have just completed the family meeting where we tallied up our budget to decide what was in and what wasn't.

I'll let you know how we fare.

Posted by gary at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2005

The Fitness Challenge

Trying to maintain balance in life is an ongoing challenge: health and well-being which embraces the spiritual, social, emotional, familial, communial and physical (to name just a few) is an ongoing challenge in the busy lifestyle we find ourselves leading. It is nearly five years since I ran a marathon. Now I'll be the first one to admit that running a marathon is not part of a balanced life - there are considerable sacrifices to be made to train one's body to run 42 kilometres. Running a marathon had been a back-of-the-mind challenge since my teenage years, along with riding a bike from Melbourne to Adelaide.

I have to say that I felt great during the training and at that level of fitness. But it could not last without considerable cost in other areas of life. With a growing family about to enter the teenage years, it would almost be derelict to devote the time needed to run consistent marathons.

However, the last six months has seen me getting increasingly unfit - the pendulum had swung too far in the other direction. Although I continue to play basketball weekly, my fitness has taken a nose dive. In the midst of the many challenges, running got the squeeze. Until holidays last week. I hit the road again, starting small.

The hardest part is knowing where one has been. There is a voice inside reminding me of what had been achieved and pushing me to get back there. I won't. At least not for a few years. This is a voice that needs to be resisted and refashioned. Sometimes our histories can be our worst task-masters.

Posted by gary at 10:43 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2005

Off-beat insight

Sitting around the family table over holidays has been a relaxed affair over the past week as we have shared many a laugh, insight or story. One comment from our eldest son reveals both his maturing insight (he is in his last year of Primary School) and his creativity. My wife is extremely creative, and her mind works overtime in its quiet space. Occasionally in the midst of conversation she will erupt with a comment which takes us all off guard, but which is perfectly sensible to her. In the wake of silence created by one such comment this past week, C observed: "Mum, you are just so totally random!" Well, you could have heard a pin drop, as my beloved couldn't work out whether to be offended or simply thankful for the observation. It was an 'Aha!' moment, the comment meant as an innocent observation.

If I remember correctly, something that is random is defined as having a pattern which is not obvious. But is that a modern mindset response?

Posted by gary at 10:26 PM | Comments (0)

March 31, 2005

Pet Fish

In our kitchen sits a fish bowl, the first major purchase of our eldest son C. His investment at the time encouraged the two younger ones to get their own pets. So it has been that three goldfish do regular laps of the fishbowl...

Until about six weeks ago, when R's (our daughter) fish died. She was devastated, and conducted a full funeral and burial in the front yard. Our youngest S broke his heart: must have some Italian blood, such was the power of his lament. A few days later we ventured back into the pet shop...

So, when I noticed the new fish foundering at the bottom of the tank yesterday morning, I took the chicken's option and returned to the pet shop for a look-alike, certain the other one was on its way out. All went according to plan last night, as the switch went unnoticed.

Unable to flush said foundering fish down the toilet before its time, I set it in a glass of clean water and put it out of sight. Again, no problems, as the fish stayed in the sunshine unnoticed. But...

Today this fish has experienced something of a renaissance. It can be found swimming happily and upright around the glass. So... we have a problem! How to explain four fish where once there was three.

Which only goes to show: don't try to hide death from the kids. It'll come back to bite one way or another.

Posted by gary at 02:41 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2005

A Rousing Start to the Day

The curtains were up early - so were the kids this morning. They love a celebration, and were jumping all over the bed to wish me a happy birthday this morning.

What a wonderful day to be alive!

Posted by gary at 03:29 PM | Comments (2)

March 15, 2005

And nobody noticed

Finally had enough of the facial growth tonight after three years, so took off the bearded section. (Can't go without the moustache: it's been there for over 20 years!) But it took nearly ten minutes before my beloved noticed, while the kids had to have it pointed out to them. The photo is of its penultimate outing yesterday in the city.

I'm not sure if I feel naked or released?!

Posted by gary at 08:33 PM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2005

A tilt at being sub-urbanised...

Today I purchased my first lawn mower. For over 20 years I have made do without one, but no longer. Am I being domesticated? Acquiescing to suburbia? Maybe now my first child is old enough, I've got someone who can use it????

Posted by gary at 08:51 PM | Comments (1)

March 11, 2005

You won't know what you've been missing...

...until you have grown your own tomatoes!

Being in the inner city, we have allowed three summers to pass without a vegie garden, until this year when our children planted tomatoes and pumpkin. Now let me tell you that we live 5 minutes walk from the best fresh produce market in the southern hemisphere, and its tomatoes are head and shoulders above those in the supermarket. But for REAL taste, you can't beat them fresh from your own garden!

Some things in life just can't be bought.

Posted by gary at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2005

Drowning in little things

An ancient form of torture involved drops water falling on to the forehead of the victim (or should that be interviewee?). These tiny droplets of water were enough to drive a person insane. I'd suggest that if the person was placed in a bath there would be a double threat, as the water would gradually accumulate and drown them...

At the moment I feel I am drowning in little things: so many untidy ends and small chores which need to be done. The big stuff is missing the boat this week. Hope it is just a one-off phenomenon!

Posted by gary at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2005

It's birthday time!

It is birthday time in our household as our youngest reaches his 8th birthday. S loves any celebration, and even more so if it involves him receiving presents and being the centre of attention! He's been on our case for a digital camera for months.... today you can't wipe the smile from his face.

His proudest achievement on his birthday? He's now the same age as his sister - "twins," he says. And will be so for another three months. On the way to school he measured himself against the head rest and proudly announced how much he had grown.

S has come a long way from a very rocky start. I went to bed last night remembering the circumstances of his birth, the events of which are clearly imprinted in my brain.

So, at the age of 8, S is now 30 times his birthweight. Some achievement, huh? I'm not there yet (and hope I don't get to be!)

Posted by gary at 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2005

Life in the Fast Lane

It was a scorcher today in Melbourne, so when the kids arrived home from school we ventured to the local swimming pool. It is part of the pool scene now that lanes are marked off for lap swimmers, and this pool was no different. Lanes display a sign for "Fast" "Medium" or "Slow" lap swimmers.

It was quite amusing then to watch our eldest son having sprint races up the pool with another young boy in the slow lane, while the swimmer in the medium lane out-paced the one in the fast lane.

Is there something wrong with the signs, or our perspective of ourselves?

Posted by gary at 09:24 PM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2005

The alternate path...

I decided to take a different road on my way to Kilvington this morning. Turned out to be a long way for a short cut! However, it was great to break up the journey, to see new things, to be surprised at outcomes (yes, it did require a few adjustments).

While routine can be liberating (consider the training routines of elite athletes), they can also be stifling, or cut us off from seeing and experiencing other beautiful things. While it might have been quicker to go the usual route, the change was refreshing.

Posted by gary at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2005

That old beige box

For a number of years there has been an old beige box - our former computer - sitting underneath its replacement. I don't know why I kept it. Perhaps it says something about my penchant for hoarding. Anyway, given that our youngest is a constant tweaker, and the most dangerous sort: he does to try things out, not out of knowledge - I decided I might resurrect this beast for his enjoyment alone.

I had no idea what was stored on this machine, but when I switched it on, it took an eternity to start up. It was not always like this. This state-of-the-art machine, with 4mb RAM, and a 220mb HDD with its racy 486 DX2-66 processor, used to absolutely rip into action. It must be complaining about lack of use for a few years, because I had to go away to make coffee in order to give it time to do its stuff.

It now has two HDDs (total 1.2Gig) and 20mb RAM, but is still way behind the ball game. I shudder to think about how many generations back this processor comes from, or the RAM chips for that matter.

Still, it might be more useful than a paperweight... at least for a little while, until S finishes tweaking it. Then it will be paperweight material only.

Only 11 years old and its been on the scrap heap for 4 years!

Posted by gary at 06:47 PM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2005

Uninterrupted sleep!?

Our new family member is proving to be an intrusion into the holiday mood: waking up in the wee hours of the morning, and then ensuring that no-one else is resting. It is one thing for the cat to call for some food, it is quite another to be struggling for breath while the cat tries to nest on your face. And when that fails to suffice, she sharpens her claws on any piece of available skin.

And here I was thinking that we had left our days of interrupted sleep behind...

Posted by gary at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2005

Work and Holidays

Spent over three hours on the road today. I had to break into holidays - teaching staff spent their first day back at school in preparation for the new school year. I have to admit, it is nice leaving the city for the coast at the end of the day, and switch off again.

Holidays pass too quickly.

Posted by gary at 10:44 PM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2005


Keys... being a guy, I spend a lot of time looking for them. Today was no exception. Sadly, after more than an hour of searching, I found them in the very first place I had looked. How often that happens to me! One advantage is that I have cleaned up my car somewhat, along with a couple of other places. I suspect that people searching for keys either end up with a tidier place, or a messier one. I am usually the former.

Searching for keys is a life-long occupation: keys to happiness, to learning, to relationships, to understanding. The keys we choose represent the faith we hold: the foundations on which we build. From time to time we are required to change keys: we move to a new place, get a new car, or have a new lock installed. Sometimes keys wear out and need to be renewed. Some find comfort in having their keys in their pocket (I know that would have been true for me a couple of days ago!)

It pays us to take out our keys and examine them again every now and then: our understanding of God, our sense of vocation and purpose...

I’d be interested in hearing what keys are most important for your life’s journey.

Posted by gary at 07:52 PM | Comments (1)

January 20, 2005

New Technology 2

This wonderful new vehicle turned around to bite me with its technology today. As I was making wonderful use of the remote boot opening feature, I closed the boot with keys sitting safely alongside all of my things - inside the boot! It was an hour later, with the help of some not-so-high-technology of the roadside assist, coupled with an 'encouraging' phone call from a 'helpful' relative, before I was back on the road.

Which makes me wonder when they will devise foolproof techonology for fools like me???!

Posted by gary at 02:42 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2005

New technology

Changed the old car for something a little more modern yesterday… moved from cassette to CD, amongst other things. Makes me wonder how long it will be before we get MP3 players in cars.

Posted by gary at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2005

Reading the past

Spent a couple of hours day rearchiving my year's writings on my own web page. The writings become a journal of their own in relation to journey in ministry and church. There are a few hundred articles spanning back 15 years, and a lot more still to be posted. It is easy to forget how one's ideas change and grow with the passing of years.

I suppose there is only one thing worse than having one's ideas change with the years - having them not change at all.

Posted by gary at 11:20 PM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2004

A New Family Member

New Cat.jpg
Today we welcomed a new member into our family, courtesy of a Christmas gift to our daughter R. An 8-week-old ginger-and-white bundle of purrs has already wormed its way into our hearts, and been the centre of attention.
I am not sure who is having more trouble getting to sleep: the kitten, or our daughter!

Posted by gary at 10:23 PM | Comments (1)

Start Keys

Our two sons opened their first bank accounts today. It was a long process for them. It made our oldest C feel like he was maturing. S, our youngest, was more interested in the computer screen and the "Start" key. S has a fascination with these things, spending too much time fiddling with the start menu and other settings on our home computer. He has caused me more technological headaches than Windows itself!
I remember opening my own first account. It is a milestone in a child's journey.

Posted by gary at 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

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