Monday, February 26, 2007

More canoeing photos

Up the river, down the river

Saturday was the day of our big canoeing expedition – well “soft adventure” is what it was actually called, but I think it was enough of an outdoors expedition for most of the people I know in Sydney ;). After careful selection I chose five girls at my church, The Bible Talks, who I thought would be up for it and I was really pleased that they all enthusiastically came and then actually enjoyed it. Mandy has blogged all about it over here already.

It was very picturesque driving down the Kangaroo Valley and my heart heaved and sighed for the hills of days of old. When we got to the canoe collection point there seemed to be cars and people and watercraft of all sorts everywhere and I wondered what kind of chaos exactly we were in for but we soon signed up, headed down to the river and lost sight of all the people. (Though occasionally someone paddled by and commented on what a brilliant idea our gloves were, which was a tip I had received from an experienced canoer.) It was so lovely out on the big wide river in the sunshine. It looked like it was going to a perfect day, with nothing in it to sensationalise the story except an erroneous detour up someone’s driveway, but a thunderstorm kindly obliged and added the drama. As we idled down the river before lunch we questioned the distant rumblings once or twice and decided it wasn’t thunder for a time, but it soon became apparent that it was as the evidence loomed up over the aforementioned hills and crept across the sky.

We found a spot that was a little bit convenient (actually that is debatable) for disembarking for lunch and had a lovely chat over salad rolls and fruit, before packing up with some urgency as the sky went darker and the thunder certainly confirmed its presence. We never did get to find out what was just around the next bend because it looked like returning from whence we came was a good idea as it began to actually rain and lightning split the sky. Mandy and I swapped places in our canoe, and I don’t quite have an explanation, but, as she has written, this didn’t quite work for us and we had a puzzling time of zig-zagging back up the river. Quite interesting, and under normal circumstances one would just enjoy the ride, but the lightning and imminent downpour did give this means of progressing a certain angst. We did, however, make it back all un-electrocuted and before it began to rain in earnest.

The blackouts we encountered in Kangaroo Valley proved the nearness of the storm and the wisdom of aborting the canoes. (We had engaged in some discussion about what would happen to you if lightning struck the river: Would a plastic canoe help? How about the metal in the paddles? Would the whole river turn into a conductor? That sort of thing ...). We abandoned the darkened fudge shop in Kangaroo Valley, finding it strange to be dashing about in the rain feeling myself to be covered in sunscreen, and went on to Berry for coffee, which was very pleasant.

Karyn, Mandy and I had a really nice time chatting in the car on the way back about a diversity of things. I suspect there may have been more actual frivolity in the brunette car, except for when Karyn told us the story of the teacher at the school where her sister works who went on a littering rampage and got up in front of the whole assembly and decided he was going to catch one culprit and find the owner of a particular piece of rubbish, whom he thought was one “Onee Lazaggnee” – when he was actually reading out someone’s lunch order on a paper bag of “one lasagne”, and waiting in a blind and vain rage for the lasagne to own up, while the other teachers all went to pieces. Oh, how we laughed.

Even despite our early finish on the canoeing it was after 7pm before we made Sydney city again so was quite a day, but a day of great fun and I can highly recommend a canoe trip up Kangaroo Valley.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Diseases of the Dust

This week at work I was given a new product to take charge of, which has been handed over to us from the Attorney-General’s department. We all chuckled in the meeting at the name of it: the “Dust Diseases Reports”. I actually put my hand up because my work load at the moment is quite manageable and this one sounded like a small, obscure project. I went away and did some research and found out that there exits the Dust Diseases Tribunal, and that the vast majority of cases that they deal with involve Mesothelioma, directly linked to exposure to Asbestos (but distinct from Asbestosis). I did some more research and found out that this disease is one of the deadliest cancers known to man, and many of the cases in this Tribunal have to be heard quickly because the applicant is rapidly approaching death. It was quite a saddening afternoon. Here is a fatal disease, directly caused by humans, yet created out of our ignorance of the environment we live in and the impact of the resources we generate and of our own bodies - though then perpetuated long after ignorance was gone. This is indeed a disease of the dust. And so we set up a Tribunal to alleviate the consequences as best it can.

I have also been dealing with a number of Family Court cases lately, as part of the Federal Law Reports, which is my other product. Most of these are tragic tales of relationship failure and its bitter outcomes. The dust is everywhere. A mess is made, and then attempts are made to make the best of it with justice, and the hopeless wrangling in court with its unsatisfactory results that do nothing for the real heart of the problem reminded me of this quote from Bleak House, by Charles Dickens, regarding the Court of Chancery:

This is the Court of Chancery; which has its decaying houses and its blighted lands in every shire; which has its worn-out lunatic in every madhouse, and its dead in every churchyard; which has its ruined suitor, with his slipshod heels and threadbare dress, borrowing and begging through the round of every man’s acquaintance; which gives to monied might the means abundantly of wearying out the right; which so exhausts finances, patience, courage, hope; so overthrows the brain and breaks the heart; that there is not an honourable man among its practitioners who would not give – who does not often give – the warning, ‘Suffer any wrong that can be done you, rather than come here!’

The justice system can only do so much with the dust.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Valentine's Day III

This will definitely be the last in this series I have inadvertently fallen into. I do think Valentine's Day is a silly phenomenon, but it's one that it is difficult to ignore.

I have been listening to my Celtic Source CD at work today. I grew up in the Tamworth Reformed Church wherein we used a hymn book published by the Evangelical Movement of Wales. I still maintain that it is the best hymn book I have come across, though hymn books now seem to be a thing of the past. When I was in Cardiff I went along to Heath Evangelical Church, with about one thousand other people jammed into an old stone building, and heard Vernon Higham preach, and such a sermon it was, scattered with phrases from his own hymns and those of others. I felt that I had had a taste of the Welsh revival and the preaching of the likes of Charles Wesley all rolled into one.

Anyway, one of my personal favourite hymns from this book, which is also on my CD, was O the deep, deep love of Jesus. It was also a favourite of the church in Tamworth as a whole. I was on the music team for some time and we were mad about anything in a minor key, which we sang with a rousing melancholy.

Here it is, as a fitting end to Valentine's Day:

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’Tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee!

Words: Samuel Trevor Francis
Music: Welsh Melody

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentine's Day II

On a lighter note ... and thanks Dene for this comic! For more see here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day

I'm sure probably half of the bloggers in the world are blogging about Valentine's Day, so I'm going to join in with something wincingly personal, which I will probably regret in about half an hour:

I hate Valentine's Day! It has to one of the worst days of the year. For those of us who never receive anything, it's just plain miserable. We tell ourselves the whole thing's stupid but it is like walking around all day with a megaphone in your ear shouting "nobody loves you!". And even for those who have romantic options in their life, I can't help but think it brings silly expectations, which often lead to disappointment, and takes all the spontaneity (and thus some of the romance?) out of romance.

But back to us lonely hearts, and how, as Christians, we might deal with this most horrible of days: this year there's one thing I am going to try and remind myself of, and it's prompted by the end of Francis Thompson's The Hound of Heaven, a poem in which the subject goes running from God because "For, though I knew His love Who follow├Ęd, Yet was I sore adread / Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside" only to find that God is at his heels wherever he goes. But I'm going to take it slightly out of context (after all, it's a good poem but it's not the bible) to apply to me, and maybe you, as someone who is trying hard, not to run from God but to live in relationship to him:
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for they harms,
But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child's mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
Rise, clasp My hand and come!
Sometimes I do get frustrated, and I even panic at the idea that God might want me to have naught beside him (ie no spouse or children). But, the reality is that God pursues us for relationship like no knight on a white stallion is ever going to. He loves us with a faithfulness greater than that of Lochinvar (if you're a true poetry reading romantic like me you know the line "So faithful in love and so dauntless in war, There never was knight like the young Lochinvar"). He sees our all our ignobleness and loves us all the same. Loves us with an everlasting love. And he has everything we could ever wish for waiting for us in heaven. And it is in this relationship with him, and the hope of heaven, that he wants us to find it. And indeed, what else has earth really got to offer? (Psalm 73:25)

So, might today be a day when my faith increases a little more in the character of God, and in grasping that the things that I don’t have are not kept away for my harm but because God has them for me and in fixing my eyes on the sure and certain hope … Deuteronomy 33:27a: The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Amazing Grace the movie

A friend just sent me this link to the trailer of the upcoming movie Amazing Grace, about the life of William Wilberforce. What can I say - I had to blow my nose ...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The end of the week

I just thought I'd add that tonight I was cooking myself one of those Saturday-night-at-home dinners and the gas flint has given up working without about a thousand attempts at it that escalate in vehemence so I was striking a match to light the hotplate when the entire red end of the match flew off, all aflame, landed on my t-shirt and burnt a hole in it! I just shook my head in disbelief ...

I've just finished (well hopefully anyway) tweaking an article for the next edition of the AFES magazine Salt. I think I might go crochet my next scarflet (I feel like I am on a good thing) or continue my slow way through Bleak House.

Friday, February 09, 2007

One of those weeks

My blog has been a little neglected of late. I've had one of those weeks - you know the ones, full of little incidents that are not exactly positive. For starters it contained six nights in a row of being out, which is not my preferred modus operandi. On Sunday night I scratched my car in the church car park, after two and a half years of not scratching it (this is the first incident). I think this was a case of pride coming before a fall as on Saturday I had parked in the car park with a friend to attend an Ordination service and they had remarked on my skill in reversing into a "small car only" spot with seemingly effortless skill. I thought of that remark half a second before I scratched the pole on Sunday night.

On Monday night we had a BBQ for bible study leaders, which was a nice relaxed evening as we ate and discussed a few things for the year. On Tuesday night we launched the bible study groups, which was a really good night, of eating yet again (Christians are always eating aren't they?) and being reminded of the importance of meeting in bible study groups, and I am excited about being part of the Military Bible Fellowship again this year. On Wednesday night I have dinner with friends Archie and Ainsley and their children, which was nice, as ever. On Thursday afternoon I fainted, for only the third time in my life, creating a small fuss and making a spectacle of myself (this can be the second incident). Fainting is quite a disconcerting phenomenon to someone of robust health who likes to maintain self-control in public. Then when I gathered my consciousness about me and made it back to the car I discovered that I had parked in the wrong spot and received a fine of $179!! (this warrants being the third incident). That was actually what really topped off the week. The car scratch I don't care about so much as that side of my car is scratched already, and you actually get so many dings owning a car in Sydney that you give up fixing them.

After the latter two incidents I had to drive to Chatswood, perhaps in a dangerously vague state, for the first lecture of the Moore College Evening course on the New Testament Epistles. It looks like it will be a really good course, but, given that we have about an hour per book, it is going to be a fly-by essentially. Lastnight, after the introduction, we started, and finished, Galations. As a consequence of the parking ticket episode and my economic rationalistion efforts I refrained from any book-buying frenzy while I try to figure out which is the best option.

Anyway, after that sort of week I have nothing I feel inspired to blog about right now except the fact that I am looking forward to going home today (incident free) and my latest craft project: a "scarflet" (see the photo, which is me trying to use my mobile phone and take it in the mirror - I must get a digital camera if I am going to do craft blogs). It has a hole in one end that you poke the other end through. I made this on Sunday, before my week went awry, and was quite chuffed with myself. I'm going to send it to a friend in England, and hope she appreciates having my first ever scarflet.

One of the other highlights of the week was actually receiving a wedding invitation from a very sweet friend in Germany. It was a little unusual, because for starters the wedding is in August, so that is very advance notice. Also, I know most people like to do something different for their wedding, and it's always interesting to see what sort of invitation you are going to receive as an expression of the people getting married, but this invitation is as different as they have come yet. It's a pop-up invitation! I opened it and up popped a Volkswagon car, of all things nicely German (Volkswagon means 'car for the people' - I like that), with miniatures of the bride-and-groom-to-be inside on their way to the "Kirche". It says "Zu unserer Hochzeit laden wir ganz herzlich ein!". I was quite amazed.

But now I am just going home.