Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Wait awhile weather

Western Australian weather is wonderful. Most of the time. 
Last weekend we ventured south to the picturesque town of Yallingup. Walking a small section of the Cape to Cape Track in late May, in brilliant autumn sunshine at about 24 degrees is sublime. Strolling along the beach, wading through lapping waves, enjoying the clear air. Life doesn’t get much better.

By late afternoon weather reports are warning that the worst storm in a decade will hit the entire west coast of Australia within hours. A tropical cyclone bearing down from the north is expected to collide with a cold front developing from the south west. We hastily pack up and head home. Sure enough the storm arrives with wind gusts of over 100km, heavy rain, a huge swell and destructive high tides.  

It’s hard to imagine such contrasting weather in such a short period of time. But WA weather is not unique. Weather is changeable. With the advent of meteorology weather may be more predictable, but it is never tame. We might simplistically describe weather as good or bad, pleasant or challenging, convenient or inconvenient, but it’s not that simple. It has purpose. Both sunshine and rain sustain life. It sometimes looks random and out of control, but this world is an extraordinary, well-balanced, life-maintaining environment.

Weather is a vivid metaphor for life. Life too is changeable. It comes with good and bad. Clear skies and clouds. Depressions. Wind gusts that destroy. Drought that leaves us parched. Destructive bushfires where only the toughest survive. High tides that rip the sand from beneath our feet. And then sunshine again, appreciated all the more after the storm abates.

As someone wisely quipped:

Weather is a great metaphor for life — sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and there’s nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella or choose to dance in the rain!

Sometimes we just need to lockdown and wait the storm out. We can then slowly emerge, deal with the damage, rebuild the paths and hope for sunshine ahead…while accepting that there may still be a storm or two further down the track.  

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us
Psalm 67:1

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Certainties are not so certain

The American author Douglas Kennedy writes novels with a repeating theme. He has sold over 14 million books and his novels are especially popular in France. He delights in stories about people who seem to have their lives together. His main characters  are often highflyers, successful people whose achievements seem limitless. But then something happens. They make a mistake. They do something marginally unethical and face consequences.  Sometimes they don’t do anything wrong but tragedy strikes regardless. An unexpected death interrupts their ordered world. A car accident causes a tragedy. A firm is taken over and an unexpected job loss ensures.

This quote from his most recent novel sums up Kennedy’s oft repeated theme.

When things fall apart, the centre truly does not hold. Life can have an absolute veneer of relative stability. Of calm assuredness. Smooth sailing and all that. And then something goes seriously askew, the veneer is shown to be eggshell thin, and all comes asunder with a speed that leaves you thinking there are no certainties in life. Only the desperate music of happenstance.  Douglas Kennedy, Isabelle in the Afternoon.

Covid 19 is a story line that Douglas Kennedy could have written, but we readers might have deemed it too farfetched to be believed. The eggshell thin veneer of the whole world is now exposed. We have all been reminded that certainties are not so certain. Millions around the world have experienced unexpected illness. Over 300,000 have lost their lives. Billions of people have lost their jobs or are not able to work. The economic damage is only beginning to be counted. In Australia over half of the nations employed workforce is on some form of government support. The banks in Australia have deferred over $150 billion of mortgage repayments, which people can’t afford to pay. Many of us would never have imagined being quarantined to our country, let alone our state, or our region or for some a hotel room.

What I especially love about Douglas Kennedy novels is that his characters somehow find a way through. They learn to live with more uncertainty and often less material security. They value relationships and people much more after their material idols are exposed as false gods. They learn that pride often does come before a fall, so the best way to avoid the next fall is to forgo pride. They ask deeper spiritual questions. They learn to value and embrace the beauty of nature. They slow down and really do learn to smell the roses. They give way to fate, embrace change and learn to adapt.

Those with an eye to destiny will submit to fate.
Those with eyes of faith will put their trust in higher hands.

In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Be the best we can

Oddly, my phone spoke these words.

I know you didn’t want to run today. You could so easily have not bothered. Doing your best does make a difference. Aren’t you glad you did your best, and went for that run today?

That message spooked me. How did it know I really didn’t want to run today, of all days? It’s weird, I know the running app is an impersonal machine speaking recorded words, but it still helps. We all like affirmation and encouragement.

Be the best I can is a signature behaviour of the Royal Australian Navy. At a time when our world is grappling with ways to survive, ease, control, manage and live through the worst medical crisis in a hundred years – it is essential to remember we can make a difference by being the best we can be.

Early this year, the leadership of every country in the world began to hear about a virus called Covid 19. Over the last few months the spread of the virus has varied massively from country to country. The reasons and factors are many. Leaders balanced the medical crisis with the devastating economic cost of lockdown. Without any previous experience, without being sure if any measure would work, with polarised economic and medical advice, leaders made the hardest calls. With varying speeds and degrees of certainty borders were shut, society was locked down and economic stimulus packages were handed out. Premiers, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Governors and Mayors have rarely had their decisions more thoroughly scrutanised. Sadly, the results of those diverse decisions are being exposed often with tragic consequences. The best leaders stood up and their people are grateful.

Now that restrictions are being lifted a new question arises. Will we do our best, be our best and make the best decisions. Our temptation is to focus on our leaders while avoiding the challenge of our own personal responsibility. Our economy needs to come back to life. The decisions we make as individuals and the behaviour we exhibit in groups is now up for judgement.

The virus remains extant. We need to be at our best to recover our world and our lives. We need to keep our distance, wash our hands, avoid crowds, eat nutritious food, exercise, isolate if we are sick and when symptoms appear get tested.

Being ­the best we can, has never mattered more.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. Gal 6:7

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Black Gold

In a world dominated by one news story you can be excused for being unaware of the significance of this week,  03-09 May 2020. It is in fact, International Compost Awareness Week. ICAW for those who care. If you have never discovered the mysteries and magic of compost you have missed one of earth’s most treasured secrets.

Quite simply compost is the natural process of turning waste into life. Take any once living substances like vegetable scraps, lawn clippings, coffee grounds, fallen leaves, human hair, saw dust, animal manure and so on and add them to a pile with ample moisture, aeration and time – and the result is a rich fertile brown soil improver called compost. Compost recycles waste. It adds beneficial organisms to the soil. It’s good for the environment. It reduces landfill. It’s carbon sequestration – yes it removes carbon from the atmosphere and builds it back into the soil. It’s free. It’s natural. It won’t cure Covid-19, but organic food grown in compost is a rich source of nutrition.  

Metaphorically Australia could be described as the compost nation. The refuge, riff raff and ragamuffins of Great Britain were transported to this vast land with its ancient inhabitants. Add weather, time, struggle, gold, sheep and a few more ingredients and Australia is not such a bad outcome. Sadly it also includes exploitation, theft and degradation, but out of all the mess modern Australia shines brightly.

The Navy, too is nurtured by diversity and time. Mix in warships a jumble of  navigators, war fighters, aviators, submariners, divers, writers, chefs, stewards, boatswains, hydrographers, technical types and logisticians (and many more) from all over Australia, often with colourful and questionable backgrounds- add in a good serve of Royal Navy imports and the odd Kiwi and the modern Royal Australian Navy is surprisingly impressive. Training, hard work, commitment and discipline sharpen the mission focus.

Spiritually, even an ancient faith takes on a little of the compost theme. God takes us with all our drama, insecurities, weaknesses, foolishness and failings and believes in us. He loves us in spite of our sin. He calls us to be family. Transforming our darkness into light. Giving us hope, meaning and joy. Resurrecting our human soul.  

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16