Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Beware what we hope for.

Folklore says that during the Great Depression a star arose to warm the hearts of average Australians and to give them hope – Phar Lap. The legendary champion race horse, victorious in 37 of his 51 races, supposedly raised the spirits of a nation weary of difficult times, unemployment and food shortages. Phar Lap played the role of hero to a nation whose hopes had sagged.

Facing our own period of hardship today it’s not surprising that we are looking for a new champion. Recently this has led to a rather unedifying spat between Rugby Union and Rugby League over the playing future of teenage sensation Joseph Suaali. At 16, this young man is already 193 cm and 93 kg. Videos online reveal a dynamic runner of the ball, a wicked sidestep, wonderful ball skills and fierce tackling. It’s the sort of thing that makes old rugby souls get goose bumps – the prospect of a genuine talent that could revive a dying code. With a pedigree in Junior Rugby League and impressive stats in GPS Rugby it is no wonder that the rival codes are desperate to sign him and workout how they can fast track him to the senior ranks.

Sadly, the story of Phar Lap ended in disappointment with the champion’s mysterious premature death. Was it foul play or was he literally ridden into the ground. Did we expect too much? Was it fair for a nation to ride on a horse’s back expecting deliverance, rescue and economic salvation?

When two sporting codes are bleeding money, when officials and players are being laid off and taking pay cuts and when governments are doing their utmost to keep people in jobs it is rather unedifying to see a teenager being offered millions to play sport. Maybe it’s also a little unfair on him. But…it is great to have a distraction.

The promise of a new generation, the glory of speed and the fearlessness of youth are things to be welcomed and enjoyed. But not idolised.

10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalm 147:10-12

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Hurry up and wait

What is that pipe?’ we asked as we drove from Kalgoorlie earlier this year.
‘Where does it come from? Where does it go?’
‘How old is it?’
‘Surely they don’t pipe water from Perth to Kalgoorlie!’

The answers are amazing. In the late 1800s as gold was discovered the town of Kalgoorlie exploded with people, but there was no fresh water supply. A plan was hatched to build the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme – a pipeline to deliver 23 million litres of water a day from a dam outside of Perth to the West Australian goldfields over 500kms away. The plan worked, the scheme opened in 1903 and still operates today. Astounding!

Knowledgeable sandgropers delight in telling the tragic tale of the pipeline’s chief engineer CY O’Connor. O’Connor, a brilliant engineer, was constantly ridiculed during the construction of the pipeline by critics who were sure that the system of eight pumping stations would never work. The day finally arrived to turn on all the valves, but sadly no water arrived. A few more days passed…still no water. O’Connor defeated by the now victorious critics ended his pain by taking his own life on a beach at Fremantle. Three days later, so the story goes, the water finally arrived at its destination. It is part of the folklore, a bitterly sad story about a brilliant man who was not patient enough to see his scheme deliver.

There is only one problem with this apocryphal West Australian story. It’s not quite true. O’Connor did design this engineering marvel and he did attract enormous public criticism, condemnation and slander. Sadly, he did take his own life but in 1902 about a year before the pipeline was completed. O’Connor’s pain was too great. Less than a year after his death, his day of vindication finally arrived. Today his name is revered as a visionally and an engineering genius. The story has been embellished, but the tragedy remains.

Hurry up and wait, is a phrase often heard in military service. Most of us are not good at this. We want an answer, quickly. We want a solution, yesterday. We want a vaccine, now. We desperately want our old lives back. But right now, we have to hurry up and wait.

The old book uses another word, persevere. The gift of patience, to push on, to remain steady and to live in hope.

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:11

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Who's to blame?

Who is to blame for Covid-19?

There is a lot of blaming going on at the moment. The blame started early and is getting louder and louder. Political leaders everywhere are getting the blame. While some strategies seem to have worked better than others the simple truth is that no political leader is to blame. Some are blaming scientists or The World Health Organisation but that is neither fair nor right. It’s not the fault of the left, the right, the media or whoever we don’t really like.

At least one country has been blamed because they were the first to record cases of the disease. This blame is unfounded, unhelpful and more than a little racist. Conspiracy theorists too have been blamed, everyone from warfare laboratories to the 5G phone network, but again this blame is not founded on a shred of evidence.

Locally some blame either a security guard, someone hosting a party or a ‘super spreader’, but in reality, the virus is most often spread accidentally by people who are A-symptomatic. Most of us have broken social distancing guidelines, forgotten to wash our hands, touched our faces or mistakenly shaken another person’s hand. So, who’s fault is it?

I am pleasantly surprised that few people are blaming God. It is hard to blame God when you don’t believe in him. However, without a belief in God often humans convince themselves that they are gods. Belief in God remains a matter of faith. Belief that humans are gods is just plain foolishness.

So…here is a radical thought. There is no one to blame. Covid is a virus. Viruses play a part in the natural world. We don’t know why or how Covid-19 developed and at the moment we can’t stop this very contagious disease.

Humans don’t like admitting that we have limits. We live in this amazing system, seemingly the one unique planet that sustains life. Life is complicated, diverse, awesome but not always safe. Some life depends on other life. We eat animals and at times they try to eat us. Viruses, bacteria, worms and all manner of other things live on and in us. 

Humans are blessed to live on this earth. But we are not gods. We control so much, but we are not all-powerful. We are finite. We die. We are part of something much greater which we will never completely control.

A few months into our journey with Covid it’s time we settle the blame game. We are not to blame. It’s important for us to do our best. Cooperation, humility, research, ingenuity, and creativity are essential to rediscover a way to exist within nature. Prayer might make a comeback. Patience is important.

Let’s bury the blame game and use that energy to work out how to live with this virus until someone comes up with a better plan.

Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honour. Proverbs 18: 12

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The way of fools

Recently overheard…two young men having a simple, but chilling conversation.

‘After 4 months  – we seem to be winning the battle over Covid-19’ the young man boasted. ‘Well’ said his slightly wiser friend ‘We are doing OK…except for Victoria….and the rest of the world.’

Science is only in the earliest stages of understanding Covid-19. Experience seems to be suggesting that Covid flourishes in the arrogant belief that there is no longer a problem. 

One country boasted a couple of weeks back that it was Covid free and that they were all going to the rugby. Weeks later the numbers were up as two elderly ladies, returning from overseas secured an early release from quarantine on compassionate grounds, but accidentally became spreaders.

Australia successfully flattened the curve but now Victoria is showing us that the virus is crouching at the door – waiting for one foolish, careless or even unlucky act.

When a politician says ‘The virus will soon, simply, go away’ we should pray that he might be right. But we must act on the assumption that he is wrong and continue to practice social distancing, hand hygiene, being tested if we have symptoms, wearing masks in crowds and following the medical advice.

When a scientist promises us that a vaccine will be developed, we should hope and pray that she is right. But we need to be aware that at the moment people are still dying, that we have no vaccine, treatment or cure and that the only weapons we have in our arsenal are our own responses and actions.

Franklin D Roosevelt famously said at the height of the Great Depression ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself’

Four months into the GHC (Global Health Crisis) 2020 the lesson might just be the exact opposite. Our greatest threat is when we no longer think that Covid is our greatest threat.

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Proverbs 12:15