Thursday, August 27, 2020

Natural contentment

To the eye, a fresh, plump, ripe strawberry is a thing of beauty. However, many of the huge, fat strawberries found on our supermarket shelves are sadly lacking in the taste department. Often resembling a small apple, many of those wonderfully attractive, commercially grown strawberries can be dry on the inside and totally devoid of taste. 


Imagine our delight when we discovered a local grower where strawberries are picked in the morning and sold in the afternoon for $12 a kilo. Delicious, juicy, fresh, locally grown strawberries – wow – can it get any better? 


Well, actually it can. Yesterday we picked our first home grown strawberries, right here in Shoalwater, WA. After losing a few to the hungry and rather crafty ravens, a small investment in cloth bird protection allowed our strawberries to fully ripen in the sun. These little treasures, packed with sweetness, fuelled by rainfall, grown in compost and devoid of chemical fertilisers and pesticides were a taste of heaven. The locally grown strawberries seemed dull, lifeless and ordinary compared to our own shiny fruit which had travelled less than 15 metres from ‘paddock to plate’ and was enjoyed within an hour of harvest. 


2020 has been a tough year. The darkness, the struggles, the rules, the restrictions, the border closures, the politics, the changes and the economic disaster have sadly been intertwined with illness and death. It’s been a year when it often felt like the sun had stopped shining. 


However, the sun still continues to shine behind the clouds. 


The majesty, the mystery and the sheer magnificence of our world are not diminished by struggle. The natural world goes on. Plovers raise their chicks in the field, whales continue to migrate, pelicans awkwardly land on crystal clear waters,  tiny fairy penguins return each evening to feed their chicks and snails enjoy their slimy evening dinner all within a stone’s throw of our suburban backyard. A seed germinates in soil and life bursts forth, seemingly out of nothing. A plant produces a berry that not only feeds, but thrills.


All over the world, even in places of extreme suffering life goes on. Babies continue to be born. Children risk falling as they learn to walk, kids continue to play, teenagers muddle their way through and grown-ups try to grow up. People still fall in love and marry,  with or without guests at their wedding.


Despair in hard times is the obvious default. Faith looks up, past the struggle, to see the beauty. Hope looks out, beyond the darkness and insists that there is a better day coming. Love remains God’s finest gift and our greatest calling.  


I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength

Phil 4: 11-13

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Plan A, Plan B


There has been a lot of talk of late in the Australian media about a possible vaccine for Covid 19. How should we react to this discussion?


The optimists will be thrilled that a way out of the pandemic is just around the corner. The pessimists will dismiss it as rhetoric from politicians keen to deflect attention away from the continued critical medical and economic challenges. The stock market, it seems, has already decided. Despite the economy being in tatters the stock market is only slightly down on the record highs of last year. The logic follows that the market has already priced in a vaccine. The market seems convinced that the economic shocks will be steep but temporary, that a vaccine is close, and that the world will soon return to normality.


The optimist, the pessimist and the investor (who has already priced in a vaccine) share the same delusion- they are all sure that they know what is going to happen in the future. Or to be more charitable, they are all certain that they think they know the future. Or to say it another way, they are all punting on their own view of what they think will happen.


There is, however, an alternative way of thinking. Laced with a hint of humility it might be simpler to accept that we actually don’t know if or when a vaccine might be ready for use. We can be hopeful. We can remain positive. We can support our leaders who are convinced that a vaccine is a great Plan A. But we need a Plan B as well.


Plan B might include more research into treatments. Plan B might include balancing economic and health concerns. Plan B might mean accepting we are simply not going to be able to hug our grandchildren on the other side of the country for quite a while. Plan B might include being thankful for all we have learnt about managing this virus. Plan B might include resourcing our medical heroes for a marathon not just a sprint. Plan B might include being flexible and adaptable to the windy path in front of us, wherever it may lead.


Faith has often been criticised as being a crutch for the weak. I would rather describe faith as being like a good pair of joggers. The road ahead is uncertain. There may be rocks and occasionally broken glass. At times the path will be clear and well-lit and at other times the path will be steep with poor visibility. We need all the support we can get. Strength, protection and confidence are needed as we stride out even when the path remains uncertain and unpredictable.


Faith does not promise that it will be alright. Faith rejects all political messiahs. Faith steps into the darkness and trusts the goodness of the creator, the guidance of the good shepherd and the sustaining strength of the enduring spirit.


Faith hopes that tomorrow the sun will shine, but has a raincoat at the ready for a possible storm.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5 


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

We could be heros

What does the Royal Australian Navy and Tasmania have in common? This week they are both celebrating the government’s recommendation to award Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean, a posthumous Victoria Cross.

 Teddy was the 14th child of a working-class family. He was raised in Latrobe in Tasmania’s north, close to Devonport. At the age of 18, in April 1941, he joined the Naval Reserves following in the footsteps of his five older brothers, four in the Army and one in the Navy. In May 1941 he was posted to Garden Island, Sydney where he was billeted on board the converted ferry Kuttabul. Later that month he was on leave back in Tasmania when the midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour occurred and Kuttabul was sunk. Twenty-one sailors died.

Less than two weeks later Teddy returned to Sydney to join the newly commissioned HMAS Armidale. Armidale sailed north to assist in the evacuation of Australian soldiers from occupied Timor. On 1 December 1942 around 1400h (2pm) Armidale came under attack from no less than thirteen Japanese aircraft. Within an hour the ship had taken a number of direct hits and the order was given to evacuate ship. Sheean assisted in the launching of lifeboats, but then noticed that many of his fellow sailors were in the water and were being strafed by enemy gunfire. He scrambled back to his gun on the sinking ship. He was twice wounded but continued to fire the gun whilst under continual enemy attack. Many of the forty-nine survivors claimed it was the heroic efforts of Seaman Sheean to shoot down one plane and keep the others at bay, that saved their lives. He was seen to be still firing his gun as the ship slipped below the waves.

Teddy Sheean could have blamed politicians and so-called experts for allowing a young man to be exposed to the horrors of war. He could have renounced his senior officers for making decisions that may have steered his ship into danger. Instead, his primary concern was for the safety of his mates. He took responsibility. He acted decisively. He laid down his own life with selfless devotion.

Teddy Sheean’s heroic service puts the dramas that we face today into perspective. We are again facing an enemy. We are under threat. People are dying. We need the inspiration of one who counted serving as being of higher value than self-interest. We kid ourselves that one person doesn’t matter, but Teddy Sheean challenges that false view. No individual can change the course of a war, but selflessness does save lives.

The actions of every person in the face of an invisible enemy can make a difference.


As was said of Jesus, who laid down his life sacrificiall

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13  




Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Only two certainties

In April 1970 a farmer, Leonard Casley, had an argument with the Western Australian Government about wheat quotas. Wheat quotas limiting a farmers production years later were removed but at the time Leonard was impati

ent so he declared his farm of 4000 hectares an independent principality. He crowned himself His Majesty Prince Leonard 1 of the Hutt River Province. Holding to the British Treason Act of 1495 Hutt River succeeded from Australia and remained, in the Prince’s mind at least, loyal subjects of Queen Elizabeth II. For decades the Principality issued its own coins, stamps and passports, refused to pay Australian Government taxes and became a quirky tourist attraction.


The Australian Government never accepted this declaration. No other country in the world ever recognised Hutt’s independence. Tax notices continued to pile up. After abdicating his crown last year Prince Leonard died on 13 February 2019. On 31 January 2020 the Province was closed to tourists and this week was formall

y dissolved.


I am tempted to say this could only have happened in Western Australia but as a temporary, captive resident of this remote and independent minded state, it might be wiser if I didn’t. The Australian Tax Office has issued back tax notices for almost three million dollars which means that Prince Leopold’s successor, his son Graham, has to foot the bill. It all goes to prove those words written in 1795 by Benjamin Franklin


Our new Constitution is now established and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.


The events of this year remind us that certainty is almost always a mirage. In the face of uncertainty we desperately cling to hope. A hop

e that cradles uncertainty lightly. A hope that hangs on in the midst of the storm. A hope that waits for a break in the clouds. A hope that trusts the sun will shine again.


We can fight the system and declare independence, or we can band together with co-operation, patience and hope and ride out the storm.


So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18