Now, What Kind of People Will We Be?

A scheduled monthly meeting
The usual agenda items
A last minute inclusion:
A visit from the highest level

It is my unhappy duty …
I can only give you limited information
All communication between you must cease
Make every effort to refrain from speculation

Mouths open, air sucked
Eyes wide, shoulders slumped
Gut-punched and winded
We are plunged into a vacuum

Then, faltering words
Grasping at meaning-making
First attempts at management
Tears, anger, doubt

Left with fallen pieces
Questions with no answers
An unspecified time of uncertainty
Now, what kind of people will we be?

Rock pile (3)

Talking About Dying

The Sapre Room


I’ve Just finished reading Helen Garner’s book, The Spare Room. Here’s a brief review:

Helen prepares her spare room to host her sick friend who is coming to Melbourne from Sydney to undergo alternative cancer treatment. The three weeks that Nicola stays with her turn Helen’s world upside down, test their friendship and challenge everything Helen thinks she knows about herself.

If anyone else but Helen Garner had written this book, I would have put it back on the shelf. But trusting in Helen’s ability to write about the tough subject (having read This House of Grief), I took a deep breath and dived in. I’m glad I did.

The Spare Room is a meditation on friendship, dying and living with the dying. It is brutally honest as it ranges across the complex emotions that arise for everybody when facing cancer. It is a brutal disease and the treatments are brutal. Everyone is vulnerable and it brings out the best and the worst in patients, carers and medical practitioners alike.

Helen struggles with Nicola’s approach, but as the palliative care nurse tells her, ‘that’s one way of doing it’. Likewise, this book is one way of exploring the subject – brutally honest and in places, unexpectedly funny.

Yesterday,  a cross-party state committee delivered a report recommending the Victorian State Government legalise assisted dying for people suffering from serious and incurable conditions. The debate around this will be fierce, I’m sure, but perhaps that’s another way of doing it.

We need to talk about dying, ways of doing it, ways of living with dying – our own and that of those we love, and ways of preparing.

Janet Morley in her book, All Desires Known, offers this prayer:

When I Come to Die

Prayer for the dying, and when preparing for death

When I come to die,

give me companions:

cheerful, practical,

able to walk the edge with me

and look me in the eye.

Until that time,

grant me to use fully

each day, each hour,

open-hearted, knowing your love,

savouring my life.

 To this, I add my Amen.

World Environment Day 2016

World environment day 2016Today is World Environment Day. Established by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Association in 1972, it’s celebrated annually on June 5th.

To mark the day falling on a Sunday this year, Uniting Justice Australia prepared a resource pack tied into the Lectionary readings for use in today’s services. Here’s an edited version of a story, written by Rev. Eseta Waqabaca-Meneilly, from these resources:

60-year-old Lionola in Tuvalu is packing her woven coconut basket with items she will take with her to the new place. She will have to learn to call this new place ‘home’.  What will this new home be like, she wonders. She hasn’t even been to this other island, also in the South Pacific. All she knows is that it’s called Koro, a place that doesn’t have the rising seawater problems that her islands have.

She neatly folds in some clothes and items she will need. So many things she can’t take with her – flowers and food from her garden which are now saltwater-ridden and will not grow well anywhere; her beautiful pride of Tuvalu handcrafted mats, fans and shell necklaces that she had painstakingly learnt to weave and thread from her mother and grandmother as she was growing up. She may not be able to recreate these in her new `home’. The pandanus leaves will be wrong, the stain, the texture. All wrong. Lionola starts to cry into her handkerchief.

The plane will be here tomorrow to take her and some relatives to Koro. There is no hope. She suddenly brightens up and wipes away tears. There is hope! She reaches to the bottom of her basket and pulls out two books, a Bible and a hymn book, both written in the Tuvalu language. Her hope is in these books. It is called God.

One of the Lectionary readings today comes from the Hebrew scripture found in 1 Kings 17:8-24. Set against the backdrop of drought and famine, it tells the story of a widow who is about to prepare what she thinks will be the last meal she and her son will eat. Into this desperate place comes the prophet, Elijah, who asks her to share this last precious meal with him. A big ask! When our resources are depleted and we’re running on reserve, we are tempted to clutch what we have to ourselves and harden ours hearts towards others, to turn our compassion down to zero.

This is why the story from Tuvalu moves me – I think of myself as being concerned about climate change. I’ve attended protest events, waved a placard! I worry about what kind of world my grandchildren will inherit. But I’m not really under threat, living as I do in Melbourne; at least, not a threat that I can see. I’m not going to lose my home, my country. Unlike Lionola.

The sobering reality is that the threat is very real to people not that far away from me and I have barely given them a thought.

Mandala created by Abi, Tylden Uniting Church, World Environment Day, 2016

Mandala created by Abi, Tylden Uniting Church, World Environment Day, 2016

Rev Dr Ji Zhang is quoted in the Uniting Justice Australia resources:

Climate Change, if we look closely and honestly, is about suffering. It is a modern doctrine of suffering written in environmental language and supported by scientific evidence. This suffering has a myriad of appearances. What the climate crisis teaches us is something about ourselves. Climate change is not just an environmental crisis, but also a crisis of humanity. Its essence is brokenness …

Taking action on climate change is a way of making a public confession, but also an invocation for God’s life to transform us into hope.

I like this idea of action including confession and invocation in respect to climate change. Confession helps me stare into the abyss and come face to face with what ought not to be. Invocation or prayer, especially contemplative prayer, brings me back to hope: that the universe is teeming with the life-giving energy of an all-loving God, all is not lost. Thanks be to God!



Judy widswept (3)I am not a fan of the wind. I’m not talking about the more romantic notion of a gentle breeze on a summer’s day that brings relief from the heat or whispers through overhead branches. No, I’m talking about the kind of wind that rearranges carefully arranged hairstyles, that wraps the laundry around the clothesline, that dumps plumes of red dust on my car and my windows, that sets off the sensor lights at the front door, which in turn sets off the dogs, that roars up and down the side of our house and whistles through cracks and crannies – you get the idea.

I am not a fan of the wind, but I have to stop and consider the reality that wind is a strong metaphor for the Spirit of God. The coming of the spirit was accompanied by a sound like the rush of a violent wind.

Some years ago, I attended a retreat at Queenscliff. It was winter and the weather was stormy. When I ventured out, I did so with lots of layers – hat, coat, scarf, gloves. On one occasion, I rugged up to go outside to walk the labyrinth. The wind was roaring, chilling my face, biting my nose and ears.

Chartres labyrinth

Chartres labyrinth

If you’ve ever walked a labyrinth, you’ll know that it twists and turns back on itself as you make your way into the centre, so one moment the wind was full into my face, the next it was pushing me from behind. At first, I persevered – I ducked my head, buttoned my coat up higher, held onto my hat and tried to keep my scarf up around the lower part of my face. But, there came a point where I decided it was too much, I would give it up rather than fight the wind and that’s when I heard very clearly, not a voice from heaven, but in my spirit, ‘turn your face into the wind’.

My first response was, ‘I don’t think so’, but the sense of the message was so strong that I eventually lifted my head, took off my hat and let the wind blow. That’s when I remembered that one metaphor for the Spirit of God is wind. God is in the wind.

Later, I walked the beach in this wild weather. The water was choppy and grains of sand stung my face, both kicked up by the wind. The tide was coming in and as I walked, the breaking waves washed away my footprints. At the time, there were a number of things happening in my experience which I knew would bring turmoil and change that I didn’t want it. But walking in the wind – first the labyrinth and then the beach, reassured me that the Spirit is in the wind. Together, we would weather the coming storms.

On the day of Pentecost, the first sign of what was happening was the sound like the rush of a violent wind. The inclusion of the word, ‘violent’ in this description tells us that it wasn’t a comforting sound.

When the Spirit comes, the experience is not always comfortable. Sometimes, a violent wind rearranges our carefully arranged lives, chills our faces and strikes fear into our hearts. Sometimes we are confused and amazed and perplexed so that we want to deny movement of the Spirit. We may even want to simply say ‘no’, or to explain it away.

Pentecost invites us to open ourselves to the holy in-breathing of the Spirit of life in whatever way the Spirit comes. Despite my dislike of the wind, I want to be ready to give my ‘yes’.

Pentecost Prayer

energy of the dance…
promise in the water…
rush in the wind…
rhythm in the word…
poetry of the faith…
silence in the horror…
patience in the waiting…
question in the wonder…
curve on the horizon…
brightness in the sun…
speed in the light…
life in the resurrection…

Come Spirit…
be it all…
and bring us into renewal once more…

~ written by Roddy Hamilton, and posted on Mucky Paws 

Photo taken at Faith and Fabric exhibition at Brunswick Uniting Church on 09 November 2014

I took this photo at Faith and Fabric exhibition at Brunswick Uniting Church on 09 November 2014



That They May be One

‘That they may be one’; this is the prayer Jesus prayed for those who would believe in him long after he was gone. It’a a prayer that continues to reverberate as Christ believers still behave in ways that undermine the unity of the Christian church and thus, the credibility of the idea that God is at work in the world.

Inspired by a retreat that I attended last month, which introduced me to the idea of Quantum Entanglement I’ve been challenged and excited by the lectionary readings in recent weeks with their emphasis on how our relationships with each other have the power to change our surroundings and indeed, the world.

When we observe the other with love, particularly that prickly, unlikeable other; that has the power to make a statement to the watching world about discipleship: quantum entanglement. When we love our enemy and pray for our persecutor; that has the power to push back the darkness inherent in enmity: quantum entanglement.

When we desist from labelling the clean and unclean, that has the power to change perceptions and the history of the church: quantum entanglement.

Whenever the church, empowered by the Spirit of God, allows that its many expressions and diversity of views are one under God, observers catch a glimpse of God in Christ. This, in turn, enables something of the love of God to break through: quantum entanglement.

Unity is not easy; it takes effort, but the power of unity is more than we can know or understand – it’s a power to change the world: quantum entanglement.

that they may be one

Break Our Hardened Hearts

broken_heart1Complicit, guilty

association condemns:

break our hardened hearts


self-immolateTimWinton_Love Makes a Way

verb (i) (self-immolated, self-immolating)
to commit suicide by dousing oneself with petrol and then setting oneself on fire, especially as a political protest.


noun (plural complicities)
1.  the state of being an accomplice; partnership in wrongdoing.

Sean Kelly,  in his article, A despicable press conferencewrites:

One of the strengths of humanity is its ability to adapt to new conditions. The downside of this is our tendency to accustom ourselves to new patterns very quickly. The argument that this is how Australia’s asylum seeker policy is meant to work – the deliberate exercise of cruelty in order to prevent potentially disastrous decisions – is no longer shocking.

Perhaps we will feel that way about self-immolation, soon.

All of the above weighs heavily on my heart and mind after the news of a second asylum seeker, driven to desperation by Australian asylum seeker policy, has set herself alight in Nauru. I accept a certain level of complicity; the government of the day is subject to the people and I am one of the people.

This morning, we are beset by politicians trying to sell the federal budget, which was handed down last night, and at the same time, dismiss any suggestion of culpability in this latest tragedy. Questions are asked and side-stepped; interviewers move on. I find myself trying to hold on to the horror and the outrage and even my sense of guilt, but it fades as the next news item vies for attention. It bothers me that my heart is hardening, that the shock is wearing off, that I might yet become used to stories of self-immolation, and excuse myself of complicity.

How to raise again the value of ‘the currency of mercy’?

To have mercy is to have a broken heart … in order to be merciful, we must know how desperately we need mercy … we are a people who are empty

This statement from the Sisters of Mercy of South America speaks to our need. Let our hearts be broken over this.



Brand New Consciousness

A simple question:

‘Do you want to be made well?

No easy answer.


Walls already built

Reasons why we can’t or won’t

That’s the way it is.

Yet, invitation:

‘Stand up, take your mat and walk’

Brand new consciousness.

New Consciousness

Inspired by  the Gospel of John 5:1-9