Tuesday, 27 May 2008

A voice of dissent

I followed an interesting link on Nicole's blog. Rebecca Walker, daughter of feminist icon, Alice Walker, writes about how she has come to a totally different viewpoint to her mother.

Alice Walker viewed motherhood as slavery and instead pursued work, travel and self-fulfillment (among other things). She taught her daughter that the idea that motherhood can bring happiness was a fairytale.

Rebecca Walker has come to understand that what really matters is a happy family. She writes,
    "Feminisim has betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness. It is devastating."
She believes that feminism has made huge mistakes and alterations need to be made.

I found this article interesting. I must admit that I know very little about Alice Walker except what I have read in this article. I know not whether her view were extreme or representative, though even if extreme I suspect they would have been influential in changing what was accepted.

But I have to say that Rebecca only says what many people have said before.

Just before I fell pregnant with Sophie my section leader at work told me, in a uncharacteristic moment of intimacy, not to put a career before having children as it had been a mistake on her part. Her husband said the same thing on a different occasion. I read a book about this time by a Melbourne journalist in which she admitted waiting a long time until having children had been a mistake. I heard a Sydney journalist say the same thing on the radio.

Long before this I heard it from my mother, who often felt condemned by her peers for having a family as a young women and not pursuing a career first.

And I have no doubt there have been those throughout the feminist movement voicing concern even dissent, but they would have been dismissed as bigotted, sexist, paternalist, fundamentalist, conservative, backward and ignorant. We would not listen.

So I wonder which wise voices of concern and dissent are we not listening to now, before the mistakes are made?

Monday, 26 May 2008

When I grow up...

Sophie wants to be a Toilet-Paper Maker and a Doctor.

Bethany wants to be an Israelite.


About a month ago I had a bad infection at the base of one of my fingernails. The nail was "eaten through". The infection cleared up and since then I have watched the old nail grow out and a new nail grow up. I don't know about you but I find this absolutely fascinating.

The nail moves. There is not doubt about this. If you paint a stripe on the base of your fingernail, you can, over time, watch it move up the fingernail.

But the finger does not. My finger underneath the fingernail stays right where it is.

Yet, the two are joined together. How can something that moves be joined like that to something that does not? They are joined so closely that it is extremely painful when they are separated.

How does it work? How do fingernails grow and move? And I'm not asking about the bottom of the nail where they are made (though that is interesting too) but how do they move up the finger?

What Flower is this? (14)

This week's flower is Lomatia myricoides or River Lomatia.

It is in the same genus as this one.

Note these similarities:
  • same numer of petals

  • the long style(the female part of the flower)

  • the three glands around the base of the style

  • that no stamen (the male part of the flower) are noticeable. Actually, I think the stamen filaments (the stalks) are fused to the petals and you can just see the anthers (the bits with the pollen) on the inside curl at the end of the petals. The are darker coloured and have triangluar shape.

It is quite a different plant, however, a large-ish bush (about 3m) and with entire leaves (that is not divided), and the flowers are yellow rather than white. This plant was (and still is, hopefully) at the water-hole down from Martin's Lookout, Springwood, Blue Mountains.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

In Praise of Teachers

Nicole has tagged me to do this Teachers Meme in which I have to name five teachers and say what made them great. I come from a family of teachers: Father, Mother, two Uncles, one Aunt, two brothers, sister and husband. They are all great and have all contributed to who I am and are all worthy of much praise. However, I have chosen others to write about here.

Mrs Manwerring was my teacher in first grade at Springwood Public School (1981). She was a wonderful teacher and inspired in me (one who is not naturally musical) a love for music. She taught our whole class of thirty or so six-year-olds to play the recorder, an instrument I still play today. We played percussion ensembles as a class, and I can still remember the charts we had to follow with our triangles or castanets or drums or tambourines. She also ran the infants choir and we entered and did well in eisteddfods. I remember when her son (a giant in my eyes at about ten or eleven years old) came and played the trumpet for us. She was the one who worked out that I was lip-reading and almost totally deaf (I had rather severe glue-ear).

Mrs Steele was my Scripture Teacher in year four and also my Girls’ Brigade Leader from 1984-1986 (school years 4-6). She taught us the Lord’s Prayer in Scripture and faithfully taught us the bible each week. I knew her long after those years and my enduring memory is of a woman who loved the Lord and served him faithfully and selflessly year-by-year as she taught children to know, love and serve him too. Not just her own children, but children from all over the community.

Quite extraordinarily, all of my primary school teachers (years 3-6) were men and all had quite a big impact. The one that stands out the most is Mr Ridgeway who was my teacher in year 6 (1986). There are two things about him impressed in my memory. Firstly, (being also our school athletics coach) he trained our relay teams to change batons like machines. We would win not because we were the fastest (although I have never felt quite so much like the wind as I did then) but because we were smooth. Secondly, he gently encouraged me to think about issues from different perspectives and to ask questions of opinions picked up in the playground or through the media. I particularly remember thinking through the trial of Lindy Chamberlain and the plight of indigenous Australians (I would later realise that he himself was of indigenous descent).

Robin Best was one of my youth group leaders while I was at high school. She was a godly women, strong in faith, kind and winsome. She guided me through a difficult time in our church, steering me always back to the word of God. I particularly remember one night when she turned up with a meal for our family. I have always marvelled at her coming at just the right time, and how she, a young married woman, managed to cook for our hungry family of six.

Professor Mike Augee lectured me in Vertebrate Zoology at UNSW in 1994. He knew his stuff, but that didn’t make him different, all the lecturers knew their stuff. He could teach it. He taught with energy; sometimes bouncing with delight about the shape of a turtle’s skull. He taught with clarity; I was never in doubt about what he was talking about. Best of all, he taught us, not as burdens but as welcome guests, inviting us to share his joy in the vertebrate world.

I tag Jean, Erin and Bron.

Miriam Elizabeth

My brother and sister-in-law have a new baby, a girl, Miriam Elizabeth, born on Wednesday, 21st May.

Here she is with her brother, Harry.

Friday, 23 May 2008

What must I do? (6)

Ruminations on Luke 18:18-30 continued...

What does it mean to “follow” Jesus?

I think we use the word “follow” with these meanings (probably not exhaustive):

  • In the physical sense to follow behind someone, as we might follow a guide in the bush or play the children’s game, follow the leader.

  • To follow an instruction. In this sense it is akin to obedience.

  • To follow someone’s teachings. We believe and agree with someone's ideas and take them on board for ourselves.

I think that in Luke 18:18-30, follow is used with the first meaning in mind. However when we talk about following Jesus, we have the second and third meanings in mind.

What allows us (if anything) to jump from the first to the second and third meanings when we apply this in our lives?

(This post continues a lengthening thread. Click to see parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.)

Thursday, 22 May 2008

What must I do? (5)

My ruminations on Luke 18:18-30 conitnued...

I continued to think about Peter. I thought about he had left everything. He had followed Jesus. He had walked behind him and beside him on the roads.

I thought about how I ought to apply this to my life. And then it hit me.

I can't. I can't follow Jesus. Not like this. I don't live in Israel. I can't walk behind much less beside him on the roads of Galilee or Judea. I can't do that. You can't do that.

Jesus calls the rich ruler to 'leave everything and follow me'. He didn't. Peter had. I can't.

This was when I realised that I needed to do some serious thinking about what it means to "follow Jesus". We use the term all the time. What does it actually mean?

(This post continues a lengthening thread. Click to see parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.)

melemat cascades

We also went to the beautiful Melemat Cascades while in Port Vila. The cascades meander gradually and gracefully over a mile or so with a spectacular waterfall at their source. The more adventurous of us climbed the waterfall (which is not pictured as I couldn't get close enough) which is not as bad as it looks because coral rocks are not slippery when wet.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Erakor Island

While in Port Vila, we caught a ferry across to Erakor Island. It was lovely.

Sanctifying Sleep

Those who know me well will know I have an afternoon nap each day. Those who know me even better will know what happens when I don't. Needless to say, it's not very cheerful.

Yet, it's been a constant struggle for me to admit that I need this extra sleep every day. There are so many other things I want to do. Why can't I soldier on through the day like everyone else? Not even my three year old has an afternoon sleep anymore.

So it was a great help to me to listen to a talk by C.J.Mahaney called A Biblical Understanding of Sleep (download from here). It is part of a series called "Sanctifying the Ordinary" and has helped me change my thinking about my afternoon nap.

Below are a few thoughts that have helped me, although the talk covers much more.

Sleep is a humbling experience. Only God does not sleep. Only God is working all the time. Only arrogance claims not to need sleep. My arrogance.

Sleep is both an everyday expression of our dependence upon a powerful God and a picture of our salvation in which we depend on God in full.

So, I shall now toddle off for my afternoon nap.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


Sophie lost some more teeth while we were away.


After all our angst about Toby, one of the highlights of our holiday was seeing and feeding some real turtles at Blue Water Aquarium (situated 13 km from Port Vila at the mouth of the Rentapao River).

Monday, 19 May 2008

Which flower is this? (13)

This week's flower is Hibbertia obtusifolia, or the Guinea Flower.

Again, I am not sure about the species name of this one. The leaves look obtuse, but I can't check any of the details from a photo! It definitely looks like this image from the Gardens Database but it's not in my Native Plants of the Blue Mountains (Baker and Corringham) book, and the ones in the book (H. bracteata, H. dentata, H. riparia, H. saligna, H. scandens) don't look like this one.

Lesson learnt: always try to identify the plant in question before taking a photo and running away, unless running away with a sample (which is not permitted anyway).

Only two more flowers from the Blue Mountains and then we begin on flowers of Vanuatu.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

learning contentment

We were asked recently about how living in Vanuatu has taught us to be content with the little we have compared to being in Australia.  This was my answer (with a comment from Glen at the end).

To be honest, I learnt most about contentment while still in Australia, while we were at bible college. This was a time when we, compared with our peers, had very little. Friends were buying houses and lovely furniture and beautiful things for the kitchen and we were still making do with what we had scavenged as students at University.

What did I learn that helped me to be content

Firstly I learnt that my real home is heaven. Living in rented accommodation was a lovely picture of this. It wasn't my home. I couldn't do anything I liked to it; couldn't hang pictures where I wanted to much less knock down or paint a wall. Instead of being resentful, I learnt to rejoice in the reminder that my real home wasn't here but in heaven and to set my heart on my heavenly home, not my earthly one.

Secondly, I learnt to rejoice in the blessings that God has given other people. Whether material (such as a lovely home) or gifts and abilities (such as being able to play the piano or sing like a bird) I learnt to thank God for what he had given other people, and pray that he would use them to build up his kingdom.

These two things really helped me to be content with who I was and what I had.

Now that we are in Vanuatu, things are a little different. Here we have to learn to be content in times of plenty. It is the people around us that have so little and we have so much. It is easy either to feel guilty on one hand, and on the other to think that somehow we deserve to have plenty. How do we respond to this? This is what we are still learning.

Glen added that a willingness to give freely both builds and shows contentment. This is true in both Australia and Vanuatu; whether we have little or whether we have plenty. In Australia it is easy to think that we are poor but living in Vanuatu has shattered that myth. We are very wealthy and that brings obligations.


We have returned from holidays. We had friends spend a week with us at Talua and then we all spent a week in Port Vila. We had a great time.
Photos to follow!

sad news

We have arrived home from a week away on holidays to some sad news.

One of the young men from the nearby island, Tangoa, was attacked by a shark yesterday. He has survived but will have his arm amputated just below the shoulder.

Please pray for him, his family, and the whole community as they come to terms with this accident.

This follows a ceremony a month or two ago in which a curse was "lifted" from the community. The curse was understood to be upon the community because of the way their ancestors treated the missionaries and was manifest in various ways, including the presence of sharks in the channel between the mainland and the island. After the ceremony in which the curse was lifted, it was believed that there was no longer any sharks in the channel, and if there were, they would be friendly.I am worried about how this shark attack will be interpreted. I can think of a number of possibilities, all of which worry me.

  • Possibility one: The community is still under a curse.

  • Possibility two: That man alone is under a curse. He is a sinner and deserves it.

  • Possibility three: (which could come in combination with the above) All those who returned to the church as a result of "transformation week" in which the curse was lifted will now turn their backs on God.

All of these stem from a pre-christian understanding of curse and a misapplication of Deuteronomy 27-28. I will work through these over the next couple of weeks (perhaps months) as I seek to clarify my thoughts on "curse" and how to respond helpfully to this situation.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

what must I do? (4)

Reflections on Luke 18:18-30 continued from here, here and here.

Then I thought more about Peter. I thought about Luke 5:1-11 when he hauls in his breaking net, so full of fish, and threw himself down at Jesus feet, saying;

"Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man". (Luke 5:8)

I thought about what happened next after Jesus calls Peter to follow him.

"So they pulled up their boats on shore, left everything and followed him." (Luke 5:11)

Peter did what the ruler could not. Peter left everything and followed Jesus. What was different about the two? The ruler says,

"all these [laws] I have kept since I was a boy" (Luke 18:21)

but Peter says,

"Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man."

He, like the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14, knows he cannot justify
himself and humbles himself before the Lord to whom he must cry for mercy.

We could learn a lot from Peter.

Friday, 9 May 2008

what must I do? (3)

Reflections on Luke 18:18-30 continued from here, and here.

As I kept thinking about these questions, I thought, if only I could get inside Peter's head, then I would really know what he was thinking.

And then I realised. I had forgotten one of the most important steps of understanding the bible. Until now, I had thought about these words of Jesus as a twenty-first century person without first thinking about how a first century person would have heard and understood them. What did these words of Jesus mean to Peter? What did they mean to the first century ruler?

So I thought about Peter's question,

"Who, then, can be saved?".

It seems that Peter expects that the rich would be saved. Jesus says that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:24-26) and this seems to astonish Peter. If it is difficult for the rich, then who can be saved? If the rich are not saved, then who? No-one?

I think this can only make sense if there was the assumption in Peter's mind that the rich were saved, probably something along these lines; riches come as blessing from God for obedience, obedience which will also be rewarded with eternal life. It is the flip side to the assumption that those who suffer in this world are receiving just punishment for sin. That people thought like this in the first century is certain (Luke 13:2; John 9:2, 34) just as it is that Jesus did not (Luke 13:2 John 9:3).

This, then, is awfully significant in this passage. In this rich ruler we find a man that everyone else assumed would be saved. He followed the law. He was a ruler. He was rich. Nothing could be more certain. Yet, by the end of his conversation with Jesus, there is nothing certain about it.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

ascension day

Today is Ascension Day. We have a public holiday.

I've been thinking about how we should appropriately celebrate this "holy day". I remember a Ginger Meggs carton where he and a friend were trying to work out how to appropriately celebrate Australia Day. They decided they should just sit around and not do anything.

I haven't worked out what to do yet, but at least having a public holiday has brought the day to mind!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:9-11)

Friday, 2 May 2008


I found this article about albinism in Tanzania very interesting.

The rate of albinism seems quite high in Vanuatu too and I think there are similar issues of discrimination here (though not to the extent described for Tanzania). One woman once told me that if she saw a baby as white as Matthew in the bush (her expression for a traditional society) she would run away from it as it would be evil.

Of course, there are issues of discrimination in every society and in every heart.

In secret, or not?

Ought we give in secret or not?

I have raised this question previously, but have never resolved it. Now someone else has done my thinking for me.

Thursday, 1 May 2008


One of the students has made Matthew a sand-box. It's fantastic. He just loves it!

Co-incidentally, it was the same student referred to here!

storian smol

"Storian smol" is Bislama for to have a chat.

What must I do? (2)

So as I continued to mull over the passage, I began to notice other things that didn't really make sense.

Why does Jesus say (verse 19),

"Why do you call me good? No-one is good-except God alone."?

This isn't an answer to the man's question. The answer begins after this with "You know the commandments..." and if you leave the first bit out it would make perfect sense. So why is it there? What is it telling me?

And why does Peter ask (verse 26),

"Who then can be saved"?

Jesus has said, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." I would expect Peter to say something like, "Well, we are not rich! What about us?" But he doesn't. He says "Who then, can be saved." What is this telling me?

If I could only answer these questions, I would be on my way to understanding the passage.