Lacking Lenses

Some time ago, while writing an essay I picked up my very old copy of CS Lewis’ “Problem of Pain”. I noticed a date on the front inside cover. It said 1985. 28 years ago. Reading Alister McGrath’s biography of Lewis on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Lewis’ death, has made me want to read some of Lewis’ books again.

The last time I picked up Lewis’ book to read for no particular reason (such as essay research material), I had barely read half a dozen chapters when my life was thrown into turmoil. I had re-read just the first few letters of Screwtape when my father died. That was over 6 years ago now, and since then I have only read parts of his books.

So I’m not so sure I can happily pick up something to read again.

Other than a prompting to read Lewis’ books, McGrath has also made me look up You Tube clips on his (McGrath’s) debates with Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. And so on Anzac Day as well as yesterday, I had the Apple TV on and was searching various clips. I chanced upon a McGrath lecture in what looked like a very old, cold and small English church. Ambience notwithstanding, relatively modern amenities such as a power-point presentation was available and a slide with a quote from Lewis often used by McGrath was projected onto a wall.

I believe in Christianity as I do in the risen sun not just because I see it but because by it I see everything else.

Or something like that. I can’t quite remember it verbatim, just the gist of it.

Maybe that explains why lately I sometimes feel I am not seeing things clearly. God, His word/Word, His people and His business – they have all been a bit remote recently. There is something about Hebrews 10:25 (or is it 24 or 26) I guess. Lewis, as McGrath pointed out, didn’t have a whole lot to say about the community of faith. His writings religious writings were about lay theology and apologetics which had to do with a personal intellect and philosophy. The collective is at best, a side mention or consequence, of that main focus.

So I guess I would not be looking at much of Lewis work anytime soon – as much as I am slowly savouring McGrath’s biography of him now.


Grand lessons

I crawled into the gym this morning without being sure of what I was going to do and how I was going to try and shake the cobwebs off. Tress was a bit under the weather and for a little while I felt I too, wasn’t in the best of health.

In the gym however, I listened to the ever vibrant Ross and John on 3AW and they were asking listeners what was the most valuable thing their grandparents taught them.

I didn’t have to try very hard to recall what my late paternal grandfather taught me which while I valued greatly, I have yet to be able to put into practice effectively. One he did by action – the family altar he religiously (pun intended) adhered to – and the other he said in a speech during my wedding, which was to do everything possible to make a difference to our (Tress and mine) community.

The latter was a call to live less selfishly. He must have picked up the trend amongst young people then (21 years ago) to focus on their own careers and their own nuclear families, without considering how to live for their communities.

I recall making a decision to help people around us, when things finally settled down for us here in Melbourne back in 2007. We’ve moved into our own home, Kiddo’s moved into MacRobertson High, and Tress and I had both settled down into our jobs. We felt it was time for us to consider giving. The best possible way to give back to the community was through the church and so we decided to “take the plunge”.

Alas, we’ve been booted out of the pool now. My grandfather’s call remains unheeded.

Grandparents set to become a thing of the past as older parents lead to ‘grand orphans’

Petra Starke, News Limited Network

April 29, 2013

 Parents who begin a family much later in life may limit the interaction their children have with aging grandparents who may struggle to keep up.

•Older parents limit the capacity for some to care for grandkids

•Could change face of traditional grandparenting

•Caring for young children gets physically harder with age

AUSTRALIA could be heading toward a generation of “grand-orphans” as societal trends turn grandparenting into an endangered institution.

 ..With an increasing number of women delaying childbirth until their late 30s and 40s more people are becoming grandparents at an older age, limiting their capacity to care for grandchildren.

In 2011, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported a record 12,800 babies born to women over 40, up from just 7100 in 2001, with the median age for Australian mothers sitting at 30.6.

A 40-year-old mother who has to wait the average 30.6 or 40 years for her child to become a parent will be 70 or 80 by the time she herself becomes a grandparent, something Queensland University of Technology social psychologist Associate Professor Evonne Miller says is undoubtedly changing the face of traditional grandparenting.

“The reality is that the trend towards late motherhood is likely to change the role of grandparents and how they interact with their grandchildren,” she said.

“Caring and interacting with a baby or toddler is typically much more physically taxing for someone in their late 70s, 80s and 90s than at age 50 or 60.”

Ms Miller said other societal factors such as marriage breakdowns and geographical separation were also helping to redefine the role of the grandparent.

“Rather than frequent face-to-face visits, contemporary grandparents – especially those who live overseas or interstate – will use technology such as Skype and Facebook to interact with their grandchildren,” she said.

“Instead of daily or weekly visits, grandparents may instead visit for extended times or take holidays together – it is about redefining our expectations about the role of grandparents in families.”

Director of Grandparents Australia Anne McLeish said while women shouldn’t feel pressured to have children earlier, they should realise the limitations delaying childbirth might place on their own parents.

Parents need to continue to make the decision that’s best for them but they have to understand at the same time that if they delay having children too late then it does limit the help that they can expect from the grandparents,” she said.

“There are going to be a lot of children who miss out on the traditional grandparenting role as a result of marriage breakdown, relocation and losing contact with grandparents altogether.”

That trend is being reflected in the skyrocketing popularity of Find-A-Grandparent, an online service that matches Australian families in need with “surrogate grandparents”.

Director Cate Kloos, who launched the service last year to find a surrogate for her own two children, said she is desperate to recruit more grandparents to meet the demand from families.

“We have heaps of families registered but we could have heaps more if there were more grandparents to go around,” she said.

“We get emails from interested families almost every day, but we have to turn them away. There’s definitely a huge demand from families.”

With Ms Kloos’ and her husband Gerold’s own parents living in Germany, their children Amelie, 5, and Luca, 3, now have a surrogate grandparent in Irene Sills, 75.

“It’s really good because she only lives a couple of houses away from us so we can pop in and see her regularly, she’s become part of the family,” Ms Kloos said.

Weekend without God

Kiddo was back on Anzac Day and would return to Canberra today. So the weekend has been great – the sort where the house becomes much more alive, not least because the little black jedi gets excited and trots around with more verve.

We went to a mate’s son’s 21st on Sat night. It has been such a long time since I went anywhere where alcohol was the raison d’etre for the establishment. A room, a bar and some music. That was all the establishment offered. The host and Tress brought some finger food and that was the extent of food matter for the alcohol to burn through for the whole night. Australia/Melbourne has an alcohol issue? I wonder why anyone would say that…

We got home close to midnight, I stayed up to watch the Wigan v Spurs match and then slept in the next day. Kiddo had a big night and so also slept in and that meant it was a convenient day to not think about church. It felt wrong all day, I felt I was on a path I shouldnt be on, but I have so little strength or will to look for a church to settle into at this stage.

And so we had a late breakfast, then dropped Kiddo off for a lunch appointment she had with some old friends and Tress and I then went shopping for groceries. The little black jedi’s food had run out, my coffee beans had run out, and several other stuff were on the low side. It has been so long since we went to The Glen shopping centre but since kiddo’s lunch appointment was in that area we shopped there. We had to work hard to recall which part of the parking lot was closest to the stores we were going to shop in.

We got home and I took the little fellow for a longish walk, watched some local soccer games, and just took in the cool pleasant weather generally. When I got home, Kiddo was home and we spent the rest of the evejning ust talking and watching television. I cooked dinner – baked fish – and we ate in front of the television. We went to bed early because I have a long day at work today.

Yesterday was a day I will rue if I had time, because it was a day I took no effort whatsoever to take myself and the family to honour the Lord. I know I am on the wrong path but I have so little strength and will to do any different.


Uncouthie Toothy Anzac

I had a horrible tooth ache day on Wednesday, which a wonderful evening with some old friends did a lot to soothe. Unfortunately the menu was a steamboat dinner and although the food was absolutely inviting and sumptuous, I was restrained – I had to be. Other than keeping food away from the throbbing site, the alternating temperatures between hot soup and cool wine also did not help so I had to be restrained on that front as well. I think I did a magnificent job of hiding that however, mainly by doing a lot of serving…

That toothache didn’t really go away all night and I got up early yesterday morning and made coffee, caught up on a pile of mail sitting on the kitchen bench-top and just sat, sipped and sifted to enjoy a quiet morning. Tress had not been well so I let her sleep in.

We eventually got round to breakfast, then went about our planned chores of bathing the little black jedi (my job) and some quick vacuuming (hers). Madam Kwong was next and then it was to some grocery shopping and in the arvo I cleaned the Weber Q, which had caught fat fire a couple of weekends ago.

I later slumped onto a beanbag and enjoyed the Essendon v Collingwood match before driving to Tulla to pick kiddo up. We got home just after 7pm, had dinner (beautiful Bah Kut Teh which Tress did) and then went to bed early.

This morning didn’t start well – the train couldn’t do the usual City Loop and went into Flinders Street. No trains from Richmond were doing the “Loop” so to get to the Parliament stop which would have been 2 minutes from Richmond, I had to get off at Flinders, walked out of the station and re-enter to get onto the right platform for the Hurstbridge line and did the whole “Loop” the other way, where Parliament was the last stop. I ended up being close to 30mins late…thankfully it’s just one working day before the weekend kicks in again.

I’ve also kind of discarded the process of looking up church websites to ascertain which one to get to each weekend. I think Tress may want to go get to the Bridge again. I don’t really care for that but what am I do to? Maybe I’d plead a bad tooth again, and stay home…

LifeGate Church – What Gives?

The church I used to be part of – LifeGate Church fka ICC Church – has disintegrated into an administrative and governance mess. I suspect the leaders would rubbish this statement if one is to suggest to them that this was the case. However, if one of 4 remaining board members can be totally excluded from document and information circulation even after query, and that board member has his views and opinions locked out of deliberation and records, you know you have a lemon forum.

The remaining board members once prided themselves on their administrative skills. These skills included a failure to produce a simple contact list for members, at a time when contact was to be key to establish relationships in a newly merged church. I had provided a database of the old – ICC Church – members’ names and contact details but apparently they could not reciprocate and the list from the Cornerstone folks could not be provided. In its place, a convoluted process to have members provide details was concocted and the simple contact list could not be generated. I believe that list remains elusive and anyone wishing to contact someone in that church has to probably enrol in a graduate research program to master some obscure research skills to obtain something like a telephone number or address.

The claim to protect privacy is a curious one because this is a private and closed group. The list is to be one for church members and data was only going to be used for church matters. If the problem was a failure to understand what privacy laws are meant to do one need only ask for advice. Instead privacy was used as a reason for not producing the basic tool to keep each other informed and in touch. Strong administrative skills? Probably the same strength which lends itself to this exclusion of a board member from basic information and communication.

I guess even more grave is the fact that by twisting the basic governance matters of locking a board member out, the whole integrity of the process and the integrity of record generated comes into question.

How can one trust the minutes of meetings if they were generated with a view of locking out the presence of a board member? How can one be sure the others’ views were the objective and fair reflection of what actually went on and what the actual issues and concerns were? Whitewashed and skewed, they serve to paint a different picture – more akin to record of a despotic regime to prop up and justify one’s own existence, activities and of course… wages.

I know for a fact that the pastor takes home a healthy pay packet. Not opulent to be sure but by no means a pay packet that will create hardship in any event. I know not many in that church would take home a pay packet that would be the equivalent of perhaps in excess of $80,000 per annum. While (again) not a princely sum, it is probably not a pay packet that would be offered by too many churches or like organisations. So the financial incentive to stay and justify one’s existence is sufficiently strong I guess.

Strong enough to make things look rosier than it really is? Probably. Strong enough to try and paint oneself as the party in the right and the others who oppose him as those in the wrong? Strong enough to look like nothing is wrong and everything is travelling along well? One never knows. He has after all, stated quite clearly that the livelihood of pastors need to be protected. We all didn’t know the principle of not muzzling the ox I guess and I guess we needed to be told. But to put into question the integrity of a church by compromising the governance and administrative process so that the meetings and records generated are looking like a farce? Strange? Not if Tham Fuan remains at the lofty role of Senior Pastor.

Quick celebration in Klang, curse momentarily forgotten

It was one of those crazy trips. It was a chilly morning last Friday. Tress and I decided to have a hot Chinese breakfast so we went to Box Hill and we had some hot congee. After that Tress drove me to Tulla and I took the arvo flight to KL, arriving at KLIA around 8.30pm.

We had a wonderful celebration of my mum’s birthday on Sat night – she looked really happy. There were great drinks around – including a really nice bottle of scotch (a Chivas Royal Salute) and a great bottle of brandy (Cordon Bleu) – but I couldn’t enjoy them unrestrained as I had to be up early to get to the airport the next day for a 10am flight back…

I got back home in Melbourne on Sunday night just before 10pm, went to bed and went for an office planning day on Monday… what a weekend that was.

At least it saved me from having to think about what to do for church on Sunday. Tham Fuan’s curse hasn’t abated but at least temporarily forgotten…

Champions Again – 20th time!

So Manchester United has done it again.

After City’s defeat at White Hart Lane a day earlier, United’s victory at home – thanks to a first half hattrick from Van Persie – secured the English top flight title yet again, and in what style. It was a pity the trophy wasnt presented but that can wait to be savoured.

20 is my favourite number. This has made it an even better favourite. Thank you United. Thank you, Sir Alex Ferguson!




Mixed Fortunes

2 Malaysian businessmen, 2 vastly different fortunes from investments in a same class of assets.

Tony Fernandes and his Queen Park Rangers appear to be heading down from the English Premier League to the English First Division whereas Vincent Tan‘s Cardiff City has just secured promotion from the First Division up to the Premier League.

Serbegeth Singh – aka Shebby – is another Malaysian with a finger in the English footy scene but as a “Global Advisor” of the unfortunate Venky’s investment in Blackburn Football Club. My beloved Henning Berg has been a victim of this headless chicken of an organisation – the once mighty English champion with the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Alan Shearer now languish as a pathetic joke.

Malaysians have been involved in one way or another in the English footy scene for years.  Few would remember how bookies arranged for a match to be abandoned by mucking up the lights on the ground.

A very different take on Alex Ferguson’s “Football… bloody hell” I guess…

Boston Marathon – Another Reminder

Sometimes we whinge about things like long airport queues, over-reaching government snooping and other measures which make everyday activities more painful than “it need be”.

The attacks at the Boston Marathon this morning remind us terrorism is real – alive and well. Osama may be dead, Arab Spring may have happened, Afghanistan may be seeing western troops leaving but terrorism appears not to have abated.

Reminder to self: those “interferences” at airports, tax forms, security questions etc are necessary. Otherwise, this happens.

Different Games, both Great Outcomes

Wins for Man United and Hawthorn – made me smile for a little while. Especially since Tress and I were at the G for that great turnaround to thrash the Pies.

I thought I was helping a mate out in getting to Bridge again yesterday morning, but it helped me in the end to be there. There was a young American pastor who preached and I said to my mate after, that he’d go very far – he was very good. Paul and Silas’ “escapade” in Acts 16 became a lesson to “stop – don’t harm yourself. We’re all here”, with all the nuances of our circumstances.

After lunch together, we went our separate ways and Tress and I headed into the city to catch the game.

We got to the G just after 2pm, walked the vast grounds towards our gate when we eventually settled into our seat way up somewhere, it wasn’t long before the players came out for their warm-up’s.

After a first half of slick and quick Pies movements saw us trailing and gasping, we came back strongly to thrash them by 50 points. Being in the G to watch Buddy Franklin kick that 80 metre belter was unbelievable. The Collingwood fans’ roar was pretty scary too and it really added to the experience. Great stuff. There were over 72,000 at the G – not the biggest crowd for sure but still a sizeable mass of people to deal with on our way home. We eventually got into a packed train at Richmond, and got home just before 7pm.

The United game was going to be on at 11pm but I can no longer deal with staying up that way. We went to bed at about 10pm after watching a first half of the Newcastle and Sunderland game, which was also a terrific match.

The first thing I did when the alarm went off at 5am this morning was to check the United game score – it sounded like a scrappy win but a win is 3 points in the kitty regardless of the way they were earned I guess. It was good to read of Shinji Kagawa‘s growing influence in the team, Rooney’s ongoing excellence as well as Van Persie’s breaking the goal drought but from the sound of it, it would be a challenge going into games involving Chelski and the Gunners.

I hope to grow old and expire in Melbourne, and not move to a country like the US and learn to watch the NFL or NBA. The EPL and AFL would do me fine for the rest of my life. I can’t imagine spending a weekend tracking 3 games in 3 different codes, hoping all of my teams would win…