Emmanuel?


  • Little Ezra. Ms SS. Madam Lee. Madam Lim. One little boy and three elderly ladies.
  • 2 elderly men, both tethered on life’s edge and back again. Back again to give thanks to God in a church service.
  • Ms BS. Smart, educated and looked like awarm loving lady, incapacitated by long term illness. Gave thanks to God for others who could live normal lives.
  • Ms YLT. Strong willed lady who willed her family through storms. Husband fought against stage 4 cancer and came out healed. Willed her children through poignant moments of challenges.
  • Mr MS. Smart, successful, educated and warm and loving man who carried his family strongly in support.
  • Ms N and Mr A J. Smart, energetic and sacrificial servants of God. Qualified business people, they headed offshore and have had to deal with wide range of challenges in serving God in obedience.

God has blessed us with a journey that helped us come into connection with such people in the past few weeks. Some closer than others, some more distant. Every one of those people touched us in ways which made us reflect on life, God and our journey on earth. These connections, whether by merely listening to them in a public forum or sitting in their kitchen listening to them, deepened my conviction that engagement and a desire to be there with and for someone is fundamental to ministry.

This is against type for me. I have been one for being by myself – in a corner at home reading a book, listening to a CD or watching a movie has always been a preferred activity for me. Yet this wasn’t what God did. He always wanted to engage with His people – be among them, eat, work, weep, teach and make lives better by being with His people. Jesus died so that God’s people can be with Him in perpetuity.

With about 4 weeks to Christmas, this message of Emmanuel is a timely one perhaps…

Being there


Cover of "Being There (Deluxe Edition)"
Being There

I had a meeting last Friday arvo from 3pm and when I got back to my desk at 4pm, I couldn’t believe what I saw on the screen – England had crumbled and had lost something like 6 wickets for 9 runs. After checking I had no urgent calls or emails to respond to, I quickly went to the tea room and joined a few other blokes who have been watching the game.

The day ended with Australia well on top so the unpleasant scenes of Australia’s first innings were well and truly erased.

As usual, I was very tired on Friday night and when we met up for dinner at the Enrik café with Jason and Mel, I was just happy to be in a busy but pleasant restaurant so close to home with Tress and some very dear friends. Dinner was very good and we just stayed on and chatted for a bit before leaving.

It was raining on Sat – the weekend forecast had been a wet one – so I couldn’t work on the garden. After the usual dry cleaning run, I said to Tress the wet morning would mean less congestion at the new fruit and veg market on Canterbury Road at Forest Hill (Strawberry Point) so we quickly went over and got our green grocery for the week, and then we drove to Mount Waverley and met Simon, Tress’ hairdresser. A hair cut had been long overdue for me and much as I was sure Simon had barely woken up when he worked on my mop top, I was glad I had it done.

After lunch (at Madam Kwong’s Kitchen of course) and a quick visit to a property auction, we (or I) spent the rest of the arvo just vegging out in front of the telly, watching the cricket. My right Achilles had caused me grief anyway so it was a perfect excuse to just spend a cool and wet Sat arvo doing nothing except watch Michael Clarke and David Warner chalk up satisfying tons.

The rain continued pouring on Sunday. There was an AGM after the service and Tress and I decided to stay for that meeting, to get a soak in of some of the issues the church had faced in the past year. It ended close to 2pm. We went to Madam Kwong’s Kitchen again after that and since it continued to pour, we just decided to go to a shopping place and walked around.

The service was a thanksgiving one and numerous people publicly gave thanks for a whole range of matters. A familiar pattern emerged very quickly – that of life’s many challenges. Often, these challenges require solutions. A way forward to resolve the matter at hand would always bring relief and pave a way towards a brighter future.

What’s become crystal clear however is that other than solution or a way forward, often those facing life’s challenges just need someone at their side. This person need not have any answers – just being there to provide support and perhaps add strength, clarity of mind to deal with the issues or challengers and the assurance that no matter what happens, there is someone who would be there for them. That someone would certainly help countervail any tendency to over-internalise the challenges one faces.

Facing challenges is probably another one of life’s certainty. In recent weeks, we have seen a cancer patient succeeding, heard about another patient failing, seen a young man battling depression, been with a couple who lost their first born infant child, and been touched by other departures of others who have spent considerably more years.

In all of these experiences, the presence of another as they navigate their paths in dealing with the challenges, has always been what’s deeply treasured. Being there for someone matters. Praying for someone is often a throwaway line used in such circumstances and prayers may or may not happen. The Lord may or may not intervene. But as members of the community we find ourselves in, being there for one who is faced with these challenges, is often what we can and ought to do. Sometimes, like Peter Sellers, “Being there” is what matters. I need to think about responding to this more meaningfully.

Ashes to ashes


First test got under way in Brisbane this morning and Australia has got off to its usual disastrous start.

At tea, we’re 6-153 (Clarke out for 1, Broad on a 5-wicket haul) .

I think we’ve been on a sugar hit of Warne and Co for far too long. The likes of McGrath, Gilchrist, Hayden, Langer, Ponting et all alongside the genius of Warne, were always going to surround Australia with such a coat of invincibility that once removed, the all too frail internals would fray and be oh so ugly.

Of the current crop now, who’d provide some semblance of solidity? Only Clarke has any valid claims to such status and with his always crook back it was always going to be an uphill battle. The only one coming close is perhaps Watto but he too is alwways fragile and succumbs to injuries all too often.

It’s going to be an awfully long summer cricket wise. Sigh…

ANZ Visa Rewards Program


If you have an ANZ Visa credit card and use the Visa Rewards program to redeem stuff, make sure you check your statement. They charge an annual fee of $42 and every year, I have to ring them to have it waived. It’s a 5 minute call and you’d save $42 but unless one checks statements regularly, that is $42 down the gurgler.

I made that call again a few minutes ago and they waived it again as usual. They said “Ah, you’ve been with us a since 2005, so that’s not a problem”. So why not automatically waive the fee for anyone who have stayed, for say 3 years, or even 5 years?

Banks and their fees – the fees are always negotiable but one always have to ask.

So if you have an ANZ Visa Rewards card, make sure you check your statements and have them waive the fees. It’s easy enough to walk away if they dont.

Smartphone and changed lives


I was in the men’s room at work a short while ago. All 3 cubicles were occupied. Someone was laughing in one of them. I didnt go in to use the cubicle and was only in there for a couple of minutes or so but the whole time, that guy was laughing.

I guess it had to be a smartphone thing. Pre-smartphone days, if someone was laughing inside a cubicle of a men’s room, you’d think funny.

Smartphones have come a long way in changing lives and behaviours.

In so many ways.

Asylum seekers and duty of originating countries


Tress and I watched the Four Corners program last night. It was another one of those asylum seekers story. I wondered aloud, not for the first time, why countries are allowed to mismanage themselves so badly and other countries are expected to pick up the pieces or deal with the fallout.

Perhaps that is what Jesus would have wanted western nations to do – to reach out and help people in need. People who have suffered and now want to move away from these sufferings. But is having a softer policy where “all are welcomed here” approach best suited to help?

Perhaps the next time America “interferes” in domestic issues of a foreign country, one can point to asylum seekers issue as a justification? If leaders of say, Somalia, don’t look after their own backyard and their people leave so that the shores of say Australia, are peppered with rickety boats and dead bodies, can’t Australia say to Somalia that unless it does more, it will come into Somalia and fix it for them?

I remember Ryland v Fletcher from my property law lectures well. Can we not design something in the international community along the principle borne out by the rule in Ryland v Fletcher?

Often we have despotic regimes or warped governments whose policies and laws drive their people away. Those who can leave for another country properly do, but others who can’t, have to do it “illegally”. Their destination countries are then faced with the dilemma of balancing the competing interests of protecting their sovereignty and applying humanitarian assistance. On the rule in Ryland v Fletcher these countries can act against those despotic or warped regimes, no?

For sure the judicial ruling of an English court has no legal application in this context but that principle is intuitively correct to a simple mind like mine. If we speak of an obligation to help asylum seekers, surely we can also consider a right to demand action by the originator of the problem.

Celebrating Little Ezra and those before him


 

The trek

We woke early on Friday and our ride arrived promptly at 5.30am. He was a slow and steady driver – the sort that stretches one’s patience. We needed to be at Tullamarine no later than 6.30am and we arrived with just a few minutes to spare. We made our way quickly to the departure gate but somehow, boarding was only about to start so we ended up being the first in line.

On arrival, we looked for a bus into the city and arrived at the Rundle Mall part of Adelaide CBD just before 9am. We found a little café,  and had a coffee and something to eat. We then thought we’d walk to the Holy Trinity church – the oldest church in Adelaide – but instead of walking towards the west we headed towards the east. The address was one of those which could be either one of two ends of North Terrace and we chose the wrong end.

When we realised our error, we headed back and Tress stopped at the St Peter’s college to ask for directions. An elderly couple very kindly pointed out we were at the opposite end of town and said they would take us there in their car as it would be too far for us to walk back there. What kindness…

We got to the church and saw my uncle Stephen just walking outside near the entrance. We sat down, talked a little bit with him and Ruth and Jonathan, and sat down to get ready for the service.

The service

I have known the songs “Jesus loves me, this I know” and “God is so good” since I was a little boy. Until last Friday however, I had never sang these “children’s” songs in the context of a funeral/memorial service. They were simple songs and I had never expected these songs to cause my eyes to well up.

When Jonathan and Ruth spoke, I was able to know little Ezra a little better. He was loved so much and the short 22 days he lived provided a lot of joy to Jonathan and Ruth as well as to others such as my Uncle Stephen and auntie Paddy, his uncle, Caleb and auntie Cariss and the French family.

The video Jonathan made, showed little Ezra – particularly his last days in the paediatric intensive care unit. We had watched it the day before when Jonathan sent it out via email but I still found myself fighting back tears (and failing). The minister – Chris Joliffe – spoke on Jesus’s “calling out” of Lazarus and said Jesus wept too.

It also became obvious to me how strong Jonathan and Ruth were. They attributed this to their relationship with God. They knew God is all knowing and all loving. They know they needed to continue to abide in His Son because this gave meaning and purpose to everything that happens. With God at our side, there is less urge to know why. If He chooses to reveal the reason, that would be nice but it would not affect their faith in and relationship with Him.

The legacy

It is the sort of knowledge, belief and response that is made possible through years of dependence on and obedience to God. That in turn, is made more possible through legacies bequeathed by both sides of the family – a legacy that has truly been “from faith to faith”.

Graeme and Susan have been missionaries for years and indeed, had returned from Hungary prematurely, from where they continue to serve as missionaries. Graeme gave a short message at the service, which showed where Jonathan’s strength came from.

My Uncle Stephen has been serving God for years in different capacities. I have made entries in this blog about his role in my faith during the our years (my brother and I) as boys in Klang. He in turn, has been a beneficiary of the legacy bequeathed by my late grandfather, whose role I have also made entries on.

And so I came away from this experience convinced of the role of the family in providing younger members with tools to build a stronger relationship with and dependence on God.

After the service we went to Jonathan and Ruth’s home, and spent the afternoon just talking to the family, before returning to Melbourne. It was a long day but one that helped us immensely. We hope it helped Ruth and Jonathan go through this period of waiting on and seeking the Lord as they celebrate and remember little Ezra’s brief but joyous and loving life.  

Kevin Rudd and Anor


Last night while cuddling up with Tress on the couch and watching tv, we caught the news that Kevin Rudd was retiring.

I wanted to recall my thoughts about this complex man, who was prime minister of Australia for the bulk of our time here. We came to Melbourne in 2004, and Rudd became PM in 2007.

I saw this entry in Nov 2007 which I made but also caught this extract in the same entry:

We’ve been having a family (just the wife/mom and their 10 year old boy) with us for about a week and a half now, and last night when we got home, Theresa and I caught up with her to chat about how she has been doing with all the preparatory work. I feel her fear and her concerns and generally, appreciate her disorientation.

There is so much to do.

I’m disappointed with some of her friends, who helped her find their rental property. Against my advice, they committed to the lease without even seeing the property, when they were still in Malaysia. They relied on their friends to inspect the property and committed to the lease on that basis. It turned out that the property is in shambles. It is dirty and parts of the house are dilapidated, with a backdoor even missing a knob/lock. Their friends have not offered to help her with the fixing or cleaning and generally left her to her own defences. They came around and took her out for dinner last Friday but did little else. I’m sure they have their reasons but I feel that having committed her to a property which required so much work they could have at least asked if they could help. I kept asking myself how these friends could have advised this family to apply for a lease for a property like that. As a result, this family has been extremely slow in getting this place ready and despite having the lease approved and keys collected well before they arrived the house is still not ready and they are still squatting with us.

Maybe I’m being unfair. She’s a nice person and the boy is generally well behaved so they have not been bad guests in any way and are welcomed to remain as long as they need to.

On the other hand, I felt she should do more to quickly settle into her own house and prepare to live this new phase of their lives as early as possible. Postponing this would not help her in any way, except maybe save a few dollars. If this was her motivation for not expediting preparation of her house then it is disappointing and she is being near sighted.

Would I do the same for this family again today? At a drop of a hat. Would I feel the same way thereafter as I do today? As the drop of a hat.

I guess I’m simpler than Kevin Rudd.

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Work… Value…?


We’ve been chasing a client for payment for a few months now. Over a million dollars’ worth of development work has been expended to make their system compliant with a suite of legislative changes. Also, their service agreement is way overdue and they have not committed to a renewal.

So some 3 months ago, my big boss wanted a memo on options. I worked on it, discussed with my boss and submitted it. The big boss discussed options identified with other big bosses and we then drafted a letter seeking payment or meeting. My draft was kicked around and the relationship manager tried all sorts of tricks to keep the letter at bay.

The relationship manager is based in another state, as is that client. They maintain close contact and for a substantial debt that is undocumented in terms of potential dispute, the lack of formal communications was not desirable.

After tossing back and forth for 2-3 months, last week we settled on a letter. The commercial manager was a bit caught up in a cross fire between legal and client relationship management and in seeking not to rock the boat, acceded to the latter’s demands for a softer letter than we at legal would have preferred.

Sadly, the signatory – one that sits near the very top of the echelon – signed both versions of the letter. The dilemma of which version to be sent out (the instructions were that the letter had to be sent by such and such a date) was compounded by a raft of emails circulating amongst that commercial manager, her boss who was on study leave, my boss who had a million other matters on his plate, and that client relationship manager.

I know my boss would have wanted me to stick my head in and hold my own. I did. I said legal had always wanted the first version. That the signatory signed a second version meant an executive decision was taken to allow a second, softer version to go out.

I knew, from the moment that commercial manager came to me late on Friday last week, that this was going to swill with no value-add. I wasn’t going to take another drink from this chalice. If the top man was going to sign a second version of a letter legal had recommended, a decision had been taken to allow something other than the legally recommended version to be sent. Decision taken, move on. And yet, the signal which came back was that the fact of a second letter having been signed did not mean the first version could not still be the one to go out. So why was a second version signed? Who would decide which version is to go out? Isn’t that decision sealed by the signatory ie a second version could go out without batting an eye lid because much labour had gone into the first version anyway?

I understand now why this place has such a high turnover of staff, not least in the legal department. But…I’m here to do my job during the stipulated days and hours. So I will do so… and leave all such dramas to those who like to be part of such things…