A morning chat

There was a bit of that opening scene of “Four Weddings and A Funeral” at home this morning. Tress and I both forgot to set our alarms and when I woke and saw the clock said “6.33” I said (not fuck) “Oh My God” and jumped out of bed. Tress parroted the “Oh My God” (not fuck) bit and jumped out of bed too. We each said “Oh My God” a couple of times more before quickly going through the motions.

On a workday, I’m up at 5.10. Tress gets up about 5.45. So 6.33 is somewhat an overslept morning and I skipped my push ups and readings. Tress rushed through her routines and we were out the door 7.03, instead of our usual 6.33.

Thankfully it was the school holidays and also an RDO for the tradies so the roads were clear. I got in around 7.40. While not overly late, the frazzled start meant I felt I was running behind. And so when a colleague walked into my room for a chat, I tried not to show I was a little bit twitchy.

K said to me straight away, that his 18 year old son was suspected of having cancer. That chat very soon became a 25 minute conversation…

K had 3 children from a previous marriage. The 18 year old is his second. He lives with K 2 days a week, as does the third, a 15 year old. The eldest is 20 and he occasionally drops in to see K. K said he first noticed his 18 year old had a growth on the left side of his face, a few weeks ago. It has now grown considerably and last week a biopsy was done. The results are out on Thursday and it is very obviously something that has been on K’s mind a lot.

When K’s wife left him, they had shared custody of the 3 children. He had them for the weekend. He said his friend told him he was stitched up, having the kids on the weekend. But he was working full time, and still is. Because his weekend was with his children, he could not find another partner, he said. So he got himself a mail bride, from Vietnam. He’s very happy now, he says, as far as having a life partner is concerned.

He’s been to Vietnam to see his in laws many times since. His Vietnamese in laws also visit them here. 2 of them are here now, staying with him. I asked if he was the only one working. He chuckled and said yes. He has 2 children from his present marriage. His wife works when she can find it. She hasn’t found anything in weeks.

He’s a senior engineer in my workplace, but he cares for 7-9 persons.

I asked more about his 18 year old. He then said that wasn’t the first cancer scare. His 5 year old daughter had cancer too, when she was 6 months old.

I told him about my friend Steven, who was at our home for dinner on Sunday night. Steven was from Klang too. He too, had cancer. I told K about Steven so he could perhaps be hopeful. I told K about a very full life Steven now has. Steven works hard, and has a wonderful wife and 4 great kids. One of them is training to be a doctor in WA. The other 3 were at our home on Sunday night too and they’re great kids. His wife is a warm, funny and lovely person. At our home on Sunday night, she told stories which made us laugh till we cried. Jason and Mel looked embarrassed but they had a good laugh too. Steven’s life now appears to be very full, and normal.

K nodded when I said that while the immediate future looked challenging, life can assume a great deal of normalcy after some time.

I offered to pray for his 18 year old and he said thanks.

We talked some more about how life is so unlike in days past. I said to him when we first came to Melbourne in 2004 and I looked for a school for Kiddo, enrolment forms in schools hit me between the eye. Spaces for details for “father” and “mother” were replaced with “Partner 1” and “Partner 2”. I said to him I wonder how much more complicated it must be today, when society is on the brink of recognising same sex marriage and gender neutrality.

He told me about some of his ex colleagues who were contemplating suicide and infanticide, because family has become highly stressful. Paternity suits, shared custody, alleged inequality of care and resource demands, are breaking down individual and collective lives. I said to him I wonder if the Family Law Act – no fault divorce – hailed by many when Lionel Murphy first waved them through in 1975 now still looks like a good idea.

I wonder if K thought about this before, but as we talked some more about how he would go about sending his son to the doctor on Thursday and how this week would pan out, I said to him again I would pray for his son.

He said his wife is superstitious. I said I can be too. I told him how my blue Swatch was no good any more – it didn’t help the Hawks when Tress and I watched them torn apart by Dangerfield and the Cats at the G yesterday. I said we laughed about the watch and he laughed. He accepted I was superstitious but no longer am.

I said I would pray for his son.

He appeared to be a little bit consoled. Could be he needed someone to talk to. Could be he thought prayers could certainly do it. Next time I need to be able to say to him it wasn’t about the prayers. It’s about God. It’s about Jesus.

I was even later to start my work but it was a very good morning conversation with K.



Not long after I finished my reading this morning, I noticed a nose bleed. The left nostril was oozing and dripping rapidly and I really cannot remember the last time this happened to me. It was another cool morning but not at all cold in any confronting degree.

I guess being in very unfamiliar territory creates stress. I cannot remember the last time a conundrum confronts and contorts so confusingly.

The world I live in now twists and turns in Teutonic terms.

Spend to care, nary a thought for resource scarcity.

Demand open doors, neutralise the good by importing what would  be incapable of creating or maintaining the good which attracts in the first place.

Gender dysphoria is not a condition to be treated. Surgical solution is to be preferred.

Tear down and rebuild. Fill the spaces with built environment so more can come and tear down even more. Tear down trees and fill spaces.

Conjugal marriages denormalised, to be replaced with genderless partnerships and import glued on parts to create families. Conjugal marriages to produce offsprings is a model to be sneered at or better yet – to be confined to bins of history.

And more.

I have been confused. I no longer know what to think, expect or measure. Changes come, from everywhere and all the time. Accepted norms – regardless of inherent reasoning, coherence and logic – are constantly reviewed, revised and reframed and not necessarily for the sake of progress. Change because that is what the world today expects, not because what is has become bad or the new is better.

Yet, some – many – changes are for the better.

Men no longer treat women badly. Children are respected. Knowledge, science and learning have all taken huge leaps at accelerated paces.

I don’t always or readily recognise what change is for the better and what change is simply a discarding of the old.

I stemmed the nose bleed relatively quickly. I’m not sure I know how to deal with the other thing.


Palm Sunday weekend

As we were driving in to work this morning, I said to Tress I slept really well last night. She said she did too. Maybe it was the afternoon spent outdoors, working on peripheral stuff around the house under a beautiful blue sky that glowed all the more after a few days’ rain and cold winds.

At lunch at Madam K’s earlier, we bumped into Jason and Mel and so stayed at the little eatery a bit longer than we usually did. It was good chatting as always. We got home just before 1pm and went straight outside after a change of clothes. I thought the ground would have softened after the rain and so decided to dig along the edges of the front lawn to put some edging screens in, to keep the soil and mulch in as much as possible. I sometimes think the the pavements in front of our house look messier than our neighbours’ because soil and other ground covers were constantly spilling down the slightly sloped ground.

Tress got busy with loads of weeding and pulling out dead wood as I worked on the edgings and the little black jedi was wandering through our neighbours’ front gardens but we stayed outdoor all afternoon. I continued with the side lawn edgings, swept the front, trimmed some hedges on Sharon’s side of the fence and also applied some weed killers behind the shed – the overgrown stuff that had bothered Tress for a while now.

Tress had meanwhile moved indoors and did a load of ironing while watching the Grand Prix on tv. I finished up, had a shower and a beer, and watched the race for a bit before fixing breakfast and lunch for the next day and then joined Tress who had gone out to take LBJ for a walk through around the oval.

Work made sleep easy. Sleep is easy when you’ve worked hard. But now we feel we don’t have enough sleep – maybe its the long commute requiring an early start. Tress works incredibly hard during the week. On Friday as we were driving home after a long week, she asked me how to hotspot her phone for her to connect the laptop to the internet. She then worked on some spreadsheet and sent it off to someone. My mind was already on my couch with a glass of red in my hand…

On Saturday morning we had a lazy breakfast at home, then drove to Deepdene to see my dentist. It’s incredible how much dental work costs. I’d never be able to get all the recommended work done – it’d set me back more than a year’s living costs!

On Palm Sunday in church the next day, Ross, Nicole and the team put on a really good “all age” service. The triumphant entry into Jerusalem was the main text/story and they cleverly weaved that into a message of who we think Jesus is and how that squares up with what He did and the sort of Kingdom He came to realize. Very NT Wright sort of message, and what an effective way to deliver that to all ages.

Maybe it’s the hard work in the gardens later that arvo, maybe it was the peace that came with having received that Palm Sunday message, maybe it was simply being part of everyday life…I slept really well last night…

John Lennon, Service and all that

Tress remarked to someone on Saturday night that I craved catching up with people, having been starved of company all those months in Canberra.

She was right of course.

We were with the Hipos and Jason and Mel again on Friday night. Gerry wanted us to go to this new ramen and dumpling place in Vermont South and after that we went to the Hipos’ home for drinks. When we left around 9.30pm, we were both so tired – it had been another long week at work for the both of us and for me, it was great just catching up with old friends again and we were going to also meet up with Alex and his family the following night.

On Sat morning after sleeping in and breakfast at home, we went shopping. We got some pork ribs which we marinated with lots of garlic, the rub mix Mic and ET had got from the Yarra Valley, Chinese wine and sugar. I then went to my back neighbour’s backyard to trim the pittosporum which had grown on that side to a size that was going to play havoc with the fence. It was a messy backyard, with loads of uncontrolled growth so all I could do was get rid of the large bunches so that no chunky bits was compromising the fence. After over an hour I went and worked on our own lawns and backyard and kept at it till just on 4pm. Tress had done the laundry and ironing and earlier, had also gone to Madam K’s to pick up lunch – we had on the deck – it was a very good break for me.

Garden done I started to roast the ribs. The gas ran out and thankfully the spare bottle I had in the shed was full and the cooking finally got done just after 6.30 and we went to Alex and Li Har’s home a bit after 7. Tress particularly enjoyed the evening – probably because the drinking was more controlled and the group was smaller.

Alex had confided with me that night. It had been a tough 2015 for him too. It was mainly financial concerns and he and Li Har had also contemplated the option of returning to Malaysia. He’s found work with a Malaysian developer however and so that’s tiding things over for him.

I guess we all have our struggles. I thought 2015 had been such a strange and challenging year for me but spending time with different people often produce that sort of outcome – where you find your struggles are not isolated and while unique, is not an uncommon experience. I guess that is just another way to say and experience how fallen man strives to right wrongs.

Sunday at church Peter taught well (as he often does) on Romans 3. Bad news in Romans 1:18-3:20 bookended by the Good News of Romans 1:1-17 and 3:21-31. We’re all no where near good enough but we’re all saved in Christ.

Late yesterday arvo as Tress and I walked Little Black Jedi, I said to her I’d really want this to be a preparatory year of sorts. At the end of this year, I hope to be very clear minded about the sort of ministry to serve in. I’m not sure I want to remain a passive member of St Alf’s beyond 2016. I need to serve. It’s waiting again I guess, to see where/how the Lord wants me to serve in St Alf’s. Maybe He wants me to wait, just so the desire to serve goes beyond the selfish (I need to serve) to the selfless (Who needs to be served).

As I was roasting the ribs on Saturday, I caught on TV, Dreyfuss in his role as Glenn Holland in “Mr. Holland’s Opus” was doing a beautiful rendition John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy.Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans” was a line I remembered well when I first watched that movie – it made me buy the soundtrack. The CD is still sitting in a cupboard here somewhere – I made sure I brought it with us when we left Malaysia.

While I wait on Him – making plans to serve Him – life happens. Offer myself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is my true and proper worship/service. For now – 2016 – sure, but probably beyond too. Perfection is a series of little things done right… who said that?