Grills, and Ashes

It was another full week at work last week, and we couldn’t have our usual Friday night dinner, as there was something at St Alf’s. John Dickson’s Centre for Public Christianity had produced a documentary on how the church has been both good and bad on and for the world around it, through the ages. Titled “For the Love of God – How the Church is better and worse than you ever imagined” ran for only 90 minutes and it had good material. I was however, struggling to stay focused, after the first 40minutes or so. When it finally finished, there was to be a discussion panel. Some refreshments were served before that happened but as people headed out to the foyer for the refreshments, I asked Tress if we should leave. She did not hesitate to, as she too, had been struggling to stay awake. So off we went – we got home and caught the Geelong v Collingwood game. The pies got up and people are now talking about a Pies v Tigers GF. We toggled between that game and the cricket. The Ashes this time around has turned out to be one of the most fascinating series in recent years. With the returning prodigal prodigy of a batsman in Steve Smith and the accidental unearthing of Marcus Labuschagne wielding the willow, and the very consistent pacemen like Cummins and Hazelwood swinging the “Duke” cherries, the contest with the poms has been riveting. As tired as I was, the toggling of the two events, with a glass of a very agreeable red in my hand, it was a wonderful way to start unwinding the week.

The next day, we had a few things on. The little guy has an appointment with his groomer for his quarterly clip. Tress was to have a dental appointment later and we had planned to shop for the stuff we want to cook with, for a dinner later in the week. That dinner was for 25 persons – about a little over half from our (Susan Maury’s) group. I was also hoping to get some feed and weed stuff on our lawns as well as remove some dead shrubs from the front lawn, particularly the old and dried out lavender. It had however, been raining right through the night and it continued to rain all day on Saturday, so I took the opportunity to set up my “home office”. My workplace recently implemented policies and procedures for working from home. Euphemistically titled “Flexible Working Arrangements’, the policy required a WHS (Work, Health and Safety) sign-off for the alternative workplace set up, before anyone could work from home. I hardly work from home but occasionally, something pops up (plumber, electrician, mechanic visit etc) and one of us would need to be at home. My boss had asked that the whole tea get the checklist stuff done up to be signed off by the WHS guy, so I had to make sure my “home office” was set up properly, with appropriate pictures taken.  Tress went for her dental appointment and I went to get the stuff for the cook. We later met up at the shopping venue for a bite to eat, before we went home and I got ready for the evening’s St Alf’s Men’s Event.

Andrew Grills had a really successful career in the army but he then switched direction when he trained to be a minister. He was a student minister at St Alf’s 12-13 years back, and now pastors a joint in Geelong. He was an engaging guy to listen to. I went to St Alf’s a bit after 5pm, and a large crowd had already started with some soup and grilled wings. The talk then started before burgers and chips were served. Desert round up the evening. I skipped that but had the burger. It was nice, but the best item on the night’s menu was to listen to Andrew share his journey. Urging his listeners to build foundations on rock (reading and applying the scriptures) and not on sand (personal ambitions), he had a go to debunk the often invoked formula of “honour God and He will honour you”. Often, walking in His ways see raging seas and angry winds ahead of us. Honouring God doesn’t guarantee the sorts of rewards many often think we’d have. I was again reminded of one of my favourite CS Lewis sayings:

“Be not deceived, Wormwood, our cause is never more in jeopardy than when a human, no longer desiring but still intending to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe in which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

A person no longer desires to obey God because he sees no reward in that – God didn’t appear to be “honouring” us – but still obeys. That is building foundation on a rock, not sand. Andrew Grills sounded convinced when he said that, and for good reasons.

I was back home after that event, to again catch footy and cricket on tele. The Lions had a good first quarter but the Tigers – big favourites for the flag now – quickly overpowered the new finalists to book a place in the preliminary final.

On Sunday at St Alf’s, Andrew Grills preached again. It was a really good service, with wonderful outcomes. A number of people made meaningful responses and I was again, challenged to take my faith more seriously. What that looks like remains to be seen.

Later in the arvo, I did the cooking and readied ourselves for the meal with the home groups, later in the week. We also had some left overs for a few lunches for the week. So the long cook (with preps and washings, it took me nearly 3 hours) appeared to be worth the while.

Later in the evening, after Tress and I watched the usual reality home renovation show, I resumed the cricket. Needing the 8 wickets to see victory, Australia could only take 2 before I had to go to bed. I thought we should be able to take the remaining 6 but it was only when I woke this morning, that I noted how close it was. It was the last hour of play – well past 6pm in Manchester – when Hazelwood took the winning wicket to get up by over 180 runs. That meant Australia was 2-1 up and would not lose the series. With just one match remaining, the worst-case scenario is a 2-2 draw which would still see Australia retain the urn.

It was a terrific outcome. Australia had been down and out in the world of cricket, in the past 18 months. We were made to feel like pariahs after the “sandpaper gate” scandal with Bancroft, Warner and Smith in South Africa, and losses in numerous matches during their 12month ban and after, made it all a prolonged misery. To win this – especially on the back of magnificent batting performances by Smith – has been really sweet. Australia can hold its head high again. We can start to really put behind us, that ugly period of South Africa now.