What pervades?

  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State leader
  • Ivan Milat, Australia’s most notorious serial killer

Both died on 27 October 2019. One killed himself when surrounded by his enemies. The other killed by disease – cancer. One killed, or is responsible for the killing of, thousands. The other killed at least 7 in national parkland in NSW. Both are despised and treated as public enemies of the highest orders. Few would mourn their deaths.

How does one descend into such evil?  How will God judge them? Will they be judged differently from all other sinners? Had either turned to Jesus like the sinner who on the cross next to Jesus did, would we have thought him unworthy of God’s grace and mercy?

It’s easier to let evil pervade.






Rainy Melbourne Spring Weekend

I’ve heard it said that autumn is the best time in Melbourne, and spring is the best time in Sydney. The converse is also true, and autumn is not so nice in Sydney whereas spring is quite poor in Melbourne. And so it was over the past few days. It was very warm on Thursday and pretty average on Friday. Then on Saturday, it rained, and hailstorm struck. On late Saturday arvo, when Tress and I had just come home at our driveway, the hailstorm greeted us as we sat it out in the car. It took only a few minutes, but they were dramatic minutes.

Throughout Saturday, with the rain coming down intermittently, there was little I could do. Tress had made a remarked that she’d like us to have some barbequed fish again and I had procrastinated with the cleaning of the weber for far too long. I decided to charge head-on, rain notwithstanding, to give the weber a scrub. So, after a home cooked “big breakfast” of bacon and eggs and tomatoes and mushrooms, the work started. I checked out the gas tube, gas head, and all the connections, with the regulation soapy water rub. No bubbles in sight, I fired it up to ensure the gas ring was still being fed the fuel. Then the scrubbing and cleaning began. An hour and a half later, the weber looked ready for use again. It was however, still belting down.

We went grocery shopping after that and when after waiting out the hail, we got in and I prepped Sunday’s cook, cooked the little black jedi’s dinners, and then prepped the barbie. Salmon fillets, asparagus and egg plant went on the weber and soon Tress and I were again reminded of the rewards of home cooked meals. For the second time that day, we enjoyed good food at a fraction of what it would have cost us had we eaten out.

That night, the original “Episode VI” of Star Wars was on TV and I feasted on Mark Hamill’s first poke towards Jedi folklore.

On Sunday, it was an “all age” service at St Alf’s and the children’s ministers and the kids delivered a great service. I was again reassured that in the midst of the anti-Christian sentiments in a “western liberal democracy” such as Australia at this time, there are pockets of faith communities such as St Alf’s which remain true to the scriptures and its ways. I hope those kids stay the course.

It continued to be a dirty day as the rain continued its intermittent downpours. Somehow, Tress and I managed to sneak in our chores in between downpours. She managed to give the little guy his walk and I managed to quickly mow the lawns and sweep the driveway before the serious rains came down.

I then did the week’s cook and shared some of its outcomes with Fay, a friend of ours from the dog park oval.  With time still on our hand before the arvo ended, I did some office work before the Sunday night home renovations reality TV show started.

The rains may have been unrelenting but the weekend has somehow been productive.

The Star piece in 1997

They edited this article. Heavily, I thought. Then, they published it, without checking in with me prior. It might have been part of the terms and conditions for submitting a piece and/or for publication – that they would have discretionary rights to edit and to then publish without coming back to the writer.

But there it was, published. 22 years ago now. Kiddo is now fully fledged adult. Independent, working and married. Living in another city, some 700 kilometers away. With a lifestyle that is rather different to the one Tress and I lived, when this piece was written.

So many thoughts cross my mind. On so many things. Maybe one day, I will tease them all out and flesh them with the appropriate words. Maybe 24 October 2027, when the piece gets to 30 years old. Who knows. Kiddo at 3 001

r & r

Towards the end of last week, I felt washed up. Tired and without energy, I felt like I was just dragging myself through Friday arvo before going with Tress to an unwinding dinner at the shopping centre just behind our house. There was a loud school band performing at an open area near where we had dinner, and noisy though it was, somehow it allowed me to just unwind and recharge.

The next day after brekky, Tress and I joined a bunch of “gardeners” at a “weedathon” session at St Alf’s. It was a general garden clean up session. After a couple of hours there, we got home, cleaned up and went for our usual weekend grocery shopping. Later that day, we took the little fellow for a walk, cooked his food and prepped for the next day’s cook for our lunches.

Sunday at St Alf’s, Mike Bird provided the message. Mike Bird is great value as always, and the line “The Cross is both a means and an example …” stayed with me. An academic dean at Ridley here in Melbourne and notwithstanding being rising star of a theologian internationally, Mike said a student stumped him by asking what was the common thread across all of Paul’s letters. Apparently the answer was: Paul asking his readers to imitate him (because he imitated Christ?). The message about imitating and being imitated, resonated. Not just with me, as it turned out, when we had a chat with some folks at the foyer later that morning.

Later in the arvo, after our usual Sunday cook etc, we took the little fellow to the oval and waited out the last few overs of the cricket match that was winding up at the oval. It was chilly but I had a cold beer in hand. With all the chores done I felt unwound and the chills didn’t deter from my feeling more rested than I was on Friday arvo. It was a much needed weekend.

Gardening, Hymn Singing and Charizard Hunting

On Saturday, I had planned to clean up the gardens, as the James Sterling had gone crazy in recent wet months. I could see they had gone bushy and looked as though they had been put on steroids. So after a quick brekky, I got stuck into the task and attacked the hedges. Clippings from just the stretch down the western side alone, nearly filled up the green bin and I had to leave the back stretch undone – for next time – as the lawns still needed to be mowed. Tress in the meantime, cleaned up inside the house, and vacuumed before heading off to her ethereal activities’ “Community Day”. Those activities of hers have chalked up many kilometres of walking and made her numerous new friends so they have been really good for her.

I wound up the work just before 1pm, Tress came home and we headed for lunch, and then proceeded to a very interesting arvo.

St Alf’s had planned an arvo of traditional hymn singing. With our Methodist background, we didn’t need much convincing to pen the event in our diaries. So after lunch, we headed for an arvo of “lusty and courageous” singing.  Tim Dehn – a former ABC presenter – often featured prominently in St Alf’s well attended Christmas Eve services and he masterfully guided the attendees through an arvo of hymn singing. After a big week at work and a full morning of domestic work however, Tress and I were tired and we left at 4pm, just as the penultimate hymn was sung.

We got home, walked the little guy, and came home to finally settle down for some down time. I watched the “Attack of the Clones”, the second of a planned Star Wars weekly screening which started the previous Saturday, and began to sip on a very delicious Verdelho. Seeing Anakin Skywalker building up a steam of anger and bitterness to begin the journey that would, in later episodes, carry him to the dark side of the force felt like a weird way to finish the day we just had but it was nice entertainment…

On Sunday, at St Alf’s I felt slightly different. It could be we were seated at the middle section, away from the right flank where our usual seats are. It could also be that I could feel we had moved another step towards making this our home faith community. I couldn’t put my finger on it but as I sat listening to Peter MacPherson delivering his short sermon (to facilitate a healing session for that morning), my notes flowed and I felt I am starting to get this congregation and its senior minister.

After the service, we had a quick catch up over coffee, with another couple. They’re one of maybe only 3-4 Malaysian couples in St Alf’s. The conversation made me cringe, as the carrying on about detailed costs of work done etc made me (and the other – Caucasian – couple in the circle) ill at ease (my guess). Somehow, many Malaysians are prone to discussing detailed dollars and cents. It has always made me uncomfortable. “How much ah?” still makes me cringe.

After St Alf’s we had lunch in one of our usual Sunday joints and Tress met another one of her ethereal activities compadres. We also struck up a conversation with a family seated next to us. They were celebrating the visit of their son, who is working in a legal firm in Hong Kong. The young man articulately discussed his views of goings on in that troubled island city and I again wondered where many Hong Kong people would end up eventually.

Later that arvo, I did my usual cook and we walked the little guy. It was a very pleasant arvo, weather wise, and we made the most of it. I ended the arvo by applying some seasol to the front, side and back lawns and flower beds. Tress had some more of her ethereal activities, and we both settled down just before 7pm, as the building/construction work reality TV program started. Putting our feet up again as I sipped my Pinot Noir, my tired but satisfied limbs are very grateful for a weekend that promises a return of warmer days.

Today’s Ugly “Americans”

A week ago, the Chinese government put on a massive display of its military might. Ten years ago, when I must have watched a similar parade, I wrote this. I had totally forgotten about it. Obviously, China’s growth in strength and prominence has been even more impressive in the past 10 years.

Only, it has now become a bigger ogre. It is bullying nations with a mix of wealth, economic power and guilt pangs which it instills in the minds of the global communities. The historical bullying of China by the West has now been “weaponised” (?) so that it is wielded with retributive intent, to extract favourable treatment.

The Chinese I meet here in Melbourne, appear to have little engagement with its troubled past. The brutal regime that was the Kuomintang, the communists’ early subservience to the Russians and the rise of the peasantry to usher the monstrous Mao to be its latter-day emperor, all give modern China an ugly base. The economic power provided by Deng’s modernization initiatives did little to taper the rough edges that China projects to the world at large. In fact it probably exacerbated the vision of the ugly Chinese. Street after street in suburb after suburb here in Melbourne, the vulgarity with which the Chinese rich parlay their moola, jars shamelessly. Maybe it’s a subconscious effect that shuts out the ugly past, but in not turning its mind there the ugliness appears to have transmogrified. Mao’s mass murders have turned into Xi’s opulent louts.

All that has done is make the Chinese even less likeable now. Up until maybe 20 years ago, it was the ugly Americans that we all loved to hate. Today, the Chinese have beaten the Americans, at least in that space.

Ruth’s Big Do, Nerves and Warmer Days.

There is this little Italian restaurant Tress and I like. It’s as the crow flies from our home, perhaps closer. It makes really fresh pasta and pizza and we’ve been going to this joint regularly in recent years, so that when I ring to make a reservation, they recognize my voice and respond in a truly warm and friendly manner. To borrow a phrase from the classic sitcom that I loved, it’s a place where “everybody knows your name”.

After a lovely Friday night dinner at our “Cheers”, we went home and I started prepping for a cook. We were going to trek across Melbourne to get to the Macedon area northwest of Melbourne, the next day. It was Ruth’s 40th and Jonathan had been planning the event for some time.

The next morning, we got up early. We had a quick brekky, but I made sure we made our coffee as per usual on weekend mornings. I then did the sauce that was to go with the “sambal eggs”, and Tress boiled the eggs. The dish was ready just around 9am. I also had to pick up the mower from “Forest Hill Mower Power”, so I ducked out quickly and the mower looked and felt brand new. New blades, cleaned and serviced engine, new plug and filter and lubricated parts … I was confident the $150 would mean I’d easily get another 3 if not 5 more years out of the 12 year old machine yet. I took the mower back, kept it in the shed, and tidied up the kitchen before cleaning up. We finally left home just after 10am. When we were near Woodend just before noon, I felt a pressing need for another coffee so we ducked into town, got a coffee to go, and then got to Jonathan and Ruth’s home. To our pleasant surprise, there were a number of cars outside their home, which meant the party was going to be wonderful for Ruth.

We left Woodend just before 3pm, and got home in time to walk the little fellow. Later that night, one of the subsidiary channels of the Nine Network had The “Phantom Menace” on. It was the first of a planned screening of the entire Star Wars franchise for the next few weeks so I sat down to watch it, as the thought of my task at St Alf the next day, played in my mind.

On Sunday morning, the nerves got up several notches. I was asked by Graeme Churchward a couple of months prior, if I would like to do the congregational prayers. I hadn’t turned down any request to serve before, so I said yes. I was put on the roster on an ad hoc basis – Graeme thought, wisely, that the first should be a “dipping the toe in the water” type of experience. He was rostered for 6 Oct and I was asked to do it in his place, to test it out. I had written out the prayers earlier in the week but while I had expected to be nervous, I hadn’t expected it to reach that level.

As I walked into the church hall, Ruth McIntosh, the service leader for that morning, looked up and saw me. She walked up to me, and in giving me some instructions on what to do, drove up my nerves even more. Ruth had been encouraging in any event, and she continued to do so after those instructions. As I sat in our usual seat awaiting the moment, I told myself to focus on the task and not worry about anything else. I said those 3+ pages of prayers, sat down, and listened to the reader on the text for the sermon. It was only when Jordan Hitchcock was near the end of his sermon that the nerves/adrenalin finally ebbed and I felt normal again. The “ordeal” had lasted nearly an hour…

It was the first time in our nearly 7 years at St Alf’s that I had to perform a public task in a solo capacity. I had done this many times prior, at ICC and at Klang Chinese Methodist Church but those were many years ago. It had been easily 8 years since I last performed a task like that. It had to be a divine intervention to see me go through that, and I was very glad it is behind me now. Graeme may or may not ask me to be rostered again, that doesn’t matter at this point in time. I guess I would still not turn down any request to serve, as long as I’m able to.

After St Alf’s we had lunch at our usual lunch place, went home, and I did the week’s cook while Tress went out for her ethereal chase. I also cooked something for the little guy, and when Tress came back, we took the little fellow out for a walk. With all of the tasks for the weekend completed, I was at ease at last. It had been a warm day, and as Tress and I walked the little guy past the ovals with cricket games going on in each of the 3 ovals, it felt like a really pleasant time. It is still only early spring but it also felt like summer is not far away now.