I asked our walking groups what practices they would choose to retain out of this lockdown period?
There is a whole gamut of experiences and we are so fortunate to be living in Sydney. Health care is good quality and accessible, housing is enjoyed by most (but fewer than before), social systems care for many of our vulnerable people (with some tragic gaps) and the spread of ‘the virus’ has been relatively contained. Some people have enjoyed this time to retreat and be at home, living more gently in a usually fast-paced city. Time to catch up with those in our households is a mixed blessing – for some it’s precious family time – for others a further strain on tense relationships.
Neighbourliness has been a big winner. It has given us the opportunity, and the responsibility, to watch out for our immediate neighbours. And they are generally home these days! The joy of new and re-established social connections has come in many other ways too. Children are calling and caring for their elderly relatives again. Strangers are more apt to smile at each other on footpaths. Families are out walking and playing together in far greater numbers than before. Walking trails are well-utilised with people appreciating the delights of the natural environment. Letters are being posted again. A new awareness of local business and the wisdom of buying locally-produced goods is happening. Different groups are working together for the first time to act for the benefit of the severely disaffected.
Learning new skills through online courses has brought joy to many. From arts and crafts to study, learning a new musical instrument or singing in an online choir, doing home-based fitness and honing new skills for re-entering the work force, these new activities will continue to bring joy, new friendships and benefits into the future.
Many have suffered great loss over this period – and there will be more to come. Let us come alongside those we know and help where we can. Our own mental health is important too, so take time to reflect on some positive takeaways and keep them happening.
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (From The NLT Bible, Colossians 3:15)
The very different Mother’s Day we are about to experience brings its meaning into sharp focus. The warm hugs and kisses between generations of loved ones will be exchanged for calls over electronic devices. Restaurant visits are likely to be replaced with home-cooked meals of varying qualities. Many gifts will be delivered by strangers to our doors in an attempt to convey love from a distance. So what really matters to Mum anyway?
Speaking as a mother of three young adult children and their two partners, it is about having their loving attention for a while. If they carve some time out of their day to be ‘with’ me in some way, tell me about their lives and take an interest in mine, I am pleased. The hugs, kisses, cards and thoughtful presents are icing on the cake. The lovingly home-cooked meal is the cherry on top! But they all boil done to one key attribute to me: they love me and want to continue to share their lives with me.
Mother’s Day is a focal time for this to happen, and like Christmas, there is a sense of loss if it doesn’t. I will miss the delight of having our children all in one place interacting well together, and joining in with games of overly competitive table tennis after lunch! However, let’s not overstate its importance. It is the constancy of relationships that matters most. To be acknowledged just on Mother’s Day means little. Being a part of each other’s lives through the ups and downs is of far greater importance.
Children, do your best to show love to Mum this Mother’s Day. She will gratefully recognise your intention. But remember there are another 364 days this year to maintain and build that precious relationship, which will touch her heart much more with its sincerity.
To everything turn, turn, turn,
There is a season turn, turn, turn
and a time to every purpose under heaven.
(Turn! Turn! Turn! Lyrics ‘The Byrds’)
In the early stages of our ’social isolation’, this song posed the question to me, ‘What time is this?’ Answers are suggested in the lyrics:
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.
Many of these are relevant, but my interest was in one that seems counter-intuitive: ‘A time to build up.’
In normal times, I can’t have longer conversations with everyone I meet in our community groups. There are many, for example, who join our bush walks. I would love to know more about them, but I just can’t get to talk to each one for very long. Besides, it’s a time to relax and reconnect with nature and ourselves, so talking about the deeper, often heavier, issues of life can work against that regenerative process. Phoning these people after a walk may well be considered intrusive. But now, in this changed season, I have both the time and the chance to get to know some of these people better. It’s a peculiar, stressful time where extra connection is often appreciated and many people have more time on their hands too. It’s an opportunity to reconnect, at a deeper level.
Whereas your life is different to mine, do you have people in your life who you have ‘let go’ - not intentionally - but due to changed circumstances, or because you have been too busy? Why not try reconnecting with them now? I sense this is a time when a call ‘wondering how you are going?’ can refresh a relationship.
Let’s not let this ‘time to reconnect’ pass unfruitfully. Take the risk and reach out to your friend or family member to experience the joy of a restored relationship. Be careful to maintain it when ‘normal life’ recommences. This may require the next ‘time’ – ‘to break down’ the elements of your life that no longer serve you well.
I remember reading ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ at school. Anne was faced with such awful circumstances as an early teenager. Hidden inside indefinitely, her family lived in fear, as a noise at the wrong time from any of them could potentially cost them their lives. Their crime was simply being the persecuted minority of the day, Jews. Unfortunately, their persecutors, the Nazis, wielded incredible power in those days and were hell bent on the destruction of all Jews.
Anne had so much to be bitter about. She was a promising student with big dreams with her education now on hold; her father could no longer own the business he had worked so hard to establish; and the family had done nothing to deserve this punishment. Yet Anne records amazingly positive insights in her journal:
Unfortunately, she died in a concentration camp at age 15. Imagine if she had not chosen this path of forgiveness and gratefulness over this period. How sad and bitter her life would have been. Instead, she gave hope to those around her and eventually people all over the world via her books.
Holding onto bitterness and unforgiveness isn’t making the most of the life we are given. I encourage you to begin to let them go. Let me know if you want an ear or a prayer to begin to process yours.
Here’s a riddle for you:
Where is the first tennis match mentioned in the Bible?
I’ll tell you the answer at the end. And there will be some hints along the way…
Many people have heard a bit about Joseph and his coat of many colours. And that he had extraordinary prophetic dreams. It was these dreams that originally got him into trouble. He was the favourite son in a very large, ancient Israelite family. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much tact growing up – and shared his dream of being superior to all his brothers – most of whom were half brothers and much older than him. So they sold him into slavery and thought they had seen the last of him.
But it wasn’t long before Joseph’s talent shone through and he was given greater responsibilities and found himself in a good job, albeit still a slave. Unfortunately, he was again victimised – this time by his master’s wife’s false accusation of rape – and thrown into prison indefinitely. Actually, a number of biblical heroes found their way into prison – and still do to this day.
Prison is another way isolation is enacted. So what can we learn from Joseph’s imprisonment that may give us hope in our isolation? Well – for a start – Joseph was eventually released and went on to achieve amazing things for both Egypt and rescued his own family (hence that boyhood dream came true), when a huge famine hit Egypt. The isolation period was a refining time for him. Whereas his abilities were once again noticed and utilised within the prison system, he wasn’t released back into society for a long time. He had huge disappointments when he was there too – an early release didn’t come through. Time and time again people betrayed Joseph – yet it seems he accepted his losses. This enabled him to remain responsive to opportunities that came his way. He was cooperative with authorities in the hope that the tide would eventually change and he would be better placed. And he stayed close to God through it all. It was eventually his prophetic dreams that got him out of prison too. And not just out – but a meteoric rise to the highest administrative office in Egypt! There he used his talent and godly insight faithfully, to rescue the Egyptians and his amazed family from starvation.
So let’s accept our current reality, obedient to authorities for the greater good and pressing into our faith in God, which will give us hope and hold us through the trials. Watch for the opportunities to use our talents helpfully and wisely to benefit others too. Maybe you can cheer someone up in your circle this weekend?
Now the answer to the riddle – have you worked it out yet?
Where is the first tennis match mentioned in the Bible?
When Joseph served in Pharaoh's court.
To read the entire story of Joseph in the Bible, go to Genesis chapter 37 and keep reading to chapter 50. It’s a great story! Here’s a link for you. Enjoy!
A friend of mine recently referred to life being a bit like Noah on the ark! So I read the Noah account in the Bible today in Genesis 6-9 to see if I could pick up any clues to help us in this season of our temporary isolation.
It doesn’t tell you much about life on the ark – more the before and after. Beforehand – lots and lots of preparation – including building this gigantic boat to specific specifications. There have been reconstructions of the ark and analysis as to whether it could actually work. Apparently, it did have double the capacity needed for the animals and its ratio of length to width (6 to 1) is the most stable known and used for modern tankers and freight hauling ships! It would have been able to carry 20,000 tons of cargo. I’m not going to debate whether this is a real story or a myth which aims to teach us principles for life, but it is interesting that it was a potentially functional design.
In reading the account, Noah with just his family and all those animals and supplies, were on that huge boat together for about a year! And they survived – and were very thankful. The first thing they did was thank God for sparing them when they were again on dry land.
I wonder what life was like on the ark together? Noah’s family would have had to adjust to a whole new routine of caring for lots of animals – plenty of hard, physical labour and dirty work involved – very quickly. It would have taken heaps of cooperation and good grace and flexibility. And an ongoing thankfulness to be the ones who were still alive.
These principles apply to us today too. Yes, the changes can be hard to take for many of us. We would prefer to do other things, be in other circumstances. But this is our lot at present, so let’s do the best we can. Let’s cooperate with others and the restrictions put upon us, be gracious with each other – realising others are stressed and anxious. We need to acknowledge our own grief at the changes thrust upon us, so we can move on to being adaptable to our current circumstances. Being grateful always helps our own mental health – and makes us more pleasant to be around. What are you grateful for?
It’s not only certain supermarket shelves which have been empty lately. A couple from Lane Cove Uniting Church, who regularly drop off supplies to the Asylum Seeker Centre in Newton, report that they have never seen the free grocery shelves so empty before! This is particularly sad, as these donated groceries are a life support for asylum seekers living in our community on very little. Australia has had its share of pressing issues of late – and the Australian public have been very generous in their support of those most affected by bushfires and drought. However, the needs of Asylum Seekers continue every day, as their living allowance is so low. The maximum support available to a single asylum seeker is $227/week and the Poverty line is set at $412/week. Many don’t even qualify for this level of support. (Statistics from Asylum Seeker Resource Centre).
If you can assist, the Asylum Seekers Centre web page lists suitable and urgently needed food and toiletries: https://asylumseekerscentre.org.au/food-and-toiletry-donations/ .
Lane Cove Uniting Church usually provides a depot to receive donations, at the corner of Figtree Street and Centennial Avenue, below street level. However, as it's currently closed, a direct financial donation is probably the best way to at the moment. Contact us here once physical distancing measures are lifted to contribute this way.
This activity is known as ‘Simple Love’. This perfectly describes our motivation to contribute. It’s a non-political, simple, loving response to people in real need. This is so pertinent at Easter time as love lies at the heart of the Christian message. This story of great compassion towards humanity makes minimal demands upon us – rather it’s a winsome invitation to respond. True faith evokes a loving response to God’s gracious gift to us of Jesus: God in a man’s body, fully experiencing and identifying with humanity in order to reconcile us with God and creation.
Whatever it is that motivates you to show you care for those in need, please begin to donate specified items this Easter to those who will truly appreciate them.
Green eucalyptus shoots emerging from blackened tree trunks, herald signs of life returning. Red skies have been replaced by blue. Much has been lost, but the miracle of regeneration delights the soul. While times are very tough indeed for those in bushfire, drought and flood affected communities, there remains hope for a fresh start. Lessons will be learned and the regeneration process will contain new wisdom to surpass old models.
Hope is a key tenet of Christianity and an important one for us all. Faith in something beyond ourselves is an important factor leading to resilience and regeneration. Hope sustains us through all manner of trials. Sometimes misplaced, I suspect some hope is better than none at all. Without hope, life resembles a dark tunnel, where we wait and watch for a glimmer to emerge.
Hugh van Cuylenburg researched keys to resilience amongst impoverished children in India. Their joyful attitude starkly contrasted with that of his Aussie students. Hugh proposed the acronym GEM from identifying habits of gratitude, empathy and mindfulness as keys to their wellbeing. The children were immediately and explicitly grateful for basic necessities, cared for each other in an ongoing way and chose to meditate each morning. A summary of his book, The Resilience Project , can be found in the Weekend Australian magazine 23-24 Nov 2019.
Well done to our resilient, local community in the wake of flood and fire damage recently. Empathic offerings of hot showers, power outlets, free refrigeration and a sharing of meals with affected neighbours were frequent. Alternative venues, (including other churches), were offered to the resilient C3 Church, who didn’t miss a Sunday in the wake of the Lane Cove Public School fire.
Being grateful for what is in front of us, being kind to others and cultivating stillness of being are simple practices. (Try our free meditation group weekly 11.30am on Thursdays). However, they require our intentionality until they become habitual. Resilience and regeneration are some of the prizes. Be a GEM for your own sake and for those around you.
Hugh van Cuylenburg 研究印度兒童在惡劣環境中適應的關鍵。他把他們對事物的樂觀態度比對澳洲的學生的。由此他提議GEM這縮略詞來鑒別印度兒童的幸福狀況，其習慣如gratitude感恩、empathy同感和mindfulness關心。那些兒童即時表達得到基本需要物的謝意，持續互相關懷及選擇每天早上作冥想。他的著作《The Resilience Project恢復力計劃》可以在2019年11月的Weekend Australian雜誌裏的第23至24頁讀到。
在最近的水災和火災裏，我們本地的社區群眾表現得好。同感地他們無數次供給受災者熱水浴、電沿、免費冰凍食物和共享三餐。Lane Cove Public School火災後，那C3教堂堅持主日聚會，得借用其他地點（包括其他教堂）而能舉行。
适应力和恢复力 （译自Karen牧师的‘Resilience & Regeneration')
Hugh van Cuylenburg 研究印度儿童在恶劣环境中适应的关键。他把他们对事物的乐观态度比对澳洲的学生的。由此他提议GEM这缩略词来鉴别印度儿童的幸福状况，其习惯如gratitude感恩丶empathy同感和mindfulness关心。那些儿童即时表达得到基本需要物的谢意，持续互相关怀及选择每天早上作冥想。他的着作《The Resilience Project恢复力计划》可以在2019年11月的Weekend Australian杂志裏的第23至24页读到。
在最近的水灾和火灾裏，我们本地的社区群众表现得好。同感地他们无数次供给受灾者热水浴丶电沿丶免费冰冻食物和共享三餐。Lane Cove Public School火灾后，那C3教堂坚持主日聚会，得借用其他地点（包括其他教堂）而能举行。
Who amongst us has not been affected by the drought and fires? As we continue with our ‘normal’ lives, we are conscious of the deep suffering of others – including our land and it’s unique and precious creatures. Reminders are in the air we breathe, the ash on our cars and all over the media.
Our positive response is key to remaining resilient to all this bad news. Like many Disaster Recovery Chaplains, I find the heroic response of those affected amazing. Far from ‘woe is me’, many are so courageous, looking to the future with hope and determination. Their purpose is clear and they see life with new clarity. It is less clear for those on the margins however, looking helplessly at terrifying images. What do we do?
I love the response of my Physiotherapist! She held a raffle for a free massage raising funds to rehabilitate wildlife. She is offering her talent to specifically help a cause that touches her heart deeply. This response aids her emotional health, that of others who contribute, the wildlife and the winner! Making a constructive, personal investment helps overcome our feelings of helplessness. Donated goods are not needed, but what else can you offer?
And where is God in all of this? How can a loving Creator bear to witness such devastation? I believe God is still there in the midst of the suffering as always, deeply anguished by the losses, and available to those who will reach out to ‘Him’ in any sincere way. This is clearly not the fault of the Creator. We are aware now of the devastating effects of climate change, and our culpability as people who use too many resources. We need to make changes to our lifestyle, not just blame politicians, God, whoever.
The good news is when we are willing to change, God comes through! Let me know if you want some guidance in doing so.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (The Bible, Psalm 46:1, ESV)
Hi! I'm Karen, the Lane Cove Community Chaplain. I am pondering life here and in general. Some of my blog articles are originally found in our local paper, The Village Observer, and are repeated here because I would love to hear your response too.