31.1.03

A horrible train smash on the coastal line south of Sydney this morning. Nine confirmed deaths and many more people in a critical condition. Two carriages of a southbound train left the track as the train went around a bend. Horrible. Speculation that yesterday's intense heat may have damaged the track. It was well over 40 degrees even in the city itself.

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Here's some information on katoomba, now a small town struggling to survive . Discover Katoomba - Blue Mountains Australia - Tourist Attractions and Information Originally the place was a mining town for coal, but now is a mix of old and new, tacky, tawdry and beautiful.

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I have a busy day ahead. I am teaching at a small houseparty for the weekend. Everything is prepared, but I need to pack. Gather notes and resources. I'm leaving about 2:00pm and won't be back till Sunday evening. Last night there were more fires in the town of Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, only a very short distance from where we will be staying. Must check to make sure things are OK.

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While Fred continues his saga of learning to live with a wood heater, over here we are having abnormally hot days. Here in Sydney, the maximum yesterday was 45 degrees Celsius and fires continue to rage in many areas. A blissful southerly buster blew through very early this morning, and today is cooler. Should get to only about 27, possibly 33 in the western suburbs. Much better.

One of the best purchases we have ever made was a powerful airconditioner for our bedroom which is upstairs facing due west. At least we are able to sleep in relative comfort. Our house is old ( for Australia,) about early 1880s. It is two storeyed and built of substantial brick. It usually takes a while to heat and conversely to cool. This morning I have opened all the windows to the souherly.

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29.1.03

The gutless pacifist has an interesting post following from the fairly heated discussion of last week. He raises some issues which are worth thinking about. Have a look. Comments are also interesting. I agree with Dean that a formal review board would not work Far too awkward. I'm not too sure that submitting a post to others before publishing would work either. Even such things as time differences would weigh against this. One of the attractions of blogging is its immediacy, the ad hoc nature of the beast. I used to keep a journal, then a journal and a blog, now just a blog. I prefer the ability to post on current issues, although there are still some areas where I write more of a journal entry than a blog.

A separate category in blogs4God for more controversial issues? That's a possibility. Would this be where an individual's blog resides, or would it be open to occasional entries? I don't think I would like having to deal with an "issue" every time I blogged. However to raise something occasionally and keep it where others knew there could be controversy may be helpful . On the other hand, I do not think that being controversial is necessarily a bad thing. It helps provoke thought on a topic. To shy away from problems because we don't want to discuss their ramifications will not make those problems disappear.

The problem is the manner in which it is done. I did not think those posters were a helpful way to promote discussion. I thought they were in appalling taste, regardless of anyone's views on the topic. I thought Kathryn's post the next day would have been a much better way to have approached the topic. I do see blogs4God as a type of community, even if it is not in a form which we recognise by tradition. Here I would differ from Richard in his comments, although it may well be just a matter of words. We mirror many of the characteristics of more traditional forms of community. There is diversity and similarity. There is helpfulness, a sense of belonging, even to some degree, a common sense of purpose. There is also debate, backbiting and division. So what's new? I appreciate the wide range of theology and viewpoints I find on the portal. It stretches my horizons.

Again we need to remind ourselves of the shortcomings of the net. No body language and no tone of voice or eye contact. This makes misunderstandings, or even stronger disagreements, more likely. Just as in in our own groups and churches, we need to remember that we too are forgiven by grace. We must strive to live in that grace and to extend it to others in all manner of communications with them. I regularly read Kairos, a blog from a totally different tradition to my own. I enjoy it. On his side bar he has a link to the Kairos Protocol. Have a look. He makes some pertinent suggestions to this debate.

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Little Caesar again: looking remarkably like Prime Minister Howard in a toga, a Roman senator delivers an oration in the forum. Successive frames show:
"Fellow countrymen, I hear you...
Beat the drums of war, I hear your cry...
For God, I hear you...
For country, I hear you...
For liberty, I hear you...
And the American Way, I hear you...

And who is listening to this wonderful rhetoric? One lonely mongrel, scratching its fleas.

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I was much younger and more naive when the Vietnam war took place. The group I was with really did not approve of Christians having anything to do with politics. As a result, I was quiet about my stance on that war. This is something I have regretted over the years. It was really nothing to do with Australia and yet we were dragged in. "All the way with LBJ," was the catch cry then. It is only in the last five or so years that Vietnam veterans have had any credibility in Australian society.

I think that memories of this stir in the minds of many of us here. Even the thought of UN sanctioned strikes against Iraq are fairly repugnant to many of us. To actually go without UN approval is even worse. Howard and his government continue to prepare for Australian involvement despite the growing feeling against this. One cartoon showed the drums of war being beaten. What were they? An enormous oildrum being struck by Bush, a slightly smaller one for Tony Blair and John Howard tagging along, hitting a jerry can. A letter in today's paper asks "who needs accuracy, if you drop 800 missiles?"

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Today feels like the calm before the storm again. I hope I'm wrong. Temperatures in Sydney are forecast today to reach 27 degrees. Warm but fine. Tomorrow is a different story. 39 degrees at least in the city, probably more because most forecasts are conservative. Well over 40 in the outer suburbs and on most of the east coast. Strong northerly winds again and low humidity. Perfect fire weather. Many fires have been contained but there are still fires burning dangerously from the island of Tasmania to Queensland. Then a strong southerly change which will drop temperatures dramatically, but there will still be danger because of the strength of the wind.

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School returns today in NSW after the six week break for the Christmas holidays. Dad was a teacher so had the same holidays as we did, so we used to spend January at the beach. I can still remember the way my feet used to feel imprisoned as I laced my shoes on the first day back. No more wriggling the toes in the bare sand and surf and no more walking the dusty unpaved roads to the beach in my well worn rubber thongs -(flip-flops??) These lasted me for several summers until the imprints from my toes actually wore through into holes. To my mind, few pairs of shoes or sandals have ever been as comfortable as they were. Such is the power of nostalgia.

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27.1.03

I couldn't let Dean's post over at blogs4God - a Semi-Definitive List of Christian Blogs go unnoticed, although he is probably waiting for all of us to bite the bait he offered about football. I'd rather watch a real game than a group of guys done up in as much armour as a mediaeval knight.

Here in Australia, soccer has a big following particularly among those of European origin. I don't really enjoy this. I'd rather watch the hockey than soccer. Soccer is played in the summer here. The state of Victoria and minor pockets of weirdos elsewhere is fanatical about Aussie rules football which is derived from gaelic football. (Ducking for cover here from Darren?)

NSW, Queensland and Auckland in New Zealand, play rugby league. OK, I suppose but not really my cup of tea. Too much stopping and starting. Not that I'm a much of a football fan, but there is really only one game to watch. Down here the pagans call it "the game they play in heaven!" Fast flowing, free moving, aggressive. My sons call it "thugby" and enjoy watching but find it hard to understand their mum's liking it too. Goes well with a cold beer and a group of friends. Other countries play it too. Even the USA has a team which usually gets walloped with a score of something like 80-0 when they play. So what is this real football? Rugby Union.

Now, while I obviously barrack for Australia, I do have to admit that the All Blacks (NZ ) are a mighty good team as well. I imagine Rachel C. would agree with me. No armour involved, just skill and fitness and speed. Nothing quite like a thrilling match, won as the bell rings by a kick from John Eales or Matt Burke.

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26.1.03

Australia Day - 2003

Australians all let us rejoice,

For we are young and free;

We've golden soil and wealth for toil,Our home is girt by sea;

Our land abounds in Nature's gifts

Of beauty rich and rare;

In history's page, let every stage

Advance Australia fair!

In joyful strains then let us sing,

"Advance Australia fair!"



Beneath our radiant southern Cross,

We'll toil with hearts and hands;

To make this Commonwealth of ours

Renowned of all the lands;

For those who've come across the seas

We've boundless plains to share;

With courage let us all combine

To advance Australia fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing

"Advance Australia fair!"




There are other songs which are perhaps more representative of us and certainly are more well known than this, but this is our anthem. These are the two verses usually sung. There are three others in the original, all written at a time when Australia was part of the British Empire and most Australians called England "home." These verses reflect that feeling. There is also another verse, author unknown, which expresses the hope that Christ would be our cornerstone and head.

I'm proud to be an Australian. We don't share our emotions easily, nor our patriotism, but scratch an Aussie and you would find that many of us would react somewhat like our famed venomous wildlife. We cut down our tall poppies, after all we believe in egalitarianism, don't we? When there is a crisis we pull together. We are a generous people in times of need. Appeals for Bali victims, floods, bushfire appeals- all are well subscribed. However, we have a tough exterior, are laconic and very independent.

I was planning on writing on the phrases in the anthem. Some of this would have been criticism and while I think it would have been valid, ( boundless plains to share with those who come across the sea?) it is not what is needed.

What we need is prayer for a move of God across the land. Prayer for rain in particular, prayer for those affected by the fires, prayer for wisdom for our leaders as they listen to the many conflicting voices but still press on to war. We need prayer that as a people we will turn to God, we need prayers of true repentance for past wrongs and for reconciliation to take place in our land. After all, Paul exhorts us to be mnisters of reconciliation. (2Cor 5:18-21)

Please join with us in praying for our nation today, Australia Day.


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