Australia is the best country in the world…?

I love my country. Sometimes I marvel at how I’ve won the lottery of life, being born here in the lucky country, the land of opportunity.

When I started travelling, I realised that my passport is one of my most precious possessions. Wherever I go in the world, I carry the golden ticket: a document saying I belong in Australia – that they will always let me come home.

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But recently something has changed.

I was talking to a new friend who grew up in Iran. As a teenager, he left a war-torn country, having witnessed unbelievable horrors, for a new life in Australia.

He worked hard to overcome barriers of language and culture. He studied late into the night, earned a degree, and won a government job. You’d think he’d had it made, but it broke my heart when he said that if he ever had children, he wouldn’t raise them here. He’d rather take them back to the war-torn Middle East than put them through the daily racism he faces. After twelve years, he still feels like an outsider – ignored, bullied, excluded, slapped with religious slurs – even though he’s never been Muslim. For the first time, I felt ashamed to be Australian.

I look at our indigenous people, who, according to the UN, have the second worst quality of life in the world, and I wonder about our lucky country.

Australia is the best country in the world… for me. But I’m not the only one who lives here.

I don’t ever wanna be caught on the wrong side

When I read the Gospels, why do I automatically assume that I belong alongside Peter, or that I would have been Mary Magdalene? Why do I rarely see myself in the Pharisees or the Rich Young Ruler?

Yesterday in church I was convicted to examine my life. What do I value? What am I pursuing? I saw so clearly the allure of worldly things, which easily captivate my heart. I saw how self-righteous I am in my judgement of how the world should be – what is good or right. I saw how proudly I stood amongst a multitude of people who defined success, then boasted in their achievements.double-exposure-illustration-woman-with-city-in-her-hat_1020-442

I saw a great battle line drawn. On the right were those who were glamorous, popular, wealthy and so successful that they are proud to define themselves by material things. And I saw myself with them, desiring to be one of them, pursuing the things they loved. And then I looked to the other side, to those who were poor and lowly, and cared not for this world. And Jesus was on the other side.

How often do I claim to be a follower of Jesus, then busy myself with things that are not on His agenda? How often do I scorn things he loves, or delight in things he hates? When he comes back I sure don’t want to be caught swanning around in Prada shoes and sequins, or clamouring wildly up the corporate ladder, so I’d better stop pursuing them.

I will never do it all

I love travel. It was seeded when I used to farewell my grandparents year after year at the airport as they departed for yet another exotic location. It began when I first set foot in Amsterdam at 19 years of age and realized that my dream of seeing Europe was becoming a reality.

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Over the years, I have chipped away at my travel ‘to do list,’ and slowly built my collection of Lonely Planet guides.

A couple of months ago I found and bought the holy grail of travel guides. Lonely Planet: The World.

221 countries, 228 maps, and 700 full colour photos. When it arrived, I cracked it open in excitement… and drowned. I knew I wanted to see Morocco, but what about Monaco, Montenegro, Mongolia? What about Bhutan, Belize, Andorra, Afghanistan?

As I flicked through the book I was struck with an unsettling thought: I would never.

Just as I will never read all the books I want to read, I will never see all the places I would like to see. My life, which has seemed to stretch out so far in front of me, will not be enough.

There is one beautiful redeeming grace in the daunting finiteness of my life.

My life’s meaning and purpose was never grounded in reading all the things or seeing all the places. My core purpose is something far greater. And for that, I will have exactly the right amount of time.

 

 

 

 

 

Christians aren’t moral because they’re afraid of going to hell.

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A while back I wrote about something I heard on the radio regarding Christians not stealing music. It got me thinking. I mean, it’s not like Christians are the only moral people around. Plenty of atheists and muslims and i-don’t-really-believe-in-anyting-but–like-the-whole-do-unto-others people are quite moral.

So why are Christians often highlighted as the do-gooders, or the moral, law abiding ones (and conversely slammed for being hypocrites whenever they’re not).

I’m guessing to most people the answer would be fairly clear. They believe in hell. Christians have to be good, because they want to get to heaven, and they don’t dare be ‘bad’ for fear of going to hell.

And therein lies the most common misconception about Christianity. Christians aren’t moral because they’re afraid of going to hell. They know hell was a certainty, and that Jesus died to save them. And Jesus is moral. And when you’re so in love with someone for what they’ve done for you, you want to be just like them. And when that someone is God, He has the power to help you become more and more like that. That’s pretty much it.

Before the Throne… so many have been struck down.

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I sometimes have difficulty reconciling the God of the Old Testament, with the God I know. I’ve just read about this horrible string of events in Samuel:

  • Israel was defeated in battle
  • The Ark of the Lord was captured by the Philistines
  • Eli the priest and his two sons died.
  • The Philistine god Dagon was found bowing and broken before the Ark
  • They were tormented with tumours and ‘the Lord’s hand was heavy upon them.’
  • Cities were thrown into panic and they decided to send the Ark back.
  • On its return to Israel, seventy men were killed when they looked into the Ark.

Imagine the people’s fear as they said ‘Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up to from here?’

I was meditating on this question as I turned my music on and was captivated by these words:

“Before the Throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea, a great High Priest whose name is love, who ever lives and pleads for me… I know that while in Heaven He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.”

The fearsome God of Israel is no less the God of today, but while nations trembled and many died in his presence, we are invited into his very Throne room finding no condemnation, only grace.

The contrast is dramatic. How radically has Jesus Christ transformed the way we may relate to God!

Do we even know whom we voted for?

2016-07-04 20.14.47Australia is awaiting the drawn-out verdict of our election. The probable hung parliament is an unsatisfying result confirming fears that Australians either don’t know what they want, or don’t have confidence in anyone to deliver.

A big part of the problem is that most of us don’t really know whom we’re voting for.

This became mind-twistingly clear to me chatting to both my ‘leftie’ and right-wing friends and trying to reconcile all of their opposing views based on contradictory evidence.

It was daunting to think that as an educated person, I had next to no chance of figuring out what would be good for our country. I wasn’t sure there was any information I could trust.

Were the candidates really whom their websites portrayed? Could party policies be taken at face value or were there hidden agendas that I could never support? Was there truth or merit in any media reports? Do any of us have any idea what is actually going on behind the scenes of our country in defence, or international relations or economics or anything?

As I watched the election count ‘barracking’ for the party I thought I wanted to win, a friend jokingly reminded me that it probably didn’t matter anyway:

Whoever the Illuminati want to get in will get in.

Let’s hope that’s not the case, but either way one thing is still true: God knows who will get in, and whether the world goes to pot or not, He’s got the end game covered.

What was Arnott’s really doing?

Original-Barbecue-175g-300-x-240-300x240I am far from an expert when it comes to the world of marketing (my experience is limited to analysing advertising techniques with high school students) but there’s been something that’s been bugging me and I’m surprised that no one seems to be talking about it.

What was Arnott’s really doing when they launched their new Shapes?

Perhaps everything we’ve been reading is true. Perhaps they did a lot of market research and really thought they’d come up with a better product. Perhaps it was a shock to them that the general public hated it. But I find it kind of hard to believe.

It’s not the first time that a market leading brand has screwed up a change. In fact, it happened just recently. Gladwrap changed the location of their serrated cutting strip and the public went wild. I bought a box of it, not knowing what I was in for, and suffered through inconvenient tearing for months. I had an idea of what they were trying to do. Get people used to the change, and then they’ll only want to buy your brand. It didn’t work. Or did it?9-2652612-nat210115wrap2_t620

Glad seemed to turn their mistake around by showing that they ‘care.’ They ‘listened to their customers’ and the original tearing strip came back. Now lots of happy customers return to buying glad brand.

Hot on Glad’s heels, Arnott’s has changed their iconic shapes brand, and not only do people hate it, but they’re publicly raving about it. It’s hard to believe, but The Sydney Morning Herald and The Herald Sun and others have run articles about it, not to mention the slather of social media posts. Arnott’s hasn’t had this kind of publicity since… well maybe ever!

Apart from the fact that ‘any publicity is good publicity’ what is the real value of consumers slamming Arnott’s for ruining their favourite flavours? Well Arnotts’ seems to have an ‘insurance plan.’ They haven’t actually discontinued the old flavour. What?? If a flavour is so new and improved, why would you have the old flavour, in very similar packaging, still on the shelves? Actually it’s brilliant. It’s fear marketing and intrigue all wrapped up in one. The scandal of the ‘inferior BBQ shapes’ has caused hundreds of people to go out and buy said Shapes just for the novel experience. Everyone wants to judge for themselves. Surely they can’t be that bad? Surely Arnott’s couldn’t have ruined our beloved flavours while leaving the less favourite ones the same?

tumblr_nd0ktnttzW1tm0icro1_1280Not only have hundreds tried the new flavour, but I imagine that hundreds have also rushed out to buy the old flavour like squirrels storing for winter. The real BBQ and Pizza shapes have become endangered species, and for the first time in decades we are afraid that our iconic snack could be pulled out from under us at any moment.

Arnott’s have had a market leading brand with iconic flavours for a long time, and the consumer has become complacent. Innovation is a necessity when you’re in business, but what do you do when you’re already nailing it? Looks like you create something new. An epic, newsworthy failure that sends the country into a hexagonal shaped spin. Far from a tragedy, they’ve just bought themselves months worth of free publicity, even if it is largely negative.

Can they turn it around? Of course they can. They are a company made ‘for the people’ after all. They’ll listen to their customers. They’ll repent for their wrongs. They’ll give us what we want like a bogus reinvention, and we’ll be so, so happy. We’ll reflect on how we made it through the Shapes disaster of 2016, how it was such a close call. We’ll look with love and relief on the aisles full of original flavoured Pizza and BBQ shapes, and we’ll buy them with renewed vigour, with the knowledge of what could have been, what almost was, if we had not banded together as the Australian people to save our beloved Shapes.

Oh the irony: It IS the scam…

Scams are dime a dozen these days. There are phone and email scams and social media scams and those that show up in your letterbox promising marriage to a Nigerian prince and more money than you could imagine.

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They’re annoying, but though many of us have been momentarily sucked in, we’ve all learned to be pretty ‘scam-savvy.’ Or so we think.

What does my head in these days is the number of ‘chainmail scams’ people fall for on Facebook. Sure, we all know that if we don’t pass on that letter or email we probably won’t have seven years’ bad luck, and our beloved dog Fluffy probably won’t die (I don’t have any beloved pet, but I’m sure it’s frightening for those who do). But it seems that thousands have missed what modern-day chain mail is.

Our fear has made us quick to warn our friends of any impending scams. What it seems people are missing, however, is: those ‘pass it on’ warning messages on Facebook? That IS the scam!

No, Facebook won’t shut down your account if you don’t share this notification.

No, Facebook is not rife with more hackers than usual, requiring you to ‘copy and paste’ on your wall.

It’s probably not even ‘International Siblings Day’ (for the 10th time this year.)

Share what you like, but share what you like. Don’t share because you’re afraid that life as you know it might change if you don’t. I expect things will be okay for a while yet.

What is ‘life?’

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The other day I was driving along and a large brown planetree leaf fluttered down from its branch at the exact moment that my car drove past. Its detachment from the tree punctuated the end of its life and its final voyage was disrupted by the whoosh of my car as it was swept upwards away from my windscreen, changing direction, finding another place to settle.

A lot of my weird, profound thoughts happen while driving. Driving under a falling leaf is nothing extraordinary, but for some reason, on this day, I was struck with a question about the nature of life.

The leaf was dead. It was once alive. I looked at a flourishing gum tree and wondered, ‘what is it that makes it alive?’ ‘What is life?’

Sure, we know how to distinguish death from life, animate from inanimate, but do we actually know anything about life?

I looked it up in a dictionary. Life is a condition, a distinguishing phenomena, a state.

I think that’s code for ‘we have no idea.’ We know a lot, but we don’t know that. We can create a lot, but we can’t create that.

For the Christian, it’s profound, but not so difficult to understand. Life is the unique, breathed out, creative power of God. He gives it, and he takes it away, and we just exist within it and watch.

 

 

 

 

You’re not as good as anyone thinks

If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be copyI care a lot what people think of me, which is why this quote by Spurgeon hit home so much. When you care what people think, much of your pride can get tied up in having a good reputation.

How often do we find ourselves annoyed, angry or even crushed when we discover that somebody thinks badly of us? It reflects a lot about how we view ourselves.

First, we are all prone to believe that we are, on balance, good people (and we defy anyone to suggest otherwise.)

Second, we value so much what others think that we work hard at portraying an image of ourselves that is even better than what we know ourselves to be.

We are quite happy for people to think more highly of us than they ought, but are indignant if they think less of us.

Spurgeon flings aside our flimsy façade and dashes our misplaced pride. Someone thinks badly of you? Don’t be angry, they’ve got it wrong. You’re actually far worse.

Don’t we forget that this is such a key aspect of the Gospel? Yes we have incredible value, but our standards for measuring our own ‘goodness,’ aren’t even close to the mark. In fact, we fall so far short of the actual standard that it is only by a phenomenal act of grace that we have attained any righteousness at all.

Truly we are not as good as we, or as anyone, thinks. But Jesus is far better, and, praise God, he’s got us covered.