Don’t ban the books! (thank goodness many people don’t read)

It’s 12.10am on a school night and I won’t sleep for a while. I feel a tight, choking feeling in my body as though I want to vomit, but not from my stomach, from my mind. I just read something that I can’t unread, and therefore saw something I can’t unsee.

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Books have a long history as sacred vehicles that transcend mortality and carry the human intellect from one generation to the next. What could have been lost from the past is not lost, because we have books. Their sacred position in society means that their destruction is a mark of corruption. The burning of books has symbolised tyranny and the banning of books is the oppression of ideas.

Censorship, when it comes to books, is a dirty word, but tonight I am wondering this: if we outlaw child pornography, criminalizing even its possession, then how can we allow it to exist in books?

I haven’t read the controversial Lolita, but after what I did read tonight, hidden unsuspectingly at the three-quarter mark of my novel, I fear for those who want this kind of content uncensored.

There is great evil in the world and we must be aware of it, but to read the first-person narrative of someone utterly perverse causes you to momentarily adopt their perversion.

I cannot call for the banning of the books, but tonight, I’m glad that not so many people read. I fear for a society that has that filth in their heads.

Why no one should have been shocked that Trump won.

This last week has been the most fascinating week in international politics that I’ve seen. Donald Trump, the guy we all laughed about, actually won.man-with-mouth-taped-shut

The fallout has been extraordinary. Opinions and emotions run high as the western world teeters on the brink. The unthinkable has happened, and suddenly the future is unpredictable.

On the radio after the election, I heard an American assert his belief that everyone was shocked. Even the Trump supporters weren’t expecting a victory. I found myself wondering: how could this happen?

It’s not the first time. People were shocked over Brexit, and continue to be shocked over our own Australian election results. Surely these things should be predictable?

I see one key reason why they’re not: people convey different opinions in the quiet safety of the polling booth, from those they’re willing to own on the street.

The leftist ‘majority’ is consistently stunned when votes swing to the right; they’re left floundering, wondering how the results could be wrong. Well maybe they’re not wrong. Maybe those of the right-wing persuasion aren’t saying what they think, or maybe the media isn’t reporting it.

Maybe a whole portion of our society is being shut up (because they’re not P.C.) and it’s creating an illusion of consensus that just isn’t right. The thing about democracy, though, is that this silent multitude still gets to vote, and they’re shocking the world when they do.

The shock shouldn’t have happened, because, had we listened, we would’ve known it was coming.

When we’ll concede salvation, but not honour

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As Christians, we know that God saves those who don’t deserve it. It is often with joy (and sometimes indignation) that we will admit that a person could live the most awful life, committing the most heinous of sins, and still be offered forgiveness and salvation on their death beds.

Many life-long Christians, some of whom the world would consider to be morally flawless, will even concede that they are no more deserving of salvation than the murderer or adulterer or even the paedophile.

Honour, though? That is something different.

I’ve been thinking about Paul. Here is a man, who was one of the chief persecutors of Christians, and yet became the best known, and most honoured of the apostles.

What of those precious saints that he once tortured or killed? Stephen’s name we know, but most others we don’t. Sure, they are honoured in heaven, but on earth it is not their names that have gone down in history, but the name of their tormentor.

Sometimes God saves those who are least deserving, and then brings them honour in this life above those who it seems have been faithful all along. The truly righteous person will not resent this. They will be so consumed by the glory and will of God that they care not who brings the Word, or who receives the honour, as long as Christ is preached.

May I learn to honour others above myself, and Jesus above all.

The Smashed Avocado Debate – My take, in 250 words

avocade-toast-web-42-1080x675A recent article in The Australian, by Bernard Salt, has set the internet on fire in what is becoming an increasingly tiresome war between the generations.

He took a stab at ‘millennials’ saying that if they forewent hipster foods like ‘Avocado on Toast’ at $22 a pop, then maybe they’d be able to afford a house.

The millenials, naturally, have erupted with the damning eloquence of post-hipster university students, doing the math and claiming they’d have to save their avocado toast money for a decade to afford a deposit.

Clearly, both are missing the point.

Salt’s patronising tone offers little to a1408021947_8_1 generation struggling to afford even a tiny piece of the Australian dream. Housing prices have risen astronomically since my parents bought their first 3 bedroom house for two-and-a-half years’ salary back in 1984. When I bought my two-bedroom unit on a postage stamp of land, it cost me five years salary.

Many millenials, however, have also missed Salt’s main point; that things that are common place now, were luxuries 40 years ago, and that just because your parents can afford it now, doesn’t mean you deserve it. Millennials need to learn that IKEA isn’t cheap and that new or matching furniture is an earned luxury. Smashed avocado brunches or cocktail nights at that copper-lantern-bar cost money that people didn’t used to spend.

The small things do add up… maybe not to a house deposit, but to other forms of investment that will get you there in the end.

I’m 30, so I only do what I’m good at (or: Swing Dancing out of my comfort zone.)

jon-heder-can-still-do-the-napoleon-dynamite-danceI went to a swing dancing class.

I signed up a month ago in a moment of impulsive bravery. While learning to dance has been on my bucket list for ages, I’d never been courageous enough to take the plunge.

The night of the class crept up on me faster than I’d expected. Driving in, I could feel the nerves buzzing through my body and had to actively concentrate on calming myself.

I was surprised how scared I was. As a kid, I was the nervous type, wrapping my comfort zone around me like a fleecy blanket, but I’ve come so far since then! I’ve traveled the world and jumped out of a plane and I’m no stranger to arriving at a party by myself. And yet, here I was, ready to bail on a simple dance class.

My friend was surprised to see me so nervous, and I realized how protective we can be of ourselves as adults. I’m usually a fairly confident and self-assured person, because I usually only choose to do things that are in my comfort zone. Anything that requires coordination (or any kind of team sport) terrifies me, so for most of my adult life, I’ve avoided it. And here I was, about to clumsily step on the feet of a dozen strangers.

Turns out it was far less scary than I’d thought and I’m definitely keen to go back. I keep hearing the phrase ‘get comfortable with being uncomfortable.’ Maybe it’s time I did.

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(Apparently I’ll be like this in no time.)

 

 

The reason for the wind

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One of my Facebook friends recently posted, “I really hate the wind. And what obvious purpose does it even serve?!”

I don’t hate the wind, but for those who do, I can see it is a legitimate question. The fact is though, that wind serves a very important purpose for trees. While it may appear that the wind mostly batters trees, they actually need it. Experiments have been done that show that trees grown in controlled, wind-free environments are weak and underdeveloped. The wind forces trees to spread their roots deep into the ground, strengthening them and enabling them to draw out water and nutrients.

It’s such a great metaphor for human life. How often have I lamented the things that I hate in my life; the things that hurt or make me feel weak or battered? How often do I miss the fact that it is these very things, subject in themselves to the hand of the Almighty, that are causing me to grow deep and strengthen and mature?

It is not wrong to grieve over pain, but we must not feel overcome by it. It can be viewed as a beautiful, strengthening device.

I love these lyrics from David Crowder: “He is jealous for me. Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.”

There is beauty and mercy and love, even in pain. You are stronger than you think, and it’s probably the wind that got you there.

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When you’re wrong for getting it right

This is a post about champagne, which I know nothing about.

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It’s also a post about language, which I know a little bit about.

Ultimately, though, it’s about confusion.

As a non-alcohol drinker, I have learned to approach names with caution. While names like merlot, sauvignon blanc and cognac are easy to say when you know how they’re supposed to sound, there lies a gap between reading and pronouncing that is fraught with potentially embarrassing moments.

It’s this need for vigilance that made my ears prick up some months ago when I heard a friend pronounce Moët, ‘mow-ay.’ Feeling grateful that she’d just saved me from the embarrassment of every referring to ‘Mowett’, I determined to remember it.

Today, however, I happened across an article that informed me that Moët should be pronounced with a hard ‘t.’ First, because its full name is Moët et Chadon (and in French that means the ‘t’ is pronounced) but, more importantly, because the word is not French at all, but actually Dutch.

So Moët actually rhymes with poet, and I have myself a dilemma. To pronounce it correctly and have people around me think I’m a fool, or to say it wrong with everyone else? The solution is easy. I survived 30 years without having to say it at all; I can surely survive another 30.

But I’ll be a bit more compassionate to all those foreigners who keep saying Mel-bourne, when we all know it’s Mel-bun.moet-et-chandon-champagne-bottle-with-watermark

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.