The other day I was walking around Gwelup lake with Libby, our beautiful slightly mad golden retriever. The lake is just wonderful at the moment, full of water and wild life, and lots and lots of birds. It is an oasis amidst the crazy and chaotic busyness of our lives. Currently the Rainbow Bee Eater is breeding and because they make their nests in shallow ground fencing has been erected to protect them. They are a beautiful bird and I was eager to get a photo. Not so easily done! They usually keep out of sight, but just occasionally they can be found sitting on the barrier near their nests. So every day this past week I have been quietly and patiently waiting for the moment, and the moment finally came. There was one on the fence! I was thrilled, and managing to stay very quiet I inched up to her (or him?) and took a photo. Not one that would win any award, but I was pretty pleased. Interestingly though, in the process of waiting to see the Rainbow Bee Eater, I have become more acutely aware of the trees, and the lake, and the other bird life. Not to mention the setting sun, the rising moon and the incredible sounds. Suddenly these walks are not just for Libby, but for me, and brings to life something I read from Mary Oliver …..
Instructions for living a life
Tell about it
Yep, I have done all three, and have been enriched for the experience!
Aphorism is dictionary defined as “a short saying embodying a general truth”. I have a penchant for aphorisms and had a number of them attached to the wall in front of my first student desk. One of them was “It’s amazing how much you have to know before you know how little you know”. Of later days I have been impressed with one by Richard Rohr : “Jesus gives us real eyes to realise where the real lies”. Another that has been pivotal for my spiritual bent is “God is not a being but the ground of our being.” It is probably attributable to Paul Tillich whom if memory serves me right gave us the classic “One cannot grasp the future but one can be grasped by it”. Another noteworthy aphorism, which I associate with a murder in a cathedral, is “To do the right thing for the wrong reason is the greatest treason”.
The fact that the source of some aphorisms are identifiable and some are not set me thinking the other day whether I have any aphorisms to contribute to the human story. I can think of two through which I might enter aphoristic history. I think they are original but recognise that such a claim can well be an expression of ignorance.
The first is religious in nature. “Creation is in the future and we are called to love it into being.” This ties in with my current metaphor for God as the desire for fulfilment that exists in every living creature. It also references Jesus of Nazareth as one concerned with “fullness of life” (John 10:10)
The second resulted from a long discussion with one of my spiritual mentors “When you take a part of the truth and make it the whole truth it ceases to be the truth”. There was a good example of this a few weeks ago. The Catalyst programme on the ABC ran a session questioning the extensive use of anti cholesterol drugs today. They maintained that it was an example of bad science in that it considered only the evidence supporting the theory and disregarded the evidence that opposed it. The programme asserted that just because cholesterol is present in heart failure doesn’t mean that it caused the heart failure. . As one of the presenters said “Because firemen are found at the scene of fires doesn’t mean they caused it”. The reaction to the programme was predictable in so far as anti cholesterol drugs are the main stay of many pharmaceutical companies, and the Heart Foundation supports the use of anti cholesterol drugs. Norman Swan, as might be expected, also got into the picture and pointed out that other factors such as diabetes, blood pressure etc enter into the question of primary risk factor. The programme for me was a good example of my aphorism ‘When you take a part of the truth and make it the whole truth it ceases to be the truth.
A personal note on which to conclude. Do I then cease taking the statins recently described by my doctor? I have decided to cease taking them but not because of any of the reasons stated in the debate. At eighty four years of age and having friends deeply affected by dementia, I have decided that a heart attack may well be a preferable way to go! On the other hand, in stopping statins it may well be that I will contribute to vascular dementia. It really is amazing how much you have to know before how little you know!
After seeing a post by my friend Dennis on facebook (see his blog on wondering pilgrim) from the Wayside Chapel, I was prompted to revisit something I wrote last year….
I love the radio. Particularly I love Radio National. No matter what time of the day or night it always has something interesting being talked about, or someone amazing being interviewed. I love the guests that Phillip Adams seems to attract, perhaps because of his clear leftish tendencies, people who seems to care about others, particularly others not so well off.
One person who really made an impression on me was Matt Noffs, the grandson of the legendary Uniting Church minister, Ted Noffs. Ted Noffs founded The Wayside Chapel in 1964 in the heart of Sydney`s red light district of Kings Cross. He established drug referral and rehabilitation centres for the first time there as well as helping the city`s poor and needy. In the decades since Ted`s death his oldest son, Wesley, and now his grandsons, Rupert and Matt, run the `family business`, the Ted Noffs Foundation, forging new ways of reaching out to today`s youth. This includes a street university in Sydney where young people can come and engage in activities needed to grow and develop. While now seen as secular, in that it is not linked to any particular church or religion the foundation has its roots firmly in the Christian gospel of social action and care for the poor and marginalised and reflects the work and faith of its founder.
Ted Noffs used to say: `I am a Christian, I am a Catholic, I am a Protestant, I am a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am a Jew, I am a Sikh, I am an Agnostic and I am an Atheist. But first and foremost I am a human being and no one in this world is a stranger to me.` His motto, Love yourself and others as they are saw the practical side of religion take centre stage. Over time he developed the `Family of Humanity` a belief that transcended all boundaries of belief, all ideas of barriers of class and socio economic status and put him on a collision course with his own church.
And he suffered terribly. He was charged with heresy not just once but a number of times as well as being accused of harbouring drug addicts and criminals and of being God forbid a non Christian.
Yet I believe Ted Noffs was closer to Jesus’ message than what is often heard from the church today. The thing that is amazing is that his children and grandchildren are carrying his message to the community in which they live and work. The seeds Ted planted have grown widely and wildly, into a second and third generation of love for others. Like a mustard seed, if you know the story..
The Wayside Chapel also continues the work he started, speaking out for those without a voice. Below is the post from Dennis from the current minister ….
Today I did the most ridiculous thing. I was having a breakfast meeting at a local bakery, my new office away from my office. I could have parked anywhere, yet I parked right in a bay where someone had spilled a container of sticky strawberry something, all over the ground, a pool of muck just waiting for someone to stand in it. I saw it there and thought, right I will avoid walking on that and did a good job even though it was the near the back door of the car. So off I went to my breaky, meeting clergy from around our area for a lovely social chitchat. Of course you can see what is going to happen, I return in rather a mellow mood only to go to the rear door and step right into the strawberry mess. Rats!!! My shoes are now stuck to the pavement and every time I step I bring with me a gob of strawberry stuff. In the car my shoes stick to the accelerator and brake pedal and I notice when I get to work every pebble I have walked on is there on the soles of my shoes. What an idiot, how could I have been so stupid. One little mistake almost ruins my day and my shoes!
Yet we all make mistakes, some small and some not so small. As I was driving to work after the shoe incident I listened to a women recount a story about her mother. Nineteen years ago her mother, then 59 went through a red light and was hit by a four wheel drive with a bull bar side on. Apart from serious physical injuries, she was also without oxygen for a time and suffered irreparable brain damage, with the result much like a stroke. After almost a year in hospital she was cared for at home by her family, at a high emotional and financial cost, such that the children remortgaged homes and all the family’s savings and superannuation were wiped out. While I didn’t hear the end of the story I think it is a sobering one. It is a reminder that one mistake can have huge implications of both the person involved and those around them.
Yes, we all make mistakes every day, some as trivial as mine and some with huge and often fatal consequences, like this poor woman. We all make mistakes and we all need forgiveness about those mistakes. If Christianity is about anything it is about forgiveness and transformation, starting again when there seems no possible way out of the mess quite often we ourselves have made. Jesus did not come to condemn but to save, and not to save for some other life but to save for this life. He shows us that by forgiving one another we are able to reconnect, and to recover, by forgiving one another a spark of light breaks through where there is only darkness and despair. He shows us that forgiveness is a gift from the God of creation that can change lives and communities. The woman from the car accident was not abandoned for her mistake, and was loved and supported until the end by her family at great cost. I managed to get over my irritation about my stupidity and move on. Sometimes forgiving ourselves is the hardest thing of all.
Forgiveness is needed in the world, for others or for ourselves. It is a daily ritual as essential as breathing. But if we practise it we will know one of the secrets of the universe. That there is always the possibility of a new day, for all of us!
This is my first ever blog on our new webpage, We have a dream too. It is the brainchild of two people, one who has been active in social justice and the peace movement all his life, and one who is trying!!! We have a dream that faith in the life and teachings of Jesus can make a difference in the world, and make a difference to those in the world with very little. We believe this faith can be a transforming faith, in which the God of love, justice and peace revealed in Jesus can also be revealed in us. There are many in history who have attempted to bring about this type of transformation, and as the name of our blog suggests Martin Luther King is one of our inspirations, but there are many, both within the church and outside of it. We will bring you reflections of faith and christianity, not just from us but from others, reflections on the progressive movement within our own faith and in other faith traditions, and commentary on political, social and environmental issues that affect the world we all live in and to which we are called to respond. And maybe we might bring the odd joke or too!
Well here goes……