Tuesday, May 29, 2007

quote from flanagan

as i've mentioned previously,  i hold that richard flanagan(australian writer from tasmania) is one of the most gifted authors today and clearly one of my favorites.   i highly recommend the two books i've read by him - "gould's book of fish" and "the sound of one hand clapping."   from the latter book, i share this quote because he somehow (not being a refugee himself) captures the pathos and perspective of one who has suffered much, lost everything and is without an identity or a place to belong -

"The unadorned electric bulb above their heads burnt like the wordless things they carried in their hearts.  She tried not to see them: these men who had loved other places faraway and had loved other people either long dead or as good as long dead for all the contact they would ever know again with one another, so their strong talk avoided talking about any matter of strength, any matter to deal with love, or, for that matter, hate.  She tried not to hear them: their babble about lust and grog and work and other empty matters in such violent language to give each other but chiefly themselves the impression that what they were talking about mattered, that they might have some measure of power over it, that it might be life, and that they had not already died.  They drank the moon down and the sun up, but in truth they belonged no more to the night than to day.  They were lost in time, as they were in everything."

Monday, May 28, 2007

Phillip Island


a couple of hours drive south-east of melbourne, phillip island is our family's traditional place for relaxation.  it's a very quiet and beautiful holiday village to spend a weekend and go fishing or surfing, to watch the little penguins return from southern oceans or pat a kangaroo.  it was nice last weekend to spend a couple of days down there and re-live some family memories together while introducing the next generation to the island.



hobart, tasmania

our wedding anniversary weekend in hobart was perfect.  we had three days and two nights in this small colonial port and we enjoyed every minute.


hobart is a strangely exotic city - it is mythical, mysterious and the last tip of australia before antarctica.  as an island, not only does tasmania offer a real sense of isolation, but literally it is almost the end of the world.  the wind that blows up and the penguins that appear on its shores arrive from the south pole. 

tasmania's history is fascinating and tragic - one of violence, young prisoners, and the slaughter of almost all its aboriginal population.  it's flora and fauna are particularly indigenous and stunning within the already rare and strange indigenous australia.  as we landed in hobart, with the early morning light and the tree-covered mountains shrouded in mist, i felt like we were being dropped off in the middle of lord of the rings.  we've both read and loved the works of richard flanagan (possibly one of the best authors of our time, who is from tasmania) and upon arriving, it seemed as if the elements of this dark and haunted place must have been wrapped up in his flesh and come out in his words.


we spent three days walking, eating and reading.  we walked the neighborhoods of the battery which were lined with historic cottages and flourishing english gardens.  we strolled through the shops with hand made crafts from gum tree and huon pine woods.  the food was unmatched in quality and freshness. we ate smoked salmon, oysters, eggs benedict, local organic bread, sushi, croissants from a true patisserie, trevally, local cheddar, king island brie, and good dark chocolate.  we read the weekend papers from front to back and both enjoyed australian novels.


most of all, we gave thanks and celebrated our seven years together.  we relished what is sometimes a hardship of our marriage - two cultures, two distant countries.  it was good to remember our days and even better to look forward to our future, and to do it all in such a majestic place.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

urban seed

a couple of weeks ago we visited a brilliant missional community/initiative called 'urban seed.' they are located in the heart of the city's CBD. we had visited before (7 years ago and then 4 years ago), and in terms of addressing issues of urban poverty from a gospel perspective, this collective is the best we have seen. for a more detailed run-down of urban seed, see this website.

we met with the director, mark pierson, and then gathered with some volunteers, staff and homeless folk for the credo cafe service which is always followed by a lunch. over the years the community has generated some great, local art and writings. during the fellowship gathering we were all given a folder containing songs and prayers, many of which had been written by people from urban seed. this 'credo benediction' was typical of the simple, elegant, and indigenous writings that have emerged in this place like a blade of grass through concrete:

credo benediction

may god, who is completely dependable, help us to trust him, grow wiser, and learn that his answers are best.

even in the midst of the concrete jungle, may we know that we can discover jesus' love, life, safety, and peace.

national sorry day

40 years ago this week aboriginal australians were given full citizenship rights in their own country.  no, not a typo.  the people who have lived in this southern land for 40,000 years were only given voting and other rights four decades ago - about 180 years after white 'settlers' came here.  unbelievably aboriginals were not counted in the national census statistics till 1967.  see this story for some more history.


this weekend also marks the annual 'national sorry day' - a day when australians observe a collective lament for the injustice visited upon aboriginal people. 

on saturday isaac, sherry and i attended a public gathering in the city.  it was a special gathering because of the two occasions mentioned above and it was also the commencement of 'the long walk' - an annual (four-year-old) advocacy walk from melbourne to canberra.


it was a very moving experience to stand with hundreds of others in a public square.  to ponder the horrible violence visited upon this land and its original inhabitants.  to smell the burning gum leaves.  to hear a group of aboriginal men sing a song of reconciliation.  to look around at the faces of aboriginal men and women and wonder about the horror of their experiences as part of the 'stolen generation'.

we were humbled and honored by this experience.  it was also a rare pleasure to hear one of australia's great singer/songwriter's, Archie Roach, sing.  our prayer, on this day of pentecost, is for the confession, forgiveness, and healing of australia's racial divide.


Friday, May 18, 2007

anniversary in hobart

we are off this morning (saturday) very early for our flight to hobart, tasmania.  we will spend two nights in this historic port city to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

kev is 60


dad turned 60 yesterday.  we had a good family day down the coast.  coffee in queenscliff, fish'n'chips at point lonsdale, back home for freddo frog ice cream cake.  a good day.





Wednesday, May 16, 2007

dad's birthday and the DNA of faith

it is a special birthday for my dad this week.  he turns 60.  it is good that he can have his three kids with him to mark the occassion.  for all of us to be together in australia for the first time in over a decade is a nice gift as he enters into his 60's.  i was thinking about how grateful i am for his faithfulness to Jesus.  of course, i am glad to carry dad's DNA but even more privileged to walk in the line of faith that was taught to him by his parents.  i have been learning more and more about how dad's parents came to walk in the ways of Jesus.  my dad's mum (nana) was greatly influenced by her mother's faith (sara).  sara was a fire-and-brimstone apostolic preacher in western australia during the depression.  she was seriously comitted to the study of scripture, a fact born out by the meticulous notes throughout her old bibles.  my nana's brother was also a big influence on her.  this man taught himself greek and hebrew and eventually got a job grading ancient language students at a university.  with very little formal education he was the poster child for 'self taught.'

on my grandfather's side, things were a little different.  my dad's dad (andrew) was raised in a nominally christian family.  it appears that their main motivation in life was the aquisition of wealth and land.  andrew's introduction to the radical ways of Jesus came via an old chinese man.  this gentleman lived across the valley from my grandfather and as a little boy andrew would wander over for visits.  chinese immigration was common in the early and middle parts of the 19th century - the australian gold rush.  after the gold had dried up this particluar chinese man had turned his hand to a market-garden, raising vegetables for sale in the town of yackandandah.  apparently this gardener would smoke his opium pipe and tell the stories of Jesus to my grandfather. 

i love to think about these strands of DNA faith.  i'm glad to know about this chinese missionary who taught my grandfather about jesus.  my grandfather went on to live and speak a life that inspired my dad, and my father, in his 61st year, continues to live according to the life of Jesus in such a way that i am also enamored with gospel faithfulness.  i love the fact that within our family we can celebrate the translation of Jesus across china and australian countryside  in the 19th century, to the city of melbourne in the 20th century, and into the united states in the 21st century.

some pics

a few pictures from the past week...


ice cream on mother's day


melbourne skyline at dusk


ferris wheel by the river in melbourne


walking to the city from the MCG (after the footy)


same again

bathroom conversation

tonight, as i brushed isaac's teeth, i said to him

"let me get them nice and clean"

to which he requested "let me check your teeth...oh, they're yellow."

then he went on to say "let me check your hair."

i said, "my hair is nice and clean, you can see I've got curls today."

he looked at me for a moment and said "oh, i do too."


the other night geoff was rousing at him to get ready for bed and brush his teeth.  isaac said, "i don't need to because they are already yellow."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

home sweet home

we had a lovely, comforting chat to our close friends, will and lisa samson, from lexington kentucky.  thanks to skype and webcams, we could see one another laugh and gesture as the conversation unfolded.  it soothed our homesickness a bit to see the familiar surrounds of their charming historic home in the backdrop.  we know the place well and it holds treasured memories for us all.  we caught up about all sorts of things.  most importantly, we reminded one another why we're in this life and that we are in it together.  their commitment stirred us and we realized that it is a future hope that binds us, a vision of the kingdom come in that place we love, and we anticipate the homecoming in september.

Monday, May 14, 2007

footy - geoff's take on the day

it was a fantastic day as the collingwood magpies had a convincing win over those brutal thugs from the carlton football club. i have dearly missed seeing my team play...it is almost 9 years since i left these shores for my new home in kentucky and missing out on AFL is one of the things this foreigner misses. to be here for a footy season is such a treat.

saturday's game had all the best parts of our national game...high-flying marks, long goal kicking, bone-crunching clashes between players, and two clubs who have been bitter rivals for over a century playing on australia's most famous sporting arena. and then there was the 'biffo', the 'barney', the 'argy-bargy', the 'foot-brawl', the sometimes unpleasant but always entertaining intensity when passion spills over into wresting and the occasional 'cut-lunch' (punch) being thrown and landed. Sherry was disgusted (she is afterall a southern belle) while the other 76,999 of us pagan-convict-stock-antipodeans were thrilled at the spectacle. it must be said here that, although quite a few punches thrown, and while some blood was spilt on the playing surface, the players finished the game shaking hands with one another and grinning with tired gladness. this is a nice part of aussie culture - sporting foes tearing one another's heads off during the game but enjoying a beer and a chat afterwards.

it was a memorable day for us and we are most grateful to our hosts, phil and dan mccredden (check out their blog here). apart from being wonderful married couple, kingdom servants, serious thinkers and leaders in the church, they are true family in the collingwood sense. go pies!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

missing mom

on this mother's day, i feel particularly sad about being away from my mom.  we don't necessarily spend each mother's day with her, but it is the comfort of proximity.  this year, we are so far away.  during church, geoff's dad, kevin, shared during communion about the motherly love of god.  he reminded us of the description of jesus as a hen that longs to gather in her chicks.  he shared a story of a canadian farmer - a fire burned rapidly across the plains and in the aftermath, in the ashes, he found a burnt fowl of some kind.  the farmer kicked the bird to see if it was truly dead and beneath it found her chicks alive.  i thought of all my mother's prayers, her sacrifices, her example as a servant and her love for us and how little i've actually appreciated her.


in the book "gilead" i read this passage and it moved me as i think my own brief experience of being the mother of isaac (almost four years now) -

"I'd never have believed I'd see a wife of mine doting on a child of mine.  It still amazes me every time I think of it.  I'm writing this in part to tell you that if you ever wonder what you've done in your life, and everyone does wonder sooner or later, you have been God's grace to me, a miracle, something more than a miracle."

Saturday, May 12, 2007



saturday, we had the pleasure and privilege of attending a collingwood footy match with friends from forge.  phil and his wife dan are die hard, lifetime fans of collingwood and he is also a member of the melbourne cricket club, the original cricket grounds where events like concerts and footy now take place.  it is quite a prestigious membership to hold with something like a 30 year waiting list.  geoff even had to wear a collared shirt for admittance.

it was a riveting game between collingwood and their most loathsome rival, carlton.  i'm not even a supporter and i could barely stand it.  there were two things i wished i'd had during the game - a beta-blocker for me and a syringe of full-strength estrogen for the unbearable fan in front of me.  the match began with all kinds of unfair, unsportsmanlike punches and shoves and it seemed i was the only one indignant about it.  aussies love a good row.  between first and second quarter, there was full on pandemonium as the two teams clashed in the middle of the field (which resulted in embarrassment for the coaches and fines for the players).  i was almost a wreck.  and, collingwood was losing.

the second half of the match was outstanding, not only because the pies came from behind to take the lead, but there was some beautiful football played.  by this time, i could relax enough to make note of my surrounds.  the nearby fans were interesting - i've already mentioned the vulgar one in front.  the family next to him had fans for both teams and they seemed to be really good sports about it.  the man, and his family, next to me were lovely.  he seemed to be a dedicated, working-class fan of collingwood, but he was so unusually gentle.  every once and awhile i would here him softly say "c'mon pies, stay with it."  i loved him. 

as an outsider, i listened to the undulating sounds of the crowd as if i was hearing a foreign language.  in unison they would cry out, or boo, or cheer and i had no idea why.  i could follow the basics of the game, but there was so much of this cultural event that escaped me.  and i couldn't help but think of my own love for college football in the u.s. and my passion for the u. of a. crimson tide (don't laugh jodie). 

Thursday, May 10, 2007

a full day ahead

at 4 a.m. we were both awake with the weight of the day and a lengthy to do list floating between us.  we celebrate that the house is full of sleeping bodies that have arrived from africa and the u.s. 

narelle and her girls, rachel and megan, came in last night from johannesburg, as sandy returned north from sydney to papua new guinea.  brad flew in from l.a. in the morning and passed through his beloved melbourne before arriving home.  he hasn't been here in four years.  the maddock family hasn't all been together on australian soil in a decade.  it was seven years ago that they were last together for our wedding, may 2000, in marietta, georgia.  it is quite a family reunion.

today, we have alot going on.  because we are overdue to write our monthly newsletter to our families, friends, supporters, we're awake with foggy heads doing our best to reflect on the fullness of this past month - so much to say...  in addition, we are scrambling, ill-prepared, for a talk we're giving today at a seminary in melbourne - kingsley college.  we will travel with daz to have lunch with students and share with them about the learning process of "planting and growing a missional community."  in the afternoon, we have a meeting with the head of the mission dept at whitley to discuss forge accreditation.  we hope to get some reading in during the late afternoon (directed theological study from mary fisher), then join forge friends (and lots of people we don't know) at a pub near vic market to celebrate and say good-bye to alan and deb hirsch.  they leave for the states in about three weeks.  each day we are grateful, though sometimes weary, for this time together in australia and the rich, character-forming experience that it is. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

the value of a phone call

using skype (what a great thing) i called my dear friend aida in lexington.  we have been friends since the end of 2000 when she and her husband were resettled in kentucky from sarajevo.  we've been through significant, life-changing events together over the years and we love one another as family.

we hadn't spoken since her birthday in february and it was such a comfort to hear her voice again.  she told me she keeps up with us every day on this blog and it made me smile to think of it.  the days we don't post she said she is sad.  we talked, eagerly catching up, as if we were sitting over lunch.  we spoke of  our time in australia, of her family and their new home, of gas prices and the economy in the u.s. and how much we miss one another.  still in my pajamas, i had to race to get dressed and on to a meeting.  my day started with my heart elsewhere.

Monday, May 7, 2007

back to fiction

after a month of reading lots of theology and non-fiction stuff, i went to the library yesterday desperate to get a good book of literature. i love reading fiction and this stretch has been the longest in recent years that i haven't been taken in night after night by a story.  i brought home "gilead" by marilynne robinson. it is an eloquently written book - a letter from a father to his son before he dies.  maybe it's like coming off a fast when a saltine cracker tastes like heaven, (of course this book is no saltine cracker - winner of the pulitzer prize in 2005), but this was my experience of its opening paragraph:

"I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I'm old, and you said, I don't think you're old.  And you put your hand in my hand and you said, You aren't very old, as if that settled it.  I told you you might have a very different life from mine, and from the life you've had with me, and that would be a wonderful thing, there are many ways to live a good life.  And you said, Mama already told me that.  And then you said, Don't laugh! because you thought I was laughing at you.  You reached up and put your fingers on my lips and gave me that look I never in my life saw on any other face besides your mother's.  It's a kind of furious pride, very passionate and stern.  I'm always a little surprised to find my eyebrows unsinged after I've suffered one of those looks.  I will miss them."

Saturday, May 5, 2007

our new favorite show

we've really gotten into a british "foodie" show this month called "come dine with me."  it is a reality series that is based on the selection of five amateur chefs per week who cook and serve up a multi-course dinner in his/her home for the four other contestants.  they take turns each night of the week and at the end, the winning participant gets 1000 pounds.  the five each vote on one another at the end of every evening and the one with the highest score wins.  they are ruthless and catty as anything.  during the event, the person on the spot anxiously prepares food while the others wander around the house, snooping to finding odd and suspect items while making fun of everything they see.  the producers must screen these people to make sure of three things - one, that none of them can actually cook; two, that they are wickedly judgmental; and three, that each is eccentric at best, a bit scary at worst.  it makes for excellent entertainment and after one night, you're hooked for the week.

see this link

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

time at the mall

so yesterday we were a bit weary. we woke early to do a few hours of work and then decided, as morale waned, hey - let's go to the mall as a family. we headed down to werribee plaza, a place even further south of melbourne than where we are, a kind of a small country town on the outskirts.

at the mall, we wandered aimlessly as isaac ran about. at one point (and this tells gives a measure of our low point of the day) geoff lined up in the food court at kfc to get isaac something to eat. isaac and i were sitting to the side watching people pass. isaac pointed geoff's way and said "i love that guy" and i said, "yes, your daddy, i love him too." then isaac quickly corrected me and said "no, not him...him, the guy in the red." i look beyond geoff to see that isaac is pointing to and declaring his love for an image of colonel sanders.

a little while later as i was coming out of a shop, i found isaac on a stage in the middle of the mall. he was running up and down doing all his best superman moves, wearing his superman shirt no less. there was only a small crowd gathered, two or three mums with their children. the women were commenting on how cute isaac was. i looked over at one of their kids and he's a full on "ranga" - aussie slang for a red-head, originating from orangutan - and he's standing up in the trolley with a naked hot dog half-eaten in his hand wearing a pair of pink shoes. i wasn't quite as self-conscious of isaac after that.