Bad News Week

This week hasn’t been a good news week for women. A lady in the Sudan is on death row because she became a Christian. Her mother is Christian and her father is Muslim. She married a Christian man and converted. That action earned her the death penalty. She wasn’t executed straight away because she was 8 months pregnant with her second child. The authorities have been “gracious” and have “kindly” allowed her to give birth first. She can nurse the child (a girl) for two years and then she will be executed. Her little boy is living in the jail with her. Her husband isn’t allowed to visit. I cannot imagine what this lady must be feeling but I imagine it is a living nightmare for her and her family. In Pakistan another young lady was stoned to death by family members because she dared to marry for love instead of accepting an arranged marriage. Sometimes these arranged marriages brings the wife’s family financial benefits, which they would have missed out on when she made her own choice. She was three months pregnant when she was killed. This week a woman in Iran – a rape victim – will be hanged unless she agrees to withdraw the assault charges on the men concerned. And, Iran has a seat on the UN Commission for the Status of Women! Here in South Australia, a lady I know wrote a blog this week about the culture of silence within our community – including the church – that allows the sexual, emotional and physical abuse of women to continue. If a woman dares to speak up, to challenge the man who is mistreating her, more often than not she is accused of being over-emotional or pushy or a trouble-maker. After all, boys will be boys, right? She should be flattered to receive the attention. This woman wrote out of her own experience as well as the shared stories of many other women she knows. The only people who seem shocked to hear this are the more fair-minded and honourable men, who actually give a damn. Women aren’t at all surprised to hear it. This week we also heard the findings of the investigation into the Australian Catholic Church’s handling of child abuse cases. A number of church officials will be charged – thank God – and, unsurprisingly, the Church was found to have spent its energies on suppressing information and protecting the abuser, rather than helping and compensating the victims. The only way I can explain how this has come about is that the Catholic Church has become an institutional entity that is more concerned with image and prestige than it is with its founding principles. My denomination has strict Duty of Care guidelines in place. All those involved in work with children and young people have to have a police check and have to be trained in appropriate behaviour. There are a lot of boundaries in place, which protect both the children and the workers. Why couldn’t the Catholic church do the same? At least the new Pope seems to have his head on the right way. Why do so many men hate and fear women? Why do people abuse children? I cannot comprehend it apart from the Biblical understanding that “the human heart is a wicked thing”.  I am so sorry that I know many men and women who have been abused. I send them my love and prayers for healing and restoration, and I challenge all of us to keep our eyes and ears peeled and to be ready to speak up if we notice anything wrong. As for Iran being on the Commission into the Status of Women, I can only hope and pray that they will learn something from their fellow members and that their medieval attitude towards women won’t sway the decisions of the Commission. I am thankful that I know men and women who have hearts full of grace, mercy and compassion. And, thank goodness for butterflies, rainbows, kittens, puppies, horses and giraffes, flowers and the ocean and all the other things that still make this world a beautiful place, or I reckon a number of us would be tempted to leave.  ...

Read More

A mixed-feelings sort of day

It’s the crack of dawn (9.15 am) and I’ve been up since 8. I’ve been awake since 7.00 but I kept hoping sleep would reclaim me. We’re having a garage sale. I’ve discovered that there are an inordinate amount of people who are loud and cheerful, very early in the morning. They are an alien species to me. The Old Boy’s parents have both moved into a nursing home/aged care facility and our living areas have been chokkas with their furniture, contents of their bookcases and other bits and pieces. We’ve managed to sell some of it for them by advertising in the paper. Now, today, we’re hoping (praying) we’ll unload the rest. We’re also taking advantage of the moment and have stripped our bookcases back to single rows of books on the shelves. We’ve also put out the lovely nick-nacky stuff that people have given me over the years and I’ve never had the display areas to show them off. I also forgot to dust them. Some bits I’ve never really liked but I love the people who gave them to me, so I haven’t had the nerve to get rid of them. Today’s the day. Having a garage sale is hard work. You actually have to clean up your yard. You have to pack up stuff and then, after you’ve figured out where you’re going to put it, you have to unpack it. Good friends of ours came by last night to help us set up and they were back here at the crack of dawn (being cheerful) to help put out the signs and to help us sell stuff. I consider that going above and beyond the call of duty. It’s interesting seeing the Old Boy in his element. Going to garage sales is his favourite thing to do. Having one himself is the next best thing. He’s so friendly and chatty to everyone. He’s never that outgoing when it’s just the two of us. Hmmm… Maybe I ought to haggle a bit over dinner. That’d put a smile on his dial. It’s a bit sad seeing the parents’ stuff being sold. It’s the end of an era. All those things that were precious to them and decorated their home are now just baggage to get rid off. Their lives are now reduced to one small room. It will happen to most of us, eventually, (well, to those who can afford to get into one of those facilities) and it’s not an appealing future. Somehow it just doesn’t feel right. It’s also my son’s birthday today and he’s in Ireland visiting his in-laws. It’s nice for him but it, also, doesn’t feel right. It’s a bit of a mixed-feelings sort of day. But, perhaps it’ll improve once I actually wake...

Read More

A beautiful life

I went to a memorial service the other day for a 35 year old young man. He had mental health issues. He was unable to hold down a job, so he didn’t have much money. His mind often went on strange, intriguing flights of fancy, so his role in society was limited. Many people would say that he had a difficult life. Many people would have felt sorry for him. But, he had a passion for life that drove him to enjoy the moment. He loved to stand out in the rain, even if there was thunder and lightning, because it was exciting to feel the water on his face. He loved to garden and tended his plants with utmost care and devotion. In fact he gave his plants and his cat far more attention than he gave himself. He loved people and they loved him. At the service a number of people brought bunches of flowers – particularly sunflowers (his favourites) – in honour of this fellow. An opportunity was made for anyone who wanted to speak on his behalf. One chap got up, accompanied by his carer. He had that special way of holding his head slightly to the side, as if listening to a fairy orchestra that only he could hear. His fingers were splayed and twisted at his side, as if he were playing with invisible pieces of string. His attire was an interesting, eclectic mix of clothing that represented both genders. You would be tempted to feel a bit sorry for him but then, he spoke. He’d written a poem for his friend. It was exquisite. I’m not just saying that because he was “special”. I mean it was a poem of skill, word-craft, sensitivity and artistry. It sang. Another friend played a solo on her violin. She said it was a piece she’d played for the young man’s garden a short while ago. (He liked to play music to his tomato plants.) And a young lady, almost a Goth but not quite, sang a little ditty that he had made up for her. “Siobhan grew into a butterfly that turned into a tsunami and the world ended.” (How brilliant is that!) Up they came to the podium to honour their mate: the physically and mentally challenged; the slightly-not-right-looking; the living-on-the-margins people. And, they all spoke of the deceased’s beautiful smile and funny ways. They said that they loved him and their lives would never be the same for knowing him. Many people would say that this young man was poor, disadvantaged, handicapped and that his short life didn’t amount to much. But, I say they’re wrong. His short life was a blaze of glory and love. He shone like the stars. He blessed others with his joyful, exuberant embrace of the simple things in life. He loved. It was a privilege to attend his memorial service. I cried for his parents and siblings who are grieving his loss. I cried for his friends, for his little community, that have lost their shining light. Most of all, I cried because I was moved by the sheer beauty of the love his friends had for him and their courage in sharing that with us. I think his life was just right....

Read More

Not on my watch.

I’m sure, dear readers, that you’re all appalled, dismayed and disgusted by the kidnapping of the Nigerian school girls. From what I’ve read about the situation, I gather the only unusual thing about this (for Nigeria) is the number. It’s not the first time this has happened in this country, and not just to girls. I gather getting an education in Nigeria is a high risk activity. A number of schools have been burnt down and lots of children – boys and girls – have been killed. This is a country that is barely hanging on to any sense of law and order. I heard an expert on Nigerian affairs speaking about the latest atrocity. He said that for the group that took the girls (Boko Haram, which means ‘Western education is evil’) and for many Nigerians, the Western world’s concern for these girls is “an alien concept”. He said there’s a very strong culture of using girls/women as slaves and sex objects, whose only reason for existence is to cater to the men’s needs. Maybe this partly explains the government’s initial reluctance to do anything about it. And, then there’s the fact that Chibok is a poor, rural, Christian community. It might have been a different story if it had happened in an urban, wealthy neighbourhood. When I heard the Boko Haram’s spokesman claim that he was following Allah’s orders, I saw an even deeper shade of red than I was seeing before. I know that he’s an extremist. I know that the majority of Muslim believers treasure their daughters as much as non-Muslims. But, where is the Muslim outrage? Why don’t we hear Imams around the world, condemning this behaviour? I’ve heard it said, “What good has Christianity ever done?” Well, the emancipation of women is one of those good things. I’m so thankful I live in a country that has a Judeo-Christian foundation to its culture and government. I’m thankful that I live in a country that values it’s children and gives each child – regardless of sex, ethnicity or religion – an opportunity to learn and grow. Okay, there are still areas in which we can improve but at least we acknowledge this and are working on it. I’m thankful I live in a country where law and order is upheld and where life is valued and respected. (No wonder refugees still risk crossing the ocean in rickety, over-loaded fishing boats to get here.) I’m sick of this war on women. I’m sick of the abuse, neglect and ill-treatment of children. I’m sick of people using God as the excuse for their own wickedness. It’s time we get our blinkers off, get our heads out of our own backsides and take a good look around. There’s stuff going on in this world that could be prevented if more “good” people made a stand and said, “Not on my watch”. Any community that doesn’t cherish their children, doesn’t protect the weak and vulnerable, doesn’t respect its citizens and doesn’t work to better the lives of all its members, isn’t a community at all. It’s just a mad-house. It’s a living hell. And, at this point in time, it’s...

Read More

Lark or owl?

I don’t do mornings. If I’m forced to do them, I don’t do them well. I find it particularly difficult in the cooler months of the year when it’s darker for longer. I just think that if the sun hasn’t bothered to get up yet, then why should I. I’ve always been this way, even as a child. For example, my mother would have to wake me up on Christmas Day because I was keeping the family waiting to open the presents. The first couple of classes at school were  always a bit of a foggy blur. I was often accused of day-dreaming. I can guarantee that if it was in the afternoon, they were probably right, but if it was in the morning it was more likely that I hadn’t yet fully woken up. Things improved by my late teens because I finally began drinking coffee. God bless the caffeine. However, my natural biorhythm still prefers to wake at a “sensible” hour and go to bed past the witching hour. If I lived in a small village in deepest darkest somewhere where there’s jungle and stuff, I’d be the one keeping watch out for prowling animals and marauding neighbours while the rest of the village slept. I’d also be the one, in the morning, throwing things at noisy children and threatening to strangle the rooster. School, university and work forced me to drag myself out of bed a couple of hours before my brain had fully stirred. Then I had children. I foolishly thought that, now that I wasn’t “working”, I could choose my own schedule. But, no…the kids expected me to feed them in the morning! This was solved when my eldest turned 4 and could manage to give himself, and his little sister, cereal for breakfast. He asked if it would be okay for him to do this rather than wait for me to wake up. I didn’t see why not; there was no electricity or knives involved. Then I went back to work. Then I went back to study. I did my best to choose things on the timetable that started later in the morning but it wasn’t always possible. Now, at last, I work at home. Sometimes I do it in my nightie and dressing gown. But, whatever the state of dress or undress you can guarantee it won’t be before 9am in the morning. Sometimes it’s later…sometimes much later. I still need the caffeine to kick-start the grey matter. Unfortunately the drug regime I’m on seems to have messed with my taste buds and I can no longer stand the taste of coffee. Thank the Lord for the Chinese or Indians or whoever it was who discovered tea! And, in spite of the black tea hitting the necessary spark plugs I still take a while to get going. On the other hand, I’ve often sat tap tapping away at 10pm, or even 2am, and not felt the teeniest bit tired. I tell you, if marauding animals or prowling neighbours attack the place me and the Wonder Dog will be ready. I tell you all this so you’ll understand the intellectual challenge I face every Saturday, writing this blog in the morning. I do this for you, dear reader. (No, I haven’t thought of doing it at a different time. This is the available time slot, darn it!) Oh the things I do for my public.    ...

Read More