April fool’s day

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My youngest daughter and I wanted to surprise my eldest daughter this morning with an April fool’s day joke.  The eldest daughter is working from home and is often a bit slow-to-wake so we (early birds) plotted and planned while she was still asleep.  When she awoke and made her sleepy way to the toilet still in half a coma, we implemented our evil plan.

‘Hey sleepy head.  Scomo (Aussie PM) has just announced that today is a public holiday.  That we have all been doing so well keeping the rules and looking after each other that we can have the day off.  And the government will pay every child, woman and man in the country a day’s salary (at a politician’s daily rate! but I did not say that at the time)’

‘Really,’ she squeaked enthusiastically from the bathroom; early-morning endorphins filling her beautiful body and mind.

‘April fool’s day!’ we shrieked, as we cackled at successfully implementing our annoying plot.

She is still recovering!

And, a good friend has kindly shared these wonderful images with us for the blog.  She has a year 12 son at home to keep in good spirits and her creativity is in over-drive maintaining good humour for the household.  Thanks Judyth.

Happy April fool’s day to you all!

 

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(Images by Judyth Varley)

The Bridegroom

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Just days before social distancing became necessary in Australia because of the viral crisis, we were at a wedding where the bride walked down the aisle to the bridegroom while this beautiful song was playing.  It reminds us of the symbolism found in the ancient Hebrew love poem The Song of Songs where God is imaged as the bridegroom and our souls (each one, and together) are portrayed as the bride.  Please enjoy listening and be assured of who you are and who you are loved by.  Peace to you.

Love casts out fear

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Because of the fact that we were due to present science talks on a cruise ship this week, our blogposts were orientating around this subject.  The cruise has been cancelled so we will take a small diversion and return to this series later in the year.  For those of you who were particularly interested in this topic, please search the category ‘science’ for pre-existing posts.

Today, I choose to write about love.  There is much fear circulating at the moment globally in regards to the corona virus and health.  I am aware that the Hebrew/Greek sacred text advises us that  ‘Love casts out all fear’ and that ‘The people die because of a lack of knowledge’.  Please be comforted and encouraged that some scientists have been researching this group of viruses for forty years and they are the ones to listen to if you want accurate knowledge about this organism.  Viruses are ubiquitous and we live with them all the time.  Our immune system is at work constantly; identifying and keeping us safe from any unhelpful micro-organisms that turn up in our environment.  Most of us will not die (or even get sick) due to the assault of a virus but, perhaps, we could use this opportunity to address our ‘lack of knowledge’ (ignorance) about viruses, the immune system, diet, health and well-being.

At the moment, I am focused on learning more about the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and its management of the fight/flight versus safety/relaxation biology.  It interests me because of the relationship that this biochemistry has with the experience of fear and/or relational attachment.  We are such an amazing creature with our complex soup of molecules, minerals, electrical circuitry and connectedness.  And apparently, if sacred texts can be trusted, we are wired for love more than we are wired for fear; love is to be our stronger narrative as human beings.  God is Love.  May we not be ignorant but, instead, know this great truth and make it known to others.

It never ceases to intrigue me that when I choose to take a ‘learning journey’, life/universe comes to my side to give me the ‘lessons’ I need help with.  While global fear and insecurity has been expanding in recent weeks, our family has been involved in the detailed plans of creating a love celebration for our second daughter’s wedding.  This has highlighted the contrasting perspectives of love and fear; anticipation and anxiety.  On Saturday the marriage ceremony was performed, complete with: bride and bridegroom, their attendants, guests, flowers, dresses, priests, promises, a church, a garden, cake, icecream, photos, songs, dancing, a sunset over the ocean, poetry, hugs and kisses, wine and LOVE!

Maybe the antidote to fear is LOVE.

 

A History of Science

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Humankind has sought to understand the world around themselves since the beginning of their existence and the study of the material environment is coined ‘science’.  There is evidence of scientific thought in the Hebrew writings dating back to over 3000 years ago.  The Greeks then became a centre of excellence in philosophy, geometry, medicine and architecture up until about 300 BC.  In the western hemisphere it seems that not much happened until the Renaissance but the Chinese were busy inventing and building civilisations.

The second half of the last millennium saw huge developments in art, culture, music and scientific thought.  It was also the time when there was a separation of the physical from the religious.  This was probably an important stage to allow thought to develop outside of the rigid institution of the church.  Unfortunately it has resulted in a mode of thought that favours rational over mystical, and reductionism over holistic thinking.  Fortunately there has been a swing back towards a more healthy balance between the two modes of thinking, helped by the mysterious world of Quantum Mechanics and the revival and acceptance of herbal and Chinese medicine.

We now have a huge scientific industry, that unfortunately has moved beyond gathering of knowledge to seeking financial gain from whatever it learns.  At the same time we have seen people who have tired of institutional religion moving to Eastern thought as a way to make sense of this world. Or they have embraced science itself as their belief system, believing that knowledge and technology will solve mankind’s problems.

And so where does that leave us?  We must find our way in this increasingly technological world, and find meaning for its mysteries.  I wish you well with that.

Racking the New Wine

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This summer, our apricot tree yielded abundantly.  So much so that we took ten kilograms of its juicy organic fruit to make apricot wine.  Biology, chemistry and physics all come into play during the ancient practice of winemaking and it felt good to be a part of this age-old human activity.  The apricots were crushed with a masher, a wine-yeast was added and ten litres of rainwater was poured over the yeasty fruits into a demi-john.  The fermentation began.

After three weeks, all the sugars had been converted to alcohol and the virgin wine was left to sit on the lees for another three weeks to mature.  The new wine is now racking.

Racking!  What is racking?  Racking, sometimes called fining, is the process by which the new wine is left to settle while gravity does its work.  The new wine is then siphoned off the lees; removed from the by-products of the change, from the left-over fruit and the yeast that has enabled this ‘miracle’ to occur.

The wine will go through three or four cycles of racking, whereby the new wine will remain still for four weeks, then be siphoned off the lees into a fresh vessel.  Racking allows clarification and stabilization of the new wine.  Wine that ages on top of the lees often develops ‘off-tastes’.  Racking the new wine softens tannins and enhances aromatic qualities.  It also adds a tiny amount of oxygen to help the aging process.  Too much oxygen during racking risks adding microbes from the air that could spoil the wine.

I feel there is an allegory here.  When a new season (or new knowledge/understanding) is ushered into our lives, it is tempting to ‘drink the new wine’ as soon as it is here.  Maybe there is wisdom in waiting just a little for the ‘racking process’ to settle and fine-tune our new idea/situation.  Sometimes we are left a little raw from the dislocation of change, especially if it has been a rapid transformation.  Maybe, reflecting on what the ‘new wine’ is before giving it too much oxygen, is a good idea.

Anyway, after racking, our apricot wine will be ready for bottling – and drinking!  This will happen just in time for the wedding feast of our second daughter.  Cheers!

The Synergy Between Science and Spirituality

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[Republished from 20th October 2016]

Tim and I are both trained in the discipline of science; Tim in physics and myself in biology. Between us, we have over fifty years of work experience in applied physics, cancer and human health biology, computer science, and agricultural research. We have both also been involved in practicing spirituality in faith communities all of our lives (a combined total of over one hundred years).  Contrary to popular opinion, science and spirituality have never created dualistic conflict in our lives and, only on a small number of occasions, have issues of scientific fact and faith produced creative tension in our worlds. Predominantly, our dedication to science and spirituality has yielded an enormous amount of synergy between these two disciplines resulting in a greater understanding of each discipline through the other.

Over the coming weeks, we shall share with you in more detail how this synergy works; the specific ways science and spirituality support and inform each other giving us a greater understanding of the universe, the earth, human purpose, the possibility of a Divine being, and other important components of reality.  We hope you enjoy this series of blogs and, please, feel free to comment so that we can explore these interesting ideas together.

L’chayim (to life!)

Dogma Falls in Love

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In honour of St. Valentine’s Day…

I’m worried about my Dogma

It hasn’t gone as planned

He met a girl called Doctrine;

She wants to hold his hand.

 

I’m not so sure they’re good together

Their manners sometimes grate –

Her knowledge and his bluntness,

Besides he’s only eight.

 

Doctrine’s fine with Love and Grace,

My other two offspring,

It’s just when she’s with Dogma

Her words pick up a sting.

 

Her kindest thoughts are not immune

To Dogma’s strange effect.

They end up strident, sharp and hard

And really quite direct.

 

I think that I will do my best

To keep them both apart.

Let Doctrine stick with Love and Grace;

Stay focused on the heart.

 

For those who haven’t met Dogma before, check out Love and Grace and Dogma and Fishing with Dogma.

The tenderness of God

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Of late I have read or heard stories from people who seem to have genuine encounters with the Divine, and they have all reported an extraordinary tenderness toward them as the overriding experience. For so long we have had peddled to us the Love of God, or the Holiness or Grace or Wrath or Mercy and I don’t recall ever hearing about the Tenderness. Is it because the big biblical stories are focused on those things or is it because it makes God seem smaller? I don’t know.

Christ was compassionate, arresting and insightful. And I suspect tender as well if you read between the lines of some of his encounters.

I think in these days of strident dualism, where we all have to take a position and make a stand, we could do well to think about the Tenderness of God, both in our encounters with others but also in how we perceive God’s view of us. Perhaps God does not look “down” on us with judgement, or disapproval but rather with tenderness.

That’s my belief anyway.

The Closing Ceremony

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We recently celebrated the 21st birthday of our youngest child with family and friends. We, as her parents, have taken it as a “signing-off” from parenting. Of course, we will still be here for each of them as they need or want support and love, but we have deliberately decided to step back from that part of our lives and to investigate the next season of life for ourselves. So the party was something of a Closing Ceremony!

Nearly 30 years ago we dedicated our first child at our local church, and in that process dedicated ourselves to parenting. What wonderful words were spoken and what promises were made! By the grace of God we have made it this far and are delighted with our children and who they have become.

But during all of the preparation for this most recent party we were musing about how we often start out well (like a grand Opening Ceremony) but don’t always acknowledge or celebrate the end of a chapter – so we dubbed the recent party the Closing Ceremony! For our child being celebrated, it was a doorway to her next chapter and to us it was an acknowledgement of the seasons we have been through to get to this point. Having lots of photos to share helped to re-ignite old memories with the significant others who came along to celebrate with us.

I guess there are times when we say good-bye to a season of life, like at a funeral or when leaving a job or even when moving house. Such times can bring a range of emotions including grief and regrets or it can bring a sense of satisfaction of a job well done.

Our Closing Ceremony was a wonderful mix of looking back and looking forward, spent with people who have walked some of the journey with us, and we were able to give thanks.

Blessings.

Being a giraffe

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The trouble with ‘being a giraffe’

is that your head is stuck in the clouds.

I mean, when there are clouds about

your head, is right up there.

And, when the clouds are down low

your head is right there in them;

the clouds of confusion, the clouds of chaos.

You are right there, day and night

 

You can walk around with splayed legs

but not for so long; it’s awkward to do.

You can carry your long neck out in the front

but you’re sure to regret it, pain in the neck.

Nope, you are destined to have to go back,

destined to stick out your neck once again

and find yourself stuck with your head in the clouds;

the clouds of confusion, the clouds of chaotic.

 

Why, with that ridiculously long neck,

it doesn’t take long (inevitability demands)

you find yourself in those high heady places,

the places of fog; chaotic, confusing.

The leaves of high trees, they can be eaten

but taste is subdued and pleasure alluded.

There’s not much to see, smell or to touch

and most of your hearing is muffled and muted.

 

Hark, Creator now calls to the clouds: ‘Withdraw’,

rolls up the fog like a big woolly blanket.

I see now so clearly, such crisp understanding,

perspective and order and truth is abounding.

And although they still say, indignant with tone,

‘There she goes; the one with her head in the clouds’

I know it’s not true …

It’s simply not true.

(Lyn Beattie)