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Archive for May, 2008

I was watching snippets of Australia’s Next Top Model yesterday avo on You Tube (yes, yes, probably not the best use of the Internet. What’s that you say? Yes, I was at the Bible talks on the Internet a few weeks back… very challenging stuff. So what was I doing looking up trashy model shows on the Internet you say? Well, uh, good question. I was…*scratches head*…evidently doing quality research for my blog. So its settled then. Now where was I?)

Ahem. Ah yes. Aussie Top Model. It’s quality entertainment, they put about a dozen highly strung, uber-competitive, wafer-thin girls in a house, and they attach the house to a giant robot and get it to shake the place up for a few weeks. Ok, the robot thing mightn’t be true, but you can appreciate the outcome is effectively the same.

I’ve learnt many valuable things from watching these girls:

One: is that no matter how many times you think a sentence has been saturated with the word ‘like’ – you are, like, so wrong! You can always fit in at least half a dozen more – even if its at the expense of standard English grammar, which let’s face it, is just a little old hat for this savvy, fashion-forward generation. And fashionistas never wear old hats – unless of course they’re vintage, which I’m told is the new black. Or it was 3 months ago…

Two: models really do disappear when they turn sideways.

Three: and perhaps most disturbingly, is the way these girls treat their food, their bodies…and each other. There was one episode where the girls talked about a ‘colleague’ (and I use that term loosely) who had been baking lots of scrumptious goodies for the girls to eat. A seemly benign, selfless gesture right? On the contrary – in model world this kind of thing is tantamount to sabotage! Yes that’s right, she was baking the girls very sweet, fattening, chocolaty treats and wooing them to eat  – whilst not daring to eat a morsel herself! The others, after becoming aware of this devilish plan, decided to rally together so they wouldn’t succumb to ‘temptation’ – and risk their knife-edge spot in the competition. Now, it strikes me as rather odd that the only temptation these girls recognize is food and anything else that changes their bodies. Never mind the temptation to bully, back stab, slander or belittle the other girls in the house, food is the ultimate temptation, and ‘fatness’ the absolute sin.

 To me, this exemplifies the way our world has so idolized our physical bodies to the point where beauty is our ‘god’ – and it has mastered us in every possible way, from our eating, drinking and clothing, to what we do in our spare time and spend our money on (botox or spray tan anyone?) to what determines our social hierarchy and maintains our status quo. An individual’s merit is inversely proportional to their BMI, (and based solely on their physical attractiveness) and consequently those that fit the bill are excused from all kinds of outlandishly self-serving and egotistical behaviours, some of which are embraced as ‘self-love’, ‘assertiveness’ or ‘healthy self-esteem.’ What utter nonsense.

The Bible, of course, has a very different perspective. Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting (Prov 31:30). Our Earthly bodies are broken and decaying as a result of our sin, and whatever physical beauty we have now, whatever attractiveness or splendour we have in youth will inevitably fade with age, until we return to the dust on the ground from which we were formed.

Our behaviour, on the other hand, our inner heart motivations are of much eternal importance and are very important to God:

‘To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behaviour and perverse speech’. (Prov 8:13).

What we say, how we behave towards others, what we think, and most importantly, our core attitudes are the things of eternal significance, the things which matter most to our God. Whether we’re fat, short, skinny, bald, stunningly beautiful, or club footed and covered in spots does not matter one inkling – all that matters is whether our hearts and our bodies are clothed in humility, patience, kindness, selflessness and most importantly, a fear of our great and wonderful God.

 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight’.

1 Peter 3:3

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Ahhhh. There is nothing that satisfies me more in the morning than that first sip of glorious coffee. With pounding headache and drunk on adenosine (yes, no need to thank me for my resounding wit, nerdy med students), I blindly reach for the button on my coffee machine and watch it, white-knuckled, until that wonderful little orange ‘ok’ light comes on, as if to say: ‘all your troubles will soon be forgotten.’ I heap as much ground coffee as I can into the dispenser and pack it down furiously, before slotting it back into the machine so I can press the button and watch the magical brown substance fill my empty cup. I froth the milk with my steamer and pour one into the other, marveling, as the black and white combine to form something extraordinary. My anticipation is mounting, and as soon as my sugar goes in, I’m taking the first marvelous sip….

And the world is all as it should be. I’m in my happy place. A few minutes later, with dilated pupils, sweaty palms and a look of glazed happiness on my face, I am content.

But, however wonderful and satisfying that cup of coffee is, with the superb (albeit short-lived) caffeine-fuelled high it promises, it is nothing compared to the ‘cup’ of salvation that God offers in the Lord Jesus. We come to him weary, broken and burdened by our own sinfulness, and he offers us free, unrestrained forgiveness; our cup ‘overflows!’ (Ps 23:5). And no matter how crooked and wretched we are, how sinful and depraved (was there ever a human that wasn’t? – if in doubt see Rom 3:23), we can always approach His ‘coffee shop’, His eternal throne, with fear and trembling and drink of the glorious cup of life.

Psalm 116:12-14:

 12 How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me?

 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

 14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

 

 

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I get a wonderful buzz each month when my favourite publication, The Briefing, arrives in my mailbox courtesy of my local postie. I would recommend it as essential reading for all socially-conscious Christians, but not if you’re shy of robust debate! It’s always a stimulating, challenging read, tackling the difficult issues in theology, current social trends, interdenominational relations, and the knife-edge interface between the atheistic secularists and, well, us. Its engaging stuff, leaving me with much to think about until the next enthralling edition arrives a month later (as nerdy evangelicals go, I’m somewhere towards the extreme far end).

In this month’s edition, there was an article by Kel Richards about environmentalism and how it has become the ‘new morality’ in our culture. He points out that in today’s society (aptly described as a ‘bizarre mix of indulgent consumerism and staunch environmentalism’), not only do we derive our morality from environmentalism, it has also become a source of ‘spirituality’ – evidenced by the fact that swimming with dolphins or planting a tree are no longer merely recreational activities, but a way of ‘communicating’ with ‘mother nature’. He also makes the point (which honestly, drives me to the point of utter incredulity) that abortion is now seen as a largely ‘morally neutral’ medical procedure, while harpooning the whales for Japanese restaurants (which, don’t get me wrong, is pretty darn awful) raises great moral indignation and ends up in people doing all sorts of risky and sometimes foolish things to save them.

God has appointed us as stewards over his creation, commanding that we ‘be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Gen 1:28). Part of this stewardship entrusted to us involves caring for the creatures of the earth and thus far in human history, we’ve done a fine job of recklessly plundering the earth for our own greedy ends (a testament to our selfish, fallen nature). But when the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens take the place over human life, a life created in the image of God and precious in his sight, it shows a gross distortion of the natural order of the world that God has put in place. And, it doesn’t matter what form this human life takes (whether a pregnant woman, a foetus with an extra chromosome, or an elderly man with dementia), it is still inherently dignified and precious and we are to treat it with the upmost respect.

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As I sit here in (almost) quiet contemplation outside the clinical skills lab, my mind is busy rehashing the events of the morning. Extracting the last tasty remnants of lunch out of my molars with my dexterous tongue, I decide that scotch finger biscuits are without a doubt the most perfect end to lunch, leaving me with a lovely sweet taste in my mouth for hours, it seems, afterwards. Very satisfying indeed.

But despite the apparent abyss that is the space between my ears, I am actually thinking about things more substantial than lunch. This morning I asked God to help me practice contentment, and to be earnestly thankful for the wonderful blessings he has given me, both spiritual and material. He has shown me such undeserved favour, showered me with a grace so abundant it seems almost reckless – so why is it so difficult to be content? Why is it so hard to thank God earnestly for my 1994 Suzuki Cino (one of the oldest – and wisest, I like to think – cars in the med school car park) that has never failed me and is still chugging along happily with 103 000kms on the clock? Maybe it has something to do with the brand new Mazda 3 with polished bumper and alloy wheels parked rather proudly beside. What is it about us humans that we are unable to shake off this unrelenting ‘grass is greener on the other side’ mentality? It is a difficult question – with a surprisingly simple answer:

Remember Eve and the serpent in the garden? He had her convinced that her God was holding out on her, that despite the wonderful blessing he had so lavishly bestowed, there was something – else – that He was withholding: ‘Did God really say ‘you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Gen 3:1). And tragically, (we all cry ‘noooooo!’ at this point) she believed the crafty serpent and a perpetual chasm of sin, death and chaos ensured.

When we start doubting the blessings of our creator, when we allow ourselves to believe – just for a moment – that he isn’t quite giving us what we deserve, we not only open ourselves up for disappointment but we start running the world’s race – a self-perpetuating, self-defeating race of endless comparison that no-one ever wins, and that ultimately leads to death and separation from God if we follow it to completion. Contentment isn’t simply an emotion or ‘mood’, but a deliberate choice we make, that honours God and acknowledges his sovereignty and extravagant (albeit undeserved) blessing upon us.

Ephesians 1: 3-8: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

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And now to something completely different…

I have noticed a disturbing trend amongst the cut-throat and sometimes acrimonious world of Australian breakfast television (Sunrise vs. Today – who will win the ultimate showdown?); I refer to it as ‘society fixing’ – when the presenters stray waay outside their realm of expertise and make sweeping generalizations about the ‘problems’ they’ve identified in Australian society that need to change – and then proceed to go ahead and change them. Now I’m sure this began out of genuine altruism, and it’s truly wonderful when people with initiative take action to enact positive change in our world (and even better when it comes out of a desire to show the love of Christ!), but does anyone else find it slightly perplexing that this is coming from a breakfast show, of all places. Who would’ve thought that great advances in social justice, women’s rights and the like would come from a brand of television that perhaps the more naïve amongst us would label ‘frivolous’, or at worst ‘flippant gratuitous hogwash’. Call me naïve if you must, but I fail to see how a millionaire entrepreneur such as David Koch can champion the cause of ‘working Australians’ or qualify to make sweeping facetious comments about social conservatives and the terrible impact their policies have on ‘ordinary Australians’ – well that’s all very well but last time I checked you are NOT an ordinary Australian!

But, in all fairness, its not just old Kochie and his sidekick Mel who lead this glorious ‘toast and eggs’ social justice front, they do occasionally consult ‘experts’ to comment on these issues:

Such as women in difficult or abusive marriages. Its OBVIOUS that Koch and Mel appreciate how delicate this issue is and how important it is to get a spokesperson to comment who is a leader in this field, someone who has ‘done it tough’, and even better, a woman with personal experience who can offer help and support to these women:

And what better ‘expert’ than the editor of fashion magazine Marie Claire Jackie Frank! (is there anything magazine columnists can’t do?)

Boldly condemning the ‘evil’ that is the church who (gasp!), offer women and their husbands support on how to reconcile and work through their issues (if their marriages are indeed salvable), and provide guidance from God’s word and prayer – how DARE they offer these hurting, vulnerable people nourishment from the ‘bread of life’! How DARE they care enough to intervene and offer emotional, financial and desperately needed spiritual support? What impertinence!

As Kochie said, ‘these women don’t need God, they need counseling and shelters’. Well, as an expert in this aspect of social justice, women’s rights (and the practical outworkings of the Christian faith), who I’m sure has personally counseled these women and knows from experience the issues they face, he certainly has a right to comment.

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As I was searching for a suitable ‘header’ picture for my blog page, I came across this wonderful picture of the famous Horsehead Nebula, which I understand is around 1500 light years from Earth. This picture just fills me with wonder for our amazing God – how beautiful and mysterious is His creation in all its intricacies, from the tiny bacterial flagellum to the great gas giants at the fringe of our solar system. Everything in the heavens and the Earth pays witness to his glory and sovereignty over all things!

Psalm 8:

 1 O LORD, our Lord, 
       how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
       You have set your glory 
       above the heavens. 2 From the lips of children and infants 
       you have ordained praise 
       because of your enemies, 
       to silence the foe and the avenger.

 3 When I consider your heavens, 
       the work of your fingers, 
       the moon and the stars, 
       which you have set in place,

 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, 
       the son of man that you care for him?

 5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
       and crowned him with glory and honor.

 6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; 
       you put everything under his feet:

 7 all flocks and herds, 
       and the beasts of the field,

 8 the birds of the air, 
       and the fish of the sea, 
       all that swim the paths of the seas.

 9 O LORD, our Lord, 
       how majestic is your name in all the earth!

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