Upon a Hill

Three men shared death upon a hill,
But only one man dies;
The other two—
A thief and God himself—
Made rendezvous.

Three crosses still
Are borne up Calvary’s Hill,
Where Sin still lifts them high:
Upon the one, sag broken men
Who, cursing, die;
Another upholds the praying thief,
Or those who penitent as he,
Shall find the Christ
Beside them on the tree

“Upon A Hill”, Miriam LeFevre Crouse

Your biological clock is ticking, and what are you doing about it?


I have never really owned up to the fact that I am getting older. It’s like I am in some sort of denial. Every year the birthday celebration comes and goes, and you get the dorky cards from your older sister, people have a dig at you for gaining another year (as if you had any choice), and the only comfort is that a few of your mates are a few years older than you are.

My mother’s move into high care has challenged my own persistent denial. Here I was visiting my mother at Lovely Banks. When she stood up, she had to be assisted. When she walked, she was assisted. When she showered, when she brushed her teeth, when she got dressed, when she went to the toilet. She needs assistance with it all. And yet, just a few days before I had been looking at a photo of her dressed as a bride with her husband, Cor. I had seen the vibrant smile of a young mother sitting on the front step of their cottage in Commonwealth Rd, Portland. I has seen her as a graduate of Bathurst High School. And now, about the only thing she can do by herself is fall asleep, or change the channel on the TV. Young once. Now old.

And I realised, it’s the same with me. No, not as old. But at one time I too was a high school graduate, a young groom – not knowing whether to be more proud or excited. I, too, was a young father. Now all my children are adults, and my Mum is in a nursing home. So I need to face the facts: I am 52 years old, and I am not getting any younger.

So I am going to make a few commitments:

Exercise more. I have let my riding program go for much of this year. Yesterday, I went out for the first time since early August. It was good, but my average was way off. I want to work hard to get my level of fitness up again. I will never be Lance Armstrong, I know. But I have been told that he cannot preach his way out of a wet paper bag, either, so that’s OK.

Discipline my eating. I am going to trim what I eat through the middle of the day. I have a generally sedentary job, and I don’t need a man sized meal at lunch time. Coupled with riding, this should see me drop a few kilos. We’ll see.

On a more long term note: I really want to make the second half of my life more productive. I want to add value to my ministry. I want to be a better preacher, a better leader, a better coach, a better husband, a better man (if you’ll pardon the cliche). I want my second half to count and to have impact way more than my first half.

So, now, today, I want to make a difference.

God reminds us that we get about ‘three score years and ten’. The best estimates of life expectancy have only added about a decade to that, even in the 21st century. Even then, don’t make too many assumptions. For all of us, life hangs by a slender thread. Free radicals, and crazy people driving little red cars mess with the mix on a regular basis.

So, now, today, I want to make a difference. Today, I want to do things that matter. Today, I want to strive for the sort of world God delights in. I want to keep learning. I want whatever I do tomorrow to be better than whatever I did today.

Q: what have you changed to make more of a difference in the second half of your life? …and you’re not there already what does this idea get you thinking about?

Great reading: Bob Buford: Beyond Half Time: practical wisdom for your second half

Grace and peace: Dave

The View

There’s a story that at the start of WWII, Australian military strategists were worried about the rapid advance of the Japanese Army. The Clarence River Wilderness Lodge’s Camp Kitchen has a photograph of some concrete tank traps that at one time were arranged across the Clarence River at Paddy’s Flat. The idea was that these concrete structures would halt the advance of the Japanese invaders. The story is that the Australian Forces believed the northern part of the continent was impossible to defend. So the claim was that the ‘Brisbane Line’ had been drawn from north of Brisbane, with the idea that everything above that line could be sacrificed to protect the south eastern population areas. Now I am not sure about the historicity of all that, but we wanted to see the tank traps, and we were told on good authority that they were still there.

Leonie, Erin, James and I hopped into the Subaru, with first stop in Urbenville (50 mins away), where Erin hoped to get some phone reception. By tethering my phone to my Vaio notebook, we would have internet on the road. Alas, Urbenville’s phone reception turned out to be pretty poor. Poorer than we needed it to be. So we thought the best idea was to drive along, while Leonie watched the phone’s reception indicator. The moment we would get three bars, we’d stop, connect the phone to the computer, and Erin could enrol in her Uni classes. We drove into a small place called Mulli Mulli, a small settlement of indigenous people, and all of a sudden we had five bars! We drove into a side street and pulled over. What was really interesting was that my PC found someone’s wireless service, and connected – so there we were thanking the people of Mulli Mulli for their hospitality!

Back in Urbenville, we visited Glad’s shop again to find out about the condition of some local roads. The shop assistant told us how you could get a great view of the surrounding area from a fire tower, about 15km down the road. So we drive the 7 km to North Yabbra Road, and another 7km to the track to the Fire Tower. The walk to the top was a steep and strenuous 20min climb. A steady and persistent pace seemed to be the trick. It occurred to me that the ascent to the fire tower stretched my cardio vascular system better than the stress test I had undertaken a few weeks before. I have never had any heart problems, and have never felt any reason for concern. Even when recently I found out that my heartbeat was a little irregular, I was relaxed about it, and subsequent tests showed there were no issues. As we walked up the mountain, with my heart rate at around 190, I started to wonder what would happen if I started having serious chest pain. There was no anxiety, or fear. Just a thought. It’s funny how in an instant, your thoughts can take you to the deep recesses of your soul. The thought pressed deeper: “Well, what would happen? What would you do?” It caught me off guard a little. So I let it play out. I imagined having to sit down, with Leonie, Erin and James gathering round. Someone would have run to the top of the hill with my phone, and call for an ambulance. The thought dug in deeper, and I reminded myself that whether the phone works or not, or whether the ambulance arrives on time are not the really big questions. I went deeper, and said, simply, “Dave, you are mortal. One day you are going to die.” Whether it was this day or another day, it was OK, because the life God has given me in Jesus is life that cannot be taken away. I was comforted to feel real peace about that. I was just happy to live the life God has given me in the here and now. And with this I pushed on.

How long did it take to think all that through? It is amazing how quickly it can happen. It might have been ten seconds, not much longer. Even so, a deep sense of peace and a more textured life perspective has come out of it. I think it has helped me feel more resolute, more settled, and more confident of God’s assurance of life. It has deepened and renewed my commitment to live heaven’s life in the here and now. To see and seek God’s goodness more in the land of the living.

Arriving at the top was glorious (see pic, with Dome Mountain in the foreground, looking north toward Brisbane Ranges National Park), and all the more for the hard work of the walk. Climbing to the first level of the fire tower, we had a near 360° view across volcanic plugs like Dome Mountain and Edinburgh Castle, beyond Urbenville and Woodenbong, and to the southwest down along the valley toward Upper Tooloom.

Descending down the track to the car, we deflated the tyres to 24psi for a softer ride on the unsealed roads, and headed for Old Bonalbo, and 12km further, Bonalbo. I am not sure why one of these settlements is ‘old’ and one is not, but as you would expect, while Bonalbo was a larger town than its ‘older’ counterpart, it was still very small.

Bonalbo offered the best promise of a counter meal. We found the Dog ‘n’ Bull, and we were keenly aware that they had found us. The locals picked our car as being from out of town – the Qld licence plates a giveaway. It felt like all eyes we on us, and they probably were. This happens in country towns, but perhaps not to the same degree as it did in Bonalbo. We wondered about why this would be so. In the end we put it down to the Kingdom Hall a block away from the pub: perhaps people thought we were new JWs. We were quite sure all concerns evaporated when we entered the Dog ‘n’ Bull. We were pretty sure no Jehovah’s Witnesses would ever do that…

[more next time…]

Thoughts Occasioned by a Funeral

Last week we buried Eric. He was a fine person. A good man. A great follower of Jesus. And the first of my youth group generation to die. All that has got me thinking.

I met Eric in 1973 when I started attending his church in Blacktown. My parents had been solid in their faith for years, and had recently decided to switch churches. The church they chose was were Eric and his family attended. I was at a stage in life where I was making big decisions about life direction. I wasn’t being particularly principled about it. I was just in ‘default’ mode. When you are 15 years old, and your parents attend a church where there are no kids your age, there are always going to be more attractive options on a Sunday morning. I did not know it then, but I was at faith’s fork in the road. My parent’s decision to switch was a life saver. The life that was saved was mine.

Looking back now, I see how God used Eric, and a few others, to draw me into faith and followership. They helped me belong. They draw me into a small group who opened the Bible and sought to find its relevance for our lives. It was great. It was real. I came to see how following Jesus could be fun, exciting, and a rich broadening of what it meant to truly live.

At Eric’s funeral I remembered all this. I remarked how we shared a love for music, and great bass lines. He was into keys, I was getting into bass guitar. I remember now that he loved a good Monty Python line. And he loved his trail bike (he had a Kawasaki 250 or something). He let me ride his bike. He even let me ride his bike when I fell off it.

I don’t think Eric was my closest friend, and probably was not his closest friend either. Even so, it was the community, the friendship that Eric and others provided, that became the soil God used to nourish my faith. I am incredibly thankful for that. And I was blessed to have the opportunity to say so at Eric’s thanksgiving service.

Eric was the first of that generation of friends to die. Many of those present had made the same comment. It has given me reason, not only to reminisce, but also to consider life and death, and some of the important aspects of what it means to follow Jesus in such a time as this.

I hope my thoughts will be of value to you.

Shalom,

Dave