Should Christians celebrate bin Laden’s death?

When we see people in the Middle East rejoicing in the streets over the death of Westerners in a terrorist attack, we feel outraged. We struggle to understand the world view that would cause one person to celebrate the needless death of another.

And while it may be a poor comparison, seeing Americans cheering in the streets over the death of Osama bin Laden doesn’t sit well with me either. While it could be argued that his demise is a justified casuality of war or a  just result for a terrorist, surely it is still an overwhelmingly sad moment.

Sad that it continually comes to this in human history – someone must die for others to feel safer, freer, stronger.

15th century depiction of Cain and Abel, Specu...
15th century depiction of Cain and Abel

I don’t judge those that are cheering – so many were touched by the 9/11 attacks and many other tragic killings around the world, it is understandable that there would be a sense of relief and victory and yes, even celebration.

But in the cold light of day, people will soon realise that the world’s problems, America’s problems, have not gone away and the struggle that has gripped humanity since Cain and Abel goes on unabated.

President Obama said that people who love peace and human dignity would welcome bin Laden’s death. Maybe so.

But only One Man’s death has ever truly provided for peace and human dignity in a profound, eternal and ultimate way. And his undeserved death was for thieves, murderers and, yes, scandalously, even terrorists.

See how some of America’s Christians are responding:

Christianity Today
Christian Post

Feel free to share your thoughts in a comment below.

Faith shines, undaunted by broken bodies

I have witnessed holy moments this week, acts of faith largely unseen but shining brightly in an invisible kingdom. They have left me humbled and undone. The first I witnessed personally, the second through the eyes of others.

Standing in a rehabilitation hospital I am surrounded by septuagenarians and find myself playing the role of the younger generation, nice for a change.

The first stood, fire in his voice, to pray for his friend sitting in a wheelchair. The pray-er has this year come through life-threatening emergency surgery to remove a massive tumour that was destroying his spine. Remaining full of faith throughout, he feels more qualified to pray for healing, not less.

He wags his finger lovingly at his friend who finds herself in a wheelchair after tumbling down a cliff, breaking her neck and bruising her spinal column.  

‘Don’t ever think that God wouldn’t want to heal you just because you are old. He loves you unconditionally and wants you to have life to the full,’ he says. Read More »

Jeffry leaves us far too quickly

One of the boys lingers after morning devotionsOne of the last times I saw Jeffry alive was as we gathered around a single candle flickering on the white tiled floor of the children’s home in Bali.

It was the first time that I had stayed overnight at the home and, although the home-parents had set me up in my own room with a fan, a blackout had left me too hot to sleep.

As I listened to the noises of the night – geckos, frogs, dogs, babies – it seemed only moments before I heard the sound of children and adults rising to share devotions.

As the children began to sing, I shuffled bleary eyed from my room and sat on the floor among them. We sang to Jesus, candle shining, and the tiles providing at least some coolness.

Jeffry was there, nurturing the candle as boys love to do, singing with the others his love for God.

Later that morning – it was still only about 7am – I enjoyed a specially procured breakfast of fried bananas and took photos of some of the kids as they headed off to school. Four other boys travelled on the back of motor bikes, but Jeffry rode his bicycle.

I had ridden his bike myself a day or two before. It was just before church at the children’s home and I was wearing my preacherly best, but caught up in the playfulness of children, hopped on the bike, riding up the lane, much to the amusement of the kids and arriving churchgoers.

Jeffry loved to call my daughter (Rebekah) bebek which means duck. She would ask for the names of animals to say back, and her attempts left Jeffry and the children rolling with laughter.  

A couple of days later I flew home but that little corner of Bali, down a back lane in Denpasar, is never far from my heart, or my family’s.

There was no candle, no white tiles, no smothering humidity when I got up yesterday morning, heading to make coffee and breakfast.

I noticed a text had arrived on my mobile. I opened it and read: ‘P please pray 4 Novi, motor bike accident young Jeffry died Novi in coma we r at hospital.’ Later we learned a drunk rider had collided with the two children.

My own sadness at this news cannot be compared with my daughter’s who has used almost every available holiday in the past few years to visit these children. We can only imagine the aching grief of those whose lives entwined with Jeffry every day.

It was many years ago when I sat in the room of a small boy as he died of AIDS, contracted from his mother. He had spoken of visions of Jesus coming to his room to speak with him. These memories tell me that Jesus is never outdone by tragedy.

Experiences like that, like this, remind us that every child is beautifully special and that somehow God, in his great love, makes provision even in the darkest hours. Our prayers and our presence are part of that provision, the reason we care, that we go.

One of Jeffry’s  ‘sisters’ at the home wrote, ‘everyone very sad , and also still not believe that Jeffry must go quickly…’

It is true, he has gone far too quickly for us, but he finds himself in a place where time, or tears, will never bother him again. Till we meet again…

Audio/Photo Post: Art, death & everything on Kensington St

Kensington St Broadway is a handy shortcut if you are heading to Redfern or Cleveland St. Turns out it is more than a little interesting with food, art, education, death and development all delving into this Sydney back street.

Turn off Broadway with the shadow of the UTS tower on your back and walk steadfastly past curious artefacts and digging developers to come face to face with your mortality. Listen to my impromptu description:

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Tobacco tax hits the poor hardest

The increased cost of cigarettes is not just a tax or health issue, it is also one of justice and compassion.

The people hit hardest by the Rudd government’s 25 per cent increase on cigarettes, are the ones least able to afford it and the least able to choose the alternative – giving up.

There is little sympathy for smokers when tobacco is slugged with new taxes, the common cry being, ‘let them give up’.

But if you have grown up with smoking from before birth, had every significant person in your life as a smoker and if you have beaten off various other addictions with only nicotine to beat, that cry is offensive and simplistic. Add to this list social isolation, unemployment, mental illness, poverty and violence, and you might understand better why telling people to ‘just give up’ is not good enough.

I know many people who have, over a long period of time, beaten serious addictions, usually well after these addictions have destroyed their life. In almost every case, smoking is the one thing they cannot overcome.

When you live on a disability pension or minimum wage, are locked into nicotine addiction and with no sensible access to support for quitting, a new tobacco tax may as well be an arbitrary fine levied on you – just for being alive.

That’s why I’m urging support for independent South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon’s call to other Senators to block the Government’s recent tax hike on cigarettes unless more money raised from the tax is put towards helping smokers quit.

While the tax has already been introduced, it must be ratified by the Senate within 12 months. Senator Xenophon would like to see subsidies for nicotine patches, money for counselling services and more spending on health awareness campaigns.

‘My plea to the Government, to the Opposition, to my colleagues on the cross benches, is that just a little more money – in the vicinity of $100 million over the next four years, two per cent of this increase – could go a long way in assisting people to quit smoking for the Government to achieve its targets,’ he said.

So come on Mr Rudd, Mr Abbott, Mr Brown and Mr Fielding – do something for the least in our society to take another step towards a decent life.

If you put these resources in my hands, I’ll make sure those that really need them get the chance to give up and be free of this destructive habit. PH

We found you Roy, 91 years later…

Roy Frederick Hallett

When I first saw the name R. F. Hallett carved in the stone of the Australian War Memorial, Villers-Bretonneax, France, in 2009, it was if it shouted out to me, ‘Hey, here I am, where have you been?’

I felt like Roy Frederick was waiting impatiently for someone to come find him, his body never recovered from the killing fields on which the memorial came to be built.

Under the warm sun and surrounded by the peaceful green fields of rural France, my wife and I had made our way from Paris to Amiens and then on to Villers Bretonneax as an act of remembrance for my father’s uncle who never returned from World War 1.

Ironically, Roy went to war with a bullet scar already showing on his foot, perhaps the result of an accident while hunting or working as a stockman.

Or maybe he belonged to gun club, as did many of those recruited around the same time, into the 36th battalion.  Ambrose Carmichael, Minister for Public Information led a recruitment drive from the rifle clubs of NSW in early 1916. The battalion became known as ‘Carmichael’s Thousand’. Carmichael led by example and enlisted as well, serving in the battalion as a captain.

Whatever the source of his bullet scar, he was to see much, much worse in his short but bloody tour of duty along the battlefields of Europe.

While Roy never returned, his scant belongings did and among them were two religious books. Our family history is not particularly religious but it sounds as if Roy may have found some solace in faith in the face of death.

The rest of his story, as gleaned from Australian war records, follows and is my contribution to Anzac Day… Lest we forget.

Read More »

‘Miracle of God’ saves driver

I am perennially ‘God-spotting’ or ‘finding-faith – looking for those little heartfelt references to God in popular culture or current events.

This morning a garbage truck ran into a house in Haberfield (saw it for myself while driving my wife to work) and the man living there, Danny, told ABC radio that he’d been thinking the house would be better as open plan but this was more than he’d bargained for.

He went on to say that after the impact he ran out of the bedroom and found the driver emerging from the living room saying, ‘I hit a tree.’

‘You hit my house too, mate,’ he countered in typical Aussie fashion.

Then, seeing the state of the truck’s cabin – with the steering wheel impaling the driver’s seat – he said it was a ‘miracle of God’ that the driver survived. He also ‘thanked God’ that his wife and two small children were also unharmed.

Thanks God! We love it when you show up.

Typically, one of Dan’s little kids slept through the whole thing and was taken to his grandmother’s for a ‘special breakfast, none the wiser… PH

Rage, blood and death on the street

Awake 6.30, cool of the morning
Maragogype coffee beans lure me downstairs
Before returning, cup in hand for my wife
And the first strains of ABC news

Man stabbed and dying in Marion St
Like Heart? Leichhardt? Where I live?!
And the story unfolds as the day does too
Of a man hammered, and chased, and killed 

Between hospital visits
Which is a whole other story
I walk in the bright sun to the spot
Where another human bled and died.

Parents with prams amble by
As do children from school
While two old men in nursing home trance
Stare at the Channel 7 car, satellite dish raised

Can I comprehend that before the heat
There was night, and men angry, raging
In their cars and on their feet
Rushed to steal another man’s life

And the sky is so blue.

Too casual about casualties

One result of the constant stream of death and mayhem reported in our media is a numbing to the loss of human life. Real people become numbers and information, which represents a loss of dignity for those suffering.

A side-effect of this is that people quoted in the media make comments in the context of loss of life that, when we take a step back, can be seen to highlight the brutality of our thinking.Read More »

Short time to the timeless

A gate, tombstone and surprisingly modern clock on the cathedral at Hawkshead, Lake District, England. Taken about 4pm in July 2009 on my E71.

Hawkshead is said to have a ‘timeless atmosphere’ but it would seem time has a fair grip in this beautiful part of England, as it does everywhere. Guarded by a squeaky gate, and touched by a tipping tombstone, the clock face reminds us that time, and perhaps death, waits for no one. No wonder we are invited by the Maker of time to ‘number our days aright’ in the sense of being aware of our frailty and brevity. At the same time… sorry… on the other hand… sorry, can’t avoid the time puns… In another sense, it is the very scarcity of our days that makes them so rich with meaning as we seek to ‘reedem the time’ and live fully and purposely. It is when we fool ourselves that time is not moving, that we are not changing and that we have all the time in the world, that we waste this most precious of commodities.  Likewise, if we try and save time, as in cutting corners, rushing or skimping, we tend to waste time just as profoundly. Anyway, the best news is, that our times are in His hands. Our time to live, to die, to love, to let go. Give him your time and He’ll give you yours. Now that’s truly timeless.Read More »

Today I…

Today I- followed up a young person we rescued from a dangerous situation on the weekend; listened as an elderly believer shared her life story with me; lifted chairs with a man from our community lunch who used to swear constantly but now only says ‘bloody’; helped a neighbour park a car; started setting up our office after re-location; picked my wife up from work, on time; remembered to book dinner our for our anniversary tomorrow night; drove to Bowral and back for the wedding rehearsal of a young couple I’m marrying on Saturday; froze as the mist descended; hugged a friend just returned from overseas; watered my tomatoes; learned that the father of a friend has tragically died from injuries sustained in a car accident; prayed.

You’re breathing in
The highs and lows
We call it living

In this needle and haystack life
I found miracles there in your eyes
It’s no accident we’re here tonight
We are once in a lifetime

Needle and Haystack Life
Hello Hurricane