And then I realised a scattering of bloggers

When I started my first WordPress blog on April 29, 2009 I couldn’t find anyone else I knew personally among the millions of WordPress bloggers.

Today as I read through some of the writing or reflective blogs I follow, I realised they were mostly by people I know in the real world and all offer something unique and encouraging.

So here they are, mostly on WordPress, why not check them out:

Chrissy Guinery, author of Falling Upstairs, reminds you why life is living large.

Bronte Sawtell, is 19 and thinking and has fallen in love with Newcastle.

Josiah Hallett is tossing out the pros and finds hope in the midst of angst.

Stephen Baxter is an old mate from Alive and On Being days and is keeping the heaven2earth connection going.

Rachael Stevens is a talented young writer (The Skeleton Diaries) and influencer and has a great website and blog which I daresay is designed by husband Tom.

I’m thinking there is groundswell of (Christian) writing evident here of which the sites I’ve listed are just a small sample.

Share your own favourites in comments (below).

PH

Spiritual is more than meets the eye: fine moments from a free breakfast #3

image

A young professional joined in our breakfast and told of some recent spiritual seeking.

Eve: ‘I spent the week at a temple learning some Buddhist meditation.’

Me: ‘Are you Buddhist?’

Eve: ‘No!’ She seems incredulous I would draw that conclusion.

Eve: ‘As someone has said, being spiritual is a good start.’ I busily serve food and try to understand this comment, wondering if it’s a polite put down for people who have faith but don’t act.

Me: ‘So what about this, what we are doing here. Is it spiritual?’ It’s her turn to look incredulous.

Me: ‘Yes. It’s spiritual, because there is more happening here than meets the eye.’ And I think of the exchanges of hope and grace that have occurred all morning.

Eve: After reflecting for a while. ‘I think what happens here is communion.’ I’m stunned by this insight.

Me: ‘You are right. The Last Supper was communion, where this began, the coming together of people, of speaking of important things, of a price paid for others. You should read an account from the gospels.’ It’s an incomplete description but a snatched beginning.

Eve: ‘I will. I’ll think about this all week.’

* Our month of breakfasts has finished but we’ll be at a community festival in Camperdown on September 21 as we consider our next step and keep looking for God’s open door.

* Names and details changed in this story to protect privacy. The people involved in the conversation are not in the photo.

If God seems far away… he isn’t

Growing up in Taree from about 1967-72 I was the proud owner of a purple dragster bicycle.

Not indentical, but a close match for the dragster I use to ride. This one, an original, is selling for $2,800...

High-rise handle-bars, a T-bar gear shifter midway along the top-tube (in hindsight, perilously located), and banana seat with sissy bar meant I was the height of late-60s, early-70s bike-riding fashion… something that escaped me as a nine or ten-year-old.

I can still recall riding around Nicoll Cres with my friends singing Bopping the Blues (Blackfeather, 1972 – not that I actually knew who the band was at the time) or pedalling down to the corner store for a 15c can of soft drink. Saxby’s I think.

I can also recall my mother giving me a sheet of flouro pink stickers that had Christian mottos or sayings on them for the purpose of encouraging people to think about God.

When I started riding the bike to school, we attached a bike rack at the back (I’m finding this hard to imagine but I know it’s true because my school case once fell off it in the middle of the road outside Taree West Primary School and while scooping my belongings back in, I found about 15 cigarettes lying there and scooped them in too – but that’s another story).

Anyway, we used to park our bikes in racks at the side of the school and I can distinctly remember two boys, walking past as I was preparing to leave for the day, stopping, reading the sticker, laughing and moving on.

The good news was that they appreciated the humour of the flouro pink sticker and this saved me from a moment of ridicule which I had been fully expecting.

The sticker read:

‘If God seems far away, guess who’s moved?’

Now, in 2012, this is an extremely old line which still gets trotted out. But in the late 60s, early 70s – it was brand new.

And the saying has remained associated with these memories ever since. Of my purple dragster, of my mother’s eager new faith and desire to share it with others, of my own childlike faith and an innocence in putting my beliefs on the line, of wearing green button-up shirts to school, drinking warm flavoured milk in small foil-lidded bottles at recess and falling off the monkey bars and smashing my head open one lunchtime (yet another story).

Forty years on and recently I have paused to reflect on the whole idea of our relative location to God and the reality of him feeling far away.

If I had my time again, and was a wise nine-year-old, I would say to those two older boys, as I say to you:

‘Everyone is moving all the time and often without even knowing it. But wherever we go and how ever we get there, God is never far away, even if that’s what we feel. We may take 10,000 steps away from him but it’s always only one step back.’

The past few years have seen some changes in my life that I could never have anticipated, to do with who I thought I was and what I was doing with my life. A lot of movement occurred, often outside my control, but thankfully the most important things of life – faith, marriage, family, health – have remained true and near. God has indeed seemed distant, often, and yes, it was me who moved in those times.

But if God seems far away to you today, he isn’t. He’s close enough to whisper in your ear and know the longings of your heart.

Psalm 139

Oh, and because I know you can’t get that tune out of your head, here’s Blackfeather with Boppin the Blues

Visualising God at 300km an hour: Senna

Watching cars go round and round has never been a favourite pastime – I get enough of that in Sydney traffic – but as in every facet of human existence, there are personal stories embedded that make even Formula 1 racing interesting.

Asif Kapadia’s new documentary, Senna, tells one of these stories and while there is a fair bit of round and round, there is also an interesting investigation into the life, talent and faith of one of the sport’s most revered figures, Ayrton Senna.

The Brazilian Senna was a superbly talented, and some would say, a dangerous risk taker who had 41 wins and three World Championships which earned him the reputation of being one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all times.

He was well-known for his religious convictions which seemed to heighten for him as he raced.

“Somehow I got closer to God and this was very important to me. I visualized and saw God who is a part of me,” Senna said after one race. When reflecting on his love of racing, Senna says, “I think God gave me this chance.”

Frenchman Alain Prost, one of Senna’s key rivals, held an equally strong belief: that Senna’s personal companionship with the Deity made him a hazard to other drivers.

In one confrontation between the two, Prost says, “Ayrton thinks he can’t get hurt.” Senna responds, “Just because I believe in God does not mean I’m immortal. I know I can get hurt.”

The documentary shows the fulfilment of these words when Senna is killed in a crash  in 1994 at the age of 34, while leading the field at the San Marino Grand Prix. The crash was caused by a mechanical fault and a camera strapped to his car continued to film throughout the tragedy.

Many people from all walks of life talk about the experience of feeling close to God when engaged in an activity that they sense to be their very specific calling and gifting. I once hear a rugby league winger say he felt he was born to score tries. As strange as it seems, maybe Senna was born to drive, and there was no other way to die.

Senna is showing now at Palace Leichhardt – check guides for other cinema times.

God helps Hawking find the media spotlight again

God is once again assisting British scientist Stephen Hawking to receive world-wide media publicity, even though Hawking is saying nothing new.

In an ‘exclusive’ interview in Britain’s Guardian newspaper on May 16, Hawking said there was ‘no heaven or afterlife… that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.’

The author of international best-seller A Brief History of Time admitted his views were influenced in part by his long fight with motor neurone disease.

‘I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components  fail.’

Hawking’s has moved from a position where belief in God was not necessarily at odds with a scientific understanding of the universe – as expressed in A Brief History of Time – to one where God no longer has a place in theories on the creation of the universe  – expressed in his 2010 book The Grand Design.

Baroness Susan Greenfield, one of England’s most distinguished scientists, said in response to Hawking’s (and other scientists’) comments on God: ‘Yes I am [worried]. Of course they can make whatever comments they like but when they assume, rather in a Taliban-like way, that they have all the answers then I do feel uncomfortable. I think that doesn’t necessarily do science a service.’

So before you throw away your Bible and consider yourself nothing more than a computer on legs, check out these responses to Stephen Hawking.

Stephen Hawking, God and the role of science by Alister McGrath
Science meets Religion site

Popular TV shows discuss faith and church

Two prime time television shows and classic re-run featured characters discussing the merits of church attendance and Christian faith in the past week.

Channel 7’s Packed to the Rafters this week had character Nick ‘Carbo’ Karandonis telling his girlfriend Loretta ‘Retta’ Schembri that she would have to convert to the Greek Orthodox faith for them to be married. She replied she would not convert as she didn’t believe and it would be hypocritical. She also questioned the sincerity of Carbo’s faith, given that he claimed to be Greek Orthodox and never attended. So they attend church together and afterwards Retta says she felt the spirituality of the service and wants to attend every Sunday. Carbo is horrified that she might take faith seriously and the theme is set to continue in the show – next season.

Channel 10’s The Good Wife saw Grace Florrick challenging her mother Alicia about belief in Jesus. Mrs Florrick, the good wife, replies she believes Jesus was a person who lived 2000 years ago and she couldn’t see what impact he had on her life. grace replies that you either ‘love Jesus or hate him’, there’s no middle ground. She further argues that she is an intelligent person who believes in Jesus, and that the two things aren’t mutually exclusive. The episode finished with Mrs Florrick agreeing to take her daughter to church.

And a classic episode of Everyone Loves Raymond screened on one of the digital channels. Titled The Prodigal Son, it features Raymond arguing with his parents about going to church. Also, his wife and children go to church every week but Raymond refuses to go. After some hilarious interactions, the episode concludes with a serious discussion of church going and faith between Raymond and wife ?

‘Why don’t you go to church Raymond?’ she asks. And after complaining that all the kneeling is hard on his knees, the focus moves to ideas such as parents wanting to pass on their values, feelings of guilt and the need to believe in and be part of something bigger than ourselves.

When Raymond turns the questioning back on his wife, ‘Why do you go to church?’ she replies, ‘To say thanks for you and the children… and to pray for strength to get through another week with you and the children…’

Hopefully Australian households are discussing faith in a similarly open and revealing way and perhaps these episodes are a case of art imitating reality.

While the conclusions drawn, arguments used and theology displayed are not always satisfying, it is encouraging that writers and producers are willing to include spiritual, faith and religious issues (very occasionally) as themes for their shows.

Check out a small part of the final ‘church’ conversation in Everybody Loves Raymond…

http://www.tbs.com/video/index.jsp?oid=84388&eref=sharethisUrl

Bear grilled (lightly) on Aussie TV, Hillsong

Bear Grylls featured on Channel 7’s Sunday Night  program tonight where besides  eating spiders and leaping out of helicopters, he was also shown visiting Hillsong last weekend.

Admitting that speaking to an auditorium full of people is scarier than most of his Man vs Wild adventures, he also revealed how he got his nick-name, Bear.

Rather than arising from ‘wrestling a bear when I was 3’, Grylls explained that his real name is Edward, which was shortened to Ted, and then Teddy, on to Teddy Bear and finally just Bear.

So one of the world’s toughest men is named after a soft toy…

Described on the show as a ‘man of God’, Grylls once again acknowledged the importance of Christian faith in his life and the importance of prayer.

For more on Bear Grylls and his views on God, visit my previous Bear post. He also has his own blog where he describes making a show in an Australian swamp as one of his hardest yet. You might also like to visit the charity page on the blog, and see how he uses his fame and fortune.

Speaking of which, he said fame and fortune were two things that caused him the most trouble which may be why he supports so many charities.

Oh, and the worst thing he’s eaten was a toss-up between raw goat testicles and bear poo…

God makes a Google Street View appearance

Plenty of interesting things have been found on Google Street View ranging from dead bodies to hovering cars, but perhaps even God has made an appearance.

A god-like figure can be seen hovering midair above a lake in Quarten, Switzerland.

Discovered by the Gawker blog, the image is most likely to be the result of  light distortion or lens flare, however blogger Max Read has questioned tongue-in-cheek whether it might have more mysterious origins:

‘Is it something on the camera lens? Or is it maybe… God and His only begotten Son? And who’s to say that God isn’t “something on the lens”, in some kind of a cosmic, metaphysical sense?’ he writes.

God can be anywhere and everywhere – even on a camera lens no doubt – which kind of reminds me of the supposed ‘how many angels on the head of a pin‘ theological debate. Still, when God appears again in the sky, the Bible suggests we won’t be left guessing…

For a few more favourite Google Street View images, visit this Sydney Morning Herald gallery.

And let’s not forget Perth’s famous hovering cars or an unusual man-made landscape in a remote part of China which appears to be a model of a larger piece of territory complete with snow-topped mountains, streams and valleys.

Hope against all hope in the midst of change

It has been a year of unprecedented change for our family, some if it chosen, some of it not – and it’s not over yet.

Change, whether initiated or imposed, is often challenging – especially when it affects the deep things of your heart and your future.

In the midst of some difficult moments this month, I had a speaking engagement where my theme was to be hope. Having been planned long before, it almost seemed laughable that I would contemplate hope when I was more prone to panic.

Of course, God has a sense of humour and that is good reason to be hopeful – it helps not to take yourself too seriously.

There is something unique about the Bible that when you turn to it to prepare some thoughts for others, it has an amazing power to instead prepare you.

And so, for all those pondering their future, wondering their past and wandering right now, let there be hope:Read More »

Saints and murderers – beware the trappings of Christianity

 

Mary MacKillop holding her life orders.

The trappings of Christianity are precisely that, a trap – just ask Teresa Lewis or Mary MacKillop.

When we adhere outwardly, publicly or religiously to Christian faith but deny its inner, personal change, eventually we – and others – are snared in a trap of our own making.

What tends to happen is that the appearance of being a good Christian becomes an ever broadening disguise, hiding the real turmoil within. We would have been better to deny the appearance and be honest about the reality.

As guilt and condemnation do their insidious work, and as we have more to lose if our charade is exposed, we work harder on the exterior, becoming even more lost on the inside.

Jesus gave the simple example of the religious leader coming to pray, full of hubris, flaunting his religious superiority but in reality being further away in God’s eyes than the scorned tax collector who stood at a distance, ashamed of his wrong-doing, and seeking mercy and forgiveness.

Extreme examples in today’s world come to light with the execution of a US woman and the one-time excommunication of soon-to-be-Catholic-saint, Mary MacKillop.

Teresa Lewis was executed in Virginia on Friday afternoon (AEST) fo arranging the killings of her husband and a stepson over a $US250,000 insurance payment.

Amazingly, Lewis had the appearance of a strong Christian and even prayed with her husband in bed before getting up and unlocking the door of their home to let in the killers.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Lewis admitted her life had been marked by outrageous bouts of sex and betrayal even as she ‘hewed to the trappings of Christianity’.

‘I was doing drugs, stealing, lying and having several affairs during my marriages,’ reads a statement by Lewis. ‘I went to church every Sunday, Friday and revivals but guess what? I didn’t open my Bible at home, only when I was at church.’

Which is why a Christian life marked only by ‘meetings’ is not a true marker of discipleship. Jesus said that while we would find his presence in the company of other believers, so too among the poor, in serving others and in a heartfelt searching of our own hearts.

Mary MacKillop by all accounts was someone known for these qualities which is no doubt why she was responsible for exposing the paedophilia of a priest, and then excommunicated for her troubles.Read More »

Change comes from global action and the smallest deed

Millennium Development Goals
Image by jiadoldol via Flickr

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on world leaders to attend a summit in New York next week, to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, aimed at halving world poverty by 2015. Newly appointed Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, will be attending.

In the meantime, some good news from Britain today with these comments from British PM David Cameron in an article regarding the Pope’s visit:

‘The Holy See is a partner in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals, which will be discussed at United Nations headquarters in New York again next week. For our part, we are totally committed to meeting the UN target of spending 0.7 per cent of our national income on aid by 2013. And we want to ensure that the money we spend goes to those who need it most. Sustainable economic development is closely linked to political stability and security. A world in which there is a yawning gap between the rich and the poor will be more dangerous and less secure for all of us.’

Come on Jules and Kev, don’t let the Brits get the jump on us!

Meanwhile in the same article, which touches on the beatification of Cardinal Newman while the Pope is in the UK, David Cameron says: 

‘Cardinal Newman once said that one little deed, whether by someone who helps “to relieve the sick and needy” or someone who “forgives an enemy” evidences more true faith than could be shown by “the most fluent religious conversation” or “the most intimate knowledge of scripture”.’

Cross carries comfort for Scott Rush

When Scott Rush arrived at Denpasar’s District Court on August 26 his white shirt shone in the Bali heat.

By the time he stood in court a dark, wooden cross, of the kind commonly carved and sold in Bali, was hanging around his neck, outside his shirt.

As he made his statement to the magistrates, he told them that his fate was in their hands ‘and the hands of God’.

During his statement, he made an apology for his actions, and as he spoke the words, his right hand lifted up, searching for the cross, which he held and caressed while speaking.

‘I wish to say to you, my parents, my family, and the community, how sorry I am for the crime that I have committed and the pain that I have caused.

‘I have brought much shame upon myself and my family. I have a deep sense of guilt for what I have done.’

In a recent letter to Australian Labor politician Chris Hayes (Member for Fowler), Scott Rush wrote:

”I truly feel sorry for the hurt and pain I’ve caused to my parents. I hope to have the chance to prove I am capable of reform. I want to give back to my community and be an ambassador against drugs.

‘Please say a prayer for me, and remember me to your wife Bernadette. I continue to pray every day and night.’

Rush, the youngest of the so-called Bali 9, has done it tough in prison. A strange episode where he was supposedly circumcised by Muslims being just one example of the spiritual, cultural and legal forces swirling around his life.

He has some strong support in his appeal including a letter from the Australian Federal Police saying he played a minor role in the heroin smuggling operation. An Australian academic respected for his knowledge of international law, has also made a statement on Rush’s behalf.

Now might be a good time to join young Scott in those prayers, morning and night.

And to bring the humanity of this incident more to life, visit the Scott Rush website, obviously developed by his family.

To be beheaded, and satisfied…

Back in the early 1990s when I started out in pastoral ministry and church leadership there was a popular teaching used to inspire Christians to greater heights of service and vision.

‘There came a man sent by God, and his name was John’ reads John 1:6, speaking of John the Baptist.

We were asked to replace the name ‘John’ with our own to encourage us to believe we too had been called by God to do great things. Just as John the Baptist strode out into the Jordan and Judea in response to the call of God, so to we would make our mark on the world.

Of course there is a fine line between an ultruistic desire to change the world and egotistical need for recognition and I’m not entirely sure which was more developed by this reference.

That is not to say that God does not call people and that we should not have an unaffected, humble and life-changing sense of the purpose of God in our lives. Each one of us is significant beyond our comprehension, in terms of our seen and unseen influence on others but mostly because we matter to God.

But I don’t recall us, as we discussed this verse, following on from this starting point with John the Baptist through to the outcome of his call. John lived in the desert, wore animal skins, ate locusts, languished in prison, watched his finest disciples leave to follow another and was beheaded.

While Jesus called him greater than any Old Testament prophet, his entire ministry was designed to make way for another. One of John’s best known statements was that Jesus should become more, and himself less.

Serving God is ever the selfless act and if we substitute our own ambition for his glory we cross over into something different.

None of us carry off selflessness to perfection – even John the Baptist acknowledged a gradual retreat of his own name and a rising up of Christ’s. And many of us forget selflessness altogether and pursue ministry for selfish gain, cloaked in a spiritual mantle.

The telling will be in our ability to lay it down and celebrate its picking up by another. To be beheaded and satisfied that we have done well is the mark of Christian greatness. Now there’s a line we don’t see too often in leadership classes… PH

PS There might be something in this post for Kevin Rudd??!!

Are we missing the very frontline of faith?

The Australian community is engaged in an extremely active and vigorous debate about the reality of God and I’m not sure the church at large is even aware it is going on.

While we faithful pray in our services and gatherings that God would move in our land, we may be missing the very answer to those prayers. (Try and stay with me my atheist readers, I know your blood pressure just rose at the mention of answered prayer.)

One of the first signs of spiritual revival might well be that people are even thinking about first order issues such as the origins and nature of life, is there supernatural or spiritual reality or only a material universe, and if religious claims are true how do we deal with many apparent contradictions and problems.

These kinds of questions are often and vigorously debated mainly in online forums and often in response to an increasing number of articles in the media addressing these questions from one perspective or another.

I can assure you this was not the case 10 or 20 years ago when most Australians didn’t want to discuss faith at all and where apathy and materialism (in this sense of material gain) seemed far more important.Read More »

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…

Bear Grylls soon to appear on Aussie buses

Bear Grylls has been in a lot of tough places but the side of a Sydney bus might just be the toughest of all… But that’s exactly where he’ll be shortly, featured in an advertising campaign encouraging fans to discover life’s ultimate adventure, The Alpha Course. Apart from Sydney, the campaign will also run in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to coincide with the visit of Alpha’s international Chairman Ken Costa.

Bear Grylls is the star of Man vs Wild, the Discovery Channel’s most popular program and also screening Monday nights on SBS.

Recently Utterance reported that Bear is a Christian and a big fan of the Alpha Course – check out his promo for it below. As well, Alpha Australia are recommending that now is a good time to encourage friends to do the Alpha Course, especially if they are fans of Bear Grylls. Check out the Alpha Australia website for details.

Gretel, Gillard and ‘god’ in an age of convenient Christianity

Gretel Killeen is now a columnist for The Sun-Herald and, I believe, we did the same communications degree too long ago to remember. Known to most as the host of Big Brother for many years, she is actually an acclaimed author in various genres and did time as a stand up comic.

She counts her most important achievement as being a single mother to her two children and apparently believes in a small ‘g’ god, whatever that means.

Gretel made a fairly intelligent contribution in Sunday’s column to the commentary on Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s declaration of non-faith:

‘And despite the fact I do believe in a god, I’d like to give praise… to Prime Minister Julia Gillard for declaring her atheism last week. In a hypocritical world, it’s not uncommon for allegedly God-fearing politicians to treat the Ten Commandments as though they were a smorgasbord rather than a set meal, choosing their own custom-made combinations to both impress others and serve themselves. It’s therefore thrilling in this age of convenient Christianity to hear someone tell the truth on an issue that could actually lose them votes.’

If she was seen wearing sackcloth and ash and saying some of those things, especially ‘Ten Commandments as… smorgasbord’ and ‘impress others and serve themselves’ we might easily mistake her for Joan the Baptist.

It is possible (and not mutually exclusive) to respect the honesty of a Prime Minister and the measure of faith of a newspaper columnist while still earnestly praying that they would both encounter the living Jesus. PH