Tea & Philosophy: The Vicar's Blog

Pull up a pew and switch on the kettle; let's talk life, theology and stuff…

JB and the Roller Coaster


celebrity culture billboard







I think Justin Beiber is a on a roller-coaster to no place great at the moment.  I hope for his own sake he decides it’s time to get off soon.  I was catching up on my Celeb Goss (where else? doctor’s surgery) and noted with some interest that Justin had been spotted at some pool-side location in recent months chatting to a young woman who was sun-bathing.  Apparently (and you have to take some of the tittle-tattle with a grain of salt, I guess) the conversation wasn’t terribly sophisticated on his side… it was like, all yeah – like, you know, what up?  You look like a beached whale or something… and apparently onlookers were uncomfortable and horrified at his… (fill in the blank here) ________________ (GUBC – Grossly Untapped Brain Cellage would be my pick).  The underlying idea (and I use that word pretty loosely) in JB’s present thinking is “I can do what I like…”  He hasn’t even connected the part that includes “as long as I’m not hurting anyone else.”  The whole sentiment is a pretty disturbing way to run your life, but running life with just the first half?  Like – huh?

The thing is, later in the article, Justin defended his slide into self-indulgent Obnoxicity (think the point betweenToxicity and Obnoxious) by saying something like, it’s my life, and I’m on a journey and I make mistakes and grow from them.  Interesting.  The thing is he’s partly right, but at the same time all wrong.  Yes, it’s his life, yes, we all make mistakes and sommetimes go through the horros of being Toxic/Obnoxious, but you only grow positively from these times when you own up to the impact they have on the people you connect with.  Ideas that are critical here are things like: reflection, restoration, saying sorry, being sorry, being forgiven.  Otherwise you are just a like a derailed train, sloughing into everyone and everything around you and ultimately sliding to a screaming and destructive halt, some place off the line where you didn’t plan to be.  That’s not life.  It’s a train wreck.  That’s not any model of masculinity I want to see my boys emulate as they grow up, or see my daughter dating one day in the (far distant) future.

So, look at your own life.  Don’t kid yourself that unkind words, posts, tweets or selfish actions don’t really hurt the people around you.  Don’t look to Celebs to shape your life – you will never get the whole picture about them anyway, just the manufactured image that handlers and the PR Machines behind them want you to see, to sell their product, to make them wealthy.  And does wealth make them happy?  Well, JB’s spent time in the Slammer recently and (apparently) wasn’t desparately happy about it.  All I can see with that tatts and the shirt-free swagger is a lost little boy who doesn’t quite know how to grow and is grabbing on to all kinds of frail surface stuff.

In as far as it depends on you, live in harmony with all people.  That’s the fundamental message of Christianity: embrace restoration, forgiveness and with the grace of God, get out of the wreckage, and do it now.






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World Down Syndrome Day

March 21st is the date for appreciating diversity.  I didn’t realise until this week that along with Say No To Bullying Day and Harmony Day, it was also World Down Syndrome Day too.  We have come a long way with regards to our treatment and inclusion of people with disabilities, but we’ve still got a way to go.  This week we are going to look at the way in which our use of language and ideas can be one of the most disabling things about the way we treat others (and indeed ourselves).

The book I am reading at present has a chapter on Down Syndrome and the recurring theme echoing through the stories of parents confronted with this reality is the way in which society’s ideas about ‘perfection’ do not serve them.  A clip I watched recently talked bout a Dad struggling to come to terms with a diagnosis of Down Syndrome for his unborn daughter.  He strove for perfection himself, how could his daughter be less than perfect?  What within him had helped produce a “broken baby”?  This kind of thinking is not far from a very old idea about God punishing people for somethng they had done wrong by visiting disability or illness on their children.  Jesus radically overturned thinking like this where he found it.  His actions showed that God did not act in such capricious ways, and instead he reached out to restore people to community once more.

What is clear from my reading is in every case, the birth and lives of these precious children has taught the people around them that love is large, that ‘perfection’ is not simply about the absense of syndromes or disabilities, but that it is something very different.  A generation ago, people were encouraged to hide their children away as something less than perfect; now, thank God, times are changing.  Paralympian, model and public speaker Aimee Mullins observes that we need to revisit our definitions of disability.  T0 truly disable she says, is “to crush a spirit, to withdraw hope, to deflate curiosity, to promote an inability to see beauty, to deprive of imagination.  To make abject.”  She suggests the opposite state is ”to make poss-able.”

How often does our fixation on ‘the perfect family’ the ‘perfect child’, or ‘the perfect world’, disable our humanity?  If Faith shows us anything is that God doesn’t buy into those shallow ideals but is with those on the margins, and through love and compassion making all things poss-able.


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Inflating sultanas?


Inflatable Grapes








Today is National Say No to Bullying Day, and of course Harmony Day too; these are all about tolerance, embracing diversity and being compassionate in word and action, in cyber-world and in Real Life.

Too often we let our fears, easy stereotypes and prejudice run the show, today is a day to remember that these things take away from our humanity, not add to it.

Really this little graphic someone sent me the other day says a lot… now you could look at this either way.  Are the three little blokes working hard to reverse the drying process of the humble sultana, or are they making sultanas?  I think it’s the former – returning dry, twizzled up fruit to full grape-ish freshness.  Watch your words, your posts, your twitters; be mindful that what you post.  Our Deputy Principal spoke today about the ways in which we need to think about our “digital tattoo” – footprint it seems is too gentle a term, too easily erased, not so the words and actions that come from fear, anger, intolerance, fuelled by rumour or gossip.

Harsh words dry us out, actions that exclude others can wither away at our sense of self.  Take time instead to build up community, character and esteem by taking responsibility for your words and actions.  Act with thought and care and compassion and you won’t go far wrong.


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The Star Whale and the Choices We Make

Greater love has no-one than this.... the story of the Star Whale gets us thinking about compassionate choices.

Greater love has no-one than this…. the story of the Star Whale gets us thinking about compassionate choices.

Read: Matthew 4 - The Temptation of Christ

A long time ahead, in a galaxy far away, the entire UK is floating among the stars on a massive spaceship. Life on earth has become impossible and this ship is now home. But not all is well, government is tightly controlled, people go missing and everyone exists in a climate of fear and ignorance.  The Queen (Elizabeth the Tenth) has grave suspicions about a beast that lurks in the bowels of the ship.


This is the short version of a Doctor Who episode featuring Matt Smith as the Doctor.

As the story unfolds what the Doctor, Liz Ten and Amy Pond discover is that the ‘beast’ is really a star whale, the last of its kind. It doesn’t lurk within the ship, it is the vehicle that moves the ship across the universe. Harnessed and compelled by torture, the last Star Whale is in constant pain, and confronted by the selfish choices that she and her government have made, with the tacit support of people who elect to forget the star whale’s story, Liz must make a hard choice. Should she choose to forget the star whale all over again, as she has for the last 250 years, or should she let the star whale go free, and let her nation disintegrate in space?

The Star Whale clip

The Doctor outlines three possible scenarios, each one ending in suffering for someone.   Angry at his diminished choices and the selfishness and cruelty of the humans who have trapped the star whale, he decides that the only kind choice left to make is to disable the whale so that it can no longer feel the pain, leaving it in a deadened state to swim the skies without thought, care or sense. Effectively ending its life.

It is then that Amy observes the Whale’s interaction with children and sees that there may be another, better choice to make. “If you were very, very old and the last of your kind,” she asks, “you couldn’t bear to hear children crying.”  Her perspective helps everyone see that the Star Whale elected to come and rescue the children long ago and that humanity has needlessly entrapped and controlled the creature because they have failed to understand that what motivates it is compassion. The Starship UK must risk giving the Star Whale its freedom and trusting that it will stay because it loves the children it carries. Which is of course exactly what happens.

As I recalled this episode, I thought about the choices we make and how much we can get caught up in self-interested, cruel discussions, because we  are afraid much better than we love at times.  I thought about the ways in which we have misunderstood God and one another and acted out of fear, prejudice and inhumanity. We have limited our choices to those that further our own control and we have failed to act with true compassion or goodness.

Jesus confronts the temptation to buy into the easy, selfish choices too; the ones that are about power, self-gratification, shallow, me-centred life with all the soullessness that brings, but Jesus understands the Star Whale Issue rather better than we do. He knows that God carries us all in love; not any amount of fear or control can drive him, not any amount of pain or injustice can make God any less compassionate. God is what God is, and it is us who fail to trust the breadth and depth of his love for every living thing. Jesus responds to all the easy ways out with steadfast God-centredness rather than utter self-centredness that can mark our choices at times.

So this Lent, may you consider the lilies of the field and the Star Whales of the heavens: God is compassionate, that is the energy behind the choices of God, the choices that Jesus makes – shouldn’t it be ours too?


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The Dream, the Nightmare and the Way Back Home

Very swiftly, the dream becomes the nightmare in the strange garden Alice discovers.  This reminded me of the landscape of the first week in Lent's readings...

Very swiftly, the dream becomes the nightmare in the strange garden Alice discovers. This reminded me of the landscape of the first week in Lent’s readings…

Read: Genesis, Chapters 2 and 3 and Matthew’s Gospel 4: 1-11

As a little girl I had a hardcover book with curly gold writing around the cover.  It was Lewis Carroll’s “ Alice in Wonderland”.  It had illustrated plates and sketches inside, the Red Queen, the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat and Alice herself… The illustrations and story both fascinated and disturbed me.  Nothing about the story for me was right; it was like reading the substance of a nightmare – which indeed is not far from the truth – when things appear to be aligned and then all of a sudden with a turn of a mirror, you realise you are a stranger standing in an alien landscape.

The world you think you know, the world you inhabit, the world as a dream and the world as a nightmare; these are all present for us in these two Bible passages of the first week in Lent.

They are in fact, a little like Alice, either side of the looking glass, mirror images of one another – being exiled from the garden, and returning to the wilderness, as though across all those millennia, seeking God’s heart in the stillness of the landscape he created, Jesus goes out into the desert, because that is all that is left of the garden that once was.  And finding in that place, no longer young, innocent and green, but old and parched and wild, that some voices have stayed there.  Whispering the possibilities of power, of a universe in which one unhitches from the vertical landscape of relationship with God and engages solely in the horizontal landscape, a platform of humanity waiting to be dominated, segregated, manipulated or ignored whatever the victor elects.

Where Adam and Eve elect in the garden to disconnect from God, Jesus in the wilderness chooses a pattern of living that reunites horizontal and vertical landscapes once more.  Where Adam and Eve elect to listen to the voice of God’s adversary, Jesus sees to the heart of what that adversary is proposing, and chooses to remain true to God.  The garden is the dream become the nightmare, the place where you find yourself naked and vulnerable; the wilderness – unexpectedly perhaps – becomes the place where the nightmare begins to become the dream – the dream of the Kingdom of God.

So where does all this get us today?

I know I have told you before of the pastor who exhorted his people to give more money to his church because “giving puts you in the drivers seat of life.”  I found this deeply unsettling (possibly in part because with this analogy I’m not sure where he thought he’d seat God in the vehicle), mostly because it relied on an easy trick we do with the word prosperity.  The prophets remind us, Jesus reminds us, that God is not interested in financial wealth or the power, success or status derived from it.  So why do we give the word prosperity something of the dot-com millionaire gloss?  Why do Christians make it something of an aspirational term in terms of fiscal success?  I am convinced that the prosperity of humanity relies more on compassion and understanding than on some idea about personal security, wealth or independence or especially some outward symbol of religious rightness.  It is in embracing otherness, showing kindness to the stranger (as in the ancient hospitality codes) and seeing beauty and hope among the callous rush of a city street that we might find a truer measure of prosperity and a better vision of what Jesus articulated in the wilderness behind the Jordan.

a project in photography confronts our ideas about otherness

“We are probably missing so much about the people all around us…” The lady in this clip is right – we’ve chosen to miss so much about one another, to alienate, discriminate, to choose the path of personal prosperity over communal equality – and that’s what the Genesis story points out.  By disconnecting from our relationship with God, we have impoverished the relationships we have with one another.  And that’s is never prosperity, no matter how wealthy 20% of the world might be.

Today’s readings show us nightmare and dream and they are perhaps not what we expect.  Today’s readings say, we are not in the garden anymore, as humanity we walked away and have created instead wildernesses within our shared lives.  Yet as people of faith we seek meaning, belonging and love and should create those things wherever we are, planting the seeds of that old garden to flourish in new places, among new people and communities.  This is truly prosperity, this is hope, this is reconnecting with the God who never left us, but waits in love with arms open.

My final perspective today comes from speaker, model and sportswoman Aimee Mullins.  She also happens to be a bilateral amputee.  She speaks of the power of language to enable or disable and the ways in which we may come through our wilderness times with hearts and souls that prosper, in tune with one another and listening for the invitation of God – the God of Four Words…

The poem she uses is by a 14th century Persian Poet, Haffas:

The God Who Only Knows Four Words

“Every child has known God;

Not the god of names.

Not the god of don’ts.

But the God who only knows four words

and keeps repeating them,

Saying: “Come, dance with me.

Come, dance with me!”

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Out of the Ashes


Blue Lantern

One of the questions that often challenges people of faith is the one about unjust suffering.

If there is a God, then how could this God allow so much injustice, pain and struggle?  How could a God, who we say is Love, permit people to harm children, to sell fellow humans into slavery, to kindle hatred and prejudice, to fuel wars?

The question that begs is this: what do you expect God to be?  Do you expect God to be like the Universal Watchmaker, winding the universe and letting it run?  Do you expect God to be like the Eternal Insurance Policy – available on rainy days or when things go dreadfully wrong?  Does the God, the Genesis of the Universe operate like a very large human?  Humans like control: humans can sometimes operate like Green Lantern.  He’s all about controlling his will, controling others with the exercise of will.  The Lantern Guardians/Superheroes I like are the blue ones: they’re all about hope.  Humans like to control the environment round them – control makes us feel secure, like we can predict things.  Here’s a thing: what happens when you can’t?  What have you got left?  When life goes outside the plan you thought you had – what values, what strength, what widsom will get you through?  It’s then that people use words like: faith, hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, love, compassion, care…

I don’t think control is one of God’s defining features.  God creates, God liberates, God allows us free will to make choices.  Then we become part of the on-going creative story of life.  What kind of God would create all that is and then control every last part?  We would then be little better than robots – all our rights guaranteed, but no chance to take responsibility, to hope, to love.  Is that what we really want?

Blaming God for humanity abusing free will is a cop out.  God has given us the resources and gifts we need to make a difference for good; I believe, with love, with hope, with courage, we can.

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Grow where you are planted…



I'm not the world's greatest gardener - not even close - but this is a tomato plant.

I’m not the world’s greatest gardener – not even close – but this is a tomato plant.  And this is a pretty strange location for it to be growing – the corner of a block of classrooms wedged between pavers and walls.


Last year I was heading back to my Office from Chapel when I caught sight of this small plant growing at the corner of one of the class-blocks.  Making its way out of the pavers, concrete, bricks and drains was a very determined tomato plant.

Someone had evidently had ditched a tomato sandwich (which are very rarely appealing by lunch – just my perspective), or maybe a crow dragged it out of the bin and a single seed fell or was brushed without ceremony into the cracks between the paving.  The sun shone, the rain fell and little by little the plant grew.

Jesus reminds us in his parable of the mustard seed that the Kingdom of God grows from small beginnings.  Perhaps those small beginings are hidden out of sight, perhaps in ordinary or unexpected places, perhaps from within people we don’t consider especially ‘holy’ or good.  This little plant’s presence, wedged between the pavers and the brick walls, just around the corner from the rubbish bins made me smile: life finds a way.  And in the same way, God’s reality – a world marked by justice, compassion and hope also finds a way.  In spite of our thoughtlessness, our petty hatreds and prejudices, in places and people we may not expect: Life finds a way.

This reminds me of a children’s story I read a year or two back that told of a seed carried by a bird, dropped in a forest, left to grow or not.  “Grow where you are planted…” the book finished.  Life may not present us with ideal circumstances, we may struggle to find out who we are and where we belong; there are days when we may feel as though we are just putting one foot in front of another, weary, sad or disconnected.  Do not fear: you are not alone – you are never alone and you are loved.  Life will find a way in you too.

Grow where you are planted.



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Top Ten Reasons NOT To Ordain a Bloke

This photo (from the Telegraph Newspaper in the UK) shows a woman in Western Australia being made a Bishop in the Anglican Church.  This deabte has created lots of heated discussion: what do you think of it?

This photo (from the Telegraph Newspaper in the UK) shows a woman in Western Australia being made a Bishop in the Anglican Church – this is The Right Revd Kay Goldsworthy – the first female Anglican Bishop in Australia.  This debate has created lots of heated discussion: what do you think of it?

This week the Gospel reading points us to the way Jesus encourages us not just to observe the letter of the laws, but to understand and observe the spirit behind them.  So often we get caught up in debating the surface stuff, that we neglect the themes that sought to honour and offer compassion and justice.  I am reminded of this in a list of the Top Ten Reasons NOT to ordain a Man (which came from a blog-site called The Deacon’s Bench and was included by a Roman Catholic Deacon, the Revd Greg Kandra. It’s original source is unknown.)

I’ll just point out that while we can laugh at these ‘reasons’, they actually parody the serious reasons given for not ordaining women. Yes! Really.  For many years the Anglican Church has spent time coming to grips with the ordination and conscretation of women, and in a way we got caught up in the letter, not the spirit of some laws – and sad to say in some instances – we didn’t even get that far.  Much debate was just about fear…

10. A man’s place is in the army.

9. The pastoral duties of men who have children might distract them from the responsibility of being a parent.

8. The physique of men indicates that they are more suited to such tasks as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do ministerial tasks.

7. Man was created before woman, obviously as a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. Their conduct at football and basketball games demonstrates this.

5. Some men are handsome, and this will distract women worshippers. (This one was applied to a gifted female preacher who visited Australia from the UK around 80 years ago - she was TOO pretty to preach to the blokes!!)

4. Pastors need to nurture their congregations. But this is not a traditional male role. Throughout history, women have been recognized as not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more fervently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are prone to violence. No really masculine man wants to settle disputes except by fighting about them. Thus they would be poor role models as well as dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. The New Testament tells us that Jesus was betrayed by a man. His lack of faith and ensuing punishment remind us of the subordinated position that all men should take.

1. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep sidewalks, repair the church roof, and perhaps even lead the song service on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the church. (hmm… is this Patronising… or Matronising?)


“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)



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Snap the Stresstwig and get on with Life!



You say "Ollege", I say "College"...  Oh dear.

You say “Ollege”, I say “College”… Oh dear.








Did you ever have one of those days when you thought, I’m just going to have to grit my teeth and get through it?  Days when nothing went right?  Here are some simple reflections on the kind of qualities that help you get through:

1) patience with yourself and others counts for a whole lot.  My Mother used to say to us when we were at each other’s throats (as children) breathe and count to ten.  We are not terribly good at patience as a society – it’s a very undervalued quality, yet in car-parks, queues and conversations across the nation, I’m sure we’d get along famously if we actually used it.

2) a sense of humour.  That sign up the top there is funny.  They’re going to have to fix it, the poor loves (and I do hope nobody has been sacked because of it), but in the mean time – smile.  I recently had a laugh at signs that some creative folk who use the London Underground have sneakily slotted into place around that Fair City.  They are excellent, especially on a highly crowded, over-stressed place like the Underground where nobody looks at anyone else and everyone does a lot of pushing and shoving.  I’ve included an example in the blog.

3) patience and humour help you get back your sense of perspective.  Ask yourself is:

a) throwing a huff at the person who is asking you if you’d please pay your bills or

b) gesturing rudely to the troglodyte who pinched YOUR car park, or

c) verbally abusing the person who looked at you sideways at an ill-timed moment in your life, or

d) posting impatients/nasty or even worse: self-righteous/hoity-toity comments on facebook about some poor geezer who has had the dubious honour of getting on your Dark Side, or

e) texting the said person

really going to make life better for you?  Well, you may think so (prior your actions inciting hurt/stress/tears or road rage) - but then it’s not all about you.  Patience + Humour = Perspective.

I love it that somewhere on the London Underground there is a Stresstwig.  I wonder if it gets replaced often?

I love it that somewhere on the London Underground there is a Stresstwig. I wonder if it gets replaced often?


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Grug, Guy and New Life

Guy, Belt and Grug from "The Croods".

Guy, Belt and Grug from “The Croods”.

I caught up on some flicks recently and finally managed to see “The Croods” (in-flight entertainment on long haul flights – one of the best inventions EVER).  Loved it.  One of the major themes of the film is that life is about taking risks, about engaging with new territory, new challenges, new thoughts, ideas and dreams.  The Stone Age family has never encountered this way of life before, hidden in their cold cave as the sun dies, their every narrative ending in death if their simple rules for survival are broken.  They don’t understand life or change, they have no experience of them: so they fear them.

Into this world comes a new light, physically and metaphorically, in the form of Guy whose parents, before their death, nurtured the big dreams and creative thinking within him.  He takes the Croods on a journey outside everything they know, everything that has defined them and contained them thus far.  To begin with Grug, the Stone Age Father figure reacts against this, his every instinct being to protect, to keep to his Small World View; but gradually with his family, and in particular his daughter, Eep, he begins to see Guy as less threat and more inspiration; in the end he recognises that although he has his limits, and they are manifold; he must use the gifts he has been given and develop others he didn’t know he had.  Grug is called, by Guy’s actions, beyond himself and it is there that he encounters a Bigger World, and a bigger vision of himself.

And that’s important for us to lay hold of today.  God calls us; God seeks us out and sees beyond our ordinariness, our frailty and our failures.  Calling demands a shift in perspective from Small World to Big World thinking and that is not, contrary to the prevailing view, about a shift from economic poverty to wealth (Jesus was not especially interested in that way of thinking).  The Kingdom of God model is about the largeness of the social, emotional and spiritual universe we inhabit.  Calling is also not about sticking to the well-trodden paths, the way of least resistance, calling is about trusting God enough to make the leap of faith into new ideas, new dreams – a new world where equality, compassion, wisdom and justice are living, breathing realities.


Take a look at “The Croods” if you haven’t seen it, or if you have think over the characters.  Are there any there that remind you of you?

Are there any that remind you of the Christian story of faith?

Can you identify patterns of Small World or Big World thinking in your life?

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West Moreton Anglican College is an Anglican co-educational day school located at Karrabin, on the western outskirts of Ispwich, Queensland.  The Chaplaincy Team at the College includes The Reverend Lizzie Gaitskell, the Chaplain and an Anglican Priest (pictured here under weird hat), and Ms Julie Williams, the Chaplaincy Support Officer.  WestMAC Chaplaincy is responsible for the weekly worship services at College, overseeing the social justice program and supporting pastoral care of students, staff and families.  Chaplaincy runs programs including the WestMAC-OKC Partnership, Justice Jam, Turbo Mentoring and our weekly kids club for Junior School, God Gang.  We also have a Sunday worship service held each week during term time at the entirely civilised time of 9.30am.

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