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This is the post I wasn’t going to write since there are countless pieces all over the web, but here we go…

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Visually, I like the decorative rainbow. However, I don’t appreciate wordpress.com making a political statement with a compulsory banner, making it look as if I elected to make it so, similar to how people would choose to colour their Facebook display pictures.

“Thanks for getting in touch!

Australia will be holding a national survey on marriage equality over the next two months. To show our support for marriage equality, we’re showing the rainbow bar to all our Australian visitors. You can read more about the marriage equality campaign here: http://www.equalitycampaign.org.au/

We cannot remove this banner for individual sites. We understand it looks a bit different to what you’re used to, but it’s here for everyone. We absolutely respect your right to publish the content you choose to your site, but the navigation bar styling reflects WordPress.com’s brand.

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Medical association

LGBT individuals comprised of a large proportion of our patient load at the sexual health clinic. I was glad to be part of a team that worked hard to provide clinical care in a friendly environment, regardless of how people identified themselves in terms of gender and sexual orientation.

However, I am angry that the medical association speaks to the public on behalf of all doctors on the issue of marriage and sexuality, whether we are members of the association or not (membership is <30% of all doctors in the country and has been declining over the years). They misrepresent my views and claim expertise on a matter outside the realm of our core work. Health is broad and almost any aspect of life can be framed as a wellbeing issue – whilst this is a useful concept in clinical practice, as a profession, are we saying that we can have an expert opinion on all things?

I was going to write part two of the last series on the perils of pride in medicine. Can we acknowledge how little we know, even if we consider life under the sun to be all there is to know (Ecclesiastes)? As I’ve described previously, the medical framework is limited for spiritual aspects of life and death, or in comprehending something as commonplace as sleep. Similarly, studying medicine and biology, being academically gifted, the ability to conduct and critically appraise research, being respected and even having good clinical sense, does not mean that doctors are most qualified to lead society on matters of marriage and sexuality.

Friends

Over the years I’ve really wrestled with what it means to be a friend whilst being true to my identity as a Christian. I have a special affection and thankfulness for good friends who remain so despite big differences in culture, religion or views on controversial topics. More than once I’ve been questioned on why I regularly eat and spend time with “ungodly” people. Aren’t we all unholy except through the one who makes us holy (Hebrews 10:10).

Yet I accept some friendships will shatter despite the best intentions. Even with mutual love and respect, truth is a sword that divides (Matthew 10:34). The message of our individual sinfulness and a holy God who judges is offensive.

Christians

Here onward I’ll directly address some worrying arguments I’ve heard from Christian leaders.

Christians have various views on how to or whether to be involved in the political debate on marriage equality. Each of us should seek God for wisdom. However, we are being untruthful if we say the Bible is silent on marriage and sexuality. When asked about divorce, Jesus takes his listeners back to God’s original intent for marriage –

“But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'” (Mark 10:6-7)

Jesus

I trust doctors and others who argue for social acceptance (in the form of marriage equality) and tell people that they need to do what’s right for them do so out of goodwill. However, Christian leaders are preaching a false gospel when they agree that human love and self-love, rather than Jesus, are most important in saving a person from brokenness and pain.

Jesus said he is the only way, truth and life (John 14:6). LGBT or not, Jesus offends our society’s unspoken belief that we are the way, the truth and life – that is, right and wrong is relative, to ourselves as the reference point for truth. Claiming to be wise, we become fools (Romans 1:22). We fall into the age-old trap of wanting to know like God and be like God.

“‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…” (Genesis 3:5-6)

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Thinking thirteen

Sisterly love

“But where are you going to live? Are you going to buy a place or rent? Or move into your apartment?” That’s a lot of forward thinking for a thirteen year old! “And I just wonder, what are you going to eat?”

“What! Mum, did you hear that?! I can cook.” I protested.

“Don’t worry! Your sister is big enough to look after herself.”

Coconuts

I’ve been half-heartedly looking at the real estate pull-outs and she knows exactly what I want. As we’re driving along in the car…

“Let me see. No, this one is too expensive. You can’t afford it. And this one… the suburb is fine right?” She even knows which suburbs I don’t want to live in without knowing where lots of the suburbs are. “Oh this one, this one!”

“Why’s that?”

“It has a coconut tree.” She beams. For awhile whenever we went to the beach, she’d look longingly and circle every coconut tree we passed – especially the ones with coconuts that could almost be reached with a long stick, but not quite.

The house next door to one of her classmates is on sale. “No,” she tells her friend, “it’s an elevated house but has a swimming pool and my sister can’t handle pools.”

Elevated house

We’ve been talking about elevated houses because our art teacher has an elevated house. She and her husband both have a studio downstairs and we think it’s a good setup.

“Oh that’d be convenient. I can sleep downstairs and be your maid. Just don’t call me out too often.”

“Huh,” I laugh incredulously, “you’re happy to be my maid?” We joke about it from time to time because she’s so apt at doing things around the house. She even randomly inspects the dishes I wash to check whether they are still greasy or not.

“Yeah, you’d probably pay better than McDonalds. Anyway, make sure there’s a sink downstairs too… unless you want me to wash my paint in your kitchen.” I shot her a dirty look. “What! It’s true.”

 

Perils of our profession – part one

“Question for reflection: David’s reputation of being a skilled warrior in Saul’s army traveled even to the Philistines… How can our reputation positively or negatively affect our lives? What can we do to cultivate it?” Discover 1 Samuel

We were on our last study of 1 Samuel and this study guide has been good and helpful. But what is the problem with the assumptions underlying this application question?

“You are a person with many gifts and a calling for your life. You have the opportunity to succeed in your chosen field and to glorify God with your influence. Your competence and intelligence will attract people to faith in Christ…” Faithful is Successful

Justin Denholm is one of the co-authors, writing as a doctor, academic and ethicist (I came across his national TB advisory committee publications and thesis on latent TB modelling before realising he also wrote Christian things). He calls the above “dangerous words… the more so because they contain some element of truth”. Why’s that?

Home to your own – part two

With this post I’m going to take the long road with many detours. In terms of chronology, part two preceded part one.

Good in the bad

“How come you came to talk to me?”
“Because you taught us at Sunday school. Our class was loud and disruptive but I thought you did a good job.”
“Oh, thanks.”

I only found an older Christian to help because I was at the end of my rope with some conflict situation. I wanted to leave and go to another church. Anyway, over time I’ve gained a reluctant but absolutely sincere mentor. I thought she was running away from me but her son tells me otherwise.

A few weeks ago we were praying. And she prayed about my “calling” to be here, in my hometown. Wait, I wanted to interrupt, I never said I had such a calling!

The dreaded word

“Too often we overspiritualize “calling” and make it about self-expression instead of faithfulness to God and service to others.” – TGC, Bethany Jenkins

I hate the word as much as I hate the phrase “waiting for the one”. It makes hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

Of course God can give specific callings but often in my circles, the word is often used as a thin disguise for self-centred ambition. I had heated arguments with my parents about this after getting my results at the end of high school – what if, hypothetically, I’m called to be a baker? Or a chef?

“We rationalize our ambition, sometimes subconsciously, by telling ourselves that we have a specific vocational calling and that he will use our success for His glory. And He may, but often it is our own glory we are seeking.”Faithful is Successful

The first vocation anyone was called to was to be a gardener. Why do we think God is only interested in doctors and lawyers? I’ll write about equating success with faithfulness another time.

Open or closed?

Calling is under the broader topic of God’s guidance and purpose. I want to spend some time on this as this topic comes up frequently in my young adult group. Lots of people pray for open and closed doors. I think it’s a simplistic concept at best. What if there’s more than one open door. If the door is closed does that mean you should try again, or go for another one?

I spent much of my uni life thinking about these things. Who to marry and to a lesser extent, where to live and what career pathway to pursue. There’s loads of books on decision making and seeking God’s guidance / will. Some I found helpful are:

1. Knowing God’s Will by Blaine Smith

I’ve long parted with my second-hand copy with yellow pages. It was a relief to know that we won’t miss out on God’s will if we truly “approach our decision making with a heart toward doing God’s will”. The day to day decisions are a good place to start nurturing a heart of doing God’s will.

2. All the Places to Go by John Ortberg.

This is an easy read I picked up on a recent trip to the Christian book shop (nearest is thousands of kilometres away!). At my crossroads, I think I often equated seeking God’s will with seeking a painless road, without heartaches. Something that won’t make me too tired, please?

“I did not realize for many years that what I was looking for wasn’t so much “God’s will for my life.” What I was really looking for was a way to be relieved of the anxiety that comes with taking responsibility for making a difficult decision.”

“God’s will for your life will often be “You decide.”… That doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about you. It means that God cares more about your personhood and character than anything else – which is of course what we would expect from a truly loving God.” 

Call me somewhere else

From what I’ve said so far it sounds like I either a) don’t care about my career, or b) have no self-centred ambitions. But I do.

Family commitments meant that my study group have finished both writtens and clinicals but I still can’t even sit for the upcoming ones this year. It’s exasperating. It sure feels like I’m taking forever when my high school classmate has finished and is now my small group tutor! Being here means I’ve had to let go of some great study and scholarship opportunities. Plus the professional circles are small – I want to be known on my own merits and not as my mother’s daughter.

So I’ve been a bit resentful. And being in a small church is difficult. My church is going through some major transitions which keeps the elders busy. There’s an expectation that we can run our own group of 15 to 30 year olds, Chinese and English, with a large transient population, without much input. Most of those around me feel incredibly young – in age or maturity. Having been at bigger churches with lots more peers, mentors and resources, it’s hard not to make comparisons.

Call me somewhere else. If it has to be hot (I love winter and so does my 30+ scarves) can it at least be somewhere exotic?

Encouragements

A few months ago I had a specific dream and unusual happenings that were reassuring. I suppose it can be dismissed as a coincidence but if signs existed at all this was a clear one that I’m supposed to be home, and that this little place is God’s church too.

I also think of my previous pastor and his wife who moved from a country town to an even smaller town. They’re retiring soon but are still incredibly passionate. On the first Sunday of last year I was there with them. We sang to YouTube (no musicians) and altogether we had a band of 10 or so (mostly elderly). Not much fresh blood and even some of the regulars were cultural Christians. Isn’t it lonely and discouraging? “This is our mission field. We have our joys and challenges.”

To end, I like this passage. Many times Jesus called people to up and go. This healed man begged to go but was called to stay. He went on to tell those at home what Jesus had done for him:

“As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” – Mark 5:18-20

Home to your own – part one

“It’s messier than when I lived here, don’t you think?”

I laughed a little. Everything was similar to how it was at the beginning. Dust had settled on the blue sheet covering the outdoor couch. Fit for cat use only. Shoe racks were orderly but dirt covered the outdoor tiles. We worked hard to clean the back porch. I mostly did my own nesting but after a good feed, the housemates who didn’t do much on their own accord complied willingly if I handed one a mop and another a vacuum.

“We were all just renting a room so it didn’t matter.”

The lock on the back door was still broken. The kitchen lights were off and the dining table looked largely unused. Our female bathroom was as fresh as ever – the work of two long-stayers who religiously cleaned this part of the house (but only this part) several times a week. The living area sprouted little piles of books, equipment, craft material, paper, and such again. The futility of trying to chuck out junk and store things somewhere, anywhere, other than the floor!

“But when you came, something changed in the air.”

Where rent is extraordinarily high, sharing is a cheap option. Throughout the week I liked choosing between different cosy-but-tidy corners of the house to curl up in with my laptop. I cooked to share but reaped more bread (and salmon) than I casted. I wasn’t specifically looking for friends but food and proximity were wonderful ingredients for friendship. To put it in my friend’s words, I can “superficially perform” socially, but warm up slowly to people. On the whole I’m partial to the people (and pets) that I’ve lived with.

“It’s hard to explain.”

So it wasn’t exactly benevolent. I had my own reasons and may have lived exactly the same way whether I believed in God or not. But my heart wouldn’t have been the same. There’s so many things I wouldn’t have bothered with if I wasn’t concerned about “who is my neighbour?” and, “what does love look like?”

“When I came back to the house… it felt like I was coming home.”

Wow, that’s one of the nicest things I’ve ever heard. How about now? Do I treat the family home as a house or home? Love – the closer it is, the harder it gets.