Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The new reality continues – although to me it is just the old reality with some of the gloss and pretence stripped off. I feel particularly blessed in that I am not as affected by the Covid 19 crisis as many. Obviously I am concerned for family back in the UK, not least my parents and our beloved EJ, one of the NHS heroes fighting on the front line (don’t start
me on the criminal neglect of NHS staff – sending them into battle without the proper adequate protection!). But at a personal level we don’t have it bad here at all. We are privileged in being able to go out when we want (although we do restrict it to one period of shopping and one period of exercise per day. We live in a nice area and our apartment has a balcony that means that although I am working from home – so far we have not gone stir crazy.
In this regard I thought this piece on coping with isolation by my Third Space colleague, was rather good.
Sadly I have become a little bit of a geek about Covid 19 figures – checking updates at least twice per day. The great news from Australia is that we are now down to double-digit figures in terms of new cases. Despite testing at least 12,000 per day the number of new cases is decreasing. Given that a couple of weeks ago we were told that ICU’s would be overwhelmed by April the 5th, it is remarkable to report that in the whole of Australia there are only 90 people in ICU’s. I think the government here has got the balance basically right. Although we also have conspiracy theorists on the one hand who pontificate about 5G, China and ‘its just a flu’; and macho politicians on the other, who seek to outdo one another in showing how tough they can be.
Curl Curl Beach
There is a lack of clarity about some of the restrictions – it seems to depend on the local Council and police. On Saturday we were up at Curl Curl beach where there was a lot of people – the vast majority of whom were keeping their social distance. Personally I think it is wonderful that people get to surf, walk and swim (although not sun bathe!). To ban this would be foolish – there is little community transmission at this stage, no pressure on the hospitals and most people are behaving like good Swedes – obeying the guidelines. To ban Australians from the beach or the bush would be unenforceable and lead to widespread resentment and be counter productive. If people give each other space then the authorities should give them space – and resist the ever-present temptation to exercise authoritarian powers just because you have them.
This is the first time I have swum in the sea since we came here last year – and I loved it. It was refreshing and invigorating – good for my physical and mental health. I am currently reading Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence – a fascinating book. In it she states that several of her friends who suffered from depression, stopped taking anti-depressants when they started sea swimming. “The call the ocean ‘vitamin sea”. In another apposite quote she states: “ When we are exposed to sunlight, trees, water, or even just a view of green leaves, we become happier, healthier and stronger. People living in green spaces have more energy and a stronger sense of purpose, and being able to see green spaces from your home is associated with reduced cravings for alcohol, cigarettes and harmful foods. “. Our politicians should reflect that not every one has a garden – and instead of closing public spaces, should open them- with appropriate policing (as they have at supermarkets).
In another chapter Baird points out ‘the importance of daily contact with people – the old fashioned face to face kind’. Again we should not be blasé about the costs to mental, social and economic well being of the lock down. There is a balance to be had – but balance is what our social media society does not permit. Panic is much more the order of the day (on all sides).
Speaking of which here is our latest Panic Room….we have been getting a good response to these – so feel free to pass on.
There are other bonuses to this situation….brothels and bookies are closed. Pride rallies are stopped and the Gender Recognition Act has now been shelved by the Scottish government. Cities are quieter and cleaner. And I get to hear Andrew preach every Sunday evening. His series on Job from Charleston is absolutely stunning – and is listened to eagerly by many people here that we have passed it on to. Here is the latest episode. It is worthy of a much wider audience and would be a blessing to many souls.
I have continued my own ministry here – largely through Zoom (which I hate- I’m already Zoomed out!). It was extremely difficult at one live talk I was giving when some hackers kept flashing up grotesquely pornographic images on my screen (thankfully not viewable in public), whilst shouting racist and blasphemous curses. Our battle is not against flesh and blood!
No More Sea?
But let me leave you with a couple of further thoughts about the sea. Sometimes we are drowning in a sea of trouble – the waters are over our heads and we need rescued. Christ is the ultimate Lifeguard. I am loving reading Richard Sibbes at the moment and he portrays a different sea – a sea of love – where we are overwhelmed, wave after wave, by the love of Christ. Sweet – is hardly adequate enough to describe it. Like Paul I pray that you too may know how wide, deep, long and high the love of Christ is – and that you may know this love that surpasses knowledge.
In Revelation we are told that there will be no sea in heaven. I don’t believe that is to be taken literally – it just simply means that there will be no separation. For many of us just now we are separated – in that horrible phrase ‘socially isolated’. In heaven there is no such thing – there is only sweet fellowship and the deepest experience of the love and joy of Christ. May you get a taste of that on earth. See you next week,
Yours in Christ