Lament and Hope

Last Christmas Eve, I shared a lament as bushfires raged around us, crying out for Emmanuel to come. And for the last couple of years, I’ve led my church’s Blue Christmas services, a space for people to name the griefs and sadnesses of the year and the challenges this season can bring.

As the year ticked over to 2020, a year long anticipated as a nice round number as well as for its association with perfect vision, perhaps we hoped the time for lament had passed. Perhaps we anticipated this year wouldn’t need space for being “blue”.

We all know how that went.

Now we come to the end of a disappointing and difficult year, a year where awareness of our frailties and weaknesses has been heightened, a year where lament has been a constant companion for many of us.

The words and spaces for sitting in the “blue” seem more important than ever.

And yet perhaps we are still hoping that ticking over to 2021 will make everything new again. Or perhaps we are pinning our hopes on a vaccine to bring about a return to “normal”. We find ourselves once again longing, yearning, expectant.

Lament and hope. Hope and lament.

This is our world. This is our humanity. In the midst of life we are in death. Joy and sorrow go hand in hand. We know this to be true. And yet we always find ourselves longing for more.

For me, this is why the biblical story is so powerful. It names this reality and it explains this longing. We were created for more. We live in the in-between. One day all will be restored. There is both space to lament and invitation to hope.

And at the centre of that story is the moment where lament and hope meet. When humanity’s groaning and longing is answered by a God who steps into the middle of the mess and brokenness. With the coming of a baby. Emmanuel. God in our midst.

This Christmas Eve my prayer is that we will find space to lament: to groan and cry out, to yearn and long, to name that where we live is not where we hope to be.

And in our lamenting, may the baby of Bethlehem, the promised Messiah, the Desire of God’s people and the Light of the world, meet us in the midst and bring true hope, hope for the restoration and redemption that is found only in him.




Today is not a great day to be in Melbourne … but there will good days to come

I wasn’t planning on writing another Monday travel post quite so soon, but I’m thinking of and praying for all my friends and family in Melbourne as they start a new stage of lockdown, with curfews and restrictions that are hard for me to imagine. And so they and their beautiful city are on my heart today.

I’ve visited Melbourne many times. So much that it’s been strange to now have had six months without a visit. It was the last place I visited, in late February when it was starting to become apparent that we’d all be travelling a lot less this year.

But I don’t have a huge number of photos from Melbourne, and certainly none that come anywhere close to capturing all its beauty and diversity. Perhaps because it is so familiar and doesn’t need recording for me to remember. Perhaps because I’m usually there to connect with people and work, not as a tourist. Or perhaps because I’ve always assumed I’d be back soon.

What do I love about Melbourne?

Growing up in Sydney, there’s a deep-seated inter-city rivalry with our country’s second largest city. Iconic globally recognised landmarks or quirky cosmopolitan laneways? 2000 or 1956? NRL or AFL? Traffic or trams? Harbour or River? Most well known or most livable? Less rainy days or less rain? There’s a good reason our politicians needed to find a compromise and build the capital somewhere in between!

And living in Adelaide for my adult life, there is a different kind of rivalry. Perhaps more of a one-sided younger sibling vibe that may at time verge on an inferiority complex in our side. Yes, we know that lots of things we do you have already done first, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t cool in our own way. (And most of us have almost forgiven you for the Grand Prix).

But spending a fair bit of time in Melbourne for work, study, and collaboration with various people over the last decade has truly developed my love for this city!

Melbourne has a great cosmopolitan vibe. From street art to high fashion, relaxed river walks to bustling nightlife. And plenty of amazing food! Delights from all over the world, not to mention everything artisanal from chocolate to coffee, dumplings to dessert.

(It was Melbourne, rather than Paris, where I had my first macaron)

I love the markets, large and small, with their fun and funky vibes.

The city views from up high are spectacular, whether from a ritzy event at the Eureka SkyDeck …

… or from a sneaky visit to the bathroom in a hotel on Collins St.

Melbourne also has a great arts scene.

(My second to last visit, late last year, was a crazy 18 hour whirlwind with an equally crazy friend to see a stunning musical whose themes resonate in the current season)

Melbourne loves its sport and does its sporting events so well.

Even for someone who is less “devoted fan” and more “casual spectator”, the atmosphere can’t be beat.

(Put 80,000 Aussies into the MCG for the Commonwealth Games and we all become instant aficionados of shot put, pole vault, and long jump)

What have I learned from Melbourne?

I hope it doesn’t seem unkind to reflect on all these great things about a city when its people can’t currently enjoy them. But I think part of lamenting includes naming what we appreciate (and therefore miss). All these things make Melbourne a great place to visit and we know they will again, hopefully in the not too distant future.

But even more than all the city has to offer, what I love most about Melbourne are the people I know there. And they are the ones who have much to teach me, as they have in the time I’ve spent there with them. Melburnians know what they like, they love who they are, and they lead in so many innovative ways.  Even in this last week, I have been challenged, encouraged, and inspired by many Melbourne friends as they respond to the situation they find themselves in with courage, grace, ingenuity, and good humour.

We Aussies love a good inter-state rivalry. But one danger we currently face is that our usually good-natured competitiveness, comparison, and ribbing can too easily turn into compassionless judgment, fear, or disdain. I hope that reflecting on this beautiful city invites all of us to stand with our neighbours in Melbourne today, praying for them, and looking in hope to how this challenging time will draw out their strength, community, innovation, and sense of fun in all kinds of new ways.

You’ve got this Melbourne. We love you.

And we’re cheering you on.





Time out in my own backyard … or today would be a good day to be in the Clare Valley

My Monday travel posts have seen me revisit cities all over the world – times and places that feel a world away right now. Perhaps it’s not a bad season in which to remember and celebrate the beauty, culture, and diversity of places far and wide. But for today, it’s where I spent the past week that has brought me back to blogging after a hiatus during these strange and constantly changing months.

While like so many I carry sadness for changed plans and lost opportunities, and grief due to the indeterminate separation from friends and family, like most South Australians, I am feeling exceedingly grateful, slightly guilty, and a smidge apprehensive to be enjoying easing restrictions unavailable to too many in our own country, let alone the world.

With international travel off the cards and even state borders currently closed, a holiday in my own “backyard” becomes the only option available.

I sought to take with me the perspective I have when visiting a brand new country or culture. To see with new eyes, to appreciate the simple pleasures, to notice the unassuming beauty, and to get lost in the little moments.

What did I love about spending time in the Clare Valley this week?

I am privileged to live in a land of incredible natural beauty.

I marvel at the variability I can too easily miss.

I listen carefully, inhale deeply, walk softly.

I reflect silently as each day passes from me.

I wonder about the stories of all those who have journeyed through these places.

I join them in worshiping the all-creating One in response to what I perceive.

And I acknowledge that I am interloper, walking on country not first my own.

What am I learning from taking time out in my own backyard?

There is much that I don’t understand about how this world works.

Even as I enjoy the solitude, there is plenty to ponder, to lament, to mourn.

The space and the quiet bring acute awareness of my own limitations, my loneliness, my mortality.

Awareness and reminder of the world’s current uncertainty, sorrow and lament is never far away.

And yet there are gifts of grace to be found even in the darkness.

The sun rising anew each day is a promise of new mercies and great faithfulness.

And there is always someone who has walked these paths before to point me to the presence of the One always in the midst of all things.