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It has been a busy week of work for the first week of classes.

It has been a great week and a lot has been accomplished.

Now to get a few more things done.  For that reason I am a fan of Fridays.  A chance to catch up reflect on the week and then move forward to a weekend with a UK friend coming to stay.

This week classes start and I figured I need to get on the computer and get everything up and online that I need.

Now if I can just find it all.

This semester I have picked up some staff, an intern, more work, more responsibilities and less sleep due to my super son waking up too much in the middle of the night.

So this week will be regular introduction to units, writing lectures and dealing with last minute admin.

Such is life.

Saturday was the hotest day on record in Melbourne.  It was also the start of the greatest disaster in Victoria with the bushfires around.  Currently the numbers are ovber 170 dead.  More are missing including acquaintences of friends of mine.

After that heavy note some details of what we did to beat the heat.  We decided however to try and avoid any tragedy that day and went to the movies and then church with a nap in between.  Coming out of church we found the cool change had come and things were much better for us.

However the movies themselves were an experience.  This was the first time we took our 4.75 year old super son.  Most of the time he sat and watched Bedtime Stories which was a fun movie.  However the start of the time in the cinema was rough.

We had purchased tickets with what we thought was a special voucher for all of us.  It turned out to be for a single ticket.  We sat in the cinema and just about the previews started.  Bedtime Stories is a G rated movie meaning any one can see it.  The previews were not.  They just got worse to such a point that we and the mother in front had our hands over our children’s eyes.

At some point I realised there was some mistake and went to tell the ticket collector.  He said something like “Yeah, someone threaded the wrong film in that cinema.  See the manager and you will receive some complementary tickets.”

So I went down to the manager, had to find her and then complain.  I asked for a full refund as I had a kid complaining about one of the images.  She said, “mistakes happen”.  This frustrated me.  I replied “I don’t think you are taking this seriously.  You are risking the reputation of your company and I will never be able to trust your company again.”

She started to realise this was a more serious error than she suggested and said she would get complementary tickets for me as well as the refund.  While this pacified me I am still concerned about how little care happened concerning young children, especially the first time for us at the cinema.

You know I would say the name of the cinema chain but that would just be derogatory.  However I would have preferred to have a good experience than excuses.  Makes me aware of ways I need to avoid making excuses too.

Victoria is suffering its worst natural disaster with the bushfires that have raged through the central parts of the state.

One Sunday my wonderful wife was in our backyard and she said “Look at this mess in this yard.”  The wind which had fanned the flames had caused some tree branches and leaves to fill our backyard.  I replied “We should be thankful we have a backyard still.”  It caused my wonderful wife to stop and think.

What has surprised me is the reactions to this tragedy.  I receive emails from different groups and people with responses varying from the need for leadership, the need for compassion and this is God’s judgement.

I am not going to enter into a theodicy instead I want to consider what does it take to wake us up to be thankful.  I realise this disaster shows us how hard it is to be thankful.  You see we seem to need to be pulled up short, and stopped to think to be thankful.  To live lives that are truly grateful, thankful for what God gives us is something we need to be woken up by and seem especially woken by tragedy.

This seems wrong to me.  If we are truly living in God’s presence why are we so unthankful?  Why does it take tragedy to make us realise the blessing of a backyard, a school, a police station, a car, an unburnt house and our lives?

While being self-absorbed seems to be what we are soften I pray that God turns our hearts more to him to be a people who are thankful for all the good that God gives.

I think I have told the story of working for one university and one of my co-workers suggesting the idea would the structure of the department change to meet the requirements or would everything remain the same?  I have looked more recently on the web for that institution and that department.  Things are dramatically different today.

My workplace has grown over the last couple of years and as often happens there is an annual adjustment of roles.  This year though the change was quite dramatic as roles previously taken by two people were split between four people as the work has just increased that much.  I have a new title with the word Director in it and somehow picked up some staff to look after.

I moved into an office which I share with someone rather than be in an open plan area as I have (re)grown used to over the last year.  There are days I like either one more than the other.  Time will tell which is better overall.

This is all good stuff but it may explain why some of my blog entries are a bit more sporadic until things get back into routine.

Last weekend I read Frederick Buechner’s Yellow Leaves.  Now I decided I would write about Buechner this week before I saw Simon Holt’s article.

I was introduced to the writings of Frederick Buechner while I was living in the US.  I was particularly challenged by the idea of a Presbyterian minister who almost won the Pulitzer prize.  Yellow Leaves fills in some holes I did not know about Buechner – especially as I have read little of his autobiographical works.  I am not sure if it was a professor at Fuller Seminary or a class mate or a book I was reading that mentioned him.  I eventually read his dictionaries which are delightful collections of vignettes and ideas on biblical characters.  I read some of his sermons, gave his book on Jacob to a friend and collected more of his works.  I even introduced one brother-in-law to him.

Yellow Leaves is Buechner’s latest and quite possibly last book.  The introduction starts as:

I can still write sentences and paragraphs, but for some five or six years now I haven’t been able to write books.  Maybe after more than thirty of them the well has at last run dry.   Maybe age eighty, I no longer have the right kind of energy.  Maybe the time has simply come to stop.

This is not an affected kind of writing but much the style of this book and others.  Buechner is fully aware of his limitations and yet uses language delightfully.

My favourite dictionary entry in Peculiar Treasures has to do with Joseph as Buechner raises the issue of what is a greater accomplishment for God rescuing Israel or making Joseph a real human being?  And the delight of seeing the gospel as a fairy tale is not as bad as it sounds when you read it in Buechner’s Telling the Truth, which is why it took me such a long time to read the book.

So you can see how much I like Buechner.  But as Buechner says, for today,  “Maybe the time has simply come to stop”.

This weekend we went to Emerald Lake Park . Again.  This time we stayed there as we were meeting members of our small group there.

This was an interesting experience on so many levels.  We were dealing with at least three different cultures if not five as we gathered.  The weather was warmer than we expected and my wonderful wife was not feeling so wonderful.

One of the great things though was going on a water trike with my super son.  It cost too much and got the legs working hard but he loved it.  One thing he never realised was how tight I was holding on to make sure he did not wriggle away into the water.

We had taken sandwiches even though the barbecue was electric and thus safe to use no matter what the weather.

I had been thinking lately of growing up and the parks I went to when I was around the age of my son.  I have particularly been thinking of Lane Cove River Park which is huge, had a weir, playground equipment, picnic areas and when I was older a real paddle steamer. I was wanting to find an equivalent for my super son.  Well Emerald Lake Park is not quite it but it will do.