Saturday, September 9, 2017

This Time of Life

Sad News

(from Sister Sobkowicz)

It is with sadness that we mention the passing of my brother's son.  He was only 27 and, unbeknownst to the family until recently, he had a brain tumour.  He will be missed!  His mother passed away from cancer only 2 months ago; my brother and his daughter are still reeling from the shock of having their loved ones pass away in such a difficult manner, in such a short period of time.

I was reading from the Book of Mormon and found a scriptural passage that was comforting, especially at this time.  It is in the 5th chapter of Helaman, verse 12, written by a father who is teaching his sons spiritual principles, about faith in Jesus Christ:

"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall".

Verse 47 describes a time when people were willing to repent and follow Jesus, by having faith in him, being baptized and keeping God's commandments:

"Peace, peace be unto you, because of your faith in my Well Beloved, who was from the foundation of the world".

I have felt a peace and calmness, despite also feeling sorrow because someone we care about has passed away.  I know, through Jesus' Atonement, we can all be resurrected after we die.  We will see our loved ones again.  If we have faith in our Saviour and act upon it by repenting when we make mistakes and striving to keep the commandments (which include being baptized), we will also be able to live with our Heavenly Father and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

We have permission to go home for a few days to attend his memorial service and then return to complete our mission in Melbourne.  We hope to be a help and comfort to some of our family members.

Self-Reliance Corner

Use Time Wisely

We were with a group of young missionaries recently, who were preparing to leave the mission, and go back to their home and families.  We were discussing with them spiritual and temporal principles that they had learned on their mission, and which they should cherish when they were back living their "normal" lives.  Many of these are found in the self-reliance manual "My Foundation", including the concept to "Use Time Wisely" (found in Chapter 5).

This topic covers many areas, but in our discussions with the missionaries we felt there were two that were important to emphasize.

The first is this one: "For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labours" (Alma 34:32).  As we go about our daily lives, we should keep in mind our Ultimate Goal, which is to return to live with our Heavenly Father.  He loves us and he wants us to return home.  But he also expects us to progress in this life and become more like his Son.  As Christ encouraged us on several occasions: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).  So we need to work, day by day, on our relationship with God, and if we are going to have a relationship, then we should talk to him each day - discuss our hopes, our plans, our progress, and our regrets.  Every day, we should take the time to "check in" with God and receive guidance from Him.

The second is to similarly work hard on our relationships with our loved ones and those around us.  Each opportunity missed is a wasted moment; each word left unspoken irretrievably lost.  Sister Sobkowicz told the young missionaries about the death of our nephew and about her wish that she had taken much more time to get to know him better.  Why are we here, if not to comfort, uplift and encourage one another?

My Daily Desire
Brother Sobkowicz likes this quote from Thomas Dekker (the 16th century Elizabethan dramatist), which he reads each morning when arising from bed: "To awaken each morning with a smile brightening my face; to greet the day with reverence for the opportunities it contains; to approach my work with a clear mind; to hold ever before me, even in the doing of little things, the Ultimate Purpose toward which I am working; to meet men and women with laughter on my lips and love in my heart; to be gentle and kind and courteous through all the hours; to approach the night with the weariness that ever woos sleep and the joy that comes from work well done—this is how I desire to waste wisely my days." (Thanks to Brett and Kate McKay at "The Art of Manliness" for learning about this quote.)

The Six Seasons of Melbourne, Australia

We were reading recently an excellent book by the naturalist Tanya Loos called "Daylesford Nature Diary - Six Seasons in the Foothills Forests".  Ms. Loos' book educated us to the idea of having six seasons in Melbourne, rather than the conventional four (from a Canadian perspective).  Having lived here for a year now, particularly over a winter, this made complete sense.  One would expect the timing of the seasons and the observations of the natural world to change from area to area within Australia, and in fact there are several aboriginal calendars that do just that.  One for the Melbourne area, compiled by Dr. Beth Gott of the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, is shown below:

The Six Seasons of Melbourne

One notable missing item on this calendar is "Fall" and it is true that we wondered what happened to fall around the March time-frame this year.  We are now into "True Spring", expecting warm, wet weather and abundant flowers, which matches well with what we actually observe.  In the "Pre-Spring" period, we started to see the Acacia tree breaking out in yellow blooms and the spectacular Tulip trees, as can be seen from the photos below:

Acacia Tree in Bloom, late August 2017

Tulip Tree near our home (Photo taken September 3, 2017)
We are seeing many small birds returning to the Melbourne in True Spring as well - one example is the Red-Browed Finch (or Red-Browed Firetail) shown below.

Red-Browed Finch (Firetail)

Birding Around Melbourne

Recently, some friends that we met in the local (Warringal) Park invited us for a day of birding to one of Victoria's hot spots for "water" birds - the Melbourne Water Treatment Plant, located near to Werribee and adjacent to the ocean (Port Phillip Bay).  The WTP has evaporation ponds covering an area of 2200 hectares (22 km^2).  It took us the better part of a day to drive around each of the ponds, but the phenomenal variety and number of birds was well worth it!

Fortunately for us, the two fellows (father and son) were expert birders and helped us to identify some of the birds of prey (with which we not that familiar in Australia; about a dozen species) and the shore birds.

Following are a few photos showing some of the interesting birds that we viewed.  For the serious birder, our complete bird list can be found here: E-bird List.

We saw about 20 of these Black-Shouldered Kites over the day

Golden-headed Cisticola - We loved this little bird - entirely new to us.

Wedge-Tailed Eagle

Early Morning, Flock of Red-Necked Avocets

Closer view of Red-Necked Avocets

Zebra Finch (Feeds on Grass Seeds)

There were hundreds of Black Swans here,
but we like this photo of just one the best.
We took literally a thousand photos over the day, so when we get through sorting, culling and editing them, we'll post a few more - hopefully in our next blog!