A Christmas Message: "Immanuel - God with us"

At Christmas we give gifts and spend time with our family and friends wishing good will to all. Christmas is the celebration of the Christ child – Immanuel – God with us, Matthew 1:23.

photo copyright Margaret Kalms

To all the new parents I ask you to remember the moment you first saw your new baby. Remember the sense of awe and excitement of a new human in the world. I certainly felt it when each of my children were born. Despite my biological training and sex education, I still asked in wonder ‘Where did you come from?’ It was a spiritual question, not a biological one. I knew the practicalities of creation but the practicalities did not prepare me for the force of emotions that overwhelmed me when I first looked into the eyes of each new child. This emotion is spiritual, full of hope and joy. I photographed newborn babies for several years in Canberra’s hospitals and I never tired of the awe of holding and looking at a newborn baby. As I said in ‘Passages Through Parenthood: real life stories from Australian parents’ (Anne Godfrey. Lothian books 2000)

I still feel a sense of wonder when I hold a newborn baby. Each baby represents another try at life, another chance to explore what it is to be human. Maybe this baby will make fewer mistakes than I, achieve greater things, inspire or help more people. Each new baby brings hope. We can look into a baby’s face and imagine any future. They help us to think of and plan for the future because it will be twenty years before they are full members of the community. Babies give us a continuum of life that is difficult to describe, a sense of history, a sense of generation following generation and of time flowing on. Who of us has not marvelled at those beautiful tiny fingers and toes of a newborn and not wondered at the sheer mystery of life. When we grasp how much of a miracle birth is, we also know that life is precious.



This experience is one aspect of Immanuel – God with us. God came to earth as a human to experience ALL of our emotions and to share the experience of our lives and to live in perfect harmony with God. In doing so in a mysterious and miraculous way He reconciled God and humanity.

As a Christian I am asked to see Immanuel – God with us in everybody. As a human it is relatively easy to see Immanuel – God with us in our friends and family, those whose company we enjoy. It is harder to see Immanuel – God with us in people we do not like, people who have betrayed or hurt us, people who are cruel or violent, or people who look, dress and smell differently from us. Christmas is a time to remember all our fellow humans to see the miracle of creation in every person, to see the mark of God within no matter what their life situation, to look beyond our personal preferences. Our church reaches out to many during the Christmas season by giving food hampers to local people, hosting community events, giving Christmas shoe-boxes as presents to children and by sending any money offerings gathered on Christmas Day to Baptist World Aid for suffering people around the world.

Last night we received a call that our son had a ‘bad landing’ when he went para-gliding. He is in a country hospital recovering from his injuries 50km from home. This is a dread that any parent fears. Of course we drove to the hospital immediately. It was a sombre mood during the drive to the hospital in the dark last night. We wondered exactly how injured our son was and how it may affect his young life in the future. I am reminded of the fragility of life, how quickly circumstances can change. Although our son’s life is not in immediate danger, this fall has reminded us of the possibility of death. Another reason to see Immanuel – God with us in all of us, is that life can be taken from us at any time. In the developed countries like Australia where I live, it is easy to forget the fragility of life. We know life expectancy is around 80 years so we expect everyone to live ‘til their 80s. We have a tendency to take each other for granted, to take life for granted. But death happens at all ages, even in Australia. Life is a gift to be treasured. But not held on to. I still do not want to wrap my children in ‘cotton-wool’. I’m glad they are doing exciting things and I will not restrict their adventures. I know they are learning from experienced trainers who will teach safety issues. I hope that when my time comes to die, I will be doing something exciting or something worthwhile, because we ALL die.

I wish you all a Happy New Year bringing you many blessings, that God is with YOU and that you achieve good things and grow closer to your life purpose.

Cooking

I've done a bit of cooking. See my photo gallery to see if you like my cooking!

World AIDS Day - Agape Home

On Sunday I did some portrait photography. The profits are going to support volunteers at Agape Home, an orphanage for AIDS children. Currently they support approximately 100 children ranging in age from babies to teens. The home has its own water treatment system and grows some of its food. Fresh food and clean water along go a long way to maintaining a healthy life. Sometimes the children become sick and they are given treatment as needed. They are given training in practical skills and schooling. At all times the children are given a lot of love.

Download the poster.

It is wonderful to do something positive and practical for World AIDS Day.

Blue in Black and White

On 25th October, I went to our National Film and Sound Archive to a lecture and presentation called, “Blue in Black and White” by Prof Jill Julius Matthews from the Australian National University.

Australia’s erotic history does not often generate serious study. The lecture included film clips from the period 1890s to 1970s. It was a joyful experience of fun images of playful bawdy sexual visual jokes that delighted in the absurdity of sex.

Read the full article by Prof Jill Julius Matthews.

My descriptions of the film clips contain explicit erotic content. Do not download if you are under 18 or if explicit sexuality offends you.

My comments on Blue in Black and White.

New photos

I placed two new photos in my gallery today. It is good to get back into the photography again. We all lead such busy lives it takes discipline to arrange time to do those extra things. Life/work balance is important and it is the extra things that give life richness and depth. I encourage everyone to follow their passion, whatever gives meaning and joy.

Heavenly Bodies opening

What an amazing feast of artistic expression! Heavenly Bodies exhibition opened to a full house. Artists and guests enjoyed a stunning array of interpretation of Heavenly Bodies. Included were figure studies by Marie Lund, mythic bold sculptures by Terry Fuller, life's meaning explored by Lyndy Delain, delicate paintings on emu eggs and original fashion by Marlene Greenwood and fragile carvings in cuttlefish bone by Kylie Douglass. Helen Nugent had bright playful mythic images which contrasted with soft drawings by Allan Baptist. Kaoru Rauter explored diverse styles with great skill and stunning effect. Kerry Shepherdson demonstrated skill in cubist style and Wanda Bridgland made a social statement. Barbie Robinson told a story in digital photography and I continued my theme of women's symbolism with three digitally blended photographs.

A big THANK YOU to Hibiscus Gallery hosts, Chris and Wanda Bridgland.

The exhibition runs until 12 October.


A real angel and devil came to the opening of Heavenly Bodies - Photo Richard Robinson


A drink at the opening - Photo Bryan Kalms


Two of my photos, 'Angel of Life and Death' and 'Cosmic Woman' - Photo Margaret Kalms

Heavenly Bodies at Escape ArtFest 2008

Yesterday, I entered three photographs in the 'Heavenly Bodies' exhibition as part of Escape ArtFest 2008;
- Monthly
- Cosmic Woman
- Angel of Life and Death

The exhibition opens 20th September 4-6pm and continues until 12th October.

GOTTA LOVE LITTLE BOYS

A friend sent me this joke...

Two young boys walked into a pharmacy one day, picked out a box of tampons and proceeded to the checkout counter. The man at the counter asked the older boy, 'Son, how old are you?'

'Eight', the boy replied.

The man continued, 'Do you know what these are used for?'

The boy replied, 'Not exactly, but they aren't for me. They're for him. He's my brother. He's four. We saw on TV that if you use these you would be able to swim and ride a bike. Right now, he can't do either.'

Types of Nudity

As an art photographer who also photographs nudes, I have been following the debate about photographing children in the nude with interest.
Nudity has many meanings and purposes. Sexuality is only one meaning of nudity.

1. Nudity can represent innocence. Cupids for hundreds of years have been depicted as nude children. Many cultures around the world allow children to run around nude until they become adults. They are considered cute and sweet because of this innocence.

2. Nudity can represent freedom. Many beaches in Australia in the summer have nude children happily playing, some have specific areas for nudes. During my childhood, there were many times the neighbourhood children went 'skinny dipping' in our local creek. This was experienced as a great sense of freedom. The parents were not worried and none of the children felt threatened by the nudity.

3. Nudity can represent our common humanity. Nudity takes away the trappings of culture, status and employment. There is a common humanity to a group of people in the nude. Many "naturist" clubs experience this and enjoy a sense of community. A link to social nudism.

4. Nudity can represent caring. A great deal of child care involves nudity, for example, bathing, toilet training, getting dressed. When people are old or become an invalid, again nudity is a part of caring. None of us should withhold care because we are afraid of nudity.

5. Nudity can be healing and wholeness. A complete physical examination from a Doctor requires nudity, also many procedures, imaging and operations. Some of the healing arts require nudity or partial nudity, at times, for example, a massage, or acupuncture. Healing can be greatly impaired if society and individuals become too afraid of nudity. Imagine trying to give birth with cloths on! Yet that is what happened for centuries in many cultures, potentially endangering both mother and child. Doctors themselves must study nude photography in medical text books. It is impossible to show examples of medical conditions covered by clothing.

6. Nudity as activism, political statement, social comment or dramatic humour. Sometimes people use nudity to articulate their views in a dramatic way. Animal rights, tree-hugging hippies, streakers, women's rights etc.

If we as a culture say that it is always unacceptable to show a child in the nude, then this gives a very negative view of the body to children. They grow up fearing their bodies. They grow up hiding their bodies and not really knowing what is usual or unusual and what needs checking.
I am concerned at the moral panic about nudity in Australia at the moment. I am referring to the recent case of a six year old girl on the cover of Art Monthly magazine. This moral panic is likely to curb free speech and creativity in Australia. There are many more artistic and symbolic ways to view nudity that enhance human experience. Artistic creativity should be encouraged in society, it expands our thinking and enriches our lives.

God has made our bodies in a very beautiful way and we should be able to look at our bodies without thinking about sex all the time. 

The Gruen Transfer - feminine hygiene

The advertising of women's sanitary products was featured recently on "The Gruen Transfer" on ABC TV, episode 6, 2/7/2008.  It is sub-titled: feminine hygiene; the things with strings and the things with wings! The commentary is lively, making fun of the language used to advertise these products. There are a lot of euphemisms and symbolism around this issue. No-one is willing to be frank on public TV. Some of the ads play on embarrassment, double meanings and timing give the advertising humour.

It was unfortunate that the panel consisted of only one woman and four men! The men, to their credit, do show a lively interest. I love the suggestion that tampons should come wrapped within a kinder surprise!

I wanted to see a young woman's opinion. The advertisements are aimed at young women, and it would have been interesting to know how young women react to these issues. Are there different attitudes with the different generations? Are young women more free and open, or are they trying to hide all the evidence of menstruation as past generations did? How does menstruation fit in with their lives? Do they have different needs and expectations of the products because of their different stories, adventures and experiences?
I did enjoy the humour and suggest you check it out on http://www.abc.net.au/tv/gruentransfer/download.htm

WomenSpeak Canberra Gathering

Yesterday I went to WomenSpeak Canberra Gathering, "How non-indigenous women can stand in solidarity with indigenous women and communities".

It was a lively and at times emotional gathering of approximately 170 women. They came individually and from a wide range of community groups and government agencies. Moving stories of real experiences were told and the consequences for the women, their families and communities were discussed. We affect each other and if some of us are stressed and unhealthy, we all suffer to some degree. Some of the discussion touched on confronting issues such as white privilege, stolen generation, government intervention, education, jobs and respect. False assumptions and ignorance of indigenous culture were also shown to be common in white culture. These assumptions often block our hearing each other clearly. We need to take care that we listen with understanding.

Attitudes are important. We need to look within to truly care about others and make changes. And change is essential. Admit, accept then act. This involves the head, the heart then the hands. Action must follow words, otherwise we are lying with our silence.

A workshop session of small groups discussed action plans. Many ideas were grappled with and the delegates participated enthusiastically.
At lot of ideas were aired and we are all enriched by the gathering.

Technical problems

At last I am back in Cyberspace!!

For the last several weeks I have had technical problems with this site. I was not able to create any blog entries, nor upload anything.
It was very frustrating. I am glad I have good technical help and this site is repaired now.

Apologies for any inconvenience to my visitors.

Agape Home for AIDS children and other children's homes

Last night my husband and I went to a talk at church given by Dominik and Raylene Fechner. They spoke about their experiences in helping, building, administrating, and assisting volunteers in Agape Home, and other children's homes in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Dominik and Raylene Fechner are wonderful examples of Christian love in action. They have good news!! Because Agape Home now has access to anti retroviral drugs, there have been no deaths in three years!! That is amazing for a home for AIDS children.

Their next challenge is to teach the older children life and employment skills. It is exciting watching these lively and grateful children grow up. There are so many possibilities opening up for them. All they need to implement their ideas is the backing from caring, interested people to provide the business plans, the funding and the volunteer workers to implement them.

Domink teaching and enjoying the children.

Dominik teaching wood working skills.
The children made their own shelves to store their stuff. At first they measured their stuff - books, CDs, toys, nick knacks. Then they selected, measured and cut the wood. Finally putting the shelf together according to their own design.
This was the result. What cleaver children!

Shelves made by children.

Raylene has taught cooking and Dominik has taught BBQ skills.

The building project. Smaller home units for the older children. These units will be more like families with house parents, house rules, household tasks such as cooking and cleaning. Each will accommodate 6-8 teens.


To learn more about the work with children that Dominik and Raylene Fechner do, or to find out about volunteering contact them on:

PO Box 6
Sunsai Post Office
Chiangmai, Thailand 50210

fechner@oxinfo.co.th

Fireworks!

Tonight I saw beautiful fireworks, FM 104.7 Skyfire 20 in Canberra. It was a wonderful explosion of light and colour. The blasts were so powerful, they could be felt throughout the body, the booms pounding along with my heart. Many different types of fireworks were displayed, co-ordinated in a spectacular performance with precision timing, creatively set to music played by FM104.7. Dandelion balls, spikes, fountains, hearts, showers and rays in many vibrant colours lit up Lake Burley Griffin and delighted the crowd of thousands.

The display reminded me when my children were in school. I told them they could be and do anything in life as long as they did it well. One of my sons chose to challenge me by saying, "I want to blow things up!". I told him if he did it very well, there are many jobs he could do. Tonight was a beautiful example - a pyrotechnic! This is an extremely skilled and responsible job requiring technical and creative ability. There is a demand because there are numerous public festivals that have fireworks. Pyrotechnics give thousands of people great joy!


Photo copyright Margaret Kalms

International Women's Day

Today is a day for women around the world to take stock.

I am glad Australia has a new government that has abolished 'Work Choices'. This legislation was eroding conditions for many people. Because 'Work Choices' depended on negotiation, people who are in a weak position were at a disadvantage. Many women, especially those who have childcare or older person caring responsibilities, work in casual, part-time or informal jobs. These jobs tend to have no security, no leave entitlements, no sick provisions, no allowance for public holidays. They are jobs where people are hired and fired easily without any reason. They also have limited career options.

Many Australians believe we have equal pay for equal work. In fact, women earn 90% of their male equivalents (Advance Australia Where, Hugh Mackay P48). If you take into account the casualisation of female work and the restricted career path due to carer responsibilities, then women's real earnings are only 66% of men's earnings (The End of Equality, Anne Summers). Add this up over a lifetime and women have significantly reduced superannuation and subsequently significantly reduced financial security in their older years.
It is reasonable that superannuation is considered as part of a divorce or break-up settlement. Justice may not always be a 50/50% split because there are many factors to consider. Some women marry men older than themselves, so still have earning capacity after the man is drawing on his super. Differences in life expectancy may mean that men do not gain the same length of time benefit from their superannuation as their woman partner. Obviously a settlement means a division of assets and therefore a reduction in life style for both. These issues are complex.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Last weekend I went with my husband to Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. What a wonderful celebration of human sexuality and joy in diversity. It was a vibrant festival of light and colour. What impressed me was the range of groups participating - friends, businesses, gyms, clubs, police, defence, nurses, schools and even churches. The floats were varied and exciting. Many groups made elaborate costumes of various fantasy themes. Some of the costumes were very bold. Gay and Lesbian people often have important things to say about bodies, sexuality and gender. They know their views are not mainstream, so they challenge mainstream ideas of sexual love and expression. Many gay and lesbian people have had to think about meaning and desire. Their views can be refreshingly honest, cutting through habits and euphemisms to the heart of issues.

Unfortunately many mainstream people just follow trends without challenging the justice of their behaviour or attitudes.

The event was attended by thousands of people. The crowd was friendly and well behaved, people were joyful, having a great time celebrating life. There was no pushing or shoving. I wore a costume that I made. It was a bit adventurous for me, but was completely suitable for Mardi Gras! I felt completely safe the whole time walking around Sydney city centre and catching trains.


Topless dykes on bikes, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Photo copyright Margaret Kalms



A float from a group from San Francisco, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Photo copyright Margaret Kalms



A muscle man and a globe float, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Photo copyright Margaret Kalms



A colourful float, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Photo copyright Margaret Kalms

Trivia Night a success

The Trivia Night on 2 February was a great success.The Trivia Night was a social occasion and great fun for all. About seventy people attended. Over two thousand dollars was raised to help Natashia Allitt with her work with AIDS children in Russia. The photo I donated auctioned for $30. What a bargain for an original signed photograph! It was a panorama of Corin Dam taken by me during our recent drought. The dam was only about 12% of capacity. It was clear where the water level should have been. The stark, steep barren slopes of the sides contrasted sharply with the soft blue-green native bush that surrounds the area. There is something very fragile about an empty dam with all the sides exposed. We all need to remember that we are dependent on the environment for our water.

I bought a hand made necklace. A bit of glamour for me! It is fun to feel beautiful occasionally.

It is sooooo good to have such fun and be helping a worthwhile cause. The world is a better place because Natashia Alitt helps children.

Panorama photo donated for Trivia night, 2 Feb 2008

Today I donated one of my panorama photos to a silent auction as part of a fund-raising trivia night, Saturday, 2 February 2008, hosted by Belconnen Baptist Church. Funds will go to Natashia Allitt who cares for AIDS children in St Petersburg in Russia. She does a tremendous job and loves the children to bits. It is a pleasure to support her work. The event will raise much needed cash to keep the project going.

Genocide

Last entry I made a comment about shooting "in Iraq". This is only a recent example of a very extensive and ubiquitous problem. Humans often use violence to "solve" problems - and often the bullies (or bullets?) win. Shooting, bombing, warfare, violence, rape, starvation and genocide touches us all. I do not know of a country without genocide in it's history, including my own country, Australia.

I have been reading, "White Christ Black Cross" by Noel Loos, 2007 ISBN9780855755539. It is very humbling to read of the white settlement of Australia as an Aboriginal Holocaust, Chapter 2. The aboriginal population of Australia was devastated by 87% to up to 97%! This depopulation occurred over a relatively short time, causing extreme trauma to the survivors. Causes include deliberate "rounding up" and shooting and poisoning. Also many died of easily treated disease, loss of food resources and poor water. They suffered loss of land, resources, malnutrition, loss of culture, language and social and family structure. The last "dispersal" occurred as recently as 1928, page 25, and children were taken from their parents well into the 1960s. Clearly some hurts are within living memory and Australia has a lot of work to do to gain true reconciliation.

I'm very encouraged by our new prime minister Kevin Rudd expressing "sorry" to Aborigines. Deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard, also said Labour wanted to take "practical measures that would make a difference to the huge life expectancy gap and the lack of opportunity that so many indigenous Australians face." It is not a county's overall wealth that predicts the health of the population, it is the distribution of wealth, especially the social equity of the country. This idea is backed up by studies. "the per caput GNP in Costa Rica is only one-twelfth that of the USA, life expectancy is the same (75 vs. 76 years). And, whereas the per caput GNP of the poor Indian state of Kerala is considerably less than that of India as whole, life expectancy is over 70, very much greater than the Indian average of 57. Sen attributes these islands of health in their seas of relative poverty to Costa Rica and Kerala's widespread pubic education,comprehensive social epidemiological and personal health care, and subsidized nutrition." Amartya Sen (1992) in "Death Hope and Sex" by James S. Chisholm, 1999, ISBN 0 521 59708 0, page 224. Any effort to improve equity of health and education will be a positive step.

AGAPE Home for AIDS children

Last night I made some jam. I sell the jam to my friends to raise money for people who work in AGAPE home, Chiang Mai, Thailand, a home for AIDS children and mothers. We have finally had some rain in Canberra Australia, so many home gardens have fresh fruit. Friends and neighbours donate fruit to me so I can make jam.

I support the work of an AIDS orphanage for several reasons:
  1. This is a practical way to demonstrate the unconditional love of Christ.
  2. People who are sick need care regardless of how they became sick. I am extremely opposed to health care aid that comments on a person's sexual history or orientation, parentage, behaviour or wealth. AIDS is a disease that touches all of these issues. Christ met people where they were at and met their need first.
  3. As a Christian, I believe that abortion is not God's perfect way, that it is killing human life (So is shooting people in Iraq). It is important to support homes for children who do not have families as a practical consequence of that belief. It is also important to assist single mothers for the same reason.

Unfortunately, the existence of soldiers and police are necessary in a world full of problems and are not illegal. Likewise, abortion is sometimes necessary in a world full of problems.

I will NEVER condemn a woman for making this heartbreakingly difficult decision. Botched illegal abortions actually kill more mothers and babies than when abortions are legal. According to Panamerican Health Organisation, "The abortion mortality rate is 0.2-1.2 per 100,000 abortions in countries where abortion is legal.The mortality rate in countries where abortion is penalized is 330 per 100,000."

I cannot see how making abortion illegal shows the love of Christ.

Snow Woman

I added a new photo to my gallery the other day, "Snow Woman". It was taken in August in Australia's Snowy Mountains near Thredbo. Australia has evergreen gum trees (Eucalyptus pauciflora) that thrive in the Snowy Mountains. Here is a photo of me building the snow woman.