Well, welcome everybody. I’m here with Sue Viney and she has been a friend of mine ever since I started going to our church which I worked out on the way here was forty years ago.
That’d be right, that’d be right.
So I’m thrilled to have Sue to chat to today. One thing I didn’t write down, Sue and Rod have two children who are about my age. And how many grandchildren?
And two grandchildren.
Yes, and many spiritual children.
And many spiritual children!
Sue is known for her great wisdom, and her great love for people which I know she doesn’t want me to say because she’s also known for her great humility, which she probably also doesn’t want me to say. Sue’s been recognised with an OAM (Order of Australia Medal) for her community work, which includes work with the church, work with the Girl Guides, and the setting up, the creation of the Christian Counsellor’s association. And she’s worked as a teacher, she’s worked with the Guides, she’s worked as a counsellor, both with school children and with adults and I’m absolutely thrilled to talk with Sue today.
So Sue, how did you become a Christian?
There’s a good, I like people asking that kind of question because I thought about this a lot and I don’t think I became. I think I was.
I was raised by my mother and my grandmother and they were both believers, and therefore I think by osmosis, as a child I became a believer. I know I had a very strong feeling as a seven or eight year old that the enemy was attacking me. I remember I actually could speak, I spoke to the enemy and told him to nick off.
So you had a strong faith at that point.
I must have. And so when I was at a church school for a while I was always involved in my local church, I lived in West Hobart, so that was the St John the Baptist church on the corner of Forrest Rd and Goulburn St. And I went right through there until I married and moved. It’s like there wasn’t a time when I wasn’t, but at some point the Lord had to take me in hand and reteach me. And I think that was about maybe when I was 30 or 40 somewhere there. He stripped me. He took, it was like he was checking I really did know what I was doing and that I was committed to him. It was really a painful time and very powerful but I know he did it.
I had a similar, it must have been about 30 when I decided.
That’s a very, important age in the Jewish world. Which I have Jewish inheritance, it’s very important to me. And in the Jewish world 30 is very important. And it is probably about that time, he probably thinks he needs to check whether we’re serious with him.
And you make a decision. It’s a line in the sand. From this time forward.
And then he keeps working on you.
So I didn’t write this down, and I should have asked. But, your childhood wasn’t a lot of fun was it?
No. I’m just wondering how much I want to say about it. I am the product of a domestic violence situation with alcohol induced, and also my father was psychotic. And in those days, we’re talking about the fifties, nobody did anything about these things in those days. My father struggled with me and was quite intent on doing away with me. But God had other ideas. I mean, that’s the base line. He attempted on a number of occasions but I think there were some very significant angels on parade and he did not succeed.
So here I am, in Tasmania because to be safe the only way was for us to leave Victoria and come to live in Tasmania. And in the fifties, that didn’t happen. But we were saved by the head of mental health in Melbourne and he said to my mother, ‘You’ll never be safe so I will hold your husband in custody until you can get away.’ And we did, we came here.
It’s interesting that, even though there were those things that I clearly remember about my life with him, I know, because his nephew told me, and his wife, that he did love me. It was just that the psychosis was too strong and nothing was done. Where now we could have helped to treat the psychosis.
So God brought me here. And the rest is history.
So how old were you when you came here?
Five I think. Five, yes. We arrived on the day of the coronation. The things you remember when somebody doesn’t ask you.
You wouldn’t forget that. That’s amazing.
And the other thing I have to say, if I hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t have met Rod and I have to say at the beginning that Rod and I have been together now pushing 51 years. I met him when I was 15 and he was absolutely, there is no doubt in my mind, God’s provision for me. Because I was so broken, and he is the most unbroken person, if that’s a description, the most together person you could ever meet. And he also had a father and a mother and his mother mothered me in a most incredible way, and his father, for the short time I had him before he died, fathered me. And I think that made a massive difference. And God’s provision. I had to have some of that. And then Rod’s gone on to be the most incredible man.
But anyway, that’s another story.
Isn’t it wonderful though? It’s just so wonderful. Because you describe yourself as broken. No-one – no-one I know who knows you now would describe you in any way as broken.
No. And I’m not now. Because I’ve been healed, haven’t I?
Isn’t that wonderful.
Yes it is wonderful, Ruth.
I think sometimes we don’t believe that that’s possible.
No. But it takes a lot of God, a lot of good teaching, and a lot of healing, and a lot of good people around you to help you come out of that. And so there’s a whole lot of things we could talk about that have brought me to that place. And some of it only recently. So we never get to a line and say that’s it, we’re done. We just wait for the Lord to do the next thing, tear off another bit of onion skin, ‘Oh that hurt.’
For sure. Alright back to my questions. This might be a long interview everyone.
When did you become involved with the Girl Guides?
OK. I’ll start by saying Guiding was the best thing that ever happened to me. And probably to my mother too because she became a leader also, and that was very good for her. But I think I would have come in at seven as a little Brownie person, and I’m still there.
So over all those years, I’ve had lots of opportunities to do some absolutely amazing stuff that I would never have been able to do without them. Like wonderful international experiences. The major one was the Girl Scouts of America paid and I went to a big event in Hawaii when I was 17. I think I was 17, not 18 anyway. And when would I have had a chance to do that? We were as poor as.
And heaps of other Guiding stuff. I also, God gave a window of opportunity in Guiding. Because Guiding has a spiritual base. I say has, it’s less evident now than it used to be. But when Baden-Powell started it, he formulated the law and promise which is the basis to Guiding and I’m pretty sure it’s based on the Fruit of the Spirit. I’m pretty sure. And I had a conversation with his daughter actually about it once. But whatever reason, it was there and it was solid.
Now, it’s had to change because the world has changed but there is still a spiritual element. So that, I think, continued on my spiritual growth because that was another aspect of my life that God was working in.
And because I had such amazing opportunities at lots and lots of levels, like state and national and international levels to present spiritual stuff to many, many people, it was an amazing window. And in fact, there’s a camp coming up in October in Sydney and they’re presenting something there that has the basis in what we developed, my friend Anne and I, developed some years ago. So things are still going on which is very exciting and you never expect it.
No. So my very limited understanding of Guiding from when I was a Brownie for about five minutes at Kingston Beach Hall was there’s craft and there’s badges and whatever. So there’s teaching opportunities as well and small group work, and things like this?
Oh yeah, all of that. And the basis is, of what they call patrols, is a small group, so you’re teaching leadership to girls. I’ve done a huge amount of research and stuff as well and written papers and things. And the important thing is, and still is, beyond anything, is the need to support girls and women, and to bring them into their fullness.
I love that.
And so to me it’s more needed now. I’m sure if Baden Powell came back to life now he would say that it’s more needed now than when he devised it in nineteen whatever it was. After he came back from the Boer War.
I believe in it. I’m quite linked in still, particularly in the leadership. I support the top leaders by mentoring them or whatever opportunity I get. Pray for them. They need a lot of that. When you’re in leadership you need a lot of people to pray for you.
So Guiding was a pretty important piece, and still is, in my life. For which I’m grateful. I think I never grew up enough to leave it.
But as you say, the leaders need leaders. And if you’re teaching leadership you need to be able to show that to the girls as well.
You do. Modelling and all that kind of stuff. Important in this day and age.
Are numbers still … ?
No, they’re not as big as they were. But there’s a thousand options now, which girls didn’t have back somewhere there. Certainly not back in the early days. When I look at the way those women broke out and did stuff in the early nineteen hundreds when they were supposed to be in the kitchen, barefoot and all that stuff. Those women broke out big time. With the suffragettes, it was all that era. And really devised the most wonderful association. At least I think so.
I mean, it’s had it’s ups and downs but it’s still going.
Awesome and still needed.
So did your involvement with the Guides then lead to you becoming a teacher?
Oh, now there’s a question! No, I think I always wanted to be a teacher. I used to do the usual, line up the teddy bears and all that kind of stuff. So I think there was always a huge teaching in me.
And as an only child it, an only child creates in you a certain person, right? With advantages and great disadvantages but you line them all up and you talk to them because you have no-one else to talk to. So you spend your time. And I still do it. I think my grandchildren think, ‘oh who is this silly old girl?’
Because I personify everything, you know, as you do.
Anyway, I feel, no I don’t think there was every anything else I wanted to do. And I taught for a long time and it was God who shifted me from teaching into counselling. Because even though they might be allied in many ways, they’re a long way apart actually. And God pushed me and pushed me until I did my masters of counselling. At UTAS. And people said to me, ‘why aren’t you doing it at so-and-so?’ I said, ‘Because God said I had to have the piece of paper.’ And it had to be from UTAS. Because it’s recognised.
And for what I then subsequently did, I needed that accreditation. Which might not have been recognised with some other, it would be now, but not so much then. So that was the step.
But I taught lots of different things, music and special ed, classroom, and also then subsequently went on to teach at Tabor. Which is a Christian university. I taught counselling. So I did the whole spectrum of teaching.
The last part’s better because they don’t argue with you and they pass their stuff in.
Oh I know. I much prefer to teach adults. People keep asking me, ‘why don’t you teach high school?’ I think, oh no! Teenagers.
I like teenagers individually. But not as a crowd.
Well, I love them as a group. I love adolescents, love them. And at church I just love them. At somewhat of a distance now of course, But because a lot of people don’t. They don’t know how to love adolescents. They need it more than anybody. But we won’t go there because we’ll be going forever.
Keep going, you’ve got a list over there.
OK I think I’ve done how and why did you move from that to counselling, so why did you create the Christian Counsellors Association?
OK so after I’d, so I was still teaching and studying and then the school that I was teaching at advertised for a counsellor. They’d been working on getting a counsellor into the school for the past ten years and I hadn’t even finished my masters but anyway they took a risk on me.
Their question was, ‘what if the kids don’t like you?’ Which is a valid question. Because if kids don’t like you, they won’t come, and then their mates won’t come. But that never seemed to be a problem.
I went to a national Christian counsellors conference. I think their first one. And I realised that there was nothing in the State. And people who wanted to join something joined one of the other states, there was nothing here. And so I felt really strongly that the Lord wanted me to start it. And I had no experience in starting a group.
And it was recently, last week, I met the new national president, and he said, and I was quite grateful for it, actually, he said, ‘starting an organisation is actually very hard.’
And I thought, oh.
That’s good to know.
I thought it after all these years. So I did that for seven years and then the Lord told me that I was to finish. I wasn’t very obedient so he put his foot down harder. And I stepped back. And that was fine, that was right. But I’ve still kept contact with them and particularly support the current chairperson.
So you started it in Tasmania but it grew to be a national one?
No, no, there was already bits and pieces of national and then they formed a, they had a national board, and then they’ve now moved from that, they’re in the process of moving to a national organisation with state officers. So it will be governed from that, and all the governance and all that. So that’s changed now.
And I can imagine it’s very, very important to have that sort of structure at this point in time. As a Christian counsellor you’d feel a little unsafe, I’m thinking, in that job.
Yeah, I would never have wanted to, prior to that I was part of another counselling group and finished with that and the Lord moved me on to start this. But now it has changed. But everything has to change and be reassessed as to whether this is the right way to run something at this point of time. And so it was part of the national body of that for seven or more years.
How does your faith influence your everyday life now?
I don’t think there’s a beginning and end of it. I think it just is. I can’t see, unless I’m blind, I can’t see any place where my love of the Lord is not. Says I, thinking about this for a minute. Yeah ‘I’m fine’, now is that right, really?
And so what I think the Lord is doing now is actually condensing down what he wants me to do now at this point of my life. And at this point of my health. Which is sometimes up and sometimes not which everybody has great love for me in that. Which touches me greatly. Anyway, that’s another story.
See, what you’re not gonna get, listeners is Sue Viney talking about her health.
No! Definitely not.
Which is why I asked how her faith influenced her life, and not her health.
I mean, I can talk about it. I have a very significant chronic problem. But I look at it from the point of view of ‘what opportunities does that give me?’ What opportunities does that give me to love people, and talk to people, and from the basis of this thing which is called Scleroderma, which is quite rare and hardly known about, how can I love them? Because they’re all struggling, big time with a huge number of different things. It’s one of those things that it takes who knows what? So you never know what you’re going to deal with. So I think that that is what the Lord is saying, OK.
Now, of course, we have to remember that Paul did cry out to the Lord about the thorn in his side fifty million times. Well I’ve done the same. But the Lord, his answer to me was, because if I have a lot to say, he’ll give me an answer, he says, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ Which is what he said to Paul. ‘Get over it’ in other words. Do as much of your life as you can at any point of what is going on.
Sometimes I even get sojourns in hospital that’s really interesting ministry ground. Because you can love the staff. When you’re lying there you can just love the staff. And they know it. So it’s good fun. I was in, down at the department of emergency medicine a couple of weeks ago and had the most incredible time.
So are you a ‘get up at four o’clock in the morning and study the bible for an hour before…’
No, no, no. I’m not. I’m afraid it’s not. I would dearly love it to be that, but what it is is my being. Just be. And what people do, and because this is, I think, encouraged by our pastor, ‘Just talk to Sue about it’, or ‘consult Sue about it’, or ‘ring Sue about it’ or ‘go and talk to Sue about it’ which is very lovely. And gives me a lot of wonderful opportunities with people. I think when it’s like that, it’s 24/7. I feel like that. And that’s not a cop out. I’m not copping out. I’m just saying it feels like I’m with the Lord 24/7 but not consciously lining up and doing. I’ll do it as the body can. And as my resting can.
And I sometimes, I do need to sleep. That’s medication, but it’s also the body. The heart and the lungs, I need to sleep. And so I’ll have a little rest. Particularly in the afternoon’s best and then I wake up and off I go again.
But I think I have to be very honest and say there’s no structure to it. It just is. I never know what’s going to turn up. It’s really exciting.
Yeah, that’s really wonderful. It’s like walking with the Lord. And I think sometimes he blesses us who don’t have illness, with people who do have illness so that we can see that it’s not our striving that gets us to God, it’s …
Just our being.
Just our being.
Yeah, I really believe in, I’m just trying to think about the words, Bill Johnson (e.g. Bethel) I heard him speak at a conference and he talked about, and it’s really stayed with me. He was talking about the Holy Spirit. Practicing the presence of God which of course we’ve read in that beautiful book of Brother Lawrence’s. And he talked about the Holy Spirit resting on us like a dove. And that to hold the dove you have to walk gently through the world. Because otherwise the dove will not want to stay.
Oh I love that.
It’s a bit like holding something, anything, like an example would be when God told me to get out of the Christian Counsellors, right? And so it’s sitting in the palm of your hand and your hand wraps over it, right? But unless you undo your hand and release it like a dove almost, or something, then God can’t act. And I like that one, remember that one.
But this thought about the presence of God in our lives is so vital. To me that’s the whole thing. And I have to say, going back to my counselling that if I hadn’t been operating under the Holy Spirit, with people who may not have had a clue who God was, I just really relied on the Holy Spirit reminding me of something, or giving me a word, or whatever. That then when you, if appropriate, you presented it to the person, they go, ‘That’s it! How did you know that?!’ And I may or may not have answered that question.
But you know what I mean? It’s just the Holy Spirit wants to act like that in all of us.
And that means you’re not, in your counselling, you weren’t bashing them over the head with anything, you were just listening to the Spirit and speaking to them.
I hope so, that’s what my desire was. And that was interesting because when I was studying people were worried ‘Why are you going to a secular university?’ and yadidadidah. I mean, I don’t know how many people said it, well not that many probably. And I, apart from my other answer about God saying I needed the piece of paper, when I was studying of course there were lots of different methodologies in counselling. There’s hundreds and hundreds of them. And you’re presented with a certain number. And it seemed to me quite easy. They either fitted with God or they didn’t. No matter who had written them. They either fitted with God, so if they didn’t you could wipe them off. Pick the eyes out of them if it was necessary but just leave them.
And you’d be the same, I’m sure in a lot of the teaching you’ve had. You would know which of it was acceptable to God and which wasn’t.
And go with that. And I mean, I’m pretty simplistic in these things I think. But that’s how it was. And it seemed to, and still does, I mean, I’m still doing counselling, aren’t I, really? It was just following the trail of the Spirit.
And sometimes people would come who would want to know what God was saying. That’s a different dimension. So you have to work out in this day and age and I’ve given up now, who cares, nobody cares who’s seen me. Are you counselling? Are you mentoring? Is it spiritual direction? You know, which category does it all come under, under God. Doesn’t really matter, does it. Once upon a time when you’re still practicing more under the rules you have to be really careful. Now I just go with the flow.
So is there a time when you feel closest to God?
I am pausing here, very significantly. Because my trite answer would be, I always have a feeling of being close to him. That’s my trite answer. But I don’t know whether that’s a good answer. If that’s the right answer.
When do I feel closest to God? When we were away recently, every year we go away and we get away to warmer climes which is better for me, and we had two weeks at a place called Tin Pan Bay. Do you know Tin Pan Bay? South, on the south end of Fraser Island on the mainland, and Hervey Bay. And we had times when we were just sitting and reading and being in the warmth. Which was what my heart had desired for a long time but Rod had to get to a place that that’s what he wanted too. And he works so jolly hard that he needed to have a sitting down, resting a bit. And there were times there, particularly I know that I felt close.
But there have been times I’ve felt when God was a long way away, but then I have to remind myself that that’s only my perception because he jolly well isn’t. And there’s the wilderness times that we’ve all been through and all of that. And the times when he’s pulled us out because we haven’t been obedient, or have needed time out. And he’s done that as well. On occasions.
So I think I feel like I can answer he is with me.
That’s wonderful. What’s something about God and Christianity that you wish everyone knew?
That is so simple. That God is a God of love. That’s it.
There’d be fifty million other things I could say but God’s love covers everything. And God’s love overcomes everything. And there are many, many people I know who have not experienced love on the human level. And therefore to accept love from Father God is virtually, can be impossible, but never impossible in God if they are ready to move towards it. Is that making sense? So because I had no experience of love from the father, it took me a long time to get to that. That He could love me. Why would He love me? And that’s something I know people struggle with, ‘How could God love me?’ they come up with fifty million reasons why he wouldn’t. Which of course is all totally irrelevant.
So that’s the biggest thing. If you can share God’s love with people in whatever shape or form you can do it in, there’s a chance that they can see God in you. Because it’s all about us becoming more and more Christlike, I think.
The more we can be like Christ, the more we can show Jesus to people, especially those that struggle with the Lord and have never known him. Because it’s all very well for some of us who have known him a long time, but there are people who have never known him. Or only heard his name spoken in a way we won’t want it spoken. And so we can understand why people struggle and of course they always throw hypocrisy at us and OK, we agree with that, we know that we are hypocritical. We know that we do the wrong thing, I’m talking the general Christian community. And we’ve made terrible mistakes. We have to try to recoup those mistakes as best we can.
So that’s my word. Love.
That is a wonderful place to finish. Thank you very much Sue, it’s been wonderful.
Thank you everybody for listening.