Saturday, October 15, 2016

Reminding each other why it matters

I was messing about in youtube again the other day and discovered that Sara Groves eventually did post an official (pseudo) video to my favourite of her songs, Why it Matters, back in 2014. I first shared the lyrics of this one in 2007, then a youtube video someone put together in 2011, so I think it can come around again. It's basically a song telling us to remind each other of the gospel, so here is a five-year reminder.

I love it that she sings of our living, our thinking and creating, as our efforts of narrating about the beauty of The Beauty. (In another song she writes "this is grace, an invitation to be beautiful". That can be understood two ways I think - the grace of God washes away our sin and renders us beautiful in his eyes, through the work Jesus, but personally dispensing grace to others in our lives is also beautiful.)

Why It Matters 
by Sara Groves

Sit with me and tell me once again
Of the story that's been told us
Of the power that will hold us
Of the beauty, of the beauty
Why it matters

Speak to me until I understand
Why our thinking and creating
Why our efforts of narrating
About the beauty, of the beauty
Why it matters

Like a statue in the park
Of this war torn town
And it's protest of the darkness
And this chaos all around
With its beauty, how it matters
How it matters

Show me a love that never fails
Some compassion and attention
Midst confusion and dissension
Like small ramparts for the soul
How it matters

Like a single cup of water
How it matters

Sunday, October 09, 2016

On the therapeutic benefits and theological lessons of gardening

A photo posted by Alison Payne (@thisfoggyday) on

That is perhaps an overreaching blog post title. But Alistair recently shared this article from The Conversation on the therapeutic benefits of gardening, which I found fascinating – health, achievement, interpersonal skills, mental health, psychosocial functioning, existential purpose. You name it, gardening can benefit it.

For me gardening is also like having my own little sub-plot of a fallen world, as well as a living metaphor for sin. I can plant my plants or sow my seeds (I’ve tried growing some things from seed), and apply the water, but there are so many things beyond my control – the bug that got under the frost cloth and had a merry feast on my gardenia over winter, the fungus or mould that destroyed the silver falls, whatever it is that slowly killed the miniature roses (I think they got too wet and there was too much late coldness). Though, generally speaking, if you follow the instructions, things turn out well. It’s what the instructions are for. But then there’s the weeds! Oh, the weeds. They are very much like sin. Chickweed IS sin. Comes us everywhere. And you can’t possibly get all the tiny seedlings so you just aim for the big bits. But CS Lewis and Tim Keller and John Piper would be proud of me. To displace the chickweed, I am planting native groundcover flowers. Plants whose telos it is to be here. Plants that are the true meaning and purpose of gardens in Canberra. Leaving bare soil in a garden is like leaving your head empty for the devil to dance in. What is needed is that the soil is filled up with good and proper things. So I am ousting the weeds with native groundcovers. No more making mud pies, what I truly want is beds of flowers (and a holiday at the sea)!

Native plants also tend to thrive and have more to offer to local wildlife. They do better at serving and encouraging the good creatures around them. Make of that what you will.

(And since the miniature roses gave up the ghost I am replacing those with native everlasting daisies too. My natural resources degree has kicked in my environmental righteousness. Plus, while I particularly loved that yellow rose – I am sad about that one – roses in pots look like nothing in pots for months of the year, so I want less deciduous things.)

Saturday, October 01, 2016

How Great Thou Art - for gypsy hipsters

I really should write a thing, but for today here is a song. How Great Thou Art has always been a favourite, and I was humming away the other day so went looking for a good youtube. I started this one and thought, nope, that is not my sort of manly voice, but I let it run to the chorus and it got better. I love what the cello and double bass are doing (and the Gilbert-Blythe-esque cello player). The video is a little contrived, in a let’s-dress-up-like-peasant-hipsters-and-frolic-in-the-woods sort of way, but I kinda like it all the same (the irony is that they've left the 'When through the woods and forest glades I wander' verse out). If I get run over by a bus, you all have to sing this at my funeral – just so you know.

(I actually grew up singing the 'O Mighty God' version, which is quite different. It's another one of those hymns with many puzzling variations.)


Friday, September 23, 2016

A Friday Funny

You perhaps have to be a certain type of person to even appreciate this comic, but I thought it was one of the most hilarious things I've seen on the internet in a long time.

I have probably posted enough pictures of flowers here to reveal which type I actually am. At times I despair of my own lack of ambition, but I heartily concur with Monet who apparently said "I must have flowers, always, and always", and with that, I must have time for the flowers. Though I don't necessarily need cultivated flowers. Wild and untamed landscapes will do nicely.

I am still reading Tim Keller's devotions on the Psalms every morning on the bus, and recently it was Psalm 104, which tugs at my delight. Restoring and renewing the created world is something that moves me. (I know it doesn't move other people. I have met those people.)

I also need time for just being at home and reading and pondering and listening to music and inspecting the garden.

But for the Type As: you go you flower smelling champions! (I love that!) All power and achievement to you.

(I reserve my Type A-ness for silent frustration with people who just stand on and block escalators. There are no flowers to smell in shopping malls, especially when I am on a half hour lunch break. Keep moving or keep left people!)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Looking for contentment

Contentment can be a word you get very accustomed to hearing as a single person. So I found this article on what precisely it is helpful.

(Then I got to thinking that the very fact that we more often charge one group of people in a particular set circumstances, namely the never married singles, with the command to be content, could perhaps indicate that we've all misunderstood it - because surely if married folks are considered more likely to be, or actually are more, content, based on being in the circumstance of being married, then perhaps that would mean they haven't learnt the secret of biblical contentment either. I'm not denying that single people can be discontent, very discontent, but just that married people shouldn't be content because they are married (or assumed in sermons to be more content because they are married) either, and that we are perhaps not doing the right thing, or the helpful thing, when we talk about contentment in connection with any particular set of circumstances (when the point Paul makes is that it's independent of circumstances!).)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Back on the road

A photo posted by Alison Payne (@thisfoggyday) on

You could rename this blog ‘reasons why Ali is tired right now’ of late. But, boy, did the first two weeks back at work bore the weariness right into me. In them there were two extra evening meetings that went late, a farewell dinner for a colleague of sorts, my turn to cook dinner for 14 bible in my bible study group (plus visiting missionaries) and then it all culminated in our annual Diocesan Synod, which involves a weekend away in Goulburn staging a conference for over 300 people (it runs Friday afternoon to Sunday lunch time – if you’re lucky), where apart from going back to the motel to sleep you’re working. Then on the Monday just gone after Synod I had to drive to Sydney and back for a follow-up appointment with the surgeon. Soooo tired.

(I had to stop several times on the way back from Sydney to stay awake, which is when I snapped the picture of Lake George above with water in it.)

But everything went well. It was the third session of the three-year cycle of Synod, which is not so hectic, and it ran smoothly. The biggest challenge for me is our Chancellor’s handwriting. He gives me answers to questions scratched out on pieces of paper and it’s my job to decipher his microscopic cursive and type them to go up on the screen. He also happens to be a Supreme Court Judge and funnily enough I used to edit his court judgment reports in my previous job, so life comes around and back at you in strange ways.

The appointment with the surgeon went well and all things were benign (I knew I would have heard before now if they weren’t but it was nice to have that confirmed). I have a talent crush. The procedure I had to undergo is considered ‘technically challenging’ and not to be undertaken by an inexperienced surgeon. Further, the FDA in the States issued a warning against it, prompted by one particularly litigious case, which is why they don’t do it in Canberra, but this surgeon has developed a technique to address the warning (even though he considers the risk in itself to be overrated), which he applied to me given my somewhat abnormal second ultrasound. I’m in awe of what he was able to do and how he was able to do it. And I have bigger, messier evidence from a GP removing a BCC. Even the anaesthetic nurse told me, as I waited in the little room before you go into the actual theatre, that ‘he’s really good – he’s the best in NSW’, which was excellent to hear about two minutes before I was unconscious.

I’ve also called it that he is one of the nicest men on earth. He was just so kind to me, both in the initial appointment and then before the surgery, when he took my hand between both of his and apologised for the long wait and explained to me that I was young (told you he was a nice fellow!) and it was unlikely but that he’d do his fancy thing to guard against spreading any cancer. Then he came to see me before 8 am the next morning even though he delivered his last patient to recovery after 11 pm the previous night (I gather that myself and the patient before me took a bit longer than expected). The consultant anaesthetist, who was also a very nice man, came to see me even earlier the next morning as well. I take my hat off to these people who consider 15 hours of complicated surgery or life-risking anaesthesia all in a day’s work, and manage to be nice about it. I wanted to give the surgeon something as a token of thanks, and figured he probably didn’t need anything money could buy, so I made him some crocheted wrist-warmers, which I handed over with some embarrassment at the end of my follow-up appt, thinking he might find them rather pathetic and probably received expensive gifts from rich people all the time, then I made a slightly awkward exit. The receptionist looked at the screen and told me there was no charge for my appt so I went on my way in surprise, then as I hit the lifts my phone is ringing and it’s the doctor’s rooms and I’m thinking they are probably calling me to go back to pay, but it’s the surgeon himself and he’s calling to thank me for the card and the wrist warmers and saying ‘and you made these yourself?’ and going on about how much he appreciates them and thanking me several times (it was a strange reversal that rendered me kind of speechless) and wishing me a safe trip home ... And that is why I've decided he’s one of the nicest men on earth. I'm very thankful to God for the skill he gave the surgeon and for happening upon his name, when I really had no idea.

Meanwhile I’ve come home with four pages of coloured photos of what happened to my insides, which, having screwed my face up at them sufficiently, I think I am just going to hide in the filing cabinet.

In other news, I was being optimistic about the future, and I ordered my first ever pair of compression shorts for running. I wondered whether they’d make any difference to some of my postural and hip flexor issues, and after speaking to a Bishop who was once a physiotherapist and athlete who told me he was a fan that was all the justification I needed to spend the money, so I now have some super-duper running gear, which I have never owned even though I’ve been at it for years. But I wouldn’t be seen dead running in just lycra skins (I’ve seen what that looks like that from behind) so I have ones with a nice little skirt over the top - a running skort if you will. My new t-shirt even matches. I’ve now just got to make a concerted effort to get myself back to somewhere near where I was before I tore my calf muscle last year and then had the surgery etc. I’m writing this here as extra motivation. But first I just need a good sleep-in.

I didn’t do nearly as much reading in the time off as I thought I might, but hopefully I will come back to that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The return of the crochet rug

I’m enjoying the time I’m having at home to recover I must say. At times I have felt like a sook for not being at work, but the reality is that while I can get out and about, and do some things within reason, an 8am to 6pm day at work without the capacity for a nap in the middle would wipe me out at this point, and I’m going to have to start trying to get up earlier if I am going to manage the return to work next week.

One thing I have done in my time off is finish a crochet rug that’s taken almost three years. I used to live in Sydney near King St Newtown, one of Sydney’s more famous streets, and on it was a Vinnies (St Vincent de Paul charity shop) and one day I went in and found two bags of a peppercorn-coloured Morris and Sons Woollahra yarn going for $15 total ($1 a ball) when it is normally $10.95 per ball. So of course I bought it. Then my lovely friend Cath and family gave me a voucher for the Morris and Sons shop (which was also on King St) for my birthday that year, with which I bought some extra balls and the Cranberry yarn to finish it off. So the idea was born for this, named the King St Rug (the irony is that it is not nearly eccentric enough for King St, being probably the most “conservative” rug I have made, where a true loud and clashing granny rug would be more in vogue). I think I started it while I still lived in Sydney, then moved interstate and got a new job and continued freelance work and then took up youth group and so on and so it has languished away. For all it is supposedly a luxury yarn (85% wool, 10% silk, 5% cashmere), I did not find it easy to work with – it sort of gripped the hook and the thickness was not even (it's not spun very much, if that makes sense) and it also breaks quite easily – and without any colour change milestones I ran out of momentum at times. But with this time off I decided to slog through the last seven or so balls of yarn to finish it. Then I had to grit my teeth and weave in all the ends, which is always a test of my capacity to finish what I started and execute my own ideas. But here, finally, it is.

I've been a bit flabbergasted with the Instagram and Facebook response given it's so simple, so I'll include that picture, plus the unfiltered versions.

A photo posted by Alison Payne (@thisfoggyday) on