Friday, December 15, 2006

Life's minors

Mayhap my posted quote of the other day has morbid tones to it, and mayhap I'm a melancholy romantic ... but I think that the minors of which the writer of that poem speaks are not at all faithless minors. It is the acknowledging that the circumstances that we cannot understand come from God's hand, and the responding with patience and trust, that is the essential thing. Here's the chord that quote strikes with me (these are all quotes from the book God of my Father, by Larry Crabb):
Telling someone who wants protection from tragedy that tragedy will come but it's okay because God will be in it does not always promote rest. Yet my father claims that we know enough of God's character to rest ... Resting in the middle of tragedy because God is in it better fits what I know of the Bible and life than covering my fear of tomorrow by trusting God to supply the blessings I want. 
Perhaps the promises God has made really are superior to the ones we wish he had made. Maybe things are working together for good in ways that only faith in a better land can grasp. 
... I believe that tragedy is an undercurrent in everyone's life, with occasional erruptions that come with neither warning nor expectation. Life is more tragic than orderly. I must learn to quiet my soul, to hush, to learn the lesson of my grandfather's words ["Hush, God is in it"], particularly when bad things happen or when I fear they might ... I must quite myself and listen beneath the noise of my dread to the voice of someone whose goodness has not and will not waiver. God is in it. His plan is good. I must believe it. And that must be the basis of joy, a mature joy that has lost the innocence of Eden but gained the security of hope ...
... the sheer mystery of unequally distributed blessing can be enraging ... mystery points up to the sovereign wisdom of God who writes each of our stories so differently, but always with the intention of preparing us for our part in his story. The mystery of his plan, when seen as a reflection of inscrutable goodness, leaves us not only rejoicing with others more blessed, and confused by choices he never explains, but also awed by the love behind the plan that one day will have us all singing.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The strain unfolds ...

Experience, like a pale musician, holds
A dulcimer of patience in his hand;
Whence harmonies we cannot understand,
Of God's will in His worlds, the strain unfolds
In sad, perplexed minors.

Elizabeth Barrett-Browning

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Spirit of Christmas 3


They launched a Christmas decorating competition at work, with the silly theme that it had to be based on the achievements of your team in the past year. But I got a little inspired - in jest initially but then decided that it could actually work - and so this afternoon a colleague and I constructed this, with suggestions from another colleague and the odd passer-by. It was a good “team-building exercise” and all that as we got together and consulted and negotiated over strategies and colour arrangements ... and built something!

Now we just want to win! :) ... (but if we win we do get to choose which charity to donate money to, which seems to have something to do with the modern "Christmas spirit").

Friday, December 08, 2006

Every Lot

Have lost interest in my own blog of late, which doesn't bode well for anyone else maintaining any interest in it. At the moment I am house-sitting in lovely Balmain, and breathing in the air of materialism - that and the car fumes as I jog the bay run, which is purported to be nice, and it is, but a little too close to the traffic for my liking. But the view is lovely and I'm enjoying playing house in this nice little terrace and at times imagining that life had taken a different path.

That being the case it is probably a good thing that I am also re-reading North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Each chapter begins with a poem, and Chapter 17 with this one:
There are briars besetting every path,
Which call for patient care;
There is a cross in every lot,
And an earnest need for prayer.
A.L. Waring
Margaret the clergyman's daughter is visiting the sick and poor Bessy and after Margaret's encouragement to hope Bessy remonstrates "It's all well enough for yo' to say so, who have lived in pleasant green places all your life long, and never known want or care, or wickedness either, for that matter."

But Margaret, who carries her own hidden sorrows, responds with "Take care how you judge, Bessy ... [followed by the story of her life] ... Have I not care? Do I not know anxiety, though I go about well-dressed, and have food enough? Oh, Bessy, God is just, and our lots are well portioned out by Him, although none but He knows the bitterness of our souls."

Bessy asks for pardon and after Margaret's departure she says to herself "Who'd ha' though that face - as bright and as strong as the angel I dream of - could have known the sorrow she speaks on? I wonder how she'll sin. All on us must sin."

It's a nice little preventative against any kind of sideways judgment or covetousness. We never do know all about the briars and crosses in the lots of others do we, which I have found even in the lives of the Balmain residents.

And the sadder and truer reality is that we will all sin ...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Spirit of Christmas 2 (?)


Well, if anyone thought my desk decorations were a little peculiar and open to misinterpretation, this is what the girl over the wall has done. (Yes, it is a Steve Irwin figurine with pink, feathered wings attached).
I am just not going to say a word ...

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Spirit of Christmas


This morning the girls in the team next door at work went to town with Christmas decorations and their work area now looks all very festive. I inherited some left overs, which I thought was a nice, tastefully understated silver piece of something resembling tinsel, so I set to work curling it nicely around the partitions and surrounding my space with it. Ell first told me it looked like I had used barbed wire - quite rude I thought :) - then one of guys walked past and stopped and asked "is it to keep you in or keep other people out?". Oh I laughed. It would seem that my effort to join in the festivities looks rather like I have razor-wired my desk.

So much for the Spirit of Christmas and spreading goodwill and cheer and all that ...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A song to Sting

Seems like a number of people are commenting on the lyrics of U2 and their subliminal or otherwise Christian message at the moment, in the the lead up to and wake of their tour, and so being something of a Sting fan I thought, just for fun, I'd join in on his behalf. Mercury Falling is one of my all time favourite albums and today at work I was listening to Brand New Day. I like Stings original lyrics and his unpredictable music (and I don't know anything about drumming but I know Vinnie Colaiuta is good - trying to tap my fingers to Prelude to the End of the Game confuses me every time - maybe I'll offer a prize to anyone who can explain that rhythm to me).

I find Sting's music so unpredictable that I can't be confident I am always going to like it. The song "Fill Her Up" I certainly didn't like when I first heard it start playing. It surprised me with it's decidedly country-western sound, but even more did it surprise me when both the music and the words changed tone nearing the end. It morphs into a negro spiritual, and these are the words:
Fill Her Up

Mobil station where I stand
This old gas pump in my hand
My boss don't like me,
got a face like a weasel
Oil on my hands and the smell of diesel
Here come a big shot from the city
V8 engine, she runs so pretty
'Fill her up son, unleaded
I need a full tank a gas where I'm headed'

Up in the front seat a pretty red head
'We're going to Vegas we're gonna get wed'
'So fill her up son, don't be staring
That's a real diamond she be wearing'

I'm gonna take my baby one day
I'm gonna fill her up and head west
I'm going find some money all right

See those tail lights heading west
I got no money to invest
I got no prospects, or education
I was lucky getting a job at this gas station

That old cash box on the top shelf
The boss is sleeping, I'll just help myself
Let's consider this as just a loan
I can sort it out later on the 'phone

I'm gonna pick my girl up tonight
I'm gonna fill her up and head west
I'm gonna show her all the bright lights
We're gonna say we lived 'for we come home

And as I head through the woods on the way back
The evening sun is slanting through the pine trees real pretty
It's like I'm walked into a glade of heaven
And there's music playing
This money is cold in my hand
And a voice somewhere is saying
'Why would you wanna take that stolen thing
And What real happiness can bring?'

You're gonna fill her up with sadness
You're gonna fill her up with shame
You're gonna fill her up with sorrow
Before she even takes your name
You're gonna fill her up with madness
You're gonna fill her up with blame
You're gonna live with no tomorrow
You're gonna fill her up with pain
You're gonna fill her up with darkness
You're gonna fill her up with night

You gotta fill her up with Jesus
You gotta fill her up with light
You gotta fill her up with spirit
You gotta fill her up with grace
You gotta fill her up with heaven
You got the rest of life to face

You gotta fill her up the right way
You gotta fill her up with care
You gotta fill her up with babies
You gotta fill her up and swear
You're gonna love that girl forever
You're gonna fill her up with life
You're gonna be a loving husband
She's gonna be your loving wife
You gotta fill her up with gladness
You gotta fill her up with joy
You gotta fill her up with love
You gotta fill her up with love
Reminds me of those "relationship" talks we had back in youth group, being encouraged to be responsible and godly, to view relationships as a dealing with another person for which we would be held accountable, to think past tomorrow to how we'd like our history to be should we come to getting married ... but I didn't expect to hear it from Sting.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The narrow path 2


Just another picture of the narrow path ...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The narrow path


It's been a while, for a variety of reasons of no interest to the world, but once more to blog. I received an email at work the other week called "The Narrow Path", which conjures up associations for those us who are Christians (see here), when it was actually a series of quite amazing pictures from either China or Japan (if anyone knows please tell me - though I can only figure out how to add one to this blog so far - maybe this will be the start of something).

With those associations in mind I was reminded of the following quote by Pere Didon, whom I think was a French priest I know nothing else about, and a hundred other quotes:
I do not want people who come with me under certain reservations ... The roads are rugged, the precipices are steep, there may be feelings of dizziness on the heights, gusts of wind, peals of thunder, fierce eagles, nights of awful gloom; fear them not! There are also the joys of sunlight, flowers such as are not in the plain, the purest of air, restful nooks, and the stars smile thence like the eyes of God.
I think I have a flare for the dramatic, but I like it. I know it's not God speaking but, playing along with one's own association, it does make one stop and consider with what reservations they come.
I really like the allegory Hinds Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard, the "story of how Much-Afraid escaped from her Fearing relatives and went with the Shepherd to the High Places". Much-Afraid is given the companions Sorrow and Suffering to begin the difficult and narrow journey upwards, tempted by many "fears", at the end of which she comes to the grave of her own hopes - where she must offer herself on the altar. Having made the sacrifice she awakes to find that her crippled feet are now those of the hind, and that Sorrow and Suffering have been transformed into Joy and Peace.

Will leave you to your own associations ...

Friday, November 03, 2006

:)

Me thinks I have been blogging without real inspiration of late, and I have decided to put my face back to the wall, but today I am just pleasantly moved by this.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The prevailing conditions

Years ago in the front of my Honours thesis I wrote a quote by Annie Dillard from ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’ about the "great hurrah" of wild animals. It went with the picture of Eucalypt the kangaroo caught on the alert with an overflowing mouthful of grass. I had never read ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’ but stole the quote from another book called ‘Wild Ice’ about Antarctica (I have a dormant love of wild places and wild creatures and a corresponding section in my book collection). Anyway, the other day I came across the recommended book list on the 'Desiring God' website, through meandering google searches, and top of the list under literature was ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’. I didn’t realize that Annie Dillard regarded this work as a "theological treatise" rather than a reflection on nature. It won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction in 1974 and I am now on a mission to obtain this book.

Then, the other day I came across this random quote, curiously also by Annie Dillard:
On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the Catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? ... It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping God may wake someday and take offense, or the waking God may draw us out to where we can never return.
I have no real idea of Annie Dillard’s theology – yet - and I don’t know where she gets a sleeping God from (maybe Psalm 44, but see Psalm 121:3) but it does snap one to attention. We had a sermon on Sunday night on 2 Peter 3 about being sufficiently sensible of conditions, and the sort of people we ought to be in response, living holy and godly lives as we wait for Christ’s return.

Annie’s quote reminds me also of Ephesians 1:19-21. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is the power at work in us and for us, to strengthen our faith and help us comprehend the dimensions of God’s love (Ephesians 3:14-19 is one of my all time favourite prayers) ... and if only we did grasp that how differently we would live.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The scariest thing ...

Last Sunday night we had the last in a series of sermons on Suffering by Rob Smith, called "Only the suffering God can help". It was really good, talking about the passibility of God (though have discovered that’s a contentious point), the grief of God, and the tears and cross of Jesus, and then the suffering people of God, and reasons why that might be ... and it got me thinking along those lines. Then on Monday I received my DVDs in the mail from the US on "How Should we Then Live?" by Francis Schaeffer (was so chuffed), featuring a bonus interview on living with sickness and suffering. I came home after bible study leader’s meeting and couldn’t resist watching that interview. It was so very good. Edith Schaeffer discusses what daily faithfulness means in the face of suffering and Francis talks about the theological possibilities and issues. Oh to be able to live as that couple did!

Then on Tuesday night in bible study we started studying Job. It was interesting on Sunday night that the cosmic dimension wasn’t included as a reason for suffering – only the discipline of God and persecution for the sake of the Gospel (actually, Job and "unexplained suffering" was covered in a different sermon I temporarily failed to recall). Francis mentions it, saying that Job never knew what was behind his suffering, and we don’t know either. But the fact that Job never knows seems to indicate that an appropriate response to suffering and an appropriate view of God is more the point than finding out the cause of suffering. Francis Schaeffer talks about trusting in the wisdom of God and says at one point "nothing scares me more than that I could ask God for anything right now, and get it – because I don’t know everything". That’s quite an admirable place to be when you are dying of cancer.

I have been reflecting on the state of my own life also lately and the other night I went back to an old journal and found this quote from ‘Finding God’ by Larry Crabb, which is a book I read repeatedly. He says:
Finding God means to face all of life, both good and bad, with a spirit of trust. We have a higher calling than finding joy in good things and working through bad things: we must reflect confidence in God in all our relationships and activities, in all our joys and sorrows ... When we approach God with the attitude of an unworthy beggar whose only hope is another’s kindness ... with his generous heart overflowing he refuses to withhold anything from us that will help us know him better. In his own sovereign way, without consulting us, he patiently arranges things in our lives so we experience him as the satisfier of our souls, as our loving bridegroom, as a good God who never intends anything but our joy.
And so then I bought a little stuffed elephant - which now sits on my computer at work. I saw this little elephant and was inspired by the Dr Seuss book 'Horton Hatches the Egg', in which Horton sits on his egg through storms and snow and catastrophes and the line is "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant, and elephant’s faithful one hundred percent". It’s to remind me to be faithful, not just in the attending of church and being on time for meetings kind of way, but in my perspectives, my attitudes, in that spirit of trust in the goodness of God ...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Saturday with Morrie

I’ve given up fighting the urge to diarise. Yesterday afternoon I wept for a good hour and then some – as long as it takes to watch 'Tuesdays with Morrie'. If you haven’t seen this movie then you should (yes, am going to force my own movie opinions on the world, just this once). The book, of course, is better, but it is based on the true story of a sociology professor who gets Lou-Gehrig's disease (ALS) and decides to make his dying his last great lesson. A former sociology student goes to visit him – on Tuesdays - where he learns the ‘meaning of life’. The catch phrase of the dying professor becomes "we must love each other or die", from W.H. Auden’s poem ‘1 September, 1939’ and among his lessons he mentions such things as the regret of pride, vanity and hardness of heart, the importance of family ... It’s quite simple really, but it’s the sort of movie that makes me want to change my life, to centre it more around people and relationships, to spend more time with my grandparents ... to listen to that "bird on my shoulder" ...
But as I sat there longing for this and that to be different I also began to wonder if that was a particularly helpful response ... Sure, I could certainly change some things for the better, but we have to consider, in our current circumstances, the sovereignty of God as it works out in our lives also.

I remembered reading, in Larry Crabb’s book 'God of my Father', this: "Everyone’s life is a story whose point is discovered only when that story is lifted up into the larger story of God ... the plot of our larger story, which gives meaning to all our lesser tales, is made known only in the book God wrote. Life never reveals its meaning by itself ...". And that, very sadly, for all the good things Morrie learnt by an honest look around him, is the meaning that as far as we can know from his book Morrie missed.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

If anyone would come after me ...

Haven’t blogged for a while ... I have been reading this good book you see. Something is brewing, but just for now, something else I read in said book (Adam Bede, by George Eliot) that got me thinking is the passage below from a letter written by Dinah, the pure and lovely Methodist. George Eliot actually abandoned her Christianity (and "lived in sin" with G. Lewes, which flies in the face of so much of the instructional narrative of Adam Bede, as well as her other novels) so I read her insights cautiously. But this is what Dinah writes:
These thoughts have been borne in on me of late, and I have see with new clearness the meaning of those words, "If any man love me, let him take up my cross." I have heard this enlarged on as if it meant the troubles and persecutions we bring on ourselves by confessing Jesus. But surely that is a narrow thought. The true cross of the Redeemer was the sin and sorrow of this world – that was what lay heavy on his heart – and that is the cross we shall share with him, that is the cup we must drink of with him, if we would have any part in that Divine Love which is one with his sorrow.
For starters, the verse has actually been misquoted in that it says "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (emphasis mine) - in Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:24 and Luke 9:23 of the ESV. If anyone out there has reason to believe the original Greek is ambiguous at that point then please let me know. So, we are not actually taking up the cross of Jesus himself, and are actually incapable of bearing the sin and sorrow of this world in the way that Jesus did, in taking them TO the cross to set the world free of them. We're taking up our own cross. George Eliot is right in saying that this passage is generally enlarged upon to mean those things we forsake, or suffer, or bear for the sake of following Jesus to heaven. But is she also right in saying that that is a narrow thought? Does, or should, our interpretation include the sin and sorrow of this world? How different would the application of that verse be if it did? (In context, Dinah goes out to work amongst all the sick, poor and sorrowing, and it is from there that she writes this letter.) I’m still thinking about it myself (and I haven’t quite finished the book yet, so this blog can’t expect my full attention) ... Your comments and thoughts appreciated ...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Remembering love

Last Saturday I went to the Christian Writer’s Day, which Karen has blogged about here (on 8th October). As the name suggests, it’s a gathering of Christians who are interested in writing. I’m always struck with panic over the preliminary writing task, which is when you are given a topic, about 15 minutes to write about it, and then you get to read out what you have come up with to everybody there (does that idea not frighten anyone else?).

The topic for this day was remembering when you were in love. As Karen says we "had to think back to the time when they were in love and write about that period of their lives—describing what they did, what their environment was like, etc.—but without mentioning the fact that they were in love. The results were quite interesting. I am trying to work out whether it feels different to be in love if you are a guy as opposed to a girl, and so far there doesn't seem to be much of a difference ...".

The thing is, I actually felt like the honorary boy of the group reading out my piece. In the panic of the exercise I grabbed at the first thing that came to mind, which goes way, way, back to the beginning of such things and started writing. And it was very different to the melancholy, "romantic" writing of some, describing a look, a smile, the meaning of a moment and so on.

If anybody recognizes themselves in this story, well it’s ancient history:

I stood behind the start line with the usual stomach-churning nervousness, though that was never so bad before the 1500m as before the 100m or 200m – those first few seconds after gun fire were not so win-or-lose crucial. The fellow with gun poised looked down at my Dunlop volleys, all the running shoes our single-parent existence afforded, with scorn and said "what are you running in? – tennis shoes?". I coloured in teenage embarrassment as all the competitors looked in the direction of my feet.

The gun finally fired and off we all ran. Never one to employ sophisticated athletic strategies I just decided today to do the best by my tennis shoes and head for the front of the mob as we rounded the first bend, partly driven by the gun-firer's scorn. And then I heard it, the "go Ali" from the long jump pits. And there he was, Simon (not his real name) from Peel Highschool (not his real school either – old loves always remain a sensitive spot) smiling, waving and cheering me on. I won that race by 50 seconds.

And that’s all I had. But it’s amazing what a little encouragement from that "someone special" can do for us isn’t it? We can run faster than we ever have before. It outweighs the scorn of a hundred others. It changes a bad day into a good day in an moment. And there’s numerous lines of poetry that could be inserted here ... but, you’ll have to excuse my current obsession with George Eliot. I was reading something the other day, which is a slightly more poignant description of what it means to be in love, slightly more womanly too. It describes a moment between Adam and Hetty. Adam loves Hetty and Hetty is newly in love with Arthur, which alters her behaviour to Adam thus (Hetty is a pretty monster in her vanity and absence of concern for other human beings, but I can tell that the author is working on me such that Hetty’s coming ruin will temporarily ruin me too):
And Hetty? You know quite well that Adam was mistaken about her. Like many another man, he thought the signs of love for another were signs of love towards himself. When Adam was approaching unseen by her, she was absorbed as usual in thinking and wondering about Arthur’s possible return: the sound of any man’s footstep would have affected her just in the same way – she would have felt it might be Arthur before she had time to see, and the blood that forsook her cheek in the agitation of that momentary feeling would have rushed back again at the sight of any one else just as much as the sight of Adam. He was not wrong in thinking that a change had come over Hetty: the anxieties and fears of a first passion, with which she was trembling, had become stronger than vanity, had given her for the first time that sense of helpless dependence on another’s feeling which awakens the clinging deprecating womanhood even in the shallowest girl that can ever experience it, and creates in her a sensibility to kindness which found her quite hard before. For the first time Hetty felt that there was something soothing to her in Adam’s timid yet manly tenderness: she wanted to be treated lovingly – O, it was very hard to bear this blank of absence, silence, apparent indifference, after those moments of glowing love! She was not afraid that Adam would tease her with love-making and flattering speeches like her other admirers: he had always been so reserved to her: she could enjoy without any fear the sense that this strong brave man loved her, and was near her. It never entered into her mind that Adam was pitiable too – that Adam, too, must suffer one day.
Helpless dependence is indeed what comes of the power of another to so alter our day with one smile. But it actually made me think that unrequited love is good for us, in creating that heightened sensibility to kindness from others ...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Closing time

This is not a real blog, I am just going to blah on about music. Lastnight, while hanging about in the city waiting for bible study to start, I ended up in JB Hi-Fi, which is always kind of dangerous, and I bought an old and cheap Tom Waits CD. I was flicking through Tom Waits just because I discovered that Sarah McLachlan sings a cover of one of his songs "OI'55", and then I discovered that this was on a CD together with a song that Marc Cohn sings a cover of "I hope that I don't fall in love with you" (he sings that on the movie "The Prince and Me", which is a fairly silly movie but it features Marc Cohn singing Tom Waits and Bach's Cello Concerto No. 1, which is redeeming) and that this CD could be mine for less than $10. The CD is called Closing Down, and so far I really quite like it, especially the latter song, which is presently being repeated quite often ... Think of the sort of music that goes with the late-night closing of a restaurant or pub - that mellow, everyone's gone, sweep the floor and straighten the furniture type of music - and that is exactly what you have ... and Tom's voice is nowhere near as rasping on this CD as it is later on (don't mistake me for an indiscriminate Tom Waits fan - I am not - am very selective about my Tom Waits).

I was also pleased to discover that Sarah McLachlan has a new CD coming out soon, on which she sings a cover of Joni Mitchell's "River" - looking forward to that!

... I wish I had a river I could skate away on ...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

There I plant my foot

Here’s another excerpt from a different classic, Jane Eyre, which I was reminded of by yesterday’s excerpt from Adam Bede. This is Rochester urging Jane to be his mistress (while the lunatic wife Jane has just learnt of remains locked away), and Jane’s ensuing struggle:

... Is it better to drive a fellow-creature to despair than to transgress a mere human law – no man being injured by the breach? for you have neither relatives nor acquaintances whom you need fear to offend by living with me.’

This was true: and while he spoke my very Conscience and Reason turned traitors against me, and charged me with crime in resisting him. They spoke almost as loud as Feeling: and that clamoured wildly. ‘Oh, comply!’ it said. ‘Think of his misery; think of his danger – look at his state when left alone; remember his headlong nature; consider the recklessness following on despair – soothe him; save him; love him; tell him you love him and will be his. Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?’

Still indomitable was the reply – ‘I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad – as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth – so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane – quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.

And it’s almost a silly endeavour to try and elaborate, as the beauty of such story telling is it perfectly conveys its point. Both of these excerpts, and their wider stories, illuminate the importance of character formation in life’s times of support and strength, to fortify ourselves against those assaults on our best principles when they come. They illustrate the meaning of 2 Peter 1:5-7.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Another day and raising a smoked glass

I am going to break my own rule and diarise again I think, because yesterday afternoon I did something I have never done before - and that was meet my friend Cath after work to go kayaking in Canada Bay! You might think that this sounds like a lovely afternoon, and it certainly was - down by the water as the sun set over it and gentle waves lapped the little beach. But you need to understand that this was no ordinary kayak. It was a "pro-kayak" – being seven metres in length and scarcely any wider than my behind, with its own rudder operated by foot peddles, that being the sort of watercraft workmanship that it was. Trying to stay upright in this kayak was no easy task, and not feeling overly inclined to swim in Sydney Harbour last night I had quite an anxious time of it! Much as the idea of paddling in the bay appealed to me, I climbed out of that wobbly vessel with no small amount of relief, happy to let my expert friend paddle off into the sunset and leave me on the shore.

I’ve tried to think of some sort of biblical link to this story, but all that comes to mind is that I now understand why the bible writers thought that there would be no sea in heaven – it is indeed the place of chaos for an amateur in a long, skinny kayak! There can be a sea in heaven, so long as my kayak is half as long and twice as wide.

After our paddle in the ocean we found a Thai restaurant in the Entertainment voucher book for dinner, and there we sat and played 10 days in Europe (went nicely with our Thai), to the bemusement of the staff, who found the place for our food covered by the continent and watched on surreptitiously and quizzically.

Anyway, I have been talking to a friend Michelle tonight over gelati as we strolled along Coogee beach (a group expedition to the Sheraton good food month "sugar hit" failed, but gelati by the beach was quite as good), who had a letter published in the SMH today (can’t seem to find a direct link to it), about couching our theological and biblical ideas in the voice of the people, and blogging, and reaching people in a post modern age (or whatever age we think we are now in) and using stories and so forth and so on ... And this is distantly related but I read something today in Adam Bede, that I thought one of the gems Eliot weaves into her novels, to focus our moral thoughts and poke us, through the lives and lenses of her characters. It’s long but I am going to write it out anyway. It’s a conversation between one Arthur and one Mr Irwine:

‘But I think it is hardly an argument against a man’s general strength of character, that he should be apt to be mastered by love. A fine constitution doesn’t insure one against small-pox or any other of those inevitable diseases. A man may be very firm in other matters, and yet be under a sort of witchery from a woman.’

‘Yes; but there’s this difference between love and small-pox, or bewitchment either – that if you detect the disease at an early stage and try change of air, there is every chance of complete escape, without any further development of symptoms. And there are certain alternative doses which a man may administer to himself by keeping unpleasant consequences before his mind: that gives you a sort of smoked glass through which you may look at the resplendent fair one and discern her true outline; though I’m afraid, by the by, the smoked glass is apt to be missing just at the moment it is most wanted. I daresay, now, even a man fortified with a knowledge of the classics might be lured into an imprudent marriage, in spite of the warning given him by the chorus in the Prometheus.’

The smile that flittered across Arthur’s face was a faint one, and instead of following Mr Irwine’s playful lead, he said quiet seriously – ‘Yes, that’s the worst of it. It’s a desperately vexatious thing, that after all one’s reflections and quiet determinations, we should be ruled by moods that one can’t calculate on beforehand. I don’t think a man ought to be blamed so much if he is betrayed into doing things in that way, in spite of his resolutions.’

‘Ah, but the moods lie in his nature, my boy, just as much as his reflections did, and more. A man can never do anything at variance with his own nature. He carries within him the germ of his most exceptional action; and if we wise people make eminent fools of ourselves on any particular occasion, we must endure the legitimate conclusion that we carry a few grains of folly to our ounce of wisdom.’

‘Well, but one may be betrayed into doing things by a combination of circumstances, which one might never have done otherwise.’

‘Why, yes, a man can’t very well steal a bank-note unless the bank-note lies within convenient reach; but he won’t make us think him an honest man because he begins to howl at the bank-note for falling in his way.’

‘But surely you don’t think a man who struggles against a temptation into which he falls at last, as bad as the man who never struggles at all?’

‘No, my boy, I pity him, in proportion to his struggles, for they foreshadow the inward suffering which is the worst form of Nemesis. Consequences are unpitying. Our deeds carry their terrible consequences, quite apart from any fluctuations that went before – consequences that are hardly ever confined to ourselves. And it is best to fix our minds on that certainty, instead of considering what may be the elements of excuse for us ...’.

Unfortunately and ashamedly I have discovered a few grains of folly ...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Why Bother Praying?

Tonight I am facilitating a discussion in my bible study group, in the temporary absence of my co-leader, and so we are going to pause from our current course of study to look at prayer. So, here is an essay I wrote some time ago in response to the question "Why bother praying if God has already determined what will happen?" which I have used as a base - and am going to plonk it here, because I have been too busy writing the study to blog :). (P.S. I wrote this essay shortly before Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne's book on prayer was published, incase you think they've said all this, or wonder why I didn't reference it.) Here it is:

The asking of this question usually arises, fundamentally, from an imbalance in understanding of the fact that God is both sovereign and personal. A skewed theological perspective can impact our perceptions of the reasons for, and efficacy of, prayer and result in a decrease in the activity of prayer. However, as Carson points out (1), the bible insists that we pray and constantly urges us to pray, such that something is amiss with our theology if it becomes a disincentive to pray.

A right view of prayer will come from a right view of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility for his actions, and will require an appropriate understanding of the mystery of the ways of God, such that these two truths are not held to be mutually exclusive or contradictory (1). Both of these propositions are supported by numerous passages of scripture, one example of which is Acts 4:27-28 in which Herod and Pilate are clearly held responsible for conspiring to crucify Jesus, yet also declared to be acting only according to what God’s will had foreordained. We should therefore be careful to avoid definitions that are not supported by the bible, such as the idea that "freedom", and ensuing responsibility, must entail power to act contrary to God’s will, when freedom is more appropriately aligned with the idea that humans behave in line with their own desires (1). A right view of prayer will also involve understanding that God is sovereign, but that he is also good, and stands behind good and evil asymmetrically, such that the working of good can be credited to him, but the working of evil to secondary agents (1). Finally, it will require an appropriate understanding of the nature of God, that he is both transcendent and personal, and therefore that he is free (1).

To arrive at a biblical view of prayer it is appropriate to study how God’s sovereignty and human responsibility function in the passages of scripture where prayer is mentioned (1). Those who pray in the scriptures, including Jesus at Gethsemane, regularly pray according to the plans that God has already revealed (1). In Daniel 9:2-19, Daniel is well aware that the period of the exile is about to end, and so sets to pray for what he knows is God’s will, that God would maintain his own integrity and keep his covenant. Similarly, Moses prays to God (Exodus 32:12), trusting in the promises that he knows God has made to make a great nation of Israel and that God will act in such a way as to keep those promises (1). Ezekiel 2:30-31 makes it plain that God expects godly believers to intercede with him, which is his own appointed means of bringing about his relenting from destruction in this situation, as it was with Moses. Thus we see that a sure knowledge of God’s sovereignty and his purposes never deters prayer in the Scriptures. James 4:2 and 5:16 claim that we do not have because we do not ask, and that the prayers of the righteous avail much, eliminating the possibility that prayer does not change anything. However, our prayers are not exempted from God’s sovereignty (1). Prayer changes things in that our prayers are God’s appointed means of bringing about his purposes, not that they change things absolutely, to the surprise of God (1). Calvin (2) states that nothing is promised to be expected from God, which we are not also bidden to ask of him in prayers.

Prayer is thus a way for God’s people to articulate faith (3). It is putting faith into words and acknowledging that we trust God with the subject of our prayers, and know that he cares for us and will keep his promises (3). Calvin outlines the benefits to God’s people themselves that stem from prayer, including that we grow used to taking all things before God in prayer, that we are prepared to receive his gifts with gratitude and meditate on his kindness, reminded by our prayers that they come from him, and that we confirm his Providence, that his promises never fail and he is ever ready to help his people (2). Prayer, therefore, also brings glory to God as we give him credit and honour for being God, a God who cares and is able to act (3). Psalm 145:18 asserts that God is near to those who call on him. This and many other passages inform us that, far from it being superfluous for us to ask for those things which God has determined to give, God would have us recognise as answers to prayers those things that he generously gives (2). So too, Psalm 34:15 commends the providence of God in caring for his people, yet not to diminish the exercise of their faith in prayer (2). The act of praying declares that God is the sovereign ruler of the world and that we depend and rely on him for all things (3 & 4).

We therefore see that our view on the efficacy of, and reasons for, our prayer stems from our theology of who God is and how he interacts with his world, and that our theology is faulty if it hinders our praying. To quote Carson "the biblical emphasis on God’s sovereignty and on God’s personhood, if they function in our lives properly, will serve as powerful incentives to prayer and as direction for the way in which we approach God" and we shall come to appreciate that "It is worth praying to a sovereign God because he is free and can take action as he wills; it is worth praying to a personal God because he hears, responds and acts on behalf of his people ..." (1).

References

(1.) Carson, D.A. 1992. A Call to Spiritual Reformation – Priorities from Paul and His Prayers. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, US.

(2.) Calvin, J. 1996. Prayer. Matthias Media, Sydney, Australia.

(3.) Jensen, P. J. 2006. Notes from a sermon titled "What Happens When we Pray" given at St Andrew’s Cathedral, 13 March 2005.

(4.) Packer J.I. 1961. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Intervarsity Press, Leicester, England.

Friday, September 29, 2006

One intellectual lightship

I was reading Adam Bede on the bus this morning, with it's lovely little spiel on the methodists of the time, and Seth and had just declared his love for Dinah so beautifully, and it had all been written so exquisitely (this is the end of it "instead of bursting out into wild accusing apostrophes to God and destiny, he is resolving, as he now walks homeward under the solemn starlight, to repress his sadness, to be less bent on having his own will, and to live more for others ..."), and then I was walking down Market St lost in my reverie when I was stopped by an Irishman, with a voice full of that romantic charm that just is an Irish accent and eyes 'like the sea after a storm', to ask for directions ... and then I get to work and have to edit a case on something so ridiculous as BP trying to register as a trade mark a particular shade of green. Haven't we all got better things to do?! All the world should stop work and read novels I say!

But, speaking of intellectual lightships, I was quite beside myself the other day to happen across an advertisment for "How should we then live?", that seminal work by Francis Schaeffer, available on DVD from America. I have wanted to get a hold of it for many years and it seems to be completely unavailable here and only heard of on VHS. If anybody else is excited about this you can order it here. I had the great privilege of going to L'abri in Switzerland for a month some years ago (too late to meet Francis unfortunately) and it was one of the most rewarding months of my life. It's worth going there simply to look out the window, because the vision of the Alps that meets your eyes is truly awe-inspiring, and then what goes on there makes it an experience rich in every way ... But I am just advertising the DVDs not L'abri in this particular blog (maybe more on that later). If I order them I might organise a little Sydney viewing, and we can have our own L'abri ...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

When the intellectual lightships broke from their moorings ...

Well I have started my journey and begun Adam Bede. In the introduction, describing the life and times of George Eliot, Stephen Gill writes "Writing shortly after her death JA Froude spoke of the earlier part of the Victorian age, in which the spirit of critical inquiry had led the finest minds to question and doubt all established certainties, as a time in which 'all around us, the intellectual lightships had broken from their moorings ... The present generation which has grown up in an open spiritual ocean, which has got used to it and has learned to swim for itself, will never know what it was to find the lights all drifting, the compasses all awry, and nothing left to steer by except the stars'".

Those would certainly have been interesting times. But I wonder if even our generation has yet really learnt to swim for itself in that open spiritual ocean? It seems to me that while a few individuals are well-acquainted with the sea, and swim their steady way to somewhere (or anywhere), many are rather trying to fill up the ocean, with all manner of material things or pseudo-spiritual ideas of little consequence or scientific theories, so there is no need for swimming ...

Monday, September 25, 2006

An unconvicted Christian

You often hear the question, when people are speaking about Christians living a testimonial life "if you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you in court?". Today I found out that I would remain a non convicted Christian. I was editing a case from the Federal Magistrates Court regarding a refugee from China who was claiming religious persecution in China as a reason to be granted a protection visa in Australia (you can read the case here ). As a matter of course the Refugee Review Tribunal needed to establish that the applicant was in fact a Christian. During the subsequent review hearing the judge says this (at paragraph 10):
The approach taken by the presiding member to test the veracity and depth of the applicant's beliefs was in part questionable. For example, on page 88 of the court book the presiding member records that she asked the applicant who or what Christians understand God to be. That is an awfully big question to ask. It is apparent from what follows that the presiding member was looking for a description of the Trinity. The presiding member's own understanding of the Trinity, apparently based upon internet material, is itself questionable. The presiding member records her understanding that Christians believe that God was made up of three persons. A more orthodox description of the Trinity would be that God is a single entity with three natures. These are subtle and difficult questions which have vexed Christians for as long as the Christian faith has existed. There are Unitarian Christians who reject the concept of the Trinity altogether. The applicant was not necessarily wrong in responding that he only believes in one God. My own view is that a Christian is someone who is capable of reciting the Nicene Creed (which sets out the fundamental articles of faith) and who believes it ...
I am sure I believe it, and I am sure there is value in learning it, but how's it go again? (I actually won a share in a giant Toblerone recently for taking up the challenge of learning Romans 3:21-26 - I wonder whether that counts.)

The evidence required was not so much about a life lived after all. This case does raise a lot of questions about how the court goes about establishing a genuine religious belief ...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Today I ...

I promised myself I would never diarise on my blog, but I have just had the most, umm, there-isn’t-a-word to-describe-it sort of weekend. It actually began with hanging out with some friends on Friday night because one of our circle has just returned from five months in Afghanistan with the Army, so that was a special evening, with lots of laughs, and we were all most pleased to celebrate the fact that he’s back home. At one point in the evening he showed us all the Chuck Norris t-shirt the Australians had made up while they were over there. Apparently it’s hilarious, but it was lost on this Chuck Norris ignoramus. Here’s a sample: "Chuck Norris went into Hungry Jacks and asked for a Big Mac ... and he got one" ...

But the reason for this word-less weekend is because Tuesday is new carpet day. It’s about time we got new carpet in our flat, because the existing no-longer-carpet is genuinely threadbare and hazardous. New carpet is nice idea in and of itself, BUT, we were told that the carpet people would move all the furniture if we just shifted all the stuff off it. Think about how much stuff in your house is not actually furniture. It’s like moving house only worse! We are packing and carrying things about, only to have to put them all right back where they came from again.

To fully appreciate this situation you need to know that our flat is on eight different levels, with 64 steps on the inside of it. Most people don’t completely process that information the first time, so it goes like this: level 1 – Suzanne’s room, level 2 – the laundry (thank God for this very large uncarpeted laundry, which now looks something like a library, or actually more like Gould’s bookstore in Newtown – I despair when I go into that bookstore because I know there could be treasures of great value in there somewhere, but I am never going to find them), level 3 – the room I have commandeered as my "study" because I am responsible for all the books just mentioned, level 4 – the loungeroom, level 5 – the kitchen/dining room, level 6 – my room and the bathroom, level 7 – Anna’s room, level 8 – Karyn’s room (the novelty soon wears off). So, I have spent two days shuffling up and down stairs, and almost off this mortal coil, with armloads of stuff - and come Wednesday I get to do it all again. I have even had that most terrible of thoughts and wondered if I have too many books. I do think that’s an impossible scenario, but a few have been singled out for disposal (no-one would grieve over these books though: the text book on benefit-cost analysis; the big, fat, pink book that anyone who studied calculus at university owns ...). It’s actually been a good time to attempt to sort through some stuff. Anna and I are the sentimental bower birds, while Karyn is the great tosser-outerer. I pulled out the baggy green velvet coat my Mum made me years ago, which hasn’t been worn since those years, and wore it into Anna’s room with the question "what about this, do you think I should keep this?" and Anna’s reply was, "It looks like a Lord of the Rings coat! If you were going to a Lord of the Rings party you could wear it – that’s why I keep stuff". So I walk off thinking, yeah, if I go to a Lord of the Rings dress up I might need this, and add it to the "to keep" pile. Sigh ... no wonder I hate new carpet day.

Added to this word-less weekend is the fact that I sat my doctrine exam on Thursday night, which I thought was really quite hard, and I have been waiting and waiting for that to be past to begin reading my new birthday copy of Adam Bede by George Elliot (love George Eliot novels and it’s been years since the last) and that’s been further delayed by new carpet day – I simply can’t start novels when there are other things to do.

In consolation I did go out last night with a group of people I don’t spend lots of time with (after turning down a day in the hunter valley to shift things) to Woolwich Pier hotel, and we had a lovely evening discussing all manner of topics. I was actually feeling quite tired and boring but on the way to the car was told "you’re a very well-rounded and well-read person" who seems "interested in things". That was a really nice surprise, which rendered me quite speechless. But do they know I’ve never heard of Chuck Norris? This person ought to be commended on their complimentary ways actually I think, as I certainly wasn’t the sole recipient of affirmation throughout the evening. Note to self: be more complimentary - it makes people feel nice.

Anyway, I am sitting here in the ghost of my room, thinking that I have a great many treasures on earth, looking at Adam Bede ...

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Gospel "Product"

As an introduction to a lecture on general and special revelation we were asked the question "what kind of product is the gospel?" (all credit to Will Orpwood for the ideas following, who I thought was an excellent lecturer) as in, is it a "demand leading supply product" or a "supply leading demand product"? Discussion ranged from demand, because the gospel was expected by the law, which was meant to drive people to Christ, to supply, because we need some awakening by God to see and understand etc. There were cases put forward for each side, including Ecclesiastes as the story of one man looking through his options for something to meet his need. My initial thought was supply, because God made us, and made us for relationship with him so it's all his work and provision to give us the gospel (that being Jesus) and call us to himself ... but I guess you could then argue for demand, since we now have this massive need for the contents of the gospel (whether we realise it or not). Anyway, it's not a question that needs and answer, and no answer was given. The best strategy is to flood the market with the gospel! (especially in this age of biblical illiteracy).

And we must tell the TRUTH of the gospel. Richard Coekin from the UK spoke at my church on Sunday night on methods for mission (from 2 Corinthians 4:1-12). He stressed the importance of telling the truth, which might sound rather obvious, but it's about not tampering with God's word to make the "product" more popular (so in that sense the PERCEIVED demand doesn't drive the supply - but people's real demand/need is for the gospel as it is supplied). He went on to say that we must never manipulate, be deceitful, take advantage of vulnerable people, promise things the bible doesn't, use the gospel for selfish gain, resist the temptation to (only) evangelise poeple who will benefit us (had to think about that - mission dating comes to mind perhaps?!) ... Everything in life is better for knowing Jesus but it's not as good now as it will be and we need to explain the judgment, the punishment that Jesus took and the future, because there is no point filling the church with people going to hell.

And the extraordinary thing is that, good as the product is, we're to expect blindness/rejection. There will always be people who don't want the gospel, and we're not to be tempted by disappointment to change the product. Richard mentioned the parable of the soils, saying that it won't be any better for us than it was for Jesus (I found that quite a liberating notion!), so we mustn't get frustrated and aim for "success".
(That's verses 1-4. We're also to preach Christ (5-6) and accept our own weakness (7-12) but lunch time draws to a close and does anyone actually read long blogs?)

So, it is a unique "product" we have, but what matters is that we peddle it honestly and flood the market ...

(If you don't know what I mean by the "gospel" see the link to "Two Ways to Live" on the right.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

something this foggy day

You may have noticed that I've changed the title of my blog. I thought I would leave "an omer of manna" for a time, as not being very representative of the contents of this blog (though perhaps, God willing, there will come such a time in the future). "Something this foggy day" comes from one of my favourite Christina Rossetti poems. You can read that particular sonnet here, but it is best in the context of the whole twenty eight sonnets (ends on a very downcast note on it's own).

Those few lines describe to me that moment when something about a particular atmosphere - the scene, the smell, the sounds - reminds you of another time or place, or when something you come across sets your mind to pondering something else ... and that moment for me is what very often turns into a blog.

One Safe Place

Last week I was sitting in front of "House" on TV with my flatmates. I wasn't really watching it but fiddling about on my laptop. In the end I was quite hooked though - my biologist curiousity eager to find out what was wrong with the patient's brains. But, as I sat there, twice I heard fragments of a song that really snagged my attention. It turns out the song is called "One Safe Place" by Marc Cohn. I don't own any of his albums but I think I quite like Marc Cohn.

Anyway, jogging around the park this morning I had it stuck in my head (exasperating when you have a song stuck in your head and you know about two lines of the words - I had to look up the lyrics to preserve my sanity).

It's so true isn't it?! What we're all really looking for is that one safe place - physical, emotional, spiritual ... It brought to mind the words of one of my favourite bible verses, which is Deuteronomy 33:27 "The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms". It's the only truly safe place I know.

And so I do pray that the searching does lift us all higher, into the arms of Love himself.

One Safe Place
by Marc Cohn & Phil Galdston

How many roads you've traveled
How many dreams you've chased
Across sand and sky and gravel
Looking for one safe place

Will you make a smoother landing
When you break your fall from grace
Into the arms of understanding
Looking for one safe place

Life is trial by fire
And love's the sweetest taste
And I pray it lifts us higher
To one safe place

How many roads we've traveled
How many dreams we've chased
Across sand and sky and gravel
Looking for one safe place

--------------------------------------------------
copyright © 2004 Marc Cohn
from the album Album No. 4

Monday, September 18, 2006

Outworkings of Zoology

I recently added some links to old research papers I was involved in, which perhaps seems a little pretentious, even to me. But, when my past life leaks out I am often asked "what exactly does a zoologist do?", so I decided to gather some of the products of a zoologist somewhere and, having no other web repository of information, that is here. People may still ask "what exactly does a zoologist do?", but I have tried ...

Everybody needs to spend a wakeful night in the Australian bush at some time in their lives I say. That is when it comes alive and some of our most lovely and gentle creatures reveal themselves. I used to walk along my trap lines with the lines of Robert Frost running through my head "the woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep".

Friday, September 15, 2006

Advertising Vices?

Every working day I get off the bus in front of David Jones in Sydney, renowned for it's window dressing, especially at Christmas. For the last few weeks it has had the most amazing displays of tropical gardens (whole gardens, not even just plants) and fashionably dressed mannequins in each window that you couldn't help but wonder at the expense of it. But this week, each window is just boarded over with Mambo Billboards. The first one I see when I get off the bus says "100% Mambo - experts in youth exploitation", the next one, with a picture of a gorgeous little boy, in his Mambo clothes of course, says "this add bought my Mum a new plasma TV" and the next one, with some cute kids playing, in their Mambo clothes, says "models should be seen and not heard" ...

What, I ask myself, as I head off down Market Street, is Mambo trying to tell us? I know it's all too brazen to be taken quite seriously, but are they trying to satirise their own actions? I am one confused member of the public.

But maybe that's the point. I have now thought about Mambo, and even blogged about Mambo, which I guess is all most advertising is aiming for ...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Blind Spots

Seems to be time to blog something, but am having something of a blind spot at the moment (and a blind spot, as in the idea that there's too much light so you temporarily can't see anything or as in the idea that you are looking but you miss something because it's in the place you can't see - well either analogy fits). I went to a debate between Ravi Zaccharias (Christian apologist), a Moslem scholar and a member of the humanist society on the weekend, which was fascinating, and I have a head full of thoughts, but it's not an easy thing to blog about. I am going to order the CD so I can listen again and glean and distill more from it. The comment was made that what this country, and this world, needs is more open and courteous debate. And indeed we do!

One of the questions asked of the panel was "what does each religion have to offer in response to the life and death of someone like Steve Irwin and to his family?". The Christian answer was by far the most compelling, to me at any rate (Ravi made it clear that the fate of any one individual is God's business, but included CS Lewis' great quote that there are only two groups of people in this world - those who bend their knee to God and say "thy will be done" and those who refuse and so God says to them "thy will be done" ... and the thing to do is make sure you're in the first group), while the humanist said that they believe in celebrating the life lived, so I guess that does indeed make most of this country humanists, wherein funerals have become little more than celebrations of the life now gone ...

Incidentally, my Mum, who I think would have been largely unfamiliar with the pursuits of Steve Irwin, called me last Monday night to see if I had heard about his death, and said "he was just like your father" (from what she'd just seen on the news). No disrespect of the dead intended but I don't think my Dad was QUITE like Steve Irwin. He was a larger than life blonde character who loved the outdoors and wildlife and dreamed of filming a wildlife documentary, and he had a reckless streak (but he also died when he was only twenty-six so is locked in eternal youth for us) and that is about the extent of the similarities I think ... but it was an interesting thought!

I also have a doctrine exam next week, and a head full of all sorts of those interesting things, which I shall endeavour to reduce to bloggable pieces soon ...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Waiting?

I said in my blurb that now puzzles me, and so it does. And I chaff against the seeming inactivity in some spheres in life. But, I was flicking through an old printed "omer of manna" (actually it's a diary with "the deeply unfortunate doings of an ill-fated life" printed on the front cover - must have appealed to me at the time I bought it) and I found this, which I copied out of "The Path of Loneliness" by Elisabeth Elliot. It is an omer of manna:-

True waiting on God is not "doing nothing". Psalm 37 lists the principle elements of this hidden activity, a perfect formula for peace of mind:
Trust in the Lord and do good.
Dwell in the land (make your home, settle down, be at peace where God puts you).
Delight in the Lord (make the Lord your only joy) and He will give you what your heart desires.
Commit your life to the Lord.
Trust in Him and He will act.
Be quiet before the Lord.
Wait patiently for Him.

Waiting patiently is almost impossible unless we also are learning at the same time to find joy in the Lord, commit everything to Him, trust Him, and be quiet ... If the shepherd leads us beside still waters when we were hoping for "white water" excitement, it is hard to believe anything really vital is taking place. God is silent. The house is silent. The phone doesn’t ring. The mailbox is empty. The stillness is hard to bear – and God knows that. He knows our frame and remembers we are made of dust. He is very patient with us when we are trying to be patient with Him. Of course for most of us the test of waiting does not take place in a silent and empty house, but in the course of regular work and appointments and taxpaying and grocery buying and trying to get the car fixed and the storm windows up; daily decisions have to go on being made, responsibilities fulfilled, families provided for, employers satisfied. How can we speak of waiting on God in the middle of all that? How be still?

... Waiting on God is an act of faith – the greatest thing ever required of humans. Not faith in the outcome we are dictating to God, but faith in His character, faith in Himself. It is resting in the perfect confidence that He will guide in the right way, at the right time. He will supply our need. He will fulfil His word. He will give us the very best if we trust Him.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

An Image of Humanity

Well, my essay wasn’t rubbish after all, which is a relief. It has such things as "beautiful" and "perfect" written on it, which cracks me up – love the enthusiasm of this lecturer. Comments say my references to Augustin and Calvin were a highlight! (reading between the lines does that mean ‘rather than anything you wrote’ – maybe, but well, I must at least have put my references in a suitable place). Anyway, thought it was time to change tack slightly ... and what better way to do it than blog about another movie. A movie that provides a little portrait of humanity, in a setting not unapt to our times, is Birthday Boy. It’s a beautiful animation that was nominated for an Oscar in 2005, and is ten minutes of your life well spent. I went looking for my copy, to enhance the writing of this blog, and discovered a flat mate had borrowed it to use in her high school English classes on "images of humanity".

The film is a true story (made by another friend of mine actually) set in Korea in 1951 and opens with a little boy playing in the wreck of a war plane. He watches a train, laden with tanks and equipment of war, chug past in fascination. He imagines he is fighting in the war with his absent father and has an make believe conversation with him as he plays and throws a stone, come hand grenade, on the unsuspecting postman.

We know from the title of the movie that it is this little boy’s birthday and so when he wanders home and finds a package on the verandah he simply assumes it’s a present for him. He opens the package in great excitement, which isn’t dampened at all by any understanding when he pulls out his Dad’s wallet, complete with picture of himself and his Dad in the front, then his Dad’s medals, which he hangs around his neck in great pride, and then his Dad’s boots, which he joyously puts on and then begins to stomp around the front yard playing soldiers. He’s still just a little boy who thinks war is a great adventure and he's received a fabulous birthday present.

The film ends with the little boy’s mother calling out to him as she comes home. And you know that life for that family will never be the same again.

It’s a tragic little portrayal of the effect of war on individuals.

I don’t think I need to say anything more ...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

His Glassy Essence

I put a little qualifier on my definition of "dominion" the other day, because there seems to be a prevailing view that the rape and pillage of the planet can be blamed on a Christian world view. It's a gross misunderstanding if that view is either actually held by some Christians, or just perceived to be the case by some environmental campaigners. But that is another spiel.

Being a conservation biologist, who has spent years researching species extinctions, and a Christian myself I see the two as fundamentally and necessarily compatible.

Something that used to irk me was the popular science attitude that Christianity involves some sort of arrogance about the superiority of humanity. We do believe we have a God-given place of dominion over the creatures, and also responsibility for them, because we are made in the image of God, as different from the rest of the creatures. But seeing yourself in right relationship to the creator, as he has revealed himself to be, can only elicit a true humility - to be and do what he has created you to be and do.

So, that's why I was irked by the likes of Stephen Jay Gould writing thoughtless and inconsistent things like "science is stripping man off his every last pedestal" - and yet having the audacity to stand up and say that he, just a self-confessed meaningless and accidental speck on his own vast time span, can tell us all where we came from and who we are. That's arrogance. All science is doing is putting itself on a pedestal.

Reminds me of Shakespeare:

But man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep.

-William Shakespeare, playwright and poet (1564-1616)

Monday, August 28, 2006

What is man?

The essay that I don’t think was so brilliant was actually on the topic of what we can learn of God’s estimate of man from his creation (see Psalm 8:4). Basically what I had to say was that God made man is his image, with personal and transcendent qualities, set him in dominion (as in kingly rule, as in to look after it) over the creation, for relationship with himself. It was slightly more involved than that, but seemed to be lacking in grit to me, so I thought, when in doubt add Calvin. Hence, I dug up the Geneva Catechism:

Master. — What is the chief end of human life?
Scholar. — To know God by whom men were created.
M. What reason have you for saying so?
S. Because he created us and placed us in this world to be glorified in us.
And it is indeed right that our life, of which himself is the beginning,
should be devoted to his glory.
M. What is the highest good of man?
S. The very same thing.

The nature of a created thing is in accordance with its purpose, so I worked this in to the conclusion of my not-so-brilliant essay.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Weight of Glory

Just thought this had something to say about the way we should value and cherish and care for people, and consider them "good" ... (and I am having a short lunch break, after taking my turn in the staff lunch room to heat up my rare leftovers, so will leave the rest up to C.S. Lewis). Today I am obsessed with Bach's Brandenburg Concerto.

The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis ...

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations--these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of the kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously--no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinners--no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat, the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ode to Joy

Today I realised what has been missing from my life for months. I went digging for some CDs on my way out to work and rediscovered the "Life is Beautiful" CDs from ABC Classic FM. I am currently obssessed with the Cradle Song by Skinner from the second CD. Ahhh the cello. You could soothe wild bears with this music. Life is indeed beautiful.

An die Freude!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Security and Significance etc

Following on from the Alanis Morrissette's song, I was actually having a discussion with my brother-in-law recently about the pursuit of personal glory, beauty, significance and security and all that sort of thing.

He made the comment that for most people unconditional love is not enough – that if love can spring from at least two sources, duty and desire, most people want to experience a love motivated by more than a sense of duty, more than a decision. We actually want to be loved for something unique, amazing, particularly attractive about us as an individual – to have a quality that makes us hard not to love, to be worthy of love, to be desired. It's a true and valid point I think.

But unconditional love is certainly a comfort. This brother-in-law of mine went on to make the point that a love springing from desire is something that we have less control over (though we can certainly foster right desires). So this kind of love is a very fragile, difficult thing, and for that reason, precious when it is experienced.

Maybe that is why people come back to singing "that I would be good" – because we all realise how precarious desire really is.

Friday, August 18, 2006

That I Would Be Good

I went to a writing group last Saturday, at which we began, getting our 'juices flowing', by attempting to write about a song. The song I cut short when I turned off the ignition in my car upon arrival was "That I would be good" by Alanis Morrissette, so feeling out of creative sorts I went with that one. I heard this song playing in a music store in a shopping centre once, stopped to listen, and later acquired the album. I wouldn't recommend that anyone buy this album, and fill their mind and subject their thoughts to such wailings. But I do like this song, even if only for the way she deliberately plays the flute badly at the end. Maybe it's a song for girls only, but it's about the longing to be good, despite committing such relationship fatalities as being clingy, gaining ten pounds and losing your youth.

That I Would Be Good

that I would be good even if I did nothing
that I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
that I would be good if I got and stayed sick
that I would be good even if I gained ten pounds

that I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
that I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
that I would be great if I was no longer queen
that I would be grand if I was not all knowing

that I would be loved even when I numb myself
that I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
that I would be loved even when I was fuming
that I would be good even if I was clingy

that I would be good even if I lost sanity
that I would be good
whether with or without you

The last line always strikes me as curious. Up until then the song sounds like a different perspective on the marriage vows. But with or WITHOUT you? Is it a plea to be free of needing the approval and/or love of others to be "good"? I suppose it might be, but I don't know ... and I don't know that it's worth my time contemplating Alanis Morrissette either. I'm watching Little Women at the moment, which is all about pure and wholesome goodness and strength of character and moral courage. I can't be bothered with the introspections of Alanis Morrissette.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Blog Silence and Smacking Kids

I have gone blog quiet of late, mainly because I have been attempting to write a doctrine essay, which is due in tonight. I chose the question for which the answer was the least apparent to me, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but I have since concluded that that is not such a good reason for choosing an essay topic. Anyway, I think my essay is rubbish, so I am going to wait until I get the feedback on it before I blog anything of the sort. But, if you want to read something interesting, go to this blog and read the author's summary on smacking children, posted 14th August. And I'll be back later!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Comment to Self

I thought I’d write this in as a comment to myself, instead of just editing my own blog, to see if anyone else had anything to say on the idea. I realise I made slight error, or misleading statement, in my last blog in using the phrase "God is kind to us when ..." (the dangers of blogging rapidly). God may well be kind in providing me with friends I happen to get along with very well, but he isn’t ONLY kind when he gives me things I like. I do believe that God is equally as kind when he puts me in difficult situations that enable me to grow, or to test my faith, or for any other reason that he puts me there. Infact, I believe that God is ultimately kind because he sent his son to die on the cross for my sins, to rescue me from condemnation, so that I could actually be a child of his ...

But am I just overanalysing? (Sometimes it’s a pest having to be so cautious in what is said, but I guess if I want to ensure that I represent my views appropriately to whomever reads them, then I need to stop and consider ...)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Mutual Appreciations

I recently received a lovely belated birthday package from an old and dear friend, who would be a founding member of my society for those of mutual appreciations - not that such a thing exists, I just made it up then. But God is kind to us when he puts us in the vicinity, for a time, of such like-minded people. This friend and I have an unspoken pact that everything comes with a poem. The poems she included in my lovely card seem rather apt to my recent blog musings, and I just like them, so here they are, both from Emily Bronte:

It is hope’s spell that glorifies
Like youth, to my maturer eyes
All Nature’s million mysteries,
The fearful and the fair –
Hope soothes me in the griefs I know;
She lulls my pain for other’s woe,
And makes me strong to undergo
What I am born to bear.

from 'Anticipation'


Still, let my tyrants know, I am not doomed to wear
Year after year in gloom, and desolate despair;
A messenger of Hope, comes every night to me,
And offers for short life, eternal liberty.

He comes with western winds, with evening’s wandering airs,
With that clear dusk of heaven that brings the thickest stars.
Winds take a pensive tone, and stars a tender fire,
And visions rise, and change, that kill me with desire.


from 'The Prisoner'

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Story Of Us

So many things to blog about, the question is when, and should I? ... Tonight I am just going to swipe something I wrote for "Couldn’t Help Noticing" when I worked for Matthias Media. I have discovered that movies really are a great source of blog material:

The Story of All of Us
April 29, 2005

I sat down on Saturday night to watch a chick flick, with some other chicks, and after tossing up our various options we went for The Story of Us.

It is the tale of one couple’s marriage, seen from about 15 years after the “big day”. I watched on as the whole relationship disintegrated literally before our eyes. About halfway through, I turned to my friend and said “It’s kind of scary isn’t it…”. Scary because of how ordinary the whole scenario was and how easily it seemed like it could be any of us on the screen.

What made me tense throughout the whole film was just observing at how many points there was a decision, be it ever so small, that was made—a decision between working at the relationship and building the marriage, or giving it up as all too hard. I’d wait to see the way each conversation or encounter went, and then sigh when it fell to pieces, as one person or the other dragged up a past grievance, or railed about various inequalities, or just acted like they couldn’t be bothered anymore. The state of the relationship was very apparently the result of years of small, “bad” decisions.

The movie made me think again about how living a life for Jesus, and in growing likeness of him, is the product of a million little decisions every day: do I snap now, or do I remind myself “love is patient” and be kind; do I stroll around Cremorne Point, looking at the magnificent houses with water views and luxury yachts, and think “some people are lucky - wish it was me” or take stock and remind myself that ‘we take nothing with us that we carry in our hands’ (Eccl 5:15); do I invite that awkward, but lonely, person to join me and my friends in an outing or decide it’s just more fun without the bother …

The consequences may not always be as big as a saved or failed marriage, but our obedience and godliness depends on the small decisions, as well as the big. The good news is that the very power that raised Christ from the dead is available, and indeed necessary, to make us holy in all these things; and we can and should pray for that (Eph 1:15-20, 3:14-21). Don Carson, in his great book A Call to Spiritual Reformation elaborates on the prayer of Ephesians 3:14-21 as a “plea for power - power to be holy, power to think, act and talk in ways utterly pleasing to Christ, power to strengthen moral resolve, power to walk in transparent gratitude to God, power to be humble, power to be discerning, power to be obedient and trusting, power to grow in conformity to Jesus Christ”. The couple from The Story of Us could use some of that, as could we all.

Noticed by Alison at April 29, 2005 10:03 AM

Blog Etiquette

I believe it is basic blog etiquette to respond to any comments left on your blog by people so inclined to leave them. So, profuse apologies to those who have been denied this common courtesy. I will hereafter respond.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

One Man's Big Fizzer

I recently acquired a Nathan Tasker CD, the reason being that at the Equip Conference this year Jane Saunders sang "Living Word" from that CD, and then recently that same song was played during a church service I attended, after a sermon on "The Holy Spirit and Word", so I just decided I needed it. It's a great song. On a bonus CD that comes with this CD Nathan sings "I heard the voice of Jesus say". I love that hymn, but to my great disappointment he has changed the tune. He wrote the new tune the day his grandmother died so obviously it means something to him and so be that, but I don't like it so much. Perhaps because one of my oldest, bestest friends and I grew up playing the flute in our local church and this hymn was one of our favourites - and we used to harmonise beautifully (or so we thought) on the old tune.

Some old hymns do well with new tunes, and some, well, some of us are just stuck on the old tunes. But one hymn, which has been written in every omer of manna I have ever had (I took up the habit of calling my sporadic journals that over the years) because I loved the words definitely needed a new tune (reminder: this blog contains my opinions only). I came across it (the new tune that is) in Sweden and promptly ordered the CD from the Reformed University Fellowship in the US. The hymn, which I come back to time and time again (it's more personal than congregational I think), needs to be written in this omer of manna. The author, George Matheson, had his own big fizzer (see the history link below), out of which he wrote this:

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine's blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

You can see the piano music for the new tune here and it's worth reading the history of the hymn (and getting past the atrocious grammar of the write up) here.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Big Fizzers

I was visiting family recently and came across my second copy of "Cracker Bag", a short film I have listed as one of my favourites on this blog. I like short films, because they attempt to say something, but they do it powerfully, often subtly, and succintly. Cracker Bag is actually directed and written by an old friend of mine from Tamworth, Glendyn Ivin, based on a real event of his childhood that deeply affected him (http://www.exitfilms.com/crackerbag). It's a story of disillusionment.

A little girl, Eddie, collects and sells old cans and saves all her money to buy firecrackers. She regularly plays with her cracker collection, sorting and arranging them in her bedroom, and counts down the days until firecracker night. Finally the day arrives. In great excitement Eddie heads down to the local oval with her family for the delight of setting off the treasured crackers. But after lighting the first cracker she accidentally knocks it over as she runs away. It shoots sideways into the entire bag of crackers on the ground nearby, setting them all off at once in a blur of colour and pops and whizzes. Eddies hopes of enjoying each of these specially chosen crackers one by one goes up in smoke. The night was a big fizzer.

The film ends with the Eddie driving home in the car, tears streaming down her face, watching other people's crackers out the window.

It might sound like a minor event, but it was a child's first experience of disappointed hopes. And it’s not such a rare thing. Obviously this film has resonated with many others because it won the Palme D'Or at the Cannes film festival in 2003 (seems kind of ironic doesn't it - make a film about one of your life's big disappointments and receive one of the world's greatest film accolades for it). In my tragic and romantic moments I like to say the line out of Anne of Green Gables "life is a perfect grave yard of buried hopes".
But what are we supposed to do with all these disappointments? What do people do with them? Resolve to steel themselves for the future, tell themselves not to get their hopes up, so they don't get so disappointed? (Marilla, I recall, makes some dry remark to Anne about her habit of flying and crashing through life, and an old friend and I used to tell each other to "level out", being both prone to those heights and depths.) Learn "how to shoot at someone who outdrew you" if it’s personal? Sigh and say it wasn’t meant to be?

What should a Christian do next time they have a grave to dig? The bible is loaded with references to God's control over all things and to the character building results of accepting, submitting, persevering, trusting (eg Rom 5:3-5). (And sometimes I even have to repent because I have been impatient or lacking in trust and brought the disappointment and heartache on myself.) I particularly like Lamentations 3:19-33 when I am in the middle of grave digging. Through all the small and big things I have to remember the constants and where to put my real hope.

I'm taking a leap in my spiel here, but I am currently making my way in spirts through "Religious Affections" by Jonathan Edwards. I found it on a second hand bookstore for 50 cents. Under the affection of "hope" he writes "Hope in God and in the promises of His Word is often spoken of in Scripture as a significant part of truth faith. Hope is mentioned as one of the three great things of which religion consists (1 Cor 13:13) ... Hope is viewed as so vital that the Apostle said "We are saved by hope" (Rom 8:24). Hope is that which remains sure, like the anchor of the soul (Heb 6:19). It is also described as a great fruit and benefit received by true saints because of Christ’s resurrection (1 Pet 1:3)".
So, I pray that "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you (and me) a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints ..." Eph 1: 17-18.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Mothers of the Disappeared

The other day my older sister, Lyndel, picked me up from the airport and then we went to collect my two nieces from school. This is quite a social time for my sister as she waits for class to finish with all the other Mum’s, and was quite fun for me. I peeked through the window of seven-year-old Lucy’s classroom while we waited, not caring that I looked like one of those silly, embarrassing, doting relatives.

Eventually Lucy and Brittany emerged and I got to hug them both and see how much they’ve grown. Brittany had athletics training (she’s quite talented - takes after her Aunt :) - would have broken the school record for high jump if nine year olds were actually allowed to do the frosby flop) and Lucy wanted to go and play with her friend Clare (on the play equipment is what she said) so asked my sister and skipped off. My sister went in to the change rooms with Brittany to put her sports gear on and I headed off after Lucy.

I was sure she swung left around the end of the building, rather than right to the play equipment, turning to look at me with smiling face as she did. But by the time I got to the end of the building she was nowhere in sight, nor was there any obvious place where she might have gone. There was only a bit of a garden along wire fence, then the sports oval. I wandered left anyway seeing no sign of her.

When my sister came out of the change rooms I asked "where did Lucy say she was going?". Lyndel responds "to the play equipment with Clare" in distracted fashion. So, we send Britty over to the oval, where she joins the runners and stand there looking at the sizeable play gym to the right and I comment "I can’t see her anywhere, can you?". My sister comes to attention and has a look around and says "no". So I then have to say "I’m sure she went that way when she ran off". Lyndel says "I hope she didn’t go to the play equipment around the other side" and heads around the building to look for her. Not there. Then she says "I hope she didn’t think I said she could go to Clare’s house to play – surely not".

No one is really panicking, YET, but I couldn’t help thinking about the eight-year-old girl murdered in Perth, recently.

Once again I wander down to the left of the building looking about and just as I come along side the garden further down I hear young voices chatting. And there I discover the two little rotters (said with concerned affection) sitting amongst the shrubbery in the garden, looking through the fence at the athletics. I go back and find my sister and tell her they’re just there IN the garden, so we sit back down to watch the athletics. Shortly afterwards along comes a harried looking woman and asks me "have you seen Clare anywhere?" (I didn’t even have to guess who this woman was). I reply rather casually, feeling rather pleased with myself that I now know, "yes, she’s just there, in the garden with Lucy". As this harried women walks off I hear her say "For God’s sake ..." in agitation.

And that was a small experience of one of the terrors of motherhood.

Ever since the release of the Joshua Tree when I was in highschool I have liked that U2 song 'Mothers of the Disappeared' but it always sends shivers down my spine and leaves me wet at the back of the eyes - "in the wind we hear their laughter, in the rain we see their tears ...". I think that having a child that just vanished and left you wondering has to be right up there with the worst things that could happen to a person. That smiling glance as Lucy rounded the end of the building might have haunted me forever ...

So, I went with Lucy to admire the loungeroom of the house in the garden, where they watch "TV", that being the events through the fence on the athletics oval, then left Lyndel with Brittany at the high jump, took Lucy firmly by the hand and walked her home.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Cinema as religion?

I don’t know how I got started into this, because I am by no means any sort of movie buff, but something I re-read the other day intrigued me:

"I believe cinema is the most powerful secular religion, and people gather in cinemas to experience things collectively, as they once did in church. Cinema storytellers have become the new priests ... I don’t think we fully understand yet the need of people to gather together to listen to a story, and the power of that act".
George Miller, film writer/director

I am not so sure I can whole-heartedly agree with that. Are people really seeking a "together" experience when they go to the cinema? Would it be the same if the rest of the cinema was empty? Just last weekend a friend of mine said she was going to see a movie on her own, because she wanted to do something non-social and just sit back and enjoy some input. Maybe George Miller has a point ... (and maybe he also has a vested interest in the film industry).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Eternal Sunshine

It's actually rather hard to write a definitive list of your favourites somethings. Every day I think of something else, and my favourites remain in a fluid state. And one of you has commented that one of the dangers of blogging is that people will disagree with you. True, true. But what is that saying that "if we always agree only one of us is needed" ... So, why do I like Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, the movie, when many people don't? Well, I did actually go to a film and discussion night on this movie, which got me to thinking more about it, and apart from the fact that it is a novel story and some of the photography is amazing (all the special effects are actually done through the camera) and Clementine's hair changes colour to match the mood, I think it alludes to some interesting things. Aside also from the fact that the technology used in the movie is totally unrealistic, the love story is a lot more realistic than some (I really like romantic comedies, and period romances, but a cursory look around tells me that maybe life is not like that).

If you don't want me to spoil the plot read no further but essentially the movie is about going through a process to rid your mind of certain painful memories. One of the characters who works for the company that performs this process says "... To let people begin again. It's beautiful. You look at a baby and it's so pure, so free, so clean. Adults ... they're like this mess of sadness and phobias. And Howard just makes it all go away". Nietzsche is also quoted as saying "Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders". The movie hints at the peace of mind that comes from being free of these painful reminders of past hurts and even sin - "How happy is the blameless Vestal's lot, The world forgetting, by the world forgot: The eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each prayer accepted, and each wish resign'd".

There's an obvious lead in to the truth of the grace and forgiveness of God in there somewhere ...
And as for the love story, well Joel and Clementine certainly have their moments (some of the biggest when Clementine wants an explanation of rather off-hand comments made by Joel). But in the end they come to this:

Clementine: I'm not perfect.

Joel: I can't think of anything I don't like about you right now.

Clementine: But you will. You will think of things. And I'll get bored with you and feel trapped because that's what happens with me.

Joel: Okay.

Clementine: Okay.

And they agree to give it another go. For some reason, even though it dashes romantic notions of uninterrupted bliss forever, I like that.