Thursday, January 31, 2008

Poetry Friday 08

It's only Thursday I know, but I am moving house tomorrow and may be off line for a time. So, in resurrection of poetry Friday I thought I'd share a link to the all-new website of a work colleague of mine, who is full of surprises. These are her original poems, and she has won a few local prizes for them. It my recent attempts to write poetry it's helpful to read some modern work written by someone not all that different to me (no offence to my colleague intended, but it does make it all seem more possible, and set the bar somewhere slightly more realistic that Christina Rossetti or John Donne).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Moving right along

I’m trying to think of something other than singleness to blog about so I can shuffle it down the posts a little :). The crazy thing is that, despite the fact that everyone is going to be single, at least once in their life, no-one wants to be the person who brings it up for discussion - and I certainly don’t want to be the person labelled with some kind of "issue" with being single because I do bring it up. So, I write about it, then feel slightly embarrassed and so try and move on ASAP! :) (I think I am generally OK and in equilibrium with my ‘status’, which is perhaps why I am happy to talk about it from time to time – don’t know).

So, anyway, the exciting news at the moment is that we got a place to live on Friday, quite as a surprise, and in the end had a strange kind of bargaining power between two properties. If you have no experience with the current rental market in Sydney, then take it from me it’s BAD, and I was rather discouraged with looking. At almost every property we went to inspect there were at least thirty people, at one that was in the order of a hundred (the line went down two flights of stairs and well out on to the street) and some little old terraces became so congested that I just wanted to get out of there fast – and couldn’t. So, to actually be the approved tenants for anywhere feels like quite a feat! If you are wondering about the "we", well, my plan for this year was to move out on my own (into that one bedroom apartment with the two cats named bitter and resentful – just kidding! – that’s another line from THAT book) and set myself up somewhere further west, where it’s more affordable to live on your own. But then a girl I knew a little, because we overlapped at my workplace for a couple of months before she left to go to Moore Theological College two years ago, came back to work in her summer holidays and ended up sitting at a desk across from me. She was looking to move out of Mary Andrews College for her final year, and we were both spending our lunch times on domain or, trawling through properties and discussing the difficulties of finding somewhere and the expense etc. So, in the end we got this idea that it was not such a crazy idea that we could share. Because she wanted to be near the college community if at all possible we started in Newtown (and I started to get excited about the prospect of Newtown and all its happenings, as compared to somewhere like Ashfield by myself) then realised that it was really quite expensive and that we were up against a lot of yuppies on salaries a lot bigger than ours, so we decided to go further afield. In the meantime we did find a place we really liked a stone’s throw from Moore College, which seemed, remarkably, to be ours for the taking through a private agent, then both went home and individually had second thoughts about the wisdom of paying that much rent, came into work the next day and reconvened ... and then were offered a flat in Camperdown that we had given up on (which is less expensive, but still not what you would call cheap!). So I am soon to be a resident of Camperdown (though we are just out of Newtown and might as well be in it). It’s all turned out to be not quite what I had planned, but I am rather pleased that God must have had other ideas than me setting up with those two cats just yet, and I am really looking forward to life near King St (we are actually in a nice tree-lined street with a lovely park between us and all that action) and near the Moore College library (I believe non-students can use it, yes?).

Saturday, January 26, 2008

THAT book III - trophies of grace

I thought I would just add another post on THAT book, as I have been reading through sections of it more slowly. Contentment is THE word that invariably comes up in any discussion of singleness, usually within about 15 seconds of anyone broaching the subject, and so it is helpful to tease out just a little what contentment actually looks like, which is what Carolyn McCulley has done in her book, with a take on it I hadn’t quite thought of before. I’ll quote a section (but recommend you read what comes around it too):

"The apostle Paul wrote that he had "learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Philip. 4:11 NIV). I am grateful for that one word in that incredible phrase – learned - because I tend to focus first on the "whatever the circumstances" part. If the venerable apostle had to learn to be content, I can expect no less.

What does contentment in varied circumstances look like? It is a gracious spirit that is steady and constant. A woman who has learned to be content "takes a licking and keeps on ticking," to quote the old Timex ad ... When we experience changes – the pressures of life, the heat of sin, the cold drafts of loneliness, the damp chill of disappointment, the pitch and roll of shifting circumstances - but we keep a steady pace, we are exhibiting contentment.


A contented woman is not impatiently proud. Contentment calls for humility. We have to intentionally humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand when our circumstances don’t work out to our liking. Without a doubt, it is humbling to go year after year with a hope deferred! It’s very humbling to keep showing up at family events as the only single sibling or to go to the wedding of a former boyfriend without a date. But we have to remember that, as Christian women, we’re not here to promote our personal success stories anyway. We’re here as trophies of grace – broken clay jars carrying around incredibly valuable treasure ..."

And if "trophies of grace" sounds a bit esoteric then it includes such basic things as this "He does provide the strength to keep doing the right thing even when all we want to do is pull the covers over our heads and never leave our beds!".

Friday, January 25, 2008

More Art to go

Went wandering past DJs again tonight with a friend after dinner and so here are some more pics. This one was called Chaos and Order, and my reaction was 'yeah OK - nice colours':

This is Japanese comic strip style (obviously), something about merging cultures and so forth (not my kind of thing but I could appreciate that it was good for what it was):

This one was meant to show how photo realism can almost be abstract - they are actually paintings, not photos, and in real life in was very effective, but my phone pic is something of a dud:

This one speaks for itself if you know the works of Dada and Salvador Dali (and they are 3D constructions - very clever up close):

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Viewing with indifferent eyes

This is another work from ArtExpress, which was called Viewing with Indifferent Eyes, or something in that vein, with apologies to the artist because I didn't take down their name ...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Always the oddball

Your Personality is Very Rare (INFP)

Your personality type is dreamy, romantic, elegant, and expressive.

Only about 5% of all people have your personality, including 6% of all women and 4% of all men

You are Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving.

Sometimes I'm a P, and sometimes a J, but it doesn't matter what I do, I'm an INF.
HT: Nicole
Post script: I actually thought I was increasing in ubiquity making it up to 5%! In previous (and more comprehensive) Myers-Briggs tests I've been labelled 1-2%, and while it's close I think I am more rightly an INFJ (which is more or less rare, depending on who you think the personality authority is).

Art to go

I have been hurried and harried past the new David Jones window displays each morning this week on my way to work, taking in what I could as I passed, so on the way home today I stopped to smell the roses, in disregard of the other bustling peak-hour pedestrians, and paused before each window on Elizabeth, Market and Castlereagh Streets. They are currently displaying the ArtExpress exhibition. ArtExpress is a selection of the ‘best’ visual art works from the Higher School Certificate students, and 48 of these works are on display in DJ’s windows at the moment. They are well worth a look! (These pictures are two I snapped rather randomly while waiting for the bus, and not necessarily the best of them - the above is actually done in oils too.)

I quit Art as a subject at the end of Year 11, largely because having watched my sister do her major artwork the year before I was deterred by the stress of the whole thing, and because Art was going to clash with picking up an extra unit in both Maths and English. If I had my time over, I wouldn’t bother with 4 Unit Maths, which is of no use to me and completely forgotten now, whereas Art is a much more enduring love ...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A child's cure-all

In packing up my stuff I have had a look at my toy line-up - the collection of sentimental toys. There’s Willy, the koala in yellow cord overalls, who for some reason took my fancy in a very big way about five years after everyone else had done carting stuffed toys around, and we were inseparable. There’s the blonde curly-haired womble my sisters gave me, owing to its apparent resemblance to me, the stuffed dog my niece chose for me, the praying lamb, Eeyore, I think supposed to remind me not to BE Eeyore, Beatrix, the little bear that all the way from Sweden on the front of my back pack and more. Amongst them is Cheer Bear (the Care Bear with the rainbow on its tummy). One day I was talking to me sister on the phone and must have been a bit down about something (can’t remember what!) and when she got off the phone she had this conversation with my niece, then four:

Sister: Aunty Ali is a bit sad today.
Niece: Where’s she live again?
Sister: Sydney.
Niece: Don’t they have toys in Sydney?

And so I got Cheer Bear in the mail – and Cheer Bear’s for keeps!

Monday, January 21, 2008

The rest of THAT book

Today I discovered that you can read all of the text of the book mentioned in the last two posts online here (scroll down the page a little). So, if my excerpts interest you, you can go there and put them in their rightful context.

(My mind wasn’t 100% on the job of those posts, if they are lacking in cohesion, as it was in several different places throughout the course of the weekend. On Friday night I saw the movie Juno, which was some food for thought, then on Saturday traipsed about in the rain looking at flats to rent, along with about fifty other people, which was a deflating experience I have to say and had me reconsidering the move. Later that day I was fiddling with a poem I was writing (am enjoying scribbling poetry lately), while also reading snippets of said book, then Sunday I visited two different churches in the morning and evening that are both possibilities for this year, bumped into an old work colleague at one of them and also had countless conversations with perfect strangers, some of those about "church", went to visit a friend’s Aunt’s house in the afternoon to see if I wanted any of her furniture or stuff (got to wander about putting sticky notes on anything that took my fancy - weird experience) and also started to think seriously about further study, as I am not convinced that Editing is such a reliable or transportable field to be in. So there are lots of things circling about in my head at the moment, and I am hoping one or two of them come in to land soon.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

THAT book II

The third chapter of Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? is called "God’s Quiet Providence". The author, Carolyn McCulley, had been listening to a tape by Mark Devers on Ruth in which he takes a look at the story of Naomi. To give you a glimpse of her honesty she writes:

"I know I have been like Naomi. I’ve looked at my circumstances and concluded that God had “abandoned” me to unwanted singleness. I’ve actively complained about it. I’ve made snide remarks. I’ve been bitter when others have received the blessings I desire. I’ve even been outright angry with God for not answering my demands on my schedule.

But I thought I’d grown out of it.

Before that retreat, I honestly thought I was doing fairly well. What God showed me then was a more subtle form of unbelief: When our prayers seem to go unheeded, we can learn to live in unexpectant apathy. We go through the motions, but we’re not convinced that God will bless us. Bottom line, ugly truth: We don’t really trust God. This is no minor issue. As author and theologian Jerry Bridges wrote, "God views our distrust of Him as seriously as He view our disobedience"."

I have to confess that these days I generally give a sort of depressed sigh, state something to the effect that there just aren’t enough Christian guys left (usually with some nasty kind of qualifier like "within the definition of "normal"") to go around, and think that I am just one of those people who inevitably had to ‘miss out’. And other times I just think that the probability of meeting a Christian guy that I think is in any way attractive (including such things as godliness in that of course!), having them feel the same in return, and then of both of us being able to successfully navigate that minefield that seems to be pre-dating (I have been known to tell people that’s some kind of game that I don’t have the manual for) such that the guy actually asks me out, one day – well I doubt that even God can pull that off!

And I can’t believe I just blogged all that (think I am being infected by the honesty) – but either way I think I am guilty of unexpectant apathy.

But as the chapter concludes:

"God is still working – let’s never forget that. What we can see of our circumstances is not all that is there. Whether we are single or married, God is working to glorify Himself through those circumstances, and only He knows the best way to accomplish His plans. At any given time, we can’t see the grand panorama of His grace. But, secure in the reality of it, we can rest in the promise that still echoes across time: "My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose." ... I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it (Isaiah 46:10-11)."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

THAT book

Well, I have previously raved about the book Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye by Carolyn McCulley, and hinted at things to come, but I think the best that I can do is to recommend that people read it. I don’t think I'll end up saying anything original. But before I do say anything, one thing that struck me in the book were the scattered references to singles ministries, great books for single people to read, and so forth, mostly coming out of the circles of people that the author moves in. Now, I have never been to a church that had a singles ministry. But it also struck me that it is quite possibly a gaping need. Whether or not you’d get anyone to be involved in such a thing here in Australia, owing to the great stigma that hangs around the whole notion, is another question. But, if you ask me, single people could more often than not use some input: they are often people becoming more and more angst-ridden, with burgeoning insecurities and all sorts of struggles. (And the classic 1 Corinthians 7 sermon that tells us we have more time and more disposable income than married people to use for the gospel - which often sends us away feeling like a waste of space if we are not in full-time ministry, and which is no longer necessarily true in today’s world - is not all that could be said.) If people could actually be taught some of what’s contained in this book, they might be in a much healthier place. Anyway, perhaps that is something I can think about developing myself as I look for a new church (rather than suggesting someone else does it!).

There are founts of practical wisdom in the book. But I found that one of the most helpful chapters, for me, comes right at the beginning, in setting the foundation for singleness, and is called "Esteeming the Gift". The basic idea comes from that 1 Corinthians 7 passage and verse 6, that singleness is a "gift", which is no news to most of us, but she goes on to make the point, with the help of Gordon Fee, that here it would be best translated as "gracious endowment", with the emphasis lying on the grace involved in the giving of the gift. It’s not a gift that we need to spend time identifying, it’s not an activity or a role, but a blessing – like the free gift of eternal life in Romans 5:15, given without any merit of our own. And if you are single now, you have it - irrespective of how you feel about it. Carolyn then moves through the argument of 1 Corinthians to state that God assigns the gifts, and here I’ll quote:

"Do you see God’s will at work here? Ultimately, we are single because that’s God’s will for us right now. That’s it. It’s not because we are too old, too fat, too skinny, too tall [I’m glad she put that in], too short, too quiet, too loud, too smart, too simple, too demanding, or too anything else. It’s not wholly because of past failures or sin tendencies. It’s not because we’re of one race when many of the men around us are of another. It’s not because the men we know lean toward passive temperaments. It’s not because there are more women than men in our singles group. It’s not because our church doesn’t even have a singles group. Though perhaps these things seem like valid reasons, they don’t trump God’s will. One look at the marriages we know or the ones announced in the newspaper will assure us that these factors are present in many people’s lives, and they still got married. We are single today because God apportioned us this gift today."

I’ve only recently heard it said that the church needed to work harder to evangelise men, and that "someone" needed to work harder to organise inter-church social activities (and I am sure I have thought such things myself) ... All of these things might well be needed, but we can’t blame their lack for our singleness. God could quite easily bring a guy or girl from nowhere, if that were his plan. And so a poisonous resentment against "the church" by single people is extremely misplaced (not to mention just plain poisonous).

The next paragraph, which I am very glad she included (though it proves how often such a thing must be said) is this:

"One more thought: I’ve often heard married people say to singles that we won’t get married until we’re content in our singleness, but I humbly submit this is error. I’m sure that it is offered by well-meaning couples who want to see their single friends happy and content in God’s provision, but it creates a works-based mentality to receiving gifts, which can lead to condemnation. The Lord doesn’t require that we attain a particular state before He grants a gift. We can’t earn any particular spiritual gift any more than we can earn our own salvation. It’s all of grace. However, we should humbly listen to our friends and receive their input about cultivating contentment; we just shouldn’t attach to it the expectation of a blessing."

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone, usually someone who was married before 25, say that, well, I could have had a one or two of cups of coffee :). But it is so true that such notions generate the feeling that marriage is something you earn, or can manoeuvre to obtain, and also provoke a person to look sideways and think ‘well I don’t know that that was true for so and so who got married when they were 21 and always just wanted to be a Mum’ ... And it can prompt a kind of psychological madness – I doubt the possibility of ever being content with what you have in order to gain something else. That said, it is well to "humbly and peaceably accept God’s will for our lives right now", as the author later states it, without designs for our future.

One final point made in this chapter, building on the 1 Corinthians argument about gifts, is that singleness is given for the common good, as is marriage – and so we should use it for the common good. Carolyn then writes "Friends, we have to stop here and ask ourselves if being gifted for the benefit of the church is important to us". Hmmm. I think most us would like to say "yes, of course", but earnestly hope we get the marriage package and not the singleness one all the same.

Anyway, hopefully that has done some justice to beginning of this book and its usefulness.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Crochet for my niece

It's my eldest niece's birthday soon and she is going to be 11 - I can't believe it! So, I had a go at making this scarf for her, from my ridiculously titled Happy Hooker crochet book (do they really think it's necessary to 'sex up' crochet pattern books?!). I'm rather pleased with how it turned out, and hopefully she can actually wear it in Queensland because it's not exactly designed for warmth. This niece has olive skin and hazel eyes (yes, looks nothing like her Aunt) so I think these shades of green will look like nice on her. Her sister is pale and blue-eyed so would need something altogether different.

Taking it at face value (only!) I am a happy hooker. I love having a crochet project going - it fills up all those moments when you might otherwise just be idling time away with something a little productive and satisfying, and you can feasibly do it and think through the world's problems, listen to a talk, participate in group conversations or pretend you're watching football or cricket and just be there at the same time.

I also bought my niece a book on how to draw horses. She's been mad about drawing ever since she was a tiny thing, is really quite gifted at it, and is apparently always trying to draw horses at present (everything is about cats or horses!). I've been trying to think of gifts for my nieces which aren't just more licensed toys lately, and which are a little more creative, but it's hard with girls. The last thing I bought her is the first in the Deltora Quest book series by Emily Rodda. I have a couple of friends with children the same age as my niece, whose children are also avid readers like my niece, who tell me that their children love these books, so I thought I try them on my niece - even if they aren't about cats or horses. I'm just waiting for the day when I can teach her crochet! (I actually tried that with my friend's 10-year-old daughter recently, and we got there in the end, but it made me realise that it is reasonably complicated.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Books and movies

I am slowly re-entering blog world. One of my New Year's resolutions perhaps should have been to define what exactly this blog is, because at the moment it seems to be just whatever takes my fancy, but perhaps I will just leave it as 'whatever takes my fancy' and make that a category. Tonight I am keen to just watch a few episodes of Bleak House. I love it! And so I need to redeem my negative comments on the book in an earlier post - though I have still not finished the wretched book, and perhaps I won't. But the DVD series is intriguing and done very well. It has now taken me beyond the point at which my reading stopped so I am very keen to find out the final state of things.

For Christmas I got the BBC Daniel Deronda on DVD, which I have mentioned earlier. That too was very good. Except they have taken ideas that lie even below the subtext in the book, and turned them into actual dialogue in the movie in order to convey them. This doesn't always work - IMHO. It detracts from the subtleties of the plot, and even from the integrity of the characters at several points (there are things it may be wise to think, but indiscreet to say). The most disappointing thing is the escalation of the relationship of Daniel and Gwendolyn into the realm of the improper. In the book Daniel may be naive, but is innocent in his dealings with Gwendolyn. In the movie the line is most certainly crossed, and we seem meant to think the line is crossed.

So, that is my DVD viewing of late. At the moment I am reading my book Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye by Carolyn McCulley (see below). It is EXCELLENT! It would have to be one of the most real, practical and challenging things I have read in a long time (or perhaps it is that where I am collides with the book). I'm reading it way too fast just to get the gist of it at present (in between packing and Bleak House) and will have to come back to it more slowly to digest each chapter - so I won't write some half-baked blog post about it now. But it's the sort of book that has almost inspired me to start a book club.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A death in the family

I was thinking about writing a blog post tonight, but there has been a significant death in the family of one of my flatmates. It's sobering how that makes most other things seem a little trivial. My flatmate's fiance is here (and they have gone for a walk just now) so I am not the primary source of consolation or comfort needed, and as a result I haven't been quite so sure what to do with myself. They didn't want any dinner, so I couldn't make myself useful preparing that, and when I finally fixed myself some I felt rather trite sitting down to eat it. Death and grief leaves its onlookers just a little helpless ...

Now is not the time to say any such thing to my flatmate, as their is a time to mourn, and to weep with those who weep, but on my new CD Good Monsters, by Jars of Clay, there is another song I like called All My Tears (though the music is rather heavy - this album is a lot more "rock" than their others, and missing what I thought was their characteristic strings), about the hope beyond death for those who trust in God (Revelation 21:1-7):

All My Tears

When I go, don't cry for me
In my Father's arms I'll be
The wounds this world left on my soul
Will all be healed and I'll be whole.
Sun and moon will be replaced
With the light of Jesus' face
And I will not be ashamed
For my Savior knows my name.

It don't matter where you bury me,
I'll be home and I'll be free.
It don't matter where I lay,
All my tears be washed away.

Gold and silver blind the eye
Temporary riches lie
Come and eat from heaven's store,
Come and drink, and thirst no more

It don't matter where you bury me
I'll be home and I'll be free
It don't matter where I lay
All my tears be washed away

So, weep not for me my friends,
When my time below does end
For my life belongs to Him
Who will raise the dead again.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

An old note

I've been packing up my stuff this weekend and in so doing had a quick look through an old school suitcase stuffed with letters. It's a task for another day to actually read ALL the letters and decide which are worth keeping, but amongst the stuff, which included a scented autograph book from my last day at school containing the very most ridiculous little verses, were a few notes from my younger sister. She was a funny thing - it was something of a family amusement for a time that she could be a right little ratbag but would then write you a most contrite and sentimental letter and post it under your bedroom door or leave it on your pillow for later or some such thing. But the note I found, written in an awkward cursive that slopes in all directions, that made me burst out laughing said this:

Sorry Alison

I thought you were going to have the sandwich INSTEAD of the bun. I'm really sorry.

Love Hayls

Oh, those were the simple days.

Friday, January 04, 2008

There is a river

Yesterday a friend asked me to go with her to Koorong, so we met in the city and set off. In almost five years in Sydney I have never been to Koorong, so it was an adventure for me (in more ways than one as it turned out). I had two books in mind: Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? - Trusting God with a Hope Defered by Carolyn McCulley. Yes, embarrassing to admit it (and I don't like the title!), but I do read Carolyn's blog, Solo Femininity, regularly and find it really quite encouraging, so decided to get the book (and who am I kidding - if that book isn't to be read by people like me, then who is it for?). The second book was When the Darkenss Will Not Lift by John Piper, because it looks interesting. I wandered about picking up lots of other books, going through the cooling off period and putting them all back again, except one (I'm proud of myself - today I picked up 15 book cartons for packing and feel like I could almost concede that there is such a thing in the world as too many books!). All of the more hefty theology went back - will be more deliberate about buying or borrowing those at a time when I think I will read them. My friend was after music so I wandered in there too and found "Good Monsters" by Jars of Clay going really cheap with the further sale discount so I added that to my pile. I really like the music of Jars of Clay generally, but often find their lyrics a little lacking or too obscure and have delayed getting this album. But on it is the song below. The lyrics on their own are perhaps a little melancholy, but they come with a compulsive foot-tapping tune and the result is a really uplifting, hopeful song. I like it (though don't know that I concur that all of our tears are wages for things we've done).

There Is A River

There is a river that washes you clean
There is a tree that marks the places you've been
Blood that was spilled, although not your own,
For all of your tears are the wages for things you have done

And all of those nights
Spent alone in the darkness of your mind
Give it up, Let go
These are things you were never meant to shoulder

There is a river that washes you clean
There is a tree that marks the places you've been
Blood that was spilled, although not your own
For all of those tears, love will atone

So, give up the right
To control the waves that empty out your life
Above wild skies
Are the rays that break the shadows we design

Give it up, let go
These are things you were never meant to shoulder
Give it up, let go

There is a river that washes you clean
There is a tree that marks the places you've been
Blood that was spilled, although not your own
For all of those things, love will atone

I know the world can turn in different ways
Most of the time, we're simply hanging on
And under the signs of how we all behave
We might find the place that we belong

There is a river that washes you clean
There is a tree that marks the places you've been
Blood that was spilled, although not your own
For all of these things, love will atone

For all of those nights, that you cried all alone
All of your tears, love will atone

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Comment moderation

I've turned on comment moderation. Not because I get all that many comments, or especially any nasty ones. However, because we now can't access blogs at all at work it bothers me slightly that people could post a comment, I would then get an email, but not actually be able to access it or respond all day. So, thus is the reason.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Into 2008

Well, I am back from holidays, and in the midst of cleaning out and packing and making a very big mess in the process. Christmas was nice and I, and my small blue car, survived the trip to Brisbane and back, which I am very thankful for. I then spent New Year's Eve sitting on the flight deck of a naval vessel with friends, very pleasantly watching the boats and the fireworks come and go. I could write a long diary-type entry, but there is too much mess to indulge it. Along that line, the last couple of weeks have given me cause to think about the purpose of Christmas newsletters, or "brag letters" as I have now become aware that they are sometimes called (not that I receive many I would put in that category). I paused to ask myself why I didn’t feel like writing one this year, and so didn’t send anybody anything. The reality is that nothing much happened circumstantially this year, and the things that made this year what it was are not the stuff of newsletters. In the wake of the all the news telling me of the blessings of new babies, new houses, holidays, children’s achievements, special anniversaries, I simply didn’t feel like trying to make my year a good read. But the thing I forget in doing so is that even being here for another Christmas is something to be thankful for (isn't there are line in a carol to that effect?), and that the lack of excitement and drama may itself be a blessing, and that God is faithful even in the not-so-interesting years, and sometimes many things are being learnt therein.

Anyway, upon reflection, I did face one particular trial earlier this year, and I am thankful that the outcome of it is what is – by the grace of God. Such are the times that you learn about your own character, its strengths and weaknesses. So, along those lines, here is some more of George Eliot’s narration in Adam Bede, which is the source of at least one famous line:

Are you inclined to ask whether this can be the same Arthur who, two months ago, had that freshness of feeling, that delicate honour which shrinks from wounding even a sentiment, and does not contemplate any more positive offence as possible for it? – who thought that his own self-respect was a higher tribunal than any external opinion? The same, I assure you; only under different conditions. Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds; and until we know what has been or will be the peculiar combination of outward with inward facts, which constitutes a man’s critical actions, it will be better not to think ourselves wise about his character. There is a terrible coercion in our deeds which may first turn the honest man into a deceiver, and then reconcile him to the change; for this reason - that the second wrong presents itself to him in the guise of the only practicable right. The action which before commission has been seen with that blended common-sense and fresh untarnished feeling which is the healthy eye of the soul, is looked at afterwards with the lens of apologetic ingenuity, through which all things that men call beautiful and ugly are seen to be made up of textures very much alike. Europe adjusts itself to a fait accompli, and so does an individual character, - until the placid adjustment is disturbed by a convulsive retribution.
It’s a scary thought, and it is a disturbing thing to watch Arthur’s degeneration in Adam Bede. Anyway, I hope and pray that my deeds determine me and I determine them, and that my critical actions speak for the good and the truth in 2008.