Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dumped but not forgotten

This just made me cry. 100 people turned up, from far and wide, for the funeral of a premature baby found at the dump.

Why people don't feel the same way about all the babies aborted every year is the question ...

Country fun

Sigh! I am sitting here at my desk in front of my computer surrounded by sophisticated things, but this is where I'd like to be instead. I don't care what anybody says, I reckon growing up in the country is fabulous!

On deferring marriage

So, curiously, the Washington Post article I referred to here has now been reproduced in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Making singleness better

And, even better, you can now read it free online.

This article is not actually written primarily to single people, it's written to the church, and is not irrelevant to you if you are not single.

Me, the Briefing, singleness and non-Christian men

I got some advance copies of the Briefing in the mail yesterday, because yours truly has an article in the May issue. Well, actually it's more of a column, which is new feature that they are running, called Give Up Your Life. If you have been reading this blog for some time you have basically read it before, but that's all I'm telling! :)

And you might be surprised: while the issue also contains an article on singleness and one on dating non-Christians, that is not what I wrote about. But they are very good articles. When I wrote the EQUIP book club posts on singleness I referred a number of times to a talk by Tim Adeney, and I am happy to say that that is now in print in the Briefing, though in slightly different form (and I think I can admit to blogdom that I played a part in it being there - I have connections ;) ...). I went to bible study last night and haven't read the final version yet, but am looking forward to doing so.

Then there is a very practical article on what to do in situations of attraction to non-Christians. It starts from the assumption that you know and believe that dating non-Christians is wrong and sex before marriage is wrong, and gives helpful advice from that point on. (Sadly I know too many women who are no longer convinced on either of those fronts - essentially they have done some very faulty situational ethics! - but it is great to have material that is written to Christians who know the truth and want to live it, rather than always starting at first principles or simply telling people "here's why this is wrong".)

So, this is an issue you need to read! :) (I'd be self-effacing and say that my column is the least interesting thing in it, but since it's not about me, is about the work of the Gospel and is hardly an original piece of work, and since I think it is a great initiative from the Briefing, I'm not going to say so.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My obsession is ...

I think I have the makings of one of those crazy people who buys stuff for no one and nothing in particular just because it's cheap.

I was actually headed to our real estate agent on Saturday, and I expected it to be shut for the morning for ANZAC day but open later. Turns out it was closed all day so I dropped into the local Vinnies. They were selling all children's clothes for $1 each. So I started attacking this large mound of clothing piled on a bed until I was sick of looking. $12 later I had a pile of little items just because (but my washing looked so cute!).

However, I did have my niece and nephew in mind, because they have just moved from Darwin, where there is no winter to speak of, to Toowoomba, which is cold by Queensland standards, and have no warm gear.

So yesterday I stuffed as many little things into a 3kg post parcel bag as I could and sent them up. For my niece I got three pairs of cute little jeans (they all had flowers and what-have-you embroidered on them) and three cardies/jackets, which are all in perfect condition, and if there is such a thing as "fashion" for toddlers then I reckon they are the height of it. Well over $100 worth of clothing for $6.

I am feeling very satisfied with myself and my performance as a doting Aunt just now. I just have to work out what to do with the rest of it ...

Freedom to marry young

Here is a link to a very interesting article, from the Washington Post, about reconsidering the age of getting married, thanks to Carolyn McCulley at Radical Womanhood.
In my research on young adults' romantic relationships, many women report feeling peer pressure to avoid giving serious thought to marriage until they're at least in their late 20s. If you're seeking a mate in college, you're considered a pariah, someone after her "MRS degree." Actively considering marriage when you're 20 or 21 seems so sappy, so unsexy, so anachronistic. Those who do fear to admit it -- it's that scandalous.

How did we get here? ...
And those of us who are not so young anymore, who knew this and would have acted on it given the opportunity, can read Carolyn's additional paragraph at the end.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Brief de-brief on Alain de Botton

Yesterday was the day for Alain de Botton in the Opera House speaking on The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, so off I went with two girls from work and one from church (Sophie over here).

Alain irked me right in the beginning by giving a brief history of work in which he made people laugh as he described a dark period of negativity when Christianity held the idea that we were working to atone for the sins of Adam and Eve and so work was viewed as punishment. It's loathsome when people portray Christianity badly to a crowd, and moreso when they have it completely wrong (though perhaps he borrowed from Catholicism). I wanted to stand up and tell everybody what really atoned for the sins of Adam and Eve, and how to work is to be created in the image of God, who is also working ... However, he then went on to quote such theologians as Luther and Augustine quite positively and the final conclusion on the purpose of work might well have been borrowed from Genesis 1-3.

All that said, it was a very interesting and entertaining talk, and he really is a gifted public speaker (and writer). He dropped lots of little insights along the way. One of the things that is in some ways admirable and in some ways frustrating about de Botton is how well he is doing out of repackaging of old ideas. Much of what he said has been said before, in Marxism (eg his idea that large scale is economically efficient, but meaning inefficient), theology (as mentioned above) and elsewhere in philosophy - he has simply put it all together and made it accessible to modern readers. One of my work colleagues said she finds it all a little patronising because he assumes that we are all so ignorant we have never read the original sources. But that is actually probably true for a large proportion of the population (that doesn't include her). I think his gift is actually in making these ideas accessible and getting them out there to those who may never otherwise have read them, in generating interest and keeping those old ideas alive and the way he bundles them into a cohesive unit. His works serves to show people that what has gone before is not irrelevant. And it would seem that he is doing all this because he believes it will be of benefit to the human race. The book by the same title is probably a very good read. (I really enjoyed reading The Consolations of Philosophy, even when I begged to differ.)

Afterwards we went to the Opera Bar for a drink and had some interesting discussion with the girls from work. It takes us out of the office circle and into the sort of conversation we don't have very often at any rate, and Alain had provided some definite launching points to talk about Christianity and respond. All up it was a good afternoon.

Stimulating my life

So, the stimulus fairy came by my bank account sometime during Friday night, and I had told myself that when it had been I could do something totally crazy and buy myself an iPod. Yes, despite the fact that I am living in the podcast generation in which everybody downloads talks etc and listens to them as they go about their business, this is my first ever MP3 player (and I can vouch for the fact that life was quite satisfactory before now). Up until this point I have listened to the odd sermon/and or series online, but certainly not regularly. After sitting at my computer with headphones on all day, it's not what I want to do when I go home at night (and I have tried repeatedly but it gets too hard to listen to a sermon and read something else at the same time at work). However, I do walk to work for about 45 minutes, and have tried with varying degrees of success to actually read as I walk, and hope from here on to listen as I walk.

So, it was all quite exciting. I had to get on iTunes and buy something just because I could (yes, believe it or not, I have never done this yet either - I like having albums with their nice covers). So I went for Sarah McLachlan's Rarities and B-Sides (Vol 2). Sarah McLachlan, Emmy-Lou Harris, Cyndi Lauper, singing a little Joni Mitchell - what more could you ask for? (A bit of Bryan Adams maybe? - well you get him too, which is a mystery.) And I am quite taken with the song Pills, with The Perishers for some reason.

Now I just have to line up my sermon series ...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Latest home design attempt

And just before I slide, here is the blog post you have all been waiting for: my latest crochet project.

I have been vaguely looking for some placemats for the table for a very long time, and upon realising that I probably wasn't going to find any I liked, I decided to make some. So I just bought wool in the desired colour, from the fabulous Bendigo Woollen Mills, and crocheted a circle. They are not the most exciting placemats you ever saw, and I tried varying the stitch but it was going to get hard to keep the circle lying flat, and varying the colour was going to look silly (maybe in the future there can be more experimenting), so here they are (and it doesn't really curl up around the edge - not sure why that looks so bad on the left in the photo):

A surprising Sunday afternoon

Well I only lasted two days, but yesterday afternoon I had a surprisingly pleasant and encouraging afternoon, so I thought I’d blog about it. After teaching Sunday School in church yesterday morning I decided to head up to Katoomba Easter Convention to catch up with some friends who had come from afar to be there. They knew I was planning to do this and had texted me Saturday afternoon, so after church Sunday morning I tried to phone them, realised they’d still be in the talks up there and weren’t answering, so decided to start driving anyway, since it’s about two hours away. I stopped off around Wentworth Falls to phone ahead and get the address of where they were staying. Still no answer. So I drove on to Leura and parked near the Mall there. Called again. Their phone was still switched off. By this stage I’d left a few messages, and figured that when they turned the phone on they’d get them.

So, I wandered up and down Leura Mall doing the craft-shop thing, waiting for a phone call. After about half an hour of this I was beginning to get miserable with the realisation that I had driven all this way and had been really looking forward to catching up and having some company (I had been home alone all long weekend so far – had fun catching up with people Thursday and Friday night but Saturday was just me and my projects and I was looking forward to a conversation with old friends) and that I hadn’t even bought a book to read or a notebook to write in and wasn’t really decked out for a bushwalk if I decided to just amuse myself up there. So, I had walked up and down Leura Mall and was back where I started wondering what to do when I saw Penny, a lady who had attended my previous church with her husband for a time, walk by. I said hello, but she seemed to look straight through me (and I had been told I was unrecognisable in church that morning because I straightened my hair) and walked on and I thought that was it. But then she stopped and came back and said hello, asked me what I was doing, so I told her my sorry tale. She said, well come back to my place for a cup of tea, it’s just down the road. So I did.

To tell you a little about Penny: she became a Christian in 2000 as a alcoholic (I’m telling you all these details because they are readily available on the website I’ll point you to soon) and battled alcoholism for the next three years. But Penny is not what you might be imagining in terms of an alcoholic. She and her husband are what anybody would call "well-to-do", and could hobnob with the biggest snoots in this city. Only 3% of alcoholics live in parks. The rest of them include people like private school Mums and white-collar professionals.

Since becoming a Christian Penny has started a ministry to people recovering from addictions of all sorts, which Phillip Jensen actually helped her get started (details below). So, on the short walk to her house she filled me in on the fact that staying with her was a lady I’d meet shortly, who was 21 days clean of addiction to a “whole gambit of things”, had five kids with the Department of Community Services to four different fathers, was waiting for a house from public housing and so staying with Penny and her family till then. So I met S when I got to the house. The three of us then took our tea and hot-cross buns into the beautiful blue-mountains-federation-house sunroom and got talking.

Penny is pretty open about talking about her own junk, and I guess her ministry allows other people to feel free to share their junk too, so we soon got engrossed in a really good conversation. S doesn’t say much but sat there listening. (Let me just say at this point that I don’t have an addiction, never have had one and don’t even think I have much junk compared to some. But most people have their quota of stuff, and I reckon I could pretty easily be an addict of some sort. Those who work in addictions or mental health reckon we all walk a fine line between "normal" and something.)

Then S and I followed Penny outside and I pottered around behind her with the watering can while she planted petunias, then I shot a few hoops in the basketball net set up in the backyard underneath the beautiful big old trees while she did some watering. And all the while we kept talking and I kept laughing. Penny makes me laugh because she’s one of the most tell-it-like-it-is people you’ll ever meet, and comes out with lines like “relationships are hard, that’s why they make movies out of them when they work” etc. And I was really blessed to catch this quiet moment with Penny. She’d had hordes of people through the house all weekend and literally dozens of teenagers about the place (she has three herself) but this afternoon she was free. Unfortunately her husband was up at the hospital with his elderly father who’d come to visit and had taken a fall that morning. He called to tell Penny that his Dad had a fractured hip, and Penny got off the phone and said: “What a drama. I don’t do drama”. This also made me burst out laughing (S too), because few people invite so much drama into their lives. (I had a quick whisper to Penny in the kitchen regarding S, when I think she had gone out to smoke, and Penny’s response was “God help me!”, but she says that with sincerity because she lives each day with a “God help me!".)

I still hadn’t heard from my friends so I stayed on for delicious homemade minestrone soup and homemade vanilla bean ice-cream for dinner.

After dinner Penny quickly showed me through her slide show presentation for her ministry. Then she asked me if I knew PowerPoint and could I snazz it up for her. The silly thing is that I am a long way from a PowerPoint guru. When I did my Honours dissertation at University I did a slide show with these things we had back then called photographic slides, which you put in this ancient mechanism called a carousel. And I believe I used overhead transparencies. But I now know more about PowerPoint than Penny does and as she says “all the people who are really good at this stuff are too busy doing everybody else’s stuff”. So I might have a go.

I am pretty wowed by what Penny does. Among other things she drives from her home in the Eastern Suburbs for a three hour round trip to Campbelltown to minister to recovering addicts out there. It’s all very easy for me to sit in my loungeroom and write a blog post like I half care about these people, but how many of us really want to go to Campbelltown to hang with addicts and take a homeless one home for Easter? Anyway, I could go on and on. But if you’d like to know more then visit the Overcomers Outreach website (they call themselves OO and follow an AA-type program, because AA works), where you can actually watch a video interview between Phillip Jensen and Penny and find out more information. If you know someone with an addiction problem, Penny is the person to talk to.

After my quick look through some of Penny’s material, the three of us headed up to the evening session of the Easter Convention. The especially glorious news in all of this is that S has given her life to Christ. Jonny Gibson was preaching through Ephesians and the evening’s talk was on Marriage. I have just heard talks on Marriage for three weeks at my church, and I was curious to hear Jonny (because I first knew of him as a college student) but didn't know I was in for another talk on marriage. But as Jonny said in his opening, the word of God is never insensitive or ill-timed and in God’s providence you are here tonight to hear this, and went on to explain why marriage needs to be understood firstly theologically (ie in relation to God), rather than experientially, and fitted marriage into God’s big picture of the reunification of the cosmos and gave a jolly good talk.

So, I never did hear from my friends (though heard from them this morning and they have a good explanation and headed home early), but I don’t believe it was pure coincidence that I bumped into Penny and had such a wonderful afternoon. I’ve now got myself a little pile of information on working with people recovering from addiction, a little job or two, am back in contact with someone I hadn’t even seen for months, and who knows where it might end up.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Letting the blog slide

I am probably going to let this blog slide for a time, if you haven’t noticed that it has perhaps slid already, in terms of content. I won’t make any great speech (and then keep right on posting and so make myself a fool), but to say that I just don’t actually like this blog very much at the moment. I don’t feel as though I am using it either to practice writing well or to write anything worth saying. And I have a few other projects on at the moment, all of which involve reading and writing. So, no doubt I will still be here, just maybe not so often.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Drama in the bathroom

We have been having a run on family dramas lately, such that everyone is just a little on edge. Then on Saturday night I went out to visit a friend, and my older sister knew I was going out, so later in the evening when my mobile phone rang and I saw it was their number I just thought "oh dear, what's happened now" and took the call.

It was my sister calling to let me know that my nine-year-old niece had just fallen through the shower wall and smashed it. No one knows how she did it or what she was doing in there, they just heard a great crash from the bathroom and there she was with glass everywhere and a broken shower wall. She's quite fine and has only a few little cuts, but my goodness, makes you wonder why showers are made out of glass in the first place.

One of the guys here at work reckons it might be a result of the shower scene in the movie Psycho (which apparently looks a bit like this) - no one wants to be surprised in the shower. I'm not convinced. I reckon there are more ways than one to be surprised in the shower, and not having glass walls would prevent at least one of the others.

Psyche and soma

I have substantial proof that you cannot separate the two, and neither leave out the pneuma.

But, then again, if we didn't believe that what sort of Christians would be?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

An afternoon book swap

I went to a book swap this afternoon. 'Twas a great afternoon. Everyone brought along any books, magazines or DVDs that they wanted to swap and piled them on a table for the taking. The only rules were that there was no book dumping (if your books weren't taken you had to take them home again) and no book snobbery (ie no loud exclaiming "can't believe anybody would ever read such a stupid book"). All done in a pleasant plant-filled courtyard over scrumptious food and your beverage of choice.

The afternoon was hosted by a friend of a couple in my bible-study (community) group, and so a few of us from our group went along in support of relational evangelism, and a great time was had. Occasions like this afternoon, which involve an integration of lives and fostering true friendship, seem immensely valuable things to do (not to mention just good fun). I have been inspired to alter something I have been planning to that effect (but won't blog about it before it's for real!).

Here are the books I came home with (plus a few of those I'd taken!). I did very well I thought!:

Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman
The Five People you Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom (enjoyed Tuesday's With Morrie as a sort of intelligent pop-psychology, so am curious about this one)
In the Winter Dark - Tim Winton
Dirt Music - Tim Winton
The Return of the Native - Thomas Hardy (for when I need another dose of angst)
Seven Modern Poets - Edited by Geoffrey Summerfield (a person can have too many poetry anthologies, as opposed to books of individual poets, which a person can never have too many of, but I shall see how I like this)
A Dictionary of Literary Terms - Martin Gray (lookout blog).
Mao's Last Dancer - Li Cunxin
Change the World for Ten Bucks - I don't know who (some of my friends brought this book along and said it was allright, and hey, I can just take it back next time)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Poetry Friday - As the Ruin Falls

Today I have a poem by the great C. S. Lewis, who wrote all things well. This is a poem that entered straight into my inner sanctum of poems (and that not for its craft but for its content).

As the Ruin Falls

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love—a scholar's parrot may talk Greek—
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

C S Lewis

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Growing up fatherless revisited

Some time ago I wrote a post about growing up fatherless, which was essentially asking questions, one of which was about books to read. The other night I came across a friend, who has daughters, reading the book Daughters and their Dads, by Dr Bruce Robinson, which I looked at in curiousity. So, I have flicked around the internet and listened to this download, a discussion with Bruce Robinson, from ABC Radio National.

It's hard to work out what the flipside of all this "the importance of fathers to their daughters" will actually mean for those who didn't have one, though I was perturbed by the line 'fathers can do a great deal to develop their daughters' confidence, career choices and successful relationships with men'. Hmmm. Anyway, I might add this book to the ever-growing pile of books to read.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

What to bake for Slice Sunday

I am on "Slice Sunday" for morning tea at church this morning. Slice is not really my specialty. Though I do love The Queen Mother's Favourite Cake - think sticky date pudding in a slice, complete with a warm caramel icing that soaks in to the cake. But it's a little on the crumbly and messy side. Church morning tea food needs to be more robust and less sticky I am thinking.

Has anyone out there got some good old faithful slice recipes they'd care to share?

Soggy bottoms

I'm going to stand under the hand dryer in the bathroom for a while. The bottom of my trousers are totally soaked. So soaked that they will probably be dry when it's time to go home. I'd love this weather if it wasn't for the public transport factor.

And there was no jogging this morning. There is a rain that falls gently on the earth, like the quality of mercy, and that can be jogged in, but then there is a rain that pummels it, like God had the high-pressure hose out to blast away the world's accumulated rubbish, and only fools go out in that.

(P.S. If I could access facebook at work, this probably wouldn't be a blog post. Note what facebook has done to the world ...)