Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A poem on the incarnation

So thought it only fitting to leave you with a Christmas poem. I got this from here, where it was given the tag line "A sublime meditation on the Incarnation" (I'm not so sure about that, and I figure there are a few different ways to understand that idea) via here.

Human Beauty
by Albert Goldbarth

If you write a poem about love ...
the love is a bird,

the poem is an origami bird.
If you write a poem about death ...

the death is a terrible fire,
the poem is an offering of paper cutout flames

you feed to the fire.
We can see, in these, the space between

our gestures and the power they address
—an insufficiency. And yet a kind of beauty,

a distinctly human beauty. When a winter storm
from out of nowhere hit New York one night

in 1892, the crew at a theater was caught
unloading props: a box

of paper snow for the Christmas scene got dropped
and broken open, and that flash of white

confetti was lost
inside what it was a praise of.

Picture from here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Waltzing in to Heaven's Gate

Ah, so much for this holiday, but this is very much a holidayish post. I was messing about in youtube and found my other old waltzing, flute-playing song. It’s called Heaven’s Gate by Toni Childs, and is all very tragically romantic (you need to read Wuthering Heights or some such thing and then listen to this). If you waltz through this whole song in a small space, you really will start crashing into the furniture, because it’s fast tempo and a person can get rather giddy. There is a nice section on the end for the flute (I think it's actually a keyboard, but it works on the flute), and a person so inclined can flit from the piano to waltzing the room to the flute. I still have my old music scribble book, and below is an example of the sophisticated way I used to scratch out music, in which I have used both G sharp and A flat(?). (And another thing you need to notice about this video is the crocheted hat!)

I actually used to really like the House of Hope album (I Want to Walk With You particularly and then Next to You).

Monday, December 20, 2010


Ah, I'm so tempted to post just a little thing, then I find this (which you can buy over here, with other cool stuff):

Friday, December 17, 2010

Merry Christmas and a blog holiday

I’m going to take a little blog holiday. No matter how good a thing is, one still needs the occasional holiday. And I feel like this blog has been on a slow and steady decline from anything near what was ever “good” for some time. A feeling perhaps generated from discovering some old posts, in which I was all earnest and reflective and melancholy, before I became all flippant and frivolous and drivelling. I’m all for a little “don’t-take-yourself-so-seriously” in this life, but where has the substance gone?

So, in the spirit of the approach of a new year, I got to being a little reflective, and maybe melancholy, and realised a few things:
  • I never (or hardly ever) write about the work that I do all day everyday;
  • I don’t write too much about my personal life (because that could be regrettable), and the things that have most preoccupied me and caused me angst this past year have been things that I couldn’t/didn’t want to blog about, which makes the blog feel sometimes a little like my pretend happy face, and that bugs me! - but perhaps there is a place for that, and with Amy over here (whose blog is one of my favourites) I am not too much into “bleeding in the internet in some warped effort of being "authentic"”  (I’m into authenticity in real life, with some, but I do think there ought to be limits in the internet);
  • I try not to write about other people – shame really, as that is what actually makes life interesting …;
  • I don’t consider this blog “ministry”, you’ll all be very pleased to know (except within the sphere in which you might put all of life into that category – if the culinary arts are held to also feed the soul, then why not crochet?);
  • A while back I made the effort to reduce blogging on weeknights at home, to leave them for other things, and only do it mainly at lunch-time at work (or other down times), which has altered the content somewhat and I started posting things that once wouldn’t have made it through the filter.
So all of that means that what’s in my life that generates blogging, and the time I give it, probably doesn’t lend itself to aiming to be too regular (with any expectation of “good”-ness) and I feel like I am forgetting what it's for and actually going out to welcome the great “Nothing” of the Neverending Blog Story.

But you know me, that’s been said before. So, who knows, blogs are a fluid thing, but I might come back next year with something more like “less is more”.

In the mean time, Merry Christmas and thanks for reading! Hope you all have a joyful and blessed one.

(And I might just update in the comments on that previous post what is happening with my sister for those of you who’d like to know. I currently have a flight booked to Brisbane for next Thursday evening, but now might be going to Melbourne to potentially do Christmas in the hospital, depending on the confirmation of surgery dates etc.)

Low whistling

Ever since watching Davy Spillane on that Emmylou Harris video I have been dreaming about a low whistle, or, even better, an Irish flute, but they are way more expensive (and I discovered that the two ladies in the video are actually Anna and Kate McGarrigle, one of whom plays banjo, and enjoyed watching this for some Irish folk).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Star of Bethlehem

So here's a little bit of something like Christmas, from Neil Young and Emmylou Harris:

The nostalgic tune

It was only the other day on the bus that I had a good look through the Sydney Film Festival program for the coming January. I discovered that Emmylou Harris is performing at the State Theatre, and I am half tempted to go along (anybody fancy coming?).

It was my childhood best-friend’s Dad who introduced me to Emmylou Harris. Yeah, we grew up in Tamworth, but Emmylou’s not your average country musician. You can read about her illustrious career on the link above, in which she’s worked with artists such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young (see here and here). Obviously my friend’s Dad and his music taste had a big influence over us, even though we were supposed to be rebellious teenagers, because when my friend got married she had Like an Old-Fashioned Waltz for the bridal waltz. I was a bridesmaid and was in on all the fun.

So, sigh, I fell to reminiscing and found this video (though it makes me smile, because they all look so, well, umm, much older - Emmylou's black locks are silver, and her silvery voice is huskier, and two old friends near the end, well ...). I used to play the little interlude in the middle on my Mum’s alto baroque recorder (though it’s a bit simpler, and Emmylou is a lot younger, on the album version I also eventually found, which is just so romantic). I remember several times crashing into furniture in our lounge-room trying to both play this and waltz at the same time.

Emmylou Harris - Old Fashioned Waltz (Transatlantic Sessions
Uploaded by Superpatri. - See the latest featured music videos.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The human incubator

This is a just a nice read. Maybe I shouldn't tell the internet this, or you'll all think I'm a crazy feral bush lady, but I have walked about out on field trips with marsupial pouch young (which can't regulate their own body temperature) stuffed down the front of my shirt, doing my own version of "kangaroo care". You do what you have to do.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The good all things are working for

There’s something I’ve been thinking of writing for a few days, since before all of this happened, and perhaps God was getting me sorted. That’s because last week I was reading on Romans 8 in Future Grace by John Piper. Romans 8 has long been one of my favourite chapters in the bible, but to be honest, there are times that I’ve felt like people were a little too hasty and glib with Romans 8:28 in the immediate face of suffering. (“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Rom 8:28)

But there’s a chapter in Future Grace called "Four Pillars of a Precious Promise", in which John Piper looks at what are the foundations of the promise of good and what is this “good”. There ought to be no surprises that they begin in the next verse, after the word “for”:
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 And those whom he predestined he also called,
and those whom he called he also justified,
and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Piper goes on to unpack out each of these four things, and it’s mightily encouraging (in which he also says some interesting things about “foreknowledge" if you happen to be an Arminian). You need to read the chapter to see the way this builds, and this portion might be nothing so new, but here it is anyway (and I shall leave in the American punctuation, even though it drives me crazy):
The end of the chain is that the justified will be “glorified.” That refers to “the (future) grace ... at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:13), when he comes to give us “the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4). We “will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of [our] Father” (Matthew 13:43), because we will be completely “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no death or crying or pain any more (Revelation 21:4). God himself will be with us; and “fullness of joy and pleasures forever more” will be ours at his right hand (Psalm 16:11); and we will “enter into the joy of [our] Master” (Matthew 25:21).

This is the ultimate fulfillment of Romans 8:28. Being “glorified” means coming to the final, everlasting experience of seeing God work everything together for our good. The “glorified” state of verse 30 is the ultimate “good” for which God works all things together in verse 28. It is our final likeness to Christ which brings him glory (“the firstborn among many brethren”) and brings us unspeakable joy.
And there’s another whole chapter on Romans 8:32, called "The Solid Logic of Heaven", which is also well worth reading.

My sister

Well I wrote too soon. After the heart specialist and the kidney specialist had told my sister they didn’t think her problem was related to either of those organs, we thought nothing else would be as bad. But there is one thing. They are now going to do surgery to remove a tumour that is being treated as highly suspicious. Any prayers would be appreciated.

Ali wants it

You know how I was talking about something to store wool in, well I want this. H/T: Gordon

(Ah, the pragmatic reality is that I think this would be highly impractical, for keeping dust and moths and other small creatures out, and you'd have to keep your cupboard door swinging open for anyone to see it, but it does look so pretty. The other reality is, my aim is to work up what wool I do have stockpiled and left over already into things to give away or possibly sell, so I don't know why I'd want to keep a stash of it this big either, except it does look so pretty (and I'd be happy to have this stockpile).)

Monday, December 13, 2010

I wish I had a river

Well it wouldn't be this time of year without this song. It's my favourite melancholy Christmas song. I know it ignores the true wonders that Christmas celebrates, but I think it does capture the effect of "Christmas" on many. And I also know that the Joni Mitchell purists will have me for this, but I think I actually prefer the way Sarah McLachlan sings it, which is below (though her EPK version off Rarities Vol 2 is much better - this live version is closer, but I do just like the ice-skating in this video).

A call in the middle of the night

Well I scheduled that poem to go up on Sunday morning, then in the middle of the night on Saturday night there came a phone call. If you’ve been reading here for a while you might remember this big drama. So my brother-in-law calling me in the dead of night is not a good thing. He was letting me know my sister was in hospital down in Melbourne and he hadn’t been able to get onto my Mum, who was in Toowoomba for the other brother-in-law’s birthday, so I then had to call her, and so the night went on.

At that point the doctors thought my sister had a ruptured cyst somewhere (because she polycystic kidney disease, which it appears she mutated because there are no traces of it anywhere in the family), but my brother-in-law also mentioned something about fluid around the lungs and heart, which did not sound good. This to me usually means heart failure, and so I was thinking, well she’s been on a gazillion drugs for the last 18 months so if she has heart failure now well then what? However, it would seem that that is not such a big concern now, but she is having an echocardiogram today to make sure the heart is OK, and then might be able to go home. So it's turned out a whole lot better than it sounded in the middle of Saturday night.

Consequently I have stayed home today. I’m going soft. But I didn’t get much sleep Saturday night and just ended up doings things like eating toast, because if you stay awake long enough you get hungry. Then yesterday I just got up and did life and waited for more information (hospitals don’t seem to be particularly functional places on weekends) and went and did the church things. We had a thanksgiving service at church last night and they’d let us know in advance that there would be time to share. I had something in mind to say, but in the end decided I didn’t want to get up there and fall to pieces simply because I hadn’t had enough sleep (I’m sure some of you know what I mean – you could have made me cry about almost anything yesterday), and there were no long pauses and essentially a line-up of people, so I didn’t.

So I’ve just really got out of bed this morning and might go back there. I actually don’t have much to do at work at the moment anyway, so it was a choice of going in and fiddling about or staying home in bed for a while. Don’t tell anybody, but I think I might enjoy the rest of today (so long as there is no further bad news from Melbourne of course).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Poetry Day - The Burning Babe

I thought it must be time for a Christmas poem, so here is a classic by Robert Southwell. And below I have added a youtube of Sting performing this poem. Personally I'm not convinced that the tune works with the lyrics on this one, but enjoy the strings!

AS I in hoary winter’s night
  Stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat
  Which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye
  To view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright
  Did in the air appear;
Who, scorchèd with excessive heat,
  Such floods of tears did shed,
As though His floods should quench His flames,
  Which with His tears were bred:
‘Alas!’ quoth He, ‘but newly born
  In fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts
  Or feel my fire but I!

‘My faultless breast the furnace is;
    The fuel, wounding thorns;
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke;
  The ashes, shames and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on,
  And Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought
  Are men’s defilèd souls:
For which, as now on fire I am
  To work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath,
  To wash them in my blood.’
With this He vanish’d out of sight
  And swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I callèd unto mind
  That it was Christmas Day.

Robert Southwell

Photo by bkushner at flickriver.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Courtship rituals

Nicole posted this the other day, but because I can’t see videos when at work it took me a few days to watch it. It really is lovely. This is the sort of documentary that set me on the path I went down studying wildlife ecology.

It’s a pity humans didn’t have such beautiful, definite rituals, so we’d all know what was happening. Well, perhaps we do, in an ideal world. But reality often looks more like some kind of clumsy staggering and colliding and toe-squashing mess. Nathan wrote a post recently along these lines. I didn’t link to it at the time because it seemed to be irrelevant to me and almost every girl I know, but apparently there do exist girls out there who get asked to do things individually with guys ... and they don’t understand. If that’s you, then read along. But all I can say in defense of single women is, if you’re a guy, make sure you have actually made a real effort, taken initiative and been unambiguous about asking before you consider yourself the victim. Most girls I know, myself included, view themselves as being quite at the mercy of guys, waiting to see whether they’ll ask them out or not, or define the situation. [And I just deleted the rest of my ramblings on the subject ...]

Grieving the future

Ah, I do like Dan's post again. Here's a portion of it, for the single women who read this blog.

I guess that’s why it’s so hard to explain to each other, and to comfort, redress, justify grieving. How can anyone console another for the loss of something that never was? The love that was never returned, the children who were never born, the trip that was never taken, the work that was never completed. The loss of these ‘nothings’ is, in a sense, infinite. The lack of definition, the non-concrete nature of these hopes, makes their loss harder not easier. The loss of the possibility of a child includes, in some ways, the loss of the actual child, and the sweetness of his childhood, the glory of his maturity, the loss of all his hopes as well. The loss of a love that was never returned includes all the loss of all the pathways opened up for us by that love: the friendships never shared, the places never visited together, the histories never told, the further futures never anticipated.

What word of comfort can we speak to someone grieving the future? Each hope was a little singularity, pregnant with universes. And thus the loss of each future threatens to overwhelm us with an incalculable, infinite loss.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Romans 8:32

"He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all; how shall he not with him freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). How is it imaginable that God should withhold, after this, spirituals or temporals, from his people? How shall he not call them effectually, justify them freely, sanctify them thoroughly, and glorify them eternally? How shall he not clothe them, feed them, protect and deliver them? Surely if he would not spare this own Son one stroke, one tear, one groan, one sigh, one circumstance of misery, it can never be imagined that ever he should, after this, deny or withhold from his people, for whose sakes all this was suffered, any mercies, and comforts, any privilege, spiritual or temporal, which is good for them.
John Flavel.

In which Frances writes a book

Frances over at The Reader has published a book on the poetry of George Herbert and John Donne. Congratulations from me!

Local street music

I caught this rather surprising free street gig the other morning on my way to work.

I don't know about you, but I always thought Big Bird looked like a rockstar in the making. (I think someone had actually had some fun marauding the nearby charity bins, because a little further up the road Eeyore was also out doing his thing.)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Tested in the fire

There's a sermon illustration in this post. For that reason, even though in contains references to craft done with wool, which I wasn’t going to mention, for a little while at least, I’m putting it out there.

The other night I was sitting in my pew at church chatting to a girl who was telling me she’d been to IKEA on the weekend. So I was telling her, as you do when you’re making conversation, that I went out there a while back too, mainly looking for something to store wool in, because it was in bags all about the place. One thing led to another and she then told me she had a whole box of wool taking up space at home, left over from some event once upon a time, and asked if I’d like to have a look through it. Would I ever! She also then invited me over for dinner to do just that, which is a nicer thing than free wool.

So earlier in the week I went over for a lovely dinner and also to rake through this wool box. I didn’t actually have my hopes up so high about the contents, thinking it could be full of lairy acrylic that people didn’t want, and personally I just don’t put the time and effort into making something out of a acrylic. I’m a wool snob. And there was a tonne of acrylic in some kind of neon orangey-red that I was never going to put a hook into in the bottom of the box. But I did come home with quite a stash of quality pure wool, in nice colours, much of it plain natural/cream.

The problem was that there was also some yarn that had lost its label, and I discovered that telling wool from acrylic is not always immediately obvious.

I took some of this questionable material home with me, then yesterday I googled ways to tell the difference. One clue is that acrylic will often have more intense and vivid colours, because of the way the fibres take up colour differently, or will be a lot softer. (Here’s where you’re supposed to start hearing echoes of various parables and New Testament stories, just so you know.) But apparently what you can do to really be sure is set a match to it. Yes, burn it. Wool will apparently smell like burning hair, and acrylic will smell like burning plastic (which is sort of a case of choosing your poison) but also, real wool won’t actually burn, or will go out quickly, singe and turn to ash, whereas acrylic will catch alight, burn, and melt and turn to goop.

I didn’t have a lot of time last night in between work and bible study, but I couldn’t resist lighting a candle and giving this a go. However, I discovered that my nose wasn’t quite up to the smell test, my discernment was limited, and I just got a little overcome with sniffing burning fibres. A second problem here is that some yarn is a blend of wool and acrylic, so you get a little whiff of hair, a little whiff of plastic, a little bit of ash and a little bit of goop (and your flat begins to smell generally like a mix of burning hair and plastic). I don’t know that I’m very theologically sound on this point either, given the whole “faith as small as a mustard seed” thing, and we all know illustrations can only go so far, but the blended yarn tends to get tossed aside with the full-blown acrylic for me. It’s contaminated. And maybe the acrylic would eventually get all those horrid little pilly balls on it and choke and smother the wool ...

I need to have another go at this tonight (and hope I don't burn-test the apartment also), now that I think my testing skills and discernment have been sharpened, but here folks is my real life example of testing by fire, as a means of telling the real thing from the counterfeit (cf 1 Peter 1, 1 Corinthians 3 etc).

I’d already decided, but now I have been kick-started, that I’m going to start making up a pile of woolly, crafty things in my spare time (hah! – we’ll see) so that one day I might have enough for a little market stall somewhere (and for whatever gift-giving occasions arise along the way).

An epiphany

Ben posted this today, and it has explained the story of my whole life ...

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Sometimes type liberates me up to do ... nothing ...

Back when I was reading about personality type I seem to have subscribed to an RSS feed from the Centre for Applications of Psychological Type, which has hardly made it's presence known with a post since, but today there is one! It’s nothing earth-shattering, but towards the end is this sentence:
It’s really rather exhilarating and liberating to realize that I don’t know what other peoples’ behavior means to them.
It drives an INFJ mad trying to figure it out most times, but it is mildly liberating all the same …

Monday, December 06, 2010

Never Let Me Go

I also spent some time over the weekend pontificating in a café about Affluenza and Tolstoy at book club. We got to talking about books for next year and I suggested we read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and then go to see the movie. It looks like a good film, if something of a tear-wringer. The movie opens here on 17th March, so now is your chance to read the book first. (Note: The film isn't "R-rated" by Australian standards.)

A family of wrist warmers

I promise I'll stop posting about crochet soon, but ...

So I got on a roll and made some wrist warmers for my sister and two nieces, copying from these. I stayed home one day last week, mostly because I needed some more sleep and before I got extra work to do to send to press and because it rained, and so I got a head start on some. I'm not sure the family will be overly impressed with receiving these in the middle of summer, but I quite like them. (I'm giving them a board game for the whole family, so these are a little something extra.) These colours are bright, but they're kids and that's what they like (these colours are more my style!).

The extraordinary thing is that the two pairs on the bottom are exactly the same size, or supposed to be - same number of stitches, same ply, same hook. But the dark purple I got from The Granny Square and it's the Morris and Sons Estate wool, and I have to say, it's not nice wool. It's not only more than twice the price of the Bendigo Woollen Mills pink wool on the left, but it keep sticking and splitting and my hook would occasionally go through the middle of it, which is a problem I don't usually have. So I think it's because the wool was so difficult to work with that the purple ones are smaller. Otherwise I can't explain it. And I have now satisfied my curiousity about using other wool for a time.

I haven't stitched them on yet in this photo but I thought I'd add the buttons to snazz them up a little for the kids. Aren't the bicycle buttons cute? (I know, my photo is rubbish, and they look wonky when they aren't really. I need to take better photos, not to mention get a better camera. These things are all in the presentation.)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Finding and keeping crochet

Yesterday I popped down to the Finders Keepers markets at Carriageworks, not especially expecting my crochet radar to go off, but I walked in and was confronted by a poster of a crocheted rug, on the front cover of the Frankie Spaces magazine. Then flicking through the book was more and more crochet.

Then I found this crochet bunting. I like it, but I'm not really sold out on bunting. I mean, what does one do with it? - one of those purely decorative things one needs a place for (and note the doilie bunting hanging in front of the book poster above).

Then I spied these little crochet Christmas stockings.

I didn't actually buy a thing, and got rather exasperated with scarcely being able to move, but I gathered a few ideas. The problem is, I look at stuff and think I don't need to buy it because I could make it myself, but then I never actually do.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

In the shelter

And so I will just send you off swaying with this, from Jars of Clay's community project (or you can watch it live here):

Poetry Day - To friendship and to knowing

Since yesterday was about friendship, I decided to post a poem I wrote on the subject. I don’t actually think this is a good poem. After a road trip south with some friends last year it was stated that we needed a commemorative poem, so I sat down and wrote this basically in one sitting the day after our return, mainly just for us. I always intended to come back and work it into something better and a little more universal, but I never did. Consequently, it is so full of internal references and double entendres that it will probably hardly make sense if you weren’t there (most lines in it can be read at face value and also figuratively eg “times spitting our distaste” refers to the moment when we all sampled the famous local mineral water from an old pump and spluttered it everywhere – it is an acquired taste! – as well as a conversation in which we all vented our disgust of a particular thing), but hopefully there is some kind of gist of friendship in it, without a lot of footnotes.

Further, the first verse is taken from a song by Sara Groves, which was basically my prompt. We are all fans of Sara Groves, and one of the road companions introduced me to her. So, when one of them came up the idea of guest DJ entertainment for the road trip, I got a pre-release download of Sara’s new album at the time, and we listened to it on the way. I have been listening to that album again the last two days, particularly this song. But, without further ado, here is the poem.

“Raise a glass to friendship
And to knowing
You don’t have to go alone.
We’ll raise our hearts to share
Each others burdens
On this road.”

Sydney, Berrima, Golbourn
Second-hand books
And first-hand stories open
Gundagai, Holbrook, Curios
Quirks and temptations
Like jack-o-lantern

Thai stop in Shepparton
Journeys in music
Songs that make fires beautiful
Slowing the pace on the
Darkest stretch of road
Tale so hurt full

A white house in Daylesford
Stories hold open
Each old room door, and tell
A home-wares collection
Of varied history
For us as well

Mornings in a garden
Growing in
Emotion as a language
Too short to unpack things
But long enough
To hang baggage

Long walk, long talks, cafes
A lake, a spring
Hearts watered different ways
Afternoon wandering lost
Comprehending later
These are our days

A coke with you, a cake of
Sweetest richness
Times spitting our distaste
Sun-baking, then reaching
For blankets and that
One safe place

The high time ends too soon
We must return
Go down the road we came
Seeing other parts in
Light and dark, each
Other not the same.


Friday, December 03, 2010

That people live

This is a very compelling idea, and souls everywhere are drawn to the possibility, but reality at times falls sadly short ...

Photo from Berd here:

On friendship

Dan, a man of large mind, is doing a blog series on Friendship. I do like Dan’s blog – it’s different – and I like the elements that have appeared in this series. I've posted the links in here below, because wordpress blogs just don't work like I'm used to for series labels. I particularly like this paragraph:

Maybe there is another reason that friendship is hard to find: that it is somehow essentially resistant to definition. To begin with a definition is to seek the ‘sameness’ of friendships, to isolate the distinctive patterns and markings that make ‘friend’ into a kind. I don’t want for a minute to deny that there is something distinctive about this relation. But what if its distinctiveness lies in its freedom, in the basic unboundedness, the foundational non-obligation of the relationship which makes it into such a gift? If so, maybe we should start with the ‘different-ness’ of friends. Perhaps here we will find traces of the friend who is to come?
Friendship I – Apology and Confession

In Hope: Meditations on Friendship Lost and Found

Friendship: Losing and Finding

Friendship: How to think ‘friend’?

Friendship: Brotherhood, Equality, Pathology

Seeking Friends

The Language of Friendship

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The freedom of God's grace

I thought this was an interesting section of Future Grace by John Piper. I've never thought about Exodus 33:19 quite like this before:
First, when God reveals himself to Moses he virtually defines himself as an absolutely free giver of grace. In Exodus 33:18 Moses says to God, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!” God’s first response to this prayer is to give Moses a verbal revelation instead of a visual one. He says in effect, Here is my glory: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show compassion on whom I will show compassion” (Exodus 33:19).

When God says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious,” he means: I am free in showing grace. If you ask, “Who are those to whom you show grace?” the answer is: “Those on whom I show grace.” In other words, God does not look outside his own will for an impulse to move his grace. Ultimately grace is not constrained by anything outside God himself.

Soon after I finished graduate school in 1974 I devoted about seven years to studying the freedom of God’s grace, preparting to write a book on Romans 9, where this Old Testament text is quoted in verse 15: “For [God] says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’” I tried to be fair to all the differing views and to give all the necessary evidence for my conclusions. One of the most important conclusions goes like this: “[Exodus 33:19] is a solemn declaration of the nature of God, or (which is the same thing) a proclamation of his name and glory … It is the glory of God and his essential nature to dispense mercy on whomever he pleases apart from any constraint originating outside his own will. This is the essence of what it means to be God. This is his name.”

So right at the centre of God’s self-revelation is the declaration that he is free in the way he dispenses his grace. And this freedom belongs to the very essence of what it means to be God. God is gracious to whom he will be gracious. He is not limited by anyone’s wickedness. He is never trapped by his own wrath. His grace may break out anywhere he pleases. Which is a great encouragement to the worst of sinners to turn from futile hopes and put their trust in future grace.
Future Grace, Chapter 5
John Piper


Alain de Botton has had some good ones on twitter lately:
Like shyness, signs of aging can be erotic - and for the same reason: as tokens of vulnerability.

To be as tough as the world to give kids the strength to deal with it eventually, or to be far less tough - for the very same reason.

There are books that plant a flag on interesting territory without being able to hold it.

Being ignored is so horrible, many of the world's greatest companies were founded by people intent on avoiding the feeling.

So many relationships spoilt by our tendency to become mean when we are in fact hurt.

An astonishing number of conflicts and catastrophes can be traced back to the brute fact that one of the parties hasn't slept enough.

The scale of the success you need is determined by the intensity of your self-hatred.

'He had had success, but it didn't begin to cover his self-loathing...'
And if you want to hurt your head, read this article on paradoxical truth from the Stone.

Hero for a day

I’m feeling like something of a hero here at work right now. When it comes to the end of the year and the final quarter and all of that, they are often scrounging around trying to make up financial deficits somewhere. Because I work on a product that is generally considered something of a cash cow, since it’s supply of material is a bit more reliable than some, I often feel the pressure to output more. But this year they didn’t ask me because my product is so current that I just don’t have a backlog of material waiting. However, today in the mail I got some proofs back that will do two extra parts in my report series. So, I relished sending a rather cheeky email to my manager, who is a really nice guy, saying something like “I don’t suppose anyone will object if I send some extra parts to press”, and as I expected, no, they are not going to object.

Only problem is that now, when I thought I was done the final press date, which was Monday (but they are always prepared to blow that out if it means more income), I have some more work to do. But I think I am in the good books!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A family party

Here a few pictures of my Mum's birthday and my grandparents anniversary last weekend. My Aunt and Uncle have a lovely big house in a lovely suburb of Brisbane, which has a room in it that's nearly as big my whole flat and wide open spaces, and they are very generous with it so we have a lot of family get togethers there. This is one of the outdoor tables. My Aunt did the lovely table decorations and the silver cutlery is actually plastic, which caught people out all day!

Some of what was going on inside.

My grandparents and their six children (my Aunt on the far right normally has gorgeous auburn hair and I was a little distraught to see she'd died it so dark!).

11 of the 18 grandchildren (with one little great-grandchild dancing about - they have six great-grandchildren also). Note what's going on with the height here. My two cousins on the far right seemed to have stopped growing just shy of five foot and I am the family freak up the back.

Some of the guests. The lady in the middle is a dear, godly old lady. My Mum boarded with her and her late husband in Young when she went off to do years 9 and 10 of school (because they grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere) and she came all this way for this event.

Some of the big room inside.

My sisters, Mum and me and my little niece and nephew (Annie had been waiting a long time for the cake!). The two other nieces stayed behind in Melbourne with their Dad unfortunately because of the cost of flying everybody about. You can see that we're all quite different just by our dress sense. I was undecided about what to wear but am often the one who ends up looking a bit "vintage" (I bought that dress online and what I love about it is it's crinkle satin, so you twist it all up and throw it in your suitcase, and there you have it).

My grandparents - congratulations to them for making 61 years! They are wonderful example of faithfulness and perseverance. My Nanna was a city girl who worked in Martin Place here in Sydney before they met, then ended up on a farm in Rye Park raising six kids and feeding shearers ...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Of craft and Christmas

So it's gone all a little crafty around here again, but, for my latest project I completely copied these from Sandra Juto, because I thought they were so great. (And interestingly, she has been fighting a copycat war, so out of curiosity I watched a video on fashion's free culture from the comments on that post, and it would seem that you can copyright a trademark, but not a design, and that this is seen as fostering innovation - the video is really quite interesting and talks about facebook and software etc as well ...) I'm not rapt in this colour, and Sandra Juto's muted tones are more beautiful, but I made a scarf for my sister out of this wool, which of course you will know if you pay close and long-standing attention to crochet productions on this blog (as I am sure you all do!), and thought I'd have a go at wrist warmers with the same wool. So, here is a present for my sister that essentially cost me nothing.

Also, I never really get decked out for Christmas here in Sydney, because I am never in Sydney for Christmas Day, but I decided to splurge on these, not particularly having Christmas in mind, but it turns out they are really quite Christmasy (Pax is latin for Peace, and it's a little monastic perhaps, but I like it).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Crochet and literature collide

You can go for many years in this life under the impression that the things you are interested in are largely unrelated to each other. Then one day you find the connection: a crocheted Jane Austen and Edgar Allen Poe. From this etsy shop.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Poetry Day - The Night of the Moon

Since there's been a little German around here lately, I thought I'd actually post a German poem today. It was originally sent to me by a German fellow I met in Sweden (there's a very short story associated with that), then my German room-mate tried to teach me to say it properly. This poem has been set to music by both Brahms and Schumann, and a good many others, so I'm guessing it's considered quite beautiful in the original language. I've posted a couple of English translations below, which highlight perhaps how difficult it is to translate poetry. (Further, a kind internet roamer by the name of David recently provided a very nice translation of Rilke's poem in this post, which also set me off after German verse.)


Es war, als hätt' der Himmel,
Die Erde still geküßt,
Daß sie im Blütenschimmer
Von ihm nur träumen müßt.

Die Luft ging durch die Felder
Die Ähren wogten sacht,
Es rauschten leis die Wälder,
So sternklar war die Nacht.

Und meine Seele spannte
Weit ihre Flügel aus,
Flog durch die stillen Lande,
Als flöge sie nach Haus.

- Josef van Eichendorff



It was as if the sky
Had quietly kissed the earth,
So that in a shower of blossoms
She must now dream of him.

The breeze wafted through the fields,
The ears of corn waved gently,
The forests rustled faintly,
So sparkling clear was the night.

And my soul stretched
its wings out far,
Flew through the still lands,
as if it were flying home.

English translation by Emily Ezust.


Night of the Moon

It was as though the sky
had silently kissed the earth,
so that it now had to dream of sky
in shimmers of flowers.

The air went through the fields,
the corn-ears leaned heavy down
the woods swished softly—
so clear with stars was the night

And my soul stretched
its wings out wide,
flew through the silent lands
as though it were flying home.

From here.

Image from

Friday, November 26, 2010


The album Much Afraid is the reason why Jars of Clay became one of a favourite “Christian band” that I have listened to over the years. Especially the song Frail, which I revisit from time to time. Today was one of those times. It’s never featured on this blog before, so here it is (the video below just gives you the album cover for visuals, but the sound is slightly better here, and I was absolutely loving the strings in this live version before the vocals began, because they don't sound quite right to me).

Men and autism

I just read this article on Beyond Understanding - Do the life and work of Ludwig Wittgenstein suggest that the autistic mind and the philosophical mind have something in common?

I was amused recently when a number of friends on facebook were doing the autism quotient test (I wasn’t game to try it) and a few male friends were brave enough to post their high scores. Curiously they were highly creative gifted types. The article says:

“Men tend to be autistic on average. More so than women.” The accepted male-to-female ratio for autism is roughly 4-to-1; for Asperger’s the ratio jumps even higher, by some accounts 10-to-1 (other statistics give higher or lower figures but retain the male prevalence). Asperger himself wrote that the autistic mind is “an extreme variant of male intelligence” …
What that has to do with anything I don’t know, but there you have it. I don't "get" men, so I don't know what that means my problem is.

Books and craft wisps of fog

I’ve lost the oomph this week. And I shouldn’t have even come to work today, because I’ve had a weird cough all week (but nothing else to go with it) and got up at 3:30 am this morning and wandered about the house because I was dying coughing in bed. But now I am here and have a headache – boo hoo!

So, what to post about. Books. I abandoned reading Romola by George Eliot recently because a section in my book is misprinted, so it goes something like 186, 347, 348, 189 … then does it again, in the middle of a crucial revelatory chapter, which is so frustrating! I can’t find a docket but might take it back to the shop and see what I can do. I was also reading a two volume hardcover version, which looked all very aesthetic but had no footnotes translating all the Italian etc, so I was thinking of getting a Penguin Classics version anyway because I like the extra information they give you and my curiousity doesn't cope with untranslated foreign language sections.

I’ve started reading Future Grace by John Piper, because I never did when it came out. An old friend who has been struggling for a number of years recently wrote me a lovely eight-page letter in which they were telling me how much they’d been blessed and helped by the book Battling Unbelief. Battling Unbelief is basically an extract from Future Grace, and so never one to read the short version of books I got the whole thing. I seem to have slowed up in my reading of Christian books of late, and I’m not sure why (blame it on the crochet perhaps), because I always find it a good thing to do. I’m still plugging through the bible chronologically (well, I know it’s not actually chronologically, but you know what I mean) with the ESV study notes. I seem to be going slowly with this too. I’m finding it really useful, but also that I do need to supplement it occasionally with other things when I’m in long chunks of OT narrative or history.

As for Eli’s crocheted rug, I took it to Brisbane with me last weekend and left it there, thinking I would finish it off at Christmas during all the sitting around chatting. That rug is so much work joining it all together! - but I am well under way and then the border is easy. I’d actually like to try to make a few other things between now and Christmas if I get around to it. I am thinking about some of these for the Melbourne family and the little people in Toowoomba love owls, and owls live in trees, so I think some owl tree ornaments are in order.

And that’s about all for books and craft.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Random tweeting

From Twitter:

True friendship demands risk: giving someone something which they could humiliate you with. Writing as friendship. - Alain de Botton

Spiteful words can hurt your feelings but silence breaks your heart. - C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A little something

I’m back in Sydney, after a lovely weekend up North. I got in late Sunday night feeling totally shattered, it’s the final press week for the year here at work, then I popped out last night also, so I am still trying to gather myself together.

I might post some photos of the party but for now, I’ve mentioned before that I like the Yellow Owl Workshop and wanted to pilfer some of their ideas since I bought myself some lino-cutting gear (amounting to a few chisels and some ink), and I pick up their things and hold them for a little while every time I got into a local stationary shop, so I am quite excited about this upcoming book featuring their templates, which is cheaper than one little stamp set. I’ve discovered that as well as chiselling lino you can buy little blocks of rubber for making prints, which might be easier for such things as making cards.

That's all for now folks.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


"Give ear to my words, O Lord.
Consider my sighing."
Psalm 5

Listen very carefully to your sighs. Anything in your heart that is making you sigh needs to be turned into a prayer or you’re duck soup for the devil. Everything that you sigh about has got to be turned into a prayer or you’re going to be a frustrated, unhappy person. Or if you can’t pray for it, if you can’t ask God for it, then you need to stop sighing about it. You need to just take yourself in hand … You find the deepest sighings of your heart and when you find yourself, as you’re walking around, sighing after things, yearning for things, mourning after something, you’ve got to turn that into a prayer. Give ear to my sighings.
From a leadership training session on Personal Prayer by Tim Keller.

Christian happiness

These are apparently the points from Jonathan Edwards’s first sermon, preached when he had just turned 18 years old.
Why should Christians be happy:

1. Our bad things will turn out for good. Romans 8:28
2. Our good things can never be taken away from us: the light of his countenance, pardon for sin, assurance of grace, the inheritance of eternal life.
3. The best things are yet to come.
From a leadership training session on Personal Prayer by Tim Keller.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A family celebration

I’m all out of blog inspiration this week. This weekend I have to go North for a big family hurrah (note “hurrah” not “hoo-haa”, though perhaps the two are closely related). It’s to celebrate my Mum’s 60th birthday and my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary (but this year is actually their 61st wedding anniversary, we are just celebrating the 60th because they went away last year and we couldn’t - just in case you were doing the maths on that).

It’s been in the planning for a very long time and my younger sister is up there making it a big deal. I said ‘you don’t have to go to so much trouble - it sounds like a wedding reception’ and she said that they are trying to make it like a wedding because none of them have ever had big parties before. So I’ve since shut up and gone along with the extravaganza, especially since I’m down here not doing a whole lot.

My Mum is one of six kids, and they all married and had kids, and some of their kids are now married with kids, so there’s enough family alone to make a big function. I have to give the speech from the children. I’m no fan of public speech-making, but there are times when you just have to rise to the occasion and do it. The problem with this weekend is that the uncle who is giving the speech for my grandparents is the family comedian. I'd say he will have everyone in stitches for ten minutes and then it will be my turn, but there’s no point me even trying ...

People are coming from far and wide and it will be good to see them all. A few years ago now the family got too vast and scattered for gatherings to be a regular thing, so we haven’t all been in the same place for a long time. All this has involved such things as timing flights to line up the airport runs, food lists being emailed around the country, old photos being scanned and sent all over the place (and appearing on facebook, to my chagrin), telephone present consultations, decoration discussions. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together.

So if there’s nothing here for a few days, I am just off partying.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This is your brain on metaphors

This article was not as interesting as I thought it would be. It’s full of biological facts about how our brains can confuse the real and the symbolic, when I was actually hoping for something more metaphorical myself, but here’s a few curious experiment results. Now I know why it’s a good idea to meet people over a coffee or a nice cup of tea - and let them put down heavy things.

Another example of how the brain links the literal and the metaphorical comes from a study by Lawrence Williams of the University of Colorado and John Bargh of Yale. Volunteers would meet one of the experimenters, believing that they would be starting the experiment shortly. In reality, the experiment began when the experimenter, seemingly struggling with an armful of folders, asks the volunteer to briefly hold their coffee. As the key experimental manipulation, the coffee was either hot or iced. Subjects then read a description of some individual, and those who had held the warmer cup tended to rate the individual as having a warmer personality, with no change in ratings of other attributes.

Another brilliant study by Bargh and colleagues concerned haptic sensations (I had to look the word up — haptic: related to the sense of touch). Volunteers were asked to evaluate the resumes of supposed job applicants where, as the critical variable, the resume was attached to a clipboard of one of two different weights. Subjects who evaluated the candidate while holding the heavier clipboard tended to judge candidates to be more serious, with the weight of the clipboard having no effect on how congenial the applicant was judged. After all, we say things like “weighty matter” or “gravity of a situation.”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Poetry Day - Memorising The Sun Rising

I don’t know what they are teaching nowadays, but back when I was at school we studied the metaphysical poets, and what an education of glories that was. And if you've ever had the good fortune to study metaphysical poetry, you will probably have wrestled with John Donne’s The Sun Rising. Thus I was amused to read, in the latest Poetry Journal, Billy Collins’s poem Memorising “The Sun Rising” by John Donne. Here it is:

Memorizing “The Sun Rising” by John Donne


Every reader loves the way he tells off
the sun, shouting busy old fool
into the English skies even though they
were likely cloudy on that seventeenth-century morning.

And it’s a pleasure to spend this sunny day
pacing the carpet and repeating the words,
feeling the syllables lock into rows
until I can stand and declare,
the book held closed by my side,
that hours, days, and months are but the rags of time.

But after a few steps into stanza number two,
wherein the sun is blinded by his mistress’s eyes,
I can feel the first one begin to fade
like sky-written letters on a windy day.

And by the time I have taken in the third,
the second is likewise gone, a blown-out candle now,
a wavering line of acrid smoke.

So it’s not until I leave the house
and walk three times around this hidden lake
that the poem begins to show
any interest in walking by my side.

Then, after my circling,
better than the courteous dominion
of her being all states and him all princes,

better than love’s power to shrink
the wide world to the size of a bedchamber,

and better even than the compression
of all that into the rooms of these three stanzas
is how, after hours stepping up and down the poem,
testing the plank of every line,
it goes with me now, contracted into a little spot within.

Picture from:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Crochet for a small boy

I think this is how my nephew Eli would actually like his crochet squares.

Friday, November 12, 2010


This must be the week for foreign words, states of mind and abstractions.

I have already written about the longing for home in Tim Keller’s Prodigal God (and I like that picture so much I’m using it again). Well I finished listening to his sermon series the other day, and this idea featured in sermon No 6 of 7 called We Had to Celebrate.

In his book Keller uses my beloved concept of Sehnsucht and quotes from CS Lewis’s The Weight of Glory, which he does as well in the sermon, but in the sermon he also mentions Heidegger and his idea of "Unheimlichkeit", which literally means “unhomelike” or a sense of “not-being-at-home” (though my German dictionary also gives me the option, for the adjective, of “gives me the creeps”, and it can mean "uncanny"). So I went off in search of more information, googling Heidegger and unheimlich and Unheimlichkeit, and have been interesting myself the past two days reading random articles on the internet (like this one and this one).

It's probably old news to some, but apparently there was a time when philosophy was viewed as primarily being motivated by homesickness. Heidegger quotes Novalis as writing ‘Philosophy is really homesickness [Heimweh], an urge to be at home [zu Hause] everywhere’ (XXXIX, 7). I got this from A Heidegger dictionary By MJ Inwood on google books.

I’m quite fascinated! And I do love German for containing such excellent words.

This could be the longest blog post in the world if I really get going, but here are some quotes from Keller’s sermon, though you really should listen to it for the context, and the solution, to all this (and is it just me or does Tim Keller sound to anyone else like Vizzini – from the Princess Bride – when he gets worked up?):
Here’a an unlikely supporter reference, but this 20th Century philosopher, Martin Heidegger, believed that all human beings were characterised by Unheimlichkeit, which means homesickness. It means to be alienated, to feel that we’re not really home in this world. To feel that we’re in exile, that we’re in a world that’s profoundly at variance with our deepest desires.

Eva Hoffman, a polish jewish intellectual whose parents had to flee Europe during the Holocaust, she’s written about exile in her memoir called Lost in Translation and she says: “Since Adam and Eve left the garden of Eden is there anyone who does not in some way feel like an exile? We all feel ejected from our first homes and landscapes, from our first romance, from our authentic self. An ideal sense of belonging, of attuning with others and ourselves, completely eludes us.

Camus and the other existentialists were always at this [that we’re homeless here, and this is not a place we’re built for]. There’s one place in The Fall, where Camus – one of his characters is speaking to another – he says: “The weight of days is dreadful. For most people the approach of dinner, the arrival of a letter from home, or the smile from a passing girl, is enough to help people get around this sense of homelessness. But the person who likes to dig into ideas and think about them, for him life is impossible.”
Picture from here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The noia of Leopardi

I subscribed to the Poetry Journal earlier in the year, in an attempt to be more familiar with modern poetry (you can read it all online, but what sort of poet reads poetry online I ask you?). That attempt is not always especially rewarding, but November’s issue was interesting, and in the back are some extracts from the daybooks, or Zibaldone di pensieri, of Giacomo Leopardi. Leopardi wrote poems considered among the greatest produced in nineteenth-century Europe, as well as literary, philosophical, and philological essays, edited the classics, and composed a series of imaginary dialogues (you can read all of this, plus what I have quoted below, here).

You have to make allowances for poets and philosophers, and much of the Zibaldone is melancholic abstract ramblings, full of a miserable despair that we’re all simply on our way to a ditch to fall into, and eeking an unattractive superiority and scorn for the masses, but I was rather esoterically interested in his writings about this thing he calls “noia”. Then from noia he rambles into something that sounds a little like CS Lewis’s search after desire, only he’s writing about pleasure. So, here it is, for anything other than your amusement:

Noia is the most sterile of human feelings. It’s the child of spiritual numbness and mother of nothing. It isn’t merely sterile in itself, it renders sterile everything it invades or gets close to, etc.

September 30, 1821

* * *

Uniformity guarantees noia. Uniformity is boredom, boredom uniformity. Uniformity comes in many forms. Endless variety produces uniformity, thus more noia...Constant pleasure, too, is uniformity, therefore boring, though its medium is pleasure. Certain foolish poets, realizing description gives pleasure, reduce poetry to nonstop description: they drain all pleasure from poetry and replace it with boredom...I know non-literary people who avidly read the Aeneid, which you would think could be enjoyed only by the happy few, but who toss aside the Metamorphoses after reading the first book or two even though it offers immediate pleasures. Remember what Homer has Menelaus say: “There is satiety in everything—in sleep, in sweet song,” etc. The constancy of pleasure, even of different sorts of pleasure, or of near- or pseudo-pleasure, this too is uniformity, and therefore noia, and therefore pleasure’s enemy.

August 7, 1822

* * *

Noia is plainly an evil: to suffer it is to suffer utter unhappiness. So what is noia? Not a specific sorrow or pain (noia, the idea and nature of it, excludes the presence of any particular sorrow or pain) but simply ordinary life fully felt, lived in, known; it’s everywhere, it saturates an individual. Life thus is an affliction; and not living, or being less alive (by living a shorter or less intense life) is a reprieve, or at least a lesser affliction—absolutely preferable, that is, to life.

March 8, 1824

* * *

If all you seek from something is pleasure, you’ll never find it. All you will feel is noia, often disgust. To feel pleasure in any act or activity, you have to pursue some end other than pleasure. (This would figure in a Manual of Practical Philosophy.) It happens (I could give a thousand instances) when we’re reading. If you read a book seeking only pleasure (it can be the finest, most delectable book in the world), expect to be bored or turned off by page two. A mathematician, though, loves reading a geometry proof, which you can be sure he’s not reading for pleasure. Maybe this explains why public amusements and entertainments are in themselves, without meliorating circumstances, the most boring, excruciating things in the world. Because their only end is pleasure; pleasure is all that’s wanted and expected. And something from which we expect and demand pleasure (as if it were a debt owed) of course never yields pleasure, it yields the opposite. It’s entirely safe to say that pleasure comes only when least expected, where we’re not looking for it, not hoping for it. That’s why in the ardor of youth, when we pitch all desire and hope toward the pursuit of pleasure, we find in life’s exquisite delights nothing but scary, tortuous disgust. We can’t begin to sample the world’s pleasures until we squelch and cool that impulse, until we turn our backs on pleasure, give up on it. Pleasure, in its way, is like quietude: the more we desire and seek it and nothing else, the less of it we find and enjoy (see what I say in the next entry). The very desire for tranquility excludes and is incompatible with it.

March 31, 1827

Liebe ist die Antwort

Das ist alles.

I stole this photo from here. She writes "Tonight we're celebrating 18 months of marriage, it's been so great and also such a mess ... Liebe ist die Antwort". I just like that.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Music bits and pieces

I haven’t put a whole lot of time into the guitar lately, because I’ve been madly trying to finish Eli’s rug, but I got more into it over the weekend, just using a book I found in the pocket of the guitar case. It’s called A Tune a Day, and once upon a time I had A Tune a Day for the flute.

So I was busy working through all these exercises and learning notes and fingers and all. But then my flatmate, who is very musically talented (on keys), came home on Saturday evening and looked at me plucking out songs on the guitar and says “what are you doing?”, to which I replied that I was just trying to learn guitar from this book. So she takes a look at the book, shakes her head and says “my brother plays guitar for GH (think local Christian band) and he couldn’t play that”. Now I’m sure her brother could play it, but what she was referring to was the fact that I seemed to have set off on the path of trying to teach myself classical guitar, and was sitting there attempting to pluck out each note of a song. Then she says “church music isn’t like that” and goes to her room to get me a chord book. I have no real aspirations of playing in church, but am aiming for something more like a sing-a-long around the campfire, and I did know that most people who play guitar only play chords, I just thought I’d come to that when I’d learnt all these notes. But then I had a look at her chord music and thought “hallelujah – you mean I only have to move my fingers every bar or so and not for every note?”.

So now I don’t really know what I am doing. I quite like the classical method, and I’m pretty chuffed that I can play a few songs (very simple songs, very slowly and painfully) but I will probably veer off more into learning the chords at this point in time, though having only learnt woodwind in the past chords are actually less familiar to me.

For other things musical, I went to the launch of the album of Con Campbell’s new jazz group last night, a merging of Sydney and Melbourne jazz musicians, called Transit. I have to confess that, while I like jazz, it's not usually my favourite kind of music, because I find it’s often just not very melodious. But last night it was. You can look at the songs on their album, which actually includes a lot of hymns – some obvious, some a lot more subtle – here.

The nonny enticement finale

On Friday night I went to a party, and as it was a surprise the actual birthday girl and her family weren’t there when I arrived, so as I walked into the room, at first glance the only person I could see that I recognised was ignus fatuus, the last guy to ask me anywhere (for the back story on this see here and here – I think I called him Rochester in the posts, but ignus fatuus he will always be). He’s taller than most so quite obvious in a crowd, and I soon did pick out some comparatively shorter familiar faces. But what amazed me about it all was just how fine this was. I have actually bumped into him a couple of times since that turmoil, and it has always been quite fine, and so when I had the thought a few days before that he would be at that party I knew/hoped it would also be fine. We chatted, and he was engaging and gentlemanly as always, and was there with an old (female) friend (because I’ve noticed that that’s what non-Christians do when invited to something like a party – they take someone along – it’s only us single Christians who go everywhere by ourselves) and I talked to her too – and it was all just fine.

So the night was just yet another lesson to me in the fact that things can seem really hard to let go of in the moment, but time passes and you may look back and wonder what it was you were trying to grab hold of, and only thank God that he didn’t let you have it. Hard as all that felt at the time, I knew deep down that had I started a relationship with that fellow, I would have only got two weeks into it and wondered what in the world I was doing, because how could I possibly share my life with someone who didn’t share my faith – and seeing him now just makes that all too clear, nice as he is. And I was also thankful that somehow I managed to conduct myself with enough sincerity (by the grace of God, and also under the watchful eye of my friends who would be at me if I made one false move) that ignus fatuus seems to understand what that was, bears me no ill will and is my friend, and that when all is said and done I have nothing to regret.

So, I came away from that party just thanking God. Sure, I would love to have someone to go to go to parties with, and everywhere basically, and share my life (and I appreciated this post from Amy on that point), and there could have been good times to be had with him, and maybe a family, which is a fading dream, but doing it that way would ultimately and definitely not be worth it.

So, here’s a song, which we sang at Engage this year, which I encourage (and sometimes console) myself with (excuse the cheesy pictures in the visual, but you get the lyrics).

Monday, November 08, 2010


I gave up on listening to podcasts, sermons and the like at work a while back, because I was finding I was too distracted and missing bits of them and getting frustrated. So I’ve just been listening to music. But I have decided that something is better than nothing and there are lots of interesting things I could glean snippets from even if I don’t get it all. So, on a whim I clicked on this link from Soph’s blog on Friday to a talk on Unconditional Love from This American Life, about a Romanian orphan who was adopted but manifested severe attachment disorder, and boy oh boy, I had the tissues out and all (and incidentally, Frans de Waal refers to the horrible experiments of the Romanian orphanages in his post on the God-Science Shouting Match I linked below).

Today I have been cruising through Tim Keller’s sermons on The Prodigal God, and sure I’ve missed bits, but it’s been really good. I can’t listen to sermons from anywhere here, because I don’t seem to have Quick Time (so I can’t listen to sermons from my own church, which is a nuisance) but I think I’m going to get myself back on the sermon podcast circuit. I've read Keller's book, but so far, from memory, the talks are quite different, and he has a lot to say in the first two about "community".

The God-Science shouting match

I linked recently to the first article written by Frances de Waal on Morals Without God over at The Stone. He's since written a response to the 700 or so angry comments. In it her writes:

Atheists, it seems (at least those who responded here) don’t like any less than 100 percent agreement with their position.

To have a productive debate, religion needs to recognize the power of the scientific method and the truths it has revealed, but its opponents need to recognize that one cannot simply dismiss a social phenomenon found in every major society. If humans are inherently religious, or at least show rituals related to the supernatural, there is a big question to be answered.

Just raising such an obvious issue has become controversial in an atmosphere in which public forums seem to consist of pro-science partisans or pro-religion partisans, and nothing in between. How did we arrive at this level of polarization, this small-mindedness, as if we are taking part in the Oxford Debating Society, where all that matters is winning or losing? It is unfortunate when, in discussing how to lead our lives and why to be good — very personal questions — we end up with a shouting match.

My own neck worm

It’s only things of great import that are written here, but looking at the neck worms I mentioned the other day reminded me that once upon a time I did knit something like that myself.

It was when I was at L’Abri in Switzerland in 2001. In the evenings we’d all sit around in the big living room on the ground floor of the five-story chalet, the spectacular snow-covered mountains outside, the fire burning inside (or maybe there wasn't actually a fire in that room, but it sounds nice), engaged in cerebral conversations about theology, philosophy, or any other topic, some girls would knit and crochet, some guys would strum guitar. Those were wonderful times. Anyway, while there I started a scarf from some hand-spun wool an English girl and I found in a Salvation Army shop down the mountain in Aigle. I then finished it on the train from Basel up to Nassjo in Sweden. Well, sort of finished it. It turned out a bit too stiff and scratchy to make a good scarf, and I never dealt with the ends. But I have dug it out and think I might finish it off and hang it on a rod for some narrow piece of wall somewhere. I’ve never gotten rid of it because I feel quite sentimental about it.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Just crafty things

Sophie linked to this blog the other day, and I have been looking at this lady’s crochet things ever since.

She’s on a good thing with her crocheted wrist worms – something that doesn’t take too long to make but can be sold for a reasonable amount of money, which is what you’d need if you were thinking of making any money at all out of craft (every now and then I ponder such things, when dreaming about my sea change life ...).

But what I really like is the lovely muted colours she has put together in the neck worms (these are knitted). You can't download the pictures, but I especially like this one. (And look at this rug!)

Also, I have been quite intrigued by this, the easiest knitting project in the world, but look at the colours!