Friday, December 30, 2011

Back at my computer

I returned to Sydney last night from my trip up North, which was all good. I now have five whole days at home before returning to work (though one of them is now almost gone). The plan is to have a big spring clean out. That might sound very dull, but as it is something I never get around to on an ordinary weekend, I am looking forward to getting it done and am itching to throw things out (so I need to seize this moment in my sentimental life!).

I had a slow start today, then started in on old correspondence. Seriously! News flash people: if you keep everything everybody ever sent you, you end up with a lot of stuff. And of course I have been held up reading things, and have laughed and fallen into nostalgia along the way. But I need to be ruthless and persistent ...

I also read Shopping for Time, by the Mahaney crew again just before Christmas - simple, but a good reminder of priorities. So I want to take myself off for a little "personal retreat" to a cafe and see if I can be more intentional about a few things this year.

We shall see how I go with all this in the next few days. I am catching up with a visiting friend tonight and doing New Year's Eve things tomorrow night, but I am determined!

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and some time off and I shall be back.

P.S. I think I was spoilt this Christmas, and got lots more stuff I need to make room for. You can think what you like of me for this, but, by request, I got the complete stop-motion DVD series of Wind in the Willows. It's so enchanting (and Badger really is a fine old soul - they all are, except for Toady, actually). I am looking forward to making my way through all 11 discs!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Coloured people lights and human Christmas gifts

OK, so I have one more. This was sitting there as a draft from the other week.

I have found Don Miller’s blog curious reading lately. And I appreciated this simple post, about how the world might be different if you believed people actually wanted to talk to you. If you will allow me a little online therapy (every now and then it seeps out), once upon a time I went to see a psychologist, without even especially knowing why, and he said to me, ‘if you imagine that everyone has either a red light or a green light on their forehead, you see red lights everywhere’. And it was true. My default was not ‘people like me until proven otherwise’, it was ‘people don’t like me until proven otherwise’. It seems some of us are constituted that way, or maybe brought up that way.

(And I think this is altogether different to “self esteem”, but won’t try to explain that here.)

That psychologist told me many things, but the red light/green light idea is one that stuck, and I have since tried to be aware of that, and push past it. (I might have even overdone it in one or two cases, and worked too hard to see a green light, when it was well and truly red, and stopping, rather than crashing into a red light pole, would have been a good idea.)

As with most things psychological, sometimes the reason you see red lights is you, and sometimes it’s the other person. The curious thing is, I do think I am reasonably perceptive about people, and sometimes I think I understand why others are wearing red lights, yet still I find it difficult not to see that red light beaming. Sometimes people are inadvertently flashing red lights, maybe because their self-protection is ten miles thick, or maybe because they’re also seeing red lights and so are stand-offish, and one person just needs to see green and run it. Sometimes people are still recovering from a significant green light that went red. Sometimes people are just cranky with the world in general, and can't much be bothered being green to anybody, you included.

So, it’s good to be reminded that you can “be a gift” to others, just in time for Christmas.

That is all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

There's still my joy

And I shall leave you with this song, There's Still My Joy, from the Indigo Girls. For you if you need some extra encouragement to lift up your heart this Christmas.

(I'm not sure why the Indigo Girls have decided to sing this, but they always harmonise well.) H/T The Pipers.

Lux venit, sursum corda

Well, it was my last day of work today. Our office is actually closing down for two weeks this year. I am very glad about that!

Of late:

We had a big carols event at my church on Sunday night – well actually, it was out under the Harbour Bridge, with a couple of thousand people attending. What a night it was! I was in the “information” tent for most of the evening, where we also had things to give away and things for sale (and this was next to a tent with all sorts of fun things for kids happening, and close to the food vendors who came in) and then flanked the side of the park as people were leaving saying some version of “would you like a copy of the Christmas story?” and giving The Essential Jesus, which had been mentioned during the night, to as many people who’d take one. It was a huge production but such a good time. The music was truly excellent and our minister gave a great little gospel talk in the middle of it.

Then last night I had my sister and her family stop over on their way through from Melbourne to my brother--in-law's family so their girls could go to the Harry Potter exhibit at the Powerhouse Museum. So I mustered up four beds and enough bedding and towels and so on to go around, we had a little dinner Christmas celebration and I am now faced with the aftermath of all that.

Then I’m flying north for Christmas tomorrow. Once I have got myself to the airport with all the necessary stuff, I shall relax!

(I have not been feeling so fantastic of late, and am really looking forward to being able to stop for a while.)

I haven’t decided whether I shall take my computer away or not, but there is no wireless broadband available up there, and I don’t expect I shall be blogging. So, I have no very lucid or profound post to go out with, and shall just say:

Lux venit sursum corda!
(Which means, ‘the light has come, lift up your hearts’. Call me a dweeb, but I like a little Latin.)

Friday, December 16, 2011


I do like some Christmas carols a little more rocking than that last one. So, here is one that goes back to my days as a child at home. I know we're all supposed to think Michael W Smith is daggy, but I LOVE this, and I haven't heard a better version of this carol since. Every year I have to torment the neighbours with it at least a few times. The crescendo near the middle is quite euphoric and one can't help conducting their own imaginary orchestra.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Spoken Project

My friend Soph has today launched her new venture, The Spoken Project. This is what The Spoken Project is all about:

The Spoken Project is a podcast about people just like you, but not quite like you.

They are working 9-5, kicking a ball, writing a poem, taking a shower, making dinner. They are the grief-stricken widow, the young Aboriginal man, the Chinese commerce student, the mother of three. They are God’s extraordinary ordinaries.

The Spoken Project is about people grappling with life, in all its joy and sorrow.

Ultimately, it’s about God and what he is doing when you’re not looking.
Episode 1 is the story of Kate and her life with an eating disorder. Go listen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Personality type and gifts

I had a little chuckle over this, which came in an email newsletter. I am an idealist, and this explains a few things (about why some people don't seem to appreciate my sentimental or hand-made efforts, and why my Mum is always trying to give me uninteresting 'useful' things) ...

Idealists ... most appreciate giving and receiving gifts with sentimental value. However, there is a major difference - Idealists like giving and receiving gifts that are hand-made by the giver, feeling that this best shows the depth of their personal feelings for the recipient. Idealists also differ ... in not particularly valuing practical gifts ...

A blog giveaway

I don’t know that there has ever been a giveaway on this blog. Shame on me!

So, I have decided to have one. I actually have a couple of things to give away, but I shall do this one at a time.

It’s no secret that I like poetry, and I do like biographies. In that vein, the first giveaway is a little biography of Anne Bradstreet, called Pilgrim and Poet. One of the Puritans, she was America's first poet (or one of them at least). I haven’t read it in entirety myself yet, but it’s quite a skinny little book that would be easy to read even for those least interested in poetry, and I have been encouraged by little snippets so far (the Discerning Reader has reviewed Faith Cook's book on Lady Jane Grey here, and Tim Challies has given this one a tick on the back cover).

So, to enter, just leave me a comment, and humour me by quoting a line of poetry, of any sort you like. (But I’ll use some sort of random system to pick a winner.) It will end at midnight on Saturday (17th) and then I'll see if I can actually get anywhere near the counter of a post office.

The Wexford Carol

This is beautiful is it not? I love the lyrics, the cello, the pipes ...

(H/T to Gordon who shared this on facebook a few days ago, and I have been playing it since.)

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Knowledge of Providence

Ignorance of Providence is the greatest of all miseries, and the knowledge of it the highest happiness.
- John Calvin

(Get your tissues out and read A Remembrance.)

On lonely Christmases

I do so appreciate that Wendy writes these blog posts for those of us who face yet another Christmas without a family of our own (every year I get on a plane by myself hoping that next year might be different), or with some other form of loss or longing. I was particularly encouraged by this part at the end:

You are loved and wanted by Christ. You do have a family, in every idealistic sense of the term. It is in Him and with Him.

On crochet

On the weekend I finished my epic crochet project (otherwise known as the silliest crochet project ever undertaken), just in time for Christmas. It just needs a little bit of blocking I think, which I might do on the floor while my flatmate is away this week.

I don’t think I’ll make that particular idea again till I retire. I’m going to take a little hooky break, but then I am looking forward to getting back into smaller, more portable and finishable crochet projects, trying some new ideas and making some more things I can sell. I’ve bought a fair amount of wool on ebay recently (I need to fess up to a stint of being quite a yarn addict!) and now I have to turn it into things before I can buy any more.

I went along to the Finders Keepers markets the other weekend, and one of the radars I had up was my crochet radar, so here are some photos I surreptitiously snapped on my phone of crochet makings (I need to remember to hold the phone sideways when I use my polaroid app!).

Small crochet floor rug (or that is what they called it).
The top row of pins were actually miniscule little crochet flowers. I was impressed.
Granny square teapot cosies (there's about four if you look closely), and owl teapot cosies (the owls look a bit too much like old style macrami things to me, but they are sort of cute).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why do we love CS Lewis

I’m a bit behind, well a long way behind really, on some of what’s in my google reader, and I only just found this article, Why do we love C.S. Lewis and hate Rob Bell?. Like Challies, I appreciate this fellow asking and answering the question. It’s no secret on this blog that I read CS Lewis (among others). I also consider myself to be Reformed and Evangelical (I mean, I read books like Spurgeon vs Hypercalvinism when I was about 13 years old) so have never been blind to the problems. But I concur with this chap on why I still read his books. (I also think there’s something to be said for the way different people prefer to think and observe and understand and learn, and CS Lewis hits for some people, including me, there. Good essayists, after the fashion of Lewis and Chesterton, are rare in the evangelical world.)

Incidentally, I actually own the Nooma DVD Luggage, and I like that one (except the ending is a bit unnecessarily dramatic), but I don't like some of the others I have seen. I don't read Rob Bell's books, because life is short, and if I have to sift through too much dodginess, in ratio to any goodness, it's not worth my time. (A book a week - if anybody can sustain that - for 40 years is only 1500 books! So I choose carefully.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The tears from all faces

'He will wipe the tears from all faces.' It takes nothing from the loveliness of the verse to say that is exactly what will be required.
- Marilynne Robinson

When I first read that quote, in that most beautifully quotable of all books, I assumed she was referencing Revelation 21:4. Why I don't know, because the quotation marks would indicate a quote (!) and I know Revelation doesn't quite go like that. It's not so long ago that I realised that the verse quoted was actually Isaiah 25 vs 8, which more or less implies that there will actually be tears on all faces (for indeed, how could there not be):
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
That will be a grand day.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Somebody Good

You know what I have just discovered? Some versions of The Swell Season Strict Joy CD include an extra song, which I have, until now, never heard before. And I do like it. (I even have the double CD edition, so I don't know why this one was left off.) So, if you are Swell Season fan and happen to find yourself in the same strange place, here is a bonus song called Somebody Good.

Poetry Day - When others soundly slept

Picture from here.

By night when others soundly slept
and had at once both ease and rest,
my waking eyes were open kept,
and so to lie I found it best.

I sought him whom my soul did love,
with tears I sought him earnestly:
he bowed his ear down from above;
in vain I did not seek or cry.

My hungry soul he filled with good,
he in his bottle put my tears,
my smarting wounds washed in his blood
and banished thence my doubts and fears.

What to my Saviour shall I give,
who freely hath done this for me?
I'll serve him here whilst I shall live
and love him to eternity.

Anne Bradstreet

Thursday, December 08, 2011

What's your phantasmagorical belief system?

Alain de Botton, pop philosopher and atheist, has written a book on Religion for Atheists (see that link for a list of what he thinks religion has to offer the world), which could be curious reading. He recently tweeted this:

Atheists have belief systems just as phantasmagorical as the religious to keep them assured of their significance.
It's good of him to say so.

The Simply Christianity de-brief

So, I’ve kind of lost it with the blog of late, and haven’t much to write about.

But I didn’t give a final Simply Christianity debrief. I’m a little hesitant on that, because as the people become friends, it’s possible they’ll find this blog and read it, and though it’s all been anonymous to readers, it wouldn’t be so for them, and that could be weird. So, I might take those posts down sometime soon.

But in brief, I went off the evening feeling all rather nervous, and it wasn’t even my life! Not all the attenders who’d been along made it that night, which was a shame, but we can follow that up by other means (and one of them had been brought along by a very good friend, who is on their case :)). No-one said there and then they wanted to be a Christian – I don’t know how often that happens. But one of them came along to church last Sunday night and stayed on for dinner. He has been going along quite regularly to a later service anyway, but it was good to see him and catch up. He’s a young guy from the US, and is just blown away by the “community” ventures of the church, which is how he came to be involved, so that is great. He said he had some feedback on the course for me, so I braced myself to graciously accept it, then he told me I speak too quietly (we were up against background music in the venue we used, which we asked them to turn down a couple of times). I have never been especially “loud” and need to work on my voice projection obviously!

Two others were keen to continue on with further “study” in some means, and said they might make church this week, so here’s hoping (and they invited me along to something they had on last weekend, but I couldn’t make it, so that was nice). It’s funny, but after five weeks in the group, you feel like a little family (or something close to family), and kind of miss the people when it is all over. So, hopefully we can keep up somehow.

All up I had a great time being involved in the course, and gleaned a lot myself for doing it. They were good times!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

There is the wonder

This is a new video from Sara Groves, about recapturing the wonder in the ordinary. I have to say, I don't much like the word "precious". Maybe it was ruined by Gollum, or perhaps it has become cheesy with overuse, or maybe I just don't like the sound of it, the hard e at the beginning and the way it goes out with a hiss. But this is a nice song, and the video features her own children.

"New tender mercies and infinite graces, woven like threads in the cloth of my days ..."

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Poetry day - By a goodly river's side

I've been enjoying little snippets of Anne Bradstreet's poetry this week, much of it expressions of her faith in God, but here is a nice little piece, expressing her simple delight in sitting by a river:

Painting: Trees by a River, by Armand Guillaumin

Under the cooling shadow of a stately elm
close sat I by a goodly river's side,
where gliding streams the rocks did overwhelm,
a lonely place, with pleasures dignified.
I once that loved the shady woods so well
now thought the rivers did the trees excel ...

Which lifted her eyes upward:

If so much excellence abide below,
how excellent is he that dwells on high,
whose power and beauty by his works we know?
Sure he is goodness, wisdom, glory, light ...

Anne Bradstreet

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Brain chemicals and practising virtues

I recently read these two interesting articles over at The School of Life, on brain chemistry and going good. It’s weird the way we now feel compelled to find scientific benefits or reasons for such things (the natural outcome of taking evolution, purely, on board as your reason for existence). Here’s a snippet from this one:
Because doing something for someone else without expecting anything in return is the best way to put our brain in the finest possible state.

It’s funny how science now ‘gives us permission’ to practice common decency.
And I liked this clarifier from this one:

To discover a molecule that correlates with compassionate behaviour doesn’t mean that being compassionate is not a moral stance. We’re not slaves to the chemicals in our brains, we are the chemicals in our brains and we do plenty of things to raise or lower their levels at will.
I find this School of Life so curious. On their facebook page at the moment they are running a "month of reaching out", which sounds eerily like a Christian mission (only without the most important element, that being the gospel).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Nietzsche on goodwill

Among the small but endlessly abundant and therefore very effective things that science ought to heed more than the great, rare things, is goodwill. I mean those expressions of a friendly disposition in interactions, that smile of the eye, those handclasps ... It is the continual manifestation of our humanity, its ray of light ... in which everything grows.
- Nietzsche

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Poetry Day - The Burning of our House

Lots of people in Australia have suffered in bushfires of late, loosing their homes and all their worldly goods, and some, horrifically, their lives. Meanwhile I have been flicking through some more of Anne Bradstreets poems, and came upon this one, written after their house burnt down during the night, at a time when they had children and grandchildren living with them. So, here it is. I don't mean this to be insensitive to anyone in this position (I don't know of any such people personally, and being something of a sentimentalist I am the first to admit that I would be distraught to lose all my things) and it doesn't speak to those facing the death of loved ones by the same event, but I found it quite challenging to myself and my own attachment to my possessions.

Verses upon the Burning of our House

Here Follows Some Verses Upon the Burning
of Our house, July 10th. 1666. Copied Out of
a Loose Paper.

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I waken'd was with thund'ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of "fire" and "fire,"
Let no man know is my Desire.
I starting up, the light did spy,
And to my God my heart did cry
To straighten me in my Distress
And not to leave me succourless.
Then coming out, behold a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And when I could no longer look,
I blest his grace that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so 'twas just.
It was his own; it was not mine.
Far be it that I should repine,
He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruins oft I past
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast
And here and there the places spy
Where oft I sate and long did lie.
Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest,
There lay that store I counted best,
My pleasant things in ashes lie
And them behold no more shall I.
Under the roof no guest shall sit,
Nor at thy Table eat a bit.
No pleasant talk shall 'ere be told
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle 'ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom's voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lie.
Adieu, Adieu, All's Vanity.
Then straight I 'gin my heart to chide:
And did thy wealth on earth abide,
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the sky
That dunghill mists away may fly.
Thou hast a house on high erect
Fram'd by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished
Stands permanent, though this be fled.
It's purchased and paid for too
By him who hath enough to do.
A price so vast as is unknown,
Yet by his gift is made thine own.
There's wealth enough; I need no more.
Farewell, my pelf; farewell, my store.
The world no longer let me love;
My hope and Treasure lies above.

Anne Bradstreet

Private poetry

I am supposed to be at our Made Fair markets bright and early again today, though the weather wasn't looking so promising, so I scheduled in this artsy little piece of poetry for you, taken at Sculptures by the Sea at Bondi last weekend. Gaze and ponder and think poetic thoughts ...

(What you need to appreciate about this photo is how I have angled it and cropped it to remove a few of the six million people, approximately, who were at Bondi that day.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

This morning's breakfast

I had breakfast with John Anderson this morning. As in the former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson. Quite literally. I went along to a support-raising breakfast for Crusaders at which he was the speaker, assuming I’d have nothing to do with him, but as these things were arranged I was sitting at his table. He's from up my way, near Tamworth, you know. It was a good morning. The only problem with it was that I had to be at NSW Parliament House at 7:15 am (in the pouring rain). Right about now I want to put my face on my desk and snooze.

(He gave a fairly general sort of speech about the importance of teaching children Truth, as well as seeing beyond themselves, referencing an article called United States of Narcissism by Daniel Altman.)

A family jam session

So, apparently these are three siblings, just doing what they like to do. Quite amazing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The pressure of the soul

It's enough to make a Berkeleyan of you, this mercurial changeability of all reality under the pressure of the soul.
- Eva Hoffman
Lost in Translation

I read that, and I had to go and look up Berkeleyan (subjective idealism, see here too under Western Philosophy), but find it so true that our perception of reality changes with the state of our soul.

Turning myself inside out

On Sunday evening, when I really should have been thinking about going to bed, I pulled Inside Out by Larry Crabb off the shelf, driven by a sense of failure that I can never seem to get some things right, and end up in a pattern of relating that seems to result in nothing but my own ruin. This was a bad idea. I fell asleep quite convinced that I need to go off to counselling. The last night after Simply Christianity I picked up the offending book again. So now I am all messed up trying to un-mess myself.

Simply Christianity again

So last night I lead Simply Christianity again for Week 4 on the Cross. There was a good amount of material in this one (or a number of different important concepts to present anyway), and I spent a good amount of time getting myself ready over the weekend. I was wondering whether anyone would turn up and hoping and praying that they would, and then every single person who has dropped into the course over the last three weeks came along! So, what an answer to prayer that was. And one girl, who came for week 1 then skipped the next two, pulled out her book and it was all dog-eared and underlined and she said “I haven’t been here but I have been reading this …”. So, how encouraging and exciting. We had a good night.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Poetry Day - Another

It is well and truly time for a poem. I thought I might post a poem by Anne Bradstreet, known as one of America's first poets, after she sailed to its shores with her husband and the Winthrop Puritans. You can read more about Anne Bradstreet here.

Picture from here.
Another II

As loving hind that (hartless) wants her deer,
Scuds through the woods and fern with hark'ning ear,
Perplext, in every bush and nook doth pry,
Her dearest deer, might answer ear or eye;
So doth my anxious soul, which now doth miss
A dearer dear (far dearer heart) than this.
Still wait with doubts, and hopes, and failing eye,
His voice to hear or person to descry.
Or as the pensive dove doth all alone
(On withered bough) most uncouthly bemoan
The absence of her love and loving mate,
Whose loss hath made her so unfortunate,
Ev'n thus do I, with many a deep sad groan,
Bewail my turtle true, who now is gone,
His presence and his safe return still woos,
With thousand doleful sighs and mournful coos.
Or as the loving mullet, that true fish,
Her fellow lost, nor joy nor life do wish,
But launches on that shore, there for to die,
Where she her captive husband doth espy.
Mine being gone, I lead a joyless life,
I have a loving peer, yet seem no wife;
But worst of all, to him can't steer my course,
I here, he there, alas, both kept by force.
Return my dear, my joy, my only love,
Unto thy hind, thy mullet, and thy dove,
Who neither joys in pasture, house, nor streams,
The substance gone, O me, these are but dreams.
Together at one tree, oh let us browse,
And like two turtles roost within one house,
And like the mullets in one river glide,
Let's still remain but one, till death divide.
Thy loving love and dearest dear,
At home, abroad, and everywhere.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Anticipating ...

So it seems it’s all gone to flummery here. I have so many books I want to read that I don’t seem to be reading. I don’t even know why. It’s partly owing to the stupidest crochet project in the world (which is only stupid in terms of the amount of time involved). My Mum never reads this blog, so perhaps I can show you that. Then there are distractions, which seem to mean I can spend long periods of time simply staring into space.

I did actually receive another surprise package when I was on holidays in September, when a dear old friend in Perth sent me Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxas, as a belated birthday present. It’s been sitting on my dressing table in anticipation ever since. I’ve read both of Challies’s reviews (here, and where he discusses criticisms that it’s forcing Bonhoeffer into the evangelical camp here). Interesting. I’m not one of those people who has to sign off on everything a theologian/writer says to be able to appreciate what good they do say, so I am not so bothered by the notion that Bonhoeffer may have held a few weird ideas, and I don’t necessarily even need to know what all those weird ideas were. However, representing him truthfully in a biography may be another issue. Still, I am looking forward to the book, which my very widely read friend tells me is one of the best things she’s read in an age. (And some time ago Cathy shared some thoughts on the book here too.)

That is all.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Broken-hearted banjo

I’ve mentioned before going to hear "my mate Dave" play Banjo (and guitar) for the Folk Club. Well, he has now started a tumblr of 60’s covers on the Banjo (and guitar). It is very seriously cool, funky, hip, or, as Simon and Garfunkel might say, groovy … Have a listen here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Simply Christianity report

Last night was my first go at actually leading Simply Christianity. And I got the week on judgment. But thankfully it was also tied in with the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). I like the way the course has done this. Sure judgment is coming, and God hates greed and hypocrisy and every sort of injustice (but I also liked the way sin is defined as not living ‘wildly’ but just living ‘separately’ from God, and wanting the gifts but not the giver) and yet at the same time here is a picture of God’s willingness to offer complete and lavish forgiveness. And that also explains Jesus’ (even though he is God’s appointed judge) unusual preference for hanging around ‘sinners’. (That is my parentheses filled summary.)

We actually thought we’d been completely stood up for a while. So for half an hour, with no-one there, I was just chatting to my co-leader and thought I’d got out of it. Then two came, then two more. (I got a bit flustered wondering if I should start again when the second two arrived, but the night was getting away so I kept going.)

So far those who’ve come along are from Los Angeles, Brazil, Germany, Iran and Montreal and two from Australia. We’re loving the multiculturalness (that should be a word - multiculturalism wasn't working for me). Last week we heard all about life in Iran, from a girl who’s investigating Jesus because she’s never had the chance before. Then last night one of those who came late, and for the first time, was a bona fide rock star. He introduced himself as a “recording artist”, and one never knows quite what to make of that, but I have since done the googling, found his Wikipedia entry and website etc, and he’s seriously big - just not so much in Australia (I’d link it but I think that’s a breach of confidentiality). One of the things he once did was “tour” Europe with a preacher and interpret sermons into French. Now here he is.

It's so intriguing and so very interesting (which is probably tautology) hearing about what is going on in the lives of these people.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Introducing ...

My newest niece, Violet Elise, who made her arrival on 11/11/11. I am looking forward to meeting her at Christmas.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Even with the grace of God, that will be, and has been, me

I loved, loved, this article by Stanley Fish, who decided to write My Life Report.
If you regard each human interaction as an occasion for performance, your concern and attention will be focused on how well or badly you’re doing and not on the people you’re doing it with.


It may be unnecessary to say so, but this way of interacting or, rather, not interacting does not augur well for intimate relationships. If you characteristically withhold yourself, keep yourself in reserve, refuse to risk yourself, those you live with are not going to be getting from you what they need.


And what have I learned along the way? Three things, closely related. The first is that people are often in pain; their lives are shadowed by memories and anticipations of inadequacy, and they are always afraid that the next moment will bring disaster or exposure. You can see it in their faces, and that is especially true of children who have not yet learned how to pretend that everything is all right and who are acutely aware of the precariousness of their situations.

The second thing I have learned is that the people who are most in pain are the people who act most badly; the worse people behave, the more they are in pain. They’re asking for help, although the form of the request is such that they are likely never to get it.

The third thing I have learned follows from the other two. It is the necessity of generosity. I suppose it is a form of the golden rule: if you want them to be generous to you, be generous to them. The rule acknowledges the fellowship of fragility we all share. In your worst moments — which may appear superficially to be your best moments — what you need most of all is the sympathetic recognition of someone who says, if only in a small smile or half-nod, yes, I have been there too, and I too have tried to shore up my insecurity with exhibitions of pettiness, bluster, overconfidence, petulance and impatience. It’s not, “But for the grace of God that could be me”; it’s, “Even with the grace of God, that will be, and has been, me.”

Resting on God - A prayer

Picture from here.

- The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

The thought of thine infinite serenity cheers me,
For I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed,
    but thou art for ever at perfect peace.
Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfilment,
    they stand fast as the eternal hills.
Thy power knows no bond,
    thy goodness no stint.
Thou bringest order out of confusion,
    and my defeats are thy victories:
The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
I come to thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows,
    to leave every concern entirely to thee,
        every sin calling for Christ’s precious blood;
Revive deep spirituality in my heart;
Let me live near to the great shepherd,
    hear his voice, know its tones, follow its calls.
Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth,
        from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.
Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities,
    burning into me by experience the things I know;
Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel,
    that I may bear its reproach,
        vindicate it,
        see Jesus as its essence,
        know in it the power of the Spirit.
Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill;
    unbelief mars my confidence,
    sin makes me forget thee.
Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots;
Grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to thee,
        that all else is trifling.
Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy.
Abide in me, gracious God.

Jesus, my father, the CIA and me

This looks like an interesting book. I don't think I'm through yet with all the things I am going to do badly or get wrong in this life, at least partly as a result of not having had a father. But I do like that this book is described as "redemptive".
I would have given anything for my father’s love to not be a secret. Anything. A boy needs a father to show him how to be in the world. He needs to be given swagger, taught how to read a map so that he can recognize the roads that lead to life and the paths that lead to death, how to know what love requires, and where to find steel in the heart when life makes demands on us that are greater than we think we can endure. A young boy needs a father who tells him that life is a loaner, who helps him discover why God sent him to this troubled earth so he doesn’t die without having tried to make it better.

He may not know it, but from the moment he first glimpses his baby boy’s head crowning in the delivery room, a father makes a vow that with stumbling determination, he will try to get a few of these things right. Boys with fathers who keep their love undisclosed, go through life banging from guardrail to guardrail, trying to determine why our fathers kept their love nameless, as if ashamed.

We know each other when we meet.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The gospel of detachment in a land of plenitude

There are some fascinating passages in this book, Lost in Translation, by Eva Hoffman (which I am readying very slowly, you may have noticed). I can see why Tim Keller, with his bent towards cultural analysis, was referencing it in a sermon. Here's a recent passage I read. I particularly like the last paragraph:
Two decades later, when the Eastern religions vogue hits the counterculture, I think I understand the all-American despair that drives the new converts to chant their mantras in ashrams from San Francisco to Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The gospel of detachment is as well suited to a culture of excess as it is to a society of radical poverty. It thrives in circumstances in which one’s wants are dangerous because they are surely going to be deprived – or because they are pulled in so many directions that they pose a threat to the integrity, the unity of one’s self. Of course, wanting too much, wanting the wrong thing, wanting what you can’t have is one definition of the human condition; we all have to learn how to make some liveable compromise between the always insatiable self and the always insufficient reality principle. But America is the land of yearning, and perhaps nowhere else are one’s desires so wantonly stimulated; nowhere else is the compromise so difficult to achieve. Under the constant assaults of plenitude, it is difficult to agree to being just one person, and in order to achieve that simple identity, one may be driven to extreme paths. One path is to give in completely, to play the game for all it’s worth; another is to renounce desire completely – a solution my peers try for a while with such sincere and ineffective zeal. A third is to do both at the same time – to play the game and know that it’s maya. This is what many of the same peers try after they fail at material monkishness. Perhaps Money, in America, is a force so extreme as to become a religious force, a confusing deity, which demands either idolatry or a spiritual education.

For a long time, confronting the dangers both of self-division and of deprivation, I cultivate a rigorous renunciation. I suppose it serves me well. Like some visiting Indian swami, I learn to measure myself against no one and to feel at home everywhere. Not envying is the condition of my dignity, and I protect that dignity with my life. In a sense, it is my life – the only base I have to stand on. If I sometimes have to go around with a run in my stockings when I am in college, if I can’t afford the long trek home during Christmas recess, it doesn’t matter. I have my essential humanity, that essential humanity which I learned to believe in as a Jewish girl in Poland, and which I’ve now salvaged with the help of withdrawal and indifference. “Sometimes I see you with a steel rod running down the middle of your back,” a friend once tells me. He sees more than most.

My detachment would serve me even better if it were entirely genuine. It isn’t. Underneath my carefully trained serenity, there is a caldron of seething lost loves and a rage at the loss. And there is – for all that – a longing for a less strenuous way to maintain my identity and my pride. I want to gather experience with both hands, not only with my soul. Essential humanity is all very well, but we need the colours of our time and the shelter of a specific place. I cannot always be out on the heath – we exist in actual houses, in communities, in clothes – and occasionally, at some garden party amidst meaningless chat, or in my nearly empty dorm during a holiday break, I forget my ascetic techniques, and the desire for the comfort of being a recognizable somebody placed on a recognizable social map breaks in on me with such anguishing force that it scalds my spirit and beats it back into its hiding place.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wednesday amusement

On communication

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
- George Bernard Shaw

The hidden thoughts in other people’s heads are the great darkness that surrounds us.
- Theodore Zeldin, historian of conversation
(I took both of these from The School of Life facebook page. I'm so beyond tired this week, all I have is quotes.)

Glorify God with your grammar

I don't normally use this expression, and I don't really know the precise origins of it, but when I thought about it, I thought, well that's what we're always on about isn't it? - doing all things to the glory of God, and doing them as best we can? So then, write well to the glory of God.

(That said, I won't be taking up using this expression, and I was surprised to learn that "for Pete's sake", which I have been known to come out with in traffic, is a euphemism for "for Christ's sake", which means much the same as below, and was considered blasphemous (though there again, there are a good many things we actually do do "for Christ's sake" aren't there?).)

From here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Melancholy is synonymous with beautiful

In the park where I play with my friends, there are winding paths that let us out onto the wider, more lucid avenues, and a weeping willow by the pond that is just about the most graceful thing I know: it’s so melancholy, and melancholy is synonymous with beautiful.
Eva Hoffman, Lost in Translation.

Heroic maidens

Why, there are maidens of heroic touch,
And yet they seem like things of gossamer
You'd pinch the life out of, as out of moths.
O, it is not loud tones and nothingness,
'Tis not the arms akimbo and large strides,
That make a woman's force. The tiniest birds,
With softest downy breasts, have passions in them
And are brave with love.

George Eliot
Felix Holt: The Radical, Chapter XLVI

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Christianity pure and simple

I wasn’t going to mention this, because I thought it would sound like a “ministry” announcement (setting aside for a moment the notion of all of life as ministry, as some things are more formally recognised as such) and it seems all too easy for blogs or facebook status updates to be thinly veiled ways of letting the world know you’re about such things. But then I thought, well if my identity is as a follower of Jesus, and that’s what’s ‘on my mind’, one would hope at least some of the time, then is it not a strange portrayal of my life to never mention any of it.

So, this week was my first go at co-leading a Simply Christianity course. Despite the fact that I used to work at Matthias Media, and for a time knew all about this course, I am fairly sure I have never actually done it. I was a little hesitant when asked, wondering whether I’d not do a good job, or might say something stupid that would turn people away. But then I realised that in thinking so I was actually giving myself too much credit. Sure I can be prepared and informed, pray for those coming, try to be friendly and social and not too weird, but beyond that, whether or not people encounter Jesus in a life-changing way is not really up to me. So, I said yes. And I am glad I did, because it’s refreshing and it’s a good reminder of what Christianity is all about and it’s good to see how the course works. And my co-leader used to be a chaplain/teacher for ten years and he was excellent on night one, so I can watch and learn.

This particular course is running off the end of a week-long community art exhibition at my church, that included other events. We had people sign up online for the course that nobody knew anything about, so we weren’t so sure what we in for, but the night went well. Two people are coming along because they just came by the art exhibition and heard about the course, so that's very exciting!

I am looking forward to how the next few weeks pan out. It feels a bit like the beginning of a great unknown adventure … (for me, but even more so for those coming).

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Love and solitude

Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness.
- CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain

One can acquire everything in solitude – except character.
- Stendhal

I "liked" The School of Life on facebook recently. Call it being "culturally relevant". It is Alain de Botton's philosophy lessons establishment in London where they have "sermons" and "Sunday services". Weird sort of comment contained therein. But they post interesting quotes.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday afternoon music on Monday afternoon

Yesterday I wrote on facebook something like 'I do love a good Baroque Adagio on a Sunday', and so I do. I was having a little classical music fest while I caught up on some work. This was the particular piece of sublimity I was up to when I wrote that (with a little Allegro thrown in).

The politics of nostalgia

I loved this portion from Lost in Translation, by Eva Hoffman:

In Speak, Memory, Nabokov makes the poetic, or the playful, speculation that Russian children before the Revolution – and his exile – were blessed with a surfeit of sensual impressions to compensate them for what was to come. Of course, fate doesn’t play such premonitory games, but memory can perform retrospective manoeuvres to compensate for fate. Loss is a magical preservative. Time stops at the point of severance, and no subsequent impressions muddy the picture you have in mind. The house, the garden, the country you have lost remain forever as you remember them. Nostalgia – that most lyrical of feelings – crystallises around these images like amber. Arrested with it, the house, the past, is clear, vivid, made more beautiful by the medium in which it is held and by its stillness.

Nostalgia is a source of poetry, and a form of fidelity. It is also a species of melancholia, which used to be thought of as an illness. As I walked the streets of Vancouver, I am pregnant with the images of Poland, pregnant and sick. Tesknota throws a film over everything around me, and directs my vision inward. The largest presence within me is the welling up of absence, of what I have lost. This pregnancy is also a phantom pain.

In our highly ideological times, even nostalgia has its politics. The conservatives of the sentiments believe that recovering their own forgotten history is an antidote to shallowness. The ideologues of the future see attachment to the past as that most awful of monsters, the agent of reaction. It is to be extracted from the human soul with no quarter of self-pity, for it obstructs the inevitable march of events into the next Utopia. Only certain Eastern European writers, forced to march into the future too often, know the regressive dangers of both forgetfulness and clinging to the past. But then, they are among our world’s experts of mourning, having lost not an archaeological but a living history. And so, they praise the virtues of true memory. Nabokov unashamedly reinvokes and revives his childhood in the glorious colours of tesknota. Milan Kundera knows that a person who forgets easily is a Don Juan of experience, promiscuous and repetitive, suffering from unbearable lightness of being. Czeslaw Milosz remembers the people and places of his youth with the special tenderness reserved for objects of love that are no longer cherished by others.
Image from here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Using your hands = mental vitamins

This is very interesting. It might explain why once I get started on a crochet project, I feel a certain compulsion to keep going. From the Ladies Home Journal (yes, such a thing still exists! - the whole article is quite fascinating) via Austin Kleon:
When you do meaningful work with your hands, a kind of neurochemical feedback floods your brain with dopamine and serotonin. These happy brain chemicals are natural antidepressants, and we’ve evolved to release them both to reward ourselves for working with our hands and to motivate ourselves to do it some more.

A gift to the people of Australia

Once upon a time some medical research people were launching a diabetes and heart research program and randomly chose six neighbourhoods in Queensland for sampling, of which mine was one. So they came door knocking, asking if we’d like to participate. Knowing the difficulties involved in scientific research myself, I signed up. Now, no matter where I go they find me and send me surveys to fill in, and every five years I go in for testing – rigorous testing.

The five years came around on Friday morning, so I fasted, went in and had initial blood test, drank syrupy sweet sugar liquid, had my height and weight taken, did my depression survey (this was weird), my food survey, my physical function tests, memory, word knowledge and number pattern tests (I was a little surprised by these – they haven’t featured in previous tests), transport, household and physical activity surveys and so on and so on and so on. I even had to give them a urine sample – eek! Eventually they let me go, but I have come away with a thigh monitor and a hip monitor on, that I am to wear for a week. These were voluntary extras. I drew the line at the 24-hour blood-pressure monitor though, mainly because I had to get it back to them the next morning, and I didn't want to go back there on a Saturday (I had a few hours work to do on Saturday to make up for time lost on Friday already).

Anyhow, I have done what I could to skew the data to the healthy end. Just quietly, I think I aced it for you all. I have low blood pressure, low cholesterol (not that a person necessarily has any control over those), there is nothing yet wrong with my physical functioning (when they strapped something on my ankle to test my leg force, I smiled to myself and thought, I think the family calf muscles I inherited might make an outlier of me on this one), I eat vegetables, and word knowledge and number pattern tests? - I like them. I am not sure about the memory test however. They rattled off a very long list of things we were to buy at the shops, and then we had to recall as many as possible. I wasn't really concentrating and that's mean when you haven't had any breakfast. (And it made me think that maybe all these GTD type systems that say you should get things out of your head and onto paper/into devices aren't actually so good for your brain. Try remembering your to-do list and social calender instead.) One day in I am thoroughly irritated by this hip monitor though! I will be pleased to be done with it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Challenging naturalism - with logic

Every now and then I stop fiddling about in youtube and wrapping yarn around a hook to raise my sights to ponder life's big questions, and I thought this article was interesting. I dredged it up from the NY Times Opinionator. It's written by Professor of Logic at Oxford University, as a response to those who duck challenges to Naturalism. Here's an excerpt you might like to keep up your sleeve for the next watercooler conversation:
We can formulate the underlying worry as a sharp argument against the extreme naturalist claim that all truths are discoverable by hard science. If it is true that all truths are discoverable by hard science, then it is discoverable by hard science that all truths are discoverable by hard science. But it is not discoverable by hard science that all truths are discoverable by hard science. “Are all truths discoverable by hard science?” is not a question of hard science. Therefore the extreme naturalist claim is not true.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Under the wings

I've been out the last three nights after work, which is when the wall starts rising up to meet me (often in the form of the pile of discarded items rising up in my room), but I thought I'd share this picture (thanks to George for sharing it on facebook). Isn't it beautiful? It's almost enough to make me want to create one of those inspirational posters with Psalm 36:7 on it. Almost.

I think this a female Orange-breasted Green Pigeon (but they are not Australian so I couldn't be sure). I've never seen a pigeon do this. I've also only now realised just how often the image of sheltering under God's wings is used in the Psalms: see 57:1, 61:4, 63:7, 91:4, 17:8.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Right here, right now

I have been listening to the Laura Marling CD that mysteriously appeared in the mail. I love the music, but I must say, the lyrics are another story, and I am not one of those people who can easily separate the two. I haven’t sat down and read them in depth yet, but there seems to be a darkness and poison in them that I don’t enjoy. She’s a fantastic musician, especially given her age, but I feel like I am getting some of that angsty melodrama that is being a 21-year-old.

I’ve also been listening to the new Sara Groves, with lyrics so full of grace and forgiveness and hope, and I know which headspace I’d rather end up in. There is something so much healthier in the place she’s singing from - and that’s not a cheesy “life is always awesome” space, but a place of reminders of truth and hope and what love really is in the middle of weakness and ordinary life.

On the album she has included a little “ditty” of an unfinished song. She comments on this song about how we’re often waiting for that ideal scenario in which we could serve God or love others better, or fulfil who we really are ... when the truth is, right here, right now, is the place God wants us to serve him from. This little 48 second ditty goes:

I’m tired of blaming everybody else
I’m sorry if I’ve blamed you
I have everything I need to be myself
I have what I need to love you

There’s no way to brace myself
There’s no way to sort it all out
What you need from me I can do it right now
I can do it right now

What you need from me I can do right now
What you want from me I can do right now
What you want from me I can do it right now
I can do it right now

Monday, October 24, 2011

Kinds of Blue in print

In other news, remember back here how I told you all some friends of mine were running a crowd funding campaign to print a book, Kinds of Blue, an anthology of comics about depression? Well, last week I actually went to the book launch, which was very exciting.

So, now you can actually buy yourself a physical copy, and still view it before you buy it, over here. It would make a nice and thoughtful gift for that friend you've got (because who hasn't got one of those friends?) struggling with depression.


So, I’ve hit a wall or fallen in a slump or wandered away in distraction or some such thing when it comes to blogging … Feeling a bit busy lately (when the reality is that nothing is all that immense). We had Made Fair Markets at church on Saturday again coinciding with the opening of I ♥ Kirribilli, which I wrote about last year, so I got to the church at 8.15 am and the placed buzzed all day and I ate too many cupcakes (some excellent person made raspberry and white chocolate ones, and another excellent person made carrot ones, and they were everywhere in abundance). The Exhibition runs all of this week. If you’re in Sydney, you should go peek. There’s good live music lined up for every night this week (played in front of the church) and you can bring your friends, get take-away and loiter.

So excuse me if I disappear. I’ve even had thoughts in my head that could be real blog posts, which I have almost forgotten how to write. I'm also in the midst of an overly ambitious crochet project for my Mum’s birthday in November (I don’t know why I decided I had time for that).

Since we are talking art, this is my niece at an art show with a drawing she did of my nephew. Aren’t they both sweet? She's a talented little drawer. On their recent visit, everywhere we went that there was sand, she was drawing in the sand. I don't think I felt the same compulsion to draw in the sand as a kid.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A surprise package

Over the weekend I ordered a few things online, as present season has well and truly started with three family and one friend’s birthdays and a baby on the way in November, then Christmas, more birthdays in January and so on. I’d been getting tracking emails from Australia Post for the last couple of days and so knew I had two parcels to collect from the local post office (which is quite the nuisance when you work business hours elsewhere, and I was wondering why one of them had gone there when I had given my work address). So, I bolted out of work early yesterday, pedalled home with some urgency and jumped in the car in an attempt to make the post office by 5pm.

I thought I knew what I was expecting. But instead the post office lady brought out the biggest tough bag I have ever seen. I put my arms out to receive this in some confusion, together with my other little predictably-sized box for little boys toys. So then when I got to the car I had to open it, and then tear open the tape on the cardboard that surrounded whatever was inside.

What I saw was a large flattish black something with the words “The beast was a creature I did not know” printed on it. It was wrapped in plastic, and at first I thought it was a canvas style something, and that someone had sent me some kind of wall hanging that said “The beast was a creature I did not know” (which I would find just a little bit obscure). Then I realised that perhaps it was a box. I decided to deal with this further at home, so I’m driving along thinking ‘what IS that?’, and why have I got it and who sent it and what are they trying to tell me? …

This is a strange thing to pull out of a package when you are not expecting it, is it not?

When I got home I realised that this was indeed a box and that what I had was an LP, with a couple of CDs, a weird and somewhat macabre little story about said beast, a steel guitar slide, and that it all appeared to be part of a Laura Marling package. And I began to remember that she has a new album out, though I had not been paying all that much attention yet and hadn’t registered the name of it. Here’s the contents of my box.

At this point I was excited for a few seconds about the possibility that someone had sent me this (most interesting) parcel. Then I started to have vague recollections of there being a possibility of winning some such thing recently, so I searched ‘Laura’ in my emails – nothing. Then I thought well, it must have been the Frankie newsletter if it was anything (and I had just been looking at the most recent one showing a colleague some shoes yesterday) and so I went looking through a few, till I found said possibility, and I think that must be where it came from.

But how curious that they don’t notify of you of these things, with a big email fanfare that says “you are the winner!”. It’s all rather nicely mysterious. So, I like Laura Marling (though you might be guessing that I am not one of those fans that knows all there is to know), a young British folk musician, and I am very pleased to have this (though how/whether to keep and store such a thing is a point). Here is a youtube video off this album.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A little bit behind - a short film

If you were at the ENGAGE conference last year (I think it was last year) you might remember this fellow being interviewed on what it was like to be a Christian and an actor. Well, here he is in a short film, for which he won best male actor (as part of the 48 Hour Film Project). Amuse yourself:

A LITTLE BIT BEHIND from Chris Byrnes on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beautiful passivity

I saw this article in Christianity Today (the Australian edition, which I didn't actually know existed) by Sam Manchester about on facebook yesterday. It melds into various thoughts of late.

The gospel plough - Bob Dylan

So, there’s been a few too many music videos here of late, but, you know how recently I posted Eyes on the Prize sung by Sara Groves and Stephen Mason from Jars of Clay? Well, it turns out that that was originally an old gospel folk song, called The Gospel Plough. It was later appropriated by the Civil Rights Movement in the US and reworked into Eyes on the Prize in the fight against slavery, and what Sara Groves sings is essentially the Civil Rights version. But, in poking about, I discovered that Bob Dylan covered the original folk song Gospel Plough (I’m not ever going to spell it “plow”). It's quite different, but you can still hear the relics of the original in Sara.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Like a childhood summer

One of the bonus songs from the new Sara Groves songs is available on youtube. I can see why it’s in the bonus category (which usually means didn't make the album cut I presume), because it’s a nice little song, but lacks the searching substance of many of her other songs. I do like it though, and there's cello, which is always a bonus. (Alistair has also been posting Sara over here - another good song.)


I’m not the slightest bit interested in rugby. Sure, I have sat down and watched a game or two with friends on occasion, and I can get into that. I even had my hair sprayed blue for a state of origin game once, and in Townsville, which is a very long way away from the “roaches”, that was a dangerous thing to do. But I’m not going to go out of my way to watch it by myself. Maybe I could have it on in the background while I did some crochet.

All that said, there is something I feel like announcing to the world somewhere. Just because. Once upon a time my uncle played rugby against the All Blacks, when he was in the Australian Army under conscription, and he was “talent spotted”. He went on to play some rugby professionally for a time, but I believe that was “league”.

That is all.

I asked a male colleague about the difference between union and league, and he said “boat shoes are union”. I get it. The curious thing is, my Uncle and Aunt would not let their kids play rugby. They are surf life savers instead.

P.S. My grandmother was from New Zealand, so I reckon I can stick a claim in either way.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Poetry Day - Let it be for nought

I feel like this blog has become not much more than a repository of things I fancy of late, and yet I have one service to humanity, and it’s this: poetry.

Poetry, so it has been said, utilises both sides of your brain simultaneously, and this is a good thing. (See a little summary in Simone’s post here about left and right brain and their engagement in poetry and singing, and I was talking to Rob Smith about this very thing last Sunday night.) In the reading of poetry you may delay the disintegration of your mind, and it’s a good bit more interesting than messing with numbers (though my Aunt recently did get me doing Sudoku). Read it with a coffee, because for all it’s other evils, coffee may preserve some of your mental functions also.

And so to make sure it is a full and well-rounded education you are receiving here, I thought I’d post what is one of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s most famous Sonnets from the Portuguese. I am in two minds (no pun was intended!) about this poem when it is taken in isolation. Certainly, once we have gained a love, we hope it will endure through all alterations and all faults. But in gaining a love, I suspect the recipient does like to believe that there are reasons, embedded somewhere within them, for it’s development, and that it isn't actually for “nought”. But then, clearly loving for nought is the more Christlike of the two.

Jean-HonorĂ© Fragonard (1732–1806)


IF thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say,
“I love her for her smile—her look—her way
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day”—
For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may
Be changed, or change for thee—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,—
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.

Elizabeth Barrett-Browning

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Photography blooper #1

Over the holidays with family I had more of an excuse to use my newish DSLR than usual, in the way of time and subjects. To my shame I forgot it the first day we went out to Coogee and Watson's Bay, so made do with the phone that day. Then later in the week I was using it and one day I changed the battery, as you do, and then took some shots at Balmoral, without paying much attention to the screen playback, because it was too glary to see it at any rate ... So when I got home I was rather miffed and disappointed to discover that all the shots were decidedly blue.

I'd been using it in P mode, because I just wanted to take happy snaps as it was the middle of the day and not ideal lighting anyway, but I wanted to spot focus more easily. So I thought the camera must be malfunctioning somewhere. When I investigated the problem later pictures were fine in fully "auto" mode but horrible in any other. When I mentioned this to a friend they suggested the white balance, but I thought 'no, I didn't do anything to the white balance', but I have since checked and somehow, while fiddling about changing the battery, I must have interfered with the white balance setting and pushed it onto "incandescent" in manual modes (it was still set to "auto" in "auto" mode, obviously).

What I was unprepared for though, is the monumental difference this made. Here is a photo comparisons between "Auto" mode and "P" mode with the white balance on "incandescent", from my balcony. (To me, white balance is one of those things I'd rather deal with at the print level, not at the time of taking a photo.)

All was not completely lost as I was able to adjust the photos in iPhoto to some extent, though I don't know that I have managed to get the colours completely true. Here are my corrections. The reason my nieces were getting about with red roses is because as we scrambled over the rocks they actually started washing up out of the sea, which was strangely romantic and provided us with some fun fantasising. I told the youngest one that someone over the sea must love her. And she says 'but how would they know the roses would wash up just as we walked past', and well, that's just the magic isn't it. Only Hollywood has the answer to that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why do we sing?

Here is Bob Kauflin's sermon, mentioned below.

The Swell Season, The Movie

So, I meant to post this earlier, but there is an upcoming music documentary on The Swell Season. The reviews are interesting, like this one and this one. I don't know when it's actually screening in Australia, but I'll be aiming to find out.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Music and the emotions

Bob Kauflin spoke at my church on Sunday night on ‘Why do we Sing?’, which was excellent. (I was on power point, and I was told to be prepared to be "flexible" at the end of the sermon, to the point of not knowing which songs we'd actually sing. The pressure. Then I discovered that they’d replaced the mouse with some newfangled one that had no scroll button, so I was finding it hard look through the slides without changing them up on the screen. Thankfully Paul Dale had told me he’d come back and deal with it. I love the way he comes to the rescue of us powerpoint button pushers when things get disordered (which they rarely do) - you know you've got back up from the top. And then it actually didn’t get so complicated.) Anyway, this sermon also flowed on from an excellent lecture Rob Smith gave at the Moore College School of Theology on music and emotions (at the moment I can’t seem to find an online link to either of these things, sorry). And then yesterday I was reading on through Lost in Translation by Eva Hoffman, and I came across an intriguing few pages on learning music and it's connection to the emotions (and the power that it has to make you feel emotions, without necessarily being able to tell you why, in the words of Bob Kauflin: this is why Christian music must have good words; we need to know why we can be peaceful, not just feel peaceful ...). Here are some snippets:

Marek and I embark on our musical education in tandem, and as the first step toward God knows what unknown heights, we are taken for a “hearing test” – something apparently advised by experts as a way of testing a child’s potential “musicality”. For an hour, we are led through such paces as singing fragments of melodies, repeating the pitch of notes played for us on the piano, clapping out rhythmic patterns, and trying to identify similarities between different intervals. Marek gets over all of these hurdles with flying colors; I have the humiliation of failing most of them. I do not have a good ear.

Later, though, one of my music teachers will tell me about the importance of “inner ear” – the ability to hear feelingly. In this, I turn out to be better. Music seems as lucid to me as books … It speaks to me about everything in pearly, translucent sounds.

… She is the first in a sequence of music teachers to whom I owe the closest thing I get to a moral education. In this intimate, one-to-one apprenticeship – an apprenticeship mediated through the objective correlative of music – they teach me something about the motions and the conduct of my inner life. When Pani Witeszczak attempts to convey to me what tone to use in a Bach invention, or the precise inflection of a theme of a mazurka, she is trying, indirectly, to teach me the language of emotions. “Music is a kind of eloquence,” she tells me.

Music – philosophers have known its dangers – insprires me with such grandeur that I think I know what inspiration is about. As I progress to pieces by Mozart or Chopin or Beethoven, I begin to feel in possession of enormous, oceanic passions – anger and love and joy and grief that surpass merely being angry, or happy, or sad. “I know how anyone in the world feels,” I confide in Marek once … If I can express the passions contained within a Beethoven sonata or the Chopin Berceuse, then I know everything about being human. Music is a wholly adequate language of the self – my self, everyone’s self. And I am meant to speak this language; life wouldn’t be complete without it. Music begins to take the shape of Fate, or Destiny – a tremendously powerful magnet toward which my life will be inevitably moving.

Monday, October 10, 2011

IKEA does crochet

Since I am being crafty, has anyone else noticed that IKEA has decided to branch into crocheted storage options? Probably not. See these LIDAN products, and also these from the KOMPLEMENT range. (I took a look at these up close, and it is definitely crochet.) You could make them yourself, or else, for the time, effort and cost of materials involved, you could just buy them from IKEA (I suspect they'd have to be making these "handmade" items in a sweat shop somewhere though, which might be good reason to DIY).

Crochet DIY inspiration

Well people, this could be the beginning of the end, but I have joined Pinterest. I was fossicking around (well, the truth is, I did a search on "crochet" and had a real quick look) and found this picture. Now, too much of a good thing does indeed exist. This is OTT crochet IMO. But, I do like the crocheted lampshade idea, even if you don't granny square it. I have two lamps at home that I found down near the rubbish bins (yes, I'm like that - we have a rubbish area in our apartment block garage and sometimes things are just sitting there for the taking, and well, who can resist?). They were quite fine lamps, with plain cream woven papery sort of shades. Only one of them has since had a plant sitting a little too close on it's table, so now the shade has brown spots on it. This could be my next option, only I don't think I'd be quite so flamboyant. Or I might just take them back to the rubbish.

Picture from here, via Pinterest

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Poetry day - Perplexed Music

And now, having given you that much, I will post the hopeful rest.

Perplexed Music
-by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

Experience, like a pale musician, holds
A dulcimer of patience in his hand,
Whence harmonies, we cannot understand
Of God’s will in his worlds, the strain unfolds
In sad, perplexed minors: deathly colds
Fall on us while we hear, and countermand
Our sanguine heart back from the fancyland
With nightingale in visionary wolds.
We murmer ‘Where is any certain tune
Or measured music in such notes as these?’
But angels, leaning from the golden seat,
Are not so minded; their fine ear hath won
The issue of completed cadences,
And, smiling down the stars, they whisper – SWEET.

Pictures from here and here.

The pale musician of experience

So, I gave you Charlotte Bronte on experience, and here is Elizabeth Barrett-Browning

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

Elizabeth Barrett-Browning

Friday, October 07, 2011

Eva Hoffman on reading

Like so many children who read a lot, I begin to declare rather early that I want to be a writer. But this is the only way I have of articulating a different desire, a desire that I can’t yet understand. What I really want is to be transported into a space in which everything is as distinct, complete, and intelligible as in the stories I read. And, like most children, I’m a literalist through and through. I want reality to imitate booksand books to capture the essence of reality. I love words insofar as they correspond to the world, insofar as they give it to me in a heightened form. The more words I have, the more distinct, precise my perceptions becomeand such lucidity is a form of joy. Sometimes, when I find a new expression, I roll it on the tongue, as if shaping it in my mouth gave birth to a new shape in the world. Nothing fully exists until it is articulated. “She grimaced ironically,” someone says, and an ironic grimace is now delineated in my mind with a sharpness it never had before. I’ve grasped a new piece of experience; it is mine.
Lost in Translation
-Eva Hoffman