Monday, February 28, 2011

Church and Fair Trade markets

I spent a good part of Saturday at the Fair Trade Markets at my church. Last year I was asked if I wanted to be on the committee for these markets, to help run the actual events and dream up new possibilities for things to do. For me it was one of options that you go away and pray about and wonder what exactly you are looking for in an answer. In the end I couldn’t come up with a reason to say no, I had the capacity to do it, so I said yes. That perhaps sounds unenthusiastic, but does anyone else wonder what exactly they are looking for as an “answer” sometimes?

I know there are various criticisms of Fair Trade (I’ve read this post and (most of) the comments) and using it as outreach, but it is working for us and I think my church is doing a good job of being present in, and engaging, our community. We time the markets with the local markets across the street so there are lots of people milling about (and we have the blessing of having a church building that is almost on the footpath of one of the main streets of the suburb), we have church folk come and hang around and be ready for conversations, there’s live (cool) music playing for some of the time, and part of the aim is just to show that the church is alive and happening and not just a building that only opens on Sundays. The Fair Trade products also give us conversation openers (even if people want to argue about it). We source ours from Tribes and Nations, which is run by people who used to be missionaries, and also have selected Care and Share products and on Saturday we had some products bought back the Habitat for Humanity team that went to Nepal last year. To get an understanding on why we’re doing what we’re doing it’s been suggested that we read Generous Justice by Tim Keller, so I am part way into that. (And we also ran Community Lunch on Sunday, in which we fed about 80 people a sit-down two-course lunch in the church hall, mostly people from the housing commission estate down the road.)

I’ve gone along to the markets before, but not been involved in their organisation, so Saturday was our kick off and opportunity to take stock and think about things to do differently. It’s exciting.

The colour of 2011

I know you've all been waiting for this information, and it's going to change the way you live 2011, so I've taken it upon myself to let you all know that the Pantone colour of the year for 2011 is "honeysuckle", or 18-2120 if you're a person who actually knows what the numbers mean. You might have missed it (I know I did), but apparently last year the colour was turquoise. I've got this information from here, where it also says “Honeysuckle derives its positive qualities from a powerful bond to its mother color red, the most physical, viscerally alive hue in the spectrum". Interesting. So now you know and you're all now without excuse - for I don't know what.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Write to me/ride with me

For a long time, before I began riding mine again, I've liked bikes on things. I like this (H/T Apartment Therapy) and I also like the Write to Me bike stationery.

Poetry Day - Somewhere or other

Must be time for a poem. So, here is another of Christina Rossetti's, that doesn't take much explaining (from here).

Somewhere or Other
By Christina Rossetti

Somewhere or other there must surely be
    The face not seen, the voice not heard,
The heart that not yet—never yet—ah me!
    Made answer to my word.

Somewhere or other, may be near or far;
    Past land and sea, clean out of sight;
Beyond the wandering moon, beyond the star
    That tracks her night by night.

Somewhere or other, may be far or near;
    With just a wall, a hedge, between;
With just the last leaves of the dying year
    Fallen on a turf grown green.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The most succinct word

I quite like this most succinct word, and it's definition (from 22 Words). And what the situation described therein usually results in is a kind of mexican standoff.

The honor of “most succinct word” according to the Guinness Book of World Records goes to the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego. The word is…


“Most succinct?” you say—”But that’s kind of a long word.” True. But it’s short for all the meaning that’s packed into it.

It describes “a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would initiate something that they both desire but which neither wants to begin.”

Here’s the breakdown:

The word consists of the reflexive/passive prefix ma- (mam- before a vowel), the root ihlapi (pronounced [i╔Čapi]), which means to be at a loss as what to do next, the stative suffix -n, an achievement suffix -ata, and the dual suffix -apai, which in composition with the reflexive mam- has a reciprocal sense.

(via Wikipedia)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

You spot it, you've got it

Yesterday I worked from home, which is a nice flexibility to have occasionally, and in the middle of the day ducked out to catch up with my friend Penny from Overcomers Outreach. I have stepped back from being involved in OO this year, mainly because the meeting clashes with Connect Group again, and it had become a situation where I just turned up at a meeting once a month and that was all I was doing, which didn’t seem so plugged in and effective to the ministry. But I have loved it and learnt a great deal and hope to keep catching up with Penny and what’s happening. So we had lunch and I gave her back a book I had on loan etc.

Penny has this crazy life, and it’s hard to catch her, and conversations with her often leap from one thing to the next at an astonishing pace, but it’s always fascinating. She has spent so much time now immersed in helping people with their addictions and other problems, attending courses and conferences and doing her own form of counselling, that she has gathered up this vast wealth of ideas, and a conversation is often littered with these kind of one-liner asides. Sometimes I wish I had a tape-recorder. But one of these one-liners I picked up yesterday was “you spot it, you've got it” (I don't thing it was "you've" but I couldn't tolerate the grammatical incorrectness).

The context is that, say you are having some kind of difficulty relating to someone or understanding where they are coming from and so you say “I think they ….” and go on to diagnose their state, well the point is, that if you can see that particular problem/condition in them, you probably have some form of it in yourself, so you need to ask yourself where it’s coming from within you. I thought that was mind-stoppingly helpful. Sometimes we can think that we are a superior kind of human being, and can objectively diagnose what’s going on with other people, when the reality is that we are always doing that through our own framework, and we need to be aware of that.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Me and my bike

Yesterday was quite historic in the life of Ali. It all began on Saturday morning when I got my dusty old bike out of the shed and walked it up to the bike repair shop, in disgustingly sudorific weather. I could fix bike punctures in the back yard myself when I was about seven years old, but when they asked me if I wanted to put the new tubes in, I decided that nowadays I couldn’t be bothered with that and paid them to do it. Then I had to buy a new helmet, because all the foam in my old one had disintegrated (and I had a red bike with a purple helmet, which wasn’t going to do!), buy a new hose for the pump (years ago I leant the bike to a friend for a week, they lost the hose out of the pump, then kindly replaced it but with one that was the wrong size, so I haven’t used the pump since) and now the new me is cycling to work.

So, I’ve cycled in yesterday and today and it's working well. The only problem is, I have a men’s bike, which doesn’t work so well with skirts, so I have to pack those. I don’t know why, but it seemed when I bought the bike, and still does, that if you’re actually into “cycling”, you ride men’s bikes (and to get the peddle distance right I would've needed something tall). So, back then when I was doing the more serious sort of riding, where you leave a country town and hit the open road, I bought this men’s hybrid mountain/road bike with twenty-one gears, so I could ride off into the dirt and road verges and the sunset and so on. But now that I am just going to poke around the inner-west of Sydney on it, I wish I had one of those nice vintage ladies bikes with a basket on the front, which I could peddle lazily about in a floral dress. But then, a while back they also made this rule, in some kind of moment of OH&S gone mad, that you can’t bring bikes into our building at work, so all the guys that have good bikes now ride in, disassemble their bikes, zip them up in a bike bag and carry them inside. That to me is a prohibitive hassle, so I’m glad my bike isn’t any sort of thief attraction, I’m not particularly fond of it, and I can just chain it up outside and not worry about it.

I was already walking to work, so the aim of cycling is just to save time. That and get a bit less sun each day (even though it’s outside the worst hours I feel like I get a lot of sun walking in and back, and I don’t want to come to work slathered in sunscreen), and maybe utilise some different muscles, since I mostly jog for exercise. So here’s to seeing if I stick with this ...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Arts beat

Sometimes you flick around while you eat your lunch and watch unexpected things on the internet, but I just enjoyed watching this “critics’ pick video” from the New York Times Arts Beat on the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (just be warned, they pick out one of the least savoury moments in it for the clip). I own the DVD, because I like it, and I might have to dig it out again.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Poetry Day - Yet in all else I long for

Today I thought I would post a couple of poems from Christina Rossetti's Verses, her collection of 'religious verse'. These poems tend to be less well known, being far more explicitly Christian in their subject matter. You can perhaps detect running through them that Christina knew all about die Sehnsucht, and it's source, after her way, particularly in lines like 'Yet in all else I long for, long for Thee' and 'Who looks on Thee looks full on his desire'.

Light of Light
by Christina Rossetti

O Christ our Light, Whom even in darkness we
   (So we look up) discern and gaze upon,
   O Christ, Thou loveliest Light that ever shone,
Thou Light of Light, Fount of all lights that be,
Grant us clear vision of Thy Light to see,
   Tho' other lights elude us, or begone
   Into the secret of oblivion,
Or gleam in places higher than man's degree.
Who looks on Thee looks full on his desire,
   Who looks on Thee looks full on Very Love:
      Looking, he answers well, "What lack I yet?"
His heat and cold wait not on earthly fire,
      His wealth is not of earth to lose or get;
   Earth reels, but he has stored his store above.

"The gold of that land is good"
by Christina Rossetti

I long for joy, O Lord, I long for gold,
   I long for all Thou profferest to me,
I long for the unimagined manifold
   Abundance laid up in Thy treasury.
   I long for pearls, but not from mundane sea;
I long for palms, but not from earthly mould;
   Yet in all else I long for, long for Thee,
Thyself to hear and worship and behold.
For Thee, beyond the splendour of that day
   Where all is day and is not any night;
      For Thee, beyond refreshment of that rest
To which tired saints press on for it's delight:-
Or if not thus for Thee, yet Thee I pray
      To make me long so till Thou make me blest.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

You Belong to Me - Bob Dylan and Kate Rusby

I am quite entranced by both of these versions of this song.

Bob Dylan (excuse the talking on the end of this one, I don't know how to get rid of it)

Kate Rusby

Friday, February 18, 2011

Are women crazy?

I thought this was an interesting post this week, about not just giving yourself female license to pour out unhelpful/sinful emotions, and fighting insecurity. (It’s curious though, sometimes I don’t think you get much credit for having any if you attempt to control your emotions – as though people assume that because you tried not be ungodly and storm or sulk or fall apart in response to something hurtful or otherwise, therefore it can’t have meant all that much to you – which can be discouraging, but I guess that’s all part of the mix of life down here.) Here’s a little excerpt from the post:
I’ve met people before who denied that women were crazy, but their perspective was rooted in naivety. They wanted me to think better of women. Theresa is different. She’s not naive. She sees the very real hold that emotions can have on women. She sees all of our sin and she doesn’t think more highly of women than I do – she thinks more highly of God than I do. She doesn’t ask me to think better of women – she asks me to think better of God. She challenges me to believe that His Spirit is stronger than hormones.

Theresa believes I can be different. She doesn’t think I’m supposed to just resign myself to the emotional meltdowns that I can sometimes fall victim to, and not because she thinks I’m better than I am, but because she believes Christ is better. She believes Him when He says He offers freedom, renewal and restoration.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Love in material (but not immaterial)

OK, so I might as well fess up and show you that I got a wee bit silly over the weekend, and I made these for my nieces (well, I made them out of left-over wool, then decided they'd be for my nieces). I haven't sent them yet, so they are not exactly Valentines, and they'll know they're from me, because who else sends them crochet, but hopefully they think it's fun (and I'm wishing I'd been a bit more dramatic, and stolen a line or two from Mr Darcy, but, you know, better not to overdo it, lest they think their Aunt is a complete nutter). These envelopes are cutely small, and it's not so easy to write on little scraps of fabric!

Crochet meets stationery

I actually got this idea from an email with Valentine’s crochet suggestions in it, featuring this pattern (though one hardly needs a pattern). Stationery and grey felt things seem to be all the fashion at the moment, from what I've seen in Kikki-K and Typo, so I thought I'd merge them with crochet. (I haven’t actually tried felting crochet yet, but that is a possibility.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A bleep

I feel so tired this week! And after the lecture Monday night, guitar lesson last night, connect group tonight, I’m just kind of marching on through …

(And I think I’ve just invented myself a new word – bleep. A “bleep” can be a little tiny blog, just a pulse-beat to reveal the fact that the blogger is indeed still alive ...)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Living a joined-up life

Last night I went to the launch and first open night of the Centre for Christian Living, which is part of Moore Theological College and comes under the umbrella of the Social Issues Executive. Andrew Cameron gave an overview of Christian ethics, coining this phrase of a "joined-up life", with a cameo on how we use our money. It was a good night. Years ago I did the evening lecture course at MTC in Ethics, and it never ceases to amaze me how much I forget, so it was good to have a refresher/update. There’s going to be an open night once a month, and you can see the list of topics here. I’m going to see if I can make it along.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Motivations to prayer

I am in a new Connect Group (aka bible study) at my church this year, as things reshuffled and the one I was in last year ceased to exist. We also created a geographic group, for those of us south of the Harbour in my area. I am excited about this, as several group members actually live in walking distance of my house, and I think this will help foster more interaction outside of the actual connect group night, simply because it’s so much easier to do. Two weeks in and a few of us have already had dinner in a local pub.

Last week we started on the book of Philippians, and I love Philippians (I actually went through it for my personal project during the time that I was over at L’Abri too). Incidentally, if you like Philippians and you like Don Carson, you should read Basics for Believers, which is essentially a little commentary on Philippians. It’s good.

One of the questions during the evening was “what motivates you to pray?”. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have several tapes playing in my head at any given time (and sometimes, as Larry Crabb, the Christian psychologist, says, you have to “change the tape”) and one of those tapes is the poetry mix tape. Someone will say something, and it will remind me of that poem I read one time, and I get lost for a few seconds. So, back to the bible study question, this was not really where it was headed, but I was reminded of this poetic excerpt from Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, which I find very stirring and convicting to prayer all at once. It’s King Arthur speaking, as he glides away wounded in the barge, not certain of whether he will live or die.

Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.

Isn't that rousing? Something about it lights my fire ... (Incidentally, I've written more about 'Why Pray' in this article over at the AFES Websalt, if you want a bit more bible and a little less poetry.)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Poetry Day - Up hill

Here is another of Christina Rossetti's poems. This one is quite famous, and to tell the truth I don't know why so, because it doesn't clutch me like some of her others do (see my blog label for some favourites) and it doesn't sing along in metre either. But the road is all uphill.


DOES the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.

Christina Rossetti

Picture from here.

Low rising

Speaking of Glen Hansard ...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Torn between two loves

I had my first guitar lesson at the Community College this week. And I’ve already died of the sickness from the Peter Gunn theme and Wipeout. But it was good fun. The teacher is a scruffy-haired, amenable dude, and a lot of the time was spent going around finding out who people are, what their background is, what sort of music they like, interspersed with little spiels about guitar playing in general. When it got to me I finished by saying I’d like to be Glen Hansard. I think I got points for that, because the teacher then went on to tell the class about the strumming holes worn in his guitar. And it got me a friend in the girl sitting nearest to me, because she was at their concert and we got talking. I think I am going to enjoy this.

I am however, now torn between two loves. Last night I went over to the city, and I first dawdled about looking at yarns in Morris and Sons, as I seem to be developing quite a (ridiculous) passion for balls of wool. I just gaze at the glorious colours, pick some kinds up and feel their softness, stretch a few out, look at what they’re made of and where they come from, then put them all back. I never buy anything in there because it is uber-expensive (I actually don’t know how they get away with charging so much above what the rest of the universe charges for the same yarn). From there I went to Allan’s Music shop and looked at guitar things, attempting to hide my ignorance while I tried to work out why there are so many different kinds and sizes of picks (or plectrums as I've discovered is their technical term). And then when I got home I had to divide the rest of the evening up between crochet and the guitar (after getting in some reading on the bus home). It’s difficult!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The speed of the sound of loneliness

This is a song I first heard at L’Abri in Switzerland way back in 2001, where a fellow would sing it as we all lounged the evenings away in the chalet, and recorded it on an album there and then (L’Abri has a history of music, and all the recording gear). Occasionally over the years I’ve gone looking on youtube for something a little more modern than Nanci Griffiths' version, and closer to how my L’Abri friend sang it (Nanci Griffiths was legendary in her time, but some things need updating). So, I’ve now found one. I haven’t the faintest idea who Amos Lee is, but I like it.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Two movies, womanhood and singleness

I was a little extravagant this past weekend and went and saw two films. Months can go by without me going to the movies, then it’s pouring films. First I saw Made in Dagenham at the open air cinema with some girls from church on Friday night. I was pretty ho-hum about seeing that movie, it was more an occasion to hang out with church friends. But the movie was quite good, with a smattering of British wit, about the industrial action by the women machinists at the Ford factory in the UK, which led to the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1970 (yes, it was only 1970, isn’t that extraordinary?). I couldn’t help but think the film was constructed through the eyes of modern feminism, which I guess was inevitable, but in it were three different scenarios that set up a tension between supporting your husband and family and supporting and fighting for the cause, with varied outcomes. They did make some attempt to show that sometimes life is complicated and the choices facing these women were made more complex by the fact that they were mostly out working already, and only wanted higher rates of pay to contribute to their families, they just got very involved in fighting for it. So it was an interesting look at this time in history, even though we all know that the economic outcomes since haven’t been that straightforward. (I’ve written more of my comments on such things while blogging through the book Radical Womanhood over at EQUIP book club go there and start at the bottom if it takes your fancy.)

But it was the second film that really left an impression somewhere inside me. When I saw The King’s Speech I saw the trailer for Another Year and thought it looked nice. I mentioned wanting to see it at work and a friend said she really wanted to see it too. She is something of a film buff, who goes off to NIDA and does screen-writing courses etc, and Mike Leigh is her favourite director. So, I thought I might learn something, we made a date and walked to the local Dendy on Saturday, in about 42 degrees, her swearing like the Scot that she is and me exclaiming in disbelief about every 30 seconds (the weather here has been something else!). This is a simply beautiful film – that is, it’s simple and it’s beautiful. Don’t go and see it if action is your thing, because slow is one word you could use for it. But it really is exquisite and I loved it. And yet it has to be the saddest comment on growing older in singleness that I have ever seen in cinema. (Essentially I felt like I watched a movie on how not to be single – though I'd say it was a film about loneliness, and envy.) The story revolves around an older, happy, well-adjusted couple (most of the film takes place in their house and yard), almost too perfect, who got married in their youth and have a very pleasantly ordinary life. And then there are their single friends: one male and one female, neither of them coping well with their situation. And it’s tragic to watch. I felt simultaneous compassion and revulsion for Mary in particular, and a deep sadness at both her loneliness and her failure to come to terms with her own life. She’s a little extremely caricatured, and a certain condescension towards her manifests as the film progresses, but, we all heed the warning. (This film also got me thinking about things I wrote in the posts for Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? on the EQUIP book club – it was like revision weekend!) I'm currently of the opinion that the entire human race should be made to sit down and watch this film.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Poetry Day - One heedless day

Here is another Christina Rossetti poem. I've posted it here way back in 2007, but I thought it could come around again. It's a poem that moves through the process of what to do with the shame and heart-break of an unrequited declaration. (I do like that it picks up the notion that "trials", in whatever form they come, exist to refine us and to make us more like, and drive us to, Christ.)


I took my heart in my hand
(O my love, O my love),
I said: Let me fall or stand,
Let me live or die,
But this once hear me speak-
(O my love, O my love)-
Yet a woman's words are weak;
You should speak, not I.

You took my heart in your hand
With a friendly smile,
With a critical eye you scanned,
Then set it down,
And said: It is still unripe,
Better wait awhile;
Wait while the skylarks pipe,
Till the corn grows brown.

As you set it down it broke-
Broke, but I did not wince;
I smiled at the speech you spoke,
At your judgement that I heard:
But I have not often smiled
Since then, nor questioned since,
Nor cared for corn-flowers wild,
Nor sung with the singing bird.

I take my heart in my hand,
O my God, O my God,
My broken heart in my hand:
Thou hast seen, judge Thou.
My hope was written on sand,
O my God, O my God;
Now let Thy judgement stand-
Yea, judge me now.

This contemned of a man,
This marred one heedless day,
This heart take Thou to scan
Both within and without:
Refine with fire its gold,
Purge Thou its dross away-
Yea hold it in Thy hold,
Whence none can pluck it out.

I take my heart in my hand-
I shall not die, but live-
Before Thy face I stand;
I, for Thou callest such
All that I have I bring,
All that I am I give,
Smile Thou and I shall sing,
But shall not question much.

Christina Rossetti

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Black Sorrows

This is how facebook is wasting my life. I was doing that quick scroll through the newsfeed last night when it caught my eye that someone mentioned The Black Sorrows. Then I was gone. And I have been humming Harley and Rose ever since. So I thought I would share the contagion that was this song. Exit before about two minutes if you don't want to be stuck humming.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Utilitarian art

I am basically sitting here waiting for the mail to come back with some proofs this morning. Meanwhile, it would seem Alain de Botton has decided to have something to say about utilitarian art (you're supposed to connect that to crochet, incase you don't). Here are some of his latest tweets:

What's wrong with 'utilitarian' art, so long as the utility is a complex and noble one? See Oedipus The King...

Those who love art most often complain that it doesn't do enough: but it is in the end only ever a suggestion, not an order.

Art for art's sake shouldn't ever be taken to imply that art shouldn't have a mission. All great art has a mission.

People are always declaring that art is bad when it's didactic, forgetting Sophocles, Dante, Voltaire, Tolstoy...

Aesthetic risk: to digest complexity to the point that half the audience declare it stupidity.

Immaturity = an exaggerated fear of hearing suggestions about what to do and feel.

Modernism assumes that it's a sign of maturity never to need guidance. Augustine would declare it evidence of 'superbia' or pride.

More nostalgia

Someone posted this old old photo on my facebook wall last night (you have to love facebook photo tagging!). That's me standing on the left. I look like that miserable, pitiable, friendless schoolyard reject who wanted to part of the cool, fun in-group and wasn't. I don't actually have any particular memories of that being the case, but perhaps I'm looking back with the rose-coloured glasses whoever took this photo was wearing.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Blog nuisances

Bother. Because of something to do with the internet restrictions at my work, I can't respond to comments on my own posts (though at least I can get in there more easily than previously) because the graphic for word verification doesn't appear, so I switch off word verification sometimes to do it, but, the second I do this, the spam comments start rolling in! Blogger seems to be removing some of them automatically for me, but it's irritating. And apologies to those who probably get emailed some of these comments.

Crocheting into coherence the pain and the glory

Since I have previously blogged about theology and the woolly crafts, I was just scrolling rather mindlessly through Apartment Therapy and read this post in which a woman, who makes crochet cactus, asks this question:

All of my crocheted projects are attempts to address, to communicate and to mediate the anxieties I feel about navigating the world ... What I want to know is; Can I crochet into coherence the essential pain and glory of being alive?
Ummm. I feel like there’s some kind of apologetic/evangelistic practice involved in answering that question, but I was quite speechless, then I read on her website "Like my other crochet projects, Plants You Can't Kill are attractive on the surface while also speaking to our human insecurities. These pretty little cacti, aloe plants, flowering pots, ferns and other botanicals look darling on the windowsill but are particularly resonant with those of us who can't keep the real thing alive." [Warning: if you start following links, she does make other things (which I wasn't expecting to stumble upon in a craft site!), which gave me more of an idea of what she meant by, and how she tried to answer, her question, but I decided not to refer to those here ...] Clearly I'm not maximising the potential of this craft (and it can be well and truly elevated into the realm of "art"). But this gave me a curious look into the ways that some people try to understand and respond to the world, using the mediums they know. I’m just still quite speechless ...