Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wish you were here

Wish You Were Here, by Pink Floyd, was last night’s guitar song. When the teacher handed out the sheet of music, I just looked at it and thought ‘oh you can’t be serious’. I had never seen anything like it. It’s this strange mix of tabs and sheet music and rhythm notation (which you don’t often see apparently) that was confusing my old flute-playing brain, but after a few ‘excuse me’s I think I have it. For example, there is this zero, with a line attached, which in sheet music looks like a minim, but that was putting too many beats in the bar and so I didn’t get it, but it is just a crotchet that is showing you that it’s a zero, which is why it’s open. Minims in guitar music have circles around them. This is good to know. I had quite a few ah-ha moments last night actually and it was a good lesson. I am not sure about this “hammer on” business though, and it all starts hurting your fingers.

We did the first guitar intro part, but we have the music for the second guitar solo also, complete with the string bending (who invents this stuff?), which is for next week. Here is the original song, listened to by 53 million other people, but here is an unplugged version, from a much older Pink Floyd, which is more what I am aiming for.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Still just bleeping on ...

Sorry folks. I’ve been somewhat diverted of late. The rest of last week was not quite so eventful as it’s beginning. The Community College called and left me a message last Wednesday asking me if I was “involved in last night’s shooting incident” and to see how I was going as a result. In discussion with the college my guitar teacher had told them I walked out into the middle of it (and he has to fill in reports etc). So that was nice of them. But I am fine. While I wanted to get out of the way of whatever was going on I didn’t feel so personally threatened, and the fact that I ascertained that police had arrived was reassuring (if I had walked out a couple of minutes earlier and come upon a man with two rifles and no police on the scene it might have been a different story).

It’s back to class tonight. This course is proving fairly challenging for me, but I suppose it’s good to be stretched and not just plod on playing four-chord songs for the rest of my life. We didn’t actually get a new song last week, but some finger-plucking exercises. One of them has this chord called Amaj7#11 in it that goes over four frets. Yikes.

On Saturday we had our markets and blanket appeal at church, which took most of the day (and I had to be there at 8:15 am with all my stuff!). But we collected a truly enormous pile of blankets for Anglicare, and despite all the scaffolding around church we had people come by our markets and I even sold some things, so it was a good day. Saturday night I went to hear a friend from my Connect Group play at a gig. He’s quite exceptional on the guitar and banjo (and managed to play guitar and tambourine at the same time) and I enjoyed that. It was in the strangest little venue in Marrickville though. Very “Inner West”.

I am also leading bible study again this week on Joshua 2, so have been working on that. It’s the story of Rahab, so it’s a good one. Then I have been drowning in extra things to do at work so have mostly been cutting lunch-breaks short.

But, hopefully I am going to have more time for reading more books for the next while, now that I am done with crocheting like there was no tomorrow, for a time.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A poem of poems

Jean challenged me to write a book-spine poem using only books of poetry. Given that most of my books of poetry are called 'The Complete Poems of ...', 'The Collected Poems of ...' or 'Selected poems of ...' I thought this was going to be a difficult undertaking. But hoorah for those little pocket classics that were everywhere some years ago. So, I have taken a little poetic licence with the old, old story, as also told by Ben (bottom poem), Jean, Erin (second poem down) and Meredith. I've included a somewhat obscure reference to the morning star (see particularly here, and ignore the subtitle) and I was hoping for extra points for including a poem that is also the name of a kind of poem. The title of the last volume, which is fading away, is More than One World.

And in the interests of future book-spine poems, if you happen to be writing a book, can I suggest that you please include a verb in the title.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A late Friday afternoon poem

I thought it was perhaps time for a poem, and perhaps a modern one. So, here is one I read recently (you can find it here).

What the Living Do
by Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living room windows because the heat’s on too high in here, and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss — we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living, I remember you.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I added to the book-spine poetry post last night. Jean gave me a special challenge to create, but I might have to wait for the weekend for that one, otherwise I am never going to get to bed this week.

I scanned along my shelves last night and spied Chesterton's 'What's wrong with the world?' and then 'For the love of God' by Carson. There's so much fun that could be had ...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book-spine poetry

Yesterday Jean tagged me in a book-spine poetry meme. I wasn’t going to attempt it for a few days, because I have “things to do” and I thought that if I started messing around with books and poetry it would all be over. However, even after the drama of last night, I couldn’t resist slapping a few together when I got home from guitar class (I could have stayed up all night). Then I wasn’t going to publish this post either as these are short and the shots are not in focus (I did a longer poem, that was even less in focus, so I will save it for later), but I just can’t wait. So here are a couple of quick attempts at it. I might come back and update this post later with more and focused poems. (I have now updated this post.)

On the discovery of books
When I was a child I read books
under the tagalong tree
A pair of blue eyes
the wind in the willows
half a life time ago.
The golden key
the lifted veil
the hole in the forest
the secret river.
For the time being
the child that books built.

I am going to go crazy and tag Simone, Sophie, Erin, Cath, Lucidus, Ben, Nathan, Andrew and Nick (but if you wish not to participate, or it destroys the calibre of your blog, feel free to pass). The rules are:
  • Create a book spine poem (examples here).
  • Take a picture.
  • Post it on your blog.
  • Link back to this post.
  • Tag another blogger, or two, or ten.

A newsworthy tale

Last night I walked right into the middle of a newsworthy drama. My guitar class is held in a building on the corner of Victoria Rd here in Sydney. It went a few minutes overtime last night and most of the guys were still messing about on their guitars, but I had things to do so I was actually the first person to leave the classroom. Just as I stepped outside into the small car park out the front, three women came racing down the street from Victoria Road, clearly terrified, and shouting at each other to “get in the car, get in my car …”. Then I could see what I somehow registered as a policeman standing on the corner with both arms on his gun, trained on somebody, and there was just a whole lot of commotion and shouting and I thought I could hear the police yelling “get on the ground” …

It was one of those situations where you haven’t a clue what is going on and can’t gather information fast enough to know what to do, but going further onto the street (I was parked off down the street as the parking in the area is hopeless and the carpark is always full) didn’t seem like the best idea, so I turned and ran back into the guitar class. I burst back in the door babbling something about there being people running and yelling and police with guns drawn outside. The guys all just looked at me and then some of them went outside. By the time I went back out it had all become much quieter. There is a toilet block at the end of the car park right on Victoria Rd, so we couldn’t see very clearly what was going on, but some of the guys went and peered around the edge of the toilets and then came back and said there had been a man walking around with a rifle (turns out he had two rifles) and the police now had him down on the footpath, right across the road from the college. I had to drive home that way as there are limited places you can turn right onto Victoria Road, and they still had the fellow down on the footpath then.

It was all so unexpectedly dramatic and bewildering. Here is the media release that came out last night. The fellow had apparently been walking down the road firing into the air and had shot at a passing bus and then fired again before surrendering to police. The Sydney Morning Herald article is here. You never know when you are going to be in the vicinity of a crazy person with a gun. But I am thankful he didn’t actually manage to shoot anybody and surrendered to police so that didn’t have to shoot him either.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The unicorns in the Bible

Picture from here.

This post has nothing at all to do with anything except that my niece turns five soon, and she, for some reason, has a love of unicorns. I am not one of those people who doesn’t approve of children engaging in play with creatures of mythical or imaginary origins, so I’ve bought a unicorn, but I was curious, so I googled unicorns, and went where everybody ends up: Wikipedia.

However, what I discovered there is that unicorns don’t actually have mythological origins. This is what is says:
Unicorns are not found in Greek mythology, but rather in accounts of natural history, for Greek writers of natural history were convinced of the reality of the unicorn, which they located in India, a distant and fabulous realm for them.
What’s more, apparently the Authorised King James Bible of 1611 is full of references to unicorns (see Wikipedia for the references):
The translators of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible (1611) followed the Greek Septuagint (monokeros) and the Latin Vulgate (unicornis) and employed unicorn to translate re'em, providing a recognizable animal that was proverbial for its un-tamable nature.
Perhaps those students of the bible and Greek already knew this, but does anyone else not find this peculiar? I don’t know what I’d think if I came across the word “unicorn” in my Bible.

The wiki article is quite interesting. I find it rather amusing that the origin of the folklore of the unicorn is perhaps the rhinoceros. It’s also my personal opinion that dugongs are the source of the legends of mermaids, which is equally amusing.

Anyway, apparently in medieval folklore unicorns were known as symbols of purity and grace. I think that is the line I will take with my niece, should she be asking.

Glorious Day

The last few weeks at my church we've been singing this song Glorious Day. I love it. However, when I try to sing it at home I keep mixing it up with the old honky tonk hymn tune here. (I don't even know where it was I used to sing that version - must have been somewhere in the dark, distant past.) In the shower this morning I was singing out some horrible blend of my own. So, here is how it's supposed to go. (I've updated this video with the version we sing, thanks to Goldy, if you saw this post earlier.)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bleeping on

Yesterday I went along to the EQUIP women’s conference here in Sydney, which was great. The topic of the main talks was ‘Heaven is waiting’, which was encouraging and challenging, and I went to Claire Smith’s elective on ‘The Modern Family’ (mainly because I read a number of blogs where what is called ‘Biblical womanhood’ sounds more like a particular culture than it does Bible, and for much of history, and throughout much of the world, families haven't functioned and don't function that way (which is not to say that they're wrong, but that I think it's important to keep principles separate from context you're applying them to), but Claire’s elective didn’t really take that angle on the subject).

I didn’t get away from this event without buying books and came home with Claire Smith’s new book God’s Good Design – What the Bible Really says about Men and Women and also John Lennox’s book Seven Days that Divide the World. (I heard John Lennox at Katoomba Easter Convention when he was speaking on Genesis, and by demand he did a special discussion one night on creation, which was excellent, and said there that he might write a book about it, and so he has. He said neither yes or no then to the ‘seven days’ argument by the way.)

But today I must write a bible study on Joshua for Wednesday night as I have bible study leader’s dinner Monday night, guitar class Tuesday night, then it’s Wednesday. Right now I have nothing with which to write it from except my bible (maybe this is not such a bad thing, it’s just going to take me longer!). I haven't found any very promising pre-written studies, and even the Bible Speaks Today commentary series doesn’t cover Joshua. Curious. Then it’s market day next Saturday and I am working on “The 2012 Collection”, so there might not be so much activity here for a week or so.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday funny

Heh heh! Sort of laughing ...

Marilynne Robinson in the Atlantic

Here is an interesting, albeit long, interview with Marilynne Robinson, primarily about her new essay collection When I Was A Child I Read Books, which is more a cultural commentary on America than it is about a life of reading books.

I like the part where she talks about being "unfashionable", and how, if done well, people let you be so. Marilynne has been known to say “I quote Calvin all the time. You’d think he was my father!”.
How would describe the "unfashionable" quality you say has been ascribed to you?
It's often a comment that's made about my prose, which—I mean, it just seems like prose to me—but to other people it seems formal. I use long sentences. I use an extended vocabulary, that sort of thing. And I do make references, especially in my essays, to subjects that are not terribly fashionable in their own right—like Calvinism, for example! That's an interest of mine. I've taken a great deal of pleasure from researching it. I find that people just let me have my obsessions, and I find that if I do reputable work, or if anybody does, the latitude we have is very broad.
The best part is, near the end of this interview, Marilynne says she is working on, and is very well into, another novel. Hoorah!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The woman who changed her brain

Today I was able to take some time-in-lieu and go to the Sydney Writer’s Festival to hear Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, author of The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, speak. I was a little surprised that the Sydney Theatre sold out days ago for this event, but obviously there are a lot of people out there interested in ways to change the brain. It was sooo fascinating. Barbara had quite a lovely manner of speaking and was very articulate, and because she has obviously spent so much time immersed in, and researching, this material she was able to speak in-depth about every and any aspect of it.

As a child she had many and varied learning disabilities. The entire left side of her body didn’t function well, she had spatial and co-ordination problems, she was unable to understand meaning in language and grasp relationships (so if you told her the book was on the table, she had to think hard about what that meant because it involved a relationship between the book and the table), she couldn’t read clocks at all and yet she managed to get through school almost purely on being able to memorise things (apparently she became a workaholic in 1st grade to do so) and when she went to university she actually slept in the library, for only 4 hours, because the rest of her waking life she was trying hard to find ways keep up. Then she stumbled across some research, initially about rats and brain stimulation, and then later about a fellow who had taken a bullet wound to the head during WWII, and realised that she had all the same problems as this person. So she devised her own exercises for the part of her brain where she suspected there was a cognitive problem, with amazing results.

She now runs a school where they have programs based on difficulties within 19 different cognitive-function areas, and they have had extraordinary results. But, she was quick to emphasise that changing the brain requires hard work. Kids (or adults) go to the school and spend four hours a day on cognitive exercises, and after three to four months they begin to notice improvements, so it’s not an overnight fix. But many people leave the school after 1-3 years with normal function, and because they have basically altered the way their brains work and their capacity to learn there are no signs that people regress once they leave the school.

When it came to question time there were obviously a lot of people in the audience frustrated with the ineffectiveness of current tutoring those they know receive for learning disabilities, and many people wanted to know when she is establishing a school in Australia. Interesting.

I don’t even know why I am so interested in this. I don’t know anyone particularly closely who has significant learning disabilities, and was blessed to have the capacity to probably take a whole lot of things for granted when it came to learning myself. Yet I am intrigued.

I was quite pleased with myself that I managed to get out of the writer’s festival without actually buying any more books (I did carry one or two around for a while, then put them back), not even hers, but I would like to read it sometime.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Guitar again

So, I totally am the class dunce in guitar. Some of the guys, I can tell, are “all over it”. The daggy-looking chap who sits on the far right is really good. He might not get the rock-star deal without some wardrobe work, but he can play the guitar.

Last night we learnt the A-shaped bar chord, and the teacher wants us to give it a good go first with one finger pushing down all three strings before we give up and invent some other means. Guitar requires you to do some very unusual things with your fingers! Then we went straight on to playing the song below with the bouncing muted strumming (which is not so clear in the video). I got all lost and left behind. (I don’t know hardly any of the songs people go on about and they’re not my “style” - if I was going to listen to Ben Harper, I like this kind of thing.) So, I have lots of practice to do before next week. But I am learning and it is all teaching me how to work out what people are doing when I hear certain things in guitar playing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The one about Habakkuk

It was over two years ago that I decided I was going to read through the bible cover to cover in the ESV study bible, including all the notes and introductions … It has taken me a lot longer than anticipated, with some stalls and interruptions. How I do it is I read the chapter in entirety from the text, then read the notes, and invariably end up going back up to the text as I go through them, and it is a slow business. But I have found it a profitable thing to do, especially for parts of the Old Testament that I wouldn’t fully understand, particularly historically, without at least some explanation of them. And I appreciate the notes.

I am well on the home stretch out of the Old Testament now, and last night read Habakkuk. So I thought I’d just post in some of the ESV study bible notes, that I was encouraged by last night, just for the sake of sharing.
By the end of the book, Habakkuk is a changed person—he has learned to wait and trust in God, who works out all things for his glory. Habakkuk, like Job, questions God’s justice, but in the end both realize that God is sovereign and his justice is far beyond their comprehension. Habakkuk’s message of judgment on Judah would not have been well accepted, for the nation had been blinded by sin while false prophets were declaring that God would not punish his chosen people. But God’s justice demands that wickedness be punished, whether found in pagan nations or in his own people.
Key Themes
1. God is just and merciful, even though his people may not always understand his ways (2:4).
4. The key phrase “but the righteous will live by his faith” summarizes the path of life God sets for his people and is quoted three times in the NT (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38), each time highlighting a different aspect of the phrase’s meaning.

Hab. 2:4 The phrase but the righteous shall live by his faith is quoted in the NT to emphasize that people are saved by grace through faith (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; cf. Eph. 2:8) and that Christians should live by faith (Heb. 10:38–39). The kind of faith that Habakkuk describes, and that the NT authors promote, is continuing trust in God and clinging to God’s promises, even in the darkest days.

Hab. 3:17–19 Anticipating great destruction at the hands of the Babylonians, Habakkuk has radically changed—he began by informing God how to run his world, and ended by trusting that God knows best and will bring about justice. Though the fig tree should not blossom. Verse 17 contains a frequently quoted list of material disasters in which all crops and livestock are lost, and as a result it is unclear how there will be food to eat. Yet even amid suffering and loss, Habakkuk has learned that he can trust God, and with that trust comes great joy, not in circumstances but in God himself: yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. Yahweh has become Habakkuk’s strength (see Ps. 18:32, 39).


I am having a moment when I have nothing much to say. With the upcoming markets at church I have been crocheting like there were few tomorrows, to have a little collection of things to sell. Then over the weekend scaffolding went up around the church for some renovations, which means we need to rethink how we do things. I was actually wishing I’d bought the crochet to work yesterday when we had to go to a CEO’s update that went for over an hour and a half. I will leave you to imagine how fascinating that presentation was, and all the while I had to sit there with nothing to do but listen.

But if you want to read about an interesting person doing worthwhile things, here is the story.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Poetry Day - My soul is awakened

The wind is wild here today. Windy days often remind me of this poem by Anne Bronte, either that or the story of the day Noddy's hat blew off and ended up on Tessy Bear's washing line. The poem is written in my travel diary next to photos of Land's End in England, which I visited once in the middle of gales in that part of the country. If I thought it wouldn't take me too long, I dig up and scan a photo, but here is the poem, in any case. I was going to leave off the last verse, but shall post the complete poem.

Painting by Nicole Wong. See here.

My soul is awakened, my spirit is soaring,
And carried aloft on the wings of the breeze;
For, above, and around me, the wild wind is roaring
Arousing to rapture the earth and the seas.

The long withered grass in the sunshine is glancing,
The bare trees are tossing their branches on high;
The dead leaves beneath them are merrily dancing,
The white clouds are scudding across the blue sky.

I wish I could see how the ocean is lashing
The foam of its billows to whirlwinds of spray,
I wish I could see how its proud waves are dashing
And hear the wild roar of their thunder today!

Anne Brontë

On Mothers Day, God knows

I really am going for the gold star this year, as I sent my Mum these little roses in an envelope, made out of wools left over from her rug.

It's true that every person in this world has had a mother, whatever she may or may not have been. And we do well to prepare our hearts to honour that and also to accept the life that God has given us. Still, I'm glad I go to a church that doesn't make an entire service about Mothers Day.

(Whether or not you include an apostrophe in the title of this day seems to depend on whether you think it's a day about mothers, or a day that belongs to mothers, so I've left it off.)

It's also true that there aren't so many blog posts out there with much to say, or even a passing reference, to single women who would like to be mothers and aren't, but Noel Piper has us covered. God knows.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

On waiting

I appreciated this post over at The Purple Cellar on waiting (I'm quite sure I read the original post when it came up, but how easily one forgets).

Surprising as it may seem ...

I did laugh out loud when I read this:
When I was a child I read books. My reading was not indiscriminate. I preferred books that were old and thick and hard. I made vocabulary lists.

Surprising as it may seem, I had friends, some of whom read more than I did.
Marilynne Robinson

Friday, May 11, 2012

An ideal husband

I’ve been sitting here watching An Ideal Husband (starring Cate Blanchett, Jeremy Northam, Rupert Everett, Julianne Moore and Minnie Driver), while crocheting flowers. The things we do. But this is an all-time favourite movie. For a long time it wasn't available on DVD and I bought it only recently when I discovered that it was, so have just re-watched it after years. I do love it.

Before you groan over the seemingly hopelessly unrealistic romance of the title, if you are unfamiliar with the original play by Oscar Wilde, one of the themes of the play is actually the error of making of anyone an ideal.

On finding out about the past indiscretion of her husband (a man known for his uncommon integrity), Lady Chiltern, a woman of character, says this, before banishing him from the house:
You were to me something apart from common life
A thing noble, pure
The world seemed to me finer because you were in it
And goodness more real because you lived.
The plot is an intriguing and amusing web of political intrigue – involving the suez canal – and romantic entanglements, centering around the marriage of Lord and Lady Chiltern. It’s actually very entertaining “comedy” and I find Rupert Everett’s character and some of his lines highly amusing.

When all is said and done and all intrigues come to an end in the light, Lady Chiltern does come to forgiveness of her husband, and says “we have all of us feet of clay”. She then receives this advice from the seeming fop, Lord Goring, about whether or not she gives her approval to her husband continuing in politics:
Lady Chiltern: I set him up too high.

Lord Goring:  Do not then set him down now too low. Dear Gertrude it is not the perfect but the imperfect who have need of love ... All I do know is that it takes great courage to see the world in all it’s tainted glory, and still to love it. And even more courage to see it in the one you love ...
Indeed she realises that she has, herself (to her astonishment), lied, under pressure to serve her own ends. It all comes to a finale with the line “the truth is – the truth is – I lied!”.

It’s not at all “romantic comedy” (well, not entirely!), but rather a warning against unrealistically idealising or elevating any person. In my humble opinion, it's worth watching.

And that’s about all I’ve got to say for a Friday evening. Today actually felt like the longest Friday afternoon ever and I was glad to finally get home and flop on the couch and do nothing much of anything.

Little Violet

My littlest niece is six months old today. She's so adorable. I pinched this photo off facebook but it was apparently taken by somebody called "Gotcha".

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Modern rites of passage

My niece turned 13 today, and at 5.46 am she sent me a facebook friend request. Is this a modern rite of passage? She's much more 'social' than her older sister, so it's going to be interesting watching how she goes about this ...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

One momentary marriage

I’ve been reading the blog of these folks since before they got engaged. It’s quite a story.

Back at guitar class

I went back to the Community College guitar classes last night, for another short course. I haven’t done Intermediate 2, because it hasn’t come around on the right week night till now. I’m a little lapsed since Intermediate 1 and needed the motivation but wondered if I’d be class dunce. And the course notes said we were to learn Eric Clapton, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Powderfinger, for songs. All that really interested me in that list was Eric Clapton, and I was wondering whether I could turn the others into “folk”.

Then I got to the class and discovered I was the only girl, which is a bit disconcerting (this hasn’t been the case in previous classes) and they were all talking about their electric guitars at home. Excellent. However, after all the introductory things last night we did All I Want Is You by U2. I am loving this. I was never quite so big a fan of U2 as some, but I do like this song. We’re mainly doing this one to look at the strumming, but he’s given us that little lead guitar part. Fun.

I couldn’t find the original clip on youtube, and no matter what I try I can't get this Daily Motion clip to embed properly, but here it is, for old times’ sake. Apparently we can’t play along with U2 because they’ve tuned their guitars down a semi-tone (and if you tried to lower the chords it doesn’t work in standard tuning). Shame. I’ll just have to try to do Bono myself.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Wondrous Love - Marilynne Robinson Pt 2

Here is another paragraph from the same chapter, 'Wondrous Love', of When I Was a Child I Read Books, by Marilynne Robinson. The last couple of sentences are interesting (and lovely). The story of Christianity is definitely history, but it is also so much more than history.
There is a great old American hymn that sounds like astonishment itself, and I mention it here because even its title speaks more powerfully of the meaning of our narrative than whole shelves of books. It is called “Wondrous Love.” “What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss / to bear the dreadful cross for my soul?” If we have entertained the questions we moderns must pose to ourselves about the plausability of the incarnation, if we have sometimes paused to consider the other ancient stories of miraculous birth, this is no great matter. But if we let these things distract us, we have lost the main point of the narrative, which is that God is of a kind to love the world extravagantly, wondrously, and the world is of a kind to be worth, which is not to say worthy of, this pained and rapturous love. This is the essence of the story that forever eludes telling. It lives in the world not as myth or history but as a saturating light, a light so brilliant that it hides its source, to borrow an image from another good old hymn.
I tried to find a good youtube of this song. When we were kids my best friend and I used to listen to her Dad's Hymns Triumphant record (yes, we were wild little rebels), which had the most euphoric recording of this hymn, but I can't find it on youtube.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Wondrous Love - Marilynne Robinson

I received a most beautiful package in the mail today, as a gift (and many thanks again to the giver), that included in it When I Was A Child I Read Books, by Marilynne Robinson. I did a quick flick through and my flicking was arrested by a chapter called Wondrous Love. This is the first paragraph of that chapter and the first I read in the book.
I have reached the point in my life when I can see what has mattered, what has become a part of its substance – I might say a part of my substance. Some of these things are obvious, since they have been important to me in my career as a student and teacher. But some of them I could never have anticipated. The importance to me of elderly and old American hymns is certainly one example. They can move me so deeply that I have difficulty even speaking about them. The old ballad in the voice of Mary Magdalene, who “walked in the garden alone,” imagines her “tarrying” there with the newly risen Jesus, in the light of a dawn which was certainly the most remarkable day-break since God said, “Let there be light.” The song acknowledges this with fine understatement: “The joy we share as we tarry there / None other has ever known.” Who can imagine the joy she would have felt? And how lovely it is that the song tells us the joy of this encounter was Jesus’s as well as Mary’s. Epochal as the moment is, and inconceivable as Jesus’s passage from death to life must be, they meet as friends and rejoice together as friends. This seems to me as good a gloss as any on the text that tells us God so loved the world, this world, our world. And for a long time, until just a decade ago, at most, I disliked this hymn, in part because to this day I have never heard it sung well. Maybe it can’t be sung well. The lyrics are uneven, and the tune is bland and grossly sentimental. But I have come to a place in my life where the thought of people moved by the imagination of joyful companionship with Christ is so precious that every fault becomes a virtue. I wish I could hear again every faltering soprano who has ever raised this song to heaven. God bless them all.

And then there were roses

I know, it's like craft central here lately, and it doesn't get much flowerier and granny-esque than crocheted roses, but these actually are sweet are they not? This pattern came up over at Attic 24, perfectly timed for my current flower experiments, and I think I could get a little hooked(!). I don't know what I would do with these myself either (market them to people with small girls?), but I am quite taken with them just now.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Bicycles in Amsterdam

And seriously, seriously, you have to go take a look at this post and see how people get around on bicycles in Amsterdam. Below are two pictures of the many wonders to behold over there. Go see the guy with three kids (including two babies) on the front and a dog in the pannier on the back, and I love the one where teddy has the front seat.

I looked at those pictures and thought it's kind of a shame we are not allowed to do such things here in Australia. Recently in the papers here there was an outcry over a woman riding a bike with a baby on her back without a helmet on, but one wonders if there is any real difference in rode safety statistics.

Some Simply Christianity news

I have some exciting news, which I have thought about blogging all week, and just haven't. Last weekend we had a baptism service at my church down in the Harbour, and one of the people who came along to Simply Christianity last year, when I was helping lead it, was baptised.

The somewhat sad thing is, I had no idea, so I wasn’t actually there for the occasion. This particular girl didn’t make it each week to Simply Christianity, and we didn’t get her contact details when she was there. But, she had said she had been going along occasionally to a different congregation to the one I attend, so I asked one of the pastors who goes regularly to that congregation to keep an eye out for her, and obviously she has done a splendid job at that, as this girl has now made a public declaration of faith. So, that is very exciting!

I hesitate to say things on the internet that could make a person’s life difficult, but this girl comes from a country, where, let’s just say, Christianity is more than actively discouraged, so it is so amazing. I am encouraged by seeing the power of the gospel over people's lives even in such situations, where everything about their upbringing and history is intended to make it difficult.

Friday, May 04, 2012


A Friday afternoon, and another Christina Rossetti poem. I did post this one almost five years ago, but here it is again. You can read the rest of The Thread of Life here.

The Thread of Life
by Christina Georgina Rossetti


The irresponsive silence of the land,
The irresponsive sounding of the sea,
Speak both one message of one sense to me:--
Aloof, aloof, we stand aloof, so stand
Thou too aloof, bound with the flawless band
Of inner solitude; we bind not thee;
But who from thy self-chain shall set thee free?
What heart shall touch thy heart? what hand thy hand?--
And I am sometimes proud and sometimes meek,
And sometimes I remember days of old
When fellowship seemed not so far to seek
And all the world and I seemed much less cold,
And at the rainbow's foot lay surely gold,
And hope felt strong, and life itself not weak.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Back up and running

I am sure you have all been waiting for an update on my pelvic injury and running. But I am pleased to be able to be back at it pounding the streets. I went to the physio again last week, and that is it, I don’t need to go back for about a month. I had an ultrasound on the previous visit, and all was good; I can switch on and off whatever layer of muscles I am supposed to on command and they’re all working. I was told there was no reason why I couldn’t keep on running, so long as I stretched my hip flexors and butt before and after (my left hip flexor seems to be the real culprit in pulling things out of place). So, it has been a small shock to the system to be getting up early in the morning again. I have been enjoying the little sleep ins up till now (as well as fiddling about till later in the evenings) and really only running on weekends when I had time to all the stretches and extra things. But, it’s nice that I can.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

A little Finding God

I really am scraping things up from the bottom of the barrel here, but since blogger has gone and rearranged the furniture (as Ben put it), it now tells me over on the left that I have 57 draft posts. I wondered what was in all those 57 posts that were never actually released to the public, so I had a little look. Among them I found this one, with excerpts from Finding God by Larry Crabb, from back in May 2008. So, after removing all the weird fontness, I decided to let this one come up into the published posts. It might seem a little out of left field (hee hee!) now, but here it is.
What would it be like if you desperately desired to be whole, beautiful and good, but fully trusted God to give you all the desires of your heart? Can you see that you would no longer blame yourself for what happened? You would not develop a poor self-image. Rather, you would enter your pain with the courage of trust and hope in God. Knowing that you are fully forgiven, you would admit your failure to love. You would move from "I hate me" to "I judge me" and then continue on in the strength of forgiveness and hope ... Either we live under pressure to grow, or we celebrate grace ... the enjoyment of Christ's acceptance gave rise within me to a deeper longing to be like Christ, a longing that intensified dependence on God's spirit and, at the same time, weakened my internal demand to be better. I no longer needed to be better, I wanted to be.
Nothing matters more than how we relate to God and to others. The fallen structure begins with doubting God, then hating him, and ends with using people, protecting ourselves from them, and leading unreleased lives, with the good that God has placed within us safely tucked away beneath self-centred efforts to avoid pain. The godly structure begins with trusting and loving God, and it ends by freeing us to love people with all the beauty and richness of our unique identities.
When we honestly acknowledge how others have failed us, we begin to see how hard we work to avoid further injury by withholding from others whatever makes us feel vulnerable. Such withholding generates a longing to exist more fully with all that we are, to give our tenderness to others who may trample it underfoot, to move more strongly even though we may fail.
Notice how hard you work to protect yourself from more pain and to preserve whatever self-esteem still remains. As you enter your inside world and find it filled with an angry passion to survive, you may think nothing else is there. But there is. Look for a quiet urge within you simply to live, to rest, to go about your business without having to prove or protect yourself against anything, to enjoy existence, your existence, at its deepest level. You want to live honestly, peacefully, happily.
Doubting God is a far more serious problem than whatever mistreatment you have endured: it is the root of all sin. As you expose your demanding spirit, you will soon experience a passion to rest, to make no demands because you trust the one in charge, to live in an environment where you feel safe to develop your potential rather than always to stay on guard against danger. You will more clearly see that you must live consciously in the presence of a reliable refuge in whose strength you are free to live your life rather than attempt to hang onto it. The desire to know God as protector and liberator will grow within you. And you will seek him with more of your heart.
Have you found a healing that releases you to love others better, or do you find superficial healing through self-affirmation and boundary-setting? Which offends you more - your ongoing pain, or your ongoing sin? Which do you value more - healing or forgiveness?
God knows everything about you. He is thoroughly aware of all the personal struggles that threaten to undo you. He knows your history and your present life, all of it. And all he says to you is, "Christ".

Music for your brain

It is well known that baroque music aids your concentration and does many other beneficial things to your brain. (See here, here and here, for just some examples.) I need this on this Tuesday morning. So, here is a piece I have been "thrashing" lately. Everybody loves the Prelude to Cello Suite No 1, but here is the Sarabande to Bach's Cello Suite No 6. It is so beautiful.

And I have posted this before, but here is Sting's ghost song, You Only Cross My Mind in Winter, set to this music. I find it hard to listen to the cello above and not be trying to sing along ...