Monday, July 30, 2012

My virtual library

When it comes to gift-giving, I quite like the idea that people give you something that they would like to give you. However, that creates stress for some, who appreciate having some ideas to prevent them trawling the streets for hours looking for inspiration, so I often end up doing a “list”, by request, around birthday time.

This year I told my sisters that I would like the Delicious Monster software, so I can catalogue all my books (don’t ask me why I think this is necessary, I just like the idea). So yesterday I downloaded the program and started to have some fun scanning my books. It is surprisingly quick just running them past iSight (this program only works on a Mac) and I did two book shelves reasonably quickly. It’s still going to take me a while to get them all entered, but hopefully I will keep up to date from then on (it's also the intention to do something of a cull along the way). I believe I can then load my “library” onto the web, so one day I might share.

It has, however, taken the shine off those nice old books that don’t have an ISBN, let alone a bar code. They are a bother. For some of them there is no near match with the publishing year, so I just pick one from the list that comes up on a title search. (You wouldn’t want to be OCD about it, and have a lot of old books, or your life could become a misery.) The beautifully-bound old books look the nicest on my real shelves, but they look like blank nothings on my virtual shelves. Hmmm.

Happy Birthday to me

I don't usually mention my birthday on the blog. Largely because, since I am not really one for throwing parties for myself, and my family doesn't live in Sydney, sometimes there is actually nothing to say about it. 

(I did decide I should get my act together last year when it fell on a Saturday, so I had a little party of sorts, which was mostly an occasion to invite some folks from church I had wanted to ask over, but only as many as could fit in my loungeroom and feasibly (and willingly) recite a poem in one evening. Even so, it meant I then actually spent the day by myself cooking and cleaning and getting ready. It turned out to be a very pleasant evening, but I thought 'well I don't have to do it every year do I'.)

All that aside, this year I had to mention said birthday, because, to my great amazement, my mother MADE me a cake! Look at this! I can't even remember the last time I saw my Mum knitting, and she is not an especially "crafting" sort, but she said 'I know you like handmade things' (I might actually need to be careful who I go around saying that to) and so made me this. I still can hardly believe it. And I am touched. 

She did use a crochet rose that I originally sent to her to decorate the top of it, you might notice.

The truth is, often I don't actually really like my birthday. It arrives like a reminder of how painfully disappointing life is, and of all the things I have failed to be, gain and accomplish. But last night we had a sermon on Colossians 1:15-29, and were challenged to be "satisfied in Jesus" and joyful and secure in what we have in Christ. So, today I shall attempt not be melancholy, and instead remind myself that Jesus is enough, and be thankful (not least because I have a mother who knitted me a cake!).

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A visit to the Biennale

At the risk of doing that thing where you write blog posts after you have been on an interesting and/or cultured outing, and so represent your life as more fascinating and sophisticated than it really is in cyberspace, yesterday I went to Cockatoo Island, with Susannah, to explore the 18th Biennale of Sydney.

Most of my photos were not so great. I have discovered that trying to take photos of large modern artworks in the midst of jostling crowds of people, where you can't necessarily get where you want to be or photograph what you want to photograph, you are trying not to be too annoying and you need to act fast to seize an opportunity, usually means you end up with a lot of dud pictures. But here is a sample.

Susannah in one of the old tunnels on the island.

We didn't actually get any sort of program or guide to the artworks, so we mostly wandered randomly about taking our own guesses at what the artworks were supposed to signify. I have included links, however, to give the artists credit and in case you want some real information. I did like this fluttering paper installation, by Monika Grzymala and Euraba Artists and Papermakers, catching the sunlight from old arched windows.

Some kind of styrofoam creation, by Peter Robinson, in the industrial precinct.

Sand lace (or domesticated turf, or industrial doilies), by Cal Lane.

A shipping container worked into a bird cage (not sure of the artist). 

Something or other feathery by Philip Beesley (we didn't join the line to actually go in this one but I believe the artwork responds to human interaction).

The River, by Adam Cvijanovic.

I'll let you read the sign and work this one out.

In a convict cell, by Latifa Echakhch (possibly).

The Scar Project, by Nadia Myre.

Coloured paper things, by Li Hongbo.

A room full of drapey garment-esque pieces, nicely colour-arranged, by Erin Manning.

Afternoon rest and food (and I forgot to close down the aperture some when we got outside.)

English teacups amongst an aboriginal midden, by Jonathan Jones.

A ferry ride home (the ferry lines were long, and I made a joke on facebook about how it could all turn into Bob Dylan's Bear Mountain Picnic, but I think it was too obscure for most).

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Memory is a poet

“Memory is a poet, not an historian.”
(From here via here.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Waiting for a real life connection

I am sitting here waiting for Simone to come and play with me, as she is staying for the night in the middle of a conference. I notice she is off blogging somewhere right this minute.

Life as we now know it is a strange thing.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Caught in the middle

I have found myself a number of times in life feeling like I was in a position I didn’t want to be in. And I can get frustrated and discouraged, and even at times resentful, that I am in it, when I feel like I worked hard to not end up there. I tried to do what I saw as the right thing, to do what I could to make sure all was understood, and yet it seems, in the end, that it was nothing more than a sodding great waste of time and energy. So another one of Paul Tripp’s meditations I liked was this one, called ‘caught in the middle’, though it’s really about waiting, and one doesn’t necessarily have to be caught in the middle of something for it to be relevant. It’s based on Psalm 27:14.
Wait for the LORD;
Be strong, and let your heart take courage;
Wait for the LORD!
When you are required to wait, it means that you are caught in the middle of something, and when you are caught in the middle of something, it immediately means that you are part of something bigger than you. Being caught in the middle is disconcerting and irritating because we all tend to give in to the delusion that we have more power and control over our lives than we actually have.
When you recognize that you are caught in the middle of something, you are recognizing something that is profoundly important …

First, it means you were meant to live for something bigger than yourself. You are not in control. Your story is not ultimate. You have been created to be part of something that is larger than your wants, your needs, and your feelings. You are connected to something that is bigger than your relationships, your situations, and the locations that you move in every day. You are waiting, because God said you are part of his kingdom. God, whose timing is always perfect, works according to his wise plan and at the right moment. But as you wait, he is doing something in and for you. He is crafting you into the person his grace alone enables you to be.
Fourth, it means the final chapter of your story has been written but has not yet unfolded. There are more places God has written for me. There are more characters to appear in my story. There are circumstances that he has designed for me to encounter. There are moments of blessing and times of difficulty that have already been written into my story by the One who is not only in control but is also wise, gracious, kind and good. He already knows the exact path he will cause me to walk and how that path will result in his glory and my good. I could never write an autobiography that would accomplish what his story for me already has and will accomplish.

Fifth, it means that the One you are waiting for is trustworthy. I know there are times when waiting is painful. I know there are times when it seems as if it is impossible to wait. But you and I must remind ourselves that we wait not because irrational and impersonal forces function as obstructions and interferences in our lives. No, we wait because the world is carefully administered by the one Person who is ultimate in power, ultimate in authority, and ultimate in wisdom, while at the very same time being ultimate in love. You are being asked to wait by One you can trust.

Sixth, it means that in those moments when you are caught, you can rest. Don’t give way to panic. Don’t give in to doubt because this is not what you would have planned. Don’t allow yourself to play out all the “what if’s” and “if only’s” in your mind. You are waiting because there is a plan. You are waiting because your life is under the control of One who is wise and good. You can rest, not because you know what is happening, but because you know the One who is in control of what is happening to you right now. You can rest because you know he has made you a part of something wonderful, and he knows what he is doing in you is good, even though at this moment it feels as if you have been caught in the middle.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ruby shoes day

A couple who were in my connect group last year while they studied here in Sydney moved back to Tasmania at the end of the year and recently had a baby girl. I liked making these little shoes, so on the weekend I made some more for the baby (these ones are even smaller, and so cute). The yarn colour is called 'ruby', and really, I just wanted to write a post and call it 'ruby shoes day', while it is still Tuesday.

P.S. If you have no idea why, you need to be aware of this (or maybe the Rod Stewart version is how you are familiar with it).

P.P.S The yarn is the 'Luxury' line from Bendigo Woollen Mills.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What lives beneath

... ... she looks into my eyes as if trying to catch the image of a minnow that has darted across the pool of a limpid spring.
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

This is our next bookclub book. For some reason I really liked that sentence, that metaphor. It captures the way it often is, when someone says something startling, strange, that could potentially mean something deeper than what you hear in the moment. You flash a look into their eyes, wondering if you will see this “minnow”, this fleeting glint of something living, swimming below the surface. Sometimes it’s already gone, and you can only you speculate whether you detect faint ripples, sometimes it was never there, but sometimes, just sometimes, you see it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bonhoeffer on reading the Bible

Here is another extract from a letter of Bonhoeffer’s (which I am writing here for my own reference as much as anything) taken from the biography by Eric Metaxas. He wrote it to his brother-in-law Rudiger Schleicher, who was apparently “as liberal theologically as Bonhoeffer was conservative”, which might provide some background to why he emphasises what he does.
First of all I will confess quite simply – I believe that the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions, and that we need only to ask repeatedly and a little humbly, in order to receive the answer. One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it. That is because in the Bible God speaks to us. And one cannot simply think about God in one’s own strength, one has to enquire of him. Only if we seek him, will he answer us. Of course it is also possible to read the Bible like any other book, that is to say from the point of view of textual criticism, etc., there is nothing to be said against that. Only that that is not the method which will reveal to us the heart of the Bible, but only the surface, just as we do not grasp the words of someone we love by taking them to bits, but by simply receiving them, so that for days they go on lingering in our minds, simply because they are the words of a person we love; and just as these words reveal more and more of the person who said them as we go on, like Mary, “pondering them in our heart,” so it will be with the words of the Bible. Only if we will venture to enter into the words of the Bible, as though in them this God were speaking to us who loves us and does not will to leave us alone with our questions, only so shall we learn to rejoice in the Bible ...

If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which is not at all congenial to me. This place is the Cross of Christ. And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the Cross, as the Sermon on the Mount commands. This is not according to our nature at all, it is entirely contrary to it. But this is the message of the Bible, not only in the New but also in the Old Testament ...

And I would like to tell you now quite personally: since I have learnt to read the Bible in this way – and this has not been for so very long – it becomes every day more wonderful to me. I read it in the morning and the evening, often during the day as well, and every day I consider a text which I have chosen for the whole week, and try to sink deeply into it, so as really to hear what it is saying. I know that without this I could not live properly any longer.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friendship - a Friday funny of sorts

I've written in the past about how and why it is more difficult to make friends in your 30s, and referenced the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry makes this observation, so I was interested to read that Jo's husband Alex has written a piece for the New York Times on just this topic (I know! Why am I writing on this here humble blog and not for the New York Times?).

And because it is Friday, I give you the Seinfeld clip (you can't embed it sorry, but it is worth a click).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On being accessible

The chapter titled Berlin in Bonhoeffer’s biography, by Eric Metaxas, was a challenging read. What a force of personality this man was, and such was the extraordinary life he lived.

Each week his gifted family held music nights in their home, and when Dietrich became a lecturer at the university he invited the students along. This is what one of them, Otto Dudzus, recalled:
Whatever he had and whatever he was, he made that accessible to others. The great treasure he possessed was the cultivated, elegant, educated, highly educated, open-minded home of his parents, which he introduced us to. The open evenings, which took place every week, or later every two weeks, had such an atmosphere that they became a piece of home for us, as well. Also, Bonhoeffer’s mother entertained in the best possible way.
And these students continued to visit his parents, who treated them like familiy, even after Bonhoeffer went to London.

But the truly amazing story is the story of the confirmation class he took in Wedding, a squalid, poverty-stricken district, where his class consisted of 50 “sawed-off hoodlums”. He moved there, so
... as to be able to have the boys here every evening, in turns of course. We have supper together and then we play something – I have taught them chess, which they now play with the greatest enthusiasm ... At the end of each evening I read something out of the Bible and after that a little catechising, which often grows very serious. The experience of teaching them has been such that I can hardly tear myself away from it.
He visited all their families, he bought woolen cloth to make each boy a confirmation suit, he took the boys away on weekends. I read this chapter and started to feel like a waste of good space.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wisps of fog

That title is way too romantic for what is about to come (as perhaps is the title of this whole blog). I’ve realised that one of my problems in this life is that I have way too many hobbies, and not enough time to indulge them all. (I've also been dragging myself around lately, feeling like something was about to catch up with me, and stayed home to sleep yesterday.)

Guitar: The guitar teacher of the Community College Courses I have finished emailed around a link to his new website the other day. He has an album too, which is a little heavier than how I like my music, but some might like it. He is putting up some guitar tabs on the site occasionally, and the first song is Blackbird by the Beatles. I printed out the tabs to have a go yesterday and was laughably slow.

Crochet: I have been keeping an eye out, in my half-hearted shopping efforts, for a new jumper - a warm woollen one not some thin acrylic junk - and not been able to find one, so decided to make one. I put this photo up on facebook with a caption, ‘will I get away with it’, and no-one said a word for a very long time, which I thought was ominous. However, I have never been all that interested in the height of fashion in any case, so was going to press on, but I now have a few likes, from friends more towards the alternative-dressing end. Good. I just have to work out some colours, hopefully using some of the yarn I already have. (It’s from a book called Crochet – Modern Vintage if you are inspired.)

Poetry: Frances has posted some lovely ones of late. What home could be by Emily Dickinson and What is Divinity? by Wallace Stevens.

This one is not exactly a hobby, but here is a post on Complementarianism for Dummies. I read it a while back, as I subscribe to Mary Kassian, but have seen some discussion going around facebook of late. If you don’t know quite what it’s supposed to mean, it’s worth reading.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Sunday School response card

For the past couple of weeks I have been doing holiday Kid’s Church while the regular teachers take a break. Last week we only had eight kids, then yesterday we had 20. But both weeks we have had two sisters, who look exactly the same only one is taller. Last Sunday the younger one left her Madeleine-esque red wool coat behind, so I took it out to the playground to her. She said, ‘can you give it to my Dad’, so I asked which one was her Dad and she said ‘the man over there in the blue trousers’. After glancing around I realised that by blue trousers she actually meant jeans. Have you ever tried to find a guy who is not wearing jeans at church? So when I worked it out I had a funny little chat to the Dad about ‘blue trousers’.

At the time I thought it was a little odd that she had told me to give the coat to her Dad, but just thought ‘oh well, maybe Mum is the one who is always leaving stuff behind and Dad can keep track of things’.

On most Sundays that I do this gig, soon after the children first arrive in the hall for kid’s church we get them to sit down on a mat on the floor as we begin. Yesterday I noticed the older sister kneeling on the floor bent over scribbling on one of the response cards from church, that people usually fill in their details and prayer requests etc on, and I thought to myself ‘what’s she doing doodling on a response card?’, but she wasn’t causing any trouble and it soon disappeared and I thought no more of it. What happens is that the kids all go into church for some songs with their family, then there is the kids talk and then we leave for the hall. So as far as I recall they are not in church for the news or the response card notification, yet she had obviously appropriated one of these cards from the pew bibles and determined to bring it with her and put it to use.

Then at the end of Sunday School she actually handed in this response card, to the girl who had done most of the leading of the class (I spent a lot of the morning with a sad four-year-old, who had attempted an escape and wasn’t coping, sitting in my lap – after some negotiating she decided that I was OK and she would stick it out with me). We looked at the card, and she had filled in her name and address, coloured in some of the little circles that people usually tick, and on the back she had written some prayer requests. The first one was a request that we please pray for her Mum, that she might come to church and get to know Jesus. The second one was to say she was sorry for fighting with her sister.

We were moved, almost watery. The sweet, earnest little thing. I am definitely going to be praying for her Mum.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A day trip to Berrima

Today I took a little trip in the countryside to Berrima. I have been wanting to go back to Berkelouw’s Book Barn down there for a long time, and have on occasion asked people who either couldn’t/didn’t want to go, then recently I looked at the website and discovered that it is closing for extensive renovations on 23rd July, so I decided it was now or never. I asked a bookish friend and my connect group, none of whom could make it for a day trip, but I decided, well, I can’t live my life not doing things I want to do because no one can come with me, so I went anyway.

I had pleasant day meandering about. Berkelouw's, as the name would suggest, really is a barn full of books in the middle of nowhere.

They seem to have already started packing up some of the shelves, as some of it was cleared out, but I poked around for a while and had a coffee. I really only bought some cards in the main shop (because I loved these collage cards by Montessa Maack).

Then I walked on down the road to the rare books "department", and wondered at times where exactly I was going.

I did buy a poetry book there that I have known for a very long time they had that is no longer in print.

Then I mosied on in to historic Berrima village.

There were a number of shops full of that country kind of clutter that I no longer have any desire or keeping-space to buy, which I happened upon first, but further on found much more appealing wares.

I definitely ate lunch in the wrong place, discovering I was quite famished and buying a scone (yes a devonshire tea of one scone) and coffee in a rather ordinary cafe, that cost me $8.50, before I discovered all the gourmet, award-winning bakeries and eateries down the road. Next time I will know.

I enjoyed the bookbinding shop (I took photos in shops with great haste and secrecy as I have been roused on for that before and don’t know that it is always allowed, so these are not studied shots).

And a shop called “The Write Stuff”, containing lots of nice stationery and both antique and retro typewriters, which I coveted (but I have no space for keeping one of those either!).

I wandered into a patchwork/craft type shop, curious about yarns, which they didn't have, but they had shelves and shelves of colour-arranged fabrics, which was strangely enticing even though I don't sew anything at all.

I looked at and stroked the alpaca yarn in the Alpaca Centre, where they had some lovely colours, but managed not to buy any of it ... just "browsing". I actually watched a lady spinning wool elsewhere too, and selling it hand-dyed, and resisted that also.

I was, however, lured into a jam shop by quinces in the window and bought some quince jelly. It looks delicious, and I shall have to consume it with some cheese sometime soon.

It was refreshing just wandering about this quiet place in country in the afternoon sunshine, and it was reminiscent of some of the country haunts of the surrounds I grew up in the New England area.