Sunday, June 30, 2013

Shakespeare, 30th June

        You should be ruled and led
By some discretion, that discerns your state
Better than you yourself   .   .   .   To wilful men,
The injuries that they themselves procure
Must be their schoolmasters.

King Lear, Act ii., Sc. 4.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Shakespeare, 29th June

If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work;
But when they seldom come, they wished for come.

King Henry IV., Pt 1, Act i., Sc. 2.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Foto

A few quick links on that unmentionable subject. I did like this: Pip Lincolne, Melbourne creative and blogger extraordinaire (whose blog I follow for the crochet) decided to weigh in on politics and tell us all to Pull Our Socks Up. Yes. Annabel Crabb talks some sense on the gender issue here at The Drum too (not that I am comprehensively onboard the bandwagon that we should live in some kind of non-gendered world). That is all.

This is my new shiny thing. I was going to get some very practical and functional sleeve to carry it around in, but then I thought, 'ooh, why not the fancy apple green spotty one'. So I did. (It's Kate Spade, not that I care, I just like green, and it was only $10 more than basic neoprene, not $300.) I'm loving this new shiny thing so far. It's smaller than an A4 piece of paper. And I have a new reason to keep my desk tidy, otherwise I could lose it on there.

Shakespeare, 28th June

A constant woman.

King Henry VIII., Act iii., Sc. I.

Give to a gracious message an host of tongues;
But let ill tidings tell themselves.

Antony and Cleopatra, Act ii., Sc. 5.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What I was doing last night

It’s OK if I don’t talk about politics isn’t it? National embarrassment that it is. There is a smidgeon of irony in the fact that rather than watching the ballot play out I spent last night at a lecture by our out-going Archbishop, Peter Jensen, on Christian Voices in the Public Sphere: How should Christians speak on public issues?. (It's just gone up online at that link – maybe I will send it to a few folks down in Parliament House.)

One of his side comments in there somewhere was actually that we don’t get too concerned about what’s going on in the State as Christians (Church and State being rightly separated) because we are more interested in community (but listen to the talk to put that in context). Yes.

To talk about the important things though, can I just say that I developed a soft spot for Julia when I discovered that she knitted things for the babies of cabinet members. (Did I blog that a while back? Maybe I didn't because I can't find it.) I also gained a certain amount of satisfaction out of the fact that the first female Prime Minister of this country knits, to quietly arm myself against those friends who I know quietly think I am some kind of fogey, or perhaps a little daft, or have too much time on my hands because I crochet (meanwhile they watch people cooking on TV – when I say that if crochet is grannyish, so is baking – my great grandmother was good at both). That said, the latest photo in Women's Weekly didn't work for me. Nobody scatters their yarn all over the floor and lets their dog sit in it ...

Shakespeare, 27th June

                     That we would do,
We should do when we would; for this 'would' changes.

Hamlet, Act iv., Sc. 7.

An honest soul i' faith, Sir, by my troth he is, as ever broke bread.

Much Ado about Nothing, Act iii., Sc. 5.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A book I have to read

I seem to be in a slump for things to write of. But today I received in a the mail a book I am nearly bursting to read. I am trying to be good and frugal on the book buying front, really I am, but sometimes you just know you have to read a book. It is a book that was always on the shelf at home when I was growing up, and I used occasionally to read the read the back cover and shudder and put it back as something too terrible to read. But recently I read this post by Lanier Ivester, and knew I must. Here is a paragraph from her post:
It broke my life wide open, broke my heart with joy and beauty, breathed a brisk wind into the sails of my deepest, most intrinsic, most instinctive longings. The book itself is so precious to me I can hardly bear to write about it. I feel so jealous over it, so careful for the pure, golden-hearted rose of friendship it extended to both of us—indeed, a sacred thing. It represents beauties to me which I could never articulate to another living soul but Philip. And that’s allright. I don’t need to in order to tell this story. But ten years ago, A Severe Mercy brought me to my knees—I type the very title with a catch in my throat—and from that low place, I looked upon Love itself.
And so, that plunge into darkness and the light that I found there was an experience I mark time from. Reading A Severe Mercy gave me back my Christianity as high romance, as beauty and longing and pilgrimage along which love might goad my heart with gladness. It helped me recover myself from a rubble of accumulated expectations, helped me see that my soul is more gypsy than I’d imagined. Most importantly, it convinced me that what I’m really longing for in all I love is Christ himself and that a life of love to him could be one of such adventure that the fairy tales of my childhood paled in comparison. Love God and do what you will, wrote Augustine so famously. I began, finally, to dare to believe that the two were not mutually exclusive.
And here is something written in the afterward of the book, A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanuaken himself:
Upon publication the theological faculty of the college graciously laid on a reception in the book’s honour. In the midst of the gaiety, first one person and then another would draw me apart to tell me, sometimes with misty eyes, how much the book had meant. I was touched, but there was something faintly odd that I couldn’t quite place. Suddenly it came to me: they were speaking, each of them, as though they – and they alone – had been stabbed to the heart. So I thanked them as though they were indeed the only one. Later the letters and telephone calls flooding in from everywhere, and these folk, too, spoke as though they felt that only they could have been penetrated to the depths of their being, thus making us kindred. So we were, but in broader kinship than they knew. It is, I think that we are all so alone in what lies deepest in our souls, so unable to find the words and perhaps the courage to speak, with unlocked hearts, that we do not know at all that it is the same with others. And since I had been compelled, somewhat reluctantly, to go beyond reticence, readers were moved to kinship with one they felt to be the only other being who also knew.
I may disappear altogether until I am finished.

Only the lonely

Here is a link to add to whatever sort of collection of musings about loneliness you may or may not have (I thought I had one but it seems that till now I didn't). It is written by Stephen Fry, who made an "attempt at self-slaughter" last year, and describes what would seem to be not such a rare element of this human condition we all find ourselves in.

Shakespeare, 26th June

There's little of the melancholy element in her!

Much Ado about Nothing, Act ii., Sc. I.

Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful.

Measure for Measure, Act iii., Sc. I.

The bitter past, more welcome is the sweet.

All's Well that Ends Well, Act v., Sc. 3.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Shakespeare, 25th June

Win straying souls .   .   .   .
Cast none away.
                   King Henry VIII., Act v., Sc. 3.

Love they to live that love and honour have.
                  King Richard III., Act ii., Sc. I.

He tells you flatly what his mind is.
                 Taming of the Shrew, Act i., Sc. 2.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Why we must seek and consider God in his works

Picture of a harvest moon from Gizmodo.

After reading about the charge of Panentheism, and then quoting Wordsworth, that great poet of nature, I was reading my little Truth for All Time by Calvin a few days ago, and in it, under the heading What We Must Know About God, I read something I thought I'd share:
Since God’s majesty is intrinsically above and beyond the power of human understanding, and just cannot be grasped by it, we must adore its loftiness rather than scrutinise it, so as not to be entirely overwhelmed by such brightness.

This is why we must seek and consider God in his works which, for this reason, the Scripture calls manifestations of what is invisible (Rom. 1:19-20, Heb. 11:1) because these works portray to us what we could not otherwise know of the God.

We are not talking here about empty and frivolous speculations which keep our minds in a state of uncertainty, but of something which it is essential for us to know—something which does us good, and which establishes in us a true and solid piety, that is, faith mixed with fear.

In looking at this universe, then, we gaze upon the immortality of our God. It is this immortality which gives rise to the beginning and origin of everything which exists. We gaze upon his power which has created such a vast system and now sustains it. We gaze upon his wisdom which has brought into being such a great and varied array of creatures, and rules them in a finely-balanced and ordered way. We gaze upon his goodness which was the very reason why all these things were created and continue to exist ....

Indeed, it is so very necessary for us to be plentifully taught about God, and we really ought to let the universe do it for us. And it would do, if it were not for the fact that our coarse sensitivity is blind to such a great light ...

We therefore have to come to the Word of God where, through his works, God is very well described to us. There his works are not evaluated according to the perversity of our judgement, but by the standard of eternal truth. We learn there that our God, who is the only God, and who is eternal, is the spring and fountain of all life, righteousness, wisdom, strength, goodness, and mercy. Everything which is good, with no exception whatever, comes from him alone. And so it is that all praise should rightly return to him.

And although all these things appear clearly in each part of heaven and earth, it is ultimately in the Word of God that we always truly understand what is the main goal towards which they are heading, what their value is and in what sense we should understand them ...
What I hear him saying is that there is much we can, and indeed should, learn of God from his creation, but because of our blindness it is not where we receive our full understanding of God and his ways. As Ann Voskamp writes in One Thousand Gifts “nature is not God but God revealing the weight of Himself, all His glory, through the looking glass of nature ...” (which is not what I understand Panentheism to be). And as I read by Tim Keller recently “A fully Christian worldview allows us to fully delight in creation”. I don't think anyone need be discouraged from an awe at and delight in creation, so long as it is rightly directed to God.

Shakespeare, 24th June

Her words do show her wit incomparable.

King Henry VI., Pt 3., Act iii., Sc. 2.

By-and-by is easily said.

Hamlet, Act iii., Sc. 2.

The course of true love never did run smooth.

Midsummer Night's Dream, Act i., Sc. I.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Shakespeare, 23rd June

               Shall we rest us here,
And by relating tales of others' griefs,
See if 'twill teach us to forget our own?

Pericles, Act i., Sc. 4.

Beggars mounted run their horse to death.

King Henry VI., Pt 3., Act i., Sc. 4.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Shakespeare, 22nd June

                         Men must endure
Their going hence, even as their coming hither.

King Lear, Act v., Sc. 2.

Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied;
And vice sometime's by action dignified.

Romeo and Juliet, Act ii., Sc. 3.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Poetry Day - A presence that disturbs me with the joy

I thought it high time for a poem, and discovered I have never posted from Wordsworth's Lines Composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey, on revisiting the banks of the Wye during a tour. A friend and I read this when we visited Tintern Abbey many years ago.

Wordsworth is a self-confessed "worshiper of nature" but as someone who believes in a creation made by a Creator God, I read his poems and hear echoes of the Sehnsucht, and have my own interpretations of that "presence that disturbs me with the joy".

Picture from here.

                              For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear,–both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
Of all my moral being.

William Wordsworth

Shakespeare, 21st June

Never anything can be amiss,
When simpleness and duty tender it.

Midsummer Night's Dream, Act v., Sc. I.

Strong reasons make strong actions.

King John, Act iii., Sc. 4.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How not to be alone

I'm a little behind on this one, but recently Jonathan Safran Foer (whose novels are still on my list) gave the Commencement Address at Middlebury College. And this article is a portion of it. Here's a little piece of the article:
Most of the time, most people are not crying in public, but everyone is always in need of something that another person can give, be it undivided attention, a kind word or deep empathy. There is no better use of a life than to be attentive to such needs. There are as many ways to do this as there are kinds of loneliness, but all of them require attentiveness, all of them require the hard work of emotional computation and corporeal compassion. All of them require the human processing of the only animal who risks “getting it wrong” and whose dreams provide shelters and vaccines and words to crying strangers.

Shakespeare, 20th June

Doubting things go ill often hurts more
Than to be sure they do.

Cymbeline, Act i., Sc. 6.

A very little thief of occasion will rob you of a great deal of patience.

Coriolanus, Act ii., Sc. I.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Evening - a little poem of wonder and gratitude

Picture from here.

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?

G.K. Chesterton

Shakespeare, 19th June

A loyal, just and upright gentleman.

King Richard II., Act i., Sc. 3.

When remedies are past, the griefs are ended
By seeing the worst, which late on hopes depended.

Othello, Act i., Sc. 3.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A ramble about new things

Well, here I am on my new shiny toy, so skip this post if you don’t want to read details about computers and general rambling.

I went to the Apple Store. Turns out the warped back of my computer was just a design flaw, so they replaced that with a nice new back for nothing. Also turns out that, while the battery failed the test, the computer should work with zero battery power, so then it turns out the problem was actually the charger not working. But it also turns out that the screen was getting up this rioting of scrolling past occasionally because the LED display connection was loose somewhere. So, I could have fixed it all for about $350 for the display, $150 for the battery, $90 for a new charger, which was getting up to half the price of a new computer to fix something four years old. Apple man said he wouldn’t spend money fixing the display. So, I decided not too. I realised later that I could have just bought a new charger and continued to limp along with computer as is at home, just jiggling screen around when it went scrolling by, which worked, mostly, and perhaps that would have been sensible for now, though it might not have lasted long. But I plunged in and bought a new shiny thing, because once you have the idea of a new shiny thing it is hard to change your mind. But I might get a second-hand charger and use that one as back up. Or Apple man also said people actually buy old computers on eBay and places so I could sell it and not hoard old computers.

What I decided on is the iPad you buy when you are buying a computer, or maybe it is the computer you buy when you are buying an iPad. The rationale was that I can’t justify owning a laptop and an iPad, I just don’t have the need. But I do like the idea of the portability of the iPad, for holidays and sitting in cafes and general carrying about. So then I discovered that the new 11” Macbook Air now comes with 256 GB flash drive and nine hours battery life, and yet is scarcely any bigger or heavier than an iPad, but is a fully-functioning whizz bang computer. So, that is what I got, and I now I have an itsy bitsy skinny weightless computer. And now I just need to clean up all this junk I have transferred over from the last computer.

In other news, I actually watched some of the final of The Voice last night. My flatmate had it on while I was trying to be alternative and read the Frankie Magazine that came in the post yesterday. Hah! I quite liked that red-haired lass though. She is a little folksy. I kept wondering who her voice occasionally reminded me of, and I think it is the singer from Florence and the Machine. Then came that Robin what’s-his-name singing something that has apparently been No 1 for six weeks in this country and reminded me why I don’t listen to pop music – where you get lyrics like “I know you want it” and women gyrating in black crop tops. Horrible.

In further news, in the last week I have found two grey woolen Witchery dresses in op-shops. I am very impressed with both of them. I like Witchery clothes, but I look at the prices and try to stop my eyes widening, and each of these dresses would have been at least $150 new I’d say. One is a short-sleeve knee-length tunic with a roll neck and belt. The other is a long-sleeve longer dress that is so plain it is almost quakerish, but it looks nice on and just needs a necklace. One says “dry clean only” but who actually does that? Obviously not the previous owner because I think the reason both of these dresses were in Vinnies is because somebody shrunk them from the original size. Public Service Announcement: If you put woolen things in the washing machine they will shrink! But I am pleased to have them and will hand-wash them and care for them. And I think I have now almost overdone grey in the winter wardrobe. I am not supposed to wear black as it is too harsh with my colouring, but grey is softer and works, so it seems I have been on a run of grey things and now there are enough grey things.

So, here endeth this ramble about all my new grey shiny and woolen things.

Shakespeare, 18th June

Men of few words are the best men.

King Henry V., Act iii., Sc. 2.

We will not from the helm to sit and weep,
But keep our course, though the rough wind say no.

King Henry VI, Pt 3., Act v., Sc. 4.

In anticipation

I am totes excited. I am working from home today, and soon have an appointment with the Genius Bar at the Apple Store up the road. Not that I think it is going to take a genius to tell me that my computer is rubbish and the best thing to do is buy a new one. I did visit a store on the weekend, and they said I should bring in the old one anyway because they can deal with any safety issues and dispose of a corroded battery properly, and let me know my options etc. I very nearly bought a new one there and then, but decided to wait and ponder. I’ve been getting a certain amount of frustrated satisfaction out of making myself wait and live for four days without a computer at home. I figured that this wouldn’t kill me, or if it did, I needed to rethink my life. But I am now keen to bring home a new shiny thing. I'll be back.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A story already told

I like this post (thanks Jean for sharing the link). It's all about the story you see.

There are parts of my life that just seem like history repeats itself, and I wonder how I could possibly be in the same mess again, but as this post says:
But in this weary and repetitive story a theme emerges. In our weary and repetitive story, the same theme.


It is a story already told but it is also a story with a sovereign Author writing the main plot.

Could it be that far from it being futile repetition, the part of the story where we wander helplessly through a barren wilderness is a chapter that He lovingly writes in the lives of His people before He can write this:

"Tears of joy will stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care. They will walk beside quiet streams and on smooth paths where they will not stumble." ~ Jeremiah 31:9

Could it be that He has written our story with a sovereign, loving pattern of repetition: His people walk through darkness and He gives them light; His people stagger under the weight of heavy burdens and He comes alongside and lifts; His people bear the shame of their sin and He sends One to wash them clean; His people work and grow weary and He gives them rest; His people know deep sorrow and He replaces it with tears of joy.

"For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing." ~ Jeremiah 31:25

Could it be that the One who has written the story of redemption lovingly breaks our hearts in order to draw us to a Love that will not fail?

Long ago the LORD said to Israel: "I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself." ~ Jeremiah 31:3

Shakespeare, 17th June

                            Look on beauty,
And you shall see 'tis purchased by the weight;
Which therein works a miracle in nature,
Making them lightest that wear most of it.

Merchant of Venice, Act iii, Sc. 2.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Shakespeare, 16th June

                       Nay, dry your eyes:
Tears show their love, but want their remedies.

Richard II., Act iii., Sc. 3.

He loves his own barn better than he loves our house.

King Henry IV., Pt 1., Act ii., Sc. 3.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

My rotten computer

Argh. My computer is now completely dead, in that I can't get it to charge at all. When I put that photo on Facebook a computer nerd friend told me to take it to the shop ASAP lest the battery explode, but I delayed. So I am now trying to decide between the brand new Macbook Air or the Pro. There might not be much action here till I get it sorted (I am typing this on ny phone, which is painful).

Shakespeare, 15th June

On a bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

Tempest, Act V., Sc. I.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Foto

You might have to click this to enlarge it to make out any of my scrawl. But this is just something I got up to last night. (It’s strange, but I feel like if I post such things it might look like it’s contrived, or like I am 'piousing it up' (yes, I just made that phrase up), but I guess one would hope the bible would appear here at least occasionally.) I have been reading through 1 Corinthians, and decided to make sure I had memorised 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. That might sound a little Hallmark, but the love described here is actually a very long way from “sentimental”. It says nothing about how love sets the world all aglow, or makes it whirl colour, or your heart skip a beat, or you to feel like dancing, or pinching the cheeks of babies ... These are hard things.

Then I compared the Holman to the ESV, which was interesting (I am wishing I had bought a Holman without the ugly font, but anyway). For some reason the fact that resentment=keeping a record of wrongs, and irritable=easily provoked were small moments of clarity.

(And to keep it real, these white cards are relics of failed or neglected prayer system #583. And I have since realised that I left a "not" out before "rejoice".)

Shakespeare, 14th June

Seek for sorrow with thy spectacles.

King Henry IV., Pt 2., Act v., Sc. I.

A man of good repute, carriage, bearing and estimation.

Love's Labour's Lost, Act i., Sc. I.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Waiting and what to do with it

Paul Tripp has recently posted a two-part series on waiting. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. I don't know about anyone else, but I feel like I have been waiting an age for some things, and the longer I have to wait, the less likely it seems there will ever be an end to the wait. So I appreciated these posts. Here is the beginning and the end of Part 2:
Waiting can be difficult. It reminds us that we're not in control. But instead of being discouraged during the wait, we should be a participant in what God is doing in us and through us during the wait.

Always remember that God is never separate from your wait. He is the Lord of waiting. He is the liberal giver of grace for the wait. Because your wait isn't outside of his plan, but a vital and necessary part of it, he's with you in your wait.

And remember ... God isn't so much after the success of your life or ministry - he's after you. So as you wait, tell yourself again and again: waiting isn't just about what I get at the end of the wait, but about who I become as I wait.

Shakespeare, 13th June

He is a very man per se, and stands alone.

Troilus and Cressida, Act i, Sc. I.

God amend us, God amend! We are much out o' the way.

Love's Labour's Lost, Act iv., Sc. 3.

Past and to come seems best; things present worst.

King Henry IV., Pt. 2. Act i., Sc. 3.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Believing the gospel for our friends

If you have ever had a friend, or know someone who has had a friend, then it is worth reading this.

I've got a couple of friends who make me feel unsafe, and I just sort of know by instinct (or else I have learnt the hard way) what I'm supposed to say, or not say, to them, but I feel that there is generally more danger of the second paragraph, where we pile up the empathy, in myself, and in the circle of people I know. However, as Wendy reminds us here, that is not always the most truly loving response.

And, just for fun, several friends have posted this on Facebook already, but I thought I’d share. This is, apparently, how it would be if Myers-Briggs personality typing existed in bible times (though there are funny comments on FB, like ‘I thought Paul was more introverted’ etc). I’m a little disappointed that INFJ didn’t get Jesus (I have actually seen so before!), but “insightful protector” is not so bad. I love it that my type is the one weeping – melancholics unite!

Something about union with God (with quotes by Calvin and Owen)

So I have read the final chapter of One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, the one that set the internet all aflame. The truth is, I wasn’t much troubled by it. Perhaps because I was expecting something quite outrageous, given what I had read in reviews. But I have to say, some of them were really quite misleading. For starters, the author doesn’t randomly fly off to Paris to find God. She is invited by a friend who has an apartment in Paris for the summer to come to stay for a week, so, after much consideration with her family, she works hard to overcome her Agorophobia and gets on a plane for the first time ever, leaving her six home-schooled children behind with her farming husband, and flies to Paris.

What happens there is something I would describe as more of a personal epiphany about what union with Christ means, than some kind of spiritual (or sexual) climax (though she does refer to "the climax of joy"). Have we not all had these? She does use the word consummation, and, um, other words. And granted, I would not have written some of it myself (not without blushing), but she begins by looking at John 14:20 and 15:4, then Ephesians 5:31-32:
‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 
Then she actually quotes John Calvin (yes, Calvin, incase you missed it), saying this:
God very commonly takes on the character of a husband to us. Indeed, the union by which he binds us to himself when he receives us into the bosom of the church is like sacred wedlock. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.8.18 (2:385).)
And then this, also from Calvin:
Therefore that joining together of head and members, that indwelling of Christ in our hearts—in short that mystical union—are accorded by us the highest degree of importance. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.11.10 (2:737).)
This chapter is part of her discovery of what it means to be loved by God, and she quotes CS Lewis as saying something to the effect that the most fundamental thing is not how we think of God but rather what God thinks of us (from The Weight of Glory) leading into a quote of Jeremiah 31:3. She does then quote Teresa of Avila, writing something which sounds rather a lot like the answer to “what is the chief end of man?” from the Westminster Catechism. Then comes John Owen, that great Puritan theologian, saying:
Would a soul continually eye His everlasting tenderness and compassion ... [then] it could not bear an hour’s absence from Him; whereas now, perhaps, it cannot watch with Him one hour. (Communion with the Triune God (Crossway, 2007), 124.)
Every other discovery of God, without this, will but make the soul fly from Him; but if the heart be once much taken with the eminency of the Father’s love, it cannot but choose be overpowered, conquered, and endeared to Him. (Communion with the Triune God (Crossway, 2007), 128.)
Voskamp also does make a point of saying that this can take place anywhere “in the kitchen scrubbing potatoes, in the arching cathedrals, in the spin of laundry and kids and washing toilets”. So, while she gets all enthused standing in front of a painting of the Supper at Emmaus, by Rembrandt, listening to a choir singing Mozart, in the Louvre, I don’t think she means to imply she found something in Paris that could not be found elsewhere. It was just a moment of awareness, for her.

So, no, I was not shocked or horrified. It's true that some might find this whole level of “experience” somewhere beyond them, but I don’t think it warrants the alarm it has caused. (And this has all been an exercise for me in how we can steer a perception of a thing based on which parts we choose to pull out of it (because maybe I have pulled out sections here to suit my audience as well ... though if I flick through the footnotes of this book there are more Reformed theologians quoted than "mystics") and also how we can glean what we choose from a thing.)

And I am so ridiculous that I have actually taken out a notebook and begun a list of 1,000 things I am thankful for.

Shakespeare, 12th June

Here comes a man of comfort, whose advice
Hath often stilled my brawling discontent.

Measure for Measure, Act iv., Sc. I.

For truth can never be confirmed enough,
Though doubts did ever sleep.

Pericles, Act v., Sc. I.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The problem with 'us"

Somewhat further to what I wrote yesterday about recommending books, here is an article by Michael Jensen called The Problem with ‘us’, which points out some of the dangers, and also the benefits, of “groupthink”. Some highlights:
… when we understand the human tendency to groupthink, and to set up ‘inner rings’ (to use the terminology invented by CS Lewis), we will want to be alert to the possibility that our ‘us-ness’ is making us blind.

… it is worth remembering that the Word of God itself creates the church, and remains its only measure and judge. The church ought always to bring itself to the bar of Scripture and measure itself – not simply by what sounds like ‘us’, but by what sounds like ‘him’.

One thing is certain: if we think that ‘us’ is enough reason to decide anything, we really are failing to practice our own convictions ...

To have joy, or not

Here's another portion from One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, that I noted. Truly, I like this book.
In this wilderness, I keep circling back to this: I’m blind to joy’s well every time I really don’t want it. The well is always there. And I choose not to see it. Don’t I really want joy? Don’t I really want the fullest life? For all my yearning for joy, longing for joy, begging for joy—is the bald truth that I prefer the empty dark? Prefer drama? Why do I lunge for control instead of joy? Is it somehow more perversely satisfying to flex control’s muscle? Ah—power—like Satan? Do I think Jesus-grace too impotent to give me the full life? Isn’t that the only reason I don’t always swill the joy? If the startling truth is that I don’t really want joy, there’s a far worse truth. If I am rejecting the joy that is hidden somewhere deep in this moment—am I not ultimately rejecting God? Whenever I am blind to joy’s well, isn’t it because I don’t believe in God’s care? That God cares enough about me to always offer me joy’s water, wherever I am, regardless of circumstance? But if I don’t believe God cares, if I don’t want or seek the joy He definitely offers somewhere in this moment—I don’t want God.
One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp

Shakespeare, 11th June

Time shall unfold what plaited cunning hides:
Who covers faults, at last shame them derides.

King Lear, Act i., Sc, I.

All may be well; but, if God sort it so,
'Tis more than we deserve, or I expect.

King Richard III., Act ii., Sc. 3.

Monday, June 10, 2013

On the recommending of books

You know, after that post, writing about how I liked Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, I thought I’d just take a look at what else has been said about it around the interwebs. First I found this rather unfavourable review from Challies, then I read this very kind and gracious response by Ann, defending the biblical foundations of her book, and who invited Tim Challies to tea. Then I read this post from Challies asking Voskamp’s forgiveness. Then I read this interesting article at Christianity Today about the whole interchange (but here is a post on CT that addresses what concerned me in how she worked through eucharisteo).

I actually thought it was nobly honest of Tim Challies to admit that he might have written his review differently if Ann Voskamp was someone he considered to be an “insider”. Because that is the thing isn’t it. When I went searching on this book, I found several interviews with Ann Voskamp on the Desiring God website, and also this post on the Ligonier website, and I felt a sense of relief, a kind of ‘oh good, she’s at least kind of in our camp’. But that all becomes a wee little bit absurd at some point doesn’t it? Because none of those people are actually God himself. I mean, I do believe it’s good to listen to the judgment of others we respect. But in the end, Tim Challies is simply a guy who started a blog and started reviewing books. He is discerning, and I read his reviews (well, some of them - if I had ever read this one I had forgotten), but ultimately, he is not actually the benchmark of what is a good book.

And the funny thing is that the “insider” camp I am in is the very thing that probably means I am in very little danger of running off into any kind of mysticism any time soon. My upbringing is too far away from that. I haven’t got the final chapter of this book and the trip to Paris yet, and maybe that is going to be too much (this seems to be the most questionable chapter). We shall see. Voskamp explicitly mentions pantheism, and is well aware of what that is, but panentheism is the slightly different label Challies sends her way, which I haven't yet seen enough to declare her guilty of. She is no theological light-weight, and this is not a pink fluffy book. She also quotes many names we generally approve: Packer, Owen, Calvin, Piper, Tozer, Brueggemann, Keller.

So, to round up my scoping of the the interwebs, here is a review I found, by an English Teacher somewhere, that reflects most accurately my thoughts so far on this book, and also on the reading of books we may not endorse in entirety. The final paragraph is worth reading.

I don’t know that this post has a point. But to say, from what I can gather, most of you folks who regularly read this blog do so because at least some of the things I point to, some of the time, mean something to you in the way that they mean something to me. And so, dear reader, I am going to give you all a vote of confidence and trust this book to your own discernment and, dare I say it, edification.

Shakespeare, 10th June

How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds
Make ill deeds done.

King John, Act iv., Sc. 2.

            I know the gentleman
To be of worth and worthy estimation,
And not without desert so well reputed.

Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act ii., Sc. 3.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

To be satisfied with mystery

A few weeks ago, after I stumbled upon this beautiful post, I became curious about Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. I’d never taken any notice of it before. I guess I thought it was one of those coffee-table books that said thanks for lady bugs, cups of tea and gum boots. Not that there anything wrong with saying thanks for lady bugs, cups of tea and gum boots, and I do like this poem by Leunig, I just didn’t feel the need to read that book.

But this weekend I started reading the actual book, and I can’t put it down. It is not at all what I was expecting. It is rather her own story of struggling with the age old problem of suffering, and out of the ugliness of anger and bitterness and resentment into a life of practicing gratitude. As a child she watched her younger sister be run over and killed by a truck, as a result of which her mother ended up in a locked ward of a psychiatric hospital (recently one of the girls who used to be in my book club lost her 14-month-old daughter in an accident at home, and I actually said to another friend ‘you’d just have to let that go, and trust it to God, wouldn’t you, or you’d go mental’) and then her brother-in-law and his wife buried their two baby sons, who died of some horrible genetic disease, within 19 months.

It was actually a conversation with her brother-in-law that helped her along this path. It went like this. Don’t get too bogged in the theology of it, as it was obviously also in God’s plan that Manasseh live and do what he did, but it reminds me of something Francis Schaeffer said in an interview when he was dying of cancer: “nothing scares me more than that I could ask God for anything, and get it, because I don’t know everything”.
“You know ...”John’s voice breaks into my memory and his gaze lingers, then turns again toward the waving wheat field. “Well, even with our boys ... I don’t know why that all happened.” He shrugs again. “But do I have to? ... Who knows? I don’t mention it often, but sometimes I think of that story in the Old Testament. Can’t remember what book, but you know—when God gave King Hezekiah fifteen more years of life? Because he prayed for it? But if Hezekiah had died when God first intended, Manasseh would never have been born. And what does the Bible say about Manasseh? Something to the effect that Manasseh had led the Israelites to do even more evil than all the heathen nations around Israel. Think of all the evil that would have been avoided if Hezekiah had died earlier, before Manasseh was born. I am not saying anything, either way, about anything.”

He’s watching that sea of green rolling in winds. Then it comes slow, in a low, quite voice that I have to strain to hear.

“Just that maybe ... maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.”

The words I choked out that dying, ending day, echo. [She told her brother-in-law, the day their second son was dying in hospital “I’d write this story differently”.] Pierce. There’s a reason I am not writing the story and God is. He knows how it all works out, where it all leads, what it all means.

I don’t.

His eyes return, knowing the past I’ve lived, a bit of my nightmares. “Maybe ... I guess ... it’s accepting there are things we simply don’t understand. But He does.”

And I see. At least a bit more. When we find ourselves groping along, famished for more, we can choose. When we are despairing, we can choose to live as Israelites gathering manna. For forty long years, God’s people daily eat manna—a substance whose name literally means “What is it?”. Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don’t comprehend. They find soul-filling in the inexplicable.

They eat the mystery.

They eat the mystery.

And the mystery, that which made no sense, is “like wafers of honey” on the lips.
I like this book. The writing style is a little weird (she has habit of putting the adjectives and verbs on the end of the sentence, which doesn’t quite take my fancy) and I need to think more about what she does with the word eucharisteo, but I have been blessed and stretched and reminded of many good things by the first five chapters.

And here’s a song. A couple of weeks ago I downloaded some Ben Shive music off Noise Trade, because I had seen his name about the place. I like this one. It find it gets perhaps too “rousing” at the end, but I love how it starts. 


Shakespeare, 9th June

What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Romeo and Juliet, Act ii., Sc. 2.

I have no other but a woman's reason;
I think him so because I think him so.

Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act i., Sc. 2.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Shakespeare, 8th June

God's goodness hath been great to thee:
Let never day nor night unhallow'd pass,
But still remember what the Lord hath done.

King Henry VI., Pt 2., Act ii., Sc. I.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Friday Foto

Between my place of work and my house lies a Vinnies opportunity shop. Every afternoon I have to resist the urge to pop in for a quick look, and should I venture in I then have to resist the urge to buy random “stuff”, just because it’s some good quality piece of something going cheap (when I probably wouldn’t have bought it full price so why buy it cheap). OK, so I am pretty good on the second point, but often duck in for a quick sweep of the store. I wonder whether op-shopping works on your psyche much like gambling. Once you’ve found that one amazing treasure in there for next-to-nothing, there is always the possibility that it will happen again. Or maybe not.

Anyway, yesterday evening I did venture in, and in my sweep I found these books. True, I would probably not have bought a Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa anytime soon, but this is a nice book (see, that’s how it works). It’s also a soddingly heavy book. I don’t know what the deuce it is made out of (thick glossy paper actually), but I had to carry it all the way home and it’s extraordinarily heavy. I take a little short cut that is quite dark now that it is winter, but I thought to myself ‘well, not to worry, if anyone unsavoury comes my way tonight I can swing the Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa at them, and no one would believe I knocked them out with a book until they tried to pick this one up’.

But without further ado, here are the books.

Shakespeare, 7th June

Nought so stockish, hard, and full of rage,
But music for the time doth change his nature.

Merchant of Venice, Act v., Sc. I.

I am amazed, methinks, and lose my way
Among the thorns and dangers of this world.

King John, Act iv., Sc. 3.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

A snafu

In indexing this book I have come across the previously un-encountered word "snafu". What kind of bubble have I been living in? Maybe my whole life has been a snafu and I didn't know it.

Here are some definitions (from here and here):

a) a badly confused or ridiculously muddled situation
Synonyms: snarl, bedlam, tumult, disarray, disorder, confusion, mess; foul-up. Antonyms: order, efficiency, calm.

b) confusion or chaos regarded as the normal state

c) a situation marked by errors or confusion

Shakespeare, 6th June

O, no! the apprehension of the good
Gives but the greater feeling to the worse:
Fell sorrow's tooth doth never rankle more
Than when he bites, but lanceth not the sore.

King Richard II., Act i., Sc. 3.

'Tis not enough to help the feeble up,
But to support him after.

Timon of Athens, Act i., Sc. I.

Wisps of fog

Shakespeare will have to wait again sorry. But here are some links. (There are so many good things around on the internet it's hard to choose your reading, but these are some things that might relate particularly to single women.)

God, I will do anything, if … I really liked the quote Jean posted over there. Here is a piece of it:
You see, when you pray "Lord, I'll do anything if...", what's on the other side of that? It's your real God. It's what you really look to for security, for significance, for meaning, for hope, for joy. You're trying to use God as a means to that end.

But God will not a means to some other idol. Relationship with God is not a means, but the end we use our means to work towards. God himself is our end.
5 Notes on Dating for the Guys (H/T Jean for this one too): OK, so this is addressed to men, not women, obviously. But perhaps it might serve as a helpful guide as to when a guy is taking things seriously and when he is just messing about, which would spare us all a lot of time and heartache.

In other news, I think I am going to have to bite the bullet, take the plunge (what is a more fiscally appropriate cliche here? - "splash out"?) and buy a new computer. This is what the bottom of mine looks like. I thought this might actually have been because I sat too close to the heater one winter's night last year, but I think it is perhaps the battery of the computer that is the problem (?). As you can see, it doesn't sit flat, and it is as though it rocks sometimes and then suddenly switches off, or the screen whites out or gets up a riot of scrolling and flashing. The other night it went off and I thought it was gone for good. I didn't particularly want to buy a new one just now, but this one is now over 3.5 years old (not that old in my terms, but old in laptop years I believe) so I don't suppose it is going to worth spending money fixing anything. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

After The Great Gatsby

So, The Great Gatsby. What to say, what to say? (Let me just preface this by saying that I hadn’t read the book, and I hadn’t read a single review or even seen the trailer for this movie. It got to the point where, because I hadn’t got around to these things yet, I decided not to and to go along and be completely surprised, so here is the untainted opinion of Ali.)

I enjoyed this movie. I certainly didn’t not enjoy it.

I don’t have a list of very specific criteria by which I evaluate movies. (Maybe that’s a Myers Briggs extreme “N” thing. I know whether or not I like visual things, based on my overall intuitive sense of it, but drilling down into the details or any kind of sensory specifics of why that is I find more difficult.) But, here is one of my broad points of judgment. Usually I am one of the biggest cry babies in a theatre, who is not difficult to move, and yet, despite the tragedy of this story, I shed not one tear. I have been trying to understand why this is. I don’t know whether it was Baz Luhrmann, or the story itself (I’m suspecting Baz), but, for one example, the scenes of the 1920s parties in Gatsby’s house are so bedazzling, and so supersaturated with extravagance, that I think the only way I can explain it is to say that for me they veered so close to the line of being make-believe that they left me at a distance. I wasn’t drawn IN, I was left sitting in my chair watching from the picture theatre.

And I think that is essentially how I would describe my response to this movie. I watched it, and I enjoyed, but it didn’t involve me in it.

It is a magnificent spectacle, to the point that several times digital enhancements seemed obvious. (And I realised later that much of the strangeness of it was perhaps owing to the fact that there is a 3D option: features such as the swooping aerial photography and the cartoon-esque car-driving scenes.) If you like glitz and glamour, glitz and glamour in manifold excesses, this movie is for you. On that point it probably needs to be seen to be believed.

But if you like pathos, perhaps this movie isn’t for you. For me the only vehicle of any kind of pathos in the film was Nick Carraway, the narrator. If tragedy had come to him a few tears might have fallen.

I’m giving it 7/10. And now I might read a few reviews and think about whether or not I want to read the book.

Shakespeare, 5th June

His years but young, but his experience old;
His head unmellowed, but his judgment ripe.

Two Gentleman of Verona, Act ii., Sc. 4.

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o'erfraught heart and bids it break.

Macbeth, Act iv., Sc. 3.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Great Gatsby

I’m going to see this with a friend tonight. What I need to confess is that I have never read the book. I actually started and didn’t finish Tender is the Night, in which a mental health patient falls for her psychiatrist, and so the whole story unravels, and that’s about where I stopped with F. Scott-Fitzgerald. It’s not so much that I didn’t like aspects of that book, I just didn’t feel compelled onwards to finish it. It’s about the same time as I started Monkey Grip by Helen Garner, and didn’t finish that either, when not finishing books is not my usual modus operandi. Both of them felt like an impending shipwreck, and maybe it was all too much madness. But perhaps this movie will inspire me towards The Great Gatsby.

The Huffington Post comes to visit

So it would seem I have a link from The Huffington Post, to my post of long ago on Unheimlichkeit. Strange things will happen. All credit for that one really goes to Tim Keller.

Shakespeare, 4th June

         'Tis better to be lowly born,
And range with humble livers in content,
Than to be perk'd up in a glistering grief
And wear a golden sorrow.
                           King Henry VIII., Act ii., Sc. 3.

I am not of that feather to shake off
My friend when he must need me.
                              Timon of Athens, Act i., Sc. I.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Shakespeare, 3rd June

The life is dear; for all that life can rate
Worth name of life in thee hath estimate;
Youth, beauty, wisdom, courage, all
That happiness and prime can happy call.

All's Well that Ends Well, Act ii., Sc. I.

The force of his own merit makes his way.

King Henry VIII., Act i., Sc. I.

Weekend report

~ On Friday night I caught up with a very old friend. We reminisced about childhood days in Tamworth. It’s curious how we have our different perceptions on the same moments from times past. She says I was the wild adventurous one, which is perhaps true, but there must have been something in the inspiration, because most of these wild adventures happened in the company of this friend and her siblings. She and her husband have now planted a church over in the East of Sydney, which sounds very different to any sort of church I have ever been involved in, but they love Jesus and love people and it’s good to see old friends walking onwards and upwards.

~ On Saturday morning, after I got myself out of bed uncharacteristically early to go for a run because I had been rather slack at it during the week, I walked down King St Newtown, collected the lovely Cath, and we went to poke around at the Finders Keepers Markets. This is an Indie Art and Design Market that is only on twice a year, and I was away both weekends last year and missed them so I was keen to peruse this one. Finders Keepers is the kind of place I go for “ideas”, but the trouble is I look at all the things and optimistically say to myself ‘I could make that’, but do I ever make it? No. I particularly like to take surreptitious photos of crochet things (which is something I actually do make) but there weren’t so many crochet things this year, and I wasn’t quite as enthused about many of the wares as I have been in times past. I bought some nice notebooks from Bespoke Letterpress as they were 3 for $10, which I considered a bargain (I’ve already put two in the mail as gifts and wish I’d bought more) and some pens with cats on their ends for my niece, and a wooden Alice in Wonderland brooch because it was $7.95. I then dropped in at Cath’s place on the way home and she fed me a BLT toasted sandwich and homemade chocolate cake and good conversation, which was a lovely late Saturday lunch.

~ Later on Saturday I started work on another book index. Truth is, it’s somewhat reassuring to be asked to do another index, after I was responsible for the index which became a strange feature of this article (who would have thought?). Back then I frantically went and did a word search of that document in fear and dread, and I don’t actually think I necessarily needed to do differently as an indexer, but had I known what was coming I’d have cross-referenced John Chapman all over the index. I stayed out of all public commenting on that issue, as because I both compiled the index and used to work at Matthias Media it was all a bit sticky (there were a lot of comments on social media I never hit the “publish” button on). I have seen more loving things put in print than using a comment by a father as a lead in to publicly criticising the work of his son, but I will say no more. This current book is very interesting, and I have been underlying portions of it that have nothing to do with the index (and it even has lots of poetry in it), but I should wait till it’s published before I say anymore about this one either.

~ We have started a new sermon series at church on Exodus. So far so good. I really liked last night’s sermon.

~ I’m still reading The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. I mean, I’ve already read one good novel’s worth of pages, but am only about half way through.

~ I put flannelette sheets on my bed. I don’t think I have had these since I was a kid, but I saw some on sale and thought they might mean I didn’t spend the first half hour in bed every night in the foetal position because it was too cold down the end. They are the colour of pink marshmallow (mainly because that is all they had left as my room is actually blue if it is any colour) and it was so nice getting into bed last night.

(I forgot Shakespeare altogether again today, sorry. I did think of it last night, then forgot again. Later.)

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Shakespeare, 2nd June

           As in the sweet bud
The eating canker dwells, so eating love
Inhabits in the finest wits of all.

Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act i., Sc. I.

A proper man, as one shall see in a summer's day.

Midsummer Night's Dream, Act i., Sc. 2.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Shakespeare, 1st June

More flowers I noted  .  .  .  .
The lily  .  .  .  .  buds of marjoram  .  .  .
The roses fearfully on thorns did stand,
One blushing shame, another white despair;
A third, nor red nor white, had stolen of both.

Sonnet XCIX
(This is a bit of a mix-up of this sonnet, if you look at the original.)