Monday, May 22, 2017

Something you can do with Romans 1:18-32

It feels like it’s been an age. I recently had a week in Melbourne visiting family, which was nice. But rather than diarise my life I thought I’d share something that may be of benefit to some one or other reader.

While I was down there I went along to City on a Hill church, which meets in a cinema in Melbourne Central shopping centre. All the hipsters.

I went along with my sister and family, and they happened to be just into a series on Romans. I saw that the sermon for the day was Romans 1:18-32 and I thought ‘oh, this is going to be interesting’. And I felt a lot of sympathy for the preacher, because that passage is a tough gig in today’s world.

But afterwards I thought the sermon from Guy Mason was excellent. He didn’t avoid the truth and he said what needed to be said, and he framed it so well. The whole service was great – they way it was all put together and the quotes used and how the songs chosen were worked into what was said to create an experience of worship that was really moving (if I can write such things without some old friends thinking I’ve swum off into the charasmatic sunset).

So if you want to listen to what I think is a seriously good sermon on Romans 1:18-32, it’s here. It’s 50 mins long, but I think that’s allowable. (I personally don’t object to a long sermon, and consider that if I call myself a follower of Jesus and lover of God but whine when someone shares the Word for more than 20 minutes (about the time I can spend mindlessly phone scrolling) that’s saying something about me, not the preacher.)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Two sparrows

Here's an Instagram of my latest office decor. Today was newspaper printing and mail-out day. I have to print about 1400 copies of a paper, and the printer spits out about 32 copies before it stops and asks you to clear the tray, so I get about three and a half minutes between having to go back to the printer for tray-clearings. I was joking at work that I need a Fitbit for days like this, because I walk up and down the hall all day. Then I have to stuff them all into envelopes to send out to the parishes and others, so I was on the floor with envelopes and envelope strips and labels and newspapers everywhere. It's my most menial work task, but I actually don't mind this day. There's a satisfaction in finishing the job.

In one of those three and half minutes I took this picture. I found these birds in the green shed (stuff from the tip) shop. I call my style "granny chic" at times. Because someone has to break out of "mid-century Scandi" I say. I just liked them. I didn't think about them being sparrows till a colleague commented. And then I thought, 'two sparrows – I have heard about them somewhere before ...'. Now I like them even more.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Books that changed humanity - the King James Bible

Yesterday evening I went along to a lecture at the ANU Humanities Research Centre, as part of their series on Books That Changed Humanity. This lecture was given by Rev Dr John Harris on The King James Bible. It was truly fascinating. Not only did he talk about how the spread of this bible, in schools and homes and communities, changed the understanding people had of their relationship to God, and the moral framework of an entire culture, but then there was a discussion of the language itself.

James VI, who became James I of England, apparently gave a directive that the simple old words be used in preference to the French, and from that arose the King James Cadence, which is still a stirring cadence that has been used, and the language of the KJV alluded to, in many great speeches since (eg Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King). He pointed out that many of the most memorable verses in the KJV are composed entirely of one-syllable Saxon words (“I am the way, the truth and the life”, “I am the light of the world”), because this works. The biggest exception to this rule of short simple words in the KJV is apparently the epistles of Paul. Supposedly they contain more legal terminology because the Westminster Company that translated these letters used more of the French language, the language of the courts, in them. Words like justification, propitiation, redemption were French words. In simple Saxon they would be more like “put right with God”, “Jesus died to buy us back” (I can’t quite remember the actual phrases he used to illustrate this point) ... I thought that was so interesting. And apparently French had many words for wrong doing (crime, trespass, transgression ...), whereas Saxon had only one - “sin”.

I didn’t actually take notes, so there are many historic anecdotes and literature references I wish I could now remember (particularly to Shakespeare), but when the podcast comes up I will post it because it really was so very interesting. And the way Rev Dr Harris (you can read his credentials on the link above) delivered the lecture was in itself very moving (he even sang a little). Well worth a listen.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

After the National Folk Festival

I haven’t posted a music post here in a while. I kinda fell off the wagon of finding any new music quite a while ago. But over the weekend I had a lovely friend come down with the Sydney English Country Dancers to perform at the National Folk Festival, which is on every Easter here in Canberra. This friend very generously shouted me a ticket for a day in thanks for the hospitality. I confess I was a little ambivalent about going for some reason initially (thought I’d be wandering around all day in a crowd of people doing something like busking), but once there I really enjoyed it and discovered it was a matter of stage shows set up all over the place, with acts that were better than my memories of Tamworth Country Music Festivals growing up.

I put a few videos on Instagram, which is one way to be able to post them in blogger. The last act we saw were Flats and Sharps, from the UK, who were very entertaining. I guess you could say they were of the ilk of Mumford and Sons, but the lead singer’s voice was unusual for a folk band and “see her roses, they climb against the wall - you can’t see the cracks because he beauty conquers all” is a nice little piece of poetry ... And I can’t understand the rest. This is a little video from them.

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In the afternoon we wandered into a tent on the end of Danish Duo, Fromseier Hockings, who were much more enjoyable than the following act we’d gone in to see (it’s all potluck when you’ve never actually heard of anyone on the program). They paused their fiddling and sang this old Danish hymn, which was lovely.

Before Flats and Sharps we actually caught some of a New Zealand singer called Mel Parsons. I liked her style. I didn’t take any video but she sang this song, and having listened to the rest of the songs from the album Drylands on youtube I think I am going to by it for some nice easy-listening music (like this one too). She’s like a folksy version of Sarah McLachlan. (I also quite liked someone else I heard called Katey Brooks.)

Sunday, April 09, 2017


I haven’t got a whole lot to write about just now. I am still reading Wendell Berry’s beautiful novels about the people of Port William (though I did interrupt them to read most of Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty for book club). My new job is going well and the learning curve is still heading steeply upwards.

Yesterday I did something a little different and went in the Canberra Running Festival 10km run. As I said on social media, despite the fact that I have been a jogger for many years, I have never felt overly inclined to go in competitions or large running festivals, so I haven’t done it often. My main response to such events is something like ‘what do I need to do that for?’. I like to run, mostly, and the advantage of it for me is that it is so easy and so time-efficient as a form of exercise. I can put my shoes on and run out the door. Then I’m outside on my own and can think things through. The idea of getting in the car to go somewhere to be organised to run with a crowd of other people in some ways detracts from what I actually enjoy about it (and if you are not an elite athlete who is actually going to place in the race then you are just one of the masses).

However, there was talk among a few of us at work about going in some kind of running event and then one of the rectors sent out an email about putting a team in the Canberra running festival, so I decided to be in it. I only registered about a month before, and then the day after registering I ran 8 km in the morning, then cut down a large broad-leaved privet from my courtyard out the back, then that night I was leaning sideways over a table to talk to someone for a long while at the night noodle markets as part of Enlighten festival here, and when I got up from that table my left hip, which has been an recurring problem through the years, was gone. It was so inflamed and out of whack I had to do nothing for two weeks, and figured I’d just have to make a go of it on the day if I went in the run. So my hip still wasn’t (and isn’t) great but is mostly there. Then the whole thing coincided badly with hormones (wasn't going to mention that, but it happens to half the population and I don’t know how female athletes manage around such things), and a day that I would normally just take off. Instead I got up at 5.15 am (I actually woke up at 3.45 am and couldn’t go back to sleep), rolled the tightness out of my hip (a $10 foam roller from ALDI has been the best $10 ever spent), took two neurofen and went for a 10 km.

All that moaning done, the atmosphere was buzzing when I got there and the whole thing was it’s own kind of fun. I wasn’t far in before I felt like there wasn’t enough oxygen going into my legs and they were a bit dead, but I kept on and managed to finish in 55 minutes, 16 seconds. So I possibly could have been faster, but could also have been a lot slower, and I am happy enough with that time. The event has actually inspired me to get a sports watch, because I don’t usually wear a watch running, don’t take my phone, and basically haven’t cared how fast I have been running for years, but I think a watch or gadget that tracked time/distance might be an extra motivation and speed me up a little. I’d do the 10 km again.

I actually outdid myself for community involvement and responsible citizenship yesterday because then I went to a community open day for a new development near my house to hear about the proposed biodiversity conservation inclusions and see the plans, then last night I went to see a friend perform in a production of Les Miserables. Then I flopped into bed at midnight and stayed there till well into this morning.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Latest DIY

I don't think I posted my latest DIY project here, which was simply to get around to hanging all my op-shop find oil paintings together in my bedroom. I call it 'the op shop paintings by local women in blues collection'. I painted all the frames in the same chalk paint to link them all together, but I love that they all feature shades of the same dusty blue (one of my favourite colours of all time).

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Saturday, April 01, 2017

What I don't quite understand about how relationships reflect the gospel

(An outdoor chapel with a view, taken at our church weekend away last weekend.)

I haven’t posted a whole lot on the topic of singleness in recent times. But I thought this article was a good one (you can read it just as well as a single person as you can as a pastor of single people). He had me at “Contentment is demanded of all Christians, not just single Christians”. Yes. Thank you. (If you are tempted to tell a single person “be content”, well, you just need to know that we’ve heard that before, believe me, we have.) But the rest of it is a good challenge to us single people.

We recently had a series on marriage and sex and singleness at church. The aim was to set up a framework for thinking about them, and obviously it was relevant to a very hot topic at the moment in Australia, which we just won’t name here.

At the end of the third sermon I did ask my old chestnut of a question (well, I have only ever publicly asked it once, so I think I can have another go), partly because I thought it was relevant to that above-mentioned hot topic. My comment/question is that we say that marriage is designed to be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and his church. I understand that. And I like that. But the problem is then why does the process of getting married (at least in our current culture), not reflect the gospel at all?

When is the last time you heard someone stand up at their wedding reception and say “I love and choose X because they are dead in their sin and totally depraved”? What you normally hear is a long list of the desirability of the new spouse and the reasons why the other spouse loves them, and it’s entirely based on merit and attraction (even if you try to be pious and say you love the other person for their godliness, that is still not the gospel). And then there are all the posts to follow on social media of date nights and wedding anniversaries, which let all those of us watching know that this person’s spouse is amazing and a best friend and has a long list of talents and attractions.

It seems to me that, in being married, you may be fortunate to experience some manner of unconditional love from your spouse, after you have secured for yourself a very conditional and highly selective love. (The response was that the wedding vows say nothing about the other person, which is true, but you have to get to those vows.)

And there can be a lot of hurt and grief involved in the whole drama of getting to marriage. If, like me, you have been spectacularly rejected by someone who let it be known, far and wide, that he wanted nothing to do with you, well, you can only console yourself and praise God that he doesn’t treat you like some men here will. [That was a situation that went so so wrong it is unlikely to be repaired this side of heaven, because that person wouldn’t agree to a conversation, and it is the reason why I now make no approach at all towards single Christian men, because I prefer singleness to being humiliated and shamed and punished, even though singleness is at times very lonely – well that and I consider that Christian men, of all men, should know it is their responsibility to take the initiative (no exceptions made based on the woman’s height!) and if a man doesn’t think I am worth the risk or effort involved then why would I want a relationship with him? One of the greatest injuries and insults to my sensibilities as a woman has been the circulation of a story that, without any encouragement, I pursued a man. But I have had to come to terms with my pride and my sense of the injustice of it and the subsequent shame and trust myself to the one who knows all things and judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23]

I can’t quite grasp why, if relationships are meant to reflect the gospel, then “attraction”, and the problems it brings, is such an enormous part of them (in the current hot topic in Australia, it’s the problematic “attraction” of some that is generating the furore – if we could all be married without attraction having anything to do with it there wouldn’t be the problem with what marriage is – well, maybe not). Obviously God intended attraction to be part of relationships, because it is right back there when Isaac saw that Rebecca was beautiful, and then there’s the face-reddening Song of Songs. So, I am not questioning that it is or saying it shouldn’t be. I don’t want to marry someone I am not attracted to any more than the next person. But what that’s got to do with how relationships reflect the relationship between Christ and the church is the query/puzzle.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sometimes in the darkness of my own shadow ...

Here's a little more of Wendell Berry, from A World Lost (mostly from the last page). I love these sections, for what they write of how we can know one another, of story, of death and grief, of the entering of light, of how we learn to see in our suffering:
Perhaps it was from thinking about him after his death, discovering how much I remembered and how little I knew, that I learned that all human stories in this world contain many lost or unwritten or unreadable or unwritable pages and that the truth about us, thought it must exist, though it must lie all around us every day, is mostly hidden from us, like birds’ nests in the woods. ~Ch 7

A story, I see, is not a life. A story must follow a line; the telling must begin and end. A life, on the contrary, would be impossible to fix in time, for it does not begin within itself, and it does not end.

Within limits we can know. Within somewhat wider limits we can imagine. We can extend compassion to the limit of imagination. We can love, it seems, beyond imagining. But how little we can understand!

However we may miss and mourn the dead, we really give little deference to death. “Death”, a friend of mine said as he approached it himself, “is a convention … not binding upon anyone but the keepers of graveyard records”. The dead remain in thought as much alive as they ever were, and yet increased in stature and grown remarkably near. The older I have got and the better acquainted among the dead, the plainer it has become to me that I live in the company of immortals.

One by one, the sharers in this mortal damage have borne its burden out of the present world … At times perhaps I could wish them merely oblivious, and the whole groaning and travailing world at rest in their oblivion. But how can I deny that in my belief they are risen?

I imagine the dead waking, dazed, into a shadowless light in which they know themselves altogether for the first time. It is a light that is merciless until they can accept its mercy; by it they are at once condemned and redeemed. It is Hell until it is Heaven. Seeing themselves in that light, if they are willing, they see how far they have failed the only justice of loving one another; it punishes them by their own judgement. And yet, in suffering that light’s awful clarity, in seeing themselves within it, they see its forgiveness and its beauty, and are consoled. In it they are loved completely, even as they have been, and so are changed into what they could not have been but, if they could have imagined it, they would have wished to be.

That light can come into this world only as love, and love can enter only by suffering. Not enough light has ever reached us here among the shadows, and yet I think it has never been entirely absent.

But now I have been here a fair amount of time, and slowly I have learned that my true home is not just this place but is also that company of immortals with whom I have lived here day by day. I live in their love, and I know something of the cost. Sometimes in the darkness of my own shadow I know that I could not see at all were it not for this old injury of love and grief, this little flickering lamp that I have watched beside for all these years. ~Ch 17

Monday, March 06, 2017


Here’s a little poem Wendell Berry poem from the front of Remembering, which I think is excellent:

Heavenly Muse, Spirit who brooded on
The world and raised it shapely out of nothing,
Touch my lips with fire and burn away
All dross of speech, so that I keep in mind
The truth and end to which my words now move
In hope. Keep my mind within that Mind
Of which it is a part, whose wholeness is
The hope of sense in what I tell. And though
I go among the scatterings of that sense,
The members of its worldly body broken,
Rule my sight by vision of the parts
Rejoined. And in my exile’s journey far
From home, be with me, so I may return.

This was a very good book, which looks at what becomes of a man as he grapples with the physical loss of his right hand. Here is one part, which demonstrates how Berry can write of the human condition.
What have I done with the time? Remembering as if far back, he knows what he did with it. He stood up there in the room like a graven image of himself, telling over the catalogue of his complaints. There is a country inside him where his complaints live and do their work, where they invite him to come, offering their enticements and tidbits, the self-justifications of anger, the self-justifications of self-humiliation, the coddled griefs.

Monday, February 27, 2017

When he knows that he lives by a bounty not his own

The life updates are perhaps of limited interest, but in-between jobs I finished reading The Memory of Old Jack, by Wendell Berry. Old Jack's life was a tragedy, but this is an excellent book. Here is a fine and lovely example:
He lost his life – fifteen years that he had thought would be, and ought to have been, the best and the most abundant; those are gone from the earth, lost in disappointment and grief and darkness and work without hope, and now he is only where he was when he began. But that is enough, and more. He is returning home – not only to the place but to the possibility and the promise that he once saw in it, and now, as not before, to the understanding that that is enough. After such grievous spending, enough, more than enough, remains. There is more. He lost his life, and now he has found it again.

Words come to him: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ... Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” – the words of the old Psalm that Nancy made him repeat when he was a boy until he would remember it all his life. He had always been able to see through those words to what they were about. He could see the green pastures and the still waters and the shepherd bringing the sheep down out of the hills in the evening to drink. It comes to him that he never understood them before, but that he does now. The man who first spoke the psalm had been driven to the limit, he had seen his ruin, he had felt in the weight of his own flesh the substantiality of his death and the measure of his despair. He knew that his origin was in nothing that he or any man had done, and that he could do nothing sufficient to his needs. And he looked finally beyond those limits and saw the world still there, potent and abounding, as it would be whether he lived or died, worthy of his life and work and faith. He saw that he would be distinguished not by what he was or anything that he might become but by what he served. Beyond him was the peace and rest and joy that he desired. Beyond the limits of a man’s strength or intelligence or desire or hope of faith, there is more. The cup runs over. While a man lies asleep in exhaustion and despair, helpless as a child, the soft rain falls, the tree leaf, the seed sprouts in a planted field. And when he knows that he lives by a bounty not his own, though his ruin lies behind him and again ahead of him, he will be at peace, for he has seen what is worthy.

A new job and other updates

So, I mentioned on Valentine’s day that I received good news from work. Finally I can speak of it. A few weeks ago the Registrar of the Diocese met me in the hall and asked if he could have a chat sometime that afternoon. So, I go down to his corner office at the end of the corridor, he sits me down, then unfolds an organisational chart in front of me and starts using words like ‘service level agreements’. I sat there wondering initially whether I might be in trouble for spending too much time on the internet. But, it turns out that he was explaining to me some restructures and leading to a new position that was being created, finishing by asking whether I’d be interested in filling it.

All this was a complete surprise, but as I pondered it didn’t take long for me to realise I’d be crazy to say no, particularly when the new role would be incorporating some elements of the job I was already doing that I was enjoying the most, eg the Anglican News.

So, today was my first day as the ‘Communications and Client Services Manager’ for the Diocese. On Valentine’s day I was given my new contract, which was another nice surprise and is a help to my debt reduction and new car efforts (as a first home buyer in ACT you receive no assistance from the government if you buy an established property, but you can defer the stamp duty with ten years to pay it and nothing to pay anything for five years, so that is what I did, but I have realised that I am being charged interest, so I need to start chipping away at that for one thing).

I have been given the list of hopes and dreams of the Registrar, and some examples he is fond of, for the production of various documents (among other things) and had a mild freak out at the timelines involved today and the fact that I am not a graphic designer, but I downloaded a free InDesign template off the web, downloaded some free replacement fonts for it, asked the IT people if I could have Photoshop, and how hard can this be? ...

It’s going to be challenging but I think I am going to enjoy it and am very grateful to be given the opportunity. I will miss things from my old position as I enjoyed being involved in the ordination and professional standards/safe communities processes as concepts and working closely with the Assistant Bishops and our Director of Safe Communities, who are kind and encouraging and supportive good people, but the reality is that my role involved a lot of paper gathering and organising, and I actually feel strangely more competent about my ability to produce reports than I do about my ability to keep track of other people’s ordination paperwork, which always seemed to fail me at some point. And I have just moved around the corner so I can go back for chats.

In other news, I have a new back fence. A few months ago I got new neighbours over the back, in the place that has been empty since I moved in, and they are these fabulous retirees named Joe and Francesca from ‘Italia’. Joe pretty soon bailed my up over the fence in his singlet and asked if I was interested in replacing the fence. I was kinda fond of the weathered, dilapidated old paling fence, but it really was falling down and sliding off down the slope, and he was happy to arrange for it to be replaced, so all I had to do was go along with it. A few weeks passed before he came around with some quotes one Saturday, and by Thursday I had a new fence (I had to hastily remove my jasmine and fairy lights) – and in discussions about the fence I was sent home with spaghetti and meatballs. I love it. I now have colorbond, which is not my favourite thing, but I have since attached some lattice to get the jasmine back on it and a creeping fig, and I am hoping it is soon disguised. My pavers had started separating and sliding off down the slope also, so they had to remove some to restore the fence to its rightful place, thus on the weekend I was out trying to scrape away the extra dirt that had accumulated between them and move my pavers back to where they should be and put the last row back in. Good times. I used some spare halves to make a little edge around a garden to stop the plants and weeds running off between the pavers. It’s now looking very neat and tidy out there, but I hope it goes back to a little bit ramshackly soon.

The weekend after the new fence I had to get a plumber out as my drain blocked and no amount of plunging would set it free. Sometimes weekends feel like jobs, jobs, jobs, but I am nearing the end of things I need to deal with – for now anyway. The weekend before the one just gone, which involved the paving, I went to Church Missionary Society Canberra Mission focus weekend, which was a good day of expanding horizons beyond my back courtyard and learning of gospel work the world over.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Some people have Netflix, I have old novels

Some people spend Saturday night with TV series on Netflix, I spend them with Wendell Berry novels about a community called Port William. I recently finished Andy Catlett – Early Travels, and now I am reading The Memory of Old Jack. There are some really beautiful portions in this book on the relationships between men, and on the great place and gift of role models. A tear or two might have escaped from under my sun glasses when I read this part on the bus the other morning:
Mat is sixty-nine years old. Since before he remembers, Jack has been there to be depended on. When Mat was born, Jack was already such a man as few men ever become. He has been faithful all those years. It is a faith that Mat has reciprocated in full. But Jack’s faith has been the precedent and model. All his life Mat has had Jack before him, as standard and example, teacher and taskmaster and companion, friend and comforter. When Jack is gone, then Mat will be the oldest of that fellowship of friends and kin of which Old Jack has been for so long the center. He feels the impending exposure of that – nobody standing then between him and the grave. He feels a heavy portent in the imminent breaking of that strand of memory, reaching back into the Civil War, on the end of which Old Jack now keeps so tenuous a hold.
To have someone thus before you, in faithful dependability, would be an invaluable gift (which also holds up what is possible when people actually stay in one place long enough for such relationships to form). And when tragedy came to Mat, Jack literally caught and wrestled with and held him till his rage subsided, and so prevented him destroying his own life by carrying out a terrible revenge.

Then there’s this part, about Ben, who was Mat’s father, and of whom it is written “... Ben was the man Jack watched and listened to and checked his judgment against”:
Jack knew Ben Feltner nearly forty years, and he never saw him in a hurry and he never saw him angry. With Ben that never seemed the result merely of self-control, but rather of an abiding peace that he had made – or maybe a peace that had been born in him – with himself and the world, a willingness to live within the limits of his own fate. Both of them having grown up in his gentle shadow, Jack and Mat respected and stood in awe of the deep peaceableness they knew in Ben, both of them having failed of it, and at great cost, for so long.
That might sound somewhat idyllic, but it was not all tea on the verandah. The rest of this novel that I have read so far goes on to describe the great sadness of Jack’s life in his marriage, which is so sad I am finding it hard to read. But I will press on ...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Valentine's Day blooper

I ducked out for a latish lunchtime walk and dash to ALDI for lunch supplies today, after finishing a booklet that needed to be printed before tomorrow (I am having a lot of fun with InDesign – I said to the Bishop I was making it for, ‘I didn’t want to overdo it, but I can put more pictures in if you want’, because you can fade them away behind text and all sorts of cool things ...).

On the way in to the shopping centre I all but ignored a person with a bucket of single stem roses that people appeared to be buying. But on the way back he/she (I couldn’t actually tell) bailed me up and asked if I wanted to buy a rose to support sexual health, or something, for a gold coin donation. Without really having time to think about what I was doing or processing what they said I gave this person a gold coin, took my rose and hurried off. Then I realised, to my mortification, that there was a box of something attached to the stem, and that it contained, ahem, err, condoms, and that it was actually ‘National Condom Day’ (aimed at preventing the transmission of STIs and HIV, and unplanned pregnancies, which is not a bad thing really ...) and I might have even said out loud ‘oh, for heaven’s sake’ and shoved the whole thing top down in my shopping bag. Not only had I been walking through the city with a fake red rose, but it had those things hanging off of it! Shame on so many levels.

It made for some amusement when I got back to the office in a state of embarrassment about the whole thing. (But what I am going to do with such things I don't know ...) I then did actually get some good work-related news later in the day, which I’ll share some other time, and so I said ‘Happy Valentine’s Day to me’ in fun after telling a colleague and they respond with ‘that’s better than a condom’. Goodness gracious. Not the sort of conversation one expects to have in my workplace, and might that word never be heard again.

But for something more edifying, I had this little post in my facebook feed on Saturday, Is Their Any Purpose in Our Loneliness, from Lydia Brownbeck, whose writings I have shared here from time to time, though mostly some years ago now. (I'd recommend watching the short video, because it actually comes across better than the transcript below it.)

Monday, January 30, 2017

On regret

Not altogether unrelated to yesterday’s post, I have been reading through The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp (author of One Thousand Gifts), and I appreciated what she had to say about regrets (if there was a rewind button for life, I'd have worn it right out):
... That may be the saddest string of words that’s ever bee strung together “If only ...”

I can taste the words in my mouth. Who doesn’t know “if only ...”?

But there’s no way back. Maybe life always tastes a bit like regret. Whatever you do or don’t do, there is no way to never taste it. And though you may have to taste regret, you don’t have to believe in it, you don’t have to live in it, like rowing a boat that only goes backward, trying to find something that’s been washed out to sea. It’s God’s sea. And that means all is grace.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us ... Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Because this is the thing: the prosecutor of your soul can’t ever nail you. Time can’t wreck your life. You can’t wreck your life. Nothing in all this world can separate you from the love of Christ, and His love is your life. You life is unwreckable. Because Christ’s love is unstoppable.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Leaving the pen in God's hands

My attention was snagged by this article from Eternity Magazine that came up in my Facebook feed a week or so ago. I have thought on and off about going online (though definitely not on Tinder) – to see if I couldn’t find a nice Christian man; one who might appreciate getting to know someone and having someone to go places with (and serve God with), who might take the initiative, and allow me to communicate in writing (because that is a part of who I am and how I do things) and engage with that. But I always hesitate. Partly I just don’t want to get sucked into some kind of false hope or spending hours online trolling through profiles. And partly I just wonder if it’s a trust issue. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using such tools, and there are folks at my church who met that way, but this paragraph from the article was interesting:
I think deep down we need to really ask ourselves if we trust God. In an article called, “Is Online Dating for Christians?” popular author and speaker on the topic of singleness, Leslie Ludy said this: “It’s true that you might find a decent partner by reading books on how to get noticed or by joining an Internet dating service. But what amazing heaven-scripted beauty we forgo when we try to write the story ourselves. God is in the business of writing incredible love stories. The problem is that most of us aren’t willing to leave the pen in his hands.”
The times that I have tried to do anything towards such things, or let a man know I was interested, have been a disaster, and clearly a no from God, coming through a very loud no from the man concerned.

I have probably taken things to extremes since, because I don’t even say hello to Christian men anymore, unless they say hello to me first. That’s just something I find personally necessary, given the past, so I'm not giving any man any reason to get me into trouble or be annoyed with me. (And there have been times long ago when I have thought the man was being friendly towards me, so I have said hello, and then received a very sound scolding. So now I think that clearly I can’t predict such things and until a man says hello I will assume he doesn’t want to talk to me and that I’d do well to stay out of his way.)

So, while I am reluctant to go online, I also don’t think such things are ever going to work for me if the only opportunities are Church services and Christian events, because I am not going to walk up in a crowd of people and talk to men, and they rarely talk to me (and I am on the rosters! - just incase someone felt inclined to tell me to get involved with serving). And I flatly refuse ever to call men (because I believe they should be calling, and that is another past disaster).

But I guess that is the trust point. If God wants me to be in a relationship with someone he can bring it about, with no help or initiative from me (which, in truth, he's going to have to as I have been bitten more than once).

Saturday, January 28, 2017

My new library

I put this picture up on Instagram and shared it to Facebook the other day, and I have been surprised particularly by the Facebook response. It seems there are a lot of people who'd like a library.

The curious thing is the shelves you can mainly see in the picture have always been there. The shelves on the closest wall are what’s changed, but it was very difficult to get it all in the photo given the size of the room.

Those new shelves were a small ordeal. It involved two trips to IKEA, because parts were out of stock (after waiting for about six months to get them I thought they were completely out of stock and not coming back for a few days there, which was mildly devastating, but thankfully only some components were temporarily out of stock), and my brother-in-law having to come out to IKEA to collect them because they wouldn’t fit in my car. Then you are supposed to have two people and a spirit level to hold them upright and screw in the cross braces, so trying to do that myself while the shelves swayed first to one side and then the other was a challenge. Then I had to go to Bunnings to find something to stop the whole thing leaning forward. Then I put them one side of the railing for the blind and had started loading up the shelves, only to discover that because the door is on a diagonal into that room I couldn’t shut the door (and I don’t really need to shut the door, but I figured that if ever I had guests in there they might want to). So I took all the things off, shuffled the shelves along behind the blind railing, and I can now get the door shut with literally about 2mm to spare. You have to turn the knob to tuck the latch in to get it past. But finally they were in. And I am happy.

This room was previously the junk room, loosely called ‘the study’. I had a big old desk in there but it had just become a horizontal surface to dump stuff on and was never used as a desk, so I got sick of it and the pile of papers and paraphenalia on top of and underneath it.

Here is a photo of the room in it’s previous existence on a bad day. I gave up.

But without further ado, here is the best picture I can get of the new shelving. I still have to sort through some of that junk, and organise the books, but at least now I can see what’s there. And it's (almost) neat. And, most importantly, there is room for more books!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

He knows what is in the darkness

Here are some little pieces of encouragement from Paul Tripp’s New Morning Mercies. Lord knows my life has contained some confusing things, and I could torment myself for eternity with “what-ifs” and “if-onlys”, and I have tried till I wore out to explain other things, to no avail, so these were good reminders.

January 4
You see, there is no mystery with God. He is never caught off guard. He never wonders how he is gong to deal with the unexpected thing. I love the words of Daniel 2:22: “He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him.”

God is with you in your moments of darkness because he will never leave you. But your darkness isn’t dark to him. Your mysteries aren’t mysterious to him. Your surprises don’t surprise him. He understands all the things that confuse you the most. Not only are your mysteries not mysterious to him, but he is in complete charge of all that is mysterious to you and me.

Remember today that there is One who looks at what you see as dark and sees light. And as you remember that, remember, too, that he is the ultimate definition of everything that is wise, good, true, loving, and faithful. He holds both you and your mysteries in his gracious hands, and because he does, you can find rest even when the darkness of mystery has entered your door.
January 14
Even though you’re a person of faith who has acquired some degree of biblical literacy and theological knowledge, there’s one thing you can be sure of – God will confuse you. Your theology will give you only a limited ability to exegete your experiences. The commands, principles, and case studies of Scripture will take you only so far in your quest to figure out your life. There will be moments when you simply don’t understand what is going on. In fact, you will face moments when what the God has declared himself to be good brings into your life won’t seem good. It may even seem bad, very bad.

Now, if your faith is based on your ability to fully understand your past, present, and future, then your moments of confusion will become moments of weakening faith. But the reality is that you are not left with only two options – understand everything and rest in peace or understand little and be tormented by anxiety. There is a third way. It really is the way of true biblical faith. The Bible tells you that real peace is found in resting in the wisdom of the One who holds all of your “what-ifs” and “if-onlys” in his loving hands. Isaiah captures this well with these comforting words: “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3) ...

Friday, January 06, 2017

A sobering beginning

So I started out the week with new year plans and projects and goals, and got stuck into them on Tuesday, then on Wednesday morning a friend died, and suddenly that all didn’t seem so important anymore.

I stayed in a house with this friend and his family five years in a row over the long Easter weekend, while we went to Katoomba Easter Convention, though that was some years back now. He was a RAAF pilot who gave up that high-flying career to study theology and then plant a church in the town where the RAAF training base is located. He was dedicated to sharing the gospel any place and time he could. He had a wife and four young children. Early last year he was diagnosed with a form a leukemia, which was considered quite treatable; the chemotherapy and transplant had gone well and he was talking about going home. Then there was a fever and suddenly he was gone. The shock and the sadness is everywhere.

When someone like this friend dies early and unexpectedly, I sometimes ponder whether, if we are here on earth to become more like Jesus and join his mission of sharing the gospel, then some people go on early because they are ready – in which case I’ll be here till I’m 150 – but I know that formula doesn’t actually apply. Other times I wonder if God just looks down on us and shakes his head and smiles at the way we beg for ourselves and others to stay down here, as though we have no idea what he has in store, but I know he understands what it’s like to be human, how hard it can be for those left behind, and that he experienced grief. And when someone like this friend dies, I can’t help wondering why I am allowed to live (unless the first scenario applies!), but I know our walk with God here is not all about our doings, good and important and right as they are, and we simply have no comprehension of his ways or the plans he is working out.

So, that was a sobering beginning to the new year. Also a timely reminder of how it's worth spending it.

But, I still went to IKEA and bought the things and played around in my house. (I’ve had so many DIY and painting and sorting projects going and half done that the house was an absolute disaster. Today I decided I needed to begin the clean up and just finish what was started or I would be going back to work on Monday in chaos.) They say we should live like each day is our last. But that is hard. I wonder if perhaps it’s hard spiritually because it’s also hard practically – we don’t even grocery shop like it’s our last day. Still, when these things happen you feel like you want them to make a difference, though that can be hard to measure.

I did go out to Koorong this week and buy New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp. I have benefitted a lot from Paul Tripp’s books in the past, so decided I wanted to read through this book this year. It’s not something I want to substitute for bible reading, but I am looking forward to the soul prompts. In the introduction he writes this:
So this devotional is a call for you and me to remember. It’s a call to remember the horrible disaster of sin. It’s a call to remember Jesus, who stood in our place. It’s a call to remember the righteousness that is his gift. It’s a call to remember the transforming power of the grace you and I couldn’t have earned. It’s a call to remember the destiny that is guaranteed to all of God’s blood-purchased children. It’s a call to remember his sovereignty and his glory. It’s a call to remember that remembering is spiritual war; even for this we need grace.
May that be so this year.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Catching up

I have returned from almost two weeks in Queensland. I spent the day with my Mum and my younger sister and her family and then we had Christmas dinner with my Mum’s extended family, which was very pleasant (I repented of my bad attitude in that last post). I sat down next to a cousin who has just not showed up at family gatherings for the last few years, so I was a little surprised and very glad to see them there. And another cousin who has had a few troubled and non-participatory years was there also being just lovely, and I had a few conversations with them. (A lot of my cousins are a good bit younger than I am, so I am talking about people in their early twenties here.) My dear old Nanna is struggling with her hearing recently and also her memory and at one point in the night I said to her “so are you looking forward to moving” (they are soon to move into my Aunt’s home, from their own house in another town on a large block of land, about which the family is overjoyed) and she paused and I thought, oh dear, that was a bad question to ask (it’s taken them a long time to be ready for this move), and then she pats my leg and says ‘well it’s better than a bad marriage, and there are plenty of those around’. I then paused and I still have no idea what she thinks I might have said, so I let that one go. I caught up with a couple of old friends and there were a lot of questions, but people only ask because they care, so I should be thankful for that, and it was great to see them.

It was a nice time up there, though the last few days were insufferably hot and humid. On New Year’s Eve I walked with a bunch of folks up one of the bush tracks up Mt Coot-tha to watch the 8.30 pm fireworks, then we walked down again. Boy that was hot and sticky on the way up but on the way down it was pleasant. It’s a fun thing to do that doesn’t require waiting half the night in cocktail attire, which suits me nicely.

I like to have a bit of reflection time around New Years, with some time alone for it, which is harder when you are away in someone else’s house, but I have formed a few resolutions, or maybe they are intentions. One is just a simple thing, which is that I shall eat my breakfast and dinner at the dining room table, instead of wherever takes my fancy in the living room (usually on the floor in front of the heater all winter!), and keep my bible there so I can read a chapter or two. I consistently read devotional material on the bus to work last year, but I would like to get through more of the bible as well this year. I’ve also got the usual exercise goals (since moving to Canberra and tearing my calf muscle and then having surgery I have added some padding I want to lose) and goals of better time management, particularly around social media. Then I want to spend less, but also get out more, which are probably not compatible ...

I was originally going back to work today, but then I decided to have the rest of this week off and I have a long list of house jobs to do. Today I went for the first jog in more than two weeks, then just did post-holiday washing, poked in my garden, which barely survived my time away, went and bought more chalk paint for furniture, then dropped in to the tip shop and found the perfect old cupboard in a size I have been looking for since I moved in (only I’m now going to have to paint that too), packed up Christmas decorations, pulled one crate of clothes I haven’t worn out from under the bed, and put one coat of paint on some shelves I also found at the Green Shed before Christmas (so many things to paint! - I’ll do a reveal when I finish them all).

I’m hoping to blog a few more things of substance this year, but I won’t make any promises. I’ve decided the key to continued blogging is actually to take the pressure off yourself to do it.

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year and some time to rest.