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