Saturday, May 31, 2008

A new blogroll

Observant readers, who haven’t moved on to rss readers, might note that I updated my blogroll. Then I was faced with the dilemma: but how do I sort them? Do the people at the top look like my favourites? Do viewers never make it to the bottom? Then I discovered that with one click of a button in the new blogspot I could apply that universal leveller: the alphabetical order. But at least you get alphabetical order on the names you chose for yourself, and not those your parents chose for you. And, you did actually get to keep your own name. Meanwhile, I nearly choked laughing at the name Ben over here, who has taken it upon himself to rename the blogs of others, gave mine.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Poetry Friday - cancelled joy

Today is the last poem from Sophie Hannah, and I thought I would post one of her more light-hearted, witty poems. She has a gift for articulating those ordinary events and feelings that we all identify with and I am sure you will relate to this unexpected joy:


The Cancellation

On the day of the cancellation
The librarian phoned at two.
My reading at Swillingcote Youth Club
Had regrettably fallen through.

The members of Swillingcote Youth Club
Had just done their GCSEs
And demanded a rave, not poems,
Before they began their degrees.

Since this happened at such short notice
They would still have to pay my fee.
I parked in the nearest lay-by
And let out a loud yippee.

The librarian put the phone down
And muttered, ‘Oh, thank the Lord!’
She was fed up of chaperoning
While the touring poet toured.

The girl from the local bookshop
Who’d been told to provide a stall
But who knew that the youth club members
Would buy no books at all

Expressed with a wild gyration
Her joy at a late reprieve,
And Andy, the youth club leader,
And the youth arts worker, Steve,

Both cheered as one does when granted
The gift of eternal life.
Each felt like God’s chosen person
As he skipped back home to his wife.

It occurred to me some time later
That such bliss, such immense content
Needn’t always be left to fortune,
Could in fact be a planned event.

What ballet or play or reading,
What movie creates a buzz
Or boosts the morale of the nation
As a cancellation does?

No play, is the simple answer.
No film that was ever shown.
I submit that the cancellation
Is an art form all of its own.

To give back to a frantic public
Some hours they were sure they’d lose
Might well be my new vocation.
I anticipate great reviews.

From now on, with verve and gusto,
I’ll agree to a month-long tour.
Call now if you’d like to book me
For three hundred pounds or more.

Sophie Hannah, First of the Last Chances

Photo from stock.xchng.com

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Defamation law for bloggers

Last Friday I went to three hours of training on defamation. I actually found it really quite fascinating, largely because I was quietly applying much of what was said to my blog and not to my job (in which I am largely covered by some of the defences against defamation). There were a number of aspects of defamation I was not aware of, which are potentially of concern to bloggers. For example, did you know that if you post a book review, which causes an ordinary and reasonable person to think less of the author, you could be liable for defamation? Or that if someone posts a defamatory comment on your blog you, as the publisher, could be liable for their comment? The good news is that because defamation is a tort, that is a civil wrong, the plaintiff (ie the person defamed) recovers damages (unlike breaching restrictions on publications, which is a statutory prohibition which can have quasi-criminal penalties eg imprisonment), so someone is unlikely to sue an obscure little blog somewhere if there is no very great capacity for recovering damages.

However, it has happened and could happen and I thought much of the material was worth thinking through because avoiding the possibility of defaming a person is little more than an exercise of integrity, godliness and Christian charity. So I thought I would post some of what I learnt that day, as it relates to blogging. The presenter of this information was Graham Hryce, who is Special Counsel from Banki Haddock Fiora and very highly qualified in this area. My disclaimer is that I don’t guarantee that this is an entirely accurate report of his seminar. I am not a lawyer and some of the nuances of the law were perhaps lost on me, so don’t make this blog post your authority :), but you can read more here.

What do we mean by defamatory material? A jury of four, in NSW, will need to be convinced that the material is defamatory. The test is whether it causes an ordinary and reasonable reader to think less of the person to whom it refers. Whether the author or plaintiff think it is defamatory is irrelevant (but a plaintiff can certainly argue hurt to reputation or even hurt to feelings). An ordinary or reasonable reader is a right-minded member of society, of average intelligence, not prejudiced or a lover of scandal, capable of loose thinking (if anyone has been observing the evolution of this sentence I have gone back to "loose thinking", because weird as it sounds for a right-minded person to be capable of "loose thinking" that is the correct phrase) and reading between the lines (or something like that anyway!).

The plaintiff has to prove identification, but that can include a title or position, reference to a group etc (ie the plaintiff doesn’t have to be named). The test is objective and reasonableness is the key, with the intention of the publisher being irrelevant (ie you can defame someone without intending to and you can also defame someone without naming them or knowing that they exist). If you are going to refer to people it is actually better to be specific, eg if you say “a real-estate agent in Newtown” and there are 12 real-estate agents in Newtown, the other 11 you weren’t referring to could sue for defamation – so you are better to name the person to whom you refer if you give them any identifiers at all.

There are four primary defences in defamation cases:

- Truth/Justification
- Honest opinion (formerly fair comment)
- Qualified privilege
- Fair and accurate report

Truth
Since 2006 truth alone is now a defence, which is why we see so much salacious private material being aired. However, there are now moves towards a tort for “invasion of privacy” because the “public interest” requirement that existed before 2006 has been done away with. So don’t be too comfortable thinking you can blog anything at all just because it’s true. It’s actually very difficult to make out a truth case and very few have been won. Pleas of truth have to relate to meanings that arise, so you can defame someone in a way you didn’t intend.

Honest opinion/fair comment
This one is perhaps most relevant to blogging. Fair comment/honest opinion protects comment but not allegations of fact. The comment has to relate to a matter of public interest. The facts must be duly stated or referred to in the matter for comment and the opinion has to be honestly held. This defence is difficult to make out. The best cases are descriptions of books, plays and restaurants. Provided you have stated the “content” truly (the play or the menu) there is some leeway for comment, but you have to state the facts truly eg if you describe a meal you had a restaurant your description has to be accurate before you “comment” – get any of the “facts” wrong and you won’t have a case. The practical difficulty of this defence is that theoretically it affords wide protection but rarely succeeds. It has to be a very carefully constructed article to have all the facts correct.

The other thing to note here is that publishers are liable for repeating defamatory material. Just because someone else said it first, doesn’t mean it’s fine for you to reproduce it. As Lord Denning once said “Hearsay statement is the same as direct statement because the law does not love tale-bearers”.

Fair and accurate report
This defence protects material that is an account of court proceedings or other tribunals. In this case the accurate report doesn’t have to be fair to the plaintiff. However there is often disagreement over what is fair and accurate.

Qualified privilege
This is a statutory qualified privilege that protects material in circumstances in which the publisher has acted reasonably in publishing the matter complained of. But the courts have defined “reasonableness” in an onerous manner for the defendants ie the plaintiff has been given an opportunity for comment and the comment has been published eg asking for a response. You will notice that newspaper reports often do this (and often report that "so and so declined to comment" - that is ensuring that they can claim qualified privilege).

So, finally, some problem areas and ways to minimise risk:

* Take care to ensure that the facts are truly stated – this provides a great deal of protection (and is a matter of integrity at any rate!).

* Distinguish allegations of fact from opinion eg in book reviews make it very clear what material is content from the book, and what material is your comment on it. Further, do not destroy an otherwise good review with a heading that is biased or a statement of fact eg, without actually being aware I chose a safe heading for my review of Captivating in “Captivating: My thoughts”. If I had titled it “Captivating is not worth reading” I would have condemned my entire review to defamation.

* Beware of material that contains generalisations – it is much better to be specific.

* Be wary of sources from people who have an axe to grind or particular biases.

* Don’t assume that previously published material is reliable or accurate. People often get into trouble reporting material that they don’t understand.

* Avoid imputing motives to people – you should never do this!

So, that's all and hopefully these principles provide a guide in the direction of responsible blogging.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Something that would quite satisfy

I have referred a little lately to believing the good in God’s providence, and Nicole has blogged of this recently also. I have recently been re-reading through Phantastes by George MacDonald, just here and there and on the bus, and I was reminded of this point yet again. This book is in some sense allegorical, though that is not always quite so parallel or explicit as say the work of C.S. Lewis (and I am well aware of some of the major points of divergence with MacDonald’s theology). In Chapter XIX, the hero of the story, Anodos, has been wandering for some time through fairy land, coming to both good and ill, when he arrives at the cottage of the ancient wise woman, whose eyes were yet young. She comforts and restores him for a good while after his recent misadventures. There are four doors leading out of her cottage and once Anodos is back to health he feels compelled to venture out of each one in turn. The first door isn’t named but is clearly the door of tears or of grief. That is the door through which Anodos came and that is what he finds out there again before he returns to the cottage. The second door is the door of Sighs, the third the door of Dismay. Anodos ventures through each door and finds the thing indicated. He ignores the woman’s pleas and disappears lastly out the fourth door, the door of the Timeless, and through this door the old woman must venture after him to bring him back. This brings certain calamity on the old woman and she sends Anodos away before it comes. However, this is what she says on his departure:

“But I beg of you, for my sake, my dear child, to do one thing. In whatever sorrow you may be, however inconsolable and irremediable it may appear, believe me that the old woman in the cottage, with the young eyes” (and she smiled), “knows something, though she must not always tell it, that would quite satisfy you about it, even in the worst moments of your distress.”

The book later concludes with these two sentences:

“Yet I know that good is coming to me – that good is always coming; though few have at all times the simplicity and the courage to believe it. What we call evil, is the only and best shape, which, for the person and his condition at the time, could be assumed by the best good.”

I loved it. And yet I have often not be quite satisfied with sentences like the last one, because it gives a small nagging voice in me somewhere cause to wonder about the “condition” of a person that necessitates the circumstances. I actually started writing this post last night, and was going to elaborate on that idea, and then just before I left work today I was blog flicking and read this post by Jean, in which she actually does so very nicely, and then I read this post by Simone. The SolaPanel has also been posting a series that relates by Peter Bolt. So, I might leave you to all those wise words, conserve cyber space and take the advice of Nicole over here and go and read a book!

Pleonasms and neoplasms

I've made up a phrase (which I thought was rather silly but cool :), so I decided to blog it), that being that "pleonasms are multiplying like neoplasms". I actually stumbled across the association because I was once accused, by a teacher of language, of using a pleonastic superlative (when I was attempting to be affirming by telling them that their "apology was most accepted"). I was amused and tried to repeat that to someone else and found myself talking about neoplastic (a word I had in my head somewhere from biological days), at which point I stopped and thought, 'no that's not right'. Here's what the words mean:

Pleonasm:
1. the use of more words than are necessary to express an idea; redundancy.
2. an instance of this, as "free gift" or "true fact".
3. a redundant word or expression.

Neoplasm
1. a new, often uncontrolled growth of abnormal tissue; tumor.
2. An abnormal new growth of tissue that grows by cellular proliferation more rapidly than normal, continues to grow after the stimuli that initiated the new growth cease, shows partial or complete lack of structural organisation and functional coordination with the normal tissue, and usually forms a distinct mass of tissue which may be either benign or malignant.

Anyway, so I shall endeavour to minimise the neoplastic use of pleonastic phrases in this blog ...

(And just remember that you read it here first ;) ... And hopefully this mail-in post doesn't look all ridiculous like the last one - which it did - even more ridiculous - so I have just fixed it up and removed all the formatting lingo. It seems like mail in posts aren't going to work for me.)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Teacher Meme

Nicole tagged me for this meme. I have stalled on it a while, primarily because I didn’t want to blog over the weekend (have spent too much time at it lately!) and partly because I wasn’t personally all that inspired by this one. So I started thinking about that and sat down to write, ending up with something of a memoir of my life at school, which had very little to do with the teachers. So, now I will stick to the task at hand, and some of my favourite teachers were:

Mr Dennis, my year 9-10 maths teacher, who acted like Oscar the Grouch but we all knew he didn't mean it. He was old and he’d glower at us all from under his bushy eyebrows and bellow things like "you're further behind than Walla Walla" or "well stone the crows and starve the lizards". Then he'd prowl around the classroom and state things like "what you miss out on the razzle dazzle, you pick up on the hurdy gurdy". When he had nothing else to do, because he'd put us all to work, he'd pick up the big old wooden metre ruler, toss a piece of chalk in the air and swing at it. Occasionally he sent a piece of chalk smashing into a wall somewhere. Don't ask me for any sort of technique, he was just very good at teaching maths, and that’s where I really sunk my teeth into and learnt my capabilities.

I’ve mentioned Mrs Baxter in the past. She was my year 11 and 12 English teacher. In her class we studied Jane Eyre and it burned into me somewhere. We analysed John Donne’s poems and I discovered that it was worth the effort to understand metaphysical poetry. English didn’t perhaps come as easily to me as Maths at the time, but it meant so much more, and I discovered that I didn’t have to be a “Maths person” OR an “English person" but could flout the system and have them both. So I stayed back for two hours of 3 Unit English on a Wednesday afternoon, after hours of Maths, and it was the highlight of the week. When Mrs Baxter handed back my last assignment on which she’d written that I had reached my zenith, I felt like I could finish school happy.

Professor Peter Jarman taught Wildlife Management when I was at university and supervised my Honours. He was a very proper Englishman who often wore a cravat and spoke with perfect diction. His lectures were masterpieces of precisely crafted sentences. But in them he taught us, amongst other things, that the most obvious course of action is not always the best one to achieve the higher goal. One day as I set off to gather data at Wallaby Creek he said “drive carefully now because the roads will be slippery after the rain”, and I was amused but also rather moved.

David Calderwood came to our church as the assistant minister as I was heading into high school. He was a tall Irishman with blonde curly hair who reminded us all a little of my Dad. He lead the youth group and taught us to be deadly serious about God and personal holiness, but to have a whole lot of fun with everything else. And his was a pure religion that meant he gave up his time to teach a widow’s kids how to drive. (And I will just add in the senior minister John Paterson here too, who is a man for whom I have great respect. Colin Buchanan refers to him in the front of one of his CDs as a man who “always speaks a word in season”, and that’s about right. Ever since I have left that church in Tamworth I have been discovering how much I learnt there.)

My Mum must have taught me something. One of the memorable things she used to say is that “one of the chief lessons of adulthood is deferring pleasure”. I still think she’s right. The people in this world who haven’t grown up include those who haven’t learnt to do what they need to do before they do what they want to do.

Oh, and I almost forgot to add that if you haven't been tagged for this already and feel so inclined, then now's your opportunity.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Poetry Friday - My Dad did

I only found this Sophie Hannah poem this week, so it has replaced another. Sophie Hannah is now firmly entrenched as one of my favourite poets of all time, though I am half a box of tissues the poorer for it:

Your Dad Did What?

Where they have been, if they have been away,
or what they've done at home, if they have not -
you make them write about the holiday.
One writes My Dad did. What? Your Dad did what?

That's not a sentence. Never mind the bell.
We stay behind until the work is done.
You count their words (you who can count and spell);
all the assignments are complete bar one

and though this boy seems bright, that one is his.
He says he's finished, doesn't want to add
anything, hands it in just as it is.
No change. My Dad did. What? What did his Dad?

You find the 'E' you gave him as you sort
through reams of what this girl did, what that lad did,
and read the line again, just one 'e' short:
This holiday was horrible. My Dad did.

Sophie Hannah

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thunder Thighs in Valparaiso

Today I began the Global Corporate Challenge. I don’t very often participate in work events, so when this one came around I decided to join in. The idea is that you are put into a team of seven people from your company, given a bag of goodies (mouse pad, cap, water bottle - all the usual corporate marketing paraphernalia), which contains two pedometers, and encouraged to walk 10,000 steps a day. You enter your step count into the website every day and take a virtual journey around the world. First we had to decide on a team name, which was an amusing endeavour. One fellow was convinced that the name should contain either "ninjas" or "assassins". Another thought we should use Thomson and Reuters Excellent Walkers because it was a play on words of a famous movie. Call me stupid but I couldn’t pick the movie. Apparently it was "Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures", and apparently word substitution will do for a play on words for some. In a moment of stupidity I sent my team an email saying "I have it! The Thomson Thunder Thighs!" (not at all being serious). Anyway, you know what happens with stupid ideas and that actually became the group consensus, after a little squabbling, so I now am in a team called The Thomson Thunder Thighs, and it was actually MY idea. This morning I clipped on my pedometer and it appears that for the next four months I am to be dogged by this small rattling thing which sounds like there is a stone in my shoe. The challenge began in Valparaiso, Chile. It made me think of this great song by Sting, which I taught myself to play on the flute many years ago just because I really liked it. It’s a little reminiscent of an Irish Ballad and just because I can I’ve pasted it in here:

Valparaiso
Written by Sting

Chase the dog star
Over the sea
Home where my true love is waiting for me
Rope the south wind
Canvas the stars
Harness the moonlight
So she can safely go
Round the Cape Horn to Valparaiso

Red the port light
Starboard the green
How will she know of the devils I've seen
Cross in the sky
Star of the sea
Under the moonlight
There she can safely go
Round the Cape Horn to Valparaiso

And every road I walked would take me down to the sea
With every broken promise in my sack
And every love would always send the ship of my heart
Over the rolling sea

If I should die
And water's my grave
She'll never know if I'm damned or I'm saved
See the ghost fly
Over the sea
Under the moonlight
There she can safely go
Round the Cape Horn to Valparaiso

Cate and me

People often tell me that I look like Cate Blanchett, so I have a certain curiousity for what she's doing, what she's wearing, how she has her hair, that sort of thing, and generally I am rather pleased with the association and think she is all class, but today I think this is the ugliest dress ever (and I am not very happy about her role in Indiana Jones).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Leunig on the internet

I couldn't give you Leunig on stuff but here is Leunig on the internet, with a similar flavour. Go over there and smile and nod your head and say "so clever, so insightful, I like that, yes I want the simple life" and such things ... then keep right on clicking around the internet :) ... (at least that's what I did).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Relentless, virulent, invasive and addictive

Don't know about anyone else, but there's a battle going on at my place, which shows no signs of letting up anytime soon ... And here I wanted to paste in this great Leunig cartoon about “Stuff”, but having recently been in training on “restrictions on publication” I thought I’d better just check the copyright situation. Yes, because, congratulations to all you bloggers because you are actually published authors! I did find this helpful little post on blog copyright dos and donts, realised that perhaps I couldn’t post it without permission from Leunig himself and The Age newspaper, so then tried to find it elsewhere on the internet so I could just link you to someone else’s breach of copyright, but I couldn’t, and now about an hour of my life that I will never get back again has gone and I give up.

One for the boys

On Sunday afternoon I went to the AFL (football for those not in Australia). That’s about all I can tell you about it, cause that’s about all I know about it! The Sydney Swans played the Essendon Bombers, and the Swans won, by a whopping 143 to 52, which is all that really matters (though I am still undecided about a football team that call themselves the "Swans”). A chap, whose name I believe is Michael O’Lachlan, gave us lots to cheer about, as did the unknown No. 26, who scored a number of goals himself and kicked the ball to a few others (when I am sure he could have done it himself) to score an easy one (I liked the way he did that – nice little bit of sharing – I’m all for caring and sharing with my football). I’ve never been to a live football match in my life, and it was actually a lot of fun! Even when you’re not taking much notice of the football the atmosphere is just lively and exciting. (And what can I say, I think AFL players have nice physiques – they still have necks ...) Of course we ate the obligatory junk like hot chips with tomato sauce and all that which just comes with the event. Here are some photos:

We had great seats, right down near the goal posts




Some of the gang who went. Me (in bad perspective), my friend Trish, who actually coaches Auskick and actually knew the rules - very impressive, Candice and Evan.




This was a successful goal kick, but I don’t know what happened to the ball

Monday, May 19, 2008

More on princesses and psychology

Karen over at Matthias Media has helpfully pointed me in the direction of another article on Captivating, which I didn't know existed.

Further, I mentioned the Cloud/Townsend duo in the last post and thought this was a good review on the Boundaries book (which I never finished, I must confess).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Captivating: My thoughts

I have made my way to the end of Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge. There are a number of good reviews existing of this book, as I have already mentioned, particularly this one by Nicole Starling, and this one by Donna Thoennes, so this one will be brief (and I have discovered that it is quite time consuming to write a good book review!). Let me just preface this by saying that I like psychology. On my shelves you will find a number of books by Larry Crabb, even Cloud and Townsend (not so impressed with them though) and others. If I am going to err in one direction it’s in being too introspective. And I like romance. I own Kate and Leopold on DVD. I even, I am embarrassed to admit, own A Hazard of Hearts by Barbara Cartland on DVD (though I don’t take that one entirely seriously – and its redeeming feature is that I think neither do the actors). I devour poetry. There once was a time when I’d arrive at church and people would ask “is there a carriage stopped out front?” because I’d turned up looking like I wanted to be in Pride and Prejudice. I love artwork and nature and pink things that twirl. I also like exciting adventures, and I have had a few of those. And I will be honest and say that I have seen a psychologist, and a counselor, about some of my personal “stuff”, because I am aware that I have stuff (doesn’t everybody?) and I don’t mind facing it. And if there is something that will assist me to be a more “healthy” person or to live a more God glorifying life, well I am prepared to explore. All of that is partly why I thought I’d read Captivating. I just don’t think I am one of those hard-headed, cold-hearted women who is completely out of touch with her feminine self, afraid of her psychological make-up, or who is immune to romance and beauty. And God knows I’d like to be appreciated, fought for and be someone’s priority. But I still don’t like this book. (I write those things because the authors themselves imply that if you don’t like their ideas you are simply an inhibited woman who isn’t being honest with herself. Not so.)

To start, Donna’s article, linked above, has discussed in detail the problems in the book of projecting upwards from our human desires and relationships to the characteristics of God. I have to agree. I may have my theology wrong, and I would appreciate any feedback, but it seems to me that in the garden of Eden, in perfect relationship to God, it still wasn’t good for man to be alone. Whether or not you think what was required was a spouse, or more generally other human companionship, I think it is clear that even a perfect relationship with God was distinct from what was “not good” at the level of human relationships, and the two are not necessarily interchangeable. I felt that this book constantly blurred and merged the distinction and made Jesus and/or God answer to all our human needs. For example, there is a chapter called “Romanced”, which is intended to be about relationship with God. However, the next chapter is called “Arousing Adam” and begins with the sentence in brackets “We’ll bet you were thinking about the man in your life through most of the last chapter”. Well, I was trying hard not to think about men, because I didn’t think that was the purpose of the chapter (though it was hard to focus on the vertical I confess, because it was so couched in terms of horizontal romance). But then I certainly couldn’t apply the chapter “Arousing Adam” back to my relationship with God, and thus the book switches back and forth throughout between the human and the divine in ways that left me muddled for much of it. Similarly, I am told in “Romanced” that I don’t need to wait for a man to be romanced (page 113) and instead can picture myself in all my favourite romantic movie scenes and imagine myself as the Beauty and Jesus as the lover. Personally, I think that would be a problematic way of dealing with singleness (or a bad marriage). The writer’s rightly make the point that you don’t need a man to be fully a woman, but I think you do actually need a human relationship to engage in the kind of “romance” they describe, and that attempting to put Jesus into that place is rather foolish (and I believe they have misused the concept of Jesus as “Bridegroom” in doing so – and have also misused Hosea and Song of Songs). Instead I think that I, as a single woman, acknowledge the lack of that human relationship, but that Jesus answers to my deepest human needs, which I don’t think actually do include romance as they describe it, but rather the saving and surpassingly constant love of Jesus, which forgives me my sin and restores my relationship with the creator of the universe, and makes me a joint heir with Christ of eternal life. (In clarification, I do believe that Jesus is all you really need in this life, but I don’t believe that means that you paste Jesus in for all your other perceived needs and/or desires – I think that it means rather that you often need to get a different perspective on those needs/wants and see them in the light of eternity.)

In addition, there are three theological premises in the book, which I couldn’t substantiate in my bible. The first is set up in the beginning and constantly referred back to, and that is that woman is the crowning point of all creation, and that I can tell myself “creation reached its zenith in me”. Granted, creation was not good before the creation of woman, but I think the bible describes the woman as a sideways step from Adam, and not something yet more glorious. The writers then claim that women hold a special place in the heart of God. Building on from that argument is the chapter about the devil’s special hatred for women. The devil, apparently, particularly hates women, because they are uniquely glorious (and he is jealous because he longer can be), and so they are particularly the objects of his “assault”. I find those to be rather significant claims, which underlie much of what is written in the book, for which I can’t find any biblical basis. According to the authors, if you listen to any woman’s story it is one of “the assault on her heart”, beginning with the “assault”, from Satan, in the garden of Eden. Eve’s responsibility in the fall is given one paragraph, and then Adam takes the rest of the blame for doing “jack squat” and the way men sin through violence or passivity is discussed at greater length (and we are told that “Lord knows men are selfish and self-centred”). Now, I don’t for a minute dispute that Adam was culpable in the garden, but the disobedience and sin of women gets nothing more than a swiftly passing mention in the early stages book, and for the rest of the book women are described in terms of undeserving victims of the attacks of the devil and the damage inflicted on them by others. So, half way through the book any woman reader is buoyed along by the idea that Jesus yearns for me because I am beautiful, in my very essence, the devil only hates me because I am glorious, men disappoint me and don’t come through for me because they’re selfish, and I am wounded and assaulted but possess an “inner radiance that the world desperately needs to see”. Can anyone not see the problem with that?!

As a result of those premises, I feel that the authors greatly over-emphasis the need of women to be released to be their unique and beautiful selves, without any serious reference to sin and to pursuing a Christ-conforming godliness (though I think they would argue that “unveiling beauty” is becoming more like Christ, when the truth is more that the only thing that makes us beautiful, and what the world desperately needs to see, is Christ in us). An example of how this sort of approach is applied occurs in the chapter on motherhood, where there is a paragraph that I find quite astonishing:

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6 NKJV). This verse is not a promise about faith. It is not speaking of training a child to follow Christ or promising that if you do, the grown child will continue to follow him. Sorry. The proverb is about raising a child to know who he is and to guide him in becoming ever more himself. In the way he should go. Not in the way you would like him to go in order to validate you as a mother and a woman. It speaks of teaching a child to live from his heart, attuned to it, awake to it, aware of it, and when that child is grown he will continue to live a life from the heart. It is about seeing who a person really is and calling him out to be that person. The impact on a life that has been seen and called out is dramatic and eternal.”

Now, there is some wisdom in there, and I am not for a moment an advocate of squelching the individuality of children and I do believe in letting them be who they are (and I think I have suffered myself from being interested in, and good at, things that were of no interest to my family, eg when I won the athletics champion trophy in year 5, I went home and left it in my school bag and didn’t show or tell my Mum, because I knew she didn’t care for athletics – my dead father on the other hand would have been very excited – so I do have the personal experiences I can slot into this book). And neither do I think that verse promises that if you raise a child to follow after Christ the child will necessarily continue in him. But I do believe it is a proverb to that effect, as all the proverbs express general principles. (And my question to the authors would be, how could your impact on a child be eternal in the absence of teaching them Christ?) This interpretation of scripture illustrates what the authors of this book appear to most value, that being you, and your children, being set free to be your unique and lovely selves.

My conclusion on this book would be much like the last paragraph of Nicole and Donna’s, that our focus needs to be shifted back up to the true beauty of Christ and that the three longings of a woman to be romanced, to play a role in an irreplaceable adventure, and to unveil beauty would be better shaped to be to grow in love for Christ, to participate in his work of bringing the good news of the gospel to the world and to more and more reflect his beauty. It's been said that this book helps women appreciate how much God loves them, but I actually find it sadly lacking in doing so, precisely because it conveys that in order to understand God's love for you, you need to believe that he finds you captivating. But the true greatness, depth and enormity of God's love for us is that he sees more of our ugliness than anyone ever will, yet loves us so much more than anyone ever will all the same.

P.S. If you want to read something more helpful about the relentless longing of humanity for security and significance, then I would rather recommend Finding God by Larry Crabb. I am sure you could find problems with that book also, but it takes a much more biblical approach to the issue (I haven’t read it for a few years, but there is much in it that answers to some of what is raised in Captivating). And if you think he doesn’t understand the difference between genders, then read Men and Women: Enjoying the Difference.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

God means you well

Those of you who read this post of mine recently would have detected my faulty view of God in the confession. When I’m feeling down I often fall into thinking that God is not really on my side, or else that he is like a great task-master in the sky, with a very long list of lessons for me to learn - which I never quite manage to pass. So, I was encouraged, and reminded of my error, this week in reading two posts on two different blogs, which both address how very wrong such thoughts are (and I feel compelled to post them in here to put all to rights!). See here at Radical Womanhood and here at Girltalk. Actually, I will paste in the quote from JC Ryle, which I stole from the second blog (and think is marvellous):

Reader, if God has given you His only begotten Son, beware of doubting His kindness and love, in any painful providence of your daily life! Never allow yourself to think hard thoughts of God. Never suppose that He can give you anything which is not really for your good. Remember the words of Paul: ‘He who spared not His own Son—but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things’ (Romans 8:32).

See in every sorrow and trouble of your earthly pilgrimage the hand of Him who gave Christ to die for your sins! That hand can never smite you except in love! He who gave His only begotten Son for you, will never withhold anything from you which is really for your good. Lean back on this thought and be content. Say to yourself in the darkest hour of trial, ‘This also is ordered by Him who gave Christ to die for my sins. It cannot be wrong. It is done in love. It must be well.’

Friday, May 16, 2008

Poetry Friday - Of all the things to need

This week’s Sophie Hannah poem I find interesting, and rather heart-warming (even while perhaps it gives a little pang to those of us who didn’t choose our situation). It would seem to be a nice sort of poem in comment on the feminist position, or at least in answer to those who would disparage marriage.

Bridesmaid

A smile or kiss is all you have to spare;
Never a bed, a key, an inch of floor.
All that I am, all that I have, I share,
Yet I possess not half as much but more -
Double, I swear,
Though you remain unsure -
Twice what I owned or hoped to own before.

There is no metal weighing down your hand.
You are not subject to the whims of kings
And claim that you will never understand
The pleasure or the point of two gold rings.
For you no grand
Passion waits in the wings
Just your own space. A woman needs such things.

Not me, I say. Of all the things to need,
I choose another mind, another face,
Someone of whom, if I were ever freed
I would be tattered remnants or a trace.
What awkward breed
Would crave, would even chase
What age and death will bring in any case?


Sophie Hannah, First of the Last Chances

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Make marriage happen?!

I was in Brisbane on the weekend, as readers would know, when my Mum got the Koorong catalogue in the mail. Being on holidays and loafing about I flicked through it. This book Get Married: What Women Can Do To Help it Happen, by Candice Watters, featured prominently in it somewhere, and then I recalled that I had read about it previously, perhaps on the Boundless Line blog. I admit, I'm intrigued - but confess that I probably wouldn't be intrigued if it wasn't for the foreward by Albert Mohler (well, there're so many books not worth reading at Koorong that I generally don't bother unless I know a name - however see * below). I'm currently doing some further reading around the topic of the book I have for the EQUIP book club, so perhaps I'll add this one to the list. But this book is probably not one that you should broadcast that you're reading. Men of Australia, lookout! I'm coming, armed with new strategies for success! Now is your opportunity to start running ... ;)

*Even though, dare I say it, I think I disagree with Mohler's interpretation of the "gift of singleness" in 1 Corinthians 7 - though don't hold me to that just yet as I need to do more research. There appears to be quite a debate raging out there on the subject, which I have only recently discovered and haven't yet got my head around, and Mohler has also endorsed this book, by Debbie Maken, on singleness and getting married, which Andreas Kostenberger disputes (great series of posts on the Gift of Singleness and also that book on Kostenberger's blog) and with which Ben Witherington and John Piper (and others) also seemingly differ - which just adds somewhat to the intrigue.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A movie meme

Simone has tagged me in a movie Meme, so here it is (I'm sure I will think of better movies in about five minutes, but I set myself a time limit for filling this in, and am feeling like I need to soon move on from my recent vacuous blog posts or you will all give me up for silly):

1. One movie that made you laugh
The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy

2. One movie that made you cry
A lot of movies make me cry (even Babe) but Tuesdays with Morrie ruins me

3. One movie you loved when you were a child
Hmmm. Don’t recall seeing many movies as a child, but we went with friends to see the Village People, before we were old enough to “understand”, and thought the YMCA was very cool.

4. One movie you’ve seen more than once
Becoming Jane (if it means more than once at the cinema)

5. One movie you loved, but were embarrassed to admit it
A Hazard of Hearts (yes, it's Barbara Cartland)

6. One movie you hated
Star Trek something or other

7. One movie that scared you
Sleeping With The Enemy had me terrified

8. One movie that bored you
Star Trek something or other

9. One movie that made you happy
An Ideal Husband

10. One movie that made you miserable
4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days

11. One movie you weren’t brave enough to see
Saving Private Ryan – have never got past the first five minutes

12. One movie character you’ve fallen in love with
After reading Simone’s answer I can’t think past Aragorn (Lord of the Rings) but Westley (The Princess Bride) has to be a close second.

13. The last movie you saw
Juno

14. The next movie you hope to see
Prince Caspian

And I tag Nicole, Ben and Guan

The something that foggy day

I have finally got my picture sorted!- and made it fit nicely within the blue lines. So, above is a picture that I took on the Isle of Skye of the Old Men of Storr, as they came and went through the fog. The Isle of Skye was an eery and fantastical place that day.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Backyard antics

In the state of Queensland, life continues much as it always has. The inhabitants of the city of Brisbane continue to live in dwellings that are primarily one level high. The dwellings retain that space behind them, in which grass grows (when the land is not in drought), known as the backyard. Amusements in the backyard are simple but enjoyed by all the family together.

So here's me joining in. Discerning viewers will note that I shoo my sister further out of the way in the beginning, not being quite sure where I was going to end up, then baulk on take-off and pitch too low (because in that moment when I was required to launch into thin air it all seemed rather more disconcerting than previously anticipated), but execute the rest with startling grace and poise.

video

Note: subsequent attempts were performed with greater height and confidence.

The EQUIP book club

And anyone who connects things better than I did will realise that I registered for EQUIP and booked a plane ticket to Brisbane for the same weekend. So, I ended up cancelling for EQUIP, which was a shame but just the way it worked out. I do know, however, that on Saturday they lauched the new book club blog. Go and check out the book list and meet the contributors ;) here.

Returning

I have just returned from six days away from the world wide web and feel like there is much to catch up on. Apologies to those who've commented and been ignored in that time. I have just been on a plane, train, bus and shank's pony to get here (nearly crippling myself in the process when I walked into a thigh-high steel pole I didn't see because it suddenly appeared amidst a crowd and I was looking further ahead) dumped my things and scrummaged around for something to eat, but I shall be back soon.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Poetry Friday - sliding expectations

Today I have another poem by Sophie Hannah. This one is rather sad, but all too true.

Loss Adjuster

Scale down your expectations once again
From rest of life to years to one whole night
To will he wander past a phone or pen.
If he would only either ring or write.
Get real and scale those expectations down
From conversation to a single word.
Seen through the window of a shop in town
If not by you then by a trusted third
Party, or, if a sighting is too much
To hope for, as undoubtedly it is,
Scale down your hopes and aim to see or touch
Someone whose name sounds similar to his.
A scale of one to ten. Two weeks ago
He dared to keep you waiting while he slept.
Scale down much further and today’s poor show
Tomorrow you’ll be happy to accept.

Sophie Hannah, Love Me Slender

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Another foggy promulgation

Had some fun the other night scheduling posts. So, right now I should be on a plane to Brisbane to visit family, and thought it a fitting time to announce to the world that I am going to be an Aunty again. This is the second for my sister and brother-in-law in Darwin, and is due in October. They might actually find out the sex of this one, which will be fun (though perhaps rather dangerous, because I won't have to delay shopping to find out colour stuff is in order).

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Not happy with the unseemly

At the moment I am crocheting the "Unseamly Sweater" from the Happy Hooker crochet book (which I have previously mentioned on this blog). In the past I have just thought that the author, Debbie Stoller, chose unfortunate and somewhat ridiculous names for her pattern books, which all the same contained great patterns. But recently, in searching the web to see if there were any errata for the Unseamly Sweater pattern, which are supposed to be out there somewhere, I actually discovered that the author holds a Ph.D from Yale University in the psychology of women and is "co-founder, co-owner, and editor-in-chief of the third wave feminist, popular culture magazine Bust" according to Wikipedia. So I had a quick look and the Bust magazine is such a piece of rubbish as I didn't know existed and featured some extremely disturbing material pertaining to abortion. Similarly, in the process of my 'internet research' from Stoller's website, I was sent to other sites that sold all manner of pernicious material. So, I now have rather more serious objections to Debbie Stoller and her deliberately lewd craft pattern books (and at the same time I am puzzled by the connection between feminism and the choice of marketing language that would seem totally degrading to women).

Monday, May 05, 2008

The faithless amongst the faithful

Something rather extraordinary happened at work last Friday. There is a lady who sits over the wall from me, who I chat to perhaps sometimes more than I should. There's a lot more to her than meets the eye (as there usually is) and there's quite a lot of "stuff" in her life (sometimes I just shake my head and wonder how she manages it). One of the things we chat about is writing and poetry, because we both like to dabble in it. She gets more done than me (which wouldn't be very hard), but she also only works part time (at least that is my excuse).

So, last week we were chatting about The Little Red Writing Book and I happened to mention that I was going to a conference at which the author, Mark Tredinnick, was speaking, that being the Faithful Writer conference run by Matthias Media and CASE. At this point she became really quite interested and asked me about the details. I explained that it was a Christian thing, briefly, but she was totally unfazed by that. So then I sent her the link to the conference, which clearly sets out the reasoning and the programme for the day, so that she could look at it, expecting her to become a little less interested. A couple of hours went by, during which I thought she just hadn't got to looking at it yet or had decided it wasn't for her, and then she came around to my desk and showed me her receipt. She'd REGISTERED!! So, now I have a work colleague coming to the Faithful Writer conference with me, and it's not like I was even trying to invite her along. It's weird. But God does weird things.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The meaning of our lesser tales

So I haven’t been wallowing by myself all weekend. On Friday night I had three friends over for dinner: one I have known for about twelve years and was once a flatmate in far North Queensland, another I have known for almost three months from my new church, and the other I met last Friday, only to discover that we actually went to high school together. She wasn’t a Christian in high school but has since become one, been to bible college and spent seven years on the mission field. Amazing story! I actually drove down King Street in her car the other night thinking, who would have thought, all those years ago, that this would be us one day. Then today I had a lovely lunch with the three-month friend :), during which I heard her story.

I like hearing people's stories. On my cork board I have pinned up a card that is covered with fragments and photos from women’s writers down through the ages (it’s a Koco card), and written across the bottom it says “just to believe in the story of one’s life. (just that)”. It’s just an arty kind of line on the card, but how I interpret it is more like this:

Everyone’s life is a story whose point is discovered only when that story is lifted up into the larger story of God ... the plot of our larger story, which gives meaning to our lesser tales, is made known only in the book God wrote. Life never reveals its meaning by itself ... Mystery points up to the sovereign wisdom of God who writes each of our stories so differently, but always with the intention of preparing us for our part in his story. The mystery of his plan, when seen as a reflection of inscrutable goodness, leaves us not only rejoicing with others more blessed, and confused by choices he never explains, but also awed by the love behind the plan that one day will have us all singing ...

Larry Crabb, God of My Father.
Basically, it’s just to believe in the Providence of God.

P.S. I know there is something wrong with my new photo above. I will have to try and scan it at a higher resolution and see if that helps.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

It's been dark here

It’s hard to recall what blew out the flame
It’s been dark here since you can remember
Talk it all through to find it a name
As days go on by without number


Sara Groves It Might be Hope

I keep falling into the slough of despond lately, and having to claw my way out of it. And sometimes it feels like the only way to stay out of it is to just not think about the state of my life, or the disappointment is just too overwhelming. Then I wonder what it was that I had so wrong that God thought it necessary to make me such an example of human failure. And then I wonder why God thinks it’s best that I be single and spend every Saturday wandering about by myself. Is that because I am just no good at relationships? And I wouldn’t be any good at being somebody’s mother? And then I wonder whose daily life would be significantly impacted if I just ceased to exist? And the honest answer to that question is: nobody’s. And then I am out in the very middle of the slough and going under ...

Then, when I was already feeling that way, I read this review of Captivating by Amelia Haines and, being quite surprised at how positive it was, I sought out the copy a friend leant me and thought I’d have another go at it (previous attempts have left me unimpressed and I didn't finish it). I have to confess that, while I am drawn to parts of it, I also want to just throw it out the window. And that’s because I am up to the chapter with sections titled “romance and relationships: the answer to loneliness” about how women are relational creatures to their core, then “an adventure to share” about our longing for an irreplaceable role to play in some grand adventure and then a “beauty to unveil” about how women want to be known and considered beautiful etc. I don’t necessarily disagree with those longings (though I do disagree with other things, and agree with Nicole's review here), but they just don’t seem to have anything to do with my life ... I have the most boring and dispensable job in the world (well, it's close), I don’t have a lot of relationships, let alone a romantic one, and who actually cares what I look like (plus there’s all the usual stuff in there about girls and their fathers, which only means something to me by virtue of it’s absence). Delving into all that just feels like it’s not going to be helpful, at least not now when I just don’t have the energy to wade through it ...

I know all the things that are wrong with my thinking up until this point, and I know what I need to think to change it (I just need to read my own previous post about impossible things), and I don’t need anyone to tell me to trust God and teach Sunday School, and I don’t need charity friends either ... (and I also presume, and hope, that Captivating points to God as the answer to those longings, though the fact that Amelia wants men to read it, seemingly with their wives in view, and what I have read so far, makes me suspect it’s helpfulness for single women is limited). And I know that as evangelicals we won’t approve of the song I quoted from above either, because it’s about feeling a rather intangible sort of hope, and we have to hold on to Christ as a more objective hope than that (but I like it anyway).

And so at this point I shall just take my miserable self away and go and dig up a sermon I copied out verbatim once by John MacArthur called "Rejoicing Always".

(And I am cheered that I googled that and found it available online. It's good. MacArthur lists ten reasons for rejoicing always, followed by ten common hindrances to that rejoicing. The final section on "feelings" is pertinent.)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Poetry Friday - the 'biggest' loser

While it is still Friday, I shall get this up (and then learn how to schedule posts so poetry Friday actually happens on Friday). I am going to feature Sophie Hannah this month, because I had a hard time choosing between several of her poems for this week. Here is one that is inspiring. So much of what goes on in 'romantic' interactions is just a more sophisticated adult version of sulking because you didn't get what you wanted that it is good to be reminded to aim higher than that.

The Good Loser

I have portrayed temptation as amusing.
Now he can either waver or abstain.
His is a superior kind of losing
And mine is an inferior brand of gain.

His sacrifice, his self-imposed restriction
Will get through this controversy intact
For his is a superior kind of fiction
And mine is an inferior brand of fact.

I have displayed my most attractive feature
And he his least, yet still the match seems odd
For I am a superior kind of creature
And he is an inferior brand of god

And if he cuts me off without a warning
His is the book from which I'll take a leaf
For his is a superior kind of mourning
And ours a most inferior brand of grief.

Sophie Hannah, Hotels Like Houses