Friday, October 31, 2008

Sharing our hearts

The other day I read this on the Desiring God blog, and liked it. Then I read Bec's embellishment, and liked that even more. Then I read this post, at this is reverb, along similar lines, and really liked that too (this fellow is somewhere west of me on the theological spectrum of things, but he takes amazing photos and he believes in real fellowship).

Poetry Friday - Our last anniversary

Today's poem is sobering, but no-one will be able to say that it means nothing to them, because this event will befall us all. More important than the date of its coming, is knowing where you will be after it passes. If that is not something you are sure of, then let me, as the greatest kindness I could ever do you, suggest you read through this. Then enjoy the poem.

by W.S. Merwin

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveller
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Putting myself in temptation's way

I did a very stupid thing. One of the ladies here at work sells small chocolate bars at her desk for a dollar, as a fundraiser for something or other. I am usually pretty good at limiting myself to one a week maximum of these. But, I was in the local supermarket the other day and they had packets of mini Snickers bars on sale. So, I thought, oh if I buy that I can have it in my drawer for when I just want a little tiny little bit of chocolate, and that will prevent me buying one from the fund-raising box when I NEED chocolate, and it will be cheaper. You can imagine how that turned out ...

Beating the system

Hah! I got the better of google reader. I put something in blogger that was meant to be a draft earlier. However, I accidentally hit the publish button instead of the save button. I raced back and saved it to a draft to take it down, but I knew that this wasn't going to prevent it going out to readers (I have learnt that the hard way). So instead I just copied the contents of the post to create another one later, deleted the content, then hit the publish button again (but leaving the actual post there and not deleting it in entirety, which also doesn't prevent it going to the readers or being updated if it has already made it to them). And it worked. That is why there is that empty post below. As far as I have been able to determine, that is the only way to madly stop something going out to all the readers that you didn't want to (once you have hit that publish button), or to make readers update a post to remove the content if it is already there.

The fog goes to 50,000 readers

The November Issue of Southern Cross is now online (and it's worth looking at the broader website of Sydney Anglicans if you don't already). In this issue there is a supplement for women called "Passion" (I don't, however, think this is available online) and yours truly has an article within that. Those of you who have read this blog for some time will recognise it because it started here. I have to say, I was gob-smacked when asked to adapt it into an article, but I am pleased that it's in there. That's not because I wrote it - and, as you will see, it is hardly an original thought - but because it's a piece of rubber-collides-hard-with-the-road straight talking about something that interacting with women tells me could benefit from a little more straight talking. I am sure I went red when I hit the "publish" button originally on this blog, because I thought it was a little "out there". Now it's even more out there, but hopefully that will be for good. Anyway, that's the teaser. Go get a copy of the magazine :) (you can have a sample of the magazine mailed to you through the website if you can't access it any other way).

P.S. And I promise I won't forget those of you who read along when all it was was a blog and will let you all be famous by association ;).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In a mirror dimly

Yesterday afternoon I had a half-day off work and thought I'd go and peruse the Sculptures by the Sea. I wasn't going to take loads of photos, because my camera is not really up to the "arty" shots, and I thought I'd end up with a lot of fairly uninteresting shots of sculptures, with no people in them, just sculptures lacking depth of field. But I was rather taken with this particular work and out came my camera. For some reason, looking at it my mind dug up 1 Corinthians 13:12. It's a tenuous connection, but from there I also thought, looking at this sculpture of a woman staring into her own tiny mirror, while surrounded by a magnificent display of God's glory in the water-carved cliff faces, in the spanless ocean with the afternoon sun glancing off the waves, in the heavens reflected in rockpools so much larger and clearer than her mirror, with thousands of people passing by, to whom her back was turned, about how we can lose perspective and block out or take no interest in what is happening beyond our own lives and sit, face to the ground, staring at our own small reflection - missing the much grander vista of God's workings in the world and in the cosmos.

Waiting for a star to fall

Our computer system is playing up again this morning. I don't normally go out and buy a coffee at work, as half my building does mid-morning, but this morning I went out and ended up in the super IGA getting the gear to make my own coffees. I was just about to leave when Waiting for a Star to Fall, by Boy Meets Girl, came on the music system. I love that song!! I had to spend another few minutes wandering the aisles just to enjoy it. It would have to be my favourite 80's flashback (although a few weeks ago I drove over the harbour bridge and Flashdance came on the radio and that was good moment too). I can't access youtube at work to actually watch and veto this, but here is a link anyway. What is your favourite 80's song?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The value of choke-cherry jelly and sausage dog magnets

The other night I sat down and read the book A River Runs Through It in one sitting, because it’s only 104 pages. I’ve previously mentioned the movie based on this book and have been keen to read the whole book. In one of the few explicit moments in the book about what is happening in the family, there is this conversation between the father and the older brother, concerning the younger brother (a man now in his early thirties making bad decisions):

“You are too young to help anybody and I am too old,” he said. “By help I don’t mean a courtesy like serving choke-cherry jelly or giving money.
“Help,” he said, “is giving part of yourself to somebody who comes to accept it willingly and needs it badly.
“So it is,” he said, using an old homiletic transition, “that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don’t know what part to give or maybe we don’t like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed. It is like the auto-supply shop over town where they always say, ‘Sorry, we are just out of that part.’”
I told him, “You make it too tough. Help doesn’t have to be anything that big.”
He asked me, “Do you think your mother helps him by buttering his rolls?”
“She might,” I told him. “In fact, yes, I think she does.”
“Do you think you help him?” he asked me.
“I try to,” I said. “My trouble is I don’t know him. In fact, one of my troubles is that I don’t even know whether he needs help. I don’t know, that’s my trouble.”
“That should have been my text,” my father said. “We are willing to help, Lord, but what if anything is needed?
“I still know how to fish,” he concluded. “Tomorrow we will go fishing with him.”

To me that really captured something of those times when we feel quite literally helpless, when we want to do something, the best thing, but don't know what that is. The other evening I was dashing off from work a little earlier than usual for a coffee in the city with someone I have been meeting up with for a while, who is coming out the other end of a mess. As I was leaving, one of my work colleagues came up to my desk to tell me that she found out that day that she needs to have her thyroid gland removed because it has a growth that could be cancerous. I delayed my departure a few minutes to talk about this. Then I had the coffee with the other friend and felt like there was more to say but that it couldn’t just be said plainly (or that I wasn’t much good at saying it plainly). On the way home I remembered that my friend at work really liked sausage dogs, and that I had previously mentioned these great sausage dog magnets I had seen to her (they are tiny little moulded sausage dogs, with very strong little magnets on the bottom of their bellies so that they stand off the surface you put them on) so I stopped in at the shop and bought them. As I put them on her desk the next day before she got in I couldn’t help but think ‘it’s brilliant isn’t it - someone tells me they might have cancer so I give them sausage dog magnets’.

Do sausage dog magnets really make a difference? What was I trying to say leaving a packet of magnets on her desk?

I think there is some value in the seemingly small deeds, in the magnetic sausage dogs, the fishing, the buttering of rolls (with some evidence for this coming from Matthew 25:34-40). But it's in making the real connection between the deeds to the most valuable life-changing truths, to the story gospel that I often feel inadequate, as clearly the father in the story above does too.

On my last trip to Koorong, several months ago now, I bought the book “Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in need of change helping people in need of change”, which I am yet to read (it's in the pile). I'm hoping to glean something about joining more of the dots and aiming at something resembling what is expressed so beautifully in this song by Sara Groves.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Books here and books there

This week I received in the mail a review copy of Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley. I have to admit, I was chuffed to be receiving a review copy of something (which came about because I am contributing on Carolyn's earlier book for the EQUIP book club) and people sending me free books to read is up there with life's finest things.
On an even more exciting note, a group of women in South Africa have launched the EQUIP book club in their country. You can read an interview with one of them here (which might make you realise how good we have things here in Australia).

Concluding the week with Shakespeare

I seriously lost the blogging inspiration this week. If I’d written posts they’d probably have been about a spooky experience I had walking to work on Monday, which would have made you all decide that I was weird, a couple of weirder still dreams I had the other night (but who actually enjoys hearing people relate stories of their nonsensical dreams?), the tragically bad hair day I had on Wednesday because I walked to work in the rain, which turns curly hair to frizz, the fact that I ate a whole punnet of mulberries almost in one go (actually, I was very chuffed to find mulberries in a shop and it reminded me of a day in my teens when my best friend and I ransacked another friend’s mulberry tree for the afternoon, turning our lips purple with the passage of mulberries, tie-dying our t-shirts by scrunching our juice-stained hands all over them, then baking mulberry pies, which nobody complained about), about the CD I am currently thrashing, which is Jars of Clay Redemption Songs, which I bought at Koorong on Saturday, when I went out there to get a book on church history, because it was only $10 (I do especially like I Need Thee Every Hour) or maybe just about the weather (but the weather has been crazy enough to write home about this week – for those of you not in Sydney we started out Spring with 35 degrees (Celsius) and thought we missed Spring altogether, then yesterday it was 14 degrees and snowed in the mountains and rained here, and is still freezing, and apparently this weekend it will be back in the thirties) … so it’s a good thing I refrained from posting. But since it is Friday tomorrow (perhaps I shall schedule this post for then) and that is poetry day, here is a poem. I thought it was time for my favourite Shakespeare sonnet, which I am amazed to discover hasn't yet featured on this blog. “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds” is a sadly forsaken sentiment.

Sonnet 116
William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Monday, October 20, 2008

In the meantime, chatting with John Owen about sin

I am feeling rather uninspired for blogging of late. For the Faithful Writer Masterclass we need to submit some material beforehand for workshopping. So, I spent some of the weekend working on a poem I started ages ago. It's a free form poem. These are easier to write initially, perhaps, than metred and rhymed poems, but it's then harder to work out when it is actually a poem, and when it isn't. I am not sure that one is for public viewing. Maybe after it's been shredded at the class.
In the meantime I have been waiting on the next installment (if there are to be more) from The Blazing Centre on the "Interview with Johnny O". The writer over there has paraphrased Temptation and Sin by John Owen into a conversation. It works for me. Here is Part 1 and here is Part 2.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lessons in the history of the church and the use of words

I am taking an evening lecture course in Twenty Centuries of Church History at the moment, at Moore Theological College, just because I have never specifically studied church history and have long been interested. We've only had one lecture so far, but so far so good. Archie Poulos is the lecturer, which is great. I don't think I have told blog world this yet, but when I first moved to Sydney I lived with Archie and Ainsley Poulos (and kids) for 10 months. Those were good times and I learnt a good many good things from talking to them and observing their lives.

I haven't decided whether I will take the assessments for this course or just audit it yet. Being the over-achiever that I am exams are stressful and it's a long time between doing them and sometimes it's good for me to just learn things and not concern myself with results. And the other very exciting thing is that I have been accepted into the Faithful Writers Masterclass, jointly run by Matthias Media and CASE, over a weekend in November, with Mark Tredinnick providing the teaching. I think this will be a fantastic opportunity to push me to write and to improve my writing - but at the same time I am feeling a little inept and wondering what I have let myself in for, spending two days with this man scrutinising my sentences before a small group of other creative people. So I really want to make the most of the occasion and the input!*

Should I choose to do the assessment for church history, for the essay we have to choose an epoch of history, and within that a person or event that was significant and write about why it was so. So, I have been thinking about who I might choose ...

It's good to have some interesting things going on, even though it ups the level of life activity a little.

*Apologies if I am being insensitive in announcing this. I have no idea who else or how many applied for this class.

Poetry Friday - so much depends

Here's a poem to inspire you all (which I accidentally posted on the wrong blog earlier!):

The Red Wheelbarrow
by William Carlos Williams

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Women

On Monday night I went with a friend to a pre-release screening of the movie The Women that my friend had somehow come by free tickets to. I don't think I have ever been to a pre-release movie screening before. It was sponsored by Wittners shoes, and so I discovered what the microphone down the front of the theatre was for when a manager from Wittners came and gave us a little introductory talk - about shoes. Apparently this summer we are in for feathers and jewels on our shoes, and we haven't seen the end of the platform. Somebody would have had to tell me that for me to be any the wiser because shoes are really not my thing. I am missing that large portion of a woman's brain that is apparently set-aside for shoes, and feel like I can do without feathers and jewels on mine, but we shall see.

Anyway, I had never heard of this movie before my friend's invitation. The cast consists entirely of women (as in, there isn't one male in it at all) and it is quite a good line up of actresses. Without writing a spoiler the story had a rather feminist message (I am seeing feminism everywhere after this month's EQUIP book club posts) but there were seemingly contradictory moments about being there for your children, about succeeding involving compromising your values, and at one point one of the actresses says "I know I can have it all, but I don't know if I want it all - because it's exhausting". Then the film ends with a lovely scene in a hospital ward with the group of friends all cooing over a baby.

In the end I was a little confused about what the movie was trying to tell me (when I bothered to think about it, because it's not exactly the kind of movie that makes one think deep-thinking is required) and I wondered if the movie itself was actually portraying that confusion because women are confused (or whether it was a piece of fluff that didn't bear analysing). In writing this post I just read the blurb I linked to above and it says this movie is a "valentine to today's woman, an appreciation of her efforts to navigate a complex web of choices, roles and responsibilities". So, perhaps that's it. (Interestingly it is a remake of an old 1939 film, so it would be curious to watch the original and see what's changed.)

The law of "wrongful ...."

I'm working on a case at the moment that is so provoking. It's about "wrongful birth", which is a recently created legal term for when people give birth to babies that they didn't want, which they can then sue over if they prove medical negligence. Tragic. I feel like going around there and snatching the baby myself.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Knowing God as Father

I’ve had a couple of behind-the-scenes responses to the post last week on growing up without a father. Below is a comment regarding God being our father, from someone who wishes to remain nameless, that I thought was really helpful (though I still need to spend more time working it through!). If the first paragraph is slightly confusing, just keep reading:

“The one thing that helped me was realizing that God was Father and all other fathers just shadows of who he was, so my experience of God in Christ is my experience of God as Father: any other experience of any other father is just a shadow in comparison, even if it was good. It doesn't help all that much because it's knowing God (and therefore knowing God as Father) where I discover what it means to know God as Father anyway. We only know God in Christ, who introduces us to his father as his father. That way I didn't have to work out what father meant first, but could do it the other way around. And I could stop feeling 'left behind' by all those who had good father experiences!
In terms of Scripture, you might find Ephesians 3:14-15 useful (so, I understand that as there can't be fathers without God who is the father and enables fatherhood to take place at all), and Luke 11:13, where Jesus is teaching about prayer and in helping us to understand that his Father loves to give good gifts, he points to earthly fathers and says "you're all evil and yet you give your children what they need rather than what is bad for them" - so unlike us, Jesus when he uses a 'fathers on earth show something of fathers in heaven' starts out by showing how different God as Father is (so earthly fathers are all evil at some level), and then moves to an area of similarity that still manages to exist despite the difference. We always start with God is a Father, therefore think of your father and it'll be a bit like God. Jesus seems to be doing something completely different: asking us to understand God, and using earthly fathers as an imperfect sermon illustration about one aspect of God's fatherhood - his generosity. Then John 14, where Jesus reveals the Father by revealing himself and explains how we know God through him, and the God we know is Father, Son and Spirit: we can't not know God as Father if we know Jesus because God is Father. It helps to realize that in the OT, there are only 2 (I think) references to God as Father and he is the Father of the nation of Israel in both. So, the Our Father prayer in Luke 11, and the revelation in John 14 and elsewhere is absolutely mind blowing: that the God who created the heavens and the earth is Father to us at the same time as being our God, and does so not just in playing a role, or being like a Father, but is a Father, as he is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. By sharing in Christ's sonship and being 'in Christ', we come to know God as father. Calvin said (major paraphrase here): we come to faith when we come to understand that God is towards us in Christ not as a judge but as a Father. (Because it is at that moment that we realize that we depend on Christ alone for our relationship with God).

So, even if we have a completely skewed idea of fatherhood (or whatever), when we know God and know he knows us, we are ‘fathered’ beyond any possibility of fathering here on earth (which does not take away the pain and loss of not having a father, but gives us something we could never have if we had only that earthly experience).”

Monday, October 13, 2008

Crime and Disappointment and hand-crafted fungus

I finally finished Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment on the weekend. I was so disappointed with the ending! I'd read through over 600 pages of absolute depravity and perverseness on the part of Raskolnikov (there aren't enough despicable adjectives in the English language to describe what I think of him and his appalling "theory") and I thought there might be some sort of redemption coming, which would raise him out of my loathing contempt, and instead I have to wade on to the epilogue, about two pages before the end, and all I get is that he finally realises he loves Sonya (and so he should! - the ungrateful, pathetic, sulking invidual). I hardly thought that was good enough!

Anyway, I feel like a black cloud has now passed in finishing that book and I can go and read something pleasant about reasonable human beings.

The good news is that on the weekend I think I found my vocation! I have previously mentioned crochet and displayed some of my creations. The thing is that to make crocheted things for any sort of profit is just not worth it. Say I make a scarf out of pure wool, which probably costs a minimum of $6 in materials and takes at least two hours to finish, and sell it for $30, which is about the maximum you could hope people would pay I suspect, well that is hardly a get-rich-quick scheme is it? BUT, on Saturday I wandered into a shop in Newtown, a very funky, trendy shop, and there, amongst other groovy knick-knacky things, they were selling crocheted mushrooms, for $43!! $43!! That just might be worth taking up.

A Sunday School question

For the last three weekends I have been teaching holiday Sunday School. I take my hat off to the people who teach Sunday School every week, because it's a lot of work, especially those suggested "visual aids". The class I taught was 5-9 year olds, which is a bit difficult because you have kindergarten kids through to year 4. So the kindy kids can be struggling to sit still and cut things out while the year 4 kids are often way beyond it. Still, even though I don't have a whole lot of theological training I thought I would be able to handle their questions. So, the other week we did the Fall (Genesis 2-3) and I had an interesting time trying to write the story to communicate the point of it and not get lost in apple trees and snakes etc. I'd finished the story and one girl raises her hand with a scrunched up look on her face and says:

"But I thought no-one had ever seen God so how could he be walking in the garden with them?".

Twelve little faces are looking at me. Buying some time I said:

"Well that's a very interesting question, and you're right that no-one has ever seen God" ... mind floundering through all the possible ways to answer this, till I had a great flash of insight ... "and maybe you can ask your Dad!".

Anyone out there want to have a shot at how you'd answer an eight-year-old with that one?

Mark Driscoll's Aussie Posse

Mark Driscoll writes about his visit to Australia. I have to say (if you haven't worked it out already), I think MD's a good bloke (to use an Australian accolade from out Tamworth way -'round these parts I think we say "great guy", but I reckon "good bloke" suits Driscoll better).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Questioning God

I don't normally read blogs on a Saturday, because blog reading needs to be kept in it's place (like a good many things) but I benefitted from reading this post today.

And I am curious to read Wendy Alsup's new book Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives . You can read reviews of it at Discerning Reader, Crossway and Rebecca Writes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Poetry Friday 2 - Consider the Lilies

Here is another Mary Oliver, just because I have been reading poetry during lunch. I really like this poem. Here's how I interpret it, briefly: I think it is definitely alludes to Matthew 6:25-34, with the speaker wondering whether she could live like the lilies (trusting God to protect and provide) and forget herself or would she always be wanting something more and waiting for it (here the hummingbird). That being the case, she supposes she will always be lonely, because she's unable to trust "without protest" and because ultimately "whenever there is a fuss" the hummingbird that she has her hopes in rises and floats away. What do you think?

Mary Oliver

I have been thinking
about living
like the lilies
that blow in the fields.

They rise and fall
in the edge of the wind,
and have no shelter
from the tongues of the cattle,

and have no closets or cupboards,
and have no legs.
Still I would like to be
as wonderful

as the old idea.
But if I were a lily
I think I would wait all day
for the green face

of the hummingbird
to touch me.
What I mean is,
could I forget myself

even in those feathery fields?
When Van Gogh
preached to the poor
of coarse he wanted to save someone--

most of all himself.
He wasn't a lily,
and wandering through the bright fields
only gave him more ideas

it would take his life to solve.
I think I will always be lonely
in this world, where the cattle
graze like a black and white river--

where the vanishing lilies
melt, without protest, on their tongues--
where the hummingbird, whenever there is a fuss,
just rises and floats away

Poetry Friday - What a child must love

Since it's Friday, and since I have mentioned fathers and Karen has written an article on the children of divorce, here is another poem by Mary Oliver that goes near those ideas.

A Visitor

My father, for example,
who was young once
and blue-eyed,
on the darkest of nights
to the porch and knocks
wildly at the door,
and if I answer
I must be prepared
for his waxy face,
for his lower lip
swollen with bitterness.
And so, for a long time,
I did not answer,
but slept fitfully
between his hours of rapping.
But finally there came the night
when I rose out of my sheets
and stumbled down the hall.
The door fell open

and I knew I was saved
and could bear him,
pathetic and hollow,
with even the least of his dreams
frozen inside him,
and the meanness gone.
And I greeted him and asked him
into the house,
and lit the lamp,
and looked into his blank eyes
in which at last
I saw what a child must love,
I saw what love might have done
had we loved in time.
from Dream Work (1986). © Mary Oliver

Four minutes on feminism

We are currently working through The Feminist Mistake over at the EQUIP book club. I put up this link this morning to a short video of Carolyn McCulley giving a brief history of feminism. It's worth watching.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

There is no cavalry - growing up fatherless

Something I have been thinking about of late, perhaps moreso in the last two years than any time previously, is the implications of growing up without a father (the plurals sound wrong in that sentence, but that is how I want it anyway). It's very hard to work out, on your own, what those might be, when you simply don't know any different. For most of my life I considered my upbringing fairly normal and didn't think much of it. But in recent years I have started seeing the areas where things were not "normal" and realising that my own behaviour, at times, reflected that perhaps everything was not so fine (eg I had something of a psychosomatic condition for a while after my father died, then an eating disorder as a teenager - which was reasonably mild and short-lived, before my older sister dobbed me in and I was marched off to the doctor, but would be labelled an eating disorder all the same).

I came across someone last year who gave me a glimpse of what it might have been like to have had an involved father (and I had to go away and sort out my reaction to that), and have come across various other things since and heard sermons about father-headed families and met people who believe in the importance of fathers and then Mark Driscoll said things, particularly at the ENGAGE conference, about fathers and daughters that made a fatherless daughter need to get the walls up real fast, or weep.

How these things usually end is with the statement that if you didn't have a father, or a good one, well God is your father. But I have to admit that I just shrug internally to that, and think 'whatever that means'. I think one of the ironies is that the people who perhaps most need to hear that God is their father are often the people with no real basis for understanding it. And I think that I also, subconsciously, don't place much importance on knowing God as a father (and sometimes it just feels like it would take too much emotional energy and effort to work that out).

So, I have been trying to find something to read about all this and have had no great success in finding anything relevant. I don't want to read books about being a child of divorce, which tend on focus on being "abandoned" and everything that stems from that. My Dad didn't abandon us, he died. And so I just want to read something on the effects of not having a father around, without having to read about anger, resentment, forgiveness and all that.

If you type "father daughter relationship" into google you get 750,000 entries, many of which are for children whose fathers chose to leave or are written to fathers with teenage daughters. Some are full of the horrible statistics on the probable outcomes for women without fathers (and thankfully I seem to have been spared from most of those - except the eating disorder I seemingly had to have). I found one resource, by Mary Kassian, called, In My Father's House, which looks like it could be worth a shot, and Tim Challies, who very kindly answered my email, suggested To Own a Dragon by Donald Miller (to be read with caution and discernment - and his review indicates that he is not convinced that it is a good book, and it is also about a father who left so I am a little sceptical) but if anyone out there knows of any other, well please leave a comment.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Otherwise being a human is boring

Our computer system is still not working here at work, and it's beyond ridiculous right now, but they are doing what they can to fix it. So far I have read probably every Christian blog in the universe (well, close, I have to plug them into my google reader to read them because I can't access actual blogs, so my google reader is now having a meltdown) and every article in the newspaper. So, I could perhaps write something of some significance about the many encouraging and interesting things I've read. But, instead, I'm now full up so I have been listening to live concerts of The Swell Season. Glen Hansard, the Irish lead singer, is very entertaining, and often introduces his songs with blurbs that make me laugh out loud, even when the following song is full of a kind of desperate melancholy. At one point he says, "the more of these gigs I do, the more I realise that I am just treating you all as psychiatrists".

So, given that we have been urged of late to take more notice of our culture I have been taking note of some of what this guy says, as at least representing the state of mind of some portion of the population (even though he's not Australian!). One of the wonderful things about songs and poetry is that in them people write things that you would perhaps never detect in general conversation. So, below I've written out how he introduces one song. In it he presents what he sees as the two ways a person can look at life. It's nothing profoundly philosophical, it's more just the view from the street. I reckon he's at least close to right in summing up pervading views, based on what underlies the conversations that I have with the people around me - though I do wonder whether some hold both views together. What are some other views, in a nutshell, that you hear out there of what people think we're doing here? (I don't usually ask questions in posts, because the silence can then be deafening, but there's a question.) Here's the song blurb:

This song is like a little consoling lullaby to yourself. It's written in that lovely state of mind where you're (pause), you're drunk - but, you know, it's neither good nor bad, it's just (does something that makes people laugh) ... This song was written in the middle of a field in the middle of the night in the middle of Ireland looking up - I'd like to say looking up at the stars but looking up at a cloudy grey black sky and knowing that the stars are somewhere beyond it and pretending that it's a lovely starry night in the middle of summer, even though you'll probably have pneumonia in the morning. And it's a song about looking up and asking the big questions to the man above or to the stars above or to whoever ... just that beautiful metaphor that there's the sky and the answers are up there somewhere - because otherwise being a human is boring. There are two ways to look at, I think, everything: we're either a fungus on this earth that's eating it up and chewing it up and we're all going to die, or we're here to sow poetry into the ground and to do as much good was we possibly can. (Everyone cheers!) Some of us live the other way and some of us live that way. It's really up to yourself I guess."

Then he sings Star, Star, which contains this verse:

Star star teach me how to shine shine
Teach me so I know what's going on in your mind
'Cause I don't understand these people
Who say we're all asleep
They'll toss and turn forever
But no rest will they find...

The Feminist Mistake

Today we start working through The Feminist Mistake by Mary Kassian over at the EQUIP book club. You can go and read Jennie Baddeley's introductory post, on the reaons for reading this book, and decide whether this is a book for you and you'd like to join in - if you haven't already.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A virtue worth stitching

The other week I inspired one reader, Rebecca, with my cross-stitch post, and she put up a cross-stitch verse from the home of Thomas Hardy in Dorset. So, I thought I would share the verse from a cross-stitch hanging on the wall of Haworth Parsonage in England, stitched by Elizabeth Bramwell in the 1790's. Unfortunately I don't have a photo because you couldn't take flash-photography in the house.

You might find that the verse sounds like something rather quaint and homely, written and stitched by a woman of little intelligence or imagination, but keep in mind that this is the woman who raised Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë (and three other siblings) after the death of their mother - three girls whose novels still stand as classics of the English language, which don't look like being surpassed any time soon. You'd have difficulty finding another home, before or since, in which so much female creativity, passion and intelligence flourished. (I don't know why I felt compelled to write that - but I feel the need to defend the art of cross-stitch - I know the craft-haters are out there! :) ) Yet this is something Elizabeth Bramwell taught them.

(I tried to design my own cross-stitch of this little verse on graph paper (cross-stitchers were the graphic designers of yester year believe me - choosing fonts, layout, colours etc) but I don't like the colours any more so it's unfinished somewhere.)

CHARITY decent easy
Modest kind
Softens the high and
Rears the abject mind
Not soon provoked
She easily forgives
And much she suffers
As she much believes
Soft peace she brings
Wherever she arrives
She builds our quiet
As she forms our lives
Lays the rough paths
Of peevish nature even
And opens in each heart
A little heaven.

Elizabeth Bramwell, October 11th 1790