Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

It's over and out for me here for 2008 most likely. So I hope you all have a very blessed Christmas and joyful New Year!

I'll leave you with the words of another of my childhood favourite Christmas songs. I like the scope of the lyrics (and we used to sing it as an item in my church, though, being good reformers, we changed one word: "all" to "His"). The words are by Amy Grant and the words by Michael W. Smith (neither of whom I listen to these days, except for their Christmas music, and I was disillusioned with Amy Grant for divorcing Gary Chapman and marrying Vince Gill I have to say - but we all have feet of clay, and that is why we need the Incarnation!) and here is an old video, which is worth watching just for the outfit (my goodness!):



Praise to God whose love was shown
Who sent his Son to earth
Jesus left his rightful throne
Became a man by birth

The virgin's baby son
All creation praised Him
God incarnate come
Come to Bethlehem

Still a higher call had He
Deliverance from our sins
Come to set all people free
From Satan's hold within

For by the sin of man we fell
By the Son of God
He crushed the power of Hell
Death we fear no more

Now we stand with strength, with power
The sons of God on earth
Faithful to the final hour
Christ's righteousness our worth

And now all praise is given
For the babe, the Son
The Savior King is risen
Christ is Lord indeed

For the babe, the Son
The Savior King is risen
Christ is Lord indeed

Friday, December 19, 2008

Poetry Friday - Kept yonder

The poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins can take a little getting used to, because he has a style all his own, but here is a small section of the poem The Golden Echo, which speaks of God's sovereign care (and it would seem that Golden Echo, somewhat ironically, is also the name of a variety of Narcissus):

See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost; every hair
Is, hair of the head, numbered.
Nay, what we had lighthanded left in surly the mere mould
Will have waked and have waxed and have walked with the wind what while we slept,
This side, that side hurling a heavyheaded hundredfold
What while we, while we slumbered.
O then, weary then why
When the thing we freely f├│rfeit is kept with fonder a care,
Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept
Far with fonder a care (and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder
A care kept.—Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where.—
Yonder.—What high as that! We follow, now we follow.—Yonder, yes yonder, yonder,
Yonder.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What tweens are into

Apparently I need to psych myself up for ABBA singstar before I get home for Christmas. That's what it's going to take to hang out with my nieces. Sounds like fun to me!

I can dance indeed! - but strictly only in the loungeroom and only with family.

These are my dancing girls, taken at the local park when I was up in May. I'm not too sure what B is doing with cricket bat. (And nope! - neither of them look anything at all like me).


Christmas and beyond

This is my second last day at work for the year - Hurrah! - and then I may disappear into the fog for a time. I have two weeks off work, which I am very much looking forward to. I'll be heading North, which isn't perhaps the direction I'd choose to go in the height of summer, but that is where the family is, so that is where I shall be going - for the annual lazing about in front of the air-conditioner, where the internet is dial-up and not to be bothered with. I'm looking forward to spending time with my two nieces especially and seeing my grandparents (my Pa, who is 85, has not been well just recently, and so I am thankful that, thus far, he is still here and I can catch up).

In January I'll be posting over on the EQUIP book club, and I will also be finding a new place to live, then packing and moving. Argghh! My current flatmate is leaving to go and work at a church next year, which gives me the option of finding someone to replace her in the current flat, which is a great place to live, or striking out my own. It's looking a little more like the second option. After thirty-something flatmates I think my days of temporary flatting with random people are drawing to a close, and it is time to make home a real home and begin on that lengthening list of things I have been going to do 'one day when I get my own place'. I am hopeful that the rental market has improved, because it was terrible this time last year, but we shall see.

So, it may be quiet here in January. But I'll be back tomorrow with a poem, so, till then ...

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Mommy Wars

Here is an excerpt on the Mommy Wars from Carolyn McCulley's book Radical Womanhood. I got seriously educated on the history of feminism reading this book.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gloria

This is a youtube clip of a some Christmas music I bring out every Christmas, Michael W. Smith’s Gloria, which reminds me of childhood Christmases and turns me into a lounge room charismatic – it’s so euphoric! If you can’t be bothered with all of it, start at around 2:50 and go with the crescendo. I have to make sure no-one sees me conducting my imaginary orchestra. You can watch a snippet of a live recording here.

Love isn’t God

After my posts last week on the enticement of dating non-Christians I went to the wedding of a friend on yesterday. The minister, Andrew Leslie, gave a short sermon based on Psalm 100 and 1 John 4:7-12. Near the beginning of his sermon he said this:
Note that the bible doesn't say Love is God. It says God is Love.
I thought, wow, that’s exactly it! I, unfortunately, think I missed a couple of minutes of what he said next because I was dwelling on that one line and how it fitted in with my recent thoughts (and it was a very hot Saturday afternoon!). But he went on to briefly mention the way that anything becomes justifiable if Love is god (ie, we make Love the god and guiding principle of our life) such as adultery and divorce etc, and he didn’t list this one but I mentally included dating non-Christians. Following on from that he talked about the way we are to build our lives on the certainty of God's love, as it is demonstrated in the passage. I think I am going to be using that line in the future.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Guest post from Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Bronte would have been an interesting blogger. This is what she wrote in the preface to the 3rd edition of Jane Eyre:

Having thus acknowledged what I owe those who have aided and approved me, I turn to another class; a small one, as far as I know, but not, therefore, to be overlooked. I mean the timorous or carping few who doubt the tendency of such books as Jane Eyre; in whose eyes whatever is unusual is wrong; whose ears detect in each protest against bigotry - that parent of crime - an insult to piety, that regent of God on earth. I would suggest to such doubters certain obvious distinctions; I would remind them of certain simple truths.

Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.

These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as distinct as is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them; they should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth; narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be substituted for the world-redeeming creed of Christ. There is - I repeat it - a difference; and it is a good, and not a bad action to mark broadly and clearly the line of separation between them.

The world may not like to see these ideas dissevered, for it has been accustomed to blend them; finding it convenient to make external show pass for sterling worth - to let white-washed walls vouch for clean shrines. It may hate him who dares to scrutinize and expose - to raze the gilding, and show base metal under it - to penetrate the sepulchre, and reveal charnel relics: but hate as it will, it is indebted to him.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Poetry Friday II - God the Most

And next is this one from Christina Rossetti, believed to have been written after she called off an engagement to Charles Cayley, for reason of "religious differences". English online interestingly writes "Rossetti's definition of Christianity was narrower and more evangelical than most people's". This is part of larger sonnet series called Monna Innominata, which is worth reading in it's entirety.

Or puoi la quantitate
Comprender de l'amor che a te mi scalda. (Dante)
Non vo' che da tal nodo mi scioglia. (Petrarca)


Trust me, I have not earn'd your dear rebuke,
I love, as you would have me, God the most;
Would lose not Him, but you, must one be lost,
Nor with Lot's wife cast back a faithless look
Unready to forego what I forsook;
This say I, having counted up the cost,
This, though I be the feeblest of God's host,
The sorriest sheep Christ shepherds with His crook.
Yet while I love my God the most, I deem
That I can never love you overmuch;
I love Him more, so let me love you too;
Yea, as I apprehend it, love is such
I cannot love you if I love not Him,
I cannot love Him if I love not you.

Poetry Friday I - Renouncement

In keeping with this weeks theme, and a smattering of 19th Century romance, I actually have two poems. The first is all romance, by Alice Maynell.

Renouncement
Alice Meynell (1847–1922)

I MUST not think of thee; and, tired yet strong,
I shun the thought that lurks in all delight—
The thought of thee—and in the blue Heaven’s height,
And in the sweetest passage of a song.
Oh, just beyond the fairest thoughts that throng
This breast, the thought of thee waits, hidden yet bright;
But it must never, never come in sight;
I must stop short of thee the whole day long.
But when sleep comes to close each difficult day,
When night gives pause to the long watch I keep,
And all my bonds I needs must loose apart,
Must doff my will as raiment laid away,—
With the first dream that comes with the first sleep
I run, I run, I am gathered to thy heart.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The resolution of Jane

Since we are talking Rochester and ignes fatui (note the plural of this important word), and since a little period drama never goes astray, here is the noteworthy and inspirational scene from Jane Eyre, taken from The Literary Network:

I was experiencing an ordeal: a hand of fiery iron grasped my vitals. Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness, burning! Not a human being that ever lived could wish to be loved better than I was loved; and him who thus loved me I absolutely worshipped: and I must renounce love and idol. One drear word comprised my intolerable duty--"Depart!"

"Jane, you understand what I want of you? Just this promise--'I will be yours, Mr. Rochester.'"

"Mr. Rochester, I will NOT be yours."

Another long silence.

"Jane!" recommenced he, with a gentleness that broke me down with grief, and turned me stone-cold with ominous terror--for this still voice was the pant of a lion rising--"Jane, do you mean to go one way in the world, and to let me go another?"

"I do."

"Jane" (bending towards and embracing me), "do you mean it now?"

"I do."

"And now?" softly kissing my forehead and cheek.

"I do," extricating myself from restraint rapidly and completely.

"Oh, Jane, this is bitter! This--this is wicked. It would not be wicked to love me."

"It would to obey you."

A wild look raised his brows--crossed his features: he rose; but he forebore yet. I laid my hand on the back of a chair for support: I shook, I feared--but I resolved.

"One instant, Jane. Give one glance to my horrible life when you are gone. All happiness will be torn away with you. What then is left? For a wife I have but the maniac upstairs: as well might you refer me to some corpse in yonder churchyard. What shall I do, Jane? Where turn for a companion and for some hope?"

"Do as I do: trust in God and yourself. Believe in heaven. Hope to meet again there."

"Then you will not yield?"

"No."

"Then you condemn me to live wretched and to die accursed?" His voice rose.

"I advise you to live sinless, and I wish you to die tranquil."

"Then you snatch love and innocence from me? You fling me back on lust for a passion--vice for an occupation?"

"Mr. Rochester, I no more assign this fate to you than I grasp at it for myself. We were born to strive and endure--you as well as I: do so. You will forget me before I forget you."

"You make me a liar by such language: you sully my honour. I declared I could not change: you tell me to my face I shall change soon. And what a distortion in your judgment, what a perversity in your ideas, is proved by your conduct! Is it better to drive a fellow-creature to despair than to transgress a mere human law, no man being injured by the breach? for you have neither relatives nor acquaintances whom you need fear to offend by living with me?"

This was true: and while he spoke my very conscience and reason turned traitors against me, and charged me with crime in resisting him. They spoke almost as loud as Feeling: and that clamoured wildly. "Oh, comply!" it said. "Think of his misery; think of his danger--look at his state when left alone; remember his headlong nature; consider the recklessness following on despair--soothe him; save him; love him; tell him you love him and will be his. Who in the world cares for YOU? or who will be injured by what you do?"

Still indomitable was the reply--"I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad--as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth--so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane--quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot."

The Nonny Enticement Pt 2 - Why Not

Here are a few of the thoughts I gathered over the last year or so. There’s a lot that could be said, but I don’t think exhaustive blogging is really something to aim for, so here goes:

The answer's no

Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, what you have to act on is this: God says not to, that's why. Later you can work through why God says not to, if that is important to you. In the meantime, you have to stick within the guidelines, and trust that God has good reasons for giving them. In my case I never genuinely wanted to go out with Rochester while he wasn’t a Christian, I just badly wanted him to become one. Still, the issue in the moment was this one, and you can only make your decisions and choices based on now (and I know many a disappointed woman who married a fellow hoping he’d turn to God and years later he hasn't).

I've actually met a number of Christians who are not convinced that God actually does say no, with regards dating/marrying non-Christians. I humbly suggest that these people need to spend more time understanding God and how he relates to his people and what he requires of them. I lost count of how many times in the Old Testament God tells Israel not to get tangled up with men/women from other nations. It was the downfall of Solomon, the wisest man living, so we mustn't think it won't be the downfall of us. In the New Testament Paul tells widows, who would have been perhaps the only single women of the time faced with such a choice, to marry "only in the Lord" (I Cor 7:39). It doesn’t make it clear in 2 Cor 6:14, what being unequally yoked means, but I think you could safely say it includes marriage to unbelievers.

To question this is to be like Eve in the garden, listening to the snake whisper "Did God really say ...?", then doing exactly what Eve did in concluding that God is holding out on you with something that really would be for your good, and choosing it anyway. It's basically the original sin.

What is your faith?

Following on from that I was really challenged to ask myself whether I really did believe that God was good, and that he meant good for me - and not just other people. The choice for me was never between some fabulous Christian guy who would be a spiritual leader of a relationship and help me raise kids to follow Jesus etc. It was between Rochester and nobody. It can be really hard to accept that singleness may be God’s good for you, and I have railed against that and messed myself up over the reasons why that might so, but in the end I have to be able to submit to God’s will for my life, whatever that is, and offer myself a living sacrifice (even if I keep wanting to crawl off the altar). There’s much more that could be said here about singleness. I am actually going to work through that in January over at the EQUIP book club, so you can pick that up over there if you like.

What's really your issue?

I had to think: what would dating a non-Christian really be saying about what matters to me? It's hard to get around the conclusion that what it means is that a relationship matters to me more than Christ. Then basically what I’d have for myself is an idol. If you are a Christian, you know that dating a non-Christian is wrong, and you willfully do it, then you really need to be honest with yourself about the fact that you don’t trust in God and something else is more important to you. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:34).

And might I say that this is where "missionary dating" is absolutely farcical. You can't date someone in order to "save" them. That might sound noble, but you have already totally discredited yourself and the gospel. And to toy with that person in your own indecision most certainly doesn't adorn the gospel either. It’s crucial to your gospel witness that you treat them with integrity, mean what you say, live like you believe it and then go away and stay away and pray. That’s what will best serve their salvation. Believing that enabled me to keep my resolve and leave it all with God. Then later last year I read this article on Pyromaniacs, so I will just quote a section of it here. And you simply have to read what he says at the end of the article in response to the defense that "other people have done it, and it worked out OK for them" (if that is one of the tantalising ideas that runs through your head):

“See, if you are in a dating relationship with someone who doesn't love Christ, you've already said the Christ-issue isn't the issue to you. Her looks, his job, the way she treats you, his sense of humor — whatever; these things matter more to you than Christ does.

You want this person to believe that he is a sinner, under God's wrath, and deserving His judgment. You want him to know that his righteous deeds are as filthy rags, that everything he can produce is not enough for God.

But you've already communicated, by your choice, that what he has is enough for you. That you and he share enough values, goals, aspirations, and affections to create (or even consider) an exclusive and intimate relationship.

See? You've already dealt a death-blow to your own credibility. You really might as well stop talking. Your priorities, your choices, have drowned out your words (cf. the principle of Titus 1:16).”

I also discovered how true it is that what the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies. Oh, the mental gymnastics I did in working this through. I thought crazy things! Beware that your mind plays dreadful tricks on you when you want to find a way to have something.

What do you think marriage is for?

I didn’t have all of this sorted out at the time, but I did read Ephesians 5 and wonder how any of that would be possible if I was married to a non-believer. Even one who I thought would be a great husband and potentially father. How could he possibly encourage my sanctification? I had to explore and remind myself what marriage is actually for. If we think all it's for is so we can have some one to go places with, share relational and sexual intimacy, set up a nice home, have some children, then we won't be able to what is really wrong with dating non-Christians. But marriage is about something so much grander than that. As John Piper says in his book, This Momentary Marriage (which is not available yet in Australia, but sounds like necessary reading):

… ultimately, marriage is the display of God. It displays the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people to the world in a way that no other event or institution does. Marriage, therefore, is not mainly about being in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. And staying married is not about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant and putting the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love on display.
Similarly, I haven’t read Married for God, by Christopher Ash, and I have a question over that book for another time, but marriage (as well as everything else) is for God’s glory and service. Remember that and see way past the immediate romance and small-scale vision of life with a non-christian. (And as an aside, one of the other things that really scares me about marrying a nonny is the thought of marrying somebody who is relying on me to make them happy. Because what are they going to do when I fail (which I will, as sure as the sun rises and sets)? I need to be able to believe that the fellow is looking to Jesus, and not me, as the source of his worth, identity, joy … And we also mustn't think we can marry a non-Christian and expect them to have a Christian view of marriage. You can't impose your own values on someone who has no reason to hold those values.)

That's all for now. That's really just scratching the surface and I am sure I will think of more salient points in future - and feel free to add some.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Nonny Enticement Pt 1 - A Story

I have a few blog posts that I have been meaning to write for a long time. At times there were reasons not to write them, because the story was still unfolding, because I didn't want to embarass the person concerned, and because God only knows what sort of "stuff" I may have lived to regret I said as I worked it through.

But the time has now come. The story, for the time being, has unfolded, I'll reveal later why the person concerned has no need to be embarassed, and, by the grace of God, I think I have worked it through.

So, for those of you who don't use the kind of lingo one hilarious friend of mine uses, a "nonny" is a non-Christian guy, or equally a girl. Relationships with nonnies is a temptation I thought I was immune too. I'd resisted for years and never given it a serious thought. That's before I met him (haven't you all heard that before). So, I'll tell you my story, so you know that I really do understand this particular enticement, and have had occasion to think it through in the hard places, and then later I'll move onto some more general things I have to say about this business of dating nonnies.

For the purposes of these posts I thought I'd use the code name I gave to him, that being Ignus fatuus. But that's a bit clumsy and a friend who talked me through some of this business, much as he liked my code name, said it sounded like what he used to try with the boys at school, except that perhaps that was ignis flatuus, so we'll make it Rochester (because why not - if you're going to be enticed by somebody who is off-limits then you might as well call him Rochester).

So, early last year (2007) I went along to a certain ordination service, for the purpose of helping my friend Sally (not her real name) with her three kids, while her husband Pete (not his real name either obviously, but some of you are going to work this out) was being ordained, and cheering Pete on of course. Pete's best mate (that being Rochester) from his days in the Navy had also come along to witness this ordination. Sally and I and the kids were running a little late, after gathering up children and supplies, so I said a brief hello as I climbed over Rochester to get further into the pew. Then we sat through two whole hours of this ordination service with four small children between us. Afterwards as we squatted on the floor and gathered up pencils, books and chip packets from the mosaic-tiled floor we exchanged proper hellos, then joined the queue to get out of the Cathedral. Knowing that this was Pete's friend who’d come along I was making an effort to be friendly and by the time we made it down the aisle we had strangely covered a fair amount of ground. Afterwards we milled around over morning tea, during which Rochester was being extremely kind and kept offering to fetch me drinks, passing me food and talking to me as though he liked talking to me. By the time morning tea was over I walked to my car thinking 'he is such a nice guy'. (But note this and the irony of it: I didn't go out looking for a non-Christian, I met one at an Ordination service inside the Cathedral.)

At this time I was actually the co-leader of the military bible study, which operated as one of the bible study groups in my church, which was partly being led by another fellow in the Navy. Having never met Rochester before, in the course of many military-type events, I asked Pete if this guy was someone we should follow up (since Rochester himself had insisted on coming to the ordination service). Pete said yes sure (with a caution in there about the guy/girl thing) and in the process affirmed to me that "he really is a great guy".

I didn't think there was too much further I could do about this, but on a Monday a week later, after I had been thinking and praying about this scenario and the fact that this guy was a little stuck in my head, I was walking up Market St in the rain, later than usual because I was going to meet a friend for dinner and Rochester, who works nowhere near the city, was walking down York St, also on his way to meet a friend visiting from Canberra for dinner, and we basically collided on the corner. So, we say hi, then he steers me off the foothpath out of the rain (yes, this was a Hollywood moment) and we went and stood under an awning and chatted for a while. So, there I was looking up into the light blue eyes of the most physically attractive man I'd ever met, talking in the rain and most importantly, he said he'd come along to church. I hurried off to meet my friend with a smile I couldn't quite wipe off my face.

So, the following Sunday I am hoping and praying he would come to church. He wasn't there when it started and I didn't see him come in anytime after that and was feeling the disappointment when I stand up during the break we had in the middle of the service and there he is sitting in the very back pew. I don't know how he managed it, because security is fairly tight in the building, but he'd snuck in the back somewhere. So, I went and sat with him, because I'd encouraged him to come (and Pete, his ordained friend, was actually preaching this evening, which I had used as leverage :), and couldn't sit with him). Aside from the fact that I needed a telescope to see what was happening in the service that was a good night, and we talked for some time in the pew afterwards.

He came back to church when he could two weeks later. We talked, then he walked me to my car and when we reached the carpark asked me if I would like to catch up for coffee sometime. I said "yes", because we all know that coffee is not being asked "out" don't we, and it was hardly the time or place to tell him why I couldn’t date non-Christians.

So I prayed like crazy for the three days before coffee, and Pete and Sally, who really didn’t like this development, did to. Because he’d been along to church it was fairly easy for me to ask him what he thought of what he’d been hearing and so began a long conversation about Christianity, Catholicism (he is a Catholic) and the like. Rochester is not lacking in intelligence or perception and so eventually he said to me “so does your faith mean that I couldn’t ask you out sometime?”, which was an answer to prayer about when and how I might tell him that, should the need arise. I had to say yes, obviously, but also let him know that it wasn’t because I didn’t want to. That was a sad moment. But being the gentleman that he is he still walked me to the bus, waited with me till it came, then we parted company. I thought that might have been the end of it and spent a good while kneeling by my bed praying my heart out about the whole thing (I am not usually one of those pious people who kneels on the floor to pray, but that night there didn’t seem to be anything else to do). The following week Pete caught up with Rochester, had a long conversation about Christianity (to Pete’s amazement), and Rochester agreed to come along and do the Simply Christianity course at my church. I tried not to let hope soar, but it did.

So Rochester went through the course, came along to church occasionally in the meantime, and on the last night I was especially praying like mad, hoping he’d make some kind of commitment. He didn’t that night, but I continued to hope and pray. It was actually ANZAC day the following day and so I caught a bus in to city at 3:30am to go to the Dawn service and then watch him and my bible study co-leader march with the Navy. Between the service and the march he took me to breakfast, insisted on paying, continued to be devastatingly nice to me, then over a coffee I tried to ask him what he had thought of the course, to which he replied that he liked it, but that it hadn’t really changed anything for him. I feel like I almost shut down the rest of that conversation, because it was just too hard and disappointing to have. Then I knew I just had to get out of there because otherwise I’d want to stay forever, so I saw him off at the start of his march and went off to find the wife and kids of my friend from bible study.

That was essentially the end of it. There are other bits and pieces and we maintain a friendship and he actually came along to Burn Your Plastic Jesus, the Mark Driscoll event in the Sydney Entertainment Centre, with me in August this year, but sadly, his entrenched Catholicism seems to prevent him seeing the clear light of the gospel.

I don’t know why this particular guy got to me. He just did. He was attractive, chivalrous, responsible, caring, sociable and humourous (made me and everybody laugh), a natural leader (he’s a Commander in the Navy, and according to someone I know who was trained by him he “runs a tight ship, but is a very funny guy” – nice) and had a certain something that charmed whoever he met. He came along to watch Pete graduate from Theological College and when I introduced him to people who I thought were going to let me have it instead they said to me “I see the problem Ali, because he is lovely”. The Dean himself, during one of our little “chats” which he began with the question “are you guarding your heart Ali?”, said to me “he's a nice man”. Because he is. (I don’t say that because I think you should have the Dean on a pedestal, but because if you don’t know me or trust my judgment you might trust his). Not to mention the fact that he simply asked me somewhere, and it worked. I was 33 years old at the time, feeling like my hopes and dreams of marriage and family were slipping away, and that this might really be the last opportunity for me. I’d been at my church for four years and never been asked for coffee, I can count on one hand the number of single Christian guys anything like my age that I know, and I haven’t been asked since. (And if Rochester ever reads this then he should know that if it wasn’t that I found him so attractive and thought so highly of him, then the whole scenario would never have been a problem in the first place.)

So, hopefully now you appreciate that I understand this one. I’ll leave this very long post here and come back soon, with the reasons I discovered and worked through about why it is a faithless thing to do to date non-Christians.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The happiness in parenting

You won’t often find anything on parenting here, largely because I think childless people should think twice before offering it, but while waiting for the bus yesterday I picked up the Sydney Child magazine and read a little article called The Parenting Paradox, by Arthur C. Brooks, who is president of an institute that sounds like it has little to do with parenting (the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research), but obviously it does. After discussing the ways in which having children reduces parental "happiness", which, incidentally, it reports is primarily owing to the effect that they have on the marriage, with quality of a marriage found to be critically important for life satisfaction, it says this:

"So why do we keep having kids, apart from the ticking of our biological clocks? Researchers find the reason goes deeper than happiness – to meaning ... Meaning in life is not the same thing as "happiness", and for most of us it is actually more important.

But there is one way in which parenting does raise happiness: parents increase the happiness of their children. A 2007 survey conducted by MTV and the Associated Press asked more than a thousand 13 to 24 year olds what made them happy. The number-one response did not accord with our adult paranoia at all – it was not hanging out at a shopping centre, playing video games or driving too fast. It was spending time with family. Almost three-quarters of the youthful respondents anonymously reported that their relationship with their parents made them happy."

So, be encouraged. Things aren’t always what they seem.

Picture from: www.channel4learning.net

Friday, December 05, 2008

Poetry Friday - Out of time

And indeed, so is this poem. I am endeavouring to venture into more modern poetry of late, some of you may have noticed. So here is a modern poet we studied at school, Kenneth Slessor. For some reason I wasn't overly rapt in him then, perhaps because he just wasn't romantic enough for my teenage fancies, and I have since then had the impression that he was to blame for the poem about the abbatoir, but I think now that was the work of Robert Gray. This one is a little longer, but very easy to read and comprehend (and it's in three parts, so you can quit at any one of them).


Out Of Time
Kenneth Slessor

I
I saw Time flowing like a hundred yachts
That fly behind the daylight, foxed with air;
Or piercing, like the quince-bright, bitter slats
Of sun gone thrusting under Harbour's hair.

So Time, the wave, enfolds me in its bed,
Or Time, the bony knife, it runs me through.
“Skulker, take heart," I thought my own heart said.
"The flood, the blade go by - Time flows, not you!”

Vilely, continuously, stupidly,
Time takes me, drills me, drives through bone and vein,
So water bends the seaweeds in the sea,
The tide goes over, but the weeds remain.

Time, you must cry farewell, take up the track,
And leave this lovely moment at your back!

II
Time leaves the lovely moment at his back,
Eager to quench and ripen, kiss or kill;
To-morrow begs him, breathless for his lack,
Or beauty dead entreats him to be still.

His fate pursues him; he must open doors,
Or close them, for that pale and faceless host
Without a flag, whose agony implores
Birth to be flesh, or funeral, to be ghost.

Out of all reckoning, out of dark and light,
Over the edges of dead Nows and Heres,
Blindly and softly, as a mistress might,
He keeps appointments with a million years.

I and the moment laugh, and let him go,
Leaning against his golden undertow.

III
Leaning against the golden undertow,
Backward, I saw the birds begin to climb
with bodies hailstone-clear, and shadows flow,
Fixed in a sweet meniscus, out of Time,

Out of the torrent, like the fainter land
Lensed in a bubble's ghostly camera,
The lighted beach, the sharp and china sand
Glitters and waters and peninsula -

The moment's world it was; and I was part,
Fleshless and ageless, changeless and made free.
“Fool, would you leave this country?” cried my heart,
But I was taken by the suck of sea.

The gulls go down, the body dies and rots,
And Time flows past them like a hundred yachts.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The town rat and the country rat

I like this story, and I like this idea. Bush rats are cute. More importantly, they belong here. I hope they oust those grotty stowaways. (Introduced species make me mad!)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Amusing myself with small things

On the other side of the partition that divides up the sea of partitions I work amongst sits a pleasant grey-haired German fellow. I love it when he calls his wife or other family and speaks to them in German. I tried to learn German once as an adult (but taking a class one night a week is a pretty hopeless way to learn a language and so I didn't get very far) so I listen sometimes for recognisable words and phrases. Most of the time I can't understand a word of the conversation, but yesterday I had a breakthrough: I heard him say funf, drei, sieben. That's 537!!
Next to this pleasant German sits another grey-haired chap, R, who's worked here forever and has a great sense of humour, which often sets me laughing on my side of the wall. I like it when R calls his wife too because after 28 years of marriage he still calls her "lovey". Across a corrider sits a grey-haired lady B, who has also worked here forever and she occasionally gets a visit from a friend H, who comes downstairs and hangs off her partition to chat for a while. Every time H comes down to visit B, R mysteriously gets a phone call and has a loud conversation with a fellow called Arthur. When I first moved down here I wondered 'who is Arthur' and I hadn't yet worked out that Arthur always called when H is down here. Anyway, Arthur is apparently H's imaginery husband, and he always has some problem with H that he needs to talk through by the sounds of it (and R is just prank calling himself to have these one-sided conversations). This morning H came down, and sure enough then Arthur supposedly called R who went on with the usual "oh that's terrible Arthur" etc. I couldn't resist so a little later I ducked out into the hall with my mobile phone and called R and, in my best man's voice, pretended to be Arthur. The only problem is that I hadn't really thought about the rest of the conversation, so then I just stood in the corrider and dissolved into fits of laughter and that was the end of it. But it was fun while it lasted.

Monday, December 01, 2008

One death in Mumbai

This friend of a friend was taken hostage and then killed in Mumbai last week. If you feel so inclined please pray for her young husband and family, that they might come to know Christ through their grief.