Sunday, May 31, 2009

Meet me again and be radical

I have been re-interviewed over at the EQUIP book club, and begin posting there tomorrow on the book Radical Womanhood, by Carolyn McCulley.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Poetry Friday - Baby sitting

Poetry Friday has made a surprise reappearance. I have a friend, who is one of those true kindred spirits, who is travelling overseas at the moment on her long service leave (she asked me to come, but, alas, I couldn't do it!), and she sent me an email the other day to tell me about the Hay Festival, which is the largest book festival in the world apparently. She is spending over a week there and has been along to a number of events, some of them poets reading their own poems, and so she went and heard Gillian Clarke, the national poet for Wales. My friend thought I might like Gillian Clarke, so I did a quick google and found the poem below.

It captures that uncomfortable feeling of babysitting so well. I don't not love other people's children, or think they are in any way disgusting, and I quite like babysitting, but there is something very alien about trying to comfort the child of someone else in the night, feeling for them in knowing that you aren't who they want - and I have often sat through babysitting badly hoping the child wouldn't wake, so that neither of us would have to face it. One of my most disturbing babysitting experiences was when a two year old, who was not well, woke up suddenly and unexpectedly found me there (his parents hadn't had a chance to tell him I was coming before he fell asleep), and screamed and screamed at me "I don't like you, I don't like you" over and over again with vehemence, and sobbed and fought me off wildly, so this is a poem for me and for him. (If you go to this website, then under the "for students" tab, you will find some notes on this poem, that explain some of the stranger phrases - I can't make a direct link unfortunately.)

Baby Sitting

I am sitting in the wrong room listening
For the wrong baby. I don’t love
This baby. She is sleeping a snuffly
Roseate, bubbling sleep; she is fair;
She is a perfectly acceptable child.
I am afraid of her. If she wakes
She will hate me. She will shout
Her hot midnight rage, her nose
Will stream disgustingly and the perfume
Of her breath will fail to enchant me.

To her I will represent absolute
Abandonment. For her it will be worse
Than for the lover cold in lonely
Sheets; worse than for the woman who waits
A moment to collect her dignity
Beside the bleached bone in the terminal ward.
As she rises sobbing from the monstrous land
Stretching for milk–familiar comforting,
She will find me and between us two
It will not come. It will not come.

Gillian Clarke

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Whatever my lot ... even so ...

Carmelina has posted today at the EQUIP book club on the hymn It Is Well With My Soul, and how it reflects the truths we find in Esther. (You can gloss over the reference to yours truly, because I do have those bad days, and have much I need to learn from Esther and elsewhere.)

If you're anything like me, you can read blog posts like this one, or the bible passages mentioned, and sort of go "yeah, I know all that" in your head, but all the while you keep on being mad or miserable or anxious, and so how to ensure that it really, truly, does change the way you think about your circumstances, the way you act and the way you speak is the thing ...

(I really enjoyed listening to the two youtube links she gave too!)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another reflection on Esther

Nicole has put up her reflection on the book of Esther over at the EQUIP book club today. I had a lovely time hanging out with Nicole for the majority of Saturday (we both needed to be there for both sessions of the conference, before joining our friends from church later in the evening, and I felt a comraderie in the task and the place I was in leading up to it, and was glad to be sharing it with someone else).

Scary bananas!

I had to smile when I stopped by the local supermarket this morning and read this sign on the bananas:

Owing to adverse weather
conditions in Queensland,
Bananas have become scares
and the price has increased.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Transformation in 12 steps

I thought I would tell you, briefly, about a night I had earlier in the month like no other I’ve ever had before. Firstly, I went along to the Healing Service at St Andrew’s Cathedral. I had no advance knowledge of this but the “guest preacher” was Phillip Jensen, preaching on James 5 and particularly verse 16, on confessing your sins to one another. That could be a whole other blog post and unfortunately it didn’t look to me like it was recorded (though I could be wrong, and it may be coming to the website).

The Healing Service has an interesting history, and one of the things they do as part of their tradition is that at the end of the service everyone in the Cathedral joins hands (which must have been in the order of 200 people) and sings the doxology that goes:

Now unto Him, who is able to keep
able to keep you from falling
and present you faultless
before the presence of his glory,
with exceeding joy.
To the only wise God, our Saviour,
be glory and majesty,
dominion and power, both now and forever,
Amen


That probably sounds weird and old-school to some, but being there I thought it was a beautiful thing and I was moved anew by the words of that doxology, even moreso because I was surrounded by people who live in very real daily dependence on God in a way that sets me an example. That's because afterwards I went along to Overcomers Outreach (which I have mentioned previously here), a twelve-step Christian program for recovering addicts, at the invitation of my friend Penny who runs it (because I am helping out with aspects of this ministry).

Obviously I am not going to blog any details of what was said there, because that’s page one: who you see here and what you hear here stays here. But like all anonymous meetings it started with “My name is ____ and I am addicted to _____ and I have been clean/sober/other for _____ long” and by the end of the introductions I thought they were the bravest people in the world. We went through some of the regular 12-step process, which this night was Step 5 “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”, which tied in so perfectly with the sermon (I don't think that was a coincidence). Then Phillip (who is also an occasional visitor at OO) gave a short bible talk looking at James again and also Psalm 32, and here again this was noteworthy.

Following this we went round the room again and everyone was to give a praise point and a petition point. During this part of the evening it was all I could do not to completely dissolve. One fellow in particular broke down as he tried to tell us how Christ had turned his life around, and I had to stare at the floor and blink furiously. Then there was a further time of sharing for those who were nominated or volunteered to do so. Phillip then prayed individually for everyone in the room, based on the points above, with care and understanding - all 25 of them. I'm telling blogdom this because I reckon it is a side of Phillip that is rarely seen (I think some perceive him as upfront preacher guy who doesn’t do pastoral guy, which is not true). All that said I should tip my hat in the direction of Chris Allen, who usually preaches at the Healing Service and does the bible presentation at Overcomer’s Outreach, and who Penny thinks is terrific. He was just stepping back this particular evening and I haven’t really seen him in action yet.

Afterwards there was a birthday cake and I stayed around talking to some of the group members, mostly a woman whose addiction I didn't even understand when she'd said it earlier. I found the whole night so incredibly moving and came away feeling quite amazed and encouraged by the way people’s lives had been so notably changed. As Penny wrote to me later: “I’m so excited for the joy you are going to experience as you watch some of the people I work with get well”. I am too.

The other thing that struck me is how helpful the twelve step process, originally invented by Christians, is. I think it’s a tool for personal change and growth that you certainly don’t need to be an addict to benefit from. Penny ran me through a the table she uses for step four "making a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves" - wow! In time I might blog more as I learn more of the steps as I go along.

Picture from: www.home-decorating-reviews.com

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My personal reflection on Esther - girls only!

Over at the EQUIP book club blog I have posted the personal reflection on the EQUIP conference talks that I shared on the day.

Here is the beginning:
I think one of my temptations when I look at my life is to try to join all the dots and write my own story, as though I can see and know everything that’s happening and make sense of it all.

And sometimes in life you have seemingly significant events, which you think ought to mean something, or work some obvious spiritual outcome, so you go looking for that — but you can’t always find it ...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Feeding 4,000 without (being) a fish

I am speaking, albeit very briefly, to around 4,000 women tomorrow at the EQUIP conference. I don't think I have ever said anything before that many people in my life. So I am hoping and praying that I can say something helpful, and also not say it like it a stunned mullet.

Among the nations

Here are two useful websites with information about people groups as yet unreached with the gospel (which I heard in a John Piper sermon). The first one in particular is quite fascinating:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Last Ride at the Sydney Film Festival

The film I went to see premiered at the Adelaide Film Festival is now screening at the Sydney Film Festival. It’s worth going to see. It’s been classified “push me to the edge” by the film festival, because it’s no chick flick, but is a moving portrayal of the human condition.

You can now watch the trailer here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

My mysterious music supply

OK, so somebody is up to something. This morning I come into work, same thing, the CD player is whirring, so I hit eject and this time I have something really special. It's Katie Price and Peter Andre. Here is the song list:

1. A Whole New World
2. The Best Things in Life are Free
3. Endless Love
4. Islands in the Stream
5. Tonight I Celebrate my Love for You
6. Cherish
7. The Two of Us
8. I Come Down
9. Don't go Breaking my Heart
10. To Die For
11. I've Had the Time of my Life
12. Lullaby

I'm happy to loan this one out.

It's either very funny, or a little bit creepy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Iamque opus exegi, Deo gratias

I have been working for a few days on the biggest judgment to ever come my way - The (never-ending) Bell Group case, for those of you in the Finance world. It’s 9,762 paragraphs (850 pages of small typesetting). I finally got to the end, and this is how Judge Owen, of the Western Australia Supreme Court, ends:

For the moment, in the words of Ovid (with an embellishment from the old Latin
Mass): Iamque opus exegi, Deo gratius.
(And now I have finished the work, thanks be to God.) Amen to that. And if I ever actually finish Bleak House, that never-ending book about another never-ending court case, I'll say it then too.

The messenger that is Facebook

There are things I have learnt about old friends that I can’t imagine I would ever have known with a similar immediacy had it not been for Facebook. It was through Facebook that I learnt that the husband of a girl who was one of my best friends in early High School died of leukemia last year. And now it is through Facebook that I discover that the fellow killed in this accident, and the seriously injured little boy, are the husband and son of another girl who was in my year at school.

Over the last two days I was wondering what all the foreboding wall messages piling up meant, so I asked another mutual friend last night. That brings me to what else is weirder still about Facebook: I now feel like I am eavesdropping on all the things people say in initial response to a person facing one of life’s greatest griefs, as they are written all over her wall. Without wanting to make a social experiment out of someone else’s tragedy, that has been quite informative. (As is perhaps to be expected, some are a lot more sensible and sensitive than others, and the ones I consider to be the least sensitive are those that attempt to offer some sort of “instruction”.)

And I am now faced with wondering what to do in light of the fact that I am now aware of the tragedy. We weren’t close at school, I have never met her husband, but I can’t just ignore what I now know. So, do I just add yet another message to a Facebook wall? (It made me wonder how people are going to be able to respond to all the information it is now possible to know about distant friends via social networking sites - and if you don't actually want to or just wouldn't respond to their information why do you have them as your "friends"?) If I think Facebook is sufficient for “Happy Birthdays” is it also sufficient for condolences on the loss of a spouse? Hmmm ...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The (cool) bag lady

My friend Ally has started a new business making bags and brooches from recycled neck ties. I am in the process of getting myself a very cool bag - I am just being indecisive between one in crimsons and one in blues and browns and another one that is somewhere in between, so am waiting to view the finished products. Nicole now has herself one, named 'The Starling'. Go and take a look.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Burn your runway lights

Ok, so just because, here is my favourite song, at present, from The Long Fall Back to Earth. It's a song about relationship reconciliation, and being welcoming and ready for that to take place (there is probably a "romantic" context for this song, but there doesn't have to be I don't think - you can read the lyrics of Weapons, another great song from earlier on the same album, for more clues). I like the use of analogy (or extended metaphor, whatever you choose to call it) - this song could nearly make Poetry Friday.


Safe to Land (Click for YouTube)

Getting tired from all this circling
Not much grace left on a broken wing
I feel the wind trying to push me down
It happens every time I get to town

I search for shelter near the mines we swept
I guess forgiveness hasn’t happened yet
There are no words that I can say to you
That turn this careless sky from black to blue
So I’m asking you

Is it safe, is it safe to land?
‘Cause I’m not going far on an empty heart
Is it safe, is it safe to land?
'Cause the long fall back to earth is the hardest part

I’m in no weather for apologies
I need your runway lights to burn for me
And if you say that I can come around
I will love you right, yea I won’t let you down,
I won’t let you down
‘Cause I’m coming home,
If these wheels touch down

I’m coming home, I’m waking you up
In the middle of the night, I’m not giving up
I’m gonna stay, ‘til we make it work
We’re not going down even if it gets worse
We’ll work it out, yeah, we’ll work it out.

I need your light,
Guide me in

Is it safe?

Picture from science.ksc.nasa.gov

Mysterious blondie

A couple of weeks ago I got yet another reconditioned hard drive, because mine was dying yet again. I believe that was after I bought my iPod, and so I just can't remember whether I ever checked the D drive or not (because all I ever used it for was music). I was on leave and then working from home for the last four work days, and so then this morning when I started up my computer I thought the disc drive was whirring, so I hit eject and out came a "The Best of Blondie" CD!

I still haven't got to the bottom of it yet ...

With my headphones on

I am buried in a few other writing projects at the moment, but the same time I am thrashing The Long Fall Back to Earth, the latest album by Jars of Clay. At first listening I wasn't all that fussed, but now I am really loving it. I confess, I like Jars of Clay mainly for their music, and they are the only Christian group I go out of my way to listen to (but am a big fan of some solo artists). I once had some muso friends in Brisbane who reckoned there was no such thing as good Christian music (because it was all so amateur and "daggy") but then one day they all got in my car and Something Beautiful (a song with a great sound - and still one of my favourites) was playing and the chief Christian-music-hater said "what's this music? this is pretty cruisy" - and it was then that he had to acknowledge that good Christian music occasionally existed. (A couple of the songs on this latest album remind me of what was best about 80s music, eg Don't Stop and Scenic Route, because it's more "pop".) I am sure you could dismantle some of their songs for lack of theological soundness, however, they also have some stand-out lyrics.

But anyway, after all that qualification and all those brackets, here is a song for a Wednesday in Sydney (the parts in brackets here are sung by a teenage girl, who joins in for the last verse). I'll come back later with my favourite song:


Headphones

I don't have to hear it, if I don't want to
I can drown this out, pull the curtains down on you
It's a heavy world, it's too much for me to care
If I close my eyes, it's not there

With my headphones on, with my headphones on
With my headphones on, with my headphones on

We watch television ... but the sound is something else
Just a song played against the drama, so the hurt is never felt
I take in the war-fires, and I'm chilled by the current events
It's so hopeless, but there's a pop song in my

Headphones on, in my headphones on
With my headphones on, with my headphones on

At the Tube Stop, you sit down across from me
(I can see you looking back at me)
I think I know you
By the sad eyes that I see
I want to tell you (It's a heavy world)
Everything will be okay
You wouldn't hear it (I don't want to have to hear it)
So we go our separate ways ...

With our headphones on, with our headphones on
With our headphones on, with our headphones on

I don't wanna be the one who tries to figure it out
I don't need another reason I should care about you
You don't want to know my story
You don't want to own my pain
Living in a heavy, heavy world
And there's a pop song in my head

I don't want to have to hear it

Photo from allie_claire at flickr.com

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Remembering '59 - A Billy Graham Documentary

Speaking of times past, yesterday I went out to Koorong, to stock up on Mother’s Day and birthday gifts, and something that I particularly wanted to get was the new DVD documentary called Remembering ’59, about the 1959 Billy Graham crusade to Australia. I first became aware of this DVD because my newfound and lovely friends Mike and Nikki Thompson were contracted to do the research for the film, and have written the little booklet that accompanies the DVD (and so they told me about it).

I thought my grandparents would be really interested in it. But then I couldn’t resist watching it myself, especially after a quick flick through the booklet. I was fascinated. Most of us thought 10,000 people in the entertainment centre, the vast majority of whom were already Christians, to hear Mark Driscoll last year was something, but Billy Graham drew the largest crowd that has ever been seen in the Melbourne Cricket Ground, bigger even than the Olympics, and that was 143,000 people. Then he spoke at the Sydney Cricket Ground and showground combined to 150,000 (it’s almost unimaginable!).

But the thing that struck me was the enormous amount of preparation that went into the Crusade. In 1957 Billy agreed to come, and from then on the work was underway. 17,500 people were trained as counselors, to work with those who responded to the crusade, and there were 40,000 prayer partners. Two films were shown in cinemas to packed audiences, at a time when TV was threatening local cinemas, and radio programs were started prior to him coming. Some churches had to begin their follow-up plan before he even got here, because people were converted watching the films.

Billy then spoke at 114 meetings in 106 days when he was here and in New Zealand, and these were not just “meetings”, they were crowds of thousands. The DVD contains original footage of Billy Graham speaking in Australia, which I had never seen before. And his messages appear to be strikingly simple and bible-saturated. During the time that he was here there were 147,000 responses. All those who came forward had their details taken, which were then sent to the outreach centre, and from there they were given to local churches. Congregations like St Stephen’s Presbyterian in Macquarie Street Sydney had 600 new people assigned to it, 75% of whom stayed on at that church long-term.

I could write all afternoon about the documentary. One of the best parts about it is the interviews with those who were involved. Jerry Beaven, who orchestrated the crusade, and must have been a man of remarkable skill, is now an old man and he is interviewed. The soloist singer who traveled with Billy recently turned 100 and he also is interviewed. So too is Ron Baker, the illiterate drunk who was converted and went on to become a minister.

I found it just so interesting and encouraging. If you want to know more about what is still considered a pivotal moment in our nation’s history, I’d recommend this documentary. Billy Graham was actually mentioned in my church service this morning during a sermon on Hebrews 11, in reference to the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us. It’s a story that will spur you on.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Ministry in the military

So my article on Military in the Ministry is in this month’s Briefing, but unfortunately James and Sarah, the subjects of the article, didn’t get a photo to us in time to be included (Sarah thought all current ones were a bit daggy and out-of-date and was trying to get a new one). So, for old times’ sake I thought I would post a photo of the Fighting Words Conference in 2005. I am centre left in a bright green jumper. Immediately to my left is James and then Sarah. I have my arm around Jenny Nixon and Andrew (Nixon) is sitting on the ground with their youngest son (in the days before he got all funked up for the first ENGAGE conference ;) …). To my right is the strange legend that is Campo, the jet pilot, then next to him is Aimee and Pinghan. On the ground in front of them with their oldest son (now of four kids) in a striped beanie is Dan and Simone Godde, now also training with Defence Christians in Canberra, and my good friends Nick and Ange Rose are left of them. Michael Hanlon who heads up the whole thing is standing up on the play equipment, with slightly less hair than the others :). They were good days! (Note, this didn't really work, because the picture is so small, but if you go here and click the photo, you can see it in much larger format.)