Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The balm in Gilead

I’ll stop in from the break to post this one thing, which I have just realized I should have posted on Christmas Eve. A few days before Christmas I finished Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, and found it the most incandescent book, to steal a word from the last page.

One of the things that is extraordinary about the book is what Marilynne Robinson actually gets away with. If ever a work of fiction titled towards ‘preaching’ this one does, but it does so with such immense gentleness and grace that the whole world of literature responds (it won a Pulitzer). There is a sympathy that stirs in this book which is enticingly beautiful. And the last dozen or so pages are amongst the most exquisite dozen or so pages I have read. I read them again and again, as the tears streamed off my face. Here is a portion (which I don’t think gives away any of the story, if you want to read it yourself):

‘How could he possibly leave now!’ she says. That’s a fair question, I suppose, but I think I know the answer to it. The house will fill up with those estimable people and their husbands and wives and their pretty children. How could he [the wayward son] be there in the midst of it all with that sad and splendid treasure in his heart? ...

I can tell you this, that if I’d married some rosy dame and she had given me ten children and they had each given me ten grandchildren, I’d leave them all, on Christmas Eve, on the coldest night of the world, and walk a thousand miles just for the sight of your face, your mother’s face. And if I never found you, my comfort would be in that hope, my lonely and singular hope, which could not exist in the whole of Creation except in my heart and in the heart of the Lord. That is just a way of saying I could never thank God sufficiently for the splendor He has hidden from the world – your mother excepted, of course – and revealed to me in your sweetly ordinary face. Those kind Boughton brothers and sisters would be ashamed of the wealth of their lives beside the seeming poverty of Jack’s life, and he would utterly and bitterly prefer what he had lost to everything they had. That is not a tolerable state of mind to be in, as I am well aware.

And old Boughton, if he could stand up out of his chair, out of his decrepitude and crankiness and sorrow and limitation, would abandon all those handsome children of his, mild and confident as they are, and follow after that one son whom he has never known, whom he has favored as one does a wound, and he would protect him as a father cannot, defend him with a strength he does not have, sustain him with a bounty beyond any resource he could ever dream of having. If Boughton could be himself, he would utterly pardon every transgression, past, present, and to come, whether or not it was a transgression in fact or his to pardon. He would be that extravagant. That is a thing I would love to see.

As I have told you, I myself was the good son, so to speak, the one who never left his father’s house – even when his father did, a fact which surely puts my credentials beyond all challenge. I am one of those righteous for whom the rejoicing in heaven will be comparatively restrained. And that’s all right. There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal. So how could it subordinate itself to cause or consequence? ...

... Augustine says the Lord loves each of us as an only child, and that has to be true. ‘He will wipe the tears from all faces.’ It takes nothing from the loveliness of the verse to say that is exactly what will be required.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas and Fare thee Well

Well, this will most likely be it for 2009, since I am off to Queensland after work today. So, thank you very much for reading along this year and I hope you all have a joyful Christmas and New Year. Someone here at work actually gave me a scanner they don't need anymore yesterday, so 2010 on Something This Foggy Day might be a year with more pictures.

I might go out with a link to this post called Holidays Clarify our Pain over at Practical Theology for Women.

(I have to confess, I don't especially like going to Christmas - because it is hardly "home" I go to these days - by myself every year, feeling like the family freak (and there's always those people who ask you if you have any "news", though I think they've all given up now). And every year I come back and can't help the hope that maybe the next one will be different, and there will be someone to go with and some hope of having a family of my own. But then the next Christmas rolls around the same as the last, I get on a plane by myself again, and the hope gets dimmer with each one that passes. So that's why I like this post.)

And so goodbye, and God bless.

Monday, December 21, 2009

CS Lewis on obedience and what God foreknows

This is a little spooky. I've been reading the chapter on Human Pain in The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis rather slowly (and intermittently), because there is so much in it. And I read the quote posted today at Desiring God, the other day and very nearly posted it, with some of what comes before it under "the third operation of suffering" (though I suppose there's nothing that serendipitous in one of 8,152 subscribers - and that's only in google reader - reading the same book!). Since I am carrying the book around with me, I will add in a section that comes before, then snitch that bit from Desiring God:

It has sometimes been asked whether God commands certain things because they are right, or whether certain things are right because God commands them ... believe ... that 'they err who think that of the will of God to do this or that there is no reason besides His will' [quoted from Hooker, Laws of Eccl. Polity]. God's will is determined by His wisdom which always perceives, and His goodness which always embraces, the intrinsically good. But when we have said that God commands things only because they are good, we must add that one of the things intrinsically good is that rational creatures should freely surrender themselves to their Creator in obedience. The content of our obedience - the thing we are commanded to do - will always be something intrinsically good, something we ought to do even if (by an impossible supposition) God had not commanded it. But in addition to the content, the mere obeying is also intrinsically good, for, in obeying, a rational creature consciously enacts its creaturely role, reverses the act by which we fell, treads Adam's dance backwards, and returns. (Pp 99-100)
Then, reflecting on why God put Abraham's faith to the test by commanding him to offer his son, Lewis says,

If God then is omniscient, he must have known what Abraham would do, without any experiment. Why then this needless torture?" But as St. Augustine points out, whatever God knew, Abraham at any rate did not know that his obedience would endure such a command until the event taught him: and the obedience which he did not know that he would choose, he cannot be said to have chosen. The reality of Abraham's obedience was the act itself; and what God knew in knowing that Abraham "would obey" was Abraham's actual obedience on that mountain top a that moment. To say that God "need not have tried the experiment" is to say that because God knows, the thing known by God need not to exist. (The Problem of Pain, 101)

I am a winner!

My ship just keeps on coming in right now - I just won another Penguin competition! This time I won two tickets to see Bright Star, with a spiel about being a wannabe poet and an admirer of Grieg Fraser's cinematography (he also filmed the stunning Last Ride) or some such thing. Woo-ooh! I am looking forward to it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Christmas Recipe Meme - Holly table decorations

The lovely Ally has tagged me in a Christmas recipe meme. These are the rules (how do some people manage to indent stuff on blogs? - one of the things I am going to do one of these days is learn some more HTML):

  • Link to the person who ‘tagged’ you.
  • Post the rules on your blog.
  • Post your favourite Christmas recipe – something traditionally festive or something that has become a tradition in your house.
  • Tag four people at the end of your post.
  • Let each person know they have been tagged by commenting on their blog.
  • Let the tagger know the entry is posted on your blog.
  • Post your own Christmas recipe within a week of being tagged to keep this on the move.

  • I might break some of these rules. Because I always travel home for Christmas (oh to have a house in Sydney big enough for family visits!) I don't have so many traditional recipes. I am more prone to trying to make some exotic specialty each year, some of which work, some of which don't (the fig and hazelnut panforte seemed like a good idea at the time, but fiddling around with hot liquid glucose is not something I'm recommending!). So, way back here I showed you some table decorations I made for Christmas in July, and I thought I would give you more detailed instructions on those.


    It's really quite simple. You need:

  • red and green cellophane (I bought this in Go-Lo)
  • pipe cleaners (I bought these tinsel ones also in Go-Lo, otherwise ordinary red and green ones are good)
  • jaffas
  • mint leaves (you can't always get these in supermarkets, but K-Mart is good)

  • First you cut the cellophane into squares that are big enough to wrap around the jaffas and leaves with an inch or so left for tying them together (don't be too skimpy on the green, because it needs to make it down the length of the leaves). Then you simply fold the cellophane from the middle over the jaffas and leaves, and twist the ends. I think they look better with the fat ends of the leaves facing out, which you need to think about when wrapping them.

    For each decoration you need three jaffas, two leaves, and in this case I used half a pipe cleaner.


    First get the three jaffas together and twist one end of the pipe cleaner firmly around them, then get the two leaves behind the jaffas and wind the rest of the pipe cleaner around them, any old how that makes it all stay together (I tried to take these photos in the other hand, because my other fingernail looked better, and couldn't, so thankfully my nails didn't really come out).




    And voila! You have yourself edible decorations. As I mentioned in that last post, you can scatter them around for some Christmas cheer on the table (or supper tables at church or wherever), add them to place cards, hang them over a wine glass, add them to your tree, or whatever takes your fancy.


    I don't think I'll tag anyone, because it looks like nearly everyone I know has been tagged already, and presumably a Christmas recipe meme is only good for so long, but if you want to share your favourite, please do!

    Friday, December 18, 2009

    The liberation in the uselessness of plans

    After making vague reference to “some military general” in the post below, I couldn’t help myself and went googling. It turns out I was quoting none other than Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II, before he was the 34th President of the United States, only what he really said was:
    In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.
    And it would seem his original source was a “statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything".

    So there you have it, those are the facts, true and accurate (as per Wikipedia anyhow).

    I find that a liberating notion really, because it means that plans were not all a waste of time, or an humiliation, even if things don’t go ‘according to plan’, in the end. You have gained something in the planning (I don’t know what exactly – but maybe a clarity of purpose, strategy, possibilities, needs, wishes or some such thing).

    And sometimes a random thought that came along generates a second blog post, and that's OK ... There isn't enough money in the world to make me want to be the Commander leading anybody into a World War, or the President of the United States, but I might go and write a book list.

    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    My book-laden ship comes in

    Every now and then, just every now and then, your ship comes in, in the small things.

    I have become a frequenter of op shops around my local area, and find the whole business rather hit and miss – some days you score, and some days you think it’s a pile of smelly, dirty, old junk (I guess that’s why it’s called “opportunity” shopping really). Anyway, lately my local op shop as been stocking in the books – they’ve been stocking in just about everything actually, such that it’s getting so cramped in there you can hardly move, and a person now has to be in the frame of mind to venture in.

    I’ve never been very rapt by the book selection, until this one day. I told you I have been reading about CS Lewis’s poetry, and there is a work that is often referred to, which is his preface to Milton’s Paradise Lost. Would you believe I found Lewis’s Preface to Paradise Lost for $2 in the op shop – what are the chances? (Whether I actually read it or not is the thing, since I am yet to get through Paradise Lost from beginning to end - much as I like poetry, epic or narrative poetry is not my favourite - but for $2, who cares.) I have also been wanting to read some of Kazuo Ishiguro for some time now, and I picked up Never Let Me Go for $4 (which is being released as a movie next year I believe, so I will be all primed). I have also long been wanting to revisit Alice in Wonderland (because I can’t remember it) and thinking it would be nice to get a copy with the original illustrations by John Tenniel, and I found this boxed set of the works of Lewis Carroll, in hardback with illustrations by John Tenniel, for $10. I’ve also thought I should have a go at Margaret Atwood, and I got Oryx and Crake for $3. Win, win win!

    The other day I thought I should actually formulate a reading list for next year, which might help me be a little bit more systematic - not to mention realistic - in how I go about things, and not buy books willy-nilly either, and started jotting. So far it’s almost all a pile of fiction! - but take a look at Jean's list here. I think I need to at least write one. If plans are useless but planning is essential (I believe some military general said that - and my usual modus operandi is based only on the first portion), maybe my list will also prove useless, but the writing of it will be in some way beneficial.

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Trust and Contentment

    So, it’s all been on the lower end of meaningful and encouraging and Godward and uplifting around here lately. But if I was to write such posts, I might hope they would approximate to what you find in these two books – so here they are for you, in commendation. Especially if Christmas is a time of year that contains its hard things, or its pain or disappointment in reflecting on the year that’s past.

    I am never so sure what to suggest you do with “devotional” books, because they don’t seem quite like reading your bible to me (and I would apply that even to Charles Spurgeons’s great Morning and Evening) in that it is usually a discussion arising from one or two verses of Scripture, coming at you in any sort of order. So I tend to read these as extras, which might sound like more than some people can manage, but they really are worth reading through in whatever moment you can fit them in (that said I haven’t started on Contentment yet, and am still pondering my way through Trust). Lydia Brownback is a single woman, if that is a fact that is of some note for you – not that these books are by any means limited to women in that state, but to say that it is a state she identifies with.

    I couldn’t decide on any one example of a reading to post for you, because there are many that have hit me where they found me at the time, but you can find out more about the books, see the contents and read excerpts over at Crossway's website here (just keep clicking through, and there are two more titles coming next year). If you’re looking for something to soak up for the holiday period, these might be just the thing.

    US Book Depository

    Is it just me who didn’t know that the Book Depository also has a US store (www.bookdepository.com), with the same deal of free international postage? You can compare prices between the UK (www.bookdepository.co.uk) and the US sites, in Australian dollars, and sometimes one is cheaper than the other!

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    You shall love your crooked neighbour

    I read this yesterday over at Abraham Piper's Twenty Two Words, and was lured in to read the rest. I haven't read a whole lot of Auden, and poems like this one rather make me think I should give up, it's so beautiful. I might turn this verse into a magnet:

    … O stand, stand at the window
    As the tears scald and start;
    You shall love your crooked neighbour
    With your crooked heart …

    -W. H. Auden

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Apple heads

    I do think this is rather cool!


    (And if you know all about Macs, but don't know your art - ie you have a serious geek problem :) - here is the original, The Son of Man, by Rene Magritte.)

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Poetry - The Hole

    I did the second day of my poetry course yesterday and it was just fabulous. I learnt things which were quite a revelation to me, which I will refrain from detailing here because the audience for a poetry lesson is a limited one, but they might appear in dribs and drabs.

    Anyway, I thought I’d be brave and give you an original poem, though you can expect better things from this point on, with my increased awareness. I wrote this poem some time ago, and have hesitated to post it, mainly because I thought there are those out there who might question my theological soundness or my personal faith (which I don't think is necessary - though I guess the writer never would - mainly because I think poetry can express the range of human experience, in much the same way as the Psalms do, and still be "faithful", which is a whole other topic that has been discussed elsewhere - and I digress in my own defence). But at the other end I have made some very good friends through this poem, because they have read it and thought “ah, yes” and a conversation began. And that to me is one of the possibilities of poetry.

    I took this one along to workshop because I had questions about it and I asked Judith if it worked OK given it’s total lack of structure, and she nodded and said it did because it had a metaphorical structure, so that was interesting. It is not about a romantic scenario by the way - I actually took some of the particulars out of this one, so readers could fill in their own. So without further ado:

    The Hole

    Today I met someone
    Met someone and
    found a hole
    inside myself

    The God-shaped hole
    is full
    Still there are other holes,
    less vital
    not less empty
    I live (and praise)
    yet suffer their void

    Till came a sudden
    flood of solace
    Hole filling
    with rising ache
    Unknown gap
    now craving

    ***

    The filler of the hole
    went away
    Left me
    Sounding the edge
    Hole gaping

    Since then
    I have a map
    I know the place
    the length and depth
    of the hole

    Now I know
    what’s not there

    ©ALP 2009

    Saturday, December 12, 2009

    His Tremendousness

    One of the girls I work with likes to read the Obituaries in the paper, so she drew my attention to this curious story. Here's an excerpt:
    His Tremendousness Giorgio Carbone was the elected prince of Seborga, a self-proclaimed principality on the Italian Riviera.

    He claimed the sovereignty of Seborga (population 364) from the Italian government in 1963 and took the title His Tremendousness. A former flower grower, he produced documents from the Vatican archives to prove that the village was never the property of the House of Savoy and therefore not part of the Kingdom of Italy after 1861. He insisted that Seborga had been a sovereign state since 954, a principality from 1079, and minted its own coins after 1666.
    And the best part (I love this motto!):
    Seborga has its own flag, a white cross on a blue background, a patron saint, St Bernard, and a Latin motto: Sub Umbra Sede (Sit in the shade).

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Freezing roasts?

    I was having some friends over for dinner tonight and thought I’d be all Christmassy, since I never do the real Christmas lunch myself because I always have to travel to family, and have roast turkey. Unfortunately it has now been postponed due to illness, so I now have this lump of turkey that has already been frozen (and defrosted). Does anyone know what happens if you roast meat, then freeze it (whole) then thaw it again? I’m guessing the result would be something rather terrible ...

    One of music's finest things

    I know I have posted this on facebook before (and had a conversation regarding the strange blurb about "privatising city hall plaza" on the end) but it would appear I haven't posted it here, and it would hardly be the blog of Ali without it!

    Gordon Cheng put it up the other day - he has good taste ;) - on one of those rare occasions when for some reason I get on facebook in the morning before leaving for work (very bad idea!) and it made me late. So, here is what I think is one of the very finest moments in music. It is Yo-Yo Ma playing the Prelude to Bach's Cello Suite No 1. For your Friday enjoyment:

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Megadoilies

    A few people have been made redundant here today, and while I think I am safe, I am keeping this in mind for my cottage industries back up!

    You say Babushka, I say Matryoshka

    So I thought I might be totally out of the loop with the latest craft trends and living in ignorance and that there might be some fine but significant difference, unknown to the uneducated and undiscerning, between Matryoshka dolls and Babushka dolls - but no, they are exactly the same thing! I snuck away to do that research on the side that you do when you're feeling a little unsure of your own position, and don't want to let on in public that you're confused or unfamiliar with "Continental" things, but Wikipedia has now settled it for me, and I can be confident once more of where I stand and that I have some idea what everyone's talking about.

    DIY bird ornaments

    I love these! Maybe not in hot pink, because I am a Christmas traditionalist, but I am a fan of all things about birds. The instructions and pattern are here. H/T Apartment Therapy.



    Wednesday, December 09, 2009

    The rise of conversation starters

    Has anyone else noticed, in their Christmas shopping rounds, that everywhere this year you can buy little boxes of cards called "Conversation Starters"? They're in stationery shops, they're in book shops, they're in clothes shops (I am sure I actually saw them on a table near the front of the store in Sussan, or was it Portmans, and maybe even in Sportsgirl) and just about everywhere (here's an example). And there are different versions of them all as well, as in dinner party conversation starters, family conversation starters etc. Out of curiousity I have flicked through a few, and the questions are neither extraordinary or profound, but mostly the usual "ice-breaker" type of questions, though occasionally I've come across one like "tell us about a time when you felt lonely", which could get all very deep and serious.

    It's probably just that they are the kind of thing on which there would be a huge mark up on production cost, and people would like them if they're looking for those "gifts with meaning", but you can't help wondering, if they are walking out of the shops, whether people are genuinely wanting/needing help with conversation (and have to get out and be more sociable at Christmas time than usual!) or are pleased to have a way to start talking and get to know people that doesn't involve having to be totally direct (I'm tempted to make up a little box of all those weird things I've ever wanted to ask someone, then say 'hey let's play a game!', and blame it on the card).

    Anyway, just curious, that's all. I'm hoping we won't need to pull out a box of "family conversation starters" over Christmas lunch this year, but you never know (and I guess there'd be plenty of worse things to do).

    Monday, December 07, 2009

    Poetry Day - 150,000 crocuses

    I've told you that Judith Beveridge is teaching the poetry course I am doing, so here is one of her poems, from here. I chose this one mostly because it is shorter, and I know blog readers, but you might like to read some of her others also.


    The Saffron Picker

    It is necessary to pick 150,000 crocuses
    in order to produce one kilogram of saffron.


    Soon, she’ll crouch again above each crocus,
    feel how the scales set by fate, by misfortune
    are an awesome tonnage: a weight opposing

    time. Soon, the sun will transpose its shadows
    onto the faces of her children. She knows
    equations: how many stigmas balance each

    day with the next; how many days divvy up
    the one meal; how many rounds of a lustrous
    table the sun must go before enough yellow

    makes a spoonful heavy. She spreads a cloth,
    calls to the competing zeroes of her children’s
    mouths. An apronful becomes her standard —

    and those purple fields of unfair equivalence.
    Always that weight in her apron: the indivisible
    hunger that never has the levity of flowers.

    Judith Beveridge

    Photo from: http://www.profumo.it/images/foto_grandi/saffron.jpg

    Australians are tragics

    Unfortunately, this is true.

    Saturday, December 05, 2009

    The why of studying poetry

    So I had day one of the poetry course today. Afterwards I went to the Finders Keepers design markets, and now I want to give up my day job and just be all metaphorical and creative. The course was very good. Judith Beveridge, who is head of the school of poetry at Sydney University, taught us well about such things as imagery and lineation. Then the workshopping was all very encouraging but very instructive as well.

    She also reiterated that poetry is a hard art form, that it’s difficult and has a high failure rate. Scary – but I think a lot of people believe that poetry should happen by magic, and doesn’t require earnest investment from those with the gift, which is simply not true. Granted there are those who will be poets and those who will never be, irrespective of training and effort, as there are those who will excel in pole vault and those who never will. But there is a skill and technique to poetry worth learning, which is precisely why I went to the course.

    I came home to find this somewhat surprising quote from Christian Bok on the Poetry.org facebook page. You can read it in full here on facebook (the previous paragraph is amusing):
    The more delicate components of the work pay attention to craft. I’m probably very technically oriented and it seems to me that among the poets that I know, many are very lazy and very dumb. I always joke with my students that poetry couldn’t possibly be as hard as they think it is, because if it were as hard as they thought it was, poets wouldn’t do it. Really, they’re the laziest, stupidest people I know? They became poets in part because they were demoted to that job, right? You should never tell your students to write what they know because, of course, they know nothing: they’re poets! If they knew something, they’d be in that discipline actually doing it right?: they’d be in history or physics or math or business or whatever it is where they could excel. I find this very distressing that the challenge of being a poet is in effect to showcase something wondrous or uncanny, if not sublime, about the use of language itself - that we tend to think that because we’re conditioned to use language every day as part of a social contract, we should all be incipient poets, when in fact people have actually dedicated years or decades of their lives to this kind of practice in order to become adept at it. And I think that craft and technique are part of that. If poetry weren’t informed by models of craft then nobody would need take a creative writing course. I joke with my students again that if it was simply a matter of saying, “You known you’ve written a good poem just because; you’ll know it’s a good poem when it happens.” To me, that’s tantamount to telling your students that “You should just use the force, Luke” in order to write a poem. I don’t think it’s very helpful. But to be able to say “Here’s a series of rules of thumb that always work under all circumstances and if you adopt them slavishly, blindly, you can always be assured of writing something, producing something of merit.” It’s important that students are at least reassured that there are some technical aptitudes that they can adopt.
    Anyhoo. Practice, practice, practice. But I came home and for some reason decided to make the biggest mess ever rearranging my room. I like it though. It's more open, and now when I sit at the desk I can look out the window at those plants I lugged here from my moving friends and beyond.

    Friday, December 04, 2009

    Poetic fashion

    I am going to the first installment of my poetry course tomorrow. I just found myself wondering what to wear so I look all poetic, which probably just disqualified me for the art. Experience tells me that the poets, or all the creative writing sorts, are the very least “artistically” dressed. They’re too sort of lost in a world of symbolism and metaphor to notice, or maybe too absorbed in expressing what they want to say in other (non-visual) ways to care about what their clothes are saying (who was it who said “if I don’t want to listen to you, why would I want to listen to your sweater”, or something like it? - could I market that on a t-shirt?). They’ll probably all be sitting there in the most comfortable outfit they have, because who wants to be distracted by stupid (ie non-functional, irritating or superfluous) articles of clothing, with their sneakers on.

    Dependent relationships

    Overcomers Outreach this week was another great night. I just love being there and listening to people share their stories. Because we are an umbrella 12-step program we don't delve into the details of specific addictions/self-destructive behaviours in the actual meeting, so some of them I want to find out more about later.

    One of the addictions I am curious about right now is "co-dependent relationships". I listen and I think, 'isn't just about everybody in co-dependent relationships?' - OK, so I know there are degrees of such things, but I wonder whether most people would have times in their lives when, for one reason or another, they veer into that scenario, or some kind of "attachment" problem etc. So I am curious about what exactly this addiction is, or where these things cross the line into something that takes you off to a 12-step group. I came home with yet another book to read, so I will see how that goes. (If anyone has anything they'd like to say or recommend about such things, go ahead.)

    On a similar, but perhaps completely different note, I was interested in the way Tim Keller, in the talk on singleness I mentioned below, talked about the 'interdependence gift' that most women have. I want to listen again and think more about that, because that seems to me to be of importance when you're saying anything to single women, in particular (eg encouraging them to go out and take initiative in ministry or some such thing).

    (Anyway, here is yet another half-baked blog post for you! I'm getting good at these - so much easier than having to actually finish or resolve anything or reach any kind of conclusion. You can blog things before you've actually got anything to say, and then not come back when you've done the hard work.)

    Spam

    I just turned word verification back on for comments. I turned it off and the spam started coming (3 so far today), so I am going to see if this stops it.

    Wednesday, December 02, 2009

    Singleness from Tim Keller

    It's been a while since I mentioned singleness here, so here it is. I have been meaning to visit Redeemer's sermon website since the free sermons went up, and yesterday Ben mentioned some of Tim Keller's sermons, and since work has eased up a little I decided to have a shot at listening to one (you just plain can't listen to a sermon and read something else at the same time, but when I don't have to actually read something, I can catch a lot of it). So I listened to the one on Adoration nearly three times yesterday. And I'm going to listen again - ie, it's good!

    Then I noticed that he had sermons on singleness. It's a little myopic perhaps, but I thought I'd give those a go. It's more of a forum, followed by a Q & A than a sermon, and I am still digesting all of it after one listen, but he says some really interesting things about the "relative goodness" of singleness, self-image, mast*urbation even (red face over that word - but what he says here would also apply to por*nography too perhaps I think, and his wife gets in on this one), idolatry (but it's not the run-of-the-mill idolatry stuff), the re-organisation of the "four loves", the way women are like studios and men like one-bedroom apartments in friendships (that was helpful!), whether or not it's "unspiritual" to change situations to meet people, marriage (I don't think you'd need to be single to get a whole lot of stuff out of it), and a response to the question of "what do single people do to grow emotionally then since everyone goes on about the sanctification/maturity that comes in marriage and family" etc. I've sat here with the tissues out and I am definitely going to listen to these again too.

    Here's the link that will take you to both. And you can read an article on Tim Keller in the New York Magazine too.

    Tuesday, December 01, 2009

    The fight for joy, and other books

    I’ve been a bit remiss here, because some things I take as givens, but in case you haven’t noticed through reading here, Jean has been blogging her way through When I Don’t Desire God – How to Fight For Joy by John Piper over at the EQUIP book club. She’s put in a magnificent effort and, as she says in this compilation post, many of the posts stand alone, without requiring that you have read the book. It’s challenging and encouraging stuff! I confess to having only read the separately-published chapter of this book When the Darkness Will Not Lift (by John Piper), but I am going to work through the book, and revisit Jean’s posts soon.

    One of the great things you can do over at the EQUIP book club is go through the list of books on the left of the site, click the book cover, and bring up all the posts for that particular book, so if you missed it at the time all is not lost. And if you wanted to start your own live book club on one of the books you can use the relevant notes for prompts. Coming up Rachael is going to take us through Beyond Greed, by Brian Rosner, just in time for Christmas! And there is my little advertisement of sorts, though the benefit is all yours :).