Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands

After my recent pontificating about how I can be useful, I've decided to read Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in need of change helping people in need of change by Paul David Tripp. I've actually owned this book for some time and just not read it yet, and reading books I own and haven't read yet is one of many goals for the year.

Friends who work hard at being such instruments and have gone over to the UK to work with Crowded House to do just that told me last year this was a life-changing book, so it is with some trepidation I set forth ...

It was a dark and stormy night ...

Last night was one of those nights when I ran temporarily 'out of luck'. I went down to the garage as usual to set off for a church prayer meeting (makes me sound pious I know - more on that later), jumped in the car and turned the key, but the usual thing didn't happened. It just groaned and clicked and did nothing, so I jiggled the key around, made sure nothing had been left on, which it hadn't, and tried again, and then again. It did eventually start up and so I kind of shrugged and set off. I did know this was risky if the battery was failing but took a chance and thought (hoped!) going for a drive might fix the problem.

No so. I came out of the prayer meeting at around 9:30, walked to the car (which was a fair way off because weeknights around there it's car-parking madness) and hoped for the best, but nothing could bring Bertie to life. So I gave up and called the NRMA, where the accented lady kept me on the phone for ages, running up to the corner to find the name of the nearest intersection, spelling "Fitzroy Street" for about five minutes, running back to the car to confirm the number plate and updating the registration etc, before finishing what had to be done to send somebody out. There wasn't much point going back to the church by this time, because that was all over, so I wandered up the street to a 711, in enough need of a drink of something that I didn't care about wandering about, then went and sat in the car, which wouldn't let me have either light or music.

But it actually wasn't too bad. The guy arrived reasonably quickly (after them telling me it could be 90 minutes so I was preparing for a snooze) with a new battery at the ready, fitted it and gave me new terminals and all on the spot, for no cost other than the battery and terminals. Then the second he finished it started bucketting down rain, so we stood under the boot door of his van sorting out payment, while the rain splashed all about, he telling me I "timed it well", while I was rather more thankful for his timing. I ended up pulling out of there about an hour after I'd left the meeting.

But yes, every two months church has a prayer meeting, and to make it easy for people to get there they usually don't run Connect Groups (bible study groups) in that week (so I am really not so pious). There are a few songs, then some novel way of breaking up into groups, with the night being organised by a different Connect Group each time, for prayer. It was a good time (except for the ending).

With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair

That's a line from After the Storm by Mumford and Sons, the last and quietest song on the album. I like it. That might be my new theme for this year - just to live receiving and dispensing grace and enjoying the small things in the moment.

I looked for a youtube of this song and the live ones were all bad. I think this person has done something illegal in loading up the album version, but I doubt such things actually hinder sales.

Word blooper watch

The front page headline of one of the main articles in the SMH online today is describing a girl's last day, before she committed suicide as a result of bullying, as "tortuous". It sounds rather more like her day was "tortuRous". There's quite a difference. As an editor you can't help noticing ...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Distrusting reactions

Another random snippet from a CS Lewis essay:
For my own part I hate and distrust reactions not only in religion but in everything. Luther surely spoke very good sense when he compared humanity to a drunkard who, after falling off his horse on the right, falls off it next time on the left. I am convinced that those who find in Christ’s apocalyptic the whole of his message are mistaken. But a thing does not vanish – is not even discredited – because someone has spoken of it with exaggeration. It remains exactly where it was. The only difference is that if it has recently been exaggerated, we must now take special care not to overlook it; for that is the side on which the drunk man is now most likely to fall off.
- The World’s Last Night, CS Lewis

Monday, March 29, 2010

Catching up on music

I decided to get with the program and bought the Mumford and Sons album on the weekend (they were No 1 on the Triple J hottest one hundred, if you're still not with the program - not that I rush out to buy whatever rates on Triple J, or whatever rates anywhere, but I'm just saying). I've been vaguely thinking about it, and then my Mum was kind of cute and told me she put $10 in my account so I could buy myself an Easter present. I don't need chocolate eggs, so decided it was going to be half the CD (because I am a fossil who still likes to buy albums instead of just downloading them).

I really like it. Though it has to be said, it's rather "Tamworth" in parts. I could seriously be in Nemingha Hall swinging "down the middle" of 'Strip the Willow' for some songs. And if 'Winter Winds' isn't a bush ballad, the sort of which you'd hear on the streets during country music festival, then I don't know what it is, excepting maybe for the trumpet (I grew up in Tamworth and avoided Country Music Festival if you're wondering). The band is bonded over a shameless love of country, bluegrass and folk at any rate. If I had a space I might be tempted to hold the Mumford and Sons Bushdance.

I do like the lyrics too. They get points from me for the Shakespeare allusion, and I have heard various rumours of Christianity behind some of the other lyrics (Nathan over here seems to have confirmation of that). My favourite at present is 'Awake my Soul' and I can get around singing 'awake my soul, for you were made to meet your maker', which could be worse (the single, however, does feature an expletive).

A friend also recently lent me Angus and Julia Stone and Regina Spektor. I haven't listened to them a lot yet so should probably keep quiet for now. I keep forgetting Angus and Julia is playing, because I don't find it particularly interesting, but I quite like Regina.

So, that is me updating on the music scene.

Leila's 'Table Nosh'

On Saturday night I went to the launch of a friends new venture "Table Nosh". You can read about what Leila is trying to do with 'Table Nosh' here. Saturday night's launch was a cocktail-style party for 22, at which we were served a stream of amazing food, while meeting new friends and catching up with old ones. It was an excellent time. (I told Leila I needed to write a list of some of the delicious morsels that came around so I didn't forget, but there were things with pear and goats cheese and proscuitto, and stuffed mushrooms and croquettes and little lime tarts and chocolate mousse ...) Leila's plan is to have smaller dinners twice a month, and larger parties occasionally, and anyone is welcome and welcome to bring a friend (watch her blog for more details). It's a great (and impressive) idea, especially to 'entertain strangers'!

Though it's also rather sad that having people around for a meal seems to have become quite a novelty. Leila is available to cater for other people's dinner parties as well, and there she might find a large market, because I do wonder if people hesitate in Sydney because they perceive the bar is too high - Sydney dwellers can be so particular about food, coffee, wine etc and you'd want to put on a good show. But if cooking isn't really your thing that is daunting. (It's my view that if you're going to someone's home for dinner it's not really about the food, but I don't know if that is how most people out there think of it.)

It's reminded and encouraged me to life up my own act too, which has fallen by the wayside a little this year as I've made some changes (is it nearly April already?!). We have the kitchen that would make Leila jealous, with a ridiculously large bench space given the size of the flat, and I do quite like having people over - though maybe not to those standards or proportions! :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A beautiful thinking curiousity

The poet I've quoted below, Christian Bok, is a sound poet, who has written a book called Eunoia (which features that poem) in which each chapter uses only one vowel.

The title eunoia, which literally means beautiful thinking or well mind in the Greek, is a (rarely used) medical term which refers to the state of normal mental health, and is also the shortest word in the English language which contains all five vowels.

In rhetoric, eunoia is the goodwill a speaker cultivates between himself and his audience, a condition of receptivity. In book eight of Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle uses the term to refer to the kind and benevolent feelings of goodwill a spouse has which form the basis for the ethical foundation of human life. Cicero translates eunoia with the Latin word benevolentia. (I've gathered all of this from Wikipedia.)

Isn't that interesting?

Poetry Day - Vowels and Wolves

And here's a bonus poem, just to give you something a little this century, which I think is fabulous.

Vowels
 by Christian Bok

loveless vessels

we vow
solo love

we see
love solve loss

else we see
love sow woe

selves we woo
we lose

losses we levee
we owe

we sell
loose vows

so we love
less well

so low
so level

wolves evolve

Poetry Day - De profundis

I was going to finish with Christina Rossetti's poems about longing. But here is one more. It's actually rather dismal, but it ends with hope, which I think is inseparable from longing in many instances (and a few other poems I have found would indicate as much).


DE PROFUNDIS

by: Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

OH why is heaven built so far,
Oh why is earth set so remote?
I cannot reach the nearest star
That hangs afloat.

I would not care to reach the moon,
One round monotonous of change;
Yet even she repeats her tune
Beyond my range.

I never watch the scatter'd fire
Of stars, or sun's far-trailing train,
But all my heart is one desire,
And all in vain:

For I am bound with fleshly bands,
Joy, beauty, lie beyond my scope;
I strain my heart, I stretch my hands,
And catch at hope.

Picture from: http://www.achamorehouse.com/gallery_images/Moon%20over%20Achamore%20Trees.jpg

Saturday, March 27, 2010

An old friend

On Thursday night I caught up with an old, old friend. We lost each other years ago, but thanks to facebook reconnected a while back and discovered we both lived in Sydney. So, Thursday night was the big moment, after years and years. Here is one of the earliest photos I can find of the two of us.


You might well be wondering ‘but where is Ali and who is that boy?’ when, sadly, that is me. I blame my mother entirely for the fact that I look like that. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up after my father died, and Mum was pretty good at being frugal so we had some nice “good” clothes, but she kept a tight rein on what we could wear where. I was something of a tomboy and notorious for ripping my things (even jeans always seemed to fall casualty to a wire fence I’d found somewhere to climb over) so this was probably an “old” outfit I’d had to put on for a day at Lake Keepit. My friend Kate’s family, on the other hand, was more renowned for their rather adventurous chaos, and I’d say she wore whatever she could find, which is perhaps why she’s at Lake Keepit (at least I think that’s where we are) in that itsy bitsy, teeny weeny polka dot number.

We had a good night filling in on all the years since, and hopefully it isn’t that many years again till the next time.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The rug rats

I mean recipients. This is Annie and Eli at the home movies.


(This is probably the photo not to put on the internet. Just try not to notice how much popcorn my sister has given them OK! - it's quite healthy, really it is, when it just comes out of the popping machine and you don't add fat and sugar etc. And they really do spend the rest of their lives outside in the fresh air exercising their muscles and developing their gross motor skills, when they're not fully engaged in imaginative play, theological instruction, creative works, reading the classics, learning French ... (so I am kidding, at least about the French, but you know what I mean!))

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The promises Jesus keeps

I don't link to sermons very often here, because where would that end? And I partly figure that people who read blogs also find podcasts anyway. But here is one I want to link to. It's actually the fourth sermon in a series on Revelation, based on chapters 2-3, by Paul Dale, about what Jesus promises his church. Here is some of the introduction:
Have you ever asked the question, 'what's the point' or 'why bother' in your Christian life? Let's be honest - have you ever woken up one day and said 'what's the point of following Jesus? - why am I bothering being a Christian?'. Maybe you're here tonight and life hasn't turned out the way that you expected. Maybe you're disappointed by life. Maybe you're going through a real hurt, a real sadness and you've been a faithful servant of Jesus and you're asking the question 'why've I bothered? - what's the point of following Jesus?'. Maybe you're here tonight and you're struggling with a particular temptation and you're striving to be pure, striving to be holy, striving to be godly and yet the world is so tempting and you're thinking 'why am I bothering? - why don't I just go the way of the world? - why don't I just give up on Jesus?'. Maybe you're here tonight and thinking 'I've given up another Sunday night and I could be watching TV, I could be at the theatre, why am I here again? - why bother, why persevere following Jesus?'. Maybe you're here and you're just really lonely - you're desperately lonely. And you know the bible claims that Jesus loves you, but no other human being seems to love you and you don't really feel God's love and you're asking 'why bother?' ...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

To be calm

Just because it's Wednesday. I think this has to be one of the most soothing and peaceful pieces of music ever written (if you know of another do please tell!). It was apparently inspired by the scene of a mother caring for a sick child. And it could make all the wild men and all the wild animals lie down and sleep.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Theology, the evolution of reason and popular science

When I was doing zoological research up at James Cook University, sharing a lab with a variety of post-grad students, I got weary of the God/science, creation/evolution discussion, to the point that I have lost interest in it altogether, as one of life’s more fruitless discussions – though not before I nutted it out to my own satisfaction. I remember on one occasion coming home from a field trip with one Ph.D student and he was making me listen to Stephen Jay Gould in the car (he was doing his Ph.D on Northern Bettongs, and I was working on Rufous Bettongs, so he decided to come on my trip – then about 3:30 am into the first night of clearing traps, trudging up a rocky slope as it started to rain he said “well Ali, this is bloody ridiculous”, because my field trips were a lot of hard work). Anyway, so we were engaged in one of our friendly arguments in the car on the way home, when neither or us were perhaps at our sharpest. I recall Stephen Jay Gould saying “science is stripping man off his every last pedestal”, which my colleague seemed to think was particularly pertinent to "religion" and it’s arrogance, to which I think I replied with something along the lines of ‘yes but Stephen Jay Gould, a self-declared accidental speck of dust in the timeline, thinks he can rise up out of the primordial slime and tell us he knows how it all began and how we all got here’ – is that not also arrogant?

Even though I have since lost interest in that “issue” I was reading one of CS Lewis’s essays the other night, in which he had something to say about this very thing. I have a book with 67 essays in it, and sometimes I just pick one with an interesting title, and as is Lewis’s want, you just never know what else you’re going to get thrown in on any particular topic, because this one was called ‘Is Theology Poetry?’. Without further ado, here is what I found in this essay (and I've added the emphasis):
Long before I believed Theology to be true I had already decided that the popular scientific picture at any rate was false. One absolutely central inconsistency ruins it; it is the one we touched on a fortnight ago. The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears. Unless we can be sure that reality in the remotest nebula or the remotest part obeys the thought-laws of the human scientist here and now in his laboratory – all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. Here is flat contradiction. They ask me at the same moment to accept a conclusion and to discredit the only testimony on which that conclusion can be based. The difficulty is to me a fatal one; and the fact that when you put it to many scientists, far from having an answer, they seem not to even understand what the difficulty is, assures me that I have not found a mare’s nest but detected a radical disease in their whole mode of thought from the very beginning. The man who has once understood the situation is compelled henceforth to regard the scientific cosmology as being, in principle, a myth; though no doubt a great many true particulars have been worked into it.
Hear, hear. Lewis says it better. And he goes on in his essay with more fascinating things, but I shall leave it there for now.

(Note: I don't think this is about how much of the scientific process of evolution you believe in - I don't actually care anymore - but about challenging popular scientists to think about the inconsistencies in their own system.)

Eli's rug

These are the colours I am using for Eli’s rug. (Note: Eli is a boy, and you say it Eee – Lye, like in the bible.)


It’s nothing too fancy, but his room is red and blue and I quite like these muted shades. He's getting two shades of paler blue because I didn't have as much of each.

For the crafters out there, essentially the kids are getting these rugs because I had some wool originally from a Lincraft sale last year that I think was $2.99 for a 50 gm ball, available in eight different colours (used to make these balls). Then recently I went back to Lincraft to see if I could get any more and found a few balls of it left, but which were exactly what I wanted, that they were getting rid of for only $1.99 a ball - which is a steal for pure wool! I’ve supplemented Eli’s with one other colour from Bendigo Woollen Mills, where you can get 200 gm balls of wool for $11.30 (the cheapest wool I’ve found in Australia). It’s all 5 ply Merino Crepe and each rug takes 22 x 50 gm balls (though the pattern uses 4 ply and I am using 5 ply and a bigger hook so I'd say I'll need more), which comes out at around $60 a rug. I'd make them more colourful if I was going to spend limitless amounts of money, but think they will be quite nice (though am wondering if Annie's colours are a little bland). The wool suggestion on the rug pattern is $14.50 USD for a 50 gm ball. Goodness! Much as I love these little people nobody would be getting a rug at that rate. There are advantages to living in the land of sheep.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Gradually

... poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship.
- CS Lewis
The Weight of Glory

(Lewis lights my fire putting those three things together in the same sentence!)

What exactly is a blog?

Izaac wrote this in a response to this post. I thought it was good, and somewhat apt, and am just posting it here as a reminder:
What exactly is a blog? It's public though it's not a published article, it's personal thought though it's not a private journal, it's opinion though not necessarily a balanced view of even your own beliefs on any given topic.

Poetry Day - I will lift up mine eyes

One more eschatological poem from Christina Rossetti, which once more I was able to steal from here.


I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes Unto The Hills
Christina Rossetti

I am pale with sick desire,
  For my heart is far away
From this world’s fitful fire
  And this world’s waning day;
In a dream it overleaps
  A world of tedious ills
To where the sunshine sleeps
  On the everlasting hills.—
  Say the Saints: There Angels ease us
    Glorified and white.
  They say: We rest in Jesus,
    Where is not day or night.

My soul saith: I have sought
  For a home that is not gained,
I have spent yet nothing bought,
  Have laboured but not attained;
My pride strove to mount and grow,
  And hath but dwindled down;
My love sought love, and lo!
  Hath not attained its crown.—
  Say the Saints: Fresh souls increase us,
    None languish or recede.
  They say: We love our Jesus,
    And He loves us indeed.

I cannot rise above,
  I cannot rest beneath,
I cannot find out love,
  Or escape from death;
Dear hopes and joys gone by
  Still mock me with a name;
My best beloved die,
  And I cannot die with them.—
  Say the Saints: No deaths decrease us,
    Where our rest is glorious.
  They say: We live in Jesus,
    Who once died for us.

O my soul, she beats her wings
  And pants to fly away
Up to immortal things
  In the heavenly day:
Yet she flags and almost faints;
  Can such be meant for me?—
Come and see, say the Saints.
  Saith Jesus: Come and see.
  Say the Saints: His pleasures please us
    Before God and the Lamb.
  Come and taste My sweets, saith Jesus:
    Be with Me where I am.

Image from Northrup's photostream in flickr.com.

Friday, March 19, 2010

If I had wings ...

I've posted this already, once upon a time, but here is another snippet from Christina Rossetti, on longing for the eternal:

If I had wings as hath a dove,
  If I had wings that I might fly,
I yet would seek the land of love
  Where fountains run which run not dry ...

from 'If I had Words'
- Christina Rossetti

A response poem

John Piper’s son and daughter-in-law had an ultrasound and found out that they are having twin girls, after losing an earlier baby girl full-term (for those of you out there who haven’t followed the story). So, John Piper wrote this poem. (And I’m seriously impressed with his ability to respond to happenings with such poetry.)

I had the thought that 'that sort of thing happens to other people’, then wondered if I hadn't personally learnt that ‘song’ yet, for thinking such a thing. But it’s too early in the morning for all that.

(I am working from home today, because the dying system is being overhauled at work so it was pointless being there, and I couldn't go jogging when I got up because my gear was smelly (oversharing!) so I threw it in a bucket of water then forgot about it and now essential things are soaking wet, so, I shall just go and start work.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

About that post on a single woman changing church

I feel like I owe blogworld an apology, for the worst post ever last week (the deleted version — and I thought I didn't do "emotive", "venting" or whatever else posts, but I proved myself wrong, and I am disappointed, to say the least, over that). But, since I have begun on this regrettable topic, I thought I'd continue and post one thing further. I actually thought I had thrown this article away, and was lamenting that fact, but discover that I haven't (too much stuff on my desk obviously!). So, here is a little thought by Andrew Cameron, which is one of the things that was rattling around in my head, from the Southern Cross magazine in March, which I read on the bus home from Overcomers Outreach. I'm sure this isn't meant to be any sort of comprehensive work from him, but was an answer to a question in a piece on church called ‘Hospital for broken hearts’. I can't find it on line, so I will copy it here:
Andrew, in general you advocate a holistic approach to supporting families and singles in church life. How can we support each other in our marriages or singleness?

I would actually be quite careful, if I were single, about helping an ‘insecure’ married couple. In fact I’d generally say ‘Don’t’, except to point them back to pastors and counsellors.

It is too easy for someone in a difficult marriage to short-circuit their pain by starting a too-close relationship with the single person, when the married person really needs to engage in the hard business of growing closeness in the marriage. It will be important, during periods like this, for a single person to signal some friendly boundaries and some appropriate emotional distance.

Singles at their best also help couples and families to remember that a wider world exists beyond the marriage or family. Married couples and families can spiral into self-absorption, but singles can bring an outside focus to our attention: the missionaries, ministries or local communities that need our help. Often, the best tonic for a marriage is to share a task together, and singles can introduce us to useful tasks that could do with our help.

I believe singles need to have a wide network of relationships. Families can show hospitality toward singles, but I don’t think the single person should let one couple or family become their main or only place for social support. The freedom that singles have is to spread themselves between a number of relationships, and it’s good for everyone when they use that freedom well.
Essentially I agree with all he says, and I think Andrew Cameron has said some great stuff re singleness (some of which I gathered when I was working on this book for the EQUIP book club). It’s true that single people shouldn't delve too far into other people's marriage problems. But reading that through the lens of a single person, one of the things I was feeling/realising at family church is that married women were not going to choose me to talk to about their "stuff". Because why would they? I know that wouldn't be the most logical thing to do. (I don't think single people should never have anything to say about marriage, and can be an objective outsider who might not be coloured by their own experience, but they'd need to be mindful how they went about it.) And note that he doesn't state that it's cross-gender relating he's writing about, though of course that could be more problematic (however, as an aside to that, all the statistics show that the people having affairs are largely having them with other married people, so the idea out there that single people are somehow more dangerous around marriages is most-part myth). The thing is, that's also how women build close relationships — they share stuff. So, part of the whole feeling a little relationally useless around married people, is knowing that you are perhaps removed from a good sphere of their “stuff”. And keeping ‘boundaries’ and ‘emotional distance’ can be isolating, even when you acknowledge the necessity of it (and that's probably where other friendships with single people come in).

I don't entirely know if I am grasping what he is saying single people are useful for — is it that single people can point married people to outside happenings, that will then be a tonic within their own marriage if they work on them together as a couple? I don't know.

I also agree that single people shouldn't be trying to get too far into the pockets of, or leaning too heavily on, any one family or couple, for support, and they have freedom to have a wide network of friendships. But through the lens of single person again, I have some struggles with that. Maybe just because I am an ‘introverted, idealist, soulmate’ sort of person, who prefers to have two or three close friends, and the rest are extras. The idea that I could spend time this Saturday with this person, the next Saturday with that person, the following Saturday with some other person, doesn't really do anything for me. And I think single people will need some relationships that have a level of intimacy and continuity, if they aren’t to be fundamentally lonely (wide networks doesn't always mean you know more people well). Perhaps the wide networks are possible to sustain if they are undergirded by a few of those deeper friendships, which Andrew does seem to be suggesting be with other single people. (That is one reason why it's difficult if church demographic splits make this almost an either/or scenario for the single person.)

So, that was another spin on why it can be hard for single people to feel relationally useful around couples and families, and why I think that, as a single person, when it comes to church as a 'hospital for the broken', I probably have more to contribute to the “stuff” of other single people.

Random blogs

I feel like I have too many blogs in google reader, and that the last thing I need is more in there. So when Abraham Piper, whose blog 22 Words I really like, started another blog about late-night walks around Minneapolis, I decided that I definitely didn't need to read that one. But then he started with this post, about whether or not a writer writes for their audience, followed later by this one on writer's block and I was interested. But it was the post called Jumping Trains that left it there in my google reader. So, now I read a blog about what you see and who you come across if you wander Minneapolis late at night, and I like it.

But how about you? Do you have random blogs in your reader that you read for reasons you're not even sure about?

Ten-minute chocolate mousse

I started at a new bible study group last night. I'd gone along to another one a couple of times, without thinking through the fact that they were congregation specific and I hadn't settled on a congregation yet. But now I have so I switched groups. Anyway, so I arrived and was in the kitchen doing what I could to help this one guy work on a stir fry. The guy who lived there and had started the stir fry was on the phone out on the balcony to Hong Kong doing business, so this other guy had taken over and was just going through the cupboards adding things. Then a third guy I'd never met arrives and comes flying around into the kitchen, rattles around in the cupboards looking for a saucepan, then starts busting up blocks of dark chocolate into it. I'm thinking 'ooh, ooh, what's going on here?!' and he tells me he's making "ten-minute chocolate mousse". So I decided to watch and learn. This is what he did (and this is double the recipe - I'd suggest that for the sake of your arteries you undouble it). Into the saucepan he put:

400 gms dark chocolate (and he used Cabbury's Old Gold)
300 gms marshmallows
100 gms butter
100 ml of water

Then while he was waiting for some stove space he started beating up 600 ml of cream.

So what you do is melt the four things above over low heat, or over a bowl of water. Then you let it cool for a few minutes, before adding the cream. It works best to add a little of the cream first and mix it well, because the cold meeting the hot can cause solidification - but it doesn't matter if it does, because it just "adds to it, like lumps of chocolate", according to this guy. Then stir in the rest of the cream and whack it in the fridge. It sets quite quickly because of the marshmallows.

And there you have it.

Chocolate mousse is not particularly my dessert of choice, and I don't think I've ever made it. But maybe it's yours. And I was informed that what's great about this one is you can eat it when you're pregnant because it doesn't contain raw eggs (this guy knows his stuff!). I asked for a "small" serving and I got three-quarters of a mug full, and couldn't finish it because it's wickedly rich (as the list of ingredients might indicate). Then to go with it I was handed a cup of tea (which I sort of needed to wash it down). And all this about 9:30 pm. I went home bouncing off the walls and wondering if I'd ever go to sleep!

Apparently this guy does dessert every week, just because he likes to (we were talking about serving in church and gifts and so forth during the study, and we decided he has the "dessert gift"). I might have to implement some dietary modifications if I am going to be eating like that every week!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

At the dentist

So I just went around to the dentist in fear and dread, and then I came out basking in the glory. Just some of the things the dentist said to me were "you have great teeth", "your homecare must be good", "you're obviously an avid brusher" and "you floss well" (truth is, I rarely floss, but I wasn't going to mention that - I was just lapping it up) and then she said to the assistant "I think these are the best teeth we've seen in a long time". So, I'm feeling suitably chuffed with myself - and I might quite like dentists from this point on.

I do, however, have to go back for a filling I had that fell off. But it wasn't a filling because I had tooth decay. No. It was a filling because in my avid brushing I had worn through the enamel to the nerve at the top of one of my teeth. That's more my style. My Mum said to me once in frustration over something "you do everything too vigorously and liberally Alison". And so I go in with a mountain of toothpaste and brush like crazy. But if you're going to do something you might as well do it properly I say (except for the part about not flossing very often).

The bad news is that because this spot is sensitive (and I have just been avoiding it for years) she reckons I will need an anaesthetic for the job. That's the part I hate: needles in the gum. So I am going to have to just go and suck it up. I'm looking forward to some more of all that praise and affirmation though.

A little poem

God bless this tiny little boat,
And me who travels in it.
It stays afloat for years and years,
And sinks within a minute.
And so the soul in which we sail,
Unknown by years of thinking,
Is deeply felt and understood,
The minute that it’s sinking.

Michael Leunig
(From here.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

From little things ...

I think I have embarked on the most ambitious crochet project yet. I've now started on the small squares for Annie's rug. I need to make 50 of them, and that is just the beginning.



There are twelve different ways to combine four colours in two-round squares. How many different ways there are to combine four colours in four-round squares (I only need 49 of those!) and beyond makes my head hurt.



And here is the scarf I made for my big sister in Melbourne. It's long and is supposed to wrap around your neck twice.


Close up (in weird colouring).


And the other day I downloaded this pattern for a crochet owl from Anjibeane on Etsy. I don't know why, but I found that these crochet balls were a bit too time-consuming to realistically make for babies, and figured this might be another option to pin on something.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Poetry Day - They Desire a Better Country

Soph has been thinking about the eschatological nature of poetry, or the way that poetry is an expression of "the last things", of a longing for the eternal. I've no doubt this is buried in a good many poems, but it is something Christina Rossetti writes about quite explicitly at times, so here is one of those poems, full of longing for the eternal and glimpses of it, particularly in the third verse (which I took from here, rather than type out myself).


They Desire A Better Country

Christina Rossetti

I.

I would not if I could undo my past,
  Tho’ for its sake my future is a blank;
  My past for which I have myself to thank,
For all its faults and follies first and last.
I would not cast anew the lot once cast,
  Or launch a second ship for one that sank,
  Or drug with sweets the bitterness I drank,
Or break by feasting my perpetual fast.
I would not if I could: for much more dear
  Is one remembrance than a hundred joys,
    More than a thousand hopes in jubilee;
  Dearer the music of one tearful voice
    That unforgotten calls and calls to me,
“Follow me here, rise up, and follow here.”

II.

What seekest thou, far in the unknown land?
  In hope I follow joy gone on before;
  In hope and fear persistent more and more,
As the dry desert lengthens out its sand.
Whilst day and night I carry in my hand
  The golden key to ope the golden door
  Of golden home; yet mine eye weepeth sore,
For long the journey is that makes no stand.
And who is this that veiled doth walk with thee?
  Lo, this is Love that walketh at my right;
    One exile holds us both, and we are bound
  To selfsame home-joys in the land of light.
Weeping thou walkest with him; weepeth he?—
    Some sobbing weep, some weep and make no sound.

III.

A dimness of a glory glimmers here
  Thro’ veils and distance from the space remote,
  A faintest far vibration of a note
Reaches to us and seems to bring us near;
Causing our face to glow with braver cheer,
  Making the serried mist to stand afloat,
  Subduing languor with an antidote,
And strengthening love almost to cast out fear:
Till for one moment golden city walls
  Rise looming on us, golden walls of home,
Light of our eyes until the darkness falls;
  Then thro’ the outer darkness burdensome
I hear again the tender voice that calls,
  “Follow me hither, follow, rise, and come.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

When a single woman leaves church (re-run)

OK, so I did edit, then delete, my post about why a single person leaves a morning congregation. I felt rotten and it made me squirm ... because it went all wrong. (For weeks I said to myself “don’t write about that Ali”, and maybe that was best, but thank you all for your comments - I have kept them.) And despite saying otherwise, I think I did start out on the defensive, out of the thought that 'everyone will frown and wag their finger and tell me I should take initiative etc so pre-empt that and make your case and make it good'. But no-one did, and it was probably unfair to the very people who didn’t in the first place. (And there were other things I couldn’t blog, but in the absence of them the whole thing came out skewed.)

So, this is a re-run - leaving all that and particulars aside, I really only wanted to make these points:

1) I was just illustrating this particular point with my story, because it’s been made many times before (see this great article for starters), that demographically split churches don’t work so well for older single people. But by using the word “older” for women (sorry!) I mean any woman for whom the majority of her friends are now married with kids and moved on to morning service, which probably kicks in around 25 for some. So the single person then makes the choice – go to evening service, where you might be significantly older and losing your friends anyway, but you will have the accessibility of other single people, or go to morning church with your peers, who have kids. The reasons the morning option gets problematic is that the reality, and the good reality, is families and single people have different priorities, obligations and availabilities. So, for instance, I didn’t mean at all to fault people with kids that they can’t drop all and come and see a movie. The point is more that they can’t drop all and come see a movie. So, the single person will have to go and find someone else to go see the movie (or go places on Saturday or whatever). That’s where the difficulty lies.

2) I will keep the point that I know church is not a social club, and it doesn’t exist to provide me, or any other single person, with friends. The problem is that if you don't find Christian friendship at church, it does get very hard to find it somewhere else. And as we all know in big cities, if you don't have a reason to see people regularly, it gets very hard to keep up with them. So the single person who comes in to family church may not be having a great life getting out and about with single friends they have somewhere else. If most people they know have kids, chances are they’re not (and it’s not like we have to get out and about doing exciting stuff, but people to do life with is the thing).

3) (Related to 1) I'm all for stay-at-home Mums. If I was a Mum I'd want to be that too, at least when the kids were small. But this does create a chasm between the life of stay-at-home Mums and single working women. If most of the church is married with kids, it just seems to work out that most of the women do their socialising during 'office hours', and at night when the single woman comes home from work, they're unavailable with kids and husband. (Sometimes I wonder if it's easier for single men in the church, because the married men keep a more similar lifestyle.)

4) A while back everyone was pointing to a talk by Tim Keller called ‘It takes a city to raise a child’. I didn't agree with all of it, but one point he made was that cities are great for people in minorities, because they can find others in their minority (and it might be in his talk on singleness where he mentions that they don’t let single people live out I the suburbs in America). So, if you live in a city, and there are groups of those “older” single people, one of the advantages might be that you can join them. I listen to women get up in church and say that play group is great because you get to meet other Mums doing what you’re doing and you can help and inform each other, and I read people writing about how great it is to have other people modeling marriage to you in church, and others writing about the joys of others sharing their similar anxieties and experiences of having kids growing up with you ... Single people would no doubt benefit from being able to “do” singleness and share it’s joys and struggles with others too. (This is more of a comment, not a recommendation for demographic splits and homogenous congregations as a good solution. In an ideal world you can have both together.)

5) I think it's hard for single people to feel needed as a relational person by families (which could be just an error of perception, but certain things feed that perception – read on). And maybe we don’t actually need to be needed relationally and can just get on with other forms of serving. But that does rather deepen the struggle many single people have in the first place (ie loneliness and disconnection etc). There are ways in which it can be discouraging (and a little embarrassing), to read a lot of what’s written, even though I do appreciate it, about how families can care for single people. The implication of it all seems to be that this is noteworthy ministry because no family would choose to extend friendship to a single person, if they were choosing friends, and that in social interactions between families and single people the benefits all go one way. Single people want real and normal mutual, reciprocal friendships (again, maybe we don’t have to get these in church, but will want them from somewhere). No able-bodied and ministry-minded single person wants to go to family church and feel like there they are a social burden, who can only be on the receiving end of ministry from families. As a single person I do feel like I am more level, and more able to contribute relationally around other single people, such that there are perhaps more opportunities to do good in a congregation with more of them.

And maybe that’s all. This probably doesn’t make sense or work so well as a post any longer, and I am wondering what I am actually trying to say, but argghh, now I know why I don’t like writing, or shouldn't write, such things. And I might go back to writing about crochet and nothing for a few weeks.

Ethical dilemmas

They just came around at work here and gave us a letter about receiving our bonus from last year. It's nothing too get too excited about, and I just booked in to see a dentist next week for the first time in about 12 years so that will probably deal with it, if I don't decide I should do something else with it, because there does seem to be something not quite right about getting any sort of bonus when they have actually made others redundant here, and there are plenty of other people in the world who have been made redundant also.

Also, the company has entered us all in a raffle. Basically they just sent an email saying they'd bought so many tickets in a raffle towards a charity, and we all get a ticket number allocated to our name. I don't take much notice of such things and just read "donation", because what are the chances of winning? It's probably hardly worth thinking about but what would I do if my ticket did actually win? (Or should I contact some HR person and tell them not to enter me in raffles? - which seems overly dramatic, but maybe I am just soft on my position.) Hmmm.

Stop Dating the Church!

And if I would seem to be reckless about leaving a church, because I didn't write about that process, I did think and pray and talk and listen to this sermon: Stop Dating the Church! from Paul Dale (gets its title from a book by, you guessed it, Joshua Harris). I'd highly recommend it, and the rest of the series.

More balm in Gilead

I've written a post called this already, but today John Piper has posted morsels from Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson and I got misty-eyed just reading those. Gilead is the sort of book that makes you well aware that writing a good novel is not just about being good at writing, you also have to be writing something good. It's surpassing in both.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Beaten to my life's work

Someone has stolen my Ph.D thesis! -  if ever I was going to do a Ph.D (I seriously had this all lined up in the other life in my head - if you've been reading a while you will understand). Go to this post of Sophie's and read Jed's comment. I am so jealous.

Links, blinks, thinks

A thoughtful piece here from Russell Moore (H/T Justin Taylor) about how much you need to know about your potential spouse's s*xual history, for those still in the world of potentials.

A very good post from Wendy Alsup about respect if you're further on.

And I'm itching to edit bits of yesterdays post, though a few comments and messages on the side make me leave it there, with all my associated angst, but here is something Carolyn McCulley writes about baby-sitting. It would actually seem to be more about nanny-ing as a paid job, involving looking after kids during the day and going on holidays with families, spending time with the parents also and so forth, but makes some good points (if you can get past the phrase "loving on"). I thought I'd clarify and say that I actually do enjoy babysitting, and I absolutely do think children are little people worth building relationship with. But my own experience of babysitting is a little different and usually involves evening work where you turn up shortly before parents leave (when they ask you to). If kids are small they might already be in bed, or if not you might help them off to bed. In the latter case you can get to read stories, pray with them etc and that is fun. If kids are older they are often allowed to stay up and watch a special TV movie or DVD. In this case they are usually pretty engrossed on the screen and don't appreciate you talking to them! :) And that's cool, because the kids are happy (and safely occupied), so I am happy. Crochet is good for kids movie moments (on one occasion I did find myself giving crochet lessons) - or I might start to clean up the kitchen or something else at this point (Hollywood Chihauhau had scary bits, so I went to do the dishes). So, yes, often I will clean the kitchen if it's not already, but I don't usually go beyond that point to house cleaning (I think an unsolicited house clean would be more appreciated by some women than others!). I also can't remember the last time I was paid for baby-sitting (I started baby-sitting at 13, and back then it was around $2 and hour, but I haven't done it as a "job" since high school) - and I wouldn't take money, because I am not doing it for money. Often the family will feed you and that's nice, but even that is unnecessary, and you'd be happy to just eat whatever the kids were having. So, mostly when I babysit there are a lot more hours when the kids are asleep than when they are awake, but the time with the kids can be valuable, and perhaps more so if you regularly look after the same kids. So, that was my perspective on baby-sitting, which I usually see as something I do more for the parents (something I am still more than happy to do), but go read the other perspective.

One hilarious five-year-old boy talks about "Private Predges" (aka Pride and Prejudice) the movie.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Life going on

It’s been busy lately. Last week was bible study on Tuesday night then Overcomer’s Outreach on Wednesday. I wrote up the most beautiful story from Overcomers Outreach then thought better of posting it. What goes on there is strictly confidential, and I think I could have told the story without anyone having the faintest idea of who I was referring to, and even if they did this person’s story is their public testimony so they would not have personally minded, but in the end I reasoned that others need to be able to come to OO and be assured that they won’t be written up on blogs or elsewhere (and occasionally one of the attenders gets very concerned about their anonymity). But it’s always such a good night and so encouraging to watch transformation happening so obviously in front of you.

Thursday night was time to call my Mum, get organised etc because then Friday afternoon to Sunday was church weekend away, which was just fabulous. I am going to say more about that later. When I got home Sunday afternoon I nearly forgot to put the EQUIP book club posts up – we are doing Stirrings of the Soul by Mike Raiter over there at the moment if you are interested in reading along – then went to church for the evening.

And now it’s Monday!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Crochet chique-ness

Granny squares can be chique. Isn't this one lovely? (Like I said, it's all about the use of colour.) The image is taken from purlbee.com.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

On writing ...

For things slightly more intellectual, if you're one of those elites who think working with your hands (ie crochet) is for numbskulls, Justin Taylor posted this today, which is a link to an article written by a correspondent to The Atlantic on writing fiction. I especially like that the article's author says people should read classics. Yes! Then Nathan linked to these two posts from the Guardian, also on writing fiction. I haven't fully read either of them yet, but I will.

Crochet beckons ...

Yesterday morning I actually said outloud here in the office, "I feel like just going home to do craft today", and everybody burst out laughing. Seriously though, it might be the arrival of Autumn, together with the cooler, rainy weather, but I hear crochet calling me. I'm actually making a scarf I started the other weekend out of some leftover wool for my sister who has moved to Melbourne, but I need something bigger.

I bought a pile of wool on a really good special a while back, when I had those grand schemes of making toys for my littler niece and nephew, but I don't know if I will go through with those beyond the turtle as my sister thinks they have enough stuffed toys. (And little kids are weird about which toys they decide they like and don't like. Apparently the last few days they have been fighting over a pull-along Jemima Puddleduck I bought when my niece was a baby. That will last so long before it's something else. I like the idea of a crochet doll (except perhaps for making it), but if my niece never plays with it I don't know if there is a point.)

So anyway, yesterday at lunch time all blogs were eclipsed in my momentary crochet obssession as I went googling for inspiration. Then in between work and bible study I had to drag that pile of wool down from the top of the wardrobe just to look at it and reassess, and I am now thinking that the kids might get little blankets instead. I like crocheting blankets - you don't have to do so much fiddly little counting and pattern following and what have you.

In my obssession yesterday I went back to this pattern (I'm pretty sure I've linked it on this blog before but I can't check just now) and downloaded it (it probably wouldn't be hard to make it up, but when you can download a pattern for a few dollars why bother). Only scroll down further for different colours. As with all crochet, it's all about the colours - that's the difference between nice crochet, and really horrid, tacky crochet (see this flickr photo pool for some gorgeous variations). I'm thinking of making smaller versions with less colours for the kids - mainly pink and green for Annie and red and blue for Eli.

Now I'm excited, because blankets will be so much easier than doll bodies and clothes and hats ...

Monday, March 01, 2010

Literature ...



"Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become."

- C. S. Lewis


(I snitched this quote off Justin's facebook, then went googling all over the internet for the source, which as yet remains undetermined, but I'm guessing it's from one of Lewis's essays.)