Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A family party

Here a few pictures of my Mum's birthday and my grandparents anniversary last weekend. My Aunt and Uncle have a lovely big house in a lovely suburb of Brisbane, which has a room in it that's nearly as big my whole flat and wide open spaces, and they are very generous with it so we have a lot of family get togethers there. This is one of the outdoor tables. My Aunt did the lovely table decorations and the silver cutlery is actually plastic, which caught people out all day!

Some of what was going on inside.

My grandparents and their six children (my Aunt on the far right normally has gorgeous auburn hair and I was a little distraught to see she'd died it so dark!).

11 of the 18 grandchildren (with one little great-grandchild dancing about - they have six great-grandchildren also). Note what's going on with the height here. My two cousins on the far right seemed to have stopped growing just shy of five foot and I am the family freak up the back.

Some of the guests. The lady in the middle is a dear, godly old lady. My Mum boarded with her and her late husband in Young when she went off to do years 9 and 10 of school (because they grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere) and she came all this way for this event.

Some of the big room inside.

My sisters, Mum and me and my little niece and nephew (Annie had been waiting a long time for the cake!). The two other nieces stayed behind in Melbourne with their Dad unfortunately because of the cost of flying everybody about. You can see that we're all quite different just by our dress sense. I was undecided about what to wear but am often the one who ends up looking a bit "vintage" (I bought that dress online and what I love about it is it's crinkle satin, so you twist it all up and throw it in your suitcase, and there you have it).

My grandparents - congratulations to them for making 61 years! They are wonderful example of faithfulness and perseverance. My Nanna was a city girl who worked in Martin Place here in Sydney before they met, then ended up on a farm in Rye Park raising six kids and feeding shearers ...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Of craft and Christmas

So it's gone all a little crafty around here again, but, for my latest project I completely copied these from Sandra Juto, because I thought they were so great. (And interestingly, she has been fighting a copycat war, so out of curiosity I watched a video on fashion's free culture from the comments on that post, and it would seem that you can copyright a trademark, but not a design, and that this is seen as fostering innovation - the video is really quite interesting and talks about facebook and software etc as well ...) I'm not rapt in this colour, and Sandra Juto's muted tones are more beautiful, but I made a scarf for my sister out of this wool, which of course you will know if you pay close and long-standing attention to crochet productions on this blog (as I am sure you all do!), and thought I'd have a go at wrist warmers with the same wool. So, here is a present for my sister that essentially cost me nothing.

Also, I never really get decked out for Christmas here in Sydney, because I am never in Sydney for Christmas Day, but I decided to splurge on these, not particularly having Christmas in mind, but it turns out they are really quite Christmasy (Pax is latin for Peace, and it's a little monastic perhaps, but I like it).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Crochet and literature collide

You can go for many years in this life under the impression that the things you are interested in are largely unrelated to each other. Then one day you find the connection: a crocheted Jane Austen and Edgar Allen Poe. From this etsy shop.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Poetry Day - The Night of the Moon

Since there's been a little German around here lately, I thought I'd actually post a German poem today. It was originally sent to me by a German fellow I met in Sweden (there's a very short story associated with that), then my German room-mate tried to teach me to say it properly. This poem has been set to music by both Brahms and Schumann, and a good many others, so I'm guessing it's considered quite beautiful in the original language. I've posted a couple of English translations below, which highlight perhaps how difficult it is to translate poetry. (Further, a kind internet roamer by the name of David recently provided a very nice translation of Rilke's poem in this post, which also set me off after German verse.)


Es war, als hätt' der Himmel,
Die Erde still geküßt,
Daß sie im Blütenschimmer
Von ihm nur träumen müßt.

Die Luft ging durch die Felder
Die Ähren wogten sacht,
Es rauschten leis die Wälder,
So sternklar war die Nacht.

Und meine Seele spannte
Weit ihre Flügel aus,
Flog durch die stillen Lande,
Als flöge sie nach Haus.

- Josef van Eichendorff



It was as if the sky
Had quietly kissed the earth,
So that in a shower of blossoms
She must now dream of him.

The breeze wafted through the fields,
The ears of corn waved gently,
The forests rustled faintly,
So sparkling clear was the night.

And my soul stretched
its wings out far,
Flew through the still lands,
as if it were flying home.

English translation by Emily Ezust.


Night of the Moon

It was as though the sky
had silently kissed the earth,
so that it now had to dream of sky
in shimmers of flowers.

The air went through the fields,
the corn-ears leaned heavy down
the woods swished softly—
so clear with stars was the night

And my soul stretched
its wings out wide,
flew through the silent lands
as though it were flying home.

From here.

Image from transtrazendo.blogspot.com

Friday, November 26, 2010


The album Much Afraid is the reason why Jars of Clay became one of a favourite “Christian band” that I have listened to over the years. Especially the song Frail, which I revisit from time to time. Today was one of those times. It’s never featured on this blog before, so here it is (the video below just gives you the album cover for visuals, but the sound is slightly better here, and I was absolutely loving the strings in this live version before the vocals began, because they don't sound quite right to me).

Men and autism

I just read this article on Beyond Understanding - Do the life and work of Ludwig Wittgenstein suggest that the autistic mind and the philosophical mind have something in common?

I was amused recently when a number of friends on facebook were doing the autism quotient test (I wasn’t game to try it) and a few male friends were brave enough to post their high scores. Curiously they were highly creative gifted types. The article says:

“Men tend to be autistic on average. More so than women.” The accepted male-to-female ratio for autism is roughly 4-to-1; for Asperger’s the ratio jumps even higher, by some accounts 10-to-1 (other statistics give higher or lower figures but retain the male prevalence). Asperger himself wrote that the autistic mind is “an extreme variant of male intelligence” …
What that has to do with anything I don’t know, but there you have it. I don't "get" men, so I don't know what that means my problem is.

Books and craft wisps of fog

I’ve lost the oomph this week. And I shouldn’t have even come to work today, because I’ve had a weird cough all week (but nothing else to go with it) and got up at 3:30 am this morning and wandered about the house because I was dying coughing in bed. But now I am here and have a headache – boo hoo!

So, what to post about. Books. I abandoned reading Romola by George Eliot recently because a section in my book is misprinted, so it goes something like 186, 347, 348, 189 … then does it again, in the middle of a crucial revelatory chapter, which is so frustrating! I can’t find a docket but might take it back to the shop and see what I can do. I was also reading a two volume hardcover version, which looked all very aesthetic but had no footnotes translating all the Italian etc, so I was thinking of getting a Penguin Classics version anyway because I like the extra information they give you and my curiousity doesn't cope with untranslated foreign language sections.

I’ve started reading Future Grace by John Piper, because I never did when it came out. An old friend who has been struggling for a number of years recently wrote me a lovely eight-page letter in which they were telling me how much they’d been blessed and helped by the book Battling Unbelief. Battling Unbelief is basically an extract from Future Grace, and so never one to read the short version of books I got the whole thing. I seem to have slowed up in my reading of Christian books of late, and I’m not sure why (blame it on the crochet perhaps), because I always find it a good thing to do. I’m still plugging through the bible chronologically (well, I know it’s not actually chronologically, but you know what I mean) with the ESV study notes. I seem to be going slowly with this too. I’m finding it really useful, but also that I do need to supplement it occasionally with other things when I’m in long chunks of OT narrative or history.

As for Eli’s crocheted rug, I took it to Brisbane with me last weekend and left it there, thinking I would finish it off at Christmas during all the sitting around chatting. That rug is so much work joining it all together! - but I am well under way and then the border is easy. I’d actually like to try to make a few other things between now and Christmas if I get around to it. I am thinking about some of these for the Melbourne family and the little people in Toowoomba love owls, and owls live in trees, so I think some owl tree ornaments are in order.

And that’s about all for books and craft.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Random tweeting

From Twitter:

True friendship demands risk: giving someone something which they could humiliate you with. Writing as friendship. - Alain de Botton

Spiteful words can hurt your feelings but silence breaks your heart. - C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A little something

I’m back in Sydney, after a lovely weekend up North. I got in late Sunday night feeling totally shattered, it’s the final press week for the year here at work, then I popped out last night also, so I am still trying to gather myself together.

I might post some photos of the party but for now, I’ve mentioned before that I like the Yellow Owl Workshop and wanted to pilfer some of their ideas since I bought myself some lino-cutting gear (amounting to a few chisels and some ink), and I pick up their things and hold them for a little while every time I got into a local stationary shop, so I am quite excited about this upcoming book featuring their templates, which is cheaper than one little stamp set. I’ve discovered that as well as chiselling lino you can buy little blocks of rubber for making prints, which might be easier for such things as making cards.

That's all for now folks.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


"Give ear to my words, O Lord.
Consider my sighing."
Psalm 5

Listen very carefully to your sighs. Anything in your heart that is making you sigh needs to be turned into a prayer or you’re duck soup for the devil. Everything that you sigh about has got to be turned into a prayer or you’re going to be a frustrated, unhappy person. Or if you can’t pray for it, if you can’t ask God for it, then you need to stop sighing about it. You need to just take yourself in hand … You find the deepest sighings of your heart and when you find yourself, as you’re walking around, sighing after things, yearning for things, mourning after something, you’ve got to turn that into a prayer. Give ear to my sighings.
From a leadership training session on Personal Prayer by Tim Keller.

Christian happiness

These are apparently the points from Jonathan Edwards’s first sermon, preached when he had just turned 18 years old.
Why should Christians be happy:

1. Our bad things will turn out for good. Romans 8:28
2. Our good things can never be taken away from us: the light of his countenance, pardon for sin, assurance of grace, the inheritance of eternal life.
3. The best things are yet to come.
From a leadership training session on Personal Prayer by Tim Keller.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A family celebration

I’m all out of blog inspiration this week. This weekend I have to go North for a big family hurrah (note “hurrah” not “hoo-haa”, though perhaps the two are closely related). It’s to celebrate my Mum’s 60th birthday and my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary (but this year is actually their 61st wedding anniversary, we are just celebrating the 60th because they went away last year and we couldn’t - just in case you were doing the maths on that).

It’s been in the planning for a very long time and my younger sister is up there making it a big deal. I said ‘you don’t have to go to so much trouble - it sounds like a wedding reception’ and she said that they are trying to make it like a wedding because none of them have ever had big parties before. So I’ve since shut up and gone along with the extravaganza, especially since I’m down here not doing a whole lot.

My Mum is one of six kids, and they all married and had kids, and some of their kids are now married with kids, so there’s enough family alone to make a big function. I have to give the speech from the children. I’m no fan of public speech-making, but there are times when you just have to rise to the occasion and do it. The problem with this weekend is that the uncle who is giving the speech for my grandparents is the family comedian. I'd say he will have everyone in stitches for ten minutes and then it will be my turn, but there’s no point me even trying ...

People are coming from far and wide and it will be good to see them all. A few years ago now the family got too vast and scattered for gatherings to be a regular thing, so we haven’t all been in the same place for a long time. All this has involved such things as timing flights to line up the airport runs, food lists being emailed around the country, old photos being scanned and sent all over the place (and appearing on facebook, to my chagrin), telephone present consultations, decoration discussions. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together.

So if there’s nothing here for a few days, I am just off partying.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This is your brain on metaphors

This article was not as interesting as I thought it would be. It’s full of biological facts about how our brains can confuse the real and the symbolic, when I was actually hoping for something more metaphorical myself, but here’s a few curious experiment results. Now I know why it’s a good idea to meet people over a coffee or a nice cup of tea - and let them put down heavy things.

Another example of how the brain links the literal and the metaphorical comes from a study by Lawrence Williams of the University of Colorado and John Bargh of Yale. Volunteers would meet one of the experimenters, believing that they would be starting the experiment shortly. In reality, the experiment began when the experimenter, seemingly struggling with an armful of folders, asks the volunteer to briefly hold their coffee. As the key experimental manipulation, the coffee was either hot or iced. Subjects then read a description of some individual, and those who had held the warmer cup tended to rate the individual as having a warmer personality, with no change in ratings of other attributes.

Another brilliant study by Bargh and colleagues concerned haptic sensations (I had to look the word up — haptic: related to the sense of touch). Volunteers were asked to evaluate the resumes of supposed job applicants where, as the critical variable, the resume was attached to a clipboard of one of two different weights. Subjects who evaluated the candidate while holding the heavier clipboard tended to judge candidates to be more serious, with the weight of the clipboard having no effect on how congenial the applicant was judged. After all, we say things like “weighty matter” or “gravity of a situation.”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Poetry Day - Memorising The Sun Rising

I don’t know what they are teaching nowadays, but back when I was at school we studied the metaphysical poets, and what an education of glories that was. And if you've ever had the good fortune to study metaphysical poetry, you will probably have wrestled with John Donne’s The Sun Rising. Thus I was amused to read, in the latest Poetry Journal, Billy Collins’s poem Memorising “The Sun Rising” by John Donne. Here it is:

Memorizing “The Sun Rising” by John Donne


Every reader loves the way he tells off
the sun, shouting busy old fool
into the English skies even though they
were likely cloudy on that seventeenth-century morning.

And it’s a pleasure to spend this sunny day
pacing the carpet and repeating the words,
feeling the syllables lock into rows
until I can stand and declare,
the book held closed by my side,
that hours, days, and months are but the rags of time.

But after a few steps into stanza number two,
wherein the sun is blinded by his mistress’s eyes,
I can feel the first one begin to fade
like sky-written letters on a windy day.

And by the time I have taken in the third,
the second is likewise gone, a blown-out candle now,
a wavering line of acrid smoke.

So it’s not until I leave the house
and walk three times around this hidden lake
that the poem begins to show
any interest in walking by my side.

Then, after my circling,
better than the courteous dominion
of her being all states and him all princes,

better than love’s power to shrink
the wide world to the size of a bedchamber,

and better even than the compression
of all that into the rooms of these three stanzas
is how, after hours stepping up and down the poem,
testing the plank of every line,
it goes with me now, contracted into a little spot within.

Picture from: http://elspeththompson.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/_dsc1050.jpg

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Crochet for a small boy

I think this is how my nephew Eli would actually like his crochet squares.

Friday, November 12, 2010


This must be the week for foreign words, states of mind and abstractions.

I have already written about the longing for home in Tim Keller’s Prodigal God (and I like that picture so much I’m using it again). Well I finished listening to his sermon series the other day, and this idea featured in sermon No 6 of 7 called We Had to Celebrate.

In his book Keller uses my beloved concept of Sehnsucht and quotes from CS Lewis’s The Weight of Glory, which he does as well in the sermon, but in the sermon he also mentions Heidegger and his idea of "Unheimlichkeit", which literally means “unhomelike” or a sense of “not-being-at-home” (though my German dictionary also gives me the option, for the adjective, of “gives me the creeps”, and it can mean "uncanny"). So I went off in search of more information, googling Heidegger and unheimlich and Unheimlichkeit, and have been interesting myself the past two days reading random articles on the internet (like this one and this one).

It's probably old news to some, but apparently there was a time when philosophy was viewed as primarily being motivated by homesickness. Heidegger quotes Novalis as writing ‘Philosophy is really homesickness [Heimweh], an urge to be at home [zu Hause] everywhere’ (XXXIX, 7). I got this from A Heidegger dictionary By MJ Inwood on google books.

I’m quite fascinated! And I do love German for containing such excellent words.

This could be the longest blog post in the world if I really get going, but here are some quotes from Keller’s sermon, though you really should listen to it for the context, and the solution, to all this (and is it just me or does Tim Keller sound to anyone else like Vizzini – from the Princess Bride – when he gets worked up?):
Here’a an unlikely supporter reference, but this 20th Century philosopher, Martin Heidegger, believed that all human beings were characterised by Unheimlichkeit, which means homesickness. It means to be alienated, to feel that we’re not really home in this world. To feel that we’re in exile, that we’re in a world that’s profoundly at variance with our deepest desires.

Eva Hoffman, a polish jewish intellectual whose parents had to flee Europe during the Holocaust, she’s written about exile in her memoir called Lost in Translation and she says: “Since Adam and Eve left the garden of Eden is there anyone who does not in some way feel like an exile? We all feel ejected from our first homes and landscapes, from our first romance, from our authentic self. An ideal sense of belonging, of attuning with others and ourselves, completely eludes us.

Camus and the other existentialists were always at this [that we’re homeless here, and this is not a place we’re built for]. There’s one place in The Fall, where Camus – one of his characters is speaking to another – he says: “The weight of days is dreadful. For most people the approach of dinner, the arrival of a letter from home, or the smile from a passing girl, is enough to help people get around this sense of homelessness. But the person who likes to dig into ideas and think about them, for him life is impossible.”
Picture from here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The noia of Leopardi

I subscribed to the Poetry Journal earlier in the year, in an attempt to be more familiar with modern poetry (you can read it all online, but what sort of poet reads poetry online I ask you?). That attempt is not always especially rewarding, but November’s issue was interesting, and in the back are some extracts from the daybooks, or Zibaldone di pensieri, of Giacomo Leopardi. Leopardi wrote poems considered among the greatest produced in nineteenth-century Europe, as well as literary, philosophical, and philological essays, edited the classics, and composed a series of imaginary dialogues (you can read all of this, plus what I have quoted below, here).

You have to make allowances for poets and philosophers, and much of the Zibaldone is melancholic abstract ramblings, full of a miserable despair that we’re all simply on our way to a ditch to fall into, and eeking an unattractive superiority and scorn for the masses, but I was rather esoterically interested in his writings about this thing he calls “noia”. Then from noia he rambles into something that sounds a little like CS Lewis’s search after desire, only he’s writing about pleasure. So, here it is, for anything other than your amusement:

Noia is the most sterile of human feelings. It’s the child of spiritual numbness and mother of nothing. It isn’t merely sterile in itself, it renders sterile everything it invades or gets close to, etc.

September 30, 1821

* * *

Uniformity guarantees noia. Uniformity is boredom, boredom uniformity. Uniformity comes in many forms. Endless variety produces uniformity, thus more noia...Constant pleasure, too, is uniformity, therefore boring, though its medium is pleasure. Certain foolish poets, realizing description gives pleasure, reduce poetry to nonstop description: they drain all pleasure from poetry and replace it with boredom...I know non-literary people who avidly read the Aeneid, which you would think could be enjoyed only by the happy few, but who toss aside the Metamorphoses after reading the first book or two even though it offers immediate pleasures. Remember what Homer has Menelaus say: “There is satiety in everything—in sleep, in sweet song,” etc. The constancy of pleasure, even of different sorts of pleasure, or of near- or pseudo-pleasure, this too is uniformity, and therefore noia, and therefore pleasure’s enemy.

August 7, 1822

* * *

Noia is plainly an evil: to suffer it is to suffer utter unhappiness. So what is noia? Not a specific sorrow or pain (noia, the idea and nature of it, excludes the presence of any particular sorrow or pain) but simply ordinary life fully felt, lived in, known; it’s everywhere, it saturates an individual. Life thus is an affliction; and not living, or being less alive (by living a shorter or less intense life) is a reprieve, or at least a lesser affliction—absolutely preferable, that is, to life.

March 8, 1824

* * *

If all you seek from something is pleasure, you’ll never find it. All you will feel is noia, often disgust. To feel pleasure in any act or activity, you have to pursue some end other than pleasure. (This would figure in a Manual of Practical Philosophy.) It happens (I could give a thousand instances) when we’re reading. If you read a book seeking only pleasure (it can be the finest, most delectable book in the world), expect to be bored or turned off by page two. A mathematician, though, loves reading a geometry proof, which you can be sure he’s not reading for pleasure. Maybe this explains why public amusements and entertainments are in themselves, without meliorating circumstances, the most boring, excruciating things in the world. Because their only end is pleasure; pleasure is all that’s wanted and expected. And something from which we expect and demand pleasure (as if it were a debt owed) of course never yields pleasure, it yields the opposite. It’s entirely safe to say that pleasure comes only when least expected, where we’re not looking for it, not hoping for it. That’s why in the ardor of youth, when we pitch all desire and hope toward the pursuit of pleasure, we find in life’s exquisite delights nothing but scary, tortuous disgust. We can’t begin to sample the world’s pleasures until we squelch and cool that impulse, until we turn our backs on pleasure, give up on it. Pleasure, in its way, is like quietude: the more we desire and seek it and nothing else, the less of it we find and enjoy (see what I say in the next entry). The very desire for tranquility excludes and is incompatible with it.

March 31, 1827

Liebe ist die Antwort

Das ist alles.

I stole this photo from here. She writes "Tonight we're celebrating 18 months of marriage, it's been so great and also such a mess ... Liebe ist die Antwort". I just like that.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Music bits and pieces

I haven’t put a whole lot of time into the guitar lately, because I’ve been madly trying to finish Eli’s rug, but I got more into it over the weekend, just using a book I found in the pocket of the guitar case. It’s called A Tune a Day, and once upon a time I had A Tune a Day for the flute.

So I was busy working through all these exercises and learning notes and fingers and all. But then my flatmate, who is very musically talented (on keys), came home on Saturday evening and looked at me plucking out songs on the guitar and says “what are you doing?”, to which I replied that I was just trying to learn guitar from this book. So she takes a look at the book, shakes her head and says “my brother plays guitar for GH (think local Christian band) and he couldn’t play that”. Now I’m sure her brother could play it, but what she was referring to was the fact that I seemed to have set off on the path of trying to teach myself classical guitar, and was sitting there attempting to pluck out each note of a song. Then she says “church music isn’t like that” and goes to her room to get me a chord book. I have no real aspirations of playing in church, but am aiming for something more like a sing-a-long around the campfire, and I did know that most people who play guitar only play chords, I just thought I’d come to that when I’d learnt all these notes. But then I had a look at her chord music and thought “hallelujah – you mean I only have to move my fingers every bar or so and not for every note?”.

So now I don’t really know what I am doing. I quite like the classical method, and I’m pretty chuffed that I can play a few songs (very simple songs, very slowly and painfully) but I will probably veer off more into learning the chords at this point in time, though having only learnt woodwind in the past chords are actually less familiar to me.

For other things musical, I went to the launch of the album of Con Campbell’s new jazz group last night, a merging of Sydney and Melbourne jazz musicians, called Transit. I have to confess that, while I like jazz, it's not usually my favourite kind of music, because I find it’s often just not very melodious. But last night it was. You can look at the songs on their album, which actually includes a lot of hymns – some obvious, some a lot more subtle – here.

The nonny enticement finale

On Friday night I went to a party, and as it was a surprise the actual birthday girl and her family weren’t there when I arrived, so as I walked into the room, at first glance the only person I could see that I recognised was ignus fatuus, the last guy to ask me anywhere (for the back story on this see here and here – I think I called him Rochester in the posts, but ignus fatuus he will always be). He’s taller than most so quite obvious in a crowd, and I soon did pick out some comparatively shorter familiar faces. But what amazed me about it all was just how fine this was. I have actually bumped into him a couple of times since that turmoil, and it has always been quite fine, and so when I had the thought a few days before that he would be at that party I knew/hoped it would also be fine. We chatted, and he was engaging and gentlemanly as always, and was there with an old (female) friend (because I’ve noticed that that’s what non-Christians do when invited to something like a party – they take someone along – it’s only us single Christians who go everywhere by ourselves) and I talked to her too – and it was all just fine.

So the night was just yet another lesson to me in the fact that things can seem really hard to let go of in the moment, but time passes and you may look back and wonder what it was you were trying to grab hold of, and only thank God that he didn’t let you have it. Hard as all that felt at the time, I knew deep down that had I started a relationship with that fellow, I would have only got two weeks into it and wondered what in the world I was doing, because how could I possibly share my life with someone who didn’t share my faith – and seeing him now just makes that all too clear, nice as he is. And I was also thankful that somehow I managed to conduct myself with enough sincerity (by the grace of God, and also under the watchful eye of my friends who would be at me if I made one false move) that ignus fatuus seems to understand what that was, bears me no ill will and is my friend, and that when all is said and done I have nothing to regret.

So, I came away from that party just thanking God. Sure, I would love to have someone to go to go to parties with, and everywhere basically, and share my life (and I appreciated this post from Amy on that point), and there could have been good times to be had with him, and maybe a family, which is a fading dream, but doing it that way would ultimately and definitely not be worth it.

So, here’s a song, which we sang at Engage this year, which I encourage (and sometimes console) myself with (excuse the cheesy pictures in the visual, but you get the lyrics).

Monday, November 08, 2010


I gave up on listening to podcasts, sermons and the like at work a while back, because I was finding I was too distracted and missing bits of them and getting frustrated. So I’ve just been listening to music. But I have decided that something is better than nothing and there are lots of interesting things I could glean snippets from even if I don’t get it all. So, on a whim I clicked on this link from Soph’s blog on Friday to a talk on Unconditional Love from This American Life, about a Romanian orphan who was adopted but manifested severe attachment disorder, and boy oh boy, I had the tissues out and all (and incidentally, Frans de Waal refers to the horrible experiments of the Romanian orphanages in his post on the God-Science Shouting Match I linked below).

Today I have been cruising through Tim Keller’s sermons on The Prodigal God, and sure I’ve missed bits, but it’s been really good. I can’t listen to sermons from anywhere here, because I don’t seem to have Quick Time (so I can’t listen to sermons from my own church, which is a nuisance) but I think I’m going to get myself back on the sermon podcast circuit. I've read Keller's book, but so far, from memory, the talks are quite different, and he has a lot to say in the first two about "community".

The God-Science shouting match

I linked recently to the first article written by Frances de Waal on Morals Without God over at The Stone. He's since written a response to the 700 or so angry comments. In it her writes:

Atheists, it seems (at least those who responded here) don’t like any less than 100 percent agreement with their position.

To have a productive debate, religion needs to recognize the power of the scientific method and the truths it has revealed, but its opponents need to recognize that one cannot simply dismiss a social phenomenon found in every major society. If humans are inherently religious, or at least show rituals related to the supernatural, there is a big question to be answered.

Just raising such an obvious issue has become controversial in an atmosphere in which public forums seem to consist of pro-science partisans or pro-religion partisans, and nothing in between. How did we arrive at this level of polarization, this small-mindedness, as if we are taking part in the Oxford Debating Society, where all that matters is winning or losing? It is unfortunate when, in discussing how to lead our lives and why to be good — very personal questions — we end up with a shouting match.

My own neck worm

It’s only things of great import that are written here, but looking at the neck worms I mentioned the other day reminded me that once upon a time I did knit something like that myself.

It was when I was at L’Abri in Switzerland in 2001. In the evenings we’d all sit around in the big living room on the ground floor of the five-story chalet, the spectacular snow-covered mountains outside, the fire burning inside (or maybe there wasn't actually a fire in that room, but it sounds nice), engaged in cerebral conversations about theology, philosophy, or any other topic, some girls would knit and crochet, some guys would strum guitar. Those were wonderful times. Anyway, while there I started a scarf from some hand-spun wool an English girl and I found in a Salvation Army shop down the mountain in Aigle. I then finished it on the train from Basel up to Nassjo in Sweden. Well, sort of finished it. It turned out a bit too stiff and scratchy to make a good scarf, and I never dealt with the ends. But I have dug it out and think I might finish it off and hang it on a rod for some narrow piece of wall somewhere. I’ve never gotten rid of it because I feel quite sentimental about it.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Just crafty things

Sophie linked to this blog the other day, and I have been looking at this lady’s crochet things ever since.

She’s on a good thing with her crocheted wrist worms – something that doesn’t take too long to make but can be sold for a reasonable amount of money, which is what you’d need if you were thinking of making any money at all out of craft (every now and then I ponder such things, when dreaming about my sea change life ...).

But what I really like is the lovely muted colours she has put together in the neck worms (these are knitted). You can't download the pictures, but I especially like this one. (And look at this rug!)

Also, I have been quite intrigued by this, the easiest knitting project in the world, but look at the colours!

Poetry Day - Her confession

Here's another by Thomas Hardy (I do love these poems of romantic misunderstandings).

Her Confession

As some bland soul, to whom a debtor says
'I'll now repay the amount I owe you,'
In inward gladness feigns forgetfulness
That such a payment ever was his due

(His long thought notwithstanding), so did I
At our last meeting waive your proffered kiss
With quick divergent talk of scenery nigh,
By such suspension to enhance my bliss.

And as his looks in consternation fall
When, gathering that the debt is lightly deemed,
That debtor makes as not to pay at all,
So faltered I, when your intention seemed

Converted by my false uneagerness
To putting off for ever the caress.

Thomas Hardy

Image from: http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/novel_19c/hardy/tess-draws-off.jpg

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The birthday boy

Here's a few pics of my nephew Eli, which didn't make it the other day. We think he's quite adorable!

Another night at Overcomers Outreach

It was Overcomers Outreach night last night, which, as always, was a good night.

At the beginning of the evening, as I was making my way to the back entrance of the Cathedral, after I’d been loitering about in Lincraft and JB Hi-Fi then reading in the QVB, I saw this fellow approaching with three others and thought to myself ‘now who is that and where do I know him from?’. Because I used to work at Matthias Media I feel like I've seen half the Anglicans in Sydney somewhere before and usually I put it down to that. But then, as I got closer and went ahead up the steps he looks at me and says “Alison – XX (his name, which I shall just leave out, because even though he wasn’t there with his own addiction I have to be careful to extremes about making connections or breaking “who you see here and what you hear here stays here”), friends with AB, now AC (girl I know, now married, whom I met because she stayed with me in Brisbane when Moore Theological College sent a mission team to my church up there)”.

I’m doing a mental scramble to put all the pieces into place. Then he says “I don’t know if you remember this, but you were taking a photo of AB and I at graduation and trying to work out how to use my camera and you took a photo up your nose”. We worked out this was Moore College Graduation 2003. But stagger me, but for that reminder I’d have permanently and happily forgotten that I ever took a photo up my nose on someone else’s camera! Anyway, he’s a good bloke, now an Anglican minister who was ahead of the masses on the church planting front, who drove for an hour and half to bring three people from his church to OO because they needed help.

Then the meeting itself was a little smaller than usual, though with lots of new people suffering addictions other than alcohol, and thanks be to God we had some others come along also who were further along those roads so they could be matched up to talk with the newcomers. But, you know, the thing I feel convicted of every single night that I go to these meetings and sit there listening to folks share their stories is how dependent they are on God just to make it through each day. Many of them will say they can’t make it to the bedroom door without going through Steps 1-3, and constantly redoing the rest of the steps (you can see the steps here, which are essentially the gospel applied to the lives of addicts). I don’t have an addiction, but that doesn’t mean I have any less reason to be dependent on God than they do, I just don’t live that out in the same way – and I am reminded of, and challenged on, my misplaced self-sufficiency every time.

So when we got to the praise and petition prayer points, which I often pass on as a “supporter” simply owing to time constraints, I got one in and my petition was that I’d learn more and more to live in moment-by-moment dependence on God like the people in that room.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A good day for poets

Today is a good day for the poetically inclined. Ben has written about George Herbert and Heaven in the Ordinary and Dan has written about Friendship in Tennyson.

Happy Birthday Eli

It’s my nephew Eli’s 2nd birthday today, and I meant to load up some photos last night (can't do that here), then I forgot. So I got on the computer this morning to see if I could pull it off, but that was going to be a bad idea, so I left it. I also picked up a book of poetry this morning, because it was on the floor and I stepped on it, and that was the second bad idea. Some days I’d just like to stay home faffing about all day.

I haven’t finished Eli’s rug yet, so only sent his hoodie and Havaianas, but I have to go North later this month for a family do, so will hopefully have it done then.

Some kind of famous

The interweb is occasionally all web-full. Soph wrote a post the other day, with a reference to my quote from Affluenza on community, then Eternity magazine snaffled up Soph’s post, so now I have an oblique link from over there ...

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Reticence and concealment

I am reading Romola, by George Eliot, very slowly, punctuated by other things. The beginning is actually rather hard work, with lots of historical 15th century Italian ponderings and rhetoric. But here are a few more snippets about characters that I like:

Tito had an innate love of reticence – let us say a talent for it – which acted as other impulses do, without conscious motive, and, like all people to whom concealment is easy, he would now and then conceal something which had as little the nature of a secret as the fact that he had seen a flight of crows.
And later:

Under every guilty secret there is hidden a brood of guilty wishes, whose unwholesome infecting life is cherished by the darkness. The contaminating effect of deeds often lies less in their commission than in the consequent adjustment of our desires – the enlistment of our self-interest on the side of falsity; as, on the other hand, the purifying influence of public confession springs from the fact, that by it the hope in lies is for ever swept away, and the soul recovers the noble attitude of simplicity.
- Romola, George Eliot
Chapter IX

Monday, November 01, 2010

Personality prayers

Jean first posted these temperament prayers, and Simone has since had some fun with them. I’m also an INFJ, but because I’m close on the line on J/P the “perfectionist” thing doesn’t totally resonate with me. I can be a perfectionist for sure, but I wouldn’t peg it as my defining characteristic. However, I must have enough J that the INFP doesn’t quite work for me either, because I do finish things. Except cleaning up my room. I get halfway through that and then decide it’s good enough and go and do something else. Apparently INFJs can be the least externally organised of the Js with, signs of disarray, like messy desks - that’s me (though messy is tolerated a lot more than unclean).

The prayers are all “task”-based is the problem! And probably it is itself a symptom of being an INFJ that at the moment I feel like my biggest problems are more relational (I mean, who cares whether or not I spelt something correctly when I feel like X misunderstands me).

However, I came across this site, which is the official home of Myers-Briggs material (our computer system has been down here at work, so I went from one thing to the next around the internet for a while on Friday) and looked around. This list of things that cause stress sounds about right, though these days I’m not phased by meeting new people and will happily do so:

hostile, critical atmosphere
confrontation, conflict situations
politics on the job
leadership situations
working where not accepted
working where innovation is not possible
not knowing what is expected
working with those who do not honor their obligations or meet promised deadlines
highly competitive environments
insignificant interruptions
meeting new people
being in a situation where one has little or no control
constant supervision