Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A gold book find

This afternoon we ended up in Berkelouw Books, and I stumbled upon English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (excluding drama), in hardback, by CS Lewis, for $17.50! I think that might be my book find for the year. On Amazon there is one new copy listed at $480 and a few second-hand, for a lot more than $17.50. I haven't found book treasure in a while, so I am chuffed. Flicking through it, there might be some quotes to come from the Introduction called New Learning and New Ignorance, in which he appears to wax lyrical about the Puritans, the Humanists and the Reformation.

A life bleep

So, I’ve spent the last three days pretty much poking around at home by myself (even my flatmate is away). I cried like the rain for half of Saturday, because sometimes you just need to do that, and spent a fair amount of time with God, because sometimes you need to do that too, but then I got into going through my cupboards and the uncluttering bug took over. My Mum is coming to visit you see, so I thought I’d better go through my food cupboard for starters. I ought to be ashamed of myself! A whole bag full of stuff was out of date. I’ve also staggered up to Vinnies with a large bag full of clothes, turfed a whole lot of bottles of stuff out of the bathroom cupboard (you know how you know there’s a bit more left in a bottle of something, but you haven’t got the time that morning to fuss about getting it out, so you start a new one, but also keep the old one for later? - I do that) and just generally found bits and pieces I can live without.

I’ve been reading some more of Chris Brauns’s Unpacking Forgiveness. This is a good book. Regardless of which way you go with conditional forgiveness (ie, it requisites repentance) there’s lots of good material in it, and it’s very practical. And while I am on the subject of books, you can now buy, or at least order, Andrew Cameron’s Joined-Up Life – A Christian account of how ethics works, which looks really good. I went to another lecture last night of the Centre for Christian Living last night, called Gearing up: Preparing to respond to post-Christian culture. Scott Monk and Andrew Cameron spoke about ways and means of responding to the media etc. It was a good night, and the parents of my old best friend from high school had come down the mountain to attend, so it was good to catch up with them. I’ve also started to read George Eliot’s Romola again. I blogged once upon a time about how I got to a crucial part of this book and then there was a binding error and pages were repeated etc, so I dropped it in frustration. But now I have a good old Penguin Classics version and I’m off again.

Other than that, one of the guys at church asked a bunch of us for a BBQ lunch on Sunday, which was really nice. I find it an admirable thing when single guys practice hospitality (and don't actually find any biblical reason why they aren't exhorted to do it as much as the rest of us, but find it admirable all the same). I've been messing about on the guitar, trying to get to F chord without a five second pause, jogging around the bay, doing some crochet, and pretty soon I’m going to go and get my Mum. Then I think we’re going to visit lots of cafes.

And now, without actually saying anything much at all, I've got to run. My Mum will hit panics stations if she comes out at Sydney Airport and I'm not there.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Holiday music fun

Thank you, thank you to Nathan for pointing out some new Mumford and Sons on youtube. Love, love, love it. Well, I haven’t really let the songs soak in yet, but so far I am particularly liking the first (Lover’s Eyes, with banjo and double bass – I’ve posted this one in below) and fourth songs (Below my Feet) he’s posted (am finding the second one a bit noisy). That’s what I call singing with verve. When I was down in Melbourne last year my niece inflicted me with listening to Justin Bieber, so then I put on Mumford and said “listen to this Lucy, this is a man singing” and I heard my brother-in-law burst out laughing in the kitchen (this was all in good fun – Lucy likes a good tease). I don't mind a bit of impassioned arrghhing (though prefer it in the fourth song). I liked it first on the end of When Your Mind's Made Up by Glen Hansard.

Anyway, was really good to meet Nathan and Robyn last Sunday in the flesh, as Nathan mentions here. Meeting people you know from cyber space in real life can be a sort of social experiment, because a couple of people I’ve met have been stunningly different to my expectations, but I found no such discordance with Nathan. What you read is what you get.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Leave of absence

Woot! I am actually going on leave for the next two weeks, so blogging will be sporadic, if at all (I think I’m going to try to minimise social media use). I’m so looking forward to the break. It’s even been high drama here in the office lately, for reasons that actually don’t have a lot to do with me, except that I was cc’d in on an email on Monday (the likes of which I’ve never before seen in my life!) and the fact that I received it is of itself an issue, the motivation behind which is perplexing. Life’s all Gordian problems right now (to continue being melodramatic), and I’m done. So, fare thee all well, and I'll be back in around two weeks, if not before.

A prayer

We had an evening of praying the other night in my connect (bible study) group, in between books, and so I subjected them all to a Puritan prayer from my new Valley of Vision book (I've been flicking about in this and enjoying it, though some of the prayers are a bit odd). We have just finished the book of Philippians, with it's elements on doing all things in Christ's strength, and rejoicing always, and were also in the "confession" part of the evening (we also call ourselves the "loving God more group"), so, while it was a bit randomly chosen, I thought this one fitting (I actually just copied it from The Banner of Truth, where I found them all online):

Thou Great I Am,
I  acknowledge and confess that all things come of thee –
   life, breath, happiness, advancement,
   sight, touch, hearing,
   goodness, truth, beauty 
       all that makes existence amiable.
In the spiritual world also I am dependent entirely upon thee.
Give me grace to know more of my need of grace;
Show me my sinfulness that I may willingly confess it;
Reveal to me my weakness that I may know my strength in thee.
I thank thee for any sign of penitence;
     give me more of it;
My sins are black and deep,
   and rise from a stony, proud, self-righteous heart;
Help me to confess them with mourning, regret, self-loathing,
   with no pretence to merit or excuse;
I need healing,
Good Physician, here is scope for thee,
   come and manifest thy power;
I need faith;
Thou who hast given it me, maintain, strengthen, increase it,
Centre it upon the Saviour’s work,
   upon the majesty of the Father,
   upon the operations of the Spirit;
Work it in me now that I may never doubt thee
   as the truthful, mighty, faithful God.
Then I can bring my heart to thee
   full of love, gratitude, hope, joy.
May I lay at thy feet these fruits grown in thy garden,
   love thee with a passion that can never cool,
   believe in thee with a confidence that never staggers,
   hope in thee with an expectation that can never be dim,
   delight in thee with a rejoicing that cannot be stifled,
   glorify thee with the highest of my powers,
        burning, blazing, glowing, radiating, as from thy own glory.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Apologetic ramblings ...

So I’ve posted about going to Wattamolla Beach with a friend on Saturday. This is the same friend from work who came with me to the I ♥ Kirribilli exhibition last year. I didn’t have a lot planned for the weekend and was going to just rest and recover from last week, but then she checked the weekend weather and asked me on Thursday if I wanted to go down there. Like the Tramsheds, going to Wattamolla is one of those things we’ve talked about doing for a while. And sometimes it’s just nice to know that someone wants to spend time with you, so I thought ‘why not? – if you want to spend the day with me on Saturday, that will be nice’. So off we went.

We tend to have most of our “God conversations” when we get out of the office, because there’s not a whole lot of scope for having them in it. I never have try very hard to start them, and this time she began with, ‘don’t you think there’s a similarity between Tolstoy and Jesus?’ (yes, this is what we talk about when we’re on the beach!), which arose out of a discussion of our mutual appreciation of the film The Last Station, and aspects of hero worship …. So, on we went. Being a person who dislikes confrontation I do find these conversations a little stressful, just in knowing we’re in disagreement, and they get quite intense, and she’s very intelligent and researched so my head starts hurting with trying to respond to all the surprising things that come my way, and conversations are never really all that structured in reality. It's tiring. And further, she has a dislike of “proselytising”, because that is the antithesis of everything she believes in, which is allowing people to work things out for themselves (thus she appreciates Buddhism(?)), so I don’t know when it is that a dialogue turns into “proselytising”, and it would also have to be said that’s she’s trying as hard to influence me as I am to influence her in these discussions.

On Saturday she was telling me that she believes people are inherently good (which took me by surprise!), and had examples of native Indians that have been used to prove this and societies that are better constructed so that this is apparently obvious etc, and of course I disagree entirely with that, and agree with Solzhenitsyn that “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts” (from The Gulag Archipelago). So in the end she had to blame the influence of “culture”, and it's conditionings, for all the evil people manifest. And, you know, I didn’t really say this at the time but I was thinking ‘don’t you just despair? – because your only remedy is to work to alter the entire “Western Culture” – that’s exhausting!’. And she is heavily involved in activism, because that is what she sees as the answer to the world’s ills. It was a rather backhanded sort of encouragement for being a Christian really (while I felt the sadness for her), because I thought ‘here is a very intelligent, enlightened person, who has done more research than anybody I know, whose only hope is to basically reconstruct the world’. At the end of this discussion I had a sort of lightbulb moment about how the gospel really is a much easier (and more cohesive) framework and “solution” to live within than anything else any thoughtful person has ever come up with. I knew that, but I had a fresh moment of appreciation for it.

That's all.

Self-awareness amusement (on flirting and doing your taxes)

This flowchart gave me some self-awareness amusement (from here, H/T 22 Words), as did this post about INFPs at tax time (I flop just over the line into INFJ, which is enough to give me some semblance of being organised (just don't look inside the cupboards), get me places on time, make me meet deadlines and rummage up enough bits of paper to do my own tax ... but I relate).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Shakespeare and Anne Shirley

Everyone needs to indulge a little melodrama every now and then:

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?


Anne Shirley knew these things weren't easily soothed: "Plum puffs won't minister to a mind diseased in a world that's crumbled into pieces." -LM Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

Some Fool Blog

And for something else interesting, you could read Andrew Cruickshank's (Jo's husband's) blog.

Darwin, race and religion in Australia

Here is a very interesting article, on the ABC Religion and Ethics site, by Joanna Cruickshank, whom I shall call a friend, at the risk of a name-dropping sort of 'my mate Jo'.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Revisiting my youth

The teenage me, that went by the nicknames “mountain woman”, “wild thing”, “Amazon” and whatever else for my outdoorsy inclinations, came out to play on Saturday, and this is what happened. As I climbed over the barrier, designed to prevent people doing this*, I said to my friend – the same friend I scrambled under the gates with to enter the Glebe Tramsheds – “I feel like I'm having a mid-life crisis”. But it was fun!

*Having worked for NPWS I know that barriers and “no jumping” signs are there to prevent liability in legal action, not necessarily because they have the power of the law to tell people they can’t jump off rocks. Apparently the rangers come down here and turn a blind eye, and my seasoned friend tells me that in summer it’s like 'Piccadilly Circus' with everyone lined up waiting to jump. I was a little dubious about this, because the tide was very low (this is a lagoon just in behind the ocean) and I thought the water was barely deep enough for jumping from such a height, but I figured I’d live. (While I do like wild adventures, there are ways of doing them responsibly and I’d never jump off anything without doing a reconnaissance of the water below first. As teenagers we were always jumping, or otherwise falling with style (there was rarely any straight boring old "jumping"), into this spot we called "The Bombing Hole" (my claim to fame is being the only girl who ever jumped from the top of "the bombing tower"), but the one rule was that someone had to go in first and make sure no submerged logs etc had washed in since last time.)

This is Wattamolla Beach/Lagoon down in Royal National Park anyway, and it was a glorious day for it.

How to make an "overture"

My flatmate pulled this DVD out on yesterday's rainy afternoon. I do love this scene! "You're ladling calculation upon comedy ..."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Poetry Day - Affliction

One of the reasons I like John Piper is because one day I post this, then the next day he posts this (I actually think it was the same day - he's just in a different time zone). Mutual poetry appreciation is force to be reckoned with! So, today I thought I'd post another George Herbert poem, or two, this time from his series on Affliction.


MY heart did heave, and there came forth, O God!
By that I knew that Thou wast in the grief,
To guide and govern it to my relief,
    Making a sceptre of the rod:
      Hadst Thou not had Thy part,
Sure the unruly sigh had broke my heart.

But since Thy breath gave me both life and shape,
Thou know'st my tallies; and when there’s assigned
So much breath to a sigh, what’s then behind?
    Or if some years with it escape,
      The sigh then only is
A gale to bring me sooner to my bliss.

Thy life on earth was grief, and Thou art still
Constant unto it, making it to be
A point of honour, now to grieve in me,
    And in Thy members suffer ill.
      They who lament one cross,
Thou dying daily, praise Thee to Thy loss.


BROKEN in pieces all asunder,
        Lord, hunt me not,
        A thing forgot,
Once a poor creature, now a wonder,
    A wonder tortured in the space
    Betwixt this world and that of grace.

My thoughts are all a case of knives,
        Wounding my heart
        With scattered smart,
As wat'ring-pots give flowers their lives.
    Nothing their fury can control,
    While they do wound and prick my soul.

All my attendants are at strife
        Quitting their place
        Unto my face:
Nothing performs the task of life :
    The elements are let loose to fight,
    And while I live, try out their right.

Oh help, my God! let not their plot
        Kill them and me,
        And also Thee,
Who art my life: dissolve the knot,
    As the sun scatters by his light
    All the rebellions of the night.

Then shall those powers, which work for grief,
        Enter Thy pay,
        And day by day
Labour Thy praise and my relief;
    With care and courage building me,
    Till I reach heav'n, and much more, Thee.

Friday, April 08, 2011


From the Newspaper Blackout Poetry Tumblr. And you can see what Austin Kleon does with horrorscopes here and here (and there's more - what fun!).

How to steal like an artist

I stumbled upon and read this yesterday, by some guy I've never heard of, but who wrote a book from blacking out newspaper columns (and spawned a fun poetry tumblr), and I enjoyed reading it. It's about the path of creativity (I was going to write "creative process", but I don't like putting those two words together). Some of the lines I thought were particularly interesting (as well as the fact that he sent me off to read about dramaturgy and quotes Goethe and Ecclesiastes) were:
All advice is autobiographical. It’s one of my theories that when people give you advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past.

As Flaubert said, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
(He gets a little scarily too close to GTD for me to wholeheartedly like that last quote ... but ... curious.)
Your job is to collect ideas. The best way to collect ideas is to read. Read, read, read, read, read. Read the newspaper. Read the weather. Read the signs on the road. Read the faces of strangers. The more you read, the more you can choose to be influenced by.
And now I want to go black out some newspaper ...

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

CS Lewis on forgiveness

I mentioned that the friend I was reading the bible with was interested in something to read on the topic of forgiveness, so I have been roaming about books and the internet as well as in and out of the quagmire that is conditional forgiveness (or not). One thing I’ve come across is a little essay from CS Lewis on Forgiveness. It’s not so earth-shattering really, but teases out nicely the difference between forgiving and excusing, or rather repenting and offering excuses. It’s also not so long, so here it is in full (I don’t yet know the source, other than that it’s Macmillan Publishing Company, 1960, from here, but if I find it I’ll add it later):

We say a great many things in church (and out of church too) without thinking of what we are saying. For instance, we say in the Creed "I believe in the forgiveness of sins". I had been saying it for several years before I asked myself why it was in the Creed. At first sight it seems hardly worth putting in. "If one is a Christian," I thought "of course one believes in the forgiveness of sins. It goes without saying". But the people who compiled the Creed apparently thought that this was a part of our belief which we needed to be reminded of every time we went to church. And I have begun to see that, as far as I am concerned, they were right. To believe in the forgiveness of sins is not so easy as I thought. Real belief in it is the sort of thing that easily slips away if we don't keep on polishing it up.

We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. It is in the Lord's Prayer, it was emphatically stated by our Lord. If you don't forgive you will not be forgiven. No exceptions to it. He doesn't say that we are to forgive other people's sins, provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don't we shall be forgiven none of our own.

Now it seems to me that we often make a mistake both about God's forgiveness of our sins and about the forgiveness we are told to offer to other people's sins. Take it first about God's forgiveness, I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality (unless I watch myself very carefully) asking Him to do something quite different. I am asking him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says, "Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology; I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before". If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive. In that sense forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites. Of course, in dozens of cases, either between God and man, or between one man and another, there may be a mixture of the two. Part of what at first seemed to be the sins turns out to be really nobody's fault and is excused; the bit that is left over is forgiven. If you had a perfect excuse, you would not need forgiveness; if the whole of your actions needs forgiveness, then there was no excuse for it. But the trouble is that what we call "asking God's forgiveness" very often really consists in asking God to accept our excuses. What leads us into this mistake is the fact that there usually is some amount of excuse, some "extenuating circumstances". We are so very anxious to point these things out to God (and to ourselves) that we are apt to forget the very important thing; that is, the bit left over, the bit which excuses don't cover, the bit which is inexcusable but not, thank God, unforgivable. And if we forget this, we shall go away imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves with our own excuses. They may be very bad excuses; we are all too easily satisfied about ourselves.

There are two remedies for this danger. One is to remember that God knows all the real excuses very much better than we do. If there are real "extenuating circumstances" there is no fear that He will overlook them. Often He must know many excuses that we have never even thought of, and therefore humble souls will, after death, have the delightful surprise of discovering that on certain occasions they sinned much less than they thought. All the real excusing He will do. What we have got to take to Him is the inexcusable bit, the sin. We are only wasting our time talking about all the parts which can (we think) be excused. When you go to a Dr. you show him the bit of you that is wrong - say, a broken arm. It would be a mere waste of time to keep on explaining that your legs and throat and eyes are all right. You may be mistaken in thinking so, and anyway, if they are really right, the doctor will know that.

The second remedy is really and truly to believe in the forgiveness of sins. A great deal of our anxiety to make excuses comes from not really believing in it, from thinking that God will not take us to Himself again unless He is satisfied that some sort of case can be made out in our favor. But that is not forgiveness at all. Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it.

When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different. It is the same because, here also forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. (This doesn't mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart - every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God's forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily, in other people's we do not accept them easily enough. As regards my own sins it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men's sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think. One must therefore begin by attending to everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we thought. But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine per cent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one per cent of guilt that is left over. To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life - to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son - How can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night "Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us". We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God's mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


Speeches won't be made today
Clocks will carry on
Flowers won't be left in parks
Work will still be done
People won't be dressed in black
Babies will be born
No flags will fly
The sun will rise
But we will know
That you are gone

The Day Before The Day
- Dido

My Dad would have been 60 today. He obviously took the photo above during a visit to Sydney when we were kids (I think we're on the Manly Ferry).

(And it would seem I have been having Dido flashbacks lately (and one inadvertently with a rogue link a few posts back), so I thought I'd repost this poem/song.)

Monday, April 04, 2011

Work, men and companies

Last week I went and saw The Company Men (thanks to free tickets from a friend), an American GFC film about three high-flying men who lose their jobs, their struggles to find another one and the stress and pressure this puts on them and their families. I liked it. It wasn't overly deep and ponderous, but was enough to make you question your own work situation and what you're working for, the level of your wealth and the kind of lifestyle expectations you can get trapped in. Also of interest was seeing the difference made by whether the men's wives and families were supportive or not.

The bit of twee positivism at the end, as seen in the trailer below, rather subtracted from than added to the film (and this trailer makes it look rather "fluffier" than it actually was - it's written and directed by John Wells of West Wing fame to give you some idea), and there is plenty of bad language (though I guess that's what people come out with when they're that stressed) but it's really quite good.

I've already mentioned going to the CCL lecture on Work, by Andrew Cameron, and you can now listen to it online here. The film made for a good case study.

THE COMPANY MEN: Movie Trailer. Watch more top selected videos about: Chris Cooper, John Wells

Poetry Day - for the love of George Herbert

So I didn't post a poem over the weekend and the 3rd April was George Herbert's birthday! So, here is a little sequence of George Herbert. The third poem is the one most widely known I believe.

Love (I)

Immortal Love, author of this great frame,
    Sprung from that beauty which can never fade,
    How hath man parcel'd out Thy glorious name,
And thrown it on that dust which Thou hast made,
While mortal love doth all the title gain!
    Which siding with Invention, they together
    Bear all the sway, possessing heart and brain,
(Thy workmanship) and give Thee share in neither.
Wit fancies beauty, beauty raiseth wit;
    The world is theirs, they two play out the game,
    Thou standing by: and though Thy glorious name
Wrought our deliverance from th' infernal pit,
Who sings Thy praise? Only a scarf or glove
Doth warm our hands, and make them write of love.

Love (II)

Immortal Heat, O let Thy greater flame
    Attract the lesser to it; let those fires
    Which shall consume the world first make it tame,
And kindle in our hearts such true desires.
As may consume our lusts, and make Thee way:
    Then shall our hearts pant Thee, then shall our brain
    All her invention on Thine altar lay,
And there in hymns send back Thy fire again.
Our eyes shall see Thee, which before saw dust,
    Dust blown by wit, till that they both were blind:
    Thou shalt recover all Thy goods in kind,
Who wert disseized by usurping lust:
All knees shall bow to Thee; all wits shall rise,
And praise Him Who did make and mend our eyes.

Love (III)

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
        Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
        From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
        If I lack'd any thing.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
        Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, ungrateful? ah my dear,
        I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
        "Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
        Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
        "My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
        So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Truly great expectations

I love this post from Amy, especially the part she has emphasised in bold. One needs to be reminded of that often.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Look no further

I linked to this video of the Dido Song Look No Further last night, but have decided it deserves a blog post of it's own. I have always liked the song (and blogged it way back here) as a love song, but the film clip has interpreted it into something else again. It's quite beautiful, and curiously un-, and maybe even anti-, 'progressive' (read Nicole's post on The Sola Panel for a discussion of 'progressive').