Friday, December 30, 2011

Back at my computer

I returned to Sydney last night from my trip up North, which was all good. I now have five whole days at home before returning to work (though one of them is now almost gone). The plan is to have a big spring clean out. That might sound very dull, but as it is something I never get around to on an ordinary weekend, I am looking forward to getting it done and am itching to throw things out (so I need to seize this moment in my sentimental life!).

I had a slow start today, then started in on old correspondence. Seriously! News flash people: if you keep everything everybody ever sent you, you end up with a lot of stuff. And of course I have been held up reading things, and have laughed and fallen into nostalgia along the way. But I need to be ruthless and persistent ...

I also read Shopping for Time, by the Mahaney crew again just before Christmas - simple, but a good reminder of priorities. So I want to take myself off for a little "personal retreat" to a cafe and see if I can be more intentional about a few things this year.

We shall see how I go with all this in the next few days. I am catching up with a visiting friend tonight and doing New Year's Eve things tomorrow night, but I am determined!

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and some time off and I shall be back.

P.S. I think I was spoilt this Christmas, and got lots more stuff I need to make room for. You can think what you like of me for this, but, by request, I got the complete stop-motion DVD series of Wind in the Willows. It's so enchanting (and Badger really is a fine old soul - they all are, except for Toady, actually). I am looking forward to making my way through all 11 discs!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Coloured people lights and human Christmas gifts

OK, so I have one more. This was sitting there as a draft from the other week.

I have found Don Miller’s blog curious reading lately. And I appreciated this simple post, about how the world might be different if you believed people actually wanted to talk to you. If you will allow me a little online therapy (every now and then it seeps out), once upon a time I went to see a psychologist, without even especially knowing why, and he said to me, ‘if you imagine that everyone has either a red light or a green light on their forehead, you see red lights everywhere’. And it was true. My default was not ‘people like me until proven otherwise’, it was ‘people don’t like me until proven otherwise’. It seems some of us are constituted that way, or maybe brought up that way.

(And I think this is altogether different to “self esteem”, but won’t try to explain that here.)

That psychologist told me many things, but the red light/green light idea is one that stuck, and I have since tried to be aware of that, and push past it. (I might have even overdone it in one or two cases, and worked too hard to see a green light, when it was well and truly red, and stopping, rather than crashing into a red light pole, would have been a good idea.)

As with most things psychological, sometimes the reason you see red lights is you, and sometimes it’s the other person. The curious thing is, I do think I am reasonably perceptive about people, and sometimes I think I understand why others are wearing red lights, yet still I find it difficult not to see that red light beaming. Sometimes people are inadvertently flashing red lights, maybe because their self-protection is ten miles thick, or maybe because they’re also seeing red lights and so are stand-offish, and one person just needs to see green and run it. Sometimes people are still recovering from a significant green light that went red. Sometimes people are just cranky with the world in general, and can't much be bothered being green to anybody, you included.

So, it’s good to be reminded that you can “be a gift” to others, just in time for Christmas.

That is all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

There's still my joy

And I shall leave you with this song, There's Still My Joy, from the Indigo Girls. For you if you need some extra encouragement to lift up your heart this Christmas.

(I'm not sure why the Indigo Girls have decided to sing this, but they always harmonise well.) H/T The Pipers.

Lux venit, sursum corda

Well, it was my last day of work today. Our office is actually closing down for two weeks this year. I am very glad about that!

Of late:

We had a big carols event at my church on Sunday night – well actually, it was out under the Harbour Bridge, with a couple of thousand people attending. What a night it was! I was in the “information” tent for most of the evening, where we also had things to give away and things for sale (and this was next to a tent with all sorts of fun things for kids happening, and close to the food vendors who came in) and then flanked the side of the park as people were leaving saying some version of “would you like a copy of the Christmas story?” and giving The Essential Jesus, which had been mentioned during the night, to as many people who’d take one. It was a huge production but such a good time. The music was truly excellent and our minister gave a great little gospel talk in the middle of it.

Then last night I had my sister and her family stop over on their way through from Melbourne to my brother--in-law's family so their girls could go to the Harry Potter exhibit at the Powerhouse Museum. So I mustered up four beds and enough bedding and towels and so on to go around, we had a little dinner Christmas celebration and I am now faced with the aftermath of all that.

Then I’m flying north for Christmas tomorrow. Once I have got myself to the airport with all the necessary stuff, I shall relax!

(I have not been feeling so fantastic of late, and am really looking forward to being able to stop for a while.)

I haven’t decided whether I shall take my computer away or not, but there is no wireless broadband available up there, and I don’t expect I shall be blogging. So, I have no very lucid or profound post to go out with, and shall just say:

Lux venit sursum corda!
(Which means, ‘the light has come, lift up your hearts’. Call me a dweeb, but I like a little Latin.)

Friday, December 16, 2011


I do like some Christmas carols a little more rocking than that last one. So, here is one that goes back to my days as a child at home. I know we're all supposed to think Michael W Smith is daggy, but I LOVE this, and I haven't heard a better version of this carol since. Every year I have to torment the neighbours with it at least a few times. The crescendo near the middle is quite euphoric and one can't help conducting their own imaginary orchestra.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Spoken Project

My friend Soph has today launched her new venture, The Spoken Project. This is what The Spoken Project is all about:

The Spoken Project is a podcast about people just like you, but not quite like you.

They are working 9-5, kicking a ball, writing a poem, taking a shower, making dinner. They are the grief-stricken widow, the young Aboriginal man, the Chinese commerce student, the mother of three. They are God’s extraordinary ordinaries.

The Spoken Project is about people grappling with life, in all its joy and sorrow.

Ultimately, it’s about God and what he is doing when you’re not looking.
Episode 1 is the story of Kate and her life with an eating disorder. Go listen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Personality type and gifts

I had a little chuckle over this, which came in an email newsletter. I am an idealist, and this explains a few things (about why some people don't seem to appreciate my sentimental or hand-made efforts, and why my Mum is always trying to give me uninteresting 'useful' things) ...

Idealists ... most appreciate giving and receiving gifts with sentimental value. However, there is a major difference - Idealists like giving and receiving gifts that are hand-made by the giver, feeling that this best shows the depth of their personal feelings for the recipient. Idealists also differ ... in not particularly valuing practical gifts ...

A blog giveaway

I don’t know that there has ever been a giveaway on this blog. Shame on me!

So, I have decided to have one. I actually have a couple of things to give away, but I shall do this one at a time.

It’s no secret that I like poetry, and I do like biographies. In that vein, the first giveaway is a little biography of Anne Bradstreet, called Pilgrim and Poet. One of the Puritans, she was America's first poet (or one of them at least). I haven’t read it in entirety myself yet, but it’s quite a skinny little book that would be easy to read even for those least interested in poetry, and I have been encouraged by little snippets so far (the Discerning Reader has reviewed Faith Cook's book on Lady Jane Grey here, and Tim Challies has given this one a tick on the back cover).

So, to enter, just leave me a comment, and humour me by quoting a line of poetry, of any sort you like. (But I’ll use some sort of random system to pick a winner.) It will end at midnight on Saturday (17th) and then I'll see if I can actually get anywhere near the counter of a post office.

The Wexford Carol

This is beautiful is it not? I love the lyrics, the cello, the pipes ...

(H/T to Gordon who shared this on facebook a few days ago, and I have been playing it since.)

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Knowledge of Providence

Ignorance of Providence is the greatest of all miseries, and the knowledge of it the highest happiness.
- John Calvin

(Get your tissues out and read A Remembrance.)

On lonely Christmases

I do so appreciate that Wendy writes these blog posts for those of us who face yet another Christmas without a family of our own (every year I get on a plane by myself hoping that next year might be different), or with some other form of loss or longing. I was particularly encouraged by this part at the end:

You are loved and wanted by Christ. You do have a family, in every idealistic sense of the term. It is in Him and with Him.

On crochet

On the weekend I finished my epic crochet project (otherwise known as the silliest crochet project ever undertaken), just in time for Christmas. It just needs a little bit of blocking I think, which I might do on the floor while my flatmate is away this week.

I don’t think I’ll make that particular idea again till I retire. I’m going to take a little hooky break, but then I am looking forward to getting back into smaller, more portable and finishable crochet projects, trying some new ideas and making some more things I can sell. I’ve bought a fair amount of wool on ebay recently (I need to fess up to a stint of being quite a yarn addict!) and now I have to turn it into things before I can buy any more.

I went along to the Finders Keepers markets the other weekend, and one of the radars I had up was my crochet radar, so here are some photos I surreptitiously snapped on my phone of crochet makings (I need to remember to hold the phone sideways when I use my polaroid app!).

Small crochet floor rug (or that is what they called it).
The top row of pins were actually miniscule little crochet flowers. I was impressed.
Granny square teapot cosies (there's about four if you look closely), and owl teapot cosies (the owls look a bit too much like old style macrami things to me, but they are sort of cute).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why do we love CS Lewis

I’m a bit behind, well a long way behind really, on some of what’s in my google reader, and I only just found this article, Why do we love C.S. Lewis and hate Rob Bell?. Like Challies, I appreciate this fellow asking and answering the question. It’s no secret on this blog that I read CS Lewis (among others). I also consider myself to be Reformed and Evangelical (I mean, I read books like Spurgeon vs Hypercalvinism when I was about 13 years old) so have never been blind to the problems. But I concur with this chap on why I still read his books. (I also think there’s something to be said for the way different people prefer to think and observe and understand and learn, and CS Lewis hits for some people, including me, there. Good essayists, after the fashion of Lewis and Chesterton, are rare in the evangelical world.)

Incidentally, I actually own the Nooma DVD Luggage, and I like that one (except the ending is a bit unnecessarily dramatic), but I don't like some of the others I have seen. I don't read Rob Bell's books, because life is short, and if I have to sift through too much dodginess, in ratio to any goodness, it's not worth my time. (A book a week - if anybody can sustain that - for 40 years is only 1500 books! So I choose carefully.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The tears from all faces

'He will wipe the tears from all faces.' It takes nothing from the loveliness of the verse to say that is exactly what will be required.
- Marilynne Robinson

When I first read that quote, in that most beautifully quotable of all books, I assumed she was referencing Revelation 21:4. Why I don't know, because the quotation marks would indicate a quote (!) and I know Revelation doesn't quite go like that. It's not so long ago that I realised that the verse quoted was actually Isaiah 25 vs 8, which more or less implies that there will actually be tears on all faces (for indeed, how could there not be):
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
That will be a grand day.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Somebody Good

You know what I have just discovered? Some versions of The Swell Season Strict Joy CD include an extra song, which I have, until now, never heard before. And I do like it. (I even have the double CD edition, so I don't know why this one was left off.) So, if you are Swell Season fan and happen to find yourself in the same strange place, here is a bonus song called Somebody Good.

Poetry Day - When others soundly slept

Picture from here.

By night when others soundly slept
and had at once both ease and rest,
my waking eyes were open kept,
and so to lie I found it best.

I sought him whom my soul did love,
with tears I sought him earnestly:
he bowed his ear down from above;
in vain I did not seek or cry.

My hungry soul he filled with good,
he in his bottle put my tears,
my smarting wounds washed in his blood
and banished thence my doubts and fears.

What to my Saviour shall I give,
who freely hath done this for me?
I'll serve him here whilst I shall live
and love him to eternity.

Anne Bradstreet

Thursday, December 08, 2011

What's your phantasmagorical belief system?

Alain de Botton, pop philosopher and atheist, has written a book on Religion for Atheists (see that link for a list of what he thinks religion has to offer the world), which could be curious reading. He recently tweeted this:

Atheists have belief systems just as phantasmagorical as the religious to keep them assured of their significance.
It's good of him to say so.

The Simply Christianity de-brief

So, I’ve kind of lost it with the blog of late, and haven’t much to write about.

But I didn’t give a final Simply Christianity debrief. I’m a little hesitant on that, because as the people become friends, it’s possible they’ll find this blog and read it, and though it’s all been anonymous to readers, it wouldn’t be so for them, and that could be weird. So, I might take those posts down sometime soon.

But in brief, I went off the evening feeling all rather nervous, and it wasn’t even my life! Not all the attenders who’d been along made it that night, which was a shame, but we can follow that up by other means (and one of them had been brought along by a very good friend, who is on their case :)). No-one said there and then they wanted to be a Christian – I don’t know how often that happens. But one of them came along to church last Sunday night and stayed on for dinner. He has been going along quite regularly to a later service anyway, but it was good to see him and catch up. He’s a young guy from the US, and is just blown away by the “community” ventures of the church, which is how he came to be involved, so that is great. He said he had some feedback on the course for me, so I braced myself to graciously accept it, then he told me I speak too quietly (we were up against background music in the venue we used, which we asked them to turn down a couple of times). I have never been especially “loud” and need to work on my voice projection obviously!

Two others were keen to continue on with further “study” in some means, and said they might make church this week, so here’s hoping (and they invited me along to something they had on last weekend, but I couldn’t make it, so that was nice). It’s funny, but after five weeks in the group, you feel like a little family (or something close to family), and kind of miss the people when it is all over. So, hopefully we can keep up somehow.

All up I had a great time being involved in the course, and gleaned a lot myself for doing it. They were good times!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

There is the wonder

This is a new video from Sara Groves, about recapturing the wonder in the ordinary. I have to say, I don't much like the word "precious". Maybe it was ruined by Gollum, or perhaps it has become cheesy with overuse, or maybe I just don't like the sound of it, the hard e at the beginning and the way it goes out with a hiss. But this is a nice song, and the video features her own children.

"New tender mercies and infinite graces, woven like threads in the cloth of my days ..."

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Poetry day - By a goodly river's side

I've been enjoying little snippets of Anne Bradstreet's poetry this week, much of it expressions of her faith in God, but here is a nice little piece, expressing her simple delight in sitting by a river:

Painting: Trees by a River, by Armand Guillaumin

Under the cooling shadow of a stately elm
close sat I by a goodly river's side,
where gliding streams the rocks did overwhelm,
a lonely place, with pleasures dignified.
I once that loved the shady woods so well
now thought the rivers did the trees excel ...

Which lifted her eyes upward:

If so much excellence abide below,
how excellent is he that dwells on high,
whose power and beauty by his works we know?
Sure he is goodness, wisdom, glory, light ...

Anne Bradstreet