Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

I got back into Sydney a couple of hours ago. Virgin actually rescheduled my flight, so I was earlier than planned, but not so early that I was enthused about frocking up and detouring around road and bridge closures to get to either of the parties I had an invitation to (and after non-stop people for the last ten days, I am enjoying a little time to reflect and find that space in my head), so I am seeing 2013 in quietly. But I thought I would post a poem to see in the new year from one of my Christmas presents, A Thousand Mornings, by Mary Oliver.

Painting by Laura Tovar Dietrick.


It didn’t behave
like anything you had
ever imagined. The wind
tore at the trees, the rain
fell for days slant and hard.
The back of the hand
to everything. I watched
the trees bow and their leaves fall
and crawl back into the earth.
As though, that was that.
This was one hurricane
I lived through, the other one
was of a different sort, and
lasted longer. Then
I felt my own leaves giving up and
falling. The back of the hand to
everything. But listen now to what happened
to the actual trees;
toward the end of that summer they
pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.
It was the wrong season, yes,
but they couldn’t stop. They
looked like telegraph poles and didn’t
care. And after the leaves came
blossoms. For some things
there are no wrong seasons.
Which is what I dream of for me.

Shakespeare, 31st December

                The end crowns all,
And that old common arbitrator, Time,
Will one day end it.
                         Troilus and Cressida, Act iv., Sc. 5.

"The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind."             Tempest, Act iv., Sc. I.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Shakespeare, 30th December

When workmen strive to do better than well,
They do confound their skill in covetousness;
And oftentimes excusing of a fault
Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse,
As patches set upon a little breach
Discredit more in hiding of the fault
Than did the fault before it was so patch'd.
                                           King John, Act iv., Sc. 2.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shakespeare, 29th December

Comest thou with deep premeditated lines,
WIth written pamphlets studiously devised?
                First Part of King Henry VI., Act iii., Sc. I.

                                 I am a man
That from my first have been inclined to thrift.
                                          Timon of Athens, Act i., Sc. I.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Shakespeare, 28th December

Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
                                     Merchant of Venice, Act v., Sc. I.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Shakespeare, 27th December

A woman sometimes scorns what best contents her.
Never give her o'er;
For scorn at first makes after-love the more.
Take no repulse, whatever she does say;
For "get you gone," she does not mean "away!"
That man that hath a tongue, I say, is no man,
If with his tongue he cannot win a woman.
                           Two Gentleman of Verona, Act iii., Sc. I.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Shakespeare, 26th December

Thieves for their robbery have authority
When judges steal themselves.
                         Measure for Measure, Act ii., Sc. 2.

Violent fires soon burn out themselves,
Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short.
                                           King Richard II, Act ii., Sc. I.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Shakespeare, 25th December

The season comes wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated.

Hamlet, Act i., Sc. I.

When good will is showed.

Antony and Cleopatra, Act ii., Sc. 5.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Shakespeare, 24th December

Night is now with hymn or carol blest.
                  Midsummer Night's Dream, Act ii., Sc. 2.

Oft our displeasures, to ourselves unjust,
Destroy our friends and after weep their dust:
Our own love waking cries to see what's done,
While shame full late sleeps out the afternoon.
                       All's Well that Ends Well, Act v., Sc. 3.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Shakespeare, 23rd December

Who is't can read a woman.
                                 Cymbeline, Act v., Sc. 5.

                      My endeavours
Have ever come too short of my desires,
Yet filled with my abilities.
                             King Henry VIII., Act iii., Sc. 2.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Shakespeare, 22nd December

I hold the world but as the world,
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.
                                   Merchant of Venice, Act i., Sc. I.

Men are men; the best sometimes forget.
                                              Othello, Act ii., Sc. 3.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Shakespeare, 21st December

Nay then, farewell!
I have touch'd the highest point of all my greatness,
And, from that full meridian of my glory,
I haste now to my setting: I shall fall
Like a bright exhalation in the evening,
And no man see me more.

King Henry VIII., Ac iii., Sc. 2.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

An die Freude

How fabulous ... I love all the little kids who start conducting! And so they should.


Bon voyage!

I am getting on a plane this afternoon for Brisbane. Another year has passed, and once again I go to the airport by myself to go “home” for Christmas. Something about being at airports alone around Christmas time always feels a little sad to me. But, in his short message at Carols Under the Bridge on Saturday night, Paul Dale began with this very scenario, describing the night he landed in Heathrow Airport on Christmas Eve and no one was there to meet him. Then he went on to explain how, that first Christmas, Christ came down from heaven and entered our world to become Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23), and is now present in our lives, such that we will never be truly alone again. So this year at the airport I will remember that. There may never be anyone for me on this earth who is going to “be there”, but Christ is, which is better by far.

Then last Sunday evening we had a thanksgiving service at my church. This involves an extended time for members of the congregation to share something they are thankful for. I had remembered this earlier in the week, then forgot over the course of the weekend, but I decided to get up and say a few words in any case. (I am OK at speaking in public if I have thought about it in advance, but this impromptu business is a little more nerve-wracking, and I am not sure which bits I actually said and which bits I just thought about.)

We had just sung My Heart is filled with Thankfulness which has in it this verse that particularly appeals to me:

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who reigns above
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace
Whose every thought is love

So I got up and began with that. One of Paul Dale’s sermon points was “Thank God that he is in control”, and I do, and I said something to the effect that I feel like we can never stop learning that God truly is good and he truly is loving, and we can trust him in that, and be at peace. A lot of circumstances haven’t turned out how I would have liked them to this year, but I have to trust that the reason is because God didn’t want them to, at least not then and not in that way, and he didn’t want them to because that is for my good.

The second related thing I was thankful for is that I am learning to appreciate not just that God is loving, but what kind of love it is that he gives. It’s a love that endures forever (we’d also just read Psalm 136 in church). It is a love that took the risk, and made the effort, at great personal cost to Himself, to rescue us and love us, before we had to “prove” we loved him in return (I started out my Christian life in a church denomination that was a little more Arminian (once upon a time, before we went to the reformed church), and was taught there that my faith was more up to me, but I believe it is truer, and much more comforting, to know that God loves me, and wants to initiate relationship with me, without me having to do all the hard work to get it). It’s also a love that continues despite our repeated unfaithfulness. The longer I live the more amazing such a love is to me. People might be disappointing, because they are people, and they can’t be functional saviours, but God’s love never fails, in any facet of it.

So, those were two things I continue to be thankful for.

As we go into this season of giving, I did appreciate this post over at the Gospel Coalition on the giving and receiving gifts (for those of us who enjoy giving, and maybe even receiving, gifts). I hope you all have a peaceful and joyous Christmas!

Shakespeare, 20th December

Life every man holds dear; but the brave man
Holds honour far more precious-dear than life.
                                   Troilus and Cressida, Act v., Sc. 3.

You have too much respect upon the world:
They lose it that do buy it with much care.
                                 Merchant of Venice, Act i., Sc. I.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shakespeare, 19th December

Let me be ignorant, and in nothing good,
But graciously to know I am no better.
                                Measure for Measure, Act ii., Sc 4.

Where love is great the littlest doubts are fears;
Where little fears grow great, great love grows there.
                                                     Hamlet, Act iii., Sc. 2.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Christmas poem - by Mrs GK Chesterton

How about a Christmas poem today, from Frances Chesterton, the wife of GK Chesterton. You can actually buy a book of poems and plays by Frances Chesterton called How Far Is It To Bethlehem?. (Via GK Chesterton)

Picture from here.

The Shepherds Found Thee By Night

THE shepherds found Thee by night, by night
Seeing the Star so bright, so bright
Ah me! It was a goodly sight
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Three Kings came from the East, the East,
The great to pray with the least, the least,

Ready to keep the Holy Feast
On Christmas Day in the morning.

The strangest sight they saw, they saw
A Child on a bed of straw, of straw
Their souls were filled with holy awe
On Christmas Day in the morning.

You that have come afar, afar,
Soldiers of His in war, in war
Come, oh come where the true hearts are
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Enter here by the door, the door
Down on your knees on floor, on floor
The Lord of all you come to adore
On Christmas Day in the morning.

This, Christian men is your inn, your inn
Brothers in arms one kin, one kin
Your host a Babe born with-out sin
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Sing you good will to men, to men,
Glory to God in the highest, and then
Praise to the Babe in Bethlehem
On Christmas Day in the morning.

(This can be sung to "I Saw Three Ships")

~Frances Chesterton (Mrs. G.K. Chesterton)

Shakespeare, 18th December

Whose beard the silver hand of peace hath touched.
                             Second Part of King Henry IV., Act iv., Sc. 1.

Let there be some more test made of my metal,
Before so noble and so great a figure
Be stamp'd upon it.
                                      Measure for Measure, Act i., Sc. 1.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Shakespeare, 17th December

                             Perseverance    .    .    .
Keeps honour bright; to have done is to hang
Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail
In monumental mockery.

Troilus and Cressida, Act iii., Sc 3.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Christmassy week

Never was I so glad to make it to a weekend as this past week, being so tired it was enough just being alive, but now I have had sleep-ins and can wake up this poor blog.

That turkey was "superb", to borrow a word from one of those who consumed it, even if I do say so myself. I used this lemon and thyme recipe from Donna Hay, and even though I couldn't find an actual turkey breast, but just a "turkey breast roast" (which I discovered is only 75% turkey, which begs a question of the other 25%) it turned out really well (one doesn't need 150 gms of butter though - that is the stuff of cardiac arrests - I used about 60 gm and that was plenty). We had a very pleasant evening for one final connect group hurrah.

Last night was Carols under the Bridge, organised by my church. It was fantastic evening, with thousands of people coming along, excellent music, a wonder-full message from Paul Dale, called "The Wonder of God With Us", centred on Matthew 1:23, "... they will call him Immanuel (which means God with us)". We are gifted with a lot of skilled people in my church, because logistically this is a huge event, but it was perfect.

And since I have mentioned carols, I have been giving out crochet stars in abundance. That idea kind of spiralled out of control. After deciding on making one for everyone in my team, our manager then asked the verifiers to our Christmas lunch, so I thought I'd better make them one too (and they deserve stars, because they do very boring things, and don't get insanity money for it), and the operations manager came too, so then I thought I couldn't give him one and leave out the commercial manager ... and you know how these things go ... I have lost count of the crochet stars! But the response has been somewhat overwhelming. I might have even blushed once or twice. I left one on one fellows desk and he then came and found me at my desk and kissed me on the forehead, and told me that was a very nice thought at this time of year, the commercial manager came and found me in the kitchen upstairs and told me it was very special and that in all the years he's worked at the company never has an editor given him a Christmas card, because we are supposed to hate him, and so it went on ... And what surprised me was the comments on the "card".

Here is how I packaged them, in a gold and silver version, and I just scrawled a little note in black pen on the space at the top of the envelope.

If you don't recognise the verse I have written there, here is Sarah McLachlan singing it. (I've done that thing where you kind of take something out of a "salvation history" context, but it's not the bible, and I think I get away with it.) I love how she arranges this, and I would like to be able to play this on guitar.

Apologies if this blog keeps on fizzing out for the rest of the year. I am on leave from Thursday (our office close down is a full two weeks this year), and don't think I will take my computer away with me, because it is heavy, and I have presents for little people that simply must be squeezed into my suitcase. So there might not be much to see here until the new year.

Shakespeare, 16th December

O good old man, how well in thee appears
The constant service of the antique world,
When service sweat for duty, not for meed!
Thou art not for the fashion of these times,
Where none shall sweat but for promotion,
And having that, do choke their service up
Even with having it: it is not so with thee.
                                   As You Like It, Act ii., Sc. 2.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Shakespeare, 15th December

                               How would you be,
If He, which is the top of judgment, should
But judge you as you are?
                                    Measure for Measure, Act ii., Sc. 2.

Strong reasons make for strong actions.
                                           King John, Act iii., Sc. 4.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Shakespeare, 14th December

                                  Whither should I fly?
I have done no harm. But I remember now
I am in this earthly world; where to do harm
Is often laudable, to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly.

Macbeth, Act iv., Sc. 2.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Shakespeare, 13th December

                                            If angels fight,
Weak men must fall, for heaven still guards the right.
                                           King Richard II., Act iii, Sc. 2.

A kinder gentleman treads not the earth.
                                           Merchant of Venice, Act ii., Sc. 8.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Living a highly effective story

Or seven habits to a good subplot, or some such thing.

Around other goings on at the moment I have been squeezing in some of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. I have had a number of conversations about this book in the last few months, and after one in particular, with a guy from my connect group who quit his job with an engineering firm to start his own business, I downloaded a free pdf when I had that road-tripping holiday. But I am not so good at reading pdfs on my computer (I have to do that at work, so I don’t feel like doing it at home). But then after reading Dave MacDonald’s review of the book, I thought it might be worth adding to the real book piles with this one.

Simultaneously, I decided to have a look at Don Miller’s Storyline material, because, the truth is, the very title The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People bores me, and is enough to make me not want to read that book, but Storyline - Finding Your Subplot in God's Story, well that is closer to lighting my fire. I am not especially goal-setting, list-writing person and I don't want to read books with bullet points. Not interested. (Though of course I do read those books, because every second Christian book is full of sub-headings or bullet points.) But stories, I am enthralled.

What is curiously serendipitous so far is that both books draw heavily from Victor Frankl’s work and his logotherapy, which is essentially (or at least in part) about our “response-ability”. There is more to be read on that. I have currently only read the first habit of the book, on being proactive (i.e. act, don’t sit back and let yourself be acted on, or play the victim), so I won’t write a half-baked post now, but to say I am so far enjoying it, because it’s about principle-centred living (read Dave’s review) and not about how to get rich and make people like you etc (once again, not interested). Cath has also, serendipitously, quoted a quote I just read in Seven Habits, from Malcolm Muggeridge, and linked it to the hymn More Love To Thee, because that is possible in how you use the book, with what you put in your centre and which values shape your principles.

2012 has not ended so well, so I am going to go away with these books and reinvent myself in 2013 (well, you know, at least try to do differently some of the things it is within my power to do differently).

In more immediate (and pressing!) news, in some more optimistic moment I said I would muster up what is left of my connect group for this year and have a Christmas dinner together, so tonight I am going to see what I can do with a turkey breast. Wish me luck.

Shakespeare, 12th December

To the sessions of sweet silent though
Summon up remembrance of things past.

Sonnet XXX

(This was the quote in my trusty book for today, but if you look at the actual sonnet, it is has been changed to imperative mood. Curious. And the second quote was a repeat.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Shakespeare, 11th December

The best wishes that can be forged in your thoughts be servants to you.

All's Well that Ends Well, Act i., Sc. I.

His better does not breathe upon the earth.

King Richard III., Act i., Sc. 2.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Thrifting genius

On the weekend I visited my Aunt and Uncle, and my Aunt must be one of the greatest extant thrifters on the planet. She showed me some things she had been making, and I laughed in amazement and said that during the next depression I am coming to her place. She volunteers in a local op shop, and takes home things that they can't even sell in the op shop and fashions them into something else. Here are some of her creations.

A crocheted rug, made from strips of old t-shirts.

She made the large crochet hook herself out of a piece of dowling.

Another one in progress.

Quilt made out of old pieces of sheeting and pillowcases.

Children's rugs made out of old kids' pyjamas.

Bag made out of a sloppy joe.

She does it because she enjoys it and finds satisfaction in it, not because she needs to. Some of the items are going in a local show that features such things, and the quilt is actually for the maid's room in an historic cottage, because once upon a time that would have been how a maid obtained a quilt.

Shakespeare, 10th December

Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear;
Thy dial how thy precious minutes waste;
The vacant leaves thy mind's imprint will bear,
And of this book this learning mayst thou taste.
                                                              Sonnet LXXVII

To the brightest beams distracted clouds give way.
                                All's Well That Ends Well, Act v., Sc. 3.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Shakespeare, 9th December

Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,
Some in their wealth, some in their bodies' force;
Some in their garments, though new-fangled ill,
Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse;
And every humour hath his adjunct pleasure,
Wherein it finds a joy above the rest.

Sonnet XCI

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Shakespeare, 8th December

                                            O my Lord,
Press not a falling man too far! 'tis virtue:
His faults lie open to the laws; let them,
Not you, correct him. My heart weeps to see him
So little of his great self.

King Henry VIII., Act iii., Sc. 2.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Shakespeare, 7th December

A most unspotted lily shall she pass
To the ground, and all the world shall mourn her.
                                      King Henry VIII., Act v., Sc. 5.

A son who is the theme of honour's tongue;
Amongst a grove, the very straightest plant.
                         First Part of King Henry IV., Act i., Sc. 1.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Another classic Christmas song

I feel like I have been quite industrious of late, only not in especially blog-worthy ways.

And so here is another classic song that comes out every Christmas. I know, it’s not about rejoicing in Christ’s birth or any such thing, but the number of covers and features of this song speaks of how it resonates with many at this time of year, and as far as youtube videos go, this one is lovely.

To get back to what it's all about I’ve also included Sarah McLachlan’s version of What Child is This below, which I like.

Shakespeare, 6th December

A soldier firm and stout of heart.
                              King Henry V., Act iii., Sc. 6

              To mine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou can'st not then be false to any man.
                                                  Hamlet, Act i., Sc. 3.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Shakespeare, 5th December

                    'Tis but a base ignoble mind
That mounts no higher than a bird can soar.
                    Second Part of King Henry VI., Act ii., Sc. 1.

Then in there mirth in heaven
When earthly things made even,
         Atone together.
                                As You Like It, Act v., Sc. 4.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Shakespeare, 4th December

In the world I fill up a plea, which may be better supplied when I have made it empty.

As You Like It, Act i., Sc. 2.

The hand that hath made you fair hath made you good.

Measure for Measure, Act ii., Sc. 1.

Monday, December 03, 2012

A poem for Christmas

I thought it time for a poem, a poem for Christmas, and that I would repost one from a couple of years ago. As we decorate trees and re-enact traditions, sing carols and remember Advent, might we see the beauty in these festivities, but ultimately lose it inside the beauty of what and who they are in praise of.

Human Beauty
by Albert Goldbarth

If you write a poem about love ...
the love is a bird,

the poem is an origami bird.
If you write a poem about death ...

the death is a terrible fire,
the poem is an offering of paper cutout flames

you feed to the fire.
We can see, in these, the space between

our gestures and the power they address
—an insufficiency. And yet a kind of beauty,

a distinctly human beauty. When a winter storm
from out of nowhere hit New York one night

in 1892, the crew at a theater was caught
unloading props: a box

of paper snow for the Christmas scene got dropped
and broken open, and that flash of white

confetti was lost
inside what it was a praise of.

Picture from here.

Shakespeare, 3rd December

I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself.
                     Comedy of Errors, Act i, Sc 2.

Our very eyes are sometimes like our judgments--blind.
                    Cymbeline, Act iv., Sc. 2.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Christmas craft and advent

I hung the decorations on my tree yesterday, such as it is. Because I am not usually home for Christmas, I don't usually decorate my flat. Shame really, because I like a little festivity, so I have started collecting, and flagging ideas for making, a few little decorative things here and there.

I chuckled at this post from Jenny about Christmas craft. It's not for everyone. The thing is, every year I follow the blogs and feel b-grade because I don't have an advent calendar (I'm going to make one one of these days), and it seems absolutely everybody in blog world is working through advent calendars. So I was pleased to see that this year the bible society is running one online. This is the first video: the Annunciation, read by a homeless chap. I love it. You can follow the rest here.


Shakespeare, 2nd December

Though little fire grows great with little wind,
Yet extreme gusts will blow out fire and all.
               Taming of the Shrew, Act ii., Sc. 1.

His own carver and cut out his way,
To find out right with wrong.

               King Richard II., Act ii., Sc. 3.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

A Christmas giveaway

Today, being the 1st December, is the day sensible people wait for to decorate their tree ( ;) ), so I thought I would have a giveaway of some Christmas decorations: a gold and silver crochet granny star.

This always feels like a risky business, because what if I can't even give these things away, but I shall step out without fear. If it so happens that these colours really don't suit your Christmas scheme and you have a colour request that I can readily fulfil, I can make you "bespoke" granny stars. (Apologies to the nice person who has already purchased some - feel free to enter and I can make you some in another colour if you wish and should you win.)

Just leave me a comment to enter before midnight on Tuesday. I shall use some sophisticated random process to choose a winner next Wednesday, 5th December.

Shakespeare, 1st December

She shall be loved and fear'd: her own shall bless her;
Her foes shall shake like a field of beaten corn,
And hang their heads with sorrow: good grows with her:
In her days every man shall eat in safety,
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .  and sing
The merry songs of peace to all his neighbours.

King Henry VIII., Act v., Sc. 5.