Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Sunday benediction

I really like some of the little benedictions, of sorts, that I have been rediscovering in the letters written by the apostle Paul in the Bible. Here is one I came upon in 2 Thessalonians 2:16 (ESV) recently:
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
Isn't that splendid? I particularly like "eternal comfort and good hope through grace" (the Holman version uses "encouragement" instead of "comfort", which is nice too).

A good Sunday to you all.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Saturday poem

Oh yes. To be an INFJ is a blight more often than it's not.
Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.
Frank O’Hara, “Mayakovsky” from Meditations in an Emergency (Grove/Atlantic Inc., 1996).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The importance of an unread library

I am so pleased that someone has put this in print for me to quote:

Collect books, even if you don’t plan on reading them right away. Nothing is more important than an unread library.
~ Steal Like An Artist 
Austin Kleon

I took this photo of one of my bookshelves this morning, without making any aesthetic alterations (perhaps you can tell). This shelf is on the way in to my bedroom and tends to be where books get dumped in haphazard array (again, you might have noticed). There is no rhyme or reason - it features poetry, novels, recipes, Christian-living, biography, psychology, pop-philosophy, crochet, children's stories - as well as my op-shop recorder and a pear still-life painted by my flatmate. I'm not sure what the tealight candle-holder is doing there, as I ain't ever going to light it on the bookshelf.

You might have noted me quote pieces from Austin Kleon's tumblr and his newspaper-blackout poetry over the years. His book Steal Like An Artist has been in the Bookdepository wishlist for a long time. When Georgianne started quoting choice morsels I was prompted to actually purchase it. So far, so good. One of Kleon's main hypotheses is that nothing is original, and all art is a composite of your inspirations, you just need to know where and how to steal them (which is liberating and enabling!).

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Stanley Hauerwas lectures

I wrote last week about how I attended the Stanley Hauerwas lectures at New College. I went along to all three evenings. However, I soon gave up the hope that I could form any sort of summary of them here, after putting my pen down when I realised I couldn’t finish writing my one choice sentence without missing the next three. So, I was pleased to know the recordings would be available. They are now up, with some summary by Trevor Cairney, over here. I am definitely going to listen again, and maybe even try to finish my sentences.

I haven’t listened to see whether the question times were also recorded, as Hauerwas’s responses to the questions were full of gold also. He would say things like “you only know sin on your way out of it, because sin is an evangelical achievement” and drop lines like “Christians are obligated to love each other, even if they are married” and discuss why abortion is a massive vote of no confidence in ourselves ...

The end of Shakespeare

Well folks, today was actually the last day for my Shakespeare book. I started it on the 25th September last year, and it’s hard to imagine a whole year has gone by already. I don’t believe I have missed a day, though some postings may have been a little late, since I started, which feels like a minor achievement.

So, I hope you have enjoyed the snippets and maybe learnt a thing or two. I know some will be relieved to see it end, and others might be disappointed.

It’s beyond my capacities to go looking for Shakespeare quotes to post every day, and I am not going to commit to posting something every day again anytime soon, but I don’t think that will be the last appearance for Shakespeare here.

I won’t make any promises about any other thing, but I might take up another blogging project – maybe, sometime. :)

Shakespeare, 24th September

The earth hath bubbles, as the water has.

MacBeth, Act i., Sc. 3.

                           New customs,
Though they be never so ridiculous,
Nay, let 'em be unmanly, yet are follow'd.

King Henry VIII., Act i., Sc. 3.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The crochet ball unveiling

I haven't shown you all the ball I made for the expectant nephew, so here it is. I even put two little bells in it so he can annoy the rest of his family jingle about the house with it.

Here it is pictured with a teddy that my sister, who is having this baby (God willing), made once upon a time when she had a bear-making phase. (My sister had many and varied craft phases once, and every relative near and far received the Christmas presents to show for them.) I've told this story with the last crochet ball, but this bear got rejected because apparently his head was too small, so I rescued him. I'm like that.

Shakespeare, 23rd September

           So work the honey-bees,
Creatures that by a rule in nature teach
The act of order to a peopled kingdom.

King Henry V., Act i., Sc. 2.

I am a woman? When I think, I must speak.

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

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Shakespeare, 22nd September

Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows,
Which shows like grief itself, but is not so;
For sorrow's eye, glazed with blinding tears,
Divides one thing entire to many objects;
Like perspectives, which rightly gazed upon
Shows nothing but confusion, eyed awry
Distinguish form.

King Richard II., Act ii., Sc. 2.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


This Peanuts strip was published on March 6th, 1956. From here, H/T Gordon.

Shakespeare, 21st September

The self-same sun, that shines upon his court,
Hides not his visage from our cottage, but
Looks on alike.

Winter's Tale, Act iv., Sc. 3.

Kindness, nobler ever than revenge.

As You Like It, Act iv., Sc. 3.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Hauerwas and How to Write a Theological Sentence

I had the pleasure of chatting to the lovely Laurel Moffatt after this lecture by Stanley Hauerwas on How to Write a Theological Sentence the other evening. Her reflections are worth reading.

(And she has also given me a gift, and a diagnosis, in the phrase l’esprit d’escalier. I loved this, from Wikipedia: “a sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument levelled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs.” Yes. I too am a life-time sufferer, and this also is why I write.)

In whom all fancies live - a poem

I have come upon this wonderful poem, by GA Studdert Kennedy, If Jesus Never Lived, quoted by Bruce Smith in an article titled Hope and Tragedy in Life and Literature, from CASE Magazine Issue No. 30, that speaks of Jesus as the door by which we enter into wonderland and the source of all fairy tales. To quote from the paragraph by Bruce Smith with which he leads into this poem:
Finally, Jesus' life, death and resurrection not only confirm the reality of tragedy, they affirm the escapist eschatology of the happy ending. And I must say that I am consciously aware as I watch Cinderella skip off stage that it is an eschatological moment. It is, of course, the reason why some people don't like it, feeling this is not true to life. What is true to life is death: let the curtain fall on man's contradiction and on the calamity of the ending, because that is life. But the biblical picture says no, that is not life; that's the penultimate. There is an ending which is altogether to do with life and not death.
Picture from Wikimedia.


SUPPOSE it is not true,
And Jesus never lived,
But only grew,
Like Aphrodite, from the foam
Of fancy—
From the sea
Of pure imagining, that frets
Within the soul eternally.
Suppose the Word was not made flesh,
But just another dream,
Which dwelt amongst us, only
As a gleam
Of glory from the land,
Where sand
Is gold, and golden sand
Shines bright beside the sapphire sea.
Suppose He never trod
This earth nor saw the sun,
Nor looked up to the skies,
That sinless one,
All spotless clean,
Untainted by man’s curse,
The might have been,
The ghost of good undone.
Suppose the gospel story lies,
What then? Why, then
There are no fairies
Any more For men,
The shore
Of fairyland is dry,
Unlapped by any sea.
All fancies die,
If Jesus never lived,
For living fancies need to be
The symbols of a Truth.
He is the door
By which we enter in
To wonderland.
By Christ’s strong sooth
Set free from sin,
Poor Cinderella weds her Prince,
As we long since
Were taught and may believe,
For God is found of those who seek,
Exalts the humble and the meek,
And puts the mighty from their seats,
In Christ.
Her tryst,
If Jesus never lived,
Is still unkept;
By those dead ashes where she wept
For Paradise,
She weeps on still,
And moans upon her fate;
The pumpkins still are pumpkins,
And the mice still mice;
Still by the cold and empty grate
She sits in rags and tears;
Through all the years—the empty years,
No fairy comes—nor ever will
If Jesus never lived.
In Christ’s pure light,
Fair Snowy-White
Can lift the coffin-lid,
And leave her tomb,
And vanquish all the gloom
Of death.
Because He lives
And gives
To Sleeping Beauty
One long kiss,
She opens her blue eyes and wakes,
Her sleep and shines for ever,
Beautiful in bliss.
There is no chance of childhood,
But for this
One Child of God, who knew
That childhood’s sweetest dreams
           come true,
And was their Truth.
O live for me, Thou sinless one,
Cleanse Thou for me
The earth and sea,
Sweep all the clouds from off
The sky,
For fancies never, never die
If only Jesus lives.

~G.A. Studdert Kennedy.
From The Unutterable Beauty: The Collected Poetry of G.A. Studdert Kennedy (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1927).

Shakespeare, 20th September

All souls that were, were forfeit once;
And He that might the 'vantage best have took,
Found out the remedy.

Measure for Measure, Act ii., Sc. 2.

I have forgiven and forgotten all.

All's Well that Ends Well, Act v., Sc. 3.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Some blinks

I’ve recently taken a humbling in the realisation that there are things that are broken and there is nothing I have found yet to do that is able to fix them. I know now that only God can manage them, and that some things might actually need to wait for heaven to be restored. And sometimes you do hard things and what happens isn’t worthy of an inspirational blog post; it’s about one thousand and sixty-three times worse than the biggest fear that made it hard could foretell. You approach someone to have a conversation, and are knocked off course by a river of contempt that finds you hanging your head in shame and murmuring something about being sorry over and over, then hoping you might die quietly in your sleep, if only you could get to sleep.

So, I appreciated this post (H/T Jean):
We also fear being weak and vulnerable and dependent, yet this is what God desires. God intentionally places us in positions were we must rely only on Him. Our comfort and our provision come from Him. When we see our weakness and inability to fix or change whatever has befallen us God rejoices! He says, “Yes, now you are getting it!”
Also, this one from Jean quoting Nancy Guthrie:
We often hear people talk about the "victorious Christian life." But isn't the life of a Christian really more about bending the knee, humbling ourselves, and taking up a cross?

I don't know what the cross will look like for you. I just know it will require a death to your desires and your dreams to carry it. And it won't be easy.

But I also know that as you die to yourself. God's life will take root and grow within you.
And this one on responding to trials (I have never heard of Martha Peace her books, but am curious about Damsels in Distress). H/T Georgianne
And that’s the point. Mrs. Peace reveals how trials may initially bring out the worst in us: anger, bitterness, fear, laziness, self-focus, etc. And isn’t that the truth? Our first reaction to stress or tribulation may expose hidden sin that needs to be purged, as the “worst in us” is revealed. Yet, as Mrs. Peace points out, God uses conflict and trials to expose and show us our sin, prune it off, and grow in us the precious fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).
Then this one, No Rest for the Wicked. H/T Georgianne
One of the tough things about growing in grace is the way that we don’t get to pick the next battlefront nor the pace of that battle in our growth in sanctification.
And finally, this post from Paul Tripp on A Sad and Celebratory Community.

Shakespeare, 19th September

Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast.

Macbeth, Act ii., Sc. 2.

How bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes.

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Shakespeare, 18th September

              Modest doubt is called
The beacon of the wise.

Troilus and Cressida, Act ii., Sc. 2.

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

Sonnet XCIV

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dust to dust

It’s been a while, so I think it must be time for some music. I have been enjoying the new album from The Civil Wars, and so here is what is currently my favourite song. It’s poignant (truly!). Apparently there are several different genres fighting over who gets The Civil Wars, and I don’t quite know what you call this. But I like it. I will even give you the lyrics (with correct use of a hyphen!), in an image pinched from The Civil Wars Facebook page.

Shakespeare, 17th September

        Love's heralds should be thoughts,
Which ten times faster glide than the sun's beams,
Driving back shadows over louring hills:
Therefore do nimble-pinion'd doves draw love,
And therefore hath the wind-swift Cupid wings.

Romeo and Juliet, Act ii., Sc. 5.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Shakespeare, 16th September

Grow great by your example and put on
The dauntless spirit of resolution.
                               King John, Act v., Sc. I.

An honest tale speeds best being plainly told.
                       King Richard III., Act iv., Sc. 4.

As thin of substance as the air.
                          Romeo and Juliet, Act i., Sc 4.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Shakespeare, 15th September

A good leg will fall; a straight back will stoop; a black beard will turn white; a curled pate will grow bald; a fair face will wither; a full eye will wax hollow: but a good heart is the sun and the moon; or rather the sun and not the moon; for it shines bright and never changes, but keeps his course truly.

King Henry V., Act v., Sc. 2.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Guess who's coming to dinner - a writing prompt

Apparently I inspired Meredith’s latest writing prompt, so I thought I might actually have a go at this one, though this will perhaps end up looking more like a list. The prompt was to write about who you would ask for dinner, what you would serve, and where.

So, as I was saying, I would invite George Eliot. To me her observations of the human psyche and of the inner workings of ordinary souls are unsurpassed in literature. And her immense intelligence and learning for a woman of her time is a wonder. I also find her personal story quite fascinating, though sad, and I would like to know more of it.

Then I would invite Christina Rossetti, that intensely burning individual of wild imagination, whose Christ-ward convictions led her to self-denials that broke her heart. Her poetry has become very personal to me. I suspect it could take more than one evening to penetrate this private character, as well as that of George Eliot, but we would persist. I am intrigued by families of such collective creative genius as the Rossettis and the Brontes, and what it would have been like growing up in their households.

I would also invite Marilynne Robinson, whose novels are some of the most exquisite and grace-filled stories I have ever read. Both as a person and as a writer she seems to have matured into a richness of grace and love and forgiveness that is beautiful, and she is also of a formidable intelligence and breadth of knowledge.

We’d have to balance out the gender next, so I would invite CS Lewis. His writings and his poetry speak to me in a way that tells me that he views the world through a similar lens, and is moved by the same phenomena and ideas that move me also. It is his way of seeing and understanding and learning that gets me.

I might also invite George MacDonald, and CS Lewis and I could have a marvelous time. I came upon George MacDonald as a teenager, and while some of his theology is outrageous, I have a sympathy and kinship with many of his writings that runs deep. When I first read the stories of Malcolm McPhail, he set an impossible standard of goodness, but I have never forgotten them.

The last guest would perhaps be Dietrich Bonhoeffer, because how, how fascinating would that be? I had my doubts about he and CS Lewis in the same room, but I think their common ground would be in the exacting requirements of what it meant to them personally to live out what the said they believed. To me they were both quite uncompromising on this point.

And with all these folks in the same room I would probably hardly dare open my mouth.

As for the food, well, you know, this is hard. I might go for something old-time and continental or British. I’m leaning towards beef medallions and lamb shanks, with something fancy in the way of garnishing, then bowls of steaming mashed potatoes and roast vegetables, hot buttered bread. For dessert there would be baked cheesecake, because that is non-negotiable. A fine wine and some port for later.

This must take place in a room of rustic ambience with an open fire, in a stone house down a cobbled lane. While we ate a fog would roll in. Perhaps we would listen to Wagner, or Bonhoeffer might sing. After dinner there would be poetry, and readings (I’ve just realised that every single one of these people were authors, and many turned their pens to poetry) then they would all shrug into their coats in the small hours of the morning and vanish into the mist.

* I've also just realised that each of these people already has their own label on this blog, which is perhaps telling of their influence in my life.

Shakespeare, 14th September

She is a woman, therefore may be woo'd;
She is a woman, therefore may be won.

Titus Andronicus, Act ii., Sc. I.

He is simply the rarest man i' the world.

Coriolanus, Act iv., Sc. 5.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday photo

I haven't shown you my latest toy, so here it is. Now that I know more about Kindles, this is a Paperwhite, which is fabulous. I bought the cover for about $8 from somewhere in Hong Kong on ebay, but it is working fine. The sad irony of this photo though is that it is taken in one of my favourite cafes, where I am drinking the best chai tea/latte, which is actually inside a bookshop that is closing down. So I feel a bit like I am contributing to the end of life as I like it.

On that point here is an article by Dom Knight about why he will keep buying printed books. I actually heard Dom Knight speak at the launch of Michael Jensen's book My God, My God (which, if you recall, I indexed) last weekend, and both he and Michael made for fascinating listening.

Shakespeare, 13th September

O momentary grace of mortal men,
Which we more hunt for than the grace of God!
Who builds his hope in air of your good looks,
Lives, like a drunken sailor on a mast;
Ready, with every nod, to tumble down
Into the fatal bowels of the deep.

King Richard III., Act iii., Sc. 4.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

We are all authors of the books that will be our lives

Here is the trailer for the book Death by Living by ND Wilson that I have mentioned. I like it (you might see what I mean on the point of children though).

Marilynne Robinson's fourth novel

Woot. This is good news.
Marilynne’s Robinson fourth novel will be called Lila, and tell the story of John Ames’ second wife.

Shakespeare, 12th September

The time to shoot.

All's Well that Ends Well, Act v., Sc. 3.

Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time.

Merchant of Venice, Act i., Sc. I.

Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all.

King Henry VI., Pt 2., Act iii., Sc. 3.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Binds up Broken Relationships

Also, I really appreciated this post (H/T Jean) on What Binds up Broken Relationships.

Seasons of waiting

Here is something else I have read in The Gospel Centred Woman by Wendy Alsup that was a very timely reminder and encouragement to me. There are some situations I need to proactively change in my life right now, but there are others where I have worn myself out with efforts that have not accomplished much, and from which I need to rest.
Short of a strong confidence in a sovereign Father who has a good plan for our lives for which He bears the responsibility, we can feel pressure to strategize and manipulate to change our circumstances. In my life, such strategies did not accomplish much of help except to keep me occupied. I have found great value at multiple turns in my life in simply resting. Seasons of waiting, when I take my hands off the steering wheel and remove my foot from the gas, have been some of the sweetest of my life. I shut my laptop, turn off the phone, and sit still for a while without pressure on myself to change my situation. My journal bears witness of those seasons, where I cry out to God, and He speaks words of peace to me. Wait. Rest. Be still. In the waiting, He will lead us beside still waters and restore our soul as only the Good Shepherd can do.

Psalm 37:7 also instructs, “Fret not”. The Hebrew word for fret is translated other places become angry or distressed. Picture a person worrying, with mannerisms that fluctuate between anger and distress. I have been there, concerned over some circumstance that I am alternately angrily trying to manipulate or despairing over my lack of control. In contrast, God calls us to confidence and peace. How do we move from anxiety to peace in concerning circumstances? I know of no other way than to review what I know to be true about God and then to take my thoughts captive and make them submit to the truth.

What do I know of the character of God? In a nutshell, God is sovereign, wise and compassionate.

Psalm 35:6 The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, and in the seas and all their depths.

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Psalm 103: 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

God is in charge, and He knows what He is doing in your life. You can trust that He has not lost control of your circumstances. Not only does God know what He is doing, His plan for your life reflects both His all-surpassing wisdom and His fathomless love for you. His plan is good and right, and you can trust Him with the details of your life.

Shakespeare, 11th September

That, sir, which serves and seeks for gain,
   And follows but for form,
Will pack when it begins to rain,
   And leave thee in the storm.

King Lear, Act ii., Sc. 4.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Shakespeare, 10th September

Wilt thou have music? Hark! Apollo plays.
                      Taming of the Shrew, Introduction, Sc. 2.

                  She looks as clear
As morning roses newly washed with dew.
                           Taming of the Shrew, Act ii., Sc. I.

The strawberry grows underneath the nettle.
                                  King Henry V., Act i., Sc. I.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Shakespeare, 9th September

                      To wilful men,
The injuries that they themselves procure
Must be their schoolmasters.

King Lear, Act ii., Sc. 4.

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.

Troilus and Cressida, Act iii., Sc. 3.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

The chestnut of contentment

I have to confess, that there was a time when I bristled quietly on the inside at the mention of the word “contentment” (which perhaps says more about me than anything else), because it just seemed that you couldn’t talk about singleness for thirty seconds before it came up. So I gave up talking about singleness, because I felt like I knew the contentment answer. But, maybe I didn’t quite know the contentment answer.

I feel a pang of guilt over this, because you know how I said I was given a Kindle? Well it had about thirty of my friend’s books on it. And even when I deregistered her account and registered my own, they stayed there. But, this friend and I lend each other books often, so I am considering some of these on loan till I read them. One of them is The Gospel Centred Woman by Wendy Alsup. (I know there are differences in interpretation of Genesis 3:16, but all that aside, there are riches here.)

In this book Wendy writes a chapter on Godliness with Contenment and starts by unpacking 1 Timothy 6:6-8 where it says “But godliness with contentment is great gain”. I’ll see if I can paste in enough here to show the argument of what she goes on to say:
Now, consider the word contentment. The Greek word is autarkeia. It means a condition of life in which no further aid or support is needed or in which you have sufficient supplies for the needs of the moment. It is used one other place in the New Testament. There, it is translated sufficiency.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Sufficiency means you have what you need. You have adequate provision and adequate supplies. In a world of people and situations that consistently miss the mark of God’s perfection and all He intended us to be as His image bearers in Eden, you and I have adequate, sufficient supplies for this season For this struggle. We have something that bridges the gap between those things for which our piety and devotion [she has shown ealier that “godliness” most closely means piety and devotion] to God calls us to long and the reality of our experience at this very moment. We have a bridge between our godly longing and our fallen reality that sufficiently equips us to deal with each struggle.

It is the gospel.
But stay with it here, because, scandalous as it may sound, I have added a little something to my standard summary of the gospel.
... Over the years, I have come to understand that the good news of Christ is not just that, through Jesus, my debt to God is canceled. God did more than just bring my account up to zero. He also has lavished positively His grace on me, crediting to my account Christ’s righteousness.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

It is the Great Exchange. I had an infinite debt to God. I was by nature deserving of His wrath, dead in my sins and unable to save myself. I have benefitted greatly from Christ’s death, the penal substitution. But, oh, the benefits to me from His life, called imputed righteousness in theological circles. Christ’s righteousness is in my spiritual bank account now, and that is every bit as precious as the payment for my sin.

If by contentment I mean passive acceptance, then no, I am not supposed to passively accept this [all the horrible, or less than ideal, things we see happening in this world], nor am I supposed to encourage my friends to passively accept such things. This is not the fullness of God’s kingdom come! These things are not OK. But if by contentment I mean that I have faith that God has adequately supplied me and them through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection; that He has sufficiently equipped us by lavishing on us a spiritual bank account with great equity to face these struggles head on; that the same power that rose Christ from the dead is now the power supernaturally at work in us, equipping us to deal with these struggles and empowering us as we wait for the fullness of Jesus’s kingdom—if that is contentment, I understand why devotion to God coupled with that confidence is great gain.

Godliness with contentment doesn't mean pulling yourself up by your bootstraps ... The gospel does not obligate you to contentment. It equips you for contentment ... 
It’s a subtle, but also rather seismic, shift in what I understand contentment to mean or require. It doesn’t mean I, or my suffering friends, am supposed to muster up a warm glow about all my circumstances, but it does mean that I am to live knowing that I am equipped, through Christ, to deal with them, and more, to do good in them.

(Incidentally, I don’t know what the Greek word translated as contentment is in Philippians 4:11. Perhaps a Greek nerd can help. But this understanding of the idea of contentment as sufficiency seems to fit with what Paul goes on to say there that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

There is also a great little chapter in this book on Equipped to Forgive and be Forgiven if that is something you struggle with.)

Shakespeare, 8th September

Those parts of thee that the world's eye doth view
Want nothing that the thought of hearts can mend;
All tongues, the voice of souls, give thee that due.

Sonnet LXIX

She bore a mind that envy could not but call fair.

Twelfth Night, Act ii., Sc. I.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Shakespeare, 7th September

Friendship is constant in all other things
Save in the office and affairs of love:
Therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues;
Let every eye negotiate for itself
And trust no agent; for beauty is a witch
Against whose charms faith melteth into blood.

Much Ado about Nothing, Act ii., Sc. I.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Boat people - a poem

Here's a poem I actually posted last September. I've noticed it's appearing of late on Facebook, and I thought I'd post it again (and it's a shame really, that this has to be in any way "political").

Picture from here.

Boat People

Torn from
their moorings
by tempestuous events,
cast upon open seas
hoping for
distant kindness.
Crowded undernourished
they float
under God's eye
menaced by fears.

They drift
in the
shoreless conscience
of our world.

Their frail light
in ocean's night.

Bruce L. Smith 1984
I'll Not Pretend

Shakespeare, 6th September

    In my youth I never did apply
Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood,
Nor did not with unbashful forehead woo
The means of weakness and debility;
Therefore my age is as a lusty winter,
Frosty, but kindly.

As You Like It, Act ii., Sc. 3.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Some blinks

A Single Hope – Written by a single minister in South Africa. It’s long, very long, and I found it a wee bit hard to read in places because I wanted to add a little more punctuation, but it is worth a read. (Except for perhaps the end, where there’s a story of a retired single minister eating fish cakes for Christmas lunch alone and the line that “while families feasted perhaps Jonathan’s meal helped him better remember the feast is yet to come”. Maybe that was true for Jonathan, and maybe he chose to do it that way, but seriously, that’s a bit sad. And I’m not convinced that paints a very attractive picture of singleness as a Christian for a watching world.)

“ … but simply by doing what you already know to be his will …” This was a good reminder from Georgianne, particularly as I try to make decisions.

11 Untranslatable Words from Other Cultures. I like them all.

And I don't talk much about politics here. But if you want to read some good posts in the wake of the current Prime Minister's comments on Q & A and his handling of the bible, Nathan has written on it here and here.

Shakespeare, 5th September

Let's carry with us ears and eyes for the time,
But hearts for the event.

Coriolanus, Act ii., Sc. I.

Ill blows the wind that profits nobody.

King Henry VI., Pt 3., Act ii., Sc. 5.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Shakespeare, 4th September

Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
Love can transpose to form and dignity:
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind:
Nor hath love's mind of any judgment taste;
Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste;
And therefore is love said to be a child.

Midsummer Night's Dream, Act i., Sc. I.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

A Psalm 42 sermon on spiritual dryness

This is part two of the miserable weekend of Ali. I don’t really know why I had a little picnic in the doldrums over the weekend. Partly I don’t particularly like Father’s Day, and my father died on the 31st August, thus the timing is never great. So I was looking at all the pictures on Facebook of people out celebrating and eating cake with their extended family, or even just their husband and father of their kids, and then I went to sit in a cafĂ© by myself and try not to mope.

But on Sunday night Paul Dale preached a sermon on spiritual dryness (or weariness) from Psalms 42 and 43 (which is all the same Psalm really). We are about to begin a long series in John, and this was a little one-off in the middle. It was so timely and so good. You can listen here.

At the end Paul got us to sit quietly and listening to sung version of Psalm 42, by Brian Eichelberger. You can listen and read the lyrics here. I went home and read through my sermon notes again and listened again to this song, to un-mope myself.

Here it is on youtube.

What Calvin brought to Marilynne Robinson

Oh, I do so like this piece on Marilynne Robinson, which John Piper tweeted today. She is on my wishful dinner-guest list. I think she’d have a pleasant evening conversing with George Eliot and Christina Rossetti. In this interview she says all manner of interesting things about writing and finding out where your imagination lives, about sermons and clergy, about the so called “problem” of predestination. But what I particularly like today is this comment on what she learnt from Calvin: 
"I think, if people actually read Calvin, rather than read Max Weber, he would be rebranded. He is a very respectable thinker. And one of the crucial things he brings to me, is that the encounter with another being is an . . . occasion in which you can, to the best of your ability, honour the other person as being someone sent to you by God."

She maintains that – behind the one-dimensional, fire-and-brimstone iconoclast of popular lore – there is a way to read Calvin which will change the way we see everyone.

"He says that, if a person offends you, Christ is waiting to take the guilt of the offence on himself; so you have to consider the other person, in a sense, exonerated, even in the course of his offence towards you. [There] is always the question 'what does God want out of this situation?' To me this is extremely beautiful – in a way, the most beautiful articulation of the Christian ethic I have ever seen."

Shakespeare, 3rd September

He that a fool doth very wisely hit
Doth very foolishly, although he smart.

As You Like It, Act ii., Sc. 7.

She is of so free, so kind, so apt, so blessed a disposition.

Othello, Act ii., Sc. 3.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Death by Living

I read Death By Living: Life is Meant to be Spent by N.D. Wilson over the weekend (the irony of spending a good chunk of the weekend reading a book about spending my life is not lost on me). It is not a long book. Still, I scoffed it down, rather than digesting slowly. Trevin Wax calls it one of the year's best books, Stephen Altrogge says he doesn’t really get it, Eric Metaxas says our “decaying culture needs more salt, light and joy from such authors as N.D. Wilson” (I concur).

I loved it (it was hard to stop the scoffing). I do understand what Altrogge meant, but I don’t know that it was a book that set out to have a main point, other than the one in the title. Here’s a little teaser:
Clear your throat and open your eyes. You are on stage. The lights are on. It’s only natural if you’re sweating, because this isn’t make-believe. This is theater for keeps. Yes, it is a massive stage, and there are millions of others on stage with you. Yes, you can try to shake the fright by blending in. But it won’t work. You have the Creator God’s full attention, as much attention as He ever gave Napoleon. Or Churchill. Or even Moses. Or billions of others who lived and died unknown. Or a grain of sand. Or one spike on one snowflake. You are spoken. You are seen. It is your turn to participate in creation. Like a kindergartener shoved out from behind the curtain during his first play, you might not know which scene you are in or what comes next, but God is far less patronising than we are. You are His art, and He has no trouble stooping. You can even ask Him for your lines.
ND Wilson uses vignettes of his own experience, and weaves in stories from his four grandparents, to fill in the scene of what a life spent looks like, and also illuminate how all our small steps create our future. It’s exhilarating and challenging.

However, the rub for me is that, for all the joy in this volume, I found myself feeling strangely miserable. What a book means to you is at least half composed of when you read it. I actually mentioned long ago, when I first became aware of this book, that just reading the blurb made me feel like a waste of space. The book delivered. Several times Wilson refers to spending himself for his wife and children. And married people will laugh, but to us single folk it appears quite obvious who married folk are supposed to spend their life for. We've heard it preached over and over that your spouse and children are your primary ministry. But when you’re single, you come home from what they call your full-time job, and no-one is screaming in your kitchen or tugging on your trouser legs, and you have to work out how your life is to be poured out. And chances are it won’t be in your home, so you have to go out and find it. Therein lies the difficulty. And there are presently ways I’d like to change my life, because I don’t want it to stay as it is, and ways I’d choose to spend it, but it doesn't matter what I do I can't bring about those changes, so I’m currently flummoxed (and a little bit overwhelmed by But I know it lies with me to work this out, or just go on pouring on what’s in front of me.

However, don’t let my miserableness stop you being exhilarated and spurred on by this book. Wilson’s writing is a treat and the ride is very enjoyable.

Shakespeare, 2nd September

A lovely union--
Two berries on a bough.


Though woe be heavy, yet it seldom sleeps,
And they that watch see time how slow it creeps.


Both of today's quotes simply said Sonnet as the source. But this is questionable. The first is perhaps a misquote from Midsummer Night's Dream, and the second is possibly from something called The Rape of Lucrece.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

A joke (maybe even a Dad joke for Father's Day)

I don't know what it says about me that I like this ...

Shakespeare, 1st September

Shooting well is then accounted.

Love's Labour Lost, Act iv., Sc. I.

Let gentleness my strong enforcement be!

As You Like It, Act ii., Sc. 7.

Duty never yet did want his meed.

Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act ii., Sc. 4.