Friday, May 31, 2013

Shakespeare, 31st May

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
             Merchant of Venice, Act v., Sc. I.

That hath more scars of sorrow in his heart,
Than foeman's marks upon his batter'd shield;
But yet so just, that he will not revenge.
              Titus Andronicus, Act iv., Sc. I.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Romans 15:13

I've recently finished Romans in my bible reading, and am on to the letters to the Corinthians, but here is a verse and a prayer. There is much in this one little verse when you pause and consider:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13 (ESV)

Bunting for Annie

I thought I could at least fill up some space with pictures. So here is something else that I made for my niece's sixth birthday.

The story behind this is that once upon a time I bought the Frankie Magazine Spaces book (no longer available) because it had a crochet bedspread on the front cover (yes, creative, funky people do have crocheted bedspreads!). Flicking through it I spied this name bunting and made a mental note of it as something to make one day. Then not so long ago I bought the Granny Chic book, because it is full of crochet and grannyish goodness, and in it was a pattern for a bunting that looked really quite similar to the one from Spaces. I thought to myself ‘hmm, it looks like these people have copied this from that Frankie book’, because it even spelled Olive too. So then I went back to Frankie Spaces book and discovered that the bunting there was in a feature article on Tif Russell, who co-wrote Granny Chic, and who is otherwise known, and blogs, as Dottie Angel. And Olive is one and the same dog. So, nobody is doing any copying here except yours truly.

So, here is the bunting from the Frankie Spaces book, which looks a lot more retro and interestingly photographed than mine.

And here is how I worked it up for Annie.

I don’t think I have done chain stitch embroidery before, ever, so that was a new thing.

Instead of stitching doilies on the end I made some flower/coaster/doily kind of things and added those..

Shakespeare, 30th May

                   Go thou forth
And fortune play upon thy prosperous helm.

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

               What cannot be avoided
'Twere childish weakness to lament or fear.

King Henry VI., Pt 3., Act iv., Sc. 4.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Duets of tragic romance - The Civil Wars

I’m all out of output at the present. Life seems to be sapping the mental and emotional energy out of me. It’s also the week before the June press date at work, and as for most companies the end of the financial year is important, so the pressure is on. Yesterday I discovered an error in something that needs to go to print, and the only IT person who is able to fix it has been away sick yesterday and again today, so, I try not to stress about that and move on to something else.

But, I have also been pointed in the direction of The Civil Wars, on the music front. I do like a good male/female duet of tragic romance, and these folks deliver.

You may have all been listening to them for years, but if not the first video is one of their hits (you can watch the music video here with five and half million other people, but when I listen to a song for the first time I prefer it without video). The song at the bottom sounds a little like musical theatre, but I can’t stop going back to listen to it. I love the melody. (There is a video with the lyrics here, but the volume is low on that one.)

Shakespeare, 29th May

I am ashamed that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace,
Or seek for rule, supremacy and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love and obey.

Taming of the Shrew, Act v., Sc. 2

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

808 books later ...

I finished adding all my books into Delicious Library tonight. I got part way through this last year then stopped, and so then had to double-check some because I forgot where I was up and what I had moved, so I decided that this time I had to make it to the end. I have to say, I thought there'd actually be more than 808 - I mean, I am just about buried under them - but then, when you consider that a shelf only holds about 30 or so books, perhaps this is a lot of books ...

(Pay no attention to the shelf categories visible, because they are need sorting properly.)

Same-sex attraction - a sermon

We had a sermon on same-sex desires on Sunday. I thought it was exceptionally well done. You can listen to it here. At the end of the sermon a member of our church for whom this has been a daily struggle was interviewed, which was a very brave and helpful thing for them to do. That isn’t included in the audio, understandably, but it was good for enabling us all to appreciate the reality of the issue. (Update: I believe the interview has been added to the audio since.)

Shakespeare, 28th May

            Ignorance is the curse of God,
Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.

King Henry VI., Pt 2, Act iv., Sc. 7.

Every once can master a grief but he that has it.

Much Ado about Nothing, Act iii., Sc. 2.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Shakespeare, 27th May

              But 'tis strange:
And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray 's
In deepest consequence.

Macbeth, Act i., Sc. 3.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Lone Bellow

I am not one of those people who constantly ferrets out a whole lot of new music and new artists. I tend to be some kind of loyalist who just buys the latest album from my old friends. But I fell into a lengthy conversation with the music guy from my church the other night at party, and he said I might like The Lone Bellow. So I went sniffing after these people.

I do like The Lone Bellow, so much so that I bought their album, especially after I read that they started the band to raise money for the wife of one member who was injured in an accident.

They are a little bit Mumford and Sons, a little bit The Swell Season, a little bit bluegrass. And they are from Brooklyn, so they must be cool.

Here is a music video from their debut album. This song is a little more upbeat and rousing than some, and three cheers for making a respectable and interesting music video. You can also listen to You Never Need Nobody and Looking for You (or watch the NPR tiny desk concert, or get fragments of each song on the album here and no doubt on iTunes).


Shakespeare, 26th May

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety.

Antony and Cleopatra, Act ii., Sc. 2.

There is no darkness but ignorance.

Twelfth Night, Act iv., Sc. 2.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Why the Serenity Prayer is not cheesy

I’ve gotten a little behind on my blog reading, though I don’t necessarily hold myself to any obligation to “keep up”, but I did recently read and appreciate this post by Wendy.

When I went along to the first Overcomers Outreach meeting, in the basement under Chapter House next to St Andrew’s Cathedral, we said the Serenity Prayer, and I confess I might have groaned just a little on the inside. Because I am sure we have all seen it embroidered or engraved or painted onto all manner of tacky and schmaltzy knicks-knacksy things. But as I heard it again and again recited by a room full of recovering addicts, I did come to appreciate it.

(I’ve written the prayer out in full below (we said it in full in OO), as it is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, but it’s often only the first six lines that are commonly known and quoted.)

As I’ve mentioned here, I have recently read Growing Yourself Up by Jenny Brown and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. These six little lines of The Serenity Prayer are actually, when you see past your groaning, a good potted summary of some of the material from both books. In brief, Growing Yourself Up teaches us to work on changing ourselves, not other people, and The Seven Habits emphasises the importance of knowing the difference between your sphere of influence (things you can change) and your sphere of concern (things which you can't change or can change only indirectly) and focusing your energies accordingly.

Keeping that in mind, here is a paragraph of Wendy’s post:
God grant me the wisdom to know what I can change (usually about myself) and what I can not change (often about others). What I can change (about myself) takes courage. Facing what I can't change (about others) take serenity and peace. Any enduring peace we find will ultimately have it's source in God Himself (Phil. 4:7). That's not cheesy. That is hard won wisdom that each of us should hear and pray for ourselves.
Yes. I seem to have had to learn some of this the hard and slow way. God grant the grace and courage and wisdom.

The Serenity Prayer

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

(I'm not altogether certain of the theological connection or intended scope of saying "Trusting that You will make all things right, If I surrender to Your will" but we certainly do make things more difficult if we resist what God would have us do. On that note see this post from Georgianne.)

Shakespeare, 25th May

He hath a tear for pity and a hand
Open as day for melting charity.

King Henry IV., Pt 2., Act iv., Sc. 4.

God and our good cause fight upon our side.

King Richard III., Act v., Sc. 3.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Being single - a sermon

We’re currently having a short sermon series at my church on relationships. The first week was Being Human, the second Being Married, and last Sunday evening was Being Single.

Our Senior Minister is in the unusual position of having been single until he was 40, so he has heard all the things single people hear said, and faced the struggles single people beyond their early-mid twenties face. I had to rummage through my bag for extra paper for this one. Go listen, you will be comforted and exhorted.

Shakespeare, 24th May

God save the Queen.

King Richard III., Act iv., Sc. I.

I have heard of the lady, and good words went with her name.

Measure for Measure, Act iii., Sc. I.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Who owns a woman's body?

This article, from ABC Religion and Ethics, titled Who owns a woman's body? Why Angelina Jolie got it right, and Femen hasn't, is worth thinking through. Here is one paragraph:
By contrast, what is particularly noteworthy about Jolie's own description of her decision to undergo surgery is the absence of any such slogans about free choice or ownership of her body. Instead, the locus of her decision is placed with her concern for her children's peace of mind: "I can tell my children that they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer." Such a statement implies the recognition that her body is not simply her own possession. Others have some relation to her body, and what happens to it impacts on the lives (and thus bodies) of other human beings.

That Holman bible and a forgotten Calvin

Yesterday I worked from home, and because I had nothing on the evening and so a lot of flexibility to get my work hours done, I took advantage of the opportunity to visit the Reformers Bookshop. It is actually only about four minutes drive from my house, but I had never been there before because it is only open on weekdays. So, it was a fun little lunch-time trip.

I went for the purpose of looking at the Holman bibles, and settled on the UltraThin Reference Bible.

It fulfils all requirements I was looking for in that last post and looks good. The only thing I don’t like so much about it is the “easy to read type”, which is, to me, an ugly modern font that is rather stumpy, so that the difference between letters like an h and and n is very minimal (if you click the picture it will get bigger). Call me a fogey but I like my bibles with a more classic font, and I remain to be convinced this is easier to read.

While there I picked up, and subsequently bought, this attractive little book called Truth for All Time, by John Calvin. It was marked at half price, and I liked its dusty blueness, but I couldn’t really tell what it was, so I asked if I could take the plastic wrap off. I was quite intrigued. According to the preface, by one Stuart Olyott, it is a little book Calvin wrote in the winter of 1536-1537 called A Brief Outline of the Christian Faith that is a résumé of the first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion. However, it fell into disuse and was forgotten for over 300 years, till in 1877 an original copy, and possibly the only one surviving, was discovered in the Paris National Library by Monsier Henri Bordier. It has only been published once before in English in 1949 in London, but Banner of Truth has now translated and republished it. So, it looks a lot quicker to read than the Institutes, and I look forward to doing so.

Shakespeare, 23rd May

Leaving our rankness and irregular course,
Stoop low within those bounds we have o'erlook'd
And calmly run on in obedience.

King John, Act v., Sc. 4.

Her peerless feature,   .    .    .
Approves her fit for none but for a king.

King Henry VI., Pt 1., Act v., Sc. 5.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Once upon a time ...

Once upon a time there were created two little mice, named Winifred and Millicent.
(I made these for my niece's sixth birthday, but I am rather taken with them myself.) 

Millicent liked to drink tea from her own special teacup and saucer, though it was a smidgeon too large for her small paws. It was given to her one Autumn by her cousins who lived in Brambly Hedge.

Winifred preferred playing in the teacups belonging to the humans.

But Winifred and Millicent shared a love of books.

And they lived happily ever after. 

(I know I have been stereotypical using pink and blue, but I had a small amount of blue yarn left over that was perfect for Winifred, and my niece actually likes pink, and so she may have pink (I don't believe in spurning gender differences in any case). I have broken down other stereotypes, however, in that Millicent ended up a fraction taller than Winifred (though technically they should be the same size - all part of the "uniqueness" of handmade items). This pattern is from Inside Crochet Magazine, Issue 35, which you can buy online and it is also in their Complete Guide to Crochet.)

Shakespeare, 22nd May

A virtuous and a Christian-like conclusion,
To pray for them that have done scathe to us.

King Richard III., Act i., Sc. 3.

He sits high in all the people's hearts.

Julius Caesar, Act i., Sc. 3.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

To live a parnassian life

Today’s A Word A Day is one that I think I can put to good use.


PRONUNCIATION: (pahr-NAS-ee-uhn)

MEANING: adjective: Of or relating to poetry.

ETYMOLOGY: After Mount Parnassus, a mountain in Greece, considered sacred to Apollo, the Greek god of music and poetry, and the Muses. Earliest documented use: 1565.

A prayer

We said this corporate response prayer in church on Sunday evening. I liked it, so thought I'd share it. (I believe it is from

Gracious God, we have come to see that our lives fall far short of your glory.
Have mercy and forgive us.

You have given your Son for us, and poured out your Spirit, yet we fail to return your love with all our heart.
Have mercy and change us.

Too often we are selfish and proud, ignoring you and neglecting others.
Have mercy and cleanse us.

When we do not truly trust and obey you, we are overwhelmed by self-pity, fear and worry.
Have mercy and deliver us.

In Christ we are given a sure hope and secure love, yet we follow the false hopes and desires of this world.
Have mercy and renew us.

Father, through the redeeming death of your Son, by your Spirit, and through your word,
enable us to follow you with joy.
 All this we ask, confident of your faithfulness and love. 


(Also Wendy has reviewed two books on prayer. H/T Jean. I love Don Carson's and have Paul Miller's high on the "to read" list. Simone has been writing prayers on her blog, but they aren't labelled so you just have to go looking.)

Shakespeare, 21st May

Sure, He that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and God-like reason
To fust in us unused.

Hamlet, Act iv., Sc. 4.

Out with it boldly: truth loves open dealing.

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

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cooking for one

Cooking a meal for yourself every night when there is only you to eat it can get rather uninspiring, I say. But I do try to eat reasonably well – as in being healthy and minimising take-away.

I have only one shelf of a smallish freezer, so have limited capacity to cook larger amounts and freeze meals for the future. Also, a few years ago I decided to reduce consumption of the sort of meals that freeze well, which are usually doused in sauces (like curries, stirfries, casseroles) and served with carbs (like rice, cous cous, pasta), in favour of a portion of meat and fresher salad or veges more often.

Still, sometimes I just can’t be bothered with it all, or have run out of supplies, or need something that’s fast to make. So, here is one of the things I eat on those occasions (with apologies for the photo, which I took on my phone on impulse and is, for some reason, out of focus, and makes no attempt to hide the messy bowl – I am keeping it real – but I did instagram it, to give it some right to exist in social media).

All you do is cook the usual half a cup of cous cous, which is almost too much when you add a lot of other things, as you can see from this enormous bowlful here. Then I add a little tin of lemon and pepper flavoured salmon. I love this. I am not such a big fan of tinned salmon that comes with bones and skin in it, but I liked these flavoured ones, especially the lemon and pepper. (You could also use tuna, but let’s be honest, it’s not as nice). Then here all I added are some chopped cherry tomatoes and cucumber, but the possibilities are endless in terms of vegetables (or fruit).

And voila! It takes about five minutes, because while the cous cous sits and does its thing I chop throw the rest into a bowl, and is reasonably balanced, fat-free and inexpensive.

And that makes about two practical posts from me this year.

Shakespeare, 20th May

Truth hath a quiet breast.

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

If we do now make our atonement well,
Our peace will, like a broken limb united,
Grow stronger for the breaking.

King Henry IV., Pt 2., Act iv., Sc. I.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Stewed quinces

This morning I was delighted to have some of those stewed quinces on my breakfast. I went for brunch with my Connect Group to Burnt Orange, over where the beautiful people live.

Shakespeare, 19th May

In faith, he is a worthy gentleman,
Exceedingly well read.

King Henry IV., Pt 1., Act iii., Sc. I.

He that wants money, means, and content, is without three good friends.

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

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Shakespeare, 18th May

His nature is too noble for the world:
He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,
Or Jove for 's power to thunder. His heart's his mouth;
What his breast forges, that his tongue must vent.
                Coriolanus, Act iii., Sc. I.

He hath a daily beauty in his life.
                     Othello, Act v., Sc. I.

Friday, May 17, 2013

In the eyes of Piero's resurrected Christ

I thought I would post one last vignette from Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner.

During the year that Larry and Sally Morgan and Sid and Charity Lang spend in Florence, they take one day a jaunt to Sanselpolero, to visit the chapel in which you find Piero’s painting of Christ’s Resurrection. What follows gave me cause to look for this painting, for reasons which might also become necessary to you should you read on.

Until then there had been a good deal of frivolity in us, a spring-time response to the blossoms and the mild, clear air. But Piero’s Christ knocked it out of us like an elbow in the solar plexus. That gloomy, stricken face permitted no forgetful high spirits. It was not the face of a god reclaiming his suspended immortality, but the face of a man who until a moment ago had been thoroughly and horribly dead, and still had the smell of death in his clothes and the terror of death in his mind. If resurrection had taken place, it had not yet been comprehended.

Three of us were moved to respect, perhaps awe, by that painting, but Charity thought, or pretended to think, that it was another instance of an artist resorting to shock for his effects. Instead of trying to paint the joy, the beatification, the wonder that would naturally accompany the triumph over death—and uplifting idea if there ever was one—Piero had chosen to do it backwards, upside down. She thought he was anti-human in his scornful portraits of the drunken soldiers, and anti-God in his portrait of Christ. It seemed to her an arrogant painting. Instead of showing pity for human suffering it insisted on grinding down on the shocking details. Instead of trying to paint the joyfulness of Christ’s sacrifice Piero almost seemed to call it hopeless. Why hadn’t he, if only by a gleam in the sky or the glimpsed feather of an angel’s wing, put in anything that suggested the immediacy of heaven and release? And what terrible eyes this Christ had!

We did not argue with her. She was still developing her sundial theory of art, which would count no hours but the sunny ones. But I noticed that Sally stood a long while on her crutches in front of that painting propped temporarily against a frame of raw two-by-fours. She studied it soberly, with something like recognition or acknowledgment in her eyes, as if those who have been dead understand things that will never be understood by those who have only lived.  
I do so like that. Granted it is not so theologically sound (though it gave me reason to lie in bed and ponder whether Christ rose from the dead himself, or did he need God to raise him, and to recall bible verses that spoke to such things, and to wonder what it might have been like to come back from a God-less death, if that could be said of Christ ... until I had to stop and go to sleep). Yet it does reverberate towards the fellowship of sharing in Christ’s sufferings, and towards what we know of having a high priest who is able to sympathise with us in our sufferings.

The eyes of Piero’s Christ (look at a large close up of these if you can) become a kind of symbol in the book, that comes back twice more, of the community of those who know suffering, of what it means to suffer. I've not been able to forget them since.

Shakespeare, 16th May

He is the half part of a blessed man,
Left to be finished by such as she;
And she a fair divided excellence,
Whose fulness of perfection lies in him.

King John, Act ii., Sc. I.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Two blinks: on loneliness and communication

Here is an article Georgina linked on Facebook, called The Lethality of Loneliness, about the science and the biological effects of loneliness. It’s long, but interesting if you are so inclined. Here is the conclusion:
At a deeper level, though, loneliness research forces us to acknowledge our own extraordinary malleability in the face of social forces. This susceptibility is both terrifying and exhilarating. On the terrifying side is the unhappy fact that isolation, especially when it stems from the disenfranchisement of the underprivileged, creates a bodily limitation all too easily reproduced in each successive generation ... But there’s something awe-inspiring about our resilience, too. Put an orphan in foster care, and his brain will repair its missing connections. Teach a lonely person to respond to others without fear and paranoia, and over time, her body will make fewer stress hormones and get less sick from them. Care for a pet or start believing in a supernatural being and your score on the UCLA Loneliness Scale will go down. Even an act as simple as joining an athletic team or a church can lead to what Cole calls “molecular remodeling”. “One message I take away from this is, ‘Hey, it’s not just early life that counts,’ ” he says. “We have to choose our life well.”
And here is an article from The Art of Manliness, that Elsie linked on facebook, about How to Communicate Your Needs in a Relationship, but it doesn't need to be a "romantic" relationship. This merges with what I have posted previously from Growing Yourself Up, by Jenny Brown, and also called to mind a recent tweet from Alain de Botton :):
Paradox of the sulk: 'if I have to spell this one out, you're not someone I want to be understood by.'

Living in a Pornified World

Last night I went to another seminar at church called Living in a Pornified World, presented by Melinda Tankard Reist. I have heard Melinda speak on several occasions previously, and followed her Facebook page and blog for a few years, so I thought I was primed for this presentation. But still, it was disturbing and confronting as she showed us images of this pornification, all taken from mainstream media, to raise awareness of what exactly is happening out there (in case you hadn’t noticed). We were then presented with a lot of research showing the results of this pornification on the development and mental health of girls, in particular, and alarming information on what young people now perceive as “normal” and expected behaviour. One shudders.

The upside of the evening was when Melinda shared what her organisation Collective Shout has been doing, and the victories they have had against advertising, corporations and other media channels (eg music videos). You can also follow Collective Shout on Facebook (I thought I was already but discovered I wasn’t, and was just seeing the posts through Melinda Tankard Reist’s page, so just rectified that problem).

One of the helpful things to take away from the evening was the simple steps that we can take whenever we see material that we deem inappropriate, so I thought I’d share those.

1. Firstly, raise the problem in store if you can. Take the offending item to the service counter and ask to speak to the department manager.

2. Lodge a complaint through the stores/corporations online complaint process.

3. Take it to social media. You can get very fast response times through this, as companies do not want complaints going viral.

4. Also let Collective Shout know, so you are not acting on your own.

At the higher level we can be supporting Collective Shout, which could do much more with more funds and resources. Also, you can badger you local MP about local problems.

As Melinda reminded us, “the standard you walk past is the standard you set”, which was the challenge to act instead of just frowning as we pass.

(One other thing Melinda shared during her presentation is that she has young men (or women) contact her in response to her talks, who are struggling with pornography, and she doesn't know what to do with them, and that many churches don't seem to know what to do either, so I made sure a few key people afterwards knew about the work of Overcomers Outreach, which is an umbrella addiction recovery program, through which you can get many other contacts also. If you've read this blog for any length of time you would know that I used to help out with some of their work (I have a label in my sidebar), and it's a valuable resource.)

Shakespeare, 16th May

Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief;
Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss:
The offender's sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence's cross.
                               Sonnet XXXIV

           We must not stint
Our necessary actions, in the fear
To cope malicious censurers.
             King Henry VIII., Act i., Sc. 2.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Collecting old junk

I believe I might have crossed a line, a line that is somewhere down the road to featuring on an episode of hoarders. I have started to collect junk off the side of the road, for which I have no conceivable use (not yet, but that is the basic symptom of hoarding is it not?).

There is a house in my street, or actually the back of a house that faces the street behind on my street, that is three quarters of the way to derelict. Last Wednesday when I was working from home I went for a walk at lunch time up to the local supermarket, and at the back of this house there was a pile of junk on the footpath, with a sign up letting us know it was free to all. And I found this.

It is an old preserving steriliser – a Fowler’s Vacola to be exact. It has the old thermometer holder on the side.

Inside it were these – jar lids and clamps. Too bad there were no jars as well, because I like old preserving jars. And I like them even better when they are full of stewed quinces.

In the bottom, where it is most rusty, is this weird bit that lifts up.

Like I said, I don’t know exactly what I am going to do with it. One day when I live in a ramshackle house in the country, rather than an apartment in the city, it might find its place.

On the weekend I washed it and sprayed it with WD40, to settle the rust, and I even gathered up Rust Killer paint charts from the hardware store as I walked by, because I think I shall just paint it to deal with the rusty bottom and turn it into a storage bucket for, well, I don’t know. Something.

I do quite like finding and restoring old things, where time and space permits. It has within it traces of redemption.

Shakespeare, May 15th

                But we all are men,
In our own natures frail, and capable
Of our flesh; few are angels.

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

The better part of valour is discretion.

King Henry IV., Pt 1., Act v., Sc. 4.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Stories we tell

I pinched this quote by Margaret Atwood from Austin Kleon’s tumblr, to add to my collection of ideas about “stories”. (I am also intrigued by the film trailer he’s posted over there.)
When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.
~Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

Since I have been posting about marriage, strangely enough, and since I am back on a Sara Groves run (she cycles around regularly in my life), here is an “after story” song from Sara, about marriage, aptly called When it was Over. I do love this song.

Shakespeare, 14th May

Speak freely what you think.

King Henry VI., Pt 3., Act iv., Sc. I.

Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown;
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.

Hamlet, Act iii., Sc. 2.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Holman bible recommendations anyone?

We are making the switch to the Holman Bible at church, because the 1984 NIV we currently have is discontinued, and so we have been trialing both the new NIV and the Holman for the last few months and the decision has been made in favour of the Holman. They are also hoping to change the church culture and encourage folks to bring their own bible along, rather than rely on pew bibles. So, the opportunity to buy a new book always appeals, and I wouldn’t mind a new everyday reading bible. I’m still only up to Romans in my epic ESV Study Bible journey, but once I’m done with that I’d like something less cumbersome and heavy to read (that monster can be so uncomfortable), but a bit bigger than the other pocket ESV and NIV I already have. I’d like one that was reasonably compact, but without having microscopic print or tissue thin paper, so that I can underline or write in it, and preferably with a bonded leather sort of cover (not hardback) and no red print. So I had a look online at options, but there are so many of them. Does anybody out there know a good one? I’m thinking it will be easier to go into a shop and look than try to do this online.

In slightly related news, I came up with a new and novel way of injuring yourself at home on the weekend. I think I put one knee on my desk chair and leaned over it to unplug my computer charge chord from the powerboard on the floor in my bedroom, because I wanted it in the loungeroom, only I didn’t grip the chord from the plug but further up the chord, obviously, so that when it did release from the powerboard the end of the chord whipped up and hit me quite forcefully in the face. So I then had a bruised lump with a cut in the middle of it from one of the three metal prongs hitting me right between the eyes. It had mellowed somewhat by Sunday evening, but I had to get up and read the bible in church, so I did my best with a concealer stick and think I largely got away with it. There is no end to the possible and imaginative ways of inflicting damage on yourself.

It's a miracle

It must be time for some music, and for some Sara Groves music at that. Here is another one of her live recordings that I like:


Shakespeare, 13th May

There is a history in all men's lives,
Figuring the nature of the times deceased;
The which observed, a man may prophesy,
With a near aim, of the main chance of things
As yet not come to life, which in their seeds
And weak beginnings lie intreasured.

King Henry IV., Pt 2., Act iii., Sc. I.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

That crochet headband

I love this so much I had to share. I mentioned that I made a crochet headband for my niece, but that I forgot to take photos of it. Well, said niece kept telling me she really liked this headband (phew!) and also received a new camera for her birthday, so I explained to her that "craft photography" was quite a thing, and asked her to take some "arty" pictures of it for me and send them, including some pictures of her wearing it. This is (some of) what she sent me. Isn't she cute?! I love the chocolate placement.

Crossing to Safety - from the end

I finished Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner, the other evening. Oh how I cried and cried.

The “plot” of this book is simple. It’s about two couples, Sid and Charity Lang and Larry and Sally Morgan, who meet when both husbands are young lecturers at a university, and both wives are pregnant. The book, narrated by Larry and largely autobiographical for Stegner, follows the course of their friendship and their marriages throughout the years, through their ordinary joys and sorrows, through a year of peace and friendship and pleasant adventures shared together in the history and beauty of Florence, till they come together many years later when Charity is dying of cancer.

There is no very great excitement in the story. Larry himself, commenting on Americans who settled on the Left Bank in Paris, narrates:
They had had only a war to damage them, and war’s damage is, when it isn’t fatal, likely to be stimulating rather than the reverse. Living through a war, you have lived through drama and excitement. Living through what we had been given to live through, we had only bad luck or personal inadequacy to blame for our shortcomings.
Whatever you think of the truth of that statement (and I am glad I don’t believe in “bad luck”), it describes this novel. And yet it is a story about people, about relationships, about characters and how they grow and change or don’t change. And those are the stories I like best.

Larry and Sally suffer the misfortunes of circumstances more severely, yet their marriage is harmonious, sympathetic and tender. Sid and Charity have all the blessings circumstances can give, and you come to love them both, but their marriage is, as one son-in-law later describes it, “... mutual crucifixion. They aren’t individuals, they’re confrontation. They’re an insoluble dilemma ...”.

In the end I cried, not for the dying Charity, but for Sid, whose marriage was “a kind of slavery” but one that he “couldn’t bear to part with”, and for Sally, the suffering saint, and for relationships that can grip us so closely and yet hurt so terribly.

I was a little dissatisfied with the ending. I was hoping for a metaphorical “crossing to safety” for Sid and Charity, a moment of self-awareness for Charity when she would relent and soften from her arrogance of believing she always knew what was best for people, and from her tyrannical insistence that they act her script. But their marriage ended as it had always been, which is no very great surprise, yet it was heart-breaking.

It’s a beautiful piece of writing. Wallace Stegner won the Pulitzer in 1972, proof that he knows how to thread one sentence after another in pleasing array, and so if you like the stories of other lives told well, you will like this book.

I am now keen to read Angle of Repose, the novel for which Stegner won the Pulitzer.