Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Our mail thief

You know what is going to torment me? On Monday evening I got home from work, to discover that someone had been through all the mail boxes at our apartment block. They are usually locked, with a flimsy little key, but they were all unlocked and left open (because you have to use the key to shut them again they weren’t shut properly). The day before my birthday. This is cruel. What if someone sent me something nice and it was stolen? I will never know ...

Mary meets Mohammad

I meant to put this on the end of that previous post, and I just forgot. I watched the trailer of the film Mary Meets Mohammad a few weeks ago, and it was confirmed last night that it is a good documentary (I've just not yet worked out where I can see the whole film but there is some screening information at the first link).

An evening of discussion about refugees

It was my birthday yesterday. I find birthdays to be a kind of dilemma actually. It’s one of the realities of being single (if I may say so without sounding like I have taken out a violin) that there isn’t someone whose role, or choice, or pleasure, or whatever else, it is to “spoil” you on your birthday, and maybe it’s exacerbated when you live in a town where you have no family, but this means that if you want to celebrate your birthday, you have to arrange it yourself. I am a bit hopeless at this.

I thought briefly about the idea of a “party”, but I am not a big fan of shining the spotlight on myself, and because I have no family here I didn’t have a venue or anyone I felt so comfortable asking to help me do it, and it’s expensive to hire those things in this part of the world. Then there was the consideration that if I did have a real party it could become burdensome for others, because for any of my family to be there they’d need to travel from interstate and find accommodation, and the same goes for most of my oldest and closest friends, and I don’t expect people to go to those lengths for a birthday. So then the alternative was some kind of casual Facebook thing for people I do know in Sydney, but I didn’t have a huge amount of confidence that I could come up with something people would want to come to and generate much of turn out (and I know it happens to everyone who’s ever tried to organise anything using Facebook, but I can’t help finding it just a little embarrassing when you invite people to celebrate your birthday and they don’t even click yes or no), so, I gave up that idea.

But, in the middle of this dilemma I received an invitation to attend a discussion group on the subject of refugees, from Andrew Cameron at Moore Theological College. And, I thought, well, that’s perfect. I can go along and think about something bigger than my own birthday. He even said he’d provide dinner, so I didn’t have to eat takeaway at home by myself. Brilliant. So, it worked out well.

It was a fascinating evening. It was made up of an assortment of people with varying levels of involvement and experiences in dealing with refugees. The fellow in this video, a Christian who worked for the Department of Immigration (on both Christmas and Manus Island and Nauru) until he felt compromised, came along. There were others: folk who visit Villawood Detention Centre, a church minister who found himself in the deep end when 45 refugees were placed in a motel over the road from their church (they get six weeks accommodation to sort themselves out, and beyond that are on their own), others working in refugee law etc. It was a night for people to share their own experiences, not to discuss government policy at this stage.

You might, at this point, be asking what I was doing there, which would be a fair question. I went along to the Centre for Christian Living lecture on asylum seekers earlier in the year, and there was some discussion of the legal processes involved in assessing refugee status, and I didn’t get my two cents worth in during question time so I sent Andrew Cameron a message, and it went from there. Basically, during my day job, I work on a product which publishes cases from the Federal Circuit Court (formerly the Federal Magistrates Court) which is where they go on appeal from the Refugee Review Tribunal. So, my input was really about what I see of the difficulties involved once these cases make it into the judicial system (I have blogged on this once before – you can read that to see whether there really would be enough evidence to convict you should you be arrested for being a Christian). I also see cases involved in the prosecution of people smugglers. So, I took along a couple of examples last night and briefly contributed what I have come across.

Knowing and finding a way forward in the refugee issue is the real dilemma, and it will be interesting to see where we go from here.

Shakespeare, 31st July

The heavens speed thee in thine enterprise.

Julius Caesar, Act ii., Sc. 4.

      He loves to be aloft,
And bears his thoughts above his falcon's pitch.
'Tis but a base ignoble mind,
That mounts no higher than a bird can soar.

King Henry VI, Pt 2, Act ii., Sc. I.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shakespeare, 30th July

                       'Tis pity
That wishing well had not a body in't,
Which might be felt; that we, the poorer born,
Whose baser stars do shut us up in wishes,
Might with effects of them follow our friends.

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

Monday, July 29, 2013

The way mercy would sound

I have read the first chapter of Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense by Francis Spufford. I am actually reading the first chapter again, so intrigued was I. I do already have some significant theological disagreements with the author, but I don’t foresee that those are going to stop me sucking good from this book.

I’ve been trying to find a portion to post, to give you some idea of the argument, but that is hard to do without copying out pages and pages. Yet in the midst of it, there is this. After a night of being “caught in one of those cyclical rows that reignite every time you think they’ve come to an exhausted close” with his wife, and not being able to see any way out of the sorrow, the author goes to a cafĂ© to nurse his misery along with a coffee, and someone on staff plays a tape of the Adagio from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. This is what comes next in the book (I’ve posted a youtube of the piece below, and if this paragraph doesn’t make you want to listen, then don’t).
If you don’t know it, it is a very patient piece of music. It too goes round and round, in its way, essentially playing the same tune again and again, on the clarinet alone and then with the orchestra, clarinet and then orchestra, lifting up the same unhurried lilt of solitary sound, and then backing it with a kind of messageless tenderness in deep waves, when the strings join in. It is not strained in any way. It does not sound as if Mozart is doing something he can only just manage, and it does not sound as if the music is struggling to lift a weight it can only just manage. Yet at the same time, it is not music that denies anything. It offers a strong, absolutely calm rejoicing, but it does not pretend there is no sorrow. On the contrary, it sounds as if it comes from a world where sorrow is perfectly ordinary, but still there is more to be said. I had heard it lots of times, but this time it felt to me like news. It said: everything you fear is true. And yet. And yet. Everything you have done wrong, you really have done wrong. And yet. And yet. The world is wider than you fear it is, wider than the repeating rigmaroles in your mind, and it has this in it, as truly as it contains your unhappiness. Shut up and listen, and let yourself count, just a little bit, on a calm that you do not have to be able to make for yourself, because here it is, freely offered. You are still deceiving yourself, said the music, if you don’t allow for the possibility of this. There is more going on here than what you deserve, or don’t deserve. There is this, as well. And it played the tune again, with all the cares in the world.
*The book goes on to tell me that the novelist Richard Powers has written that the Clarinet Concerto sounds the way mercy would sound.


Shakespeare, 29th July

More inconstant than the wind that wooes
Even now, the frozen bosom of the north,
And, being anger'd, puffs away from thence,
Turning his face to the dew-dropping south.

Romeo and Juliet, Act i., Sc. 4.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A little weekend video on the effect of mob mentality

This is one of the better videos I have taken the time to watch on Facebook. Underneath it was a little spiel on "mob mentality", which I have posted below (though I'm not in on the 'deterministic non-linear system').

Bravo to the young men who ran in and triggered this particular herd action. They simply step in and take action, others see what they are doing and are inspired with confidence to do the same. It's quite extraordinary how swiftly this unusual situation, which could have become a messy kind of tragedy, is turned around.

It's a reminder of how our choices and actions can influence those around us.

On March 5th 2012, in Arraial do Cabo, Brazil, about 30 dolphins washed up ashore stranded on a beach only to be saved by beach goers and tourists. From the clip you see one or two people start to drag the dolphins back into the water. It doesn’t take long before more people come along and each grab a dolphin.

All of the dolphins are saved in less than 4 minutes.

Herd mentality, or mob mentality, describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and or take action. This video is a prime example how the the initial actions of two people triggered a "herd" response from the bystanders. This in itself highlights how your own behavioral tendencies and the choices you make everyday are examples of how small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.

It's more than the butterfly effect of chaos theory; its human nature.

Shakespeare, 28th July

                                    'Tis gold
Which makes the true man kill'd, and saves the thief;
Nay, sometime, hangs both thief and true man: what
Can it not do, and undo?

Cymbeline, Act ii., Sc. 3.

Your name is great in mouths of wisest censure.

Othello, Act ii., Sc. 3.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Shakespeare, 27th July

Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,
Till, by broad spreading, it disperse to nought.

King Henry VI., Pt I., Act i., Sc. 2.

             We bring forth weeds
When our quick minds lie still.

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

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday funny - the day I was conned on the internet

Well, there is nothing so funny about what you are about to read, perhaps, it is just about something that is funny.

Since I am doing blog confessions, here is where I own up to my own stupidity. Late last year I contemplated buying myself the complete set of Seinfeld DVDs, sort of as a Christmas present to myself. But I hesitated. And she who hesitates is lost and all, because then the boxed set (which was going cheap in K-Mart) went out of production, and the prices of the series started escalating.

But a couple of months ago, when I did a little book index on the side, I decided I was going to buy them. I did the usual google thing, discovered the boxed set going for a similar price to what it was in K-Mart last year, from an Australian website, so I jumped in and bought it. Only then I got an email written in weird English from China. And I thought ‘oh dear’. But the discs actually turned up and looked OK and worked. That is until episode 3. Then it just went all over the place and wouldn’t play.

I tried to send an email to the company, and it bounced, so I went to the website, and, what do you know, the website had disappeared altogether. I took the disc up the local DVD shop to be cleaned cause I could see a scratch and the lady looked at it and said “this is a burned disc isn’t it?”. This when I fully realised that I had been had! I still can’t quite believe I was that stupid.

Anyway, I went to my bank and lodged a dispute and I actually got the money back, because if you buy something on Visa and it is not what you ordered they can do that. So, I was pleased that my foolishness was reversible.

Then recently I noticed JB Hi-Fi was having a “buy two get one free” on TV series, so I was able to replace it all for about the same cost (and since I’d got my money back I felt like the right thing to do was to buy the real thing, and dispose of the bogus ones, but I might put the real ones in the box packaging, because it takes up less space). So, I now have a whole 32 discs to chuckle my way through. I’ve seen many episodes of Seinfeld before of course, but doubt I’ve ever seen the whole thing. It’s hard to say what is so entertaining about a TV show that is essentially about nothing, but I am looking forward to working my way through it. I don’t watch a whole lot of telly these days, but the episodes are short and this show is good for that “chilling” thing we do. If I start talking like Jerry, George, Elaine or Kramer (which one is most "me" I wonder?), or posting a stream of Seinfeld quotes, you know why.

So, the moral of this post is don’t buy DVDs from websites you are not familiar with, or which don’t use Paypal, but you probably all knew that anyway (I think I knew it to, I just did this in thoughtless haste).

Shakespeare, 26th July

              'Tis the curse of the service:
Preferment goes by letter and affection,
Not by the old gradation, where each second
Stood heir to the first.

Othello, Act i., Sc. I.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Shakespeare, 25th July

Honour travels in a strait so narrow,
Where one but goes abreast: keep then the path:
For emulation hath a thousand sons,
That one by one pursue: if you give way,
Or hedge aside from the direct forthright,
Like to an enter'd tide, they all rush by,
And leave you hindmost.

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

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The surprising emotional sense of Christianity

In other news, I have the book Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense by Francis Spufford to read. It sounds curious does it not? We shall see ... I'm fairly certain I won't agree with much of it, but I'm going to give it a go.

Giving away a rug and a hope

So, photos of crochet anyone? I’ve run a little out of steam lately, but am going to have a little holiday soon, which might restore it.

This is one of those posts I write that might make you all consider me a little crazy, but what are blogs for …

I actually made this crochet rug many many years ago. I made a similar one for a close friend’s baby, then made this one, and just put it away in the cupboard (the hope chest, the glory box …), thinking I would keep it for the day I had a baby of my own, and have since all but forgotten about it. I didn’t even think of it when my later niece and nephew were born, because they were born in Darwin or a Queensland summer, and were older when I made them rugs, and so it has just sat there in a zipped-up plastic bag all these years.

But I’ve dug it out to give it to this nephew that is coming. I couldn’t help feeling a kind of pang, like it’s the giving up of a hope. But isn’t that what we have to do with all hopes in any case? Is it Amy Carmichael or Elisabeth Elliot who writes most about how we must hold our hopes and dreams and plans in an open palm, not closing our fists around them, but trusting them to a God who withholds no good thing? Anyway, I’m not somehow superstitious about this actual rug, and I know giving it away won’t make it any more or less likely that I have a baby of my own. If God chooses to give me someone who wants to love and care for and share his life with me, and chooses to give us a baby, I can make another rug, and if God chooses not to, then nothing I do or don’t do or keep in the cupboard will make the least difference.

 In the meantime, this nephew might as well have the use of this rug.

Shakespeare, 24th July

That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect,
For slander's mark was ever yet the fair;
The ornament of beauty is suspect,
A crow that flies in heaven's sweetest air.
So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater, being woo'd of time.

Sonnet LXX

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Shakespeare, 23rd July

What's brave, what's noble,
Let's do it   .   .   .   .
And make death proud to take us.

Antony and Cleopatra, Act iv., Sc. 13.

Torches were made to burn; jewels to wear; .   .   .
Things growing to themselves are growth's abuse.

Venus and Adonis

Monday, July 22, 2013

Personality test

I've got nothing, so you can just laugh at this.

Shakespeare, 22nd July

One sorrow never comes but brings an heir,
That may succeed as his inheritor.

Pericles, Act i., Sc. 4.

Princes have but their titles for their glories,
At outward honour for an inward toil.

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

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Shakespeare, 21st July

When Fortune in her shift and change of mood
Spurns down her late beloved, all his dependants
Which labour'd after him to the mountain's top
Even on their knees and hands, let him slip down,
Not one accompanying his declining foot.

Timon of Athens, Act i., Sc. I.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Shakespeare, 20th July

                            And not ever
The justice and the truth o' the question carries
The due o' the verdict with it.

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

Certainly a woman's thought runs before her actions.

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

Friday, July 19, 2013

A poem - Prayer by George Herbert

I thought it past time there was some poetry here, and so I have turned back to George Herbert, and a poem on prayer seems fitting this week. In searching for this poem I discovered that Ben Myers at Faith and Theology had written a paper, and a blog post, featuring this poem, called prayer, language, silence. Read the last paragraph if nothing else.

Prayer (I)
by George Herbert

Prayer the church's banquet, angel's age,
      God's breath in man returning to his birth,
      The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth
Engine against th' Almighty, sinner's tow'r,
      Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
      The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
      Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
      Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
      Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
      The land of spices; something understood.

Shakespeare, 19th July

When beggars die, there are no comets seen.
                           Julius Caesar, Act ii., Sc. 2.

    They are not a pipe for fortune's finger
To sound what stop she please.
                                 Hamlet, Act iii., Sc. 2.

He was my friend, faithful and just to me.
                          Julius Caesar, Act iii., Sc. 2.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

48 hours

It has been quite a 48 hours in the extended family!

To start with the simple, positive news, my brother-in-law landed in Australia from Afghanistan this morning. Thank you God! This is a very big relief. He has also been awarded the American Bronze Star Medal for his work there, so well done to him.

Then there is the baby (that my other sister is carrying). On Tuesday night I was trying to prepare the bible study for my group for Wednesday night (because our regular leader couldn't do so), and then my Mum calls. My sister had been back to her obstetrician that day, who had a report from the ultrasound on the baby’s heart, which lead him to tell her, in view of what was presented, that the baby probably had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Only I think Mum left the “probably” out of her report to me, so I thought the baby definitely had this. HLHS is a very serious congenital heart defect, that requires a complicated series of surgeries beginning straight after birth (called "palliative surgery", because it doesn't cure the condition) or the baby dies. And even though my sister's Christian obstetrician had been very positive up until, he was grim this day.

Being the self-designated family research assistant, I couldn’t help then googling all manner of things on this syndrome. I worked from home yesterday (Wednesday), which is just as well, because after reading stories of babies born with this condition I was a weeping mess (reading stories of babies fighting for their life on internet was never going to be a pick-me-up). There are some who survive all three surgeries and do well, and Melbourne is the place to be in Australia for this problem, and there are continuing improvements, so it wasn't hopeless. But then there are all the babies whose little hearts are too messed up for surgery, or who don’t survive the surgery, and so they die. I think we all cried Tuesday night, and everybody did a lot of praying. Mum told me my sister wasn't up to talking to people that night, but did say she had to have another scan on the Wednesday.

So my sister did have to go back for another scan yesterday. Then early in the afternoon I get a text, to the effect that the cardiologist who did this scan was not convinced there was even a hole in the heart and that while he could see a possible narrowing of the aorta, it didn’t appear to him to be affecting the size of the chambers (whereas if a baby has HLHS there is a big difference in the size of the chambers, to the point that they say of such kids that they have “half a heart”). So, this was quite amazing. My Mum even said to me on the phone on Tuesday night “so unless there is a miracle between now and tomorrow ...”. I’m one of those people who would probably be in the sceptics camp, who is reluctant to claim divine intervention in the ordinary course of things, but this is now the second time my sister has received a terrible diagnosis (last time it was stage 4 ovarian cancer), then we all start praying, then she has another scan and the medical professionals have changed their mind ... Make of that what you will.

But, good heavens, what a roller coaster! My sister joked yesterday ‘well that gave everybody something to do last night didn’t it?’. Indeed. The baby is not out of the woods yet, and they are going to do another scan in a few weeks, and all of this really depends on what happens after the baby is born, but the fact that they can’t be certain of anything at this point is much better news (they can’t even be certain he has a kidney problem either, because he just had enlarged kidneys, but that is more common in boys).

Meanwhile, I found some more little shoes in Vinnies (they look like they've not been worn). I'm going to make this baby a little hipster!

(Consequently I didn’t turn on the TV and watch The Bible on Tuesday night, with every other Christian I know on social media, but I am hoping I can manage to see it some other way.)

Shakespeare, 18th July

      Ornament is but the gilded shore
To a most dangerous sea; the beauteous scarf
Veiling an Indian beauty; in a word,
The seeming truth which cunning times put on
To entrap the wisest.

Merchant of Venice, Act iii., Sc. 2.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Shakespeare, 17th July

He was a scholar, and a ripe and good one.

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

A light heart lives long.

Love's Labour's Lost, Act v., Sc. 2.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Shakespeare, 16th July

Thy thoughts with nobleness: that thou mayst prove
To shame invulnerable, and stick i' the wars
Like a great sea-mark, standing every flaw,
And saving those that eye thee!

Coriolanus, Act v., Sc. 3.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Life and a river goes on

I am a little disappointed just now. You may remember, though it seems I paused quite a long time ago, that I was doing some of the evening lectures at Moore Theological College. Well, I have been intending to pick those up again, but I have done all of the subjects on rotation at the Newtown Campus this year except the one coming up for Term 3, which starts tomorrow night (and it’s just too hectic to get to one of the other faraway campuses on a weeknight), so I thought I would do it. The only problem is that I already know I will need to miss two of the lectures, and by the time you miss two out of seven lectures it does not seem worth doing a thing (with my over-achieving tendencies I don’t want to do a thing if I am not going to do it well). So I think I need to leave it. I have been hankering for the learning and stimulation. However, I am looking forward to a one-day teaching course with Ed Welch, from the Christian Counselling and Education Foundation, coming up. It’s on The Hard Things of Life and the Riches of God’s Word. That sounds good does it not?

It’s got nothing much to do with anything, except perhaps a loose connection to biblical counselling, but I have been seized by a sudden urge to revisit A River Runs Through It, that wonderful little book by Norman McLean, and have been googling parts of the book and the movie today. (If you are a fan of Marilynne Robinson’s novels, you might appreciate it. There are similarities of style and Paul is a type of Jack Boughton. It was put forward by the committee for the fiction Pulitzer Prize in 1977, but they decided not to award for fiction that year – perhaps because this work is not technically fiction.) There is a little passage, that I have blogged before, but so long ago that if you remember it you get a gold star for attendance and attention, in which the father, a Presbyterian Minister, is talking to his oldest son, about how to help the younger son and brother who is on a self-destructive path. I like it as a portrait of one family's difficulty in working out how to help someone they love.

“You are too young to help anybody and I am too old,” he said. “By help I don’t mean a courtesy like serving choke-cherry jelly or giving money.

“Help,” he said, “is giving part of yourself to somebody who comes to accept it willingly and needs it badly.

“So it is,” he said, using an old homiletic transition, “that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don’t know what part to give or maybe we don’t like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed. It is like the auto-supply shop over town where they always say, ‘Sorry, we are just out of that part.’”

I told him, “You make it too tough. Help doesn’t have to be anything that big.”

He asked me, “Do you think your mother helps him by buttering his rolls?”

“She might,” I told him. “In fact, yes, I think she does.”

“Do you think you help him?” he asked me.

“I try to,” I said. “My trouble is I don’t know him. In fact, one of my troubles is that I don’t even know whether he needs help. I don’t know, that’s my trouble.”

“That should have been my text,” my father said. “We are willing to help, Lord, but what if anything is needed?

“I still know how to fish,” he concluded. “Tomorrow we will go fishing with him.”
 Then, near the close of the book, the father is giving a sermon, and he preaches:
Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.

Shakespeare, 15th July

When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions!

Hamlet, Act iv., Sc. 5.

The jewel that we find, we stoop and take't,
Because we see it; but, what we do not see,
We tread upon, and never think of it.

Measure for Measure, Act ii., Sc. I.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Shakespeare, 14th July

To fear the foe, since fear oppresseth strength,
Gives, in your weakness, strength unto your foe,
And so your follies fight against yourself.
Fear, and be slain; no worse can come to fight:
And fight and dies is death destroying death;
Where fearing dying, pays death servile breath.

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

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Shakespeare, 13th July

                                 In delay
We waste our lights in vain, like lamps by day.
                           Romeo and Juliet, Act i., Sc. 4.

Things sweet to taste prove in digestion sour.
                                 Richard II., Act i., Sc. 3.

Powers divine behold our human actions.
                             Winter's Tale, Act iii., Sc. 2.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Funny/Foto

And, just for laughs, this four-metre statue of a dripping Mr Darcy emerging from the lake, has, for real, been placed in Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park in London. Hilarious! Now we have The Big Mr Darcy. (I got it from here at Daily Life, via a friend on Facebook, but don't read the article because that guy is just bitter ;) ...)

God is Enough

Last night we had an album launch at my church. It’s an album our worship pastor Dan OpdeVeigh and a friend Lachlan Brown recorded, of congregational songs called God is Enough. To tell you something about it, Lachlan lectures in poetry at Charles Sturt University and has even won a scholarship in the past to go to Paris for a month to write poetry (le sigh!), which is always a good thing if you are going to write songs, and they ran their lyrics by some theological big heads and have been thoughtful about this album. If you are interested you can buy it here (and see chord charts and lyrics) or in iTunes. To me the sound was better live (it sounded excellent last night) than on the CD (as played on my computer anyway), but I've been enjoying listening today.

While I am writing about church, I loved this sermon we had last week about The Holy God Who Provides, from Exodus 15-17. It was a gob-smacking exhortation against grumbling. After the sermon we sang Be Still My Soul, and it was simply divine. (I found the Page CXVI version of this hymn I was looking for a while back, which is below.)

Shakespeare, 12th July

             The native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought;
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard, their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

Hamlet, Act iii., Sc. I.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Shakespeare, 11th July

Winning would put any man into courage.

Cymbeline, Act ii., Sc. 3.

Frank nature, rather curious than in haste,
Hath well composed thee.

All's Well that Ends Well, Act i., Sc. 2.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Shakespeare, 10th July

Why, what is pomp, rule, reign, but earth and dust?
And, live we how we can, yet die we must.

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

I'll take thy word for faith, not ask thine oath;
Who shuns not to break one, will sure crack both.

Pericles, Act i., Sc. 2.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The interesting people you've not had the experience to know

OK, so it's not very often that I post something such as this. I'm not especially interested in feeding gender wrangling. But the last few seconds of this youtube are lovely. What is interesting is that Dustin Hoffman refers to men being "brainwashed", and thus missing good things also (sometimes the moaning mass of women sound like they forget that whatever prevails in society affects men negatively too, and that men in themselves are perhaps no more to blame). It's worth adding though, that there is a line of men who are inclined to write off attractive women as being uninteresting as well (you know, if a woman is too attractive she's probably nothing other than a dingbat, or has no "soul"), so I think it pays to remember that physical appearance, either way, bears no relation to character.

As they say, there's something in this for all of us.

A work-from-home day

I'm working from home today. I love the flexibility that this allows. I've just put a stew of sorts in the oven because I'm up for cooking dinner for my connect group tomorrow night. It takes a couple of hours in the oven so I wouldn't have been able to do it tomorrow after work before the group (and sometimes it even tastes better a day later), and now I can have some for my own dinner tonight too. Bonus. It full of beef, bacon, red wine ... and later I'll add prunes. I don't know how anyone else will find it, but I find it quite delicious with some cous cous, for that slightly moroccan edge. I actually blogged the recipe back here, if anyone is after some winter comfort food. (My repertoire of dishes I make when a larger quantity is required (ie more than six people) is obviously not that extensive at present, and it's easy to multiply this one.) So, now I am looking forward to my dinner.

Shakespeare, 9th July

The trust I have is in mine innocence,
And therefore am I bold and resolute.

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

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.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Some impressions left by A Severe Mercy

I finished A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken, though I doubt I shall ever be finished it. What a stunning book. To begin, it is written by a lover and lecturer of English Literature, who scatters the pages with original poetry and allusions to classics. Then it contains eighteen letters from CS Lewis, written during the authors own journey to faith and later during his grief. For anyone who appreciates CS Lewis and his novel and penetrating insights on life’s dilemmas, these are worth reading. Then there is the story.

In brief, it is an autobiography, the story of a couple of who find a love somewhat enviably deep and beautiful, and attempt to build a life the same. They erect what they called “The Shining Barrier” around their love, to protect it from a “creeping separateness”, and pursue a dream of a life sailing pleasant shores on their own yacht, as the means they see as mostly likely to give them unhurried time to bask in love and beauty.

But then they find themselves in Oxford, where they come under the influence of a circle of intelligent and erudite Christians, and also of CS Lewis, and of God himself no less. After much thought and the reading of many books they take the leap, hand over their lives to Christ, and there follows a time of wonderful friendship and fellowship and late-night fireside conversations, of God and theology, of the reading aloud of poetry and books. (I wanted to be IN the book during this time, so much did I want to be part of it.)

Fractures begin to appear in their relationship, when Davy (the wife) goes further and swifter along the way to surrendering her whole life to God than her husband (what precisely is going on here is complex, and I won’t try to tell it), and so one night she offers up her life in prayer for her husband’s faith, in essence. Almost exactly one year later she dies.

As I said in an earlier post, her dying is one of the saddest tellings I have ever read, and I cried, oh I cried. But the main thing that moved me so profoundly, and perhaps most importantly, in this book, is how two people, whose hearts seem drawn to all the things I feel my own to be, come to realise that all their longing for love, for beauty, for endless time to enjoy those, for joy, are actually intimations of God and of eternity. We’re told this, we’d say we know this, but how they came to see and experience it to be true is powerfully realised the book.

In found the musings on why we grieve so over the passing of time, and want so badly for some moments to last forever, and look so fondly on the past, and persistently feel there isn’t time enough, and have dreams of a future that seem charming in their timelessness, as all being echoes of eternity, resonating deep in my own being.

Then there is the tale of the danger we do to our souls when we cling too tightly to, or pursue too earnestly, anything other than Christ. The letter CS Lewis writes Sheldon when he is informed of their shining barrier, and of their refusal of children as an impediment to their own sharing and closeness, is fierce, yet also loving. It is the reason why Lewis himself calls the death of Davy a severe mercy.

In Sheldon’s grief, CS Lewis sends him his poem, Five Sonnets (which I actually posted back in 2009 and think is magnificent), and in it CS Lewis writes:

Pitch your demands heaven-high and they’ll be met.
Ask for the Morning Star and take (thrown in)
Your Earthly love.

It’s nothing other than what Jesus said long before in Matthew 6:33. Yet why so often do we not believe, or not even want to believe, that it is actually Christ we really want, and, moreso, need. Lewis himself knows this is no easy lesson to send to the heart. He knows the appealing alternatives in the face of disappointment and grief are anger ('Anger’s the anaesthetic of the mind') and despair ('There’s a repose, a safety (even a taste of something like revenge?) in fixed despair') yet we are called not to linger there but to climb the 'crazy stair' to God, to set out on 'half-hopeless labours, learning not to hate, and then to want, and then (perhaps) to win a high, unearthly comfort'. (These are all lines from the poem, which aren't actually discussed in the book, I've just included them here.)

I don’t think I have been able to render it with the glory it deserves in this post, or yet distill it into words, but I found myself so encouraged that, truly, Christ (the Morning Star) is what I do most deeply want, and also the only thing I am sure to receive. I also heed the warning that it is to the peril of our souls (and even to the peril of the very earthly loves) that we live otherwise.

Shakespeare, 8th July

The current, that with gentle murmur glides,
But know'st, being stopp'd, impatiently doth rage;
But, when his fair course is not hindered,
He makes sweet music with the enamell'd stones,
Giving a gently kiss to every sedge
He overtaketh in his pilgrimage.

Two Gentleman of Verona, Act ii., Sc. 7.


Apologies, I simply forgot Shakespeare for this morning. I shall post it later today.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Sunday photo - one happy old couple

My Aunt put this photo on Facebook and I snitched it. It is my grandparents. They have lived the re-birth of love. (Pa is 89 years old and his hair is still brown. It's weird.)

I sometimes wonder whether bereavement is not, at bottom, the easiest and least perilous of the ways in which men lose the happiness of youthful love. For I believe it must always be lost in some way: every merely natural love has to be crucified before it can achieve resurrection and the happy old couples have come through a difficult death and re-birth. But far more have missed the re-birth.
~ CS Lewis in a letter to Sheldon Vanauken, from A Severe Mercy.

I declare that The Deathly Snows is officially the saddest chapter that ever was penned. I cried until my eyes were sore. But it is a splendid book.

Shakespeare, 7th July

                               If I am
Traduced by ignorant tongues which neither know
My faculties nor person, yet will be
The chronicles of my doing,--let me say
'Tis but the fate of place, and the rough brake
That virtue must go through.

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

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Shakespeare, 6th July

To do obsequious sorrow: But to persevere
In obstinate condolement, is a course
Of impious stubbornness: 'tis unmanly grief;
It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, or mind impatient.

Hamlet, Act i., Sc. 2.

Friday, July 05, 2013

My sunshine - Friday afternoon music

It's been nice to see the sun again here this week, after days and days of rain, to go outside to run or walk without a soaking. It seems rather apt that I stumbled upon this golden old song, and I like the way The Civil Wars render it.

I like this too, and the folksy guitar.

Friday amusement - something to chew on

I find myself suddenly wanting a set of psychoanalysis pencils. (From The School of Life shop.)

Or if psychoanalysis doesn't take your fancy, how about literary criticism? Or visual arts?

The problem with Feedly

So, I have discovered that Feedly is a TOTAL DISASTER. I made a mistake with scheduling a Shakespeare post last night, as some of you will have noticed, and when I did to it what I would normally have done to remove a post from Google Reader, nothing happened. Then I deleted the post, and nothing happened. Then I realised that changes I made to a post earlier in the week hadn't fed into Feedly either. Basically, it appears that how you first publish a post is how it stays Feedly, forever. This means that every spelling error, every apostrophe you accidentally put in the wrong place (because even the best make the occasional typo), every detail you might later want to remove, is left in Feedly for all time. Readers will need to click through to the original post to see any changes. This, folks, is a nightmare.

Shakespeare, 5th July

A violet in the youth of primy nature,
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The perfume and suppliance of a minute:
No more.

Hamlet, Act i., Sc. 3.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Shakespeare, 4th July

   How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge! what is a man
If his chief good, and market of his time,
Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.

Hamlet, Act iv., Sc. 4.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Because every little boy needs one

You'll just have to excuse me talking about the baby for a few days. I've decided that the first thing I am going to make for this nephew is something every little boy needs: his first soccer ball. This is one I made a few years ago for a friend's baby. I still have leftovers of all this yarn except the beige colour, so I will substitute something else.

Shakespeare, 3rd July

                           O, how wretched
Is that poor man that hangs on princes' favours!
There is, betwixt that smile we would aspire to,
That sweet aspect of princes, and their ruin,
More pangs and fears, than wars or women have;
And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer,
Never to hope again.

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

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

It's a nephew!

So, I have another nephew on the way, which is very exciting! The gender balance is swinging more towards the middle.

I was actually fully expecting it to be a girl, which would have been exciting and lovely also, so I am adjusting. (I deleted my vague medical rambling that was here originally, because I just had second thoughts about posting some things on the internet, and there is not so much to say at present.)

I found these little shoes in a op-shop a while back and bought them because I thought they would do for either sex, but they are a little more on the boy side, which is convenient. I have a "thing" for teeny shoes. Now I know what to keep my eye out for in op-shops (I only pick out the good stuff), and can see what kind of boy things I can turn my crochet to, which will be fun.

A long forgotten poem

On Sunday night I was surprised, and delighted, to see a girl visiting my church who I used to go to church with in Brisbane, currently on furlough from her life as a missionary in an undisclosed location in Eurasia. We hugged and caught up on about ten years of life.

Then sometime yesterday while I was sitting here at my desk I found myself having flashbacks of life in Brisbane long ago. It was a creative gang I hung around with in those days. Those were the people who gave to me the idea of a port and poetry evening, and there were nights in parks and by water of fire-twirling and music and parties decked out with tables for artistic creations. For some reason I had a memory of one particular gathering, at a house lived in by Frances and siblings, which had one such art table set up in the corner of the room. The idea was that during the evening you could sit down and draw or paint, then hang the result on a string across the room. I remember taking a spell there.

I must have been lacking in original ideas that evening, because I have a vague memory that I simply did a stylised version of a print that was hanging on the wall in front of me, which may or may not have been The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, probably in the days before The Kiss by Klimt was ubiquitous. But then, in a fit of some kind of antagonism towards my own doodling, I scribbled these lines underneath it:

It is not fantasy’s hot fire ...
It liveth not in fierce desire ...
It is the secret sympathy ...

But as these lines came to me yesterday, I struggled and thought what is that poem? I used to know it, and now I don’t even remember what it is. Thankfully Google was at my finger tips, and I soon reminded myself that is a portion of the Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott. So, here more of it. I believe I wrote this in a wedding card or two that year.

True love ’s the gift which God has given
To man alone beneath the heaven:
It is not fantasy’s hot fire,
Whose wishes soon as granted fly;
It liveth not in fierce desire,
With dead desire it doth not die;
It is the secret sympathy,
The silver link, the silken tie,
Which heart to heart and mind to mind
In body and in soul can bind.

Sir Walter Scott, Lay of the Last Minstrel. Canto v. Stanza 13.

Shakespeare, 2nd July

   Innocence shall make
False accusation blush, and tyranny
Tremble at patience.

Winters Tale, Act iii., Sc. 2.

A fellow of plain, uncoined constancy.

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

Monday, July 01, 2013

The Google reader finale

I'm waiting to see what actually happens to Google reader. Will it just vanish? I looked at it this morning and got excited that it was all still there, then realised that it is not the 1st of July in Google-land yet.

I think I will run with Feedly. I set up Bloglovin too, but basically you have to click through to the actual blog to read anything. That is not going to happen. And it likes to suggest new blogs for you. I don't need any more blogs! I can understand that people who have some kind of commercial gain attached to their blog might prefer readers using Bloglovin, but it's a pest for the reader.

Till then I shall just wait for Google reader to self-destruct.

Family news

My brother-in-law who left for Afghanistan on Boxing Day is still there. It's been a long, long time, but the countdown for home is now on. The last photo I saw of him I thought he had two black eyes, such were the dark shadows from working nights for months on end with no break. It's also been hard for my sister managing the kids on her own for so long, but this is what she had them up to recently to send him. I know I am biased, but they are so adorable. I love this, and the little scamp on the end with her crumpled paper.

In other news, my older sister is actually going for an ultrasound today, and she is hoping to find out the sex of the baby, and she is going to tell. So exciting! She didn't have a 12-week ultrasound, which I thought was strange, but even the high-risk obstetrician didn't see the need since they weren't going to avail themselves of "options" should there be a problem with the baby. So she is now 21 weeks and this is the first scan. Hopefully they can get a good look at the baby and we shall know before the day is out.

Shakespeare, 1st July

The fields are fragrant, and the woods are green.

Titus Adronicus, Act ii., Sc. 2.

The middle summer's spring.

Midsummer Night's Dream, Act ii., Sc. 2.

(Obviously Shakespeare was written in the Northern Hemisphere, and is not always so apt down here.)