Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The Story of the Bible

I've been somewhere between swimming and sinking for the last few weeks. We received a summons to the Ro*yal Commi*ssion at work a few weeks ago (along with every Anglican Diocese in the country), which has meant vast amounts of extra work, on top of the preparation for the latest ordination service ...

But outside of work the thing that a lot of hours of my life have also disappeared into is this, which I put together with the youth Sunday School class I have led this year for the big service, which was the Sunday just gone. It's the most amateur thing you ever did see, and I have given myself a crash course in iMovie, as well as learning more about teenagers along the way. (After a couple of weeks I realised collaboration was not really set to work, so I gave them all a sheet with a particular section on it, and told them all to go home and get creative and we'd video it, and they mostly came back the next week without their sheets and just read out of my book, but I didn't have time to do anything about that as we only had Sunday mornings, so we made do.) The kid who walks out of view in the out-takes right at the end wanted to take my phone away and just record an audio, and later I discovered his fabulous reading (which I had to work out how to get off my phone and into iMovie!), but I had to then add my drawings for visuals, which I never intended to end up on any video.

We used The Bible Overview material from Matthias Media, supplemented with some of the wonderful Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. See whether you recognise the soundtrack!

(I've put it up as an unlisted youtube, which only those with a link can see, as I haven't yet asked each of the kids for permission to put it on the world wide web which I think I have to do, but if it's gets problematic I might take it away, so now is your opportunity!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

All the painted green things

Like I said on Facebook, if your house is full of random old crap from op shops, I mean vintage retro up-cycled treasures, then chalk paint (a self-priming paint you can slop on anything then say it looks "distressed" on purpose) is your friend. I think I have finally run out of things to paint green.

I bought this old box at a garage sale in Townsville forever ago, which has mostly been under my bed since, but is now the coffee table. I possibly put too much green onto this (it originally had patchy turquoise paint on it), so then I used the dark wax on it to rustic-it-up a little.

This table was a family hand-me-down. Someone had sanded and re-stained the legs but not the top so it looked terrible without something over it.

I got this plant stand for $2 from the white elephant stall at our recent church fete.

When I first moved here I had nothing for a TV, and this shelf was $30 in the local Vinnies and had a hole through the back for cords, so I thought it would do, but it was that yucky orangey pine. It is also really a bit too tall for the telly, but I will deal with that later.

I don't know what I was thinking when I bought this at a garage sale, but it now houses magazine/coffee-table-books or others in progress etc.

I think my Mum got this from somewhere and it had a dark blue sort of wash on it so it went all white. For now it's where the phone and modem live.

I tried some old frames (a good way to get frames for art works is to buy old pictures in op shops and ditch the faded print or canvas painted by someone learning to paint). I'm not sure the linen inserts on these ones work, but anyway.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

On too much gift and longing

A photo posted by Alison Payne (@thisfoggyday) on

I recently read Death by Living, by ND Wilson, again on the bus. There is in it a little section about the yearning felt by Solomon, which is a curious spin on my fascination with CS Lewis’s idea of Sehnsucht, and of all our homesickness here. But read the quote first so you understand what I mean. It’s the last paragraph that’s of interest, but the rest is lead in:
No matter how many pictures we take, no matter how many scrapbooks we make, no matter how many moments we invade with a rolling camera, we will die. We will vanish. We cannot grab and hold. We cannot smuggle things out with us through death.
But this shouldn’t inspire melancholy; it should only tinge the sweet with the bitter. Don’t resent the moments simply because they cannot be frozen. Taste them. Savour them. Give thanks for that daily bread. Manna doesn’t keep overnight. More will come in the morning.

Our futile struggle in time is courtesy of God’s excessive giving. Sunset after sunset make it hard to remember and hold just one. Smell after smell. Laugh after laugh. A mind still thinking, a heart still beating. Imagine sticking your fingers on your pulse and thanking God every time He gave you another blood-driving, brain-powering thump. We should. And we shouldn’t, because if we did, we would never do anything else with our living; we wouldn’t have the time to look at or savour any of the other of our impossibillions of gifts.

My wife and I tend to overgift to our kids at Christmas. We laugh and feel foolish when a kid is so distracted with one toy that we must force them into opening the next, or when something grand goes completely unnoticed in a corner. How consumerist, right? How crassly American.

How like God.

We are all that overwhelmed kid, not even noticing our heartbeats, not even noticing our breathing, not even noticing that our fingertips can feel and pick things up, that pie smells like pie and that our hangnails heal and that honey-crisp apples are real and that dogs wag their tails and that awe perpetually awaits us in the sky. The real yearning, the solomonic state of mind, is caused by too much gift, by too many things to love in too short a time. Because the more we are given, the more we feel the loss as we are all made poor and sent back to our dust.
I think it fits, in that CS Lewis describes feeling this Sehnsucht, this desire, when overcome by a thing of beauty, "the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead", a gift if you will. And the knowledge we have in that moment that such beauty, and more of it and perhaps even a giver of it, exists. But then it’s gone and we can’t get it back – “too many things to love in too short a time” – and we feel it’s loss, as well as a desire for its return. Thus the homesickness comes via the receiving of gifts, but then their loss or their passing in time. We feel the loss as a longing, followed closely by the idea of, and the haunting from, a land of endless gifts, that never “perish, spoil or fade”. It is the gift that rends the veil.

I don’t know whether this makes any sense or means anything at all to anyone else, but I like it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015


I coined a new acronym this evening, on someone's Facebook wall. It is BBF, for Best Book Friend. You read it here first folks. I think there is a post in that. (In context I was referring to Charlotte Brontë's heroines Shirley, Caroline and Jane, and I would add Lucy in too. Every time I read Shirley I just want to be friends with Shirley and Caroline.) I might write that post when I am not trying to figure out how a youth group can make a video for a Christmas service in about four weeks' time. Anyone want to share their BBFs?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

On those things we disinterestedly enjoy

This, friends, is a tapestry – a rather large tapestry in fact – hanging on my wall, that I both like and am embarrassed about. I bought it from a Salvation Army shop when I was driving through Nowra on my last holiday, because I saw it on the wall and liked it. Since then though, some days I look at it and think ‘that is so daggy Alison’ (and given the origins of the word “daggy” there is some truth in that) and ‘it is not even retro cool, it is just out-of-date uncool’ etc. But then I look at it again and I decide I still actually like it. I like the impressionism of the trees and shadows and the light. I am wont to think the Heidelberg School fellows would not entirely disapprove. And I like the colours (a greyish green is my current obsession). Then on the back it says ‘Returning Home’ by WE Mitchell, 92,500 stitches. Perhaps because my life is founded on metaphors the idea of sheep returning home through a dying light appeals to me. I do very much like the idea of sheep (the actuality of sheep, particularly the tall, big-headed Australian merinos blundering about when they have just been shorn is a little different) and of the great Shepherd.

I painted the frame of this tapestry though, as it was wooden with gold edges, and there was a little too much gold blazing in parts of it.

I find there’s a temptation on blogs and social media, at least for me, to edit out, or somehow apologise for, those things that, while I shamelessly enjoy them in private, I know are not in any way going to make me look artsy or stylish (I view enough blogs to know all about mid-century and Scandanavian décor and bright abstract wall art and what is hip and what isn’t – and often feel aware that what I like is not quite that, even while I like some of that but it's just not what I have ended up with in my little house where the only thing in the loungeroom that was bought new is one bookshelf).

At the moment I am re-reading The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, because it was a book club book, and I am very much enjoying revisiting it. I was intrigued again by this little portion, which has affirmed me somehow in my liking of a sheep tapestry, so I am herewith embracing it and showing it to the world:
Of course I know that the Enemy also wants to detach men from themselves, but in a different way. Remember always, that He really likes the little vermin, and sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of them. When He talks of their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves that ever. Hence, while He is delighted to seem them sacrificing even their innocent wills to His, He hates to see them drifting away from their own nature for any other reason. And we should always encourage them to do so. The deepest likings and impulses of any man are the raw material, the starting-point, with which the Enemy has furnished him. To get him away from those is therefore always a point gained; even in things indifferent it is always desirable to substitute the standards of the World, or convention, or fashion, for a human’s own real likings and dislikings. I myself would carry this very far. I would make it a rule to eradicate from my patient any strong personal taste which is not actually a sin, even if it is something quite trivial such as a fondness for county cricket or collecting stamps or drinking cocoa. Such things, I grant you, have nothing of virtue in them; but there is a sort of innocence and humility and self-forgetfulness about them which I distrust. The main who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring two-pence what other people say about it, is by that very fact forearmed against some of our subtlest modes of attack. You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the ‘best’ people, the ‘right’ food, the ‘important’ books. I have known a human defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

My nephew turns two

If you've been reading for a while you will remember the story of my nephew. Well, today he turned two and became the world's most gorgeous two-year-old (proof below - before and after a hair cut). What a little blessing he is. These days you'd never know his early days were so tenuous.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sara Groves - Floodplain

I succumbed to impatience and bought the pre-release of Sara Groves's new album, Floodplain, once I realised that just buying the CD when it was available in Australia would be comparable in  price. She had me with the line "some hearts are built on the floodplain".

I need to keep listening more closely to fully grasp it. But here are some of the lyrics so far, which show why I love Sara (at least I think these are the lyrics, but I could have it wrong).

These patches of joy
These stretches of sorrow
There is enough for today
There’ll be enough tomorrow


How much foolishness and folly
Are allowed in your graceland?
How much doubt and melancholy
Till I’m lost?

As I fall asleep
I have a waking dream
You are standing in the driveway
As I come up the street
I can tell by your movement
You’re not angry
You are waiting there for me

~My Dream

So take up what we’ve be given
Welcome the edge of our days
And in bright sunrise and sunset
By our youth and by our age
Thank God for our dependence
Here’s to our chasm of need
And how it binds us together
In faith and vulnerability

~This Cup

Free days

I’ve been back at work for four days already after my “health retreat”, which is what I called my few days off, with my tongue half in my cheek. But it was very good to have the time off to recalibrate a few things.

Since tearing my calf muscle the running necessarily fell by the wayside, and it was a little difficult to get back into it because I needed to have the time to do that by intervals, which I didn’t really have before work, but during the week off I could just take it slow and make sure the leg would allow me to run without needing to stop. The physiotherapist also told me it would take two to three months to get my fitness back, and I thought ‘what??!!’, but he is probably right because I have been slower than usual.

I also did a lot of home jobs – cleaning up some more plants and pruning the enormous camellias away from the gutters and the neighbours and cutting back the neighbour’s tree in turn, painting more small furniture and picture frames in chalk paint (which doesn’t mean black paint you can write on in, it means a self-priming paint in any colour that you can slop on anything – an op-shoppers best friend!). I am so grateful for my little place here. It’s probably not much by the standard of some Canberrans, but after leaving Sydney, where I couldn’t afford anything at all, I feel like I have a mansion. I have friends living in the inner-west of Sydney with four children in a house smaller than mine (though it would be worth almost three times as much). And once upon a time I might have dreamed of a cottage with a big garden, but the reality is that big gardens are a lot of work on weekends when you have a full time job, so I am happy with my little garden beds and pots. (Some friends from church gave me two Japanese maple trees in pots a few weeks ago that he had grown from seed. Boy was I excited. They are lovely, and the larger size costs about $150 in Bunnings. He didn’t want these ones because they aren’t the right colour and have green leaves, whereas red are to be desired I believe, but I am happy to have my trees with green leaves. I have a box elder maple in the garden which is an environmental pest here and is right on the fence so I will need to get it out, and I am not sad about that now that I have these two other maples.)

The one thing I regret is that I didn’t spend as much time sitting and reflecting and processing as I thought I might, but a week goes quickly. I wanted to sort more through some personal stuff and at work they keep asking me whether I am coping with some of the material we are dealing with and do I need professional supervision of some sort, but so far I feel that I am coping. (The person I work for in this professional standards business goes on “retreat” regularly, but they need to deal with things at a different level to what is required of me.)

So that was the week off. Then yesterday I went on a bushwalk with some colleagues, just out to Booroomba rocks, south of Canberra. It’s beautiful out there and we had a fabulous morning. I am very happy to have found some bushwalking enthusiasts and they were calling it “Ali’s Bushwalking Club”, so I am chuffed that I had a personal bushwalking club, even if it was two people for a day. They are already asking where we are going next, so maybe it will become a real club: bushwalking for weekend sleeper-inners who just want to do a little exploring. When we got to the Namadgi National Park visitor centre there was a group of walkers sitting under the trees with drinks out relaxing and I said to my friends ‘they are probably finished’, because the problem I have found with bushwalking clubs is that they want to begin at some ridiculous hour on a Saturday morning. We met there at 10.30 am, which is much more civil (I just have to get some good clothing to make sure I don’t get any more sun, instead of the old dregs I dug out).

Here are some pictures. None of us are into taking selfies, but we decided to give it a go, with varying success. It was hazy and the light was not the best, but you get the idea. We carried on with the clichés about refreshing our souls and restoring our perspective etcetera, but it works.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The Book of Good Thoughts - Page One

I dug out an old fountain pen a few days ago and scratched this out on the first page of my little Book of Good Thoughts.

(After the rage these calligraphy pens were back when, I couldn't find the right ink cartridges to fit it now and my penmanship is blotchy, but we shall work on it.)

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Tales from family history

My Aunt was going out to Yass on Thursday, so on impulse I decided to go along for the ride. Without looking it up again beforehand, I had a recollection that I had ancestors buried in Yass Cemetery, so we went and had a poke around. The cemetery is quite large and without prior research we just had to wander, but it is also very picturesque and it was quite lovely just strolling about. In it we found the graves of my great great great grandparents and some of their descendants (I've worked out since that my great great grandfather, their son, should be there too, but I didn't see him), then I found my great great grandfather on the other side and his brother (and now I know that great grandfather, his son, should be there also, but I didn't see him either, so I need to go back someday).

But when I got home it got very interesting after I stumbled upon the tale of of my great great great grandfather Jeremiah. After being caught in armed robbery stealing clothes, he was sentenced in York to seven years transportation to Australia and sailed on the ship "John 1" in 1832. He was granted his freedom here in 1838, married and had 15 children (two of whom were still born).

Then, when he was 73 years old, he shot himself. The inquest into his death is actually recorded online. My great great grandfather Hezekiah actually carried him in off the verandah and spoke at the inquest.

It's something amazing when your ancestors can become alive as real living people through their stories. I wonder then how it affected Hezekiah to carry his dead father inside, who had killed himself with his (Hezekiah's) gun.

I love making these discoveries and connections to the past.

Jeremiah's death was reported in the Yass Newspaper on 2nd August 1884, as:
Jeremiah Crossley, aged 73 years, a very old and much respected resident of this district, committed suicide at his residence, Wargeila, this morning, by shooting himself. He had been suffering for some time past from acute rheumatism, and during a severe attack of pain he committed the rash act. Great sympathy is expressed for his widow and family.
Jeremiah's headstone reads:
"O never shall my soul despair,
His pardon to secure,
I know God's only son has died,
That pardon to insure."

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Augustine on loving God and beauty

I am benefitting a great deal from Tim Keller’s book on Prayer (though now to sit down and implement it), and I have appreciated much of the material he quotes from John Calvin, Augustine, Luther, John Owen. But here are two quotes from Augustine on what it means to love God (it’s sometimes so hard to grasp what that means) and how good and beautiful things are encapsulated in it, and on the place of beauty.
But what do I love when I love you? Not the beauty of any body or the rhythm of time in its movement; not the radiance of light, so dear to our eyes; not the sweet melodies in the world of manifold sounds; not the perfume of flowers, ointments and spices; not manna and not honey; not the limbs so delightful to the body’s embrace: it is none of these things that I love when I love my God.

And yet when I love my God I do indeed love a light and a sound and a perfume and a food and an embrace—a light and sound and perfume and food and embrace in my inward self. There my soul is flooded with a radiance which no space can contain; there a music sounds which time never bears away; there I smell a perfume which no wind disperses; there I taste a food that no surfeit embitters; there is an embrace which no satiety severs. It is this that I love when I love my God. (Confessions 10.6.8.)
I think the quote above helps us understand what beauty is a reflection of, which makes the quote below easier to follow.
Wherever the soul of man turns, unless towards God, it cleaves to sorrow, even though the things outside God and outside itself to which it cleaves may be things of beauty. (Confessions 4.10.15)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Prayer - a poem

I am just bushed, is all I've really got to say for myself. I worked all of the weekend before last at our annual Diocesan Synod, which is like an AGM that goes over three days, involving 320 people and all that admin, then I worked all last week, had to go into work on the Saturday morning just gone briefly to assist a meeting (was silly enough to invite people for dinner on Saturday night, necessitating cleaning my whole house, which had gone to the dogs), taught the youth bible class at church on Sunday morning and am now working this week ... But if I can just make it to Friday it will all be worth it as I have the four days next week between the two long weekends off, giving me ten whole days of leisure!

In my brain-fried state I thought it might be time for a poem. Curiously, Tim Keller quotes a survey in his book on Prayer which found that nearly 30% of atheists admitted that they prayed sometimes and that prayer (of some sort) inhabits all cultures. This poet claims she doesn't believe in God, and yet here is a poem on prayer. I don't really know what the ending is supposed to mean but to say that the names in the last line are all outlying places around Britain, and Finisterre in Spain was once thought to be the end of the world.


Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio's prayer -
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.
    Carol Ann Duffy
The Times Saturday Review, 1992

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Book of Good Thoughts

I should perhaps be referring to the Bible with that title, but how fabulous is this little leather-bound journal I received in the mail? It's a belated birthday gift from a dear old friend made by Gild Bookbinders and was purchased in Estonia.

Inside is some Hahnemühle Artist mould-made ivory paper called Ingres from a very old German paper mill, with endleaves of Iokta paper from Nepal.

I am only going to write in it the very goodest thoughts, and I might even use a fountain pen.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A bushwalk

On Saturday I took myself on what may or may not be the first of many solo bushwalks.

I actually got all excited a few weeks ago when I mentioned a walk I wanted to do to someone at work, and they were actually keen to come along, then I found yet another person who was keen to come as well. Bushwalking is one of those things I have mentioned to people over the years, which has not usually met with much enthusiasm, thus the reason for the rejoicing.

So, we planned it about three weeks ago for the Saturday just gone. Then one person was called up on Thursday to “desperately” fill in for music at and event at their church and felt obliged to do so, the other had an engagement party in the afternoon to attend, which was going to make it tight for them anyway, so on Friday we cancelled, with vague plans to go some other time in the future, in and around a whole lot of other events. But that left me with a weekend with no plans at all, so I thought to myself, ‘well, that had been the plan for weeks, I was looking forward to it, I have no other plans, so I am just going to go’.

One of the ways singleness can become somewhat misery-inducing or debilitating is if you are always waiting for someone to be available to do a thing, which can be difficult when dealing with other independent adults, or for someone to give an answer, so you don’t do the thing. Granted, some things are not overly suitable for doing on your own, bushwalking perhaps being one of them, but I decided to give it a go. It was perhaps a little reckless as I am still not finished with the physiotherapy on my leg (and while walking is fine and I have been told I can increase the jogging, I hadn’t really counted on so much calf-stretching climbing up and down rugged steps and over things), I did not actually tell a soul I was going, I had zero mobile phone coverage when I got out there, and I walked right past a big fat red-bellied black snake, which I was a little surprised to see out on only the fifth day of spring. (Black snakes do not particularly concern me. They can be deadly but are typically non-aggressive and fairly predictably found by rivers and creeks – brown snakes, taipans and tiger snakes worry me more.) While driving out there I realised that I had forgotten the snake bandages and the map, so I was hoping I wouldn’t need either.

But I quite enjoyed myself and felt satisfied for having not wasted the day because no-one was available or hadn’t answered ... It was a gorgeous day and it was nice to be out in it.

Without further ado here are some photos. The creek crossing was questionable, and I hadn’t really thought about how much rain there had been recently, but that added to the adventure. But then the sophisticated stile over a barbed wire fence amused me. (The walk was actually a bit odd, and I appeared to be on private land in a cattle paddock for some of it, and there was not so much "bush". It starts from a lookout not far from my house and then a loop begins on the other side of the river, so I came back to the same river crossing from the other direction.)

Below is the meeting of the Molonglo River with the Murrumbidgee River.

I’m extremely naughty because on the way back I noticed a lovely little white flower growing in patches beside the path, and so I stopped to examine it and then actually dug a couple of plants up to bring home (the walk is not actually in a National Park where wildlife is protected). But then when I got home and googled this plant, which I discovered is a native lily called ‘Early Nancy’, I realised it has separate male and female plants, and I had only collected one female. So, because I am now officially the crazy plant lady, and had no Father’s Day plans, I actually went back down the path on Sunday afternoon after church and dug up a couple more female plants (they are very small plants that grow from a tuber underground). I don't know whether they are going to survive yet, but hopefully might sprout again next spring.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

I aspire to a full consent

I’ve been reading Tim Keller’s book Prayer for the last week or so. But I’ve been trying to read it on the bus, which is not really working, and I think I will begin again at home with a pencil and notebook.

It’s both convicting and encouraging – makes one feel like the worst pray-er ever but also gives hope of improvement. In one section he works through what Augustine, Luther and Calvin had to say about prayer, and their treatment of the Lord’s Prayer, and so here is a part from “Thy Will Be Done”:
Luther adds, following Augustine, that without this trust in God, we will try to take God’s place and seek revenge on those who have harmed us. We will be protected “from the horrible vices of character assassination, slander, backbiting ... condemning others” only if we learn to commit ourselves to God. If we can’t say “thy will be done” from the bottom of our hearts, we will never know any peace. We will feel compelled to try to control people and control our environment and make things the way we believe they ought to be. Yet to control life like this is beyond our abilities, and we will just dash ourselves upon the rocks. This is why Calvin adds that to pray “thy will be done” is to submit not only our wills to God but even our feelings, so that we do not become despondent, bitter, and hardened by the things that befall us.
George Herbert expressed it with beautiful economy:

For my heart’s desire
Unto Thine is bent:
I aspire
To a full consent.
(From George Herbert's poem Discipline.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


One of Austin Kleon's newspaper popouts, for the collection (to tie in with the other day's post about the givenness of our lives).
Assigned #newspaperpopoutsA photo posted by Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) on

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Wisps of fog

Some things I have liked on the internet.

From John Dickson’s Facebook page (so half of Christendom has probably read it already). Sometimes I feel so moved by elements of creation. Relating to them as to the gifts of a Lover is a way of seeing that works for me.
In his lecture on Friday evening titled 'Pleasure, Meaning and the Death of God', Yale University professor Miroslav Volf contended for the following vision of the Good Life:

Choosing between 'pleasure' and 'meaning' leads to one of two kinds of nihilism: either the triviality of mere sense sensation or the totalitarianism of obedience. Pleasure without meaning is akin to pornography, addictive but also diminishing. Meaning without pleasure denies ordinary experience and results in the crushing burden of duty. Only the pursuit of pleasure in the context of meaning constitutes true joy. Here, ordinary objects of the world come to possess transcendent meaning. In the Christian vision of the Good Life, human beings relate to created objects as a beloved relates to the gifts of a Lover. The object itself carries both the ordinary sense pleasure of a natural thing and the transcendent meaning of the embodiment of love. Thus, faith in God, far from diminishing one's enjoyment of the things of the world, animates all of life, uniting pleasure with meaning resulting in joy.
This from Ann Voskamp’s Facebook page (in response to the Ashley Madison slogan of “Life is short. Have an affair.” obviously).
yeah, this life is short ... so we'll go ahead & love the people we're with, love the people who make the piles of laundry & throw their shoes off at the door, love the people who hurt in their hurt & love the people who are terrifically hard to love because this is exactly what love terrifically does: Love defies logic.
Life is short -- so we'll live a long & messy faithfulness.
Forgive much because letting go is the secret of holding on. Sacrifice at every turn because this is how to run into your dream destination.
Love somebody even if it seems too late, share a cup of something warm, laugh too loud & believe this is really the life.
Life is short -- so go have a love affair with all of your one miraculous life.
This from Alistair Bain’s Facebook page. I don’t sign off on everything from Frederick Buechner, but he writes some goodness (I’ve posted most of this before, but it has come around again on the interwebs so here it is).
"I have called this book Telling Secrets because I have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell. They are telling in the sense that they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition--that what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are--even if we tell it only to ourselves--because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier that way to see where we have been in our lives and where we are going. It also makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own, and exchanges like that have a lot to do with what being a family is all about and what being human is all about. Finally, I suspect that it is by entering that deep place inside us where our secrets are kept that we come perhaps closer than we do anywhere else to the One who, whether we realize it or not, is of all our secrets the most telling and the most precious we have to tell."

Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

Saturday, August 29, 2015

My prize-winning painting

I neglected to mention some exciting news here. A few months ago Philip Miles posted a painting on Facebook page and I thought ‘oh I really like that one’. Only it said it wasn’t for sale. Then came another post saying it would be in an exhibition. So I wondered whether that might be the reason it was not currently for sale. I decided to send Phil a message anyway, just to let him know that if that painting ever did actually go for sale I would be interested. He then said it was a condition of the exhibition that the paintings were available for sale, and also as an acquisitive prize, but if that didn’t happen I could purchase it. So, basically I had to wait for the first day of the exhibition, see if it was still available, and at that point Phil could buy it for me from. Thankfully that all worked out nicely and I collected the painting on my holiday down in Berry.

It has since won first prize in an Australian Artist Magazine competition in a Landscapes category, so I am now extra chuffed with it.

There is an article in the September 2015 Australian Artist Magazine of some of the inspiration and technique involved, if anyone is interested. It’s called 'The Old Orchard' and is some kind of nostalgic mashup for me. Calls to mind scenes of my childhood and Anne of Green Gables ... It’s also very serene, and features a lot of the greyish green colour that is my current decorating obsession.

Now I just have to muster up the courage to show you what is on the opposite wall, which is something a little odd that I bought in a Salvation Army store.

I have two paintings I paid real money for from artistic friends, and the rest of what I have are op shop finds. The thing about townhouses is that because the side walls are shared and the windows are mostly at each end you get large expanses of wall, and this means much art. I like the gallery wall idea, but I'd say you really need to have all the pieces from scratch rather than just adding things on as you go to make it work.

This is the painting in the frame it came in. It is probably not what I would have chosen, but it works.

Life at 40

A photo posted by Alison Payne (@thisfoggyday) on
A winter rose (hellebore) that I bought as a sorry looking specimen on a "reduced to clear" table at a nursery that has suddenly shot up and flowered in my garden. 

 I like this article by Rory Shiner (and generally appreciate his writing style). So true. You live in hope of many things being part of your story, and then you hit 40 and realise you didn’t come anywhere close, or even begin, and now it’s too late. The things I most wanted to do and be in this life, the obvious things like a wife and a mother, once appeared as real possibilities. Now they look more like highly improbable miracles (it would be a miracle just to be asked on a date, given how difficult that has been in my life).

I’ve had one of those discouraging Saturdays spent entirely by myself, where you're tired enough that it's a struggle not to feel sad about it, but I like this paragraph:
It is striking in our youth-obsessed and potential-obsessed age to note how much of scripture is given over to enabling us to cope with the givenness of life, to name and make peace with the finite set of possibilities each life offers, and to come to terms with our actual circumstances as creatures before God. The psalmist teaches us to “number our days,” (Psalm 90:12) Isaiah reminds us that “all flesh is grass and all its beauty is like the flower of the field/ the grass withers and the flower fades ...” (Isaiah 42:6) and the apostle reminds the Corinthians that the situation in which we were called is a perfectly serviceable situation in which to live out our calling (1 Corinthians 7:17-24).
... Catharsis is better than denial, but better still is to learn to entrust our lives in all their mysterious givenness into the hands of God, who plots our lives, and who envelops our stories into the great Story of his love in Christ.
And so I will trust that this is how God meant it to be and go to work on my Sunday School lesson.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Intuition and the right side of the brain

I thought I’d start a little collection here of material about intuition and brain hemispheres, as I try to work out the connection between the two (it’s obvious that intuition is correlated with the right hemisphere, but I am vague on why that is so).

I mentioned I received Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards, by request, for my birthday. Block your ears while I blow my trumpets, but I was good at realistic drawing at school, drawing whatever was placed in front of me. What I didn’t realise is that that was such a right-brain activity, but it is, because it’s all about visual perception of space and light and shadow and of relationships etc. Then good old Myers-Briggs has me way out there on intuition, but exactly what that has to do with it I don’t know.

Anyway, I was simply thinking that I’d like to do more drawing again, and was probably horribly out of practice, because I haven't actually drawn much in years, when I got this book. I didn’t realise it would contain so much theory about the mind and it’s activities (and she is making a case for the skills used in drawing, particularly perception, being effectively transferrable to other areas of life). But I am finding that quite fascinating. Here are some quotes:
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.
Albert Einstein
Over the centuries of history, The Master (the right hemisphere) has seen his empire and powers usurped and betrayed by his Emissary (the left hemisphere).
Iain McGilchrist, psychiatrist and Oxford Professor, from his book The Master and His Emissary (Yale University Press, 2009)

I've got no idea where I am going with this. I'm just collecting.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

My Celtic gene

After alluding to it, I should probably end the story of medical abnormalities, in case anyone was wondering. As I mentioned, when I went to emergency with a torn calf muscle, it soon became my pulse rate and my ECG that was the cause for concern. This led to a follow-up ECG, blood tests, more blood tests, a 24-hour heart monitor, all mixed in with an ultrasound on my leg and other doctor and physiotherapist appointments for that. So time consuming! I don’t know how people with ongoing medical problems keep up. Along the way the doctor mentioned structural heart problems, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases (I told her those would be unlikely!) ... So, you know, there wasn’t much left out of the range of possibilities. And then I’d get texts telling me to make an appointment to review test results and I’d have to then wait a couple of days for the appointment, which was a torturous method.

But in the end it is all OK. The first lot of blood tests showed that my iron levels were elevated (which can be the result of malignancy or infection, thus the cancer and STD ideas), which led to further blood tests. The results of all of those were perfectly fine, only my gene typing revealed that I have a heterozygous H63D gene for haemochromotasis. But so do one in five Caucasian Australians, so whoop de do really. If you have Celtic origins you might too. As I don’t have homozygous genes (and generally it is the C282Y homozygous combination rather than the H63D that actually gives people haemochromatosis) I am unlikely to have significant iron-loading problems.

If you have never heard of haemachromatosis and you are a Caucasian Australian, let me suggest you take a quick look at this website and this document. I believe they have routine screening for this condition in some countries where it is common, as the benefits of knowing early are huge, before you start loading iron in your heart and liver where it can cause significant damage before you are aware of it. Curiously too, haemochromatosis can be the cause of chronic fatigue and other fairly generic symptoms.

So, that was all nothing much. My iron saturation level was a little high though, which I don’t particularly like, so I might see what I can do about it (and stop scoffing Vitamin C tablets through winter, which increase iron absorption). I was feeling a little on the tired side before I tore the muscle, and actually thought they might tell me my iron was low, as not so many years ago that was the case, which makes it seem strange that it is now high, so who really knows (perhaps I'll blame the Vitamin C), but I will have my iron levels checked regularly.

Then I wore the holter monitor for my heart, and while I have fairly frequent ectopic beats there were not enough over 24 hours for that to be a concern (you apparently have to get to about 6,000 in 24 hours before they consider those a problem). There too, haemochromatosis can actually give you heart arrythmia, so that could have explained it, only I don’t actually have haemochromatosis (I wonder about the effects of iron saturation though).

So, I am thankful for those results. The whole process was a little sobering along the way. Even when I tore my muscle, when I was finished in emergency and needing to get home I checked with my Aunt and Uncle, but they were already on their way to the coast to see their daughter, then I called some friends, but they were caught up with their own stuff and kids, and so I just sat there wondering what to do and eventually called a work colleague, who then left work in their lunch hour, came and got me and dropped me home and then went back to work, which was extremely kind of them. In hindsight I should have just called a taxi, but for some reason I didn’t think of that at the time. And then I had two weekends at home without being able to drive, but worked out that I could get to the shops on one crutch, which would give me one hand to carry a bag of groceries home (and when my Aunt and Uncle came back my Aunt was fabulous at driving me to medical appointments, otherwise that would have been another level of difficulty). It all made me realise the limitations of my current living arrangement, and that of anybody who lives alone. Not that I know what else to do about that as I don’t particularly want to find temporary flatmates for the rest of my life, and there is no guarantee that a flatmate would be of any assistance in a time of need in any case. So, while I was fairly optimistic about the proceedings, I was forced to wonder, just occasionally, how I might manage it if I needed treatment for something like cancer, but thankfully that is a bridge I didn’t have to cross.

After each text message and before the actual appointment I’d tell myself that God was still good no matter what happened and I could deal with what came my way with his help, then when I finally got to the end there was nothing to contend with, so that is a relief.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Therapeutic Superstition - a Saturday read

Last night I went with friends to see a performance of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, acted by Julian Lamb and accompanied by David Pereira on cello. This was, as you might imagine if you know the poem, quite surreal. As the leaflet said: "We hope that combining the music and text will enable you to receive the text more like a piece of music: something which does not have a clear meaning, but which can nevertheless have a powerful effect on you." The acting was marvellous and the music worked beautifully, so you had to leave in some way affected, even if you hadn't the faintest idea of why.

Afterwards we were having a rambling sort of conversation that may or may not have been the product of such a performance and talking about intuition and the brain and how we know things ... I happened to mention that I got the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards for my birthday, one thing lead to another, then these friends sent me an article by David Bentley Hart called Therapeutic Superstition, about a man named Reuben. I love it. If you are a die hard rationalist it is probably not for you, but I suspect the die hard rationalists left this corner of the internet long ago.

(And lest you think it is all greyness here, above is another painting I bought in an old wares shop, to show I have a little sunshine and happiness.)

Saturday, August 08, 2015

New toys

For something just a little brighter than the other day, I have some new toys that were birthday gifts of sorts.

I don't think I have yet shared the fabulous news that my sister and brother-in-law and their three children are moving here next year. I am so excited about living in the same city as immediate family for the first time in many years and being able to spend time with the kids.

So, this is something I found on Etsy, which started from a quest for a fairy mailbox for my garden. I found this toy mailbox instead from Needle and Nail and thought it was great, with a flag to raise when there is something in it. I have this idea that when the kids come over to Aunty Ali's house they can put things in it, and I can leave things in it for them. Just little notes, or rocks or stickers or whatever.

It reminds me of Jo and Laurie's exchanges in Little Women, and I love such things. I am a written-communication kind of person - it's just who I am and how I like to do things - but I accept that not everyone is (I believe there are people out there who like to use the phone, but I am definitely not one of those, and if there is any other way to do things I won't call), and I expect one or two of the kids might be more into this than the others. Hopefully it's just fun, and if it becomes in any way problematic or unfun I can just stop it.

I also got myself some Lego. These kids are also totally into Lego, and I actually gave this to my niece for her birthday, but I have always wanted it myself too. So here is my Lego, for imaginary holidays.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The darkness in every one of us

Oh my. Last night I read this article by Helen Garner, based on her address at the Sydney Writer's Festival titled 'How Can We Write About Darkness?' on the 21 May this year.

After years of editing Federal Court judgments (the reports written up, usually by judge's associates, after a court case) and now digging through historic church files, it all resonates with me, particularly that it is for the most part very ordinary humans who commit crimes and do foolish things, not a separate race of "monsters" (though of course there exist people with very significant problems who do very evil things).

I'm just parking this here for future reference mostly, but here are a few portions (and there are interesting things in it on when ordinary men might become dangerous - 'men whose hearts are broken by rejection and by the loss of their children, and who can’t even begin to articulate their pain and rage' - on why politicians might say seemingly clumsy things warning women against doing things alone):
I’m interested in apparently ordinary people who, under life’s unbearable pressure, burst through the very fine membrane that separates our daylight selves from the secret darkness that lives in every one of us.
Why are we ever surprised by the scorched earth around a broken family? Our laws and strictures and conventions have no purchase on the dark regions of the soul into which we venture when we love.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

A birthday

It was my birthday on Thursday. I had a nice day. I didn’t actually “do anything for my birthday”, but I have decided that the way to manage birthdays is to banish all expectations of extraordinary celebrations or being spoilt by anyone in particular (it is none of my business in the slightest, but it bugs me when people write on Facebook walls of those with family ‘hope your husband/wife/kids spoil you today’ as though to publicly guilt the husband/wife/kids into such a thing, and then follows the obligatory post of the ways the birthday haver was spoilt by said husband/wife/kids - and those spoiling posts are then conspicuously absent from single folk’s birthday walls, as it is a truth universally acknowledged that there is no-one under any particular obligation to spoil single people, but that is actually OK as I doubt feeling entitled to be spoilt ever did anyone any great good).

When I arrived at work my computer screen was surrounded by post-it notes saying happy birthday, executed by our young receptionist, who had come to work especially early to do so (this is a big sacrifice for this personage). I also had a packet of chocolate-coated scotch fingers. I don’t know about offices the world over, but in our office it is a great prize if you get to the newly-filled biscuit barrel in time to get one of the few scotch fingers in Arnott’s Family Assorted. I try not to eat the biscuits for starters, and I rarely happen upon the biscuit barrel when it contains a scotch finger, but one day last week I did, and I came back to my desk gloating about this triumph and spouting something so profound and world-changing as ‘the only thing better than a scotch finger is a chocolate-coated scotch finger’, so I was given a whole packet! I was moved.

Then there was a cake, of which I wish I had a photo, as I have also, at some time past, espoused the virtues of chocolate caramel slice. So this cake was a tower of small squares of brownie transitioning into chocolate caramel slice near the summit, with candles protruding randomly from the slopes. It was quite the work of art. There was an office celebration, and the Bishops were late to the singing of happy birthday (because they came out of a meeting especially) so I got an extra Episcopal rendition. Then one of the three people I work for took me to lunch, despite being exceptionally busy. I was also given a weeny pottery plate and some flowers from two colleagues, which I put in my new vase (Country Road sent me an email containing a $20 voucher because I had a store card and it was my birthday, so I gleefully trotted over there one lunch break and got myself a nice ceramic vase).

And my lovely family sent me things in the post and I have bought myself a number of treats lately (I haven’t yet revealed to the blog my other current obsession with buying old paintings in op shops/old wares shops, and painting the frames with chalk paint, so last weekend I took myself to a paint shop, and I have been having fun with a couple I bought on holidays as well as painting old wood frames I’ve had for years).

So, I think this counts as a good day.

I’m endeavouring to be increasingly thankful for the small blessings, which are everywhere, and in that spirit, here is a poem by Christina Rossetti. Well, it’s actually not about a small thing, but not to worry. It's more about seeing beyond the small things to the big thing. Most scholars believe this is written not about romantic love at all, but is linked to her faith. It is written like a hymn, and Christina (we are on first-name basis) uses “birthday” in other poems to refer to the second coming of Christ, which is hinted at here in the description of the throne in the second verses, containing biblical imagery (this is one of the better short online analyses I found).

- Christina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird
    Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
    Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
    That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these,
    Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a daïs of silk and down;
    Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
    And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
    In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
    Is come, my love is come to me.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The crazy plant lady

I am beginning to wonder whether the crazy plant lady is a thing. If so she visits here.

I have some friends who have been in Australia with the American Foreign Service, who are about to move back to the States. This part of the story is terribly sad. When I arrived at an evening church one long weekend with nothing else to do, it was this friend who invited me to join a book club, then invited me to a thanksgiving dinner at their house. She's a quiet and unassuming yet generously friendly person, who studied literature and has interests and a way of seeing that share common ground. There have been good times and good conversations and we are all going to miss them.

But in the process of them moving some electrical appliances were up for grabs, so I put my name against a couple if no-one else wanted them, but it was the bonus things that came my way that I got really excited about. The first one is a lime tree! Oh the joy. I have been saying ever since I moved that I wanted a lemon or a lime tree, or both, in my courtyard, and now I have one. The other surprise was a living Christmas tree in a pot. My Mum has said she is not having Christmas at my house unless I have a proper tree. Now I have a real and proper tree! I have a suspicion that a possum or a cockatoo has had a go at this tree, as it's a bit scrappy and has outgrown its pot, and the lime tree is not looking its best either, but I am into plant rehabilitation, which I think tips me over the line to crazy plant lady. (Another friend gave me a gardenia that was dying and said 'take it away and keep it alive'. So far so good.)

So, I collected my freebies yesterday afternoon, and when I got home from church last night I consulted my The Canberra Gardener book and spent time on google working out where best to put them (it turns out citrus trees don't like the frost - that messes with a plans a little, but I have a place - also conifers like full sun). What am I becoming? But google is the friend of novices, and when all else fails read the instructions. This also applies to plants.

The other thing I collected was a little charcoal grill smoker thing, of the likes of which I have never seen before. The husband of this duo is from Texas (the wife is from Oregon), so I am curious to try to smoke up some kind of Texas BBQ. (Do you know that in the States you can buy "liquid smoke" - it's some kind of cooking ingredient of questionable composition that makes food taste smokey. I had no idea this was a thing.)

Goodbyes are terrible, but it's nice to have these mementos.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturday night wisps

One of my large camellia bushes has begun flowering and is this rather spectacular cerise colour.

So, it's been an unusual couple of weeks. It turns out that what I did in my Friday morning adventure of the last post is tore my calf muscle, the medial head on the gastrocnemius muscle to be precise. In the sports doctor's words "it's not a large tear, but unfortunately it's in a fairly crucial place", near where the muscle adjoins the tendon (and my Achilles tendon was a little swollen but otherwise fine). But it will all be fine and is coming along nicely. I just need to go gently on it and see a physio for a few weeks and should be back to being able jog etc. So I am pleased about that (and also pleased that I can now drive the car again!).

I am still getting to the bottom of the some other abnormalities, but until then it could be anyone of a vast range of things or next to nothing, so I won't drag you through all that (and I will also try to resist googling every known possibility and carrying out extensive self-diagnoses).

I've read a number of books lately that haven't had their moment here, but I just thought I'd drop in for now with a couple of links that align nicely, namely:

- this post by Ann Voskamp for when things aren't working out as we'd hoped (I have racked up  experience with that silence - those times when you work up the courage to send the email or make the call, only to find that you are not deemed worthy of a real response - and the idea of waiting and living with an open hand is one I keep coming back to, and I like the reminder that God himself wants to be our answer).

- and this one by Tim Challies on Why God Makes You Wait, with the same reminder that "a frame is better than a fruition".

My Sunday School class resumes in the morning after a term break. I had decided to take them through The Bible Overview material and have since discovered that the big story of the bible is one of the ten formational pillars to come out of the Here to Stay work, of those things that keep young people engaged with the faith, so that is a heartening coincidence and I will do what I can towards that end.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Keeping the good news the good news

The last few days of my life haven’t gone entirely as planned, beginning with my first ever ride in an ambulance on Friday morning. After being at work till quarter to ten the night before for a meeting,I turned off my alarm the next morning, then overslept and was running late, so was then literally running for the bus in the rain, and as I sped up over the median strip of the road I felt something snap in the back of my leg, which then ceased to function as per usual. But I kept on hobbling to the bus, then once on the bus I found myself feeling simultaneously nauseous and faint and had to dig for tissues to mop my face when I started to sweat profusely, but not knowing what else to do I stayed on the bus. Then after getting off the bus I had to just stand on the pavement, thinking ‘oh my word’. I struggled to make it across to my work building foyer, where I sank into a seat feeling quite faint unwell. So, when I made it up the lifts, I flopped in my desk chair, then signaled to a girl at work who was formerly a nurse when she came through the door, and she actually decided to call an ambulance. 

This was perhaps an unnecessary drama, as I think I just need some time to get over the initial pain and the physical stress of trying to walk on my leg, but off I went. Then, curiously, once I made it to emergency, it soon became my heart rate they were concerned about, which was down around 40 beats a minute (when as I understand it you get a rapid heart rate if in shock, not a slow one). So I had an ECG, which was taken off to the doctor, who then told me she was going to get her boss to look at it. Eventually I was cleared to go as they said I must just have resting bradycardia because I am “fit”. I like to think I am reasonably fit, but I don’t know about that fit. So I am yet to have an ultrasound on my leg as an outpatient and still don’t know whether I have partially torn my achilles or torn my gastrocnemius (I am actually blaming some recent squats for that, rather than simply the run to the bus, and it is not too bad now, so I am hoping it's the latter), so I have to get that seen to and also take my ECG to my GP for any follow-up (I think I have always had a slow pulse, and am not much concerned about that, but will get it seen to in any case). I can’t drive with my messed up right leg, so instead of going over to the coast for a family birthday party and doing other things, I have mostly stayed home for the weekend, shuffling about and using crutches when necessary, and have to work out how I am actually going to get to these medical appointments.

But that perhaps serves as something of a segue into something more interesting than more diarising of my life. I am currently reading Vanishing Grace, by Philip Yancey, for a book club I am in (I am now in two monthly book clubs, and don’t know that I am always going to keep up with the prescribed reading). The first part of this book looks at why the good news of the gospel is no longer perceived as being good news in many cases, and he writes something that I find rather apt to certain current debates being raged around the interwebs.
Theologian Miroslav Volf describes evangelism as ‘sharing God’s wisdom’. The God who created human beings knows what kind of life works best for us. Some things are obvious – don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t murder – and human society clearly works better that way. Some things are counter-intuitive: care for the vulnerable, find your life by serving others, forgive when wronged, love your enemies. Yet that way of life ultimately proves most satisfying, for in following it we become the people God intended us to be.

As my aging body needs attention and repair, I have increasing appreciation for one of the titles given to Jesus: the Great Physician. A doctor cannot heal unless the patient presents a complaint ...

Each time I visit my doctor for a check-up he goes through a list of questions that in any other context would seem intrusive ... I take no offence at his prying into my personal life because I know we have the same interests at heart: my health.

When I am recovering from an injury my doctor gets even bossier ... [After breaking his neck] I accepted his counsel because I recognised that he was prescribing what was best for me and not just depriving me of pleasure.

The oft-misunderstood Christian notion of sin makes many people uncomfortable. Indeed, it establishes a clear line of accountability – but to a God who loves me and has my best interests at heart. Again the parallel to a doctor applies. Coming from a strict church background, I missed this good-news aspect of God’s wisdom. I thought of God as a cosmic policeman enforcing arbitrary rules rather than as a doctor who wants me to thrive. My conversations with the uncommitted convince me that many people have a similarly erroneous concept of sin. At the heart of sin lies a lack of trust that God intends the best for us.

... Human rebellion began in the Garden of Eden when God said in effect, ‘Trust me. I know what is best for you.’ Adam and Eve failed the test, and we have paid the consequences ever since. Today, some likewise insist that we humans should decide for ourselves what is best. A damaged human making that judgement is like a alcoholic deciding whether or not to drink. For our own well-being we need to trust God for basic guidance about how to live.
Also, here's a video that I find helpful in current times. Some might object to the category of 'brokenness' he's using here, but I will let him speak for himself.

Vaughan from Living Out on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Magpies - a poem

Today I have been pottering around and painting things green. I bought a pot of green paint when I was leave and turned it into chalk paint, and if I don't get to the end of the tin soon everything that's not moving might end up green. But I will show those things when I have restored order, as in the process of pulling everything out of things to be painted I have made a huge mess, not to mention the mess in the kitchen from the actual painting. (I have discovered the secret of getting things done — it is to just dive in and do it at any old time the fancy takes you, make whatever huge mess is necessary in the process, be done with it, then clean up afterwards.)

But it is time for a poem. I have a friend who is teaching her children to recite poetry (I love that) and the other evening during dinner her nine-year-old recited Magpies, by Judith Wright. The magpies where I live are very "friendly". I suspect someone was or is feeding them, as they swoop in whenever I am outside, with those greedy eyes described. But is is true that few others can rival their song. There is one warbling out my window in the dying sun right this minute. (And these are a few phone snaps I took today as they followed me up the path from the shops with bold intensity, because I was eating something, and sat about on my back fence, before flying off to sing on the neighbour's aerial.)


Along the road the magpies walk
with hands in pockets, left and right.
They tilt their heads, and stroll and talk.
In their well-fitted black and white

they look like certain gentlemen
who seem most nonchalant and wise
until their meal is served—and then
what clashing beaks, what greedy eyes!

But not one man that I have heard
throws back his head in such a song
of grace and praise—no man nor bird.
Their greed is brief; their joy is long.
For each is born with such a throat
as thanks his God with every note.

Judith Wright

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The home improvement week

My own blog reading has slipped terribly, so you all have my sympathies and a free pass to skip this diarising (I will write about books or something else soon), but I have now reached the end of home improvement week, and am feeling pleased.

Monday was to be gardening day, as Tuesday and Wednesday were originally forecast as wet, so my amazing and generous Aunt came around, bringing a crowbar and mattock, and we set to work (she actually loves being involved in “projects” and volunteers to do so, and said to me ‘you know I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it’). I should have taken before and after shots so the magnitude of this day could be appreciated. The first job was to remove the three understory camellias out the front, but when I did a little preliminary digging on this I discovered that at least two of them were suckered off giant roots close to the surface from the two monster camellias. So, one was totally unsalvageable, because it was just sprouting from a long piece of root we cut out, another had a few little roots connected to it so has been transplanted out the back, with a hope and a prayer, and so far still lives, and I took a few little bits with roots off the third and potted those, and my Aunt then took the large bush home to have a go at it. Next we pulled out a ragged old photinia out the back, that was way too big for the garden bed (and found three nice old china saucers buried in the dirt underneath it!), and next was trying to clean up the jasmine next to the garden shed, which we ended up having to remove completely, as it was beyond control, a huge tangled mess behind the shed and busting up the fence. (When I spoke to the old lady next door she said this place was actually empty for about 12 months before the family put it on the market, which explains why parts of the back yard were a bit crazy.) Underneath the big mound of jasmine was a large old stump, that had been there so long the paving was done around it, and my Aunt says ‘we can just take small steps and have a go at it’ and before the day was out we’d chipped the whole top off it, and I have four bags of the pieces we splintered off in the shed waiting for my fire pit. So, I was amazed we got so much done and particularly that stump out, and am very thankful to my Aunt for the help.

Here are a couple of pics of my Aunt in action on the stump, with the remnants of the jasmine, then the next one shows three camellias on the left. That tall one staked on the end of the garden bed is one of the “saplings” that was growing up under the others, which will give you some idea of how tall they are. The two in the large pots are small pieces off the other (and I would like a nicer table and chairs eventually!) and next to that is the square of dirt that was once the old stump. I now have seven camellias out the back, mostly in pots, which is a bit excessive, but will wait to see what colour they all are before I decide what to do.

Tuesday I took one last load of green waste to the tip (after two trips on Monday afternoon), cleaned up a few things in the garden, then wizzed in to Bunnings to get paint for the next job. Tuesday afternoon a friend was going to come for a visit. She has just returned from six weeks in hospital treating post-natal depression, and is wonderfully frank about that experience. She was coming at two, but it turned out her baby was having an epic sleep, so at four she still wasn’t here and we rescheduled. That was frustrating at the time, but I understood and there was no way I was going to begrudge the baby or the mother that sleep after all the dramas they’ve lived through. So, I set to work on chalk painting furniture as soon as I knew she wasn’t coming.

Wednesday morning was more painting, then lunch with the rector, assistant minister, and families and children’s minister, in my youth minister role, for us all to talk about what we’re doing. Then Bunnings visit the third (I think!) for a replacement jasmine, which I decided to plant on top of that old stump to grow along the fence, and more painting/waxing furniture.

Thursday was bed shuffling day, so I dismantled the single bed in my room (which is all I’ve ever had, because in share housing you don’t have beds bigger than you need them), to be reassembled in the spare room, and then put together a queen bed I bought on ebay a few months ago in my room, because my Aunt and Uncle had given me a mattress for that. So, my Aunt came around in the middle of this process also, and I’d said to her on the phone that we might have time for an “adventure”, as she calls them, in the afternoon. So after dragging furniture and mattresses about we went to the Strathnairn art collective and had a look around the gallery and the studios before having a cup of tea out on the lawn. It was a gorgeous day and that was a lovely place to spend some of it. Then we just went for a bit of a drive in the countryside out the back of Hall, which is very picturesque. Here is proof.

Friday morning my rescheduled friend came around for a coffee and chat, then I hit the shops to get ingredients for a dinner party that evening. My book club has been reading the book Bread and Wine, by Shauna Niequist, about food and community, so that night we got together and everyone had to bring along a dish made from one of the recipes in the book. The food was very American and a little strange, but I took dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in bacon as an appetiser, then a white chicken chili soup style thing. Interesting. We have a fabulous evening of feasting together, and I have been inspired to get my act into gear on the hospitality front.

Saturday was prepping for youth group, which was revision on the Sermon on the Mount for the last week of term, then my Uncle and Aunt came around and my Uncle and I went off to Bunnings to return the garage door knob, which had failed, and get a replacement and put that on (I’ve had a few door-lock dramas, but hopefully they are now good), while my Aunt stayed here and planted little surprises in my garden, then a dinner organised by a fellow at church who does a summer and winter solstice event every year.

So I feel like another week off would be nice to do a little more relaxing, now that the majority of the home improvement jobs are done. I knew the week would disappear very quickly. I was going to do things like go see a movie, which I never got around to. I realised that I have only seen one movie since moving to Canberra, when a friend from Sydney was visiting. It’s another one of those things that, without someone obvious to go with, I just don’t do. I guess I don’t particularly enjoy seeing movies on my own or I would (as I can trust my own self-indulgence that far), but I was going to do it this week. (There’s always the guy who said I could call him, but I am not going to do that. I think if he meant anything by that he’d have called himself, not let so much time go by waiting for me to do it, and if he didn’t mean anything by it then I'm not going to make a mess by calling, which would then be all my fault for calling, and after bad experiences in the past I don’t do phone calls in any case – if I had an email address or we were Facebook friends I might have dropped a line to see whether I’d get an answer (though I’d rather not initiate anything at all), but I'm not making phone calls.) Then there's my ridiculous yarn stash, which I also didn't get to.

All up it’s been a good break though, in terms of getting the things done I wanted to get done. I am loving my little town house, more so after having spent a week at home in it. For the money I had to spend I don’t think I could have done better. I believe I have one of the best units in the complex (there are a number of different floor plans, some of which are a bit nonsensical, and mine is set back a ways because there is a strip of visitors parking out the front so I am not so close to the people opposite me, and my aspect is the best and I love the back end of it facing north, and the neighbours behind are lower set, so I don’t look into their windows out mine etc), and it has turned out be so convenient to facilities, yet also so close to some lovely countryside. Perfect. And having my Aunt and Uncle live reasonably close and be so willing to help has been an absolute godsend. I hardly know how I’d have done it with out them.

Now I just have to change gears for work tomorrow.