Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Lord is my Illumination


I feel like I have been in a little bit of a funk thus far this January. Hanging about at home trying to think of things to do, murmuring resentments to myself at times about circumstances not going well, that sort of thing (I have been reading, and lately finished The Light Between Oceans and The Little Prince, but will leave that out for now). Sometime late last year I dropped the habit of reading blogs, which had some positives, but I have realised it had some negatives also, namely that reading well-chosen blogs can serve to lift your gaze out of your own pathetic little life. Last night after sitting on the couch staring into space I flicked into feedly and read a few choice blogs and realised particularly what I’d missed.

I read this post on Lanier’s Books, which was beautiful as always, with the challenge to believe that God loves us as much as he says he does and to take the joy the he holds out. I loved the story of the small child's joy at Christmas, and when she wrote this—
So lately come from God herself, she was the closest of all of us to the mystery we were celebrating. Whether she could ever comprehend it or not, her innocent antics woke an elemental gladness in me that the darkness absolutely cannot extinguish. That Light is just too faithful.
—I feel to wondering. I had also just read the story Jesus told about coming to him like little children, with their exemplary trust in him. We tend to think that children are trusting and full of wonder because they’ve yet to be tainted by this old rotting earth, but could it be that perhaps it’s because of where their souls have lately been? I guess we’ll never know. I for one can’t remember. I pondered in what state people might exist before they physically exist, and where it might be that they come from. Then my brain ached.

I read some of Don Miller’s latest posts in the lead up to the release of his book Scary Close, about relationships, which began to make me feel a little healthier and less toxic on the inside.

I was also musing more on that light that darkness cannot extinguish, which is a symbol that keeps appearing lately.

So, feeling rather more refreshed and internally dusted, I turned on a Life is Beautiful CD, from ABC Classic FM, and read an essay called Dominus Illuminatio Mea, by Sarah Clarkson, from Molehill Volume 1, which is a little personal essay about an essay that she wrote for Oxford on CS Lewis and beauty, which started with the problem—
Sometimes I feel that there is an impossible divide between the scholar who works to know what is sure and the dreamer who knows what is voiceless but true. I hunger to understand what beauty communicates and how it may be set against all that is known by the stricter articulation of logic and reason.
—and shows how the tension of beauty pulling against the truth of mere reason prompted Lewis’s own journey to faith, as many will have read in Surprised by Joy. Some of what else she discusses along the way is perhaps more interesting, about the knowledge of experience and language of beauty etc, but when she reads Dominus Illuminatio Mea, meaning The Lord is my Illumination, carved into one of many walls at Oxford, she concludes:
I see that throughout its many centuries of scholars, the wisest in Oxford have been those who understand, as Lewis did, that in every facet of our life and experience, in every nook of the world, in every last depth of study, in every sentence of a book, God reaches out to our minds, our souls, our beings. God illumines me through the crisp, marching order of words that speak his logical truth but also through the taste and touch of the earth, the dim nights and bright mornings, the dusky enchantment of music, the force of love given and received, and again through the words in which I cup these experiences. One in the other, the knowing of mind taking hands with the knowing of heart, each flowing in and out of the other, but always expressing the one, great fact of God. There is no division, for every word and wonder in the universe means and speaks God’s love and presence in the life of the world.

Lewis knew this. His faith in God was founded on his acceptance of the fact that life is ultimately something we may only enjoy from inside of experience [by stepping into that sunbeam, not simply observing it]. God is the one speaks us into being and sets us in the midst of a world of metaphors that speak forth his goodness and point ceaselessly back to their Creator. We cannot stand apart from our own being and analyze our existence. We can only experience the world and the words given to us by a Mind greater than our own. To believe in God is to know ourselves readers in a vast realm of metaphor. Every touch of truth, goodness, or beauty is one more facet of God’s ceaseless communication.

I knowing this, Lewis reconciled his divided thought. Beauty and truth, logic and joy—they all came from the same great Life beating at the core of existence.
Lest some think I have run off into mysticism or pantheism or any other "ism", in writing that God communicates in creation, it was Mr Calvin himself who wrote:
The creation is quite like a spacious and splendid house, provided and filled with the most exquisite and at the same time the most abundant furnishings. Everything in it tells us of God.
Institutes 1:14

Perhaps none of these fragments will make any cohesive sense to any but me, but I might go through 2015 lighting an evening candle or two and remembering Dominus Illuminatio Mea, with a light that is forever faithful.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How to stay alive

Ah, OK, well that works. Fascinating. So, here is what I actually wanted to share. The great dilemma of my life. As Robert Graves has said, 'there's no money in poetry, but there's no poetry in money, either'. I wonder if having to do a thing is half the ruinous element. Hobbies, folks, it's all about hobbies.

A photo posted by Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) on

Happy belated Australia Day!

This is really just to experiment with embedding instagram pictures. I can't see it here yet, but apparently I have to hit publish for it to be visible (?), so, here is a shot I took of the fireworks by the lake in Canberra. I don't know how I did this on my iPhone, it was an accident, but I like it.

A photo posted by Alison Payne (@thisfoggyday) on

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday night music

I've been enjoying these folks of late. I'm quite taken with the way the violin (I believe this is a violin,  even though the band contains a cellist, as in the live versions the cello is considerably lower (?)) glides and skips through Stubborn Love.



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Miscellany

It’s been a while, and who ever knows what a year of blogging might look like, but here are some miscellaneous bits and pieces at present.

I bought my first ever iPhone on the weekend, and have since lost hours of my life fiddling with it. I have resisted the iPhone for years, saying boo to expensive technology, but because I have a Mac computer I could never get the HTC Sync Manager to talk to it from my old phone, and so had to bluetooth my photos off it etc, and finally I got sick of it all and decided to splurge and upgrade my phone plan. My iPod has also died, so the iPhone is supposed to replace both. I’ve even set up an iCloud account and feel proudly caught up with the universe. (I also tried to take a selfie, but we won't discuss that.) Then I went all out and bought a cover that looks like an old book. I have this nagging suspicion that buying Apple products and then wrapping them in vintage disguise makes me a hipster. Oh well.


I haven’t mentioned that over Christmas I read the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. I got it for Christmas, my brother-in-law swiped it on Christmas day and read it for a few days, then I took it up and read it in a couple of days. Fascinating. It’s about the way the brain makes subconscious and intuitive decisions, and that apparently the more complex the problem, the better the brain performs when it is making these kind of decisions. I actually first became aware of Malcolm Gladwell through Christian online links, as he seems to keep appearing at events with Eric Metaxas, who wrote Bonhoeffer. He's good to read if you enjoy social research. I was also given The Tipping Point, but haven’t read that yet. I’m currently reading The Light Between Oceans, by ML Stedman, another Christmas present. And it’s another one of those books like Coal Creek by Alex Miller where I have slowed down reading in the dread of approaching sorrow. But so far I quite like it.

Bike riding is all very grand — saving the environment, getting some exercise, enjoying the outdoors and fresh air la la — until such a time as you have to stop and fix your bike. Before Christmas I blew out my back tyre on a piece of glass, so then I watched youtube videos on how to fix it, because it has the gears in the hub of the back wheel so I had to work out how to get that off, and twice since then the back wheel has skewed off sideways and been rubbing on the shaft thing, and the other day the chain came off, till I was getting rather fed up with it all. But today an Archdeacon at work, who used to work in a bike shop and still relishes any opportunity to get his hands dirty and tinker with bikes, fixed it properly for me. So, thank the Lord, hopefully now it’s all good.

I enjoy a little interior decorating. My last two home acquisitions have been these frames below. They were both going cheap in the tip shop (a shop in the city that sells things that people take to the dump) because the pictures were damaged. But I don’t want the pictures, and just decided there and then I liked the frames (the picture in one is upside-down because I accidentally put it back in upside down). I am still deciding what to put in them – an artwork or old photo or something else (or just bring back those puffy, shiny country scenes of yore!). I often think my taste is weird, and know there will be some who will look at these and wonder what on earth, but my nieces from Melbourne came to my little place recently and one of them said 'this is like a cozy, funky jazz cafĂ©'. That will do.



I’m currently working on what I call the ‘King St Newtown’ crochet blanket, because all the yarn for it came from Vinnies and the Granny Square on King St in Newtown. Only it is not particularly Newtown-esque, being entirely monochrome, and there is not a lot yet to see. I got a fabulous crochet book for Christmas also, and hopefully that is a project coming soon!

Work is good, though it's been busy with various matters. I consider my job a gift, with the people there and the things I get to be involved in. The Diocesan Bishop is currently on long-service leave, so the Vicar-General that I work for is acting in his place, and I am taking some glee in calling him “my Lord” when I please, because apparently the Bishop of Goulburn was the last Bishop decreed a Lord Bishop by Queen Elizabeth (and that was extended when it became the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn). He responds by holding out his episcopal ring for me to kiss, which of course I don’t, though that is apparently some kind of tradition.

For fans of Bonhoeffer, here is a marriage sermon he wrote in prison that my brother-in-law posted on Facebook. The beginning might jolt some, but read on.

And I should have been saving many other good links over the last weeks also, but didn’t.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

After your father dies

This is one for the Growing up Fatherless archives, which haven’t been visited in some time. Another of the books I took home for the summer book swap at book club was Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. I enjoy her writing (though that is not a complete endorsement of all that she writes), so borrowed it out of curiosity. It’s a kind of anecdotal biograghy that was very easy to read, and I have copied out a few snippets I want to keep. This one from the chapter on Dad, which ventured into the territory of relationships after your father is dead.
He’d almost always be happy to see me. He could make me feel great. It’s so different having a living father who loves you, even someone complex and imperfect. After your father dies, defeat becomes pretty defeating. When he’s still alive, there are setbacks and heartbreak, but you’re still the apple of someone’s eye.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Let it be the one business of my life

Today was my first day back at work for 2015. Boo hoo. I do actually like my job, and the people I work with, but, still, it meant back to spending my time doing what other people pay me to do rather than just amusing myself. I actually ended up with a few days just pottering around home this week. I was meant to have a dear old childhood friend visiting from Saturday to Wednesday, but instead of getting on the plane to come she went to emergency at the hospital, with some disconcerting MS symptoms (she was diagnosed with MS a couple of years ago, which is a shame).

I was so looking forward to having a those days with someone to go places with (I’ve been writing a list since I moved to Canberra) and talk to and this old friend is a kindred spirit, who values and appreciates what I value and appreciate. She was exceptionally bright in school, particularly in maths, so she went off to Sydney to study actuarial studies, because that is what you do if you’re a maths whizz, worked for a year in some high-flying firm in Sydney, loathed and detested it, so she went and did a Dip Ed and she has been teaching primary children at the Christian School back in Tamworth, where she lives in a little old cottage, ever since. And loves it. These days she sends letters full of poetry and personal book reviews and asks me to go along on her overseas adventures (but it’s a while since I’ve had the time or money to be in those).

It’s strange when plans are so dramatically diverted. Obviously God didn’t want her to come to Canberra just now, and I wonder if that’s for my sake or hers, or both. Probably both since it affects us both, and then I wonder why ... But I doubt I am likely to find an answer to that anytime soon.

I did enjoy just mooching around in Canberra all the same. I wasn’t nearly as productive as I thought I could have been with three days off at home, but I did clean out a few things, and found curious writings on scraps of paper scattered about. So here, for a new year, are two quotes from John Wesley that I found on a small red piece of paper for you. I have absolutely no idea where I got them from unfortunately, but I suspect it was from something to do with prayer.
O God, fill my soul with so entire a love of Thee that I may love nothing but for Thy sake and in subordination to Thy love. Give me grace to study Thy knowledge daily that the more I know Thee, the more I may love Thee. Create in me a zealous obedience to all Thy commands, a cheerful patience under all Thy chastisements, and a thankful resignation to all Thy disposals. Let it be the one business of my life to glorify Thee by every word of my tongue, by every work of my hand, by professing Thy truth, and by engaging all men, so far as in me lies, to glorify and love Thee.
John Wesley
Take Thou the full possession of my heart. Raise there Thy throne, and command there as Thou dost in heaven. Being created by Thee, let me live to Thee. Being created for Thee, let me ever act for Thy glory. Being redeemed by Thee, let me render unto Thee what is Thine, and let my spirit ever cleave to Thee alone.
John Wesley

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Because of Winn-Dixie

I was given Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo for Christmas, the story of a motherless little girl who takes up with a stray dog. It's a beautiful little children's story.

Here are a few quotes to give you some idea (sometimes quotes from a book give you more of an idea than an individual review):
Sometimes, it seemed like everybody in the world was lonely.
...

“Do you think everybody misses somebody? ...”

“Mmmm-hmmm,” said Gloria. She closed her eyes. “I believe, sometimes, that the whole world has an aching heart.”
I loved the concept of the lozenge with the taste of sorrow in it, which prompts lozenge-suckers to say things like “it tastes like people leaving” or “it tastes like not having a dog”, which was a lovely way to portray that the sweet and sad of life is all mixed in together.

There is a post on the Rabbit Room called The Joys of Sad Stories, which says “In children’s fiction, nobody does sadness like Kate DiCamillo ... the hurt, the loneliness, and the sadness nourish the souls of characters and readers alike”.

Yes.