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