Wednesday, December 2, 2009

what my mum taught me

We have a choice
to love or hate.
In the end
there's no debate.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hope

is a consuming fire
burning in the heart

catch

Saturday, November 21, 2009

suit or threads

It's almost like we think believing in God and the practise of our faith is about putting on an elaborate suit of clothes that doesn't quite fit. We wear it for a while, but eventually the jacket comes off and the tie loosens and then we realise we just want to get into our trackie daks.

Well I say ditch the suit metaphor. I like the idea of a virtually invisible golden thread. There is a virtually invisible golden thread beside us at all times. If we find it and keep our finger on it we can follow where it leads us, trusting it will take us somewhere good. We follow the thread by asking the part of our heart that yearns for goodness and life what we should do next. If we forget to ask that question and start doing things differently and it all goes pear shaped, sure we have taken our finger off the thread. But its still there, and at any time we can place it back on by asking that question and following the good part of our heart.

This idea stolen from George Macdonald, The Princess and the goblins.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

CT2-C

These four questions are really good for understanding whether your faith is resonating ...

Mystery: Does it touch the core of my being?
Reason: Is it true?
Law: Does it speak authoritatively on real life issues?
Experience: Does it work?

Sometimes the answers will be clear and satisfying for all four questions. Sometimes you will only clearly know the answer to one or two of the questions. Perhaps this means that God will meet you at different points throughout your life.

Good things to ponder.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

brief. all too brief

Today our team debriefed. This week Gilly goes. As Jonno says, we are on a slippery slope heading towards the end. There is much to do (not least with school and studies) but in it all I don't want to forget to keep living the life I came here to experience. A life of learning to laugh and forget myself. A life of discipline and submission. A life of super-fun dancing, singing and eating lollies.

Don't leave me goals. Don't let me leave you!

PS it was with much difficulty that I refrained from pirate speak in this blog. A curse be on ye pirate english facebook

Sunday, November 1, 2009

money dreamin

This morning I engaged in a little flight of fantasy, one with which I suspect we all engage from time to time... what would I do if I had a million dollars? I won't bore you with the details of my 'spendings' because soon after I picked up my book that I am currently reading...

It is called 'How the Irish saved civilisation' by Thomas Cahill, and it details the downfall of the Roman Empire and the way that Patrick took Christianity to Ireland, where it took powerful hold along with Roman literacy, leading to the monasteries, where the work of copying the books of Western Europe subsequently happened.

And so when the barbarians invaded and the Roman Empire fell, and its books were destroyed or left to ruin, a little bank of knowledge, both Christian and Classical, was kept safe in the northwest.

It's a fascinating read, and what has gripped me about it today is the growing realisation that the Romans believed that their way of life was unassailable: they assumed that the social organisation they employed, the comforts they enjoyed could never disappear.

And the implication is clear, that we who rely so heavily on money and financial systems for our power structures and comforts could be taken out as easily, unsuspecting, from behind. Our way of life could actually disappear. It's all the more likely because we can't imagine how it might possibly happen!

So even if I do while away a part of my day imagining what good things I could do with my imaginary million, I hope I can also spend some part of it dreaming about what I can do with the very real gifts in my life: friendship, communication, work, love...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

excerpt from my sermon

"...In the end she could find no compelling reason to stay with the Church. She was disappointed with God’s people. My heart sank as she proclaimed, “It was a real turn off actually.” I wondered where she was up to in relation to the living God now.


I know there would be some that would say that Christianity needs to be more hip and relevant if it is to make significant impact in today’s society. That we need more rock bands, cool haircuts and advertising slogans to give Christianity a good name. Many of you will have taken part in the recent, Jesus! All about life! campaign in the hopes that people would begin to receive a more positive message about our saviour and our religion; that people would get the message that Christians don’t have to be associated with formality, ritual or goody two-shoes-party-pooping-Saturday-nights-in-at-Bible-Study any more. We can be as hip, cynical and trendy as the next religion, so why don’t you join us, eh?


But if an attractive veneer is all that Christianity has to offer, what makes it any different from the myriad of other “fix-your-life-for-60-dollars-a-week” schemes people engage with to make themselves happy? In a world where icons compete with one another for the attention of your average punter, where the pressure to perform is high, whether its in your job, your marriage or even at church; in a world where substantial thinking, hospitality and spiritual disciplines are untaught and in some places unheard of, what do Jesus followers have to make them any different from the next salesman?

The earliest Christians lived in just such a world and they stood out like..."


Do you think they'd let me preach it anywhere? I promise the exegesis is halfway decent! incidentally... I have just finished my exegesis course... three assignments to go. WOOP WOOP

Monday, October 26, 2009

surrender?

Thomas Henry Huxley in a letter to Charles Kingsley, September 23, 1860

"Science seems to me to teach in the highest and strongest manner the great truth that is embodied in the Christian conception of entire surrender to the will of God. Sit down before the fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever end Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing... I have only begun to learn content and peace of mind since I have resolved at all risks to do this."

This theory encapsulates one part of my team experience this year fairly well. To surrender my assumptions and previous 'knowledge' and see where the next step takes me. It isn't about turning off your mind, because you need to keep your wits about you as you go if you wish to avoid making stupid mistakes.

Rather it has been about learning to step out of fear into an unknown future, a future I can trust will be good.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

single mindedness

I read a book this week, ‘the Stranger House’ by Reginald Hill. A ripper of a story, though perhaps a little sensational in parts. Being on the point of finishing a two year course for which I made a commitment to ‘single-mindedness’, the bolded sentence struck me almost as an epiphany, and I had to stop reading.

After experiencing a romantic humiliation, Mig, who has recently left his training for the catholic priesthood, recalls his mentor's words:

“Father Dominic, talking of the vow of chastity, had said that it had nothing to do with morality as many have supposed, and everything to do with the power of sex to cloud judgement, squander energy, divert the will.”

Its a pretty good summary of those times in the last two years when I forgot to be single minded. I’m not sure what I think of it all. Maybe its just part of the learning curve? I'm certainly glad that I don't have to have all the answers today!

Grace be with us earthlings as we learn to love each other well.

extract from 'The Stranger House' by Reginald Hill

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I'll hold a trembling hand

God uses people to perform his work. He does not send angels. Angels weep over it, but God does not use angels to accomplish His purposes. He uses burdened broken-hearted weeping men and women

David Wilkerson

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Yellena

is a conifer tree
Anne Marie is the stars.

I am so full of shit and yet they want to hear me talk. I love to be with them, to watch a small act of kindness from one to the other - as she reaches out to her friend. I like to imagine myself like them, and I love to love and love them. Tonight I felt enfolded in friend-i-ness. I am so glad there is enough love in the world to save all the hurting people.

My life is like a waking dream
and the good God is on my side.
everything will be alright...


the picture is called someday and it is from a different Yellena @ Yellena.com, and the bit of a ditty is one of Gil's songs. It makes me verrah happeh!

Monday, September 14, 2009

the great soul

Today I was looking at a website of World Prayers. My thoughts were provoked. I came across these words from the Mahatma. He was indeed a "great soul"...

Wealth without work,
Pleasure without conscience,
Knowledge without character,
Commerce without morality,
Science without humanity,
Worship without sacrifice, and
Politics without principle.

the seven deadly sins - mahatma gandhi

A friend of mine admitted to the fact that she and a friend of hers had a pet name for the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in England (was it Leicester?). ieeeee, it made me laugh. Lets just say it reminded them of a character of LoTR. They felt very bad when they realised just whom was represented!

http://www.worldprayers.org/frameit.cgi?/archive/prayers/invocations/may_the_road_rise_up.html

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

heiiiii ye gaeiiin? yeeei good

Tonight I learned of the peaceful swastika, the Japanese fireman who tries to blow out fire with one eye closed, the influences of midget artist Toulouse-Latrec and the traditional Newcastle greeting, "Heiii ye gaeiiin?" (How ya goin?) to which the traditional reply is, "Yeeei good." (yeah good). Apparently it is ok to dwell on the yeeeeei for as long as you like before emitting a clipped 'good'. Thanks to Nick L for insights, Jas and Noah for being a two headed slug (silvery flaccid), and Jen for general beauty and gorgeous fun. Oh! and good beer - I love my friends.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

whateves

today I have a bad case of the 'Whateves'

The Whateves are the enemy of passion. They are little tiny soldiers with sound strategy, stalking, surrounding and attempting to subdue the rigid monoliths of devotion and dedication.

Surmounting the obstacles of Anything-you-might-happen-to-care-about, the Whateves march on in their thousands stomping and swarming in unison with their tiny footed stamps and cry's until they have thronged your urge to stand up to them and poured up then down their numbers, forth descending the black crevasse of your rent throat, choking all desire to speak, to reach out, to care...

The Whateves are the enemy of truth. In their lilliputian glory they think to Submerge truth's authenticity and Bind it's power. They create a thin film, Obscuring its clarity, Obfuscating your perception.

While you are covered, conquered by the Whateves...
You... cannot... be... true...

Today they are too many. I am 'overpowered'. The Whateves have me in their teeny little clutches.

It's quite irritating.

On days like today, when there are enough of them - piled on in bunches, gripping tight to my heels, grappling with one another, those who can't reach as far as my sock clasping tightly to the Whateves around and beneath them until they drag behind and under in great piles of writhing, high-pitched teeniness -

...they actually create something of a lag. An itsy-bitsy slowing down effect so that my steps are slightly shorter and take a little bit more effort. If it goes on for many more days, I may even need a short lie-down of an afternoon.

Then those victorious Whateves will shriek with tinny laughter as they redouble their grip and call up reinforcements....

Who will save me?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

SNZ are not the only thing that make me happy

Ah, many things make me happy. This weekend I experienced at least one...

...I was treated to hearing two young blokes playing their brass/woodwind instruments. Jonno and Andrew. Both are learners. Neither are yet fluent - but ah I enjoyed seeing and hearing them in all their amateur glory. Both looked extraordinarily cool. I do love a good brass/woodwind instrument (If only Emsie still had her trombone those Collins kids could have been their own brass section for a blues brothers style covers band. V cool). Singing 'Be thou my vision' and learning about chord inversions was pretty happy-making too.

Another thing that made me happy was watching William Carey CS' Beauty and the Beast last night. Some really lovely singing (esp Maurice and Gaston ;)). Be My Guest looked fantastic! Way too much ad-libbing - I would have killed my kids if they had deviated from the script like that! It was also fun sitting next to Chris and Emma - awww legends.

Long strong discussions about life, the world, money, growing up make me happy. And people talking about what really matters to them (so long as what really matters is worth a damn). And yummy rolls for lunch. Finding out that one of my first ever students who HATED school is training to become a teacher (hehehehehehehehehehehehe - he'll be REALLY good).

Old times that become new times make me happy! I love friends that shape and bless you and make you LAUGH! And drawing pictures on the train while listening to murder mysteries. Having friends who love to pick you up from the train station after deciding not to walk home through murder park in Islington at night. Pad Thai. And messing about with watercolours. And sleep....

so now I'm listening to Squirrell Nut Zippers. Begin the day with brass... end the day with...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Can you tell me something 'bout last night

Hmmm - a good kind of couple of nights.

Friday:
The grandeur of God flamed out like shining from shook foil...

Extreme jazz with the Civic Big Band live at the View Factory. Three trombones, five saxophones, four trumpets, rhythm section and keys... crazy arrangements, the solid bright caramel of tenor saxophone competing with the shimmering blonde liquid of the altos...we marinated in sweat, we danced until our ears and feet bled.
We hooted.
We howled.
We did not go gentle into that goodnight - no, our old age did burn and rave at the close of day. We raged, raged against the dying of light.

Saturday:
Ah! morning the brown brink eastward sprung...

Youth and poetry as we dived into the smithy where words are wrought into iron and came up grasping a few gem encrusted brands, hilarious, enthralling...linguastic (that's not a typo and thank you very much to Caleb for making up the word).

One funny little skewer for your enjoyment (thank you Elisa)...

Tenderheartedness
by Harry Graham

Billy, in one of his nice new sashes,
Fell in the fire and was burned to ashes;
Now, although the room grows chilly,
I haven't the heart to poke poor Billy.

I l o v e i t

Friday, August 21, 2009

Vide cor meum

Today I bought the soundtrack to Hannibal. Rather a disturbing film, I don't recommend it. But as part of a mini opera that Hannibal goes to see, the film contains one of the most beautiful arias I have heard. I think it is the reason I watched the film four or five times when I first hired it out - though I didn't understand it at the time. I thought there was something strange and compelling in the film itself. No, it was this music.

This piece of music moves me indescribably.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zty3SL-8Azg

Saturday, August 15, 2009

resent-...(ah) ment-...(ah)

Ahh - savouring the speaking of that word.

It is an ugly one.

resentiment

And when its sentiments rise and swell,
like an uneven ocean or a clanging bell,
I place a careful smile on my face...
(Is it fooling anyone in this place?)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A good story takes a long time

We are preparing for our feast of stories. Looking for the right speakers (we have a couple already).

A good story really can be something to feast on. Right now I am reading Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald and each sitting is like a little feast of good things. As well as being transported to a different time, place and world I am allowed to catch a glimpse of the glorious soul behind the story. It's gold.

And I have been listening to my friend Ben's last demo, Postcards from a garage. Many stories told, delicately shaped until they become songs, humorous and moving, lovely and light.

My favourite at the moment...

She was born with a fiddle on her chin
the imprint there for all to see
little calloused fingers and she gave herself
to the whisper of horsehair on steel.

While the papers complained of a retail lull
each roll and cut her hand knew well,
and her memories were like musical lines
and she walked the street in 4/4 time...

Is it all for nothing?
Is it all at stake?
What defines a person but the hammers we find
and the ground we break?

So pretty, so sad, such great questions...

Last night I was treated to a larger story in song. It was a history of temptation, and lasted 1hr 40mins. Needless to say lots was left out! But what was said was enchanting. I couldn't help but be caught up in the excitement of the tale.

I am part of a larger story - the story of of a broken but splendid humanity...


Go to Ben Scott's myspace music and have a listen.
www.myspace.com/bensong or www.myspace.com/limeandsteel

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mexican Ganglord

So recently Vanessa sent me this message and I found lots to think about in it:

"I really like that quote [Ed- Henri Nouwen book - see previous post]- it is particuarly timely because I am realising that I will often focus on perceived rejections or negative things instead of on all the love and kindness I am extended. My prayers have suggested that the key is to focus on all the good things and be thankful for them...

I think we are meant to be here to enjoy life - maybe original sin or being fallen is that we can't see all the good around us anymore. But God is slowly waking us up and setting us free to be dazzled but how much good and beauty and love there actually is in the world.

We just don't see it. But as we get our eyes opened we learn to cherish, and to feast. And get happier. And feel less pain, or a different healthy sort of pain. Maybe its like the itch and ache you get when a wound is healing? Hah, thats nice and poetic :)"

Thanks Vanessa, my good friend.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Thankfulness

It's my friend Helen's birthday today. She and her family are suffering greatly at the moment. But when I saw her, her eyes were shining.

"I love my birthday," she said. "When I look back over the past year and see the journey I have been on from despair to great hope, I can't help being thankful."

It's a good gift, this ability to be thankful. I have recently been meditating upon the following admonishment, from Henri Nouwen's Home tonight, attempting to let it fix onto and grow inside me...

The first rule is simply this:
Live this life and do whatever is done in a spirit of thanksgiving.
abandon attempts to achieve security, they are futile,
give up the search for wealth, it is demeaning,
quit the search for salvation, it is selfish,
and come to comfortable rest in the certainty
that those who participate in this life
with an attitude of thanksgiving will receive its full promise.


From Always we begin again: The Benedictine way of living by John McQuiston, 1996.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Henri Nouwen's 'Home Tonight'

I am still running, running from that knowledge
that eye, that love from which there is no refuge
for you meant only love, and love
and I felt only fear, and pain

from teaching a stone to talk by Annie Dillard, quoted in Home tonight by Henri Nouwen

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Psalm 9

Listen up!

When I am glad I can sing with a glad heart
My face thrown back, I rise
Whenever I’m holding on to my black heart
I trip on you, blinded eyes

but
If you are bringing down the empire nations
and making evil turn in on itself
then maybe this woman can end fruitless ruminations
This child, learn to bow her head

This is what the best in me
knows that I would like to see:
those with a raw deal lifted up
and the poor given a name.
Malice and hurt sent down the road,
extinguished in the flame.

Good God I want to be shaken up,
to laugh without a cynic’s snide
and lay it out on the road for you and me
singing salvation songs...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My blog's not working

Well tomorrow hopefully James will come and fix the last post for me, but for now I have a quote from Horace Walpole. Who is Horace Walpole I hear you type? (I have amazingly fine-tuned ears that hear messages typed in the future through wormholes - vague on the scientific explanation I know, thank you star trek - and answer them ahead of time, thus negating the need for them to be typed in the first place but don't worry because this cannot possibly cause instability in the space-time continuum, because if it could it already would have and we would all have ceased to exist).

Well Horace Walpole is not a hobbit, as his name would suggest, but rather he is a fellow who is eminently quotable, and as such has been quoted in many situations, and not among the least of these situations would be on Brainy Quotes (a web site for quoting quotable people).

Here is the quote...

"Justice is rather the activity of truth, than a virtue in itself. Truth tells us what is due to others, and justice renders that due. Injustice is acting a lie."

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, and as you blow figures in the grey smoke think about whether you agree or not and why and after pondering these things, you might like to type your thoughts in this here comments box.

See the bit just down the bottom where it says in bold letters "Post a comment"?

Richard Johnson

Well here I go again - passing on all my fun knowledge about the folks that lived long ago... today's installment is all about Richard Johnson, subject: Christian History 2-B. I am doing a video presentation thing for this one, but I'm just writing in some of my conclusions about the man in this blog...

Richard Johnson, chaplain to the first fleet.
Gentle, self effacing Yorkshireman
British clergyman in the hot dry landscape of Australia
Successful farmer
Faithful pastor
Sound evangelical theologian
A man of his times.

I’ve done a lot of reading about this fellow in the last little while, and I’ve discovered something of a disparity in the way different people view Johnson. Christian historians tend to depict him as a faithful servant of the gospel, faced with many difficulties in his post – not least being resistance, and indeed even persecution, from the governing authorities. Certainly not a charismatic man, but one devoted to the spread of the gospel.

Secular historians virtually ignore Johnson, and when they do talk about him they cast him as a whinging, quarrelsome churchman.

So what can I learn from Johnson’s life? My underlying feeling is that Johnson’s culture suffered as much from the ‘grace’ obsession as ours does. The underlying anxiety most Christian men and women seem to experience is directly related to the question, “but are they saved?” They don’t seem to realise that most of those who operate outside of Christian culture are more concerned with ‘What is God like?’ if they are interested at all.

Johnson operated in a post Enlightment milieu, and his faith-assumptions seem to have been taken by surprise by the fact that the men he travelled to Sydney Cove with did not hold the Truth of Christian theology to be self evident. It sounds quite a familiar quandary.

But isn’t it a little strange that today’s church should be labouring under similar misapprehensions? It has been two hundred years. My feeling is that the church has done a bit of a ‘head in the sand’ trick in terms of creating its own culture. It’s amazing how assumptions can stick with us in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. And the facts are these: the truth of the gospel (as a whole) is deemed largely irrelevant by the majority of those who live in and shape our post-Christian society. The church needs to find a way to respond. As Newbigin wrote in 1983, “the expectations of the eighteenth century have not been realised. The heavenly city has not arrived. And we no longer expect it. Science has won victories beyond the dreams of the eighteenth century, but the world which results does not appear to us to be a more rational world than that of previous centuries.” (Newbigin 1983, p.17). .

How did Johnson respond? Well, he hoped for the best from those he worked with and under, persevering in his work as pastor to the colony. And when he started to feel the pinch of persecution he wrote whiny letters of complaint to the powers that be back home in England, as well as his family and friends. His attempts to drum up support for his cause, to try and lessen the burdens he had to bear by complaining loudly about the injustices and hardships he encountered have left a lasting impression of his legacy. It is these moments that are remembered and focused on by secular historians. They weaken the influence of the good he did considerably.

And that is a sobering thought for me. I can think of many times in my life where I found the burden of the difficulties (and perceived persecution) that I faced unbearable. Thrashing around for a way out I have spoken unwisely. Attempting to defend myself and make my life more bearable I have complained loudly. Reflecting on my experience of First Year at Canowindra my face starts to feel hot as I realise that, like Johnson, I too complained loudly, searching for a way out. Standing in front of the vines at Pinnaroo, the words of this song played in my mind around and around until they eventually sunk in:

So then submit yourselves unto God, resist the devil he will run from you, draw near to God, He’ll draw near to you, wash your hands you sinners, purify your hearts you hypocrites, be sorrowful, cry and weep, change your laughter into crying and your joy into gloom…
Humble yourselves before the lord and he will lift you up
Humble yourselves before the lord and he will lift you up

As long as I restlessly searched for ways to make my life more comfortable, I prevented God from being the one to lift me up. It felt freeing to let go of responsibility for my own happiness, and trust God for the solution(s).

Johnson’s story reinforces this for me. Indeed in one of his letters to Johnson, John Newton himself laments the younger man’s tendency toward loud complaining, urging him to suffer gladly for the sake of the gospel. Of course there is a place for complaint and making a noise about injustice, and the Rum Corps did need to be protested and stopped. But the lesson of humility is what resonates most for me in this study of Johnson’s life.

Well today I am visiting the museum of Blessed Mary Mackillop to do some study on her life. Its my first ever pilgrimage. Who would have thought I would come to team and go on pilgrimage?!?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

breathe rationally!!


Life is too good. Though I was disappointed to find that I would not to be spending a few quiet days in Port Macquarie with my brother this week, something even better has come along...

I get to see Chris Gillespie and the Wandering Hands at the Seymour Centre in Sydney tomorrow night!

Only Fred Smith could be better.

And we will also be seeing an hilarious sounding fellow called Bud Petal. This guy lists among his influences Bob Dylan and Salvador Dali tee hee. Go to http://www.myspace.com/budpetal and listen to 'I am a Student not a Customer'.

I'm telling myself to breathe rationally - if I'm not careful I might get too excited and break the new decalogue... CARE FOR THE ENVRONMENT KATE! (go to http://paulfrompoland.blogspot.com/2009/07/risky-climate.html)

too many good things to go to!

btw I have been scanning my drawings today and enjoying seeing what they look like on line. Here are a couple...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

inerrancy on errantry

When people talk about the inerrancy of the Bible, where do they really believe that truth resides?

I think I have observed a couple of different approaches in the people I have known:

1. truth resides in the events that happened and the Bible as an accurate record of that.
2. truth resides in the words as they are held in the texts (that is the manuscripts) and the translations we have
3. truth resides in our hearts as we read the words and their meaning is opened up to our minds

Isn't the idea of inerrancy pure craziness. Imagine reducing the Truth to this... only someone who didn't really believe it in their heart would need to.

I do believe that truth exists. It must - with my intellectual logic I can see that there must be truth, how history actually did happen before it was subjected to endless perspectives. With my emotional logic I feel certain that there is a truth and that it is more complicated than the reductionist point of view that says its all about science. It can't be, it must be aesthetic as well, and economic, and rhythmic, conceptual and concrete and.... alive. Dynamic.

People being interested in inerrancy seems to be about building walls of defense - but it's silly to build a wall around a forest. A forest should grow and recede, it should be made up of many different trees. Trees flourishing as they grow upward to the light. Sometimes a tree will die and fall and as it decays it will become a home for all sorts of little creatures and its nutrients will feed the soil.

And there is a caretaker of the forest. A man who lives there. He likes all kinds of greens and greys. He is good, and sometimes you can't see him for the trees.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

sunburnt soul

I was lucky enough to get a whole swag of books from the Uni library recently for my Australian Christian History Assignments (thanks J) and some thoughts in one of the books have struck me. This book was written in the early eighties and here is what the guys says

"I began to wonder about Christ. Although he was the one whom it was all about, he had become a figure captured within the confines of church teaching. I knew he was a person who had spent his life in Palestine among the ordinary experiences of life - but this aspect of his character had somewhere become lost. He was also becoming lost to me... there were aspects of my life which gave me great fulfilment and joy, and yet I sensed in my image of Christ a coldness and impatience with such worldly matters."

This describes my exact predicament through much of my adult life. And as a dissonance playing in the background that I didn't like or understand, I found myself becoming deaf to it. I tuned out.

But the sound I tuned out from was the sound of SPIRIT. And so I became split in two, ignoring the small still voice of my own spirit and the God spirit within me.

Learning to listen again leads me to a man who was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard, whose teaching reverberated with the sounds of ordinary life, who adjusted religious practises to accommodate the needs of ordinary folk. A man who calls on people to look around their immediate experience for knowledge of the God whose presence pervades all.

extracts taken from David Millikan (1981) The Sunburnt Soul: Christianity in search of an Australian Identity, Anzea Publishers, Australia.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

the good son

This post assumes familiarity with Jesus' parable of the lost son - sometimes known as the prodigal son: found in Luke 15:11-32

Reading through the parable of the prodigal earlier this week I found it difficult to choose a character to identify with. Henri Nouwen's book begins by asking you to listen and decide which character in the story represents the place you are at in the journey at that moment.

All good and well, but I know the story too much. It just seemed naff to identify with any of the characters. Then I remembered the possibility that the God-Spirit would use this story to show me something new and important.

"Oh alright, the good son then..."

Immediately the piece that stood out to me was obvious - you know the bit where the father says, "You are always with me, and everything I have is yours..." to the good son? I remembered that I have always been confused by this bit because of the subconscious thought, "Yeah well that might be true but the good son can't very well slaughter the fattened calf for himself whenever he wants." A literal kind of hang-up I know - but I'm a fairly literal (and therefore potentially gullible) person.

It came to me almost clearly. If life is a gift, why hanker for the fattened calf? the good son understands that all of life is a good gift from the father. In that sense the party and fattened calf is for him as well as all the times the family shared (happiness and sorrow) in between. Ahh, what a relief. It helped me to remember that life - God's gift to me - is full of goodnesses that don't have to miss!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

do not think so much

a meditation upon Mark's gospel by Barry Hannah...

Do not think so much.
Surrender- believe.
Unprepared, move out to the world and testify.
The words will come. Serve-
from now on service is kingly.
There are no more kings-
serve- help- love- others as thyself.
This is impossible but do it.
You have seen enough- you have seen it all,
the miracles, the walk on water, Father speaking
from a bright cloud.
You were not there but the centurion was,
through the last hour,
the women, faithful, down the hill, waiting and
watching.
"Truly this was the Son of God," told the centurion.
To all near the cross. Not you, craven.
the temple did not fall but its veil was rent
top to bottom. enough. you do not need the whole
catastrophe,
for it has already taken place.
God is not in the temple anymore.
you cowards, keep running, but now you are mine,
my brothers and sisters.
tell them. help. love. service.
my good cowards, weaklings, doubters,
how i love you,
whom i serve, and will see in Galilee.

poem taken from the gospel according to Mark: with introduction by Barry Hannah

Friday, June 26, 2009

your love is like the morning mist

No wonder CS Lewis talks about the need for us to be thickened up. Reading the prophet Hosea this morning with Pia, I really noticed the passage where the Israelites hear what God is saying and decide to return to him: "Come let us return to the LORD... He will heal us... on the third day he will restore us... ahhhhhhh its all going to be OK." They are really emphatic about it for about two passages. God's response?

Yeah right seacow.

Well it's a little more heartbroken than that... "Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears..."

Ooooooo this resonates with me. Lord thicken me up - I want to last more than just a few hours...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

mini muster

By the way - our team went to mini-muster in Canowindra a couple of weekends ago. How great is that? Mini muster! So many good people! So many good moments. Some sad ones. Missing Strathalbyn friends for one.

We didn't do team reports. Instead we had stalls. A good idea but it meant that I didn't come away with a balanced view of where the teams are up to. I just heard all the really hard things in a series of deep and meaningful conversations. A bit exhausting and probably not as encouraging as it could have been. But I enjoyed spending that time reconnecting with people.

Pete spoke to us about redefining our notions of success. He said love should be our goal - not a good image or a 'successful' event/conversation/relationship. Then he did some mad, loud poetry spoken, hummed, sung. That is when he lost some people - but stubbornly, I LOVE IT! It makes me feel like risks are worth taking. Getting up on stage is a risk. Saying your poems loud and fast is a risk. Being really committed to people (beyond what they would expect) is a risk. I want to be risk-prone.

Of course there is the possibility that I am looking for excuses for all the rash decisions I am making in my life :))

fred smith

ok. obsessing at the moment - but it is in my personality to obsess:

I went out on the open road
with a walkman a whitman a wallet and a kerouac
they say you never know if you never ever go
so I came and went
now I've been there and back

Six weeks on the American Road
the only thing I came to know is
be who you are
go where you want to you're free....

hehee. He's so funny

here's another one:

I played a gig with Chris and Shahn
at a restaurant in Andover, Michigan
Shahn is a vegetari-ahn
but Chris seemed happy to be eatin' fish again

He at the fish, she ate the chips
he paid the bill, she left the tip
so be who you are
go where you want to
you're free...

Ahhhhh dear me. So clever.

I am hoping to organise a house concert in Newie for Fred to perform at. Extended daydreaming about it is a small temptation of mine at the moment. The dreams become so real in my mind and heart. It makes me aware of how important it is to choose carefully the thoughts and ideas I dwell on.

You know, this reminds me of last year when Chris organised for us to sing with Fred at St Albans, our rehearsal (behind a marquis at the Nationals on Easter Sunday 2008). Singing three part harmony, directed by Chris - Mighty Wind style (chris is a genius of harmony) - singing with Fred, learning to imitate his style... oh joy. For the next three weeks I was cutting cauliflower with my body and wandering the starry realm in my mind and heart.

It is impressive how real and good those memories are, probably because I went over them so many times. I have done the same thing with my baptism. Now the goodness of that time is stored deep within and when I am tired, afraid, down... I can bring the memories out and their very atmosphere lifts me. Thanks God for your good gift of the imagination.

talking of atmosphere... my current favourite Fred...

lazy dazy under Virginia skies
deep in the summertime
porch swing, six string
swattin' away the flies
sippin' the local wine

couple o' weeks down on the farm
watchin' the days go by
feelin' the sunshine on my arms
and I'm...
deep in the summertime...

Extracts taken from Song of the Open Road and Lazy Dazy from Fred Smith's amazing album, Texas.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

definitely cyclical

Confessing to feeling down and distant from God to a friend on 'the emails' recently.

She asked some really good questions and as I ponder them I begin to suspect that these feelings (which seem to come to me often when I am stressed and stretched) are more a product of immediate circumstances than of the deep truths to which my life is connected. And if you can understand that mangled sentence I congratulate you.

Well - listening and pondering help and I am listening to Elvis Costello's psuedo-bluegrass album. Here is one to ponder...

Is this not a pretty tale? Is this not a riddle?
A bow shoots arrows through the air;
a bow drags notes from a fiddle.
But who is the beau of a woman's heart
That a king may send to battle?

Is this not a pretty tale? Is this not a riddle?

If red is the breast of a soldier's tunic hung with a silver medal;
and red is the thorn that protects the rose
(a deeper red than the petal);

how deep is the red our redeemer bled
the debt of our sins to settle?
How deep is the red?

Elvis Costello, 'How deep is the red?' from his secret, profane and sugarcane album.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

breath

Ahh. Words and beauty. The first time Tim Winton's protagonist sees the ocean and men surfing in it:

I couldn't take my eyes from those plumes of spray, the churning shards of light... death was hard to imagine when you had these blokes dancing themselves across the bay with smiles on their faces and sun in their hair...

How strange it was to see men do something beautiful. Something pointless and elegant, as though nobody saw or cared...

Or when he first surfs on his own real board:

I will always remember my first wave that morning. the smells of paraffin wax and brine and peppy scrub. The way the swell rose beneath me like a body drawing in air. How the wave drew me forward and I sprang to my feet, skating with the wind of momentum in my ears. I leant across the wall of upstanding water and the board came with me as though it was part of my body and mind. The blur of spray. The billion shards of light...

It's as close as I'm ever likely to get to being there myself. Thanks Mr Winton.

extract from Breathe by Tim Winton, Penguin books, Camberwell VIC, 2008.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I've got blisters on my fingers

Schedules.

I'm agin 'em.

Against that is. I think life is too busy. Or maybe that is just life as a school teacher who is on a Cornerstone team with too many awesome people to spend time with and a million possibilities for good things to be doing. I be feelin' stretched, do ya hear me? Stretched! I used to feel like this all the time and I don't think I want to go back to Stretch-ville.

I would, however, like to become Queen of the Sea with a thousand loyal dolphins to command and pretty fish making up songs and dances for no other reason than to spread the joy of living in an aquatic kingdom. Yep, that's me right now... getting ready for a big squishy fishy party.

Or perhaps I could sit in a corner on my own. A corner with a comfortable chair, lots of natural light and a pencil set with eraser, sharpener and paper.

Still, I'm glad to be this side of First Year Cornerstone Studies. It's great to see the hardships of First Year are paying off in my experience of team. I just had this brought home to me because we had the new lot of First Years visiting us and it was a BIG reminder of how hard things were last year.

All of those difficulties have become money in the bank - it's putting all your money away for a big purchase: you don't realise the benefits while you are saving, but one day there's a big payoff. I feel like my First Year struggles became, all unexpectedly, a wealth from which to draw on for the difficulties still to come.

So I don't need to be Queen of the Sea. I'm becoming a different kind of Queen. As Paul Kelly says in his beautiful song

I sought whom my soul loveth
I sought him by my bed
His right hand doth embrace me
His left under my head

He brought me to the banquet house
And when I looked above
Then I saw his banner over me was love

the gift that keeps on giving by Paul Kelly

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Simon Pegg's face

It's a really good one. You just want to look at it. And giggle.

No matter what he says, it's funny.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

sleepiness (or lack thereof)

Lately I have had trouble sleeping. This is a relatively new phenomena for me. Apart from the odd sleepless night here and there, I have always been a very good sleeper. I'm not sure how to deal with it. Do I examine diet and exercise and make sure I am tired and not full of sugar before bed? But what happens if I do this and still can't sleep. I could wind up even more stressed and tired.

Perhaps there is a deeper reason for my sleeplessness, some deep psychological or spiritual need to be awake. There are bound to be worst things than tiredness in the world.

I'm sure that, this week anyway, part of it lies in the fact of sharing a room with Jane Watson and the fact that we can't stop talking until 1 AM every morning.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Charles Grandison the third (and final)


Re-viv-al: restoration to life, consciousness, vigour or strength… an awakening, in a church or community, of interest in and care for matters relating to personal religion… an evangelistic service or a series of services for the purpose of effecting a religious awakening. Revival is part of personal experience. In Charles Finney’s time, the revival of individuals spread into the communities until large numbers of people were affected. It occurred so often after Finney’s preaching that he began to hold these meetings with the clear expectation that revival would begin.

Just as this image is many layered (thanks to Hanwen), so REVIVAL is a many layered concept.

It’s hard to find comprehensive descriptions of what these revivals looked like. The witnesses seem to expect people to know and understand. As far as I can gather, Finney and some friends would book a meeting place and Finney would preach. He would do so for prolonged periods, for nights in a row. People come in droves to listen to him, be overcome with emotion, “the conviction of sin upon them.” Sometimes people would shake and fall down. Sometimes they broke into uncontrolled laughter. Finney himself records in great detail the occurrences he witnessed at his revival meetings.

Finney would not prepare his sermons. He would pray and ask God to show him what bit of the Bible to preach on. Then he would stand up and talk to the people for hours.

Many complained about Finney’s measures. The Unitarians complained that his ‘anxious seat’ (a place where people who were concerned about their salvation could sit during the meetings) created an emotionally driven response, indeed the beginning of religious melancholy as a social problem has been traced to these kinds of meetings. The Deists believed that by calling people out by name he placed undue pressure on them to change their lives. The Calvinists complained that in urging people to make an immediate decision for Christ, Finney offended against God’s sovereignty.

Finney defended himself, claiming that his exhortations were not emotionally based, but grounded in appeals to reason. He defended his ‘new measures’ claiming that it was appropriate to use means at his disposal to bring a message he believed was urgent to his hearers. Finney believed that he needed to use his new measures to jolt people out of the apathy they lived in. He claimed this apathy was a result of the popular Calvinist view taught in most Presbyterian Churches at the time. Finney believed that such people were not ‘real’ Christians.

Interestingly, the conversion experiences that would ‘change people’s lives’ at Finney’s revivals seem to have done just that. Records show that church membership did not drop off, and eighty percent of recorded converts remained active church members years after the revivals. No one can say how much goodness was introduced into lives and communities through his influence.

In his popular but controversial ‘Lectures on revivals of religion’, Finney says, “Revival is a renewed conviction of sin and repentance, followed by an intense desire to live in obedience to God. It is giving up one's will to God in deep humility.” I think it would be interesting to live in such times and too see the changes taking effect. It may also be frightening. I may have been someone who would have criticised Finney and his measures.

I really don’t know how to interpret Finney’s character and life in the light of today. In images, he seems an intense character. Our records of his sermons on ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’ seem to represent all that is wrong about evangelical Christianity. However, I can’t help respecting his passion. He took risks to right the wrongs he was so obviously disturbed by. He was loved and respected by those who knew him, family and friends. He was deeply committed to serving God and believed he knew how best to do that.

I think Charles Grandison Finney presents us with the same challenge that Jesus’ does in his life among the people, and eventually in his challenge to the authorities that resulted in death: these men spent their daily lives helping those they encountered to re-think God, to not be complacent about connecting with the creator of the universe. They jolted people out of their ordinary, everyday contexts and brought them to a point of confrontation with a larger, spiritual world where Good and Evil are locked in a cosmic battle.

Perhaps as God’s messengers in our own context, we need to be imaginative and cooperate with his Spirit in discovering how we can do the same thing for those around us.

Unitarians believed that Jesus was not truly human.
Deists believed that though God created the world, he would not interfere with the events of history.
Calvinists believed utterly in the sovereignty of God and taught that humans could have no impact upon his decisions through prayer or action.


Sources:
Finney, CG (1875) Lectures on revivals found at http://www.gospeltruth.net/life_of_finney.htm

Harvey, BC (1989) Charles Finney: The great revivalist, Barbour publishing, Uhrichsville, Ohio
Liardon, R (2008) God’s Generals: the revivalists, Whitaker House, New Kensington
Rubin, JH (1994) Religious melancholy and the protestant experience, Oxford University Press.
Shelley, BL (1995) Church History in Plain language, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville

Charles Grandison again...

A great revivalist of the nineteenth century? I feel suspicious already, though I'm not sure why. Perhaps I am having flashbacks to the frauds I vaguely remember people like Mark Twain used to write about, tent revivals and false healings and an emotional fever or a spiritual high... wasn't there a movie about this kind of thing with Robert Duvall? I remember feeling confused because I liked Christianity, but I didn't like this sort of thing...

Pete Vol says that he thinks Finney was a man who made himself fully available to God; he risked saying 'yes' to the universe against what may have seemed the acceptable thing to do. Perhaps Finney was listening to the Spirit of God?

Maybe my confusion could be helped by looking at the context of these revivals in the religious life of the USA?

At the birth of the United States, only five to ten percent of citizens were church members. The Christianising of America has been put down to two factors: the influence of voluntary societies and revivals.

Although the official separation between faith and politics underpinning the American constitution saw to it that the USA would not become a church controlled state, voluntary societies in imitation of those pioneered by William Carey became significant influencers on American life. The American Bible society, the Sunday School Union; groups such as these, made up of voluntary members, made contributions to American society. And that’s the volunteer’s influence.

But what of revivals? Supported by the preaching of George Whitefield, Jonathon Edwards’ Great Awakening of the eighteenth century had seen the beginning of revivals that saw thousands brought to faith in Christ and radical changes in the personal and moral lives of those converted. At the same time, similar revivals were being witnessed in England through the work of Whitefield and John Wesley’s Methodists.

Finney’s revivals came after a period of dropping church membership and lost interest in ‘religion’. The Calvinism of the day taught that salvation was only available to God’s elect, pre-ordained from the beginning of time. No one could know for sure if they were part of the elect, so the deal was to live as good a life as possible and hope for the best. This tended to produce lifeless churches, where people prayed but without belief that their prayers could have any effect. Finney revolutionised that thinking by bringing people to make a decision for Christ. He encouraged them to believe that they had a part in forging their own destiny. Finney preached strongly, exhorting his hearers to act now to avoid punishment later. Different signs and wonders happened among the people attending Finney’s revivals.

Pre-civil war America. Finney was a man with Abolitionist sympathies. As president of Oberlin college, he held anti-slavery rallies in a tent, one hundred feet in diameter. Finney’s preaching helped pave the way for the abolitionist movement in America.

After the civil war there seems to have been a split between Christian groups in America, responding to the publication of Darwin’s Origin of the Species and the new emphasis on criticism in Biblical scholarship. One group embraced the new ideas, emphasising a social gospel and developing a liberal theology. Pastors such as Walter Rauschenbusch were concerned with people’s eternal destiny. However, they also recognised the importance of caring for earthly needs.

The other group responded by focusing on the individual's need for salvation. They believed that the most important thing to do was to prepare people for the day of Jesus' return. And it is this group that continued the tradition of revivals, camp meetings and getting people's souls right with God. DL Moody was to become a proponent of this branch of Christianity. As the years lengthened the polarisation of the two groups became more extreme.

My personal sympathies lie in many ways with the former group. And I suppose I have been suspicious of ‘revivalist’ traditions, feeling that even when they aren’t phoney they tend to overlook some of the pressing needs of those in front of them, offering one dimensional solutions to complex problems.

So from my own context now I need to work hard to remember that Finney preached at a time before this kind of polarisation became entrenched.

Finney seems to have expected that receiving the gospel would ready the individual for relationship with the one true God through Jesus Christ. He also seems to have expected that the individual's life would be transformed by such a relationship in such a way that they would become more outward in their focus, caring for the needs of others.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UM-MJn2K7Q

So popular images of revivalist preachers like this one must be separated from my view of who Finney is if I am to do him justice. But just what is a revival anyway? That’s my next post.

Sources:
Harvey, BC (1989) Charles Finney: The great revivalist, Barbour publishing, Uhrichsville, Ohio
Liardon, R (2008) God’s Generals: the revivalists, Whitaker House, New Kensington
Reynolds, DS (2005) John Brown: abolitionist, Vintage books, New York
Shelley, BL (1995) Church History in Plain language, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville

Monday, May 18, 2009

Charles Grandison Who?

Finney. Ever heard of him?

A man whose determination to seek and understand the truth was matched by his commitment to communicating that truth once he found it.

Finney was converted to Christianity at the age of twenty-nine, the process of his conversion including a prolonged period of study, seeking the truth about the central claims of Christianity. Having been convinced on this level, Finney prayed, determined to resolve his growing anxiety about the subject. He records what happened in almost scientific detail in his autobiography:

"There was no fire, and no light, in the room; nevertheless it appeared to me as if it were perfectly light. As I went in and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It did not occur to me... that it was wholly a mental state. On the contrary it seemed to me that I saw Him as I would see any other man. He...looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at his feet. I... regarded this as a most remarkable state of mind; for it seemed to me a reality... I fell down at his feet and poured out my soul to Him…"

Following his conversion experience, Finney resigned his apprenticeship as a lawyer and studied to become a minister. He refused to attend Princeton, the Presbyterian theological College, and studied under his pastor for two years before successfully taking the examination and being accepted as a Presbyterian minister.

Finney profoundly disagreed with the staunch and narrow form of Calvinism prevalent in Presbyterian churches at the time of his conversion. He urged potential converts to make their decision to believe in Jesus Christ and to choose to live good lives. Finney’s ministry saw him travel to many small towns and villages in and around the state of New York. His preaching was the catalyst for ‘revivals’ that brought many face to face with the message about Jesus. Though people disagree about the validity of Finney’s methods (and his theology) his impact cannot be understated and his revivals came to be known as the first of the Second Great Awakening.

In 1832 Finney moved to New York City and became a pastor of two congregations. He eventually accepted the call to become professor and later president at Oberlin College (one of the first in America to co-educate men and women, white and black). Finney’s gospel message impacted many communities and thousands of individuals. He was also a fierce abolitionist, denouncing slavery from the pulpit in a time when to do so was unpopular.

Though I am not so sure about all of Finney’s measures, I do admire his whole hearted approach. I would like to emulate him in dedication to following the course God has laid out for me.

This is his description of his own reaction upon his conversion:

“No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart.”

I love to think of this grand, intense man, bellowing with love in large, loud moans and groans. Such passion is not often encountered methinks.

Sources:
Finney, CG (1873) Memoirs of revivals found at
http://www.gospeltruth.net/life_of_finney.htm Harvey, BC (1989) Charles Finney: The great revivalist, Barbour publishing, Uhrichsville, Ohio
Shelley, BL (1995) Church History in Plain language. Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nashville.
Linden, DH (accessed 10/5/9) ‘Charles Finney’s Doctrine of Justification’ in Reformation and Revival Journal , Vol. 6, issue No.4, published online at
http://www.grebeweb.com/linden/finney.html
Horton, M (accessed 10/5/9) ‘The disturbing legacy of Charles Finney’ published online at
http://www.mtio.com/articles/aissar81.htm#horton#horton
Galli, M (2000) ‘Charles Finney: Father of American revivalism’ posted at christianhistory.net, 8/08/2008 12:56PM
Johnson JE (1988) ‘Charles Grandison Finney: Father of American Revivalism’ in Christian History, issue 20.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

the universe says...

If life is a message from the universe to me, what it is really saying? Well I do believe that the truth is out there, but I still think that it depends largely on the individual's determination. I get to decide how I interpret what happens around me.

A little girl trips along, then slows to an amble's pace as the road climbs slowly. The sun beats along with her as she begins to sing aloud a song she learned by heart through repeated listening: Lennon/McCartney's 'You're gonna lose that girl' from her mum's Beatles compilation tape. Her errand - the corner shop and a packet of smokes for Mum. Her imagination - full of the image of herself as an adult in full evening dress standing on a stage and singing her heart out to a darkened audience. Wobbling her head awkwardly from side to side, eyes partially closed, the little girl imitates her imagined world.

She doesn't know that her crooked teeth and goblet shape will work together with her life choices and fate to prevent her from becoming the Shirley Bassey of her imagination. She listens to the sound of her own voice singing along to the music in her head and thinks, 'I sound good. Maybe I could sing when I grow up.'

And despite the mixed messages she receives from sinister voices (not least her own) as she grows up, telling her that she should indeed be afraid, very afraid... something of that early belief that the world is good, and that the beautiful fantasies are true as well as the dark ones, underpins all that she does. The world is dark and terrible, but also... ultimately... good.

What do you think the universe says? If you could sum it up in 3-10 words, what would you say you believe she is saying to you?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

iron grey with big bold eyes

I am reading a book about heroes at the moment.

James Chalmers, courageous prankster. The perfect man to head over to New Guinea 'n introduce them to Jesus there. Here's Robert Louis Stevenson's description...

“a man nobody can see and not love… a big, stout, wildish-looking man, iron grey with big bold eyes and a deep furrow down each cheek… with no humbug, plenty of courage, and the love of adventure… he has plenty of faults like the rest of us but he’s as big as a church…”

I love it. Oh to have something like that written on your tombstone! Even better - if I could actually live like that. Looks like I better go and cultivate some habits.

The Coona team turned up by surprise today. What an awesome one! We had fun together! I got Irish danced into a corner and we sang heaps and had a whale of a time. I loved catching up with brothers and sisters and I'm in a thankful mood now. Thankful for good friends and a man who lived in the jungle and let it bring out of him something more of who he was created to be...

Excerpt from Pollock, J (2008) Fistful of heroes

Friday, May 8, 2009

the once-english teacher

Last year - right in the thick of assignment time, Dan sent me the following email. I have now completed the challenge and I refer you to the piece of writing below.

2008/10/10 Dan F****** <********@gmail.com>
Kate!
I charge you to complete the following in the most enjoyable way conceivable to once-english-teachers:
"Your character, who is odd (either somewhat or extremely), writes a letter of protest to the manager of his or her local grocery store. Write the letter."
Have fun,
Dan


Dear Mr Quinn,
I imagine that after the incident that took place on your premises yesterday afternoon, you will be finally convinced to relent from your long staunchly held position, and allow me to marry your daughter. Let me reaffirm the sentiments I first revealed to you on January 13, you must allow me to assure you of how much I ardently admire and love your dear sweet M.

I know we have had discussions on this very topic repeatedly over the last several months; and I am well aware of your desire to keep your daughter with you. There is great charm and fascination in the way she holds out tomatoes to people passing by the window, and I believe she is a major attraction for people to come into your store. I myself rarely buy groceries (being of 'independent' means I have servants to bring me meals and snacks at the appropriate time of day - yet another reason why you should let your daughter be wed to me: she would be well cared for), however, M's beauty certainly drew my attention to your lowly premises.

How well I remember that first day... hovering by the newspaper stand, glancing toward your daughter - her eyes meeting mine out of the corner of her eye. She never does look me straight in the face. Her bewitching sideways glance has caught me in a snare and I will not rest until....

But I am allowing myself to become carried away by my hopes and dreams.

Please sir, let me appeal to your better side. Surely you see how selfish it is for a father to expect his offspring to remain always at his side. Children must be allowed to leave their parents homes and cleave unto the partners who will treat them best; and if you will not see reason on this matter you must allow me to protest! Your extreme cruelty in forcing my dearest M to continually hold that same pose - offering those red red tomatoes to all and sundry - is a matter of great objection to anyone with half a heart. I even noticed... DUST! lying there: grey... on her beautiful white arm. Indeed!

And yesterday, when that thoughtless child rushed passed her, knocking dear M clean over. Why you simply left her to lie, helpless on the ground, in greatest pain and agony for all you knew, until you had served your customers. My most glorious darling lay quite silent on the floor, patiently waiting without complaint until you could help her rise again. Why... THIS IS ABUSE! It took all of my strength not to rush straight in from my place on the footpath and carry her off then and there!

To be sure my worthy adversary, I must give fair warning and let you know that if you continue to refuse consent to this match I will consider the field open to play, and will not refrain from carrying the young lady away forcefully should the opportunity arise,

I remain, in strict faithfulness to my love for Manna, the loveliest girl to ever grace a grocery store window

yours in great earnest
Trevor A Worthington Fiddlesticks

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

the Comrade-God

listen to me as when of old our father
sang songs of other shores
listen to me and then in chorus gather
all your deep voices as you pull your oars

fair these broad meads, these hoary woods are grand
but we are exiles from our native land


The next part of our journey was a week in Dubbo, and I attended electives while Vanessa read glorious self-help books. It was a full week, and many thoughts darted around my consciousness. Plenty to dwell on.

One thing that stood out was that both of my lecturers spoke of a book called Miracle on the River Kwai. It is the story of Japanese prisoner-of-war camps in World War II and the way prisoners found hope and gave dignity to one another by seeking and sowing seeds of faith, hope and love. When I got home I found this story in our team library. I recommend it to anyone who has done team, is doing team or wants to see the gospel at work practically. There are lots of inspiring stories and examples to follow.

One idea I am currently chewing over is the connections between security, relationship and belonging. After returning to England the POWs experience a culture shock and they are forced to confront certain realities about the emptiness of their culture. Those of us on team see ourselves as 'missionaries' to a culture that seeks 'security' above all else. Ernest Gordon sums it up in strong terms...

"Everyone spoke of seeking security. But what did security mean but animal comfort, anesthetised souls, closed minds and cold hearts? It meant a return to the cacophonous cocktail party as a substitute for fellowship, where, with glass in hand, men would touch one another but never meet... In short, it meant flight from God and descent into the hell of loneliness and despair."

How do we, like these men, implement the practises of the gospel in a culture infused withthe value of security? I am feeling quite stumped until I remember that I probably should go read the gospels a bit and learn from the Master.

Extracts from Ernest Gordon, Miracle on the River Kwai, Tyrell house, Illinois, 1962.

Monday, May 4, 2009

sing


There was something about arriving in Broken Hill. It was so good that even two/three weeks on I still feel refreshed and full when I think of it. Our first evening was one of riddles and games. A room full of the dearest friends, laughter and we finished with singing, us girls in a heap on the couch. I knew I was home and I felt joy and thankfulness that I had four more days to come.


Each day was better than the one that went before. Breakfast, poetry, chats, jokes, op-shops, art, walks, music, music, music. Friends and God in our midst. I loved walking late at night with Milly looking up at the stars. I loved being baptised by my friend Katrina, a woman who inspires me to follow Jesus of Nazareth with my heart and life. I loved sharing it all with my friend Vanessa, who inspires me to say YES to the universe.


We went on a tour of the art galleries with a bunch of local artists. Sophie's art was my favourite - especially my Aslan, but it was great seeing all of the others. Jarrah Mosaic is a fun lovely gallery in Broken Hill. Even the long trip to Dubbo was a joy, because it was shared. Awesome times.


Still, those four days have produced in me a yearning for goodness, belonging and my place that I want to grow stronger, not weaker. A by-product of this feeling is dissatisfaction with my current situation and I need to be careful not to let that grow to discontent. Instead I want it to grow in me a love for the present, because of what we are making the future to be; and a yearning what is yet to come.

Friday, May 1, 2009

bourke and beyond

Our travels continued up to Bourke, which we both loved, and even further west. We visited a small town called Wanaaring and spent the night camped by the Paroo River (Vanessa and I both terrified of death by wild dogs/human psychpaths for the 12 or so hours that we lay seperately in our swags worrying) before heading on down to White Cliffs. We got so used to dirt roads that sealed ones started to feel like God was spoiling us. Mind you I never got used to that squeaky sunroof cover.

Peery Lake was full of water when we visited, which was very special and beautiful, and our night at the underground B&B in White Cliffs was memorable and confortable. There are two small hills in White cliffs jutting up out of a broad flat landscape. Sitting out in the night sky, on top of a pile of rubble, I felt like I was very high up and the earth looked like it had a serious edge to it.

No I don't regret staying up late for moonrise...




nor do I regret getting up early again for sunrise....














It was a privilege to lose sleep for the sake of those moments out in the world.


And I knew that I had four glorious days with my Walker family ahead. I could have stayed up four nights running and paid the price later!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

terrifying birdman

On past Coonamble to a small town called Quambone and our decision to drive back roads through the Macquarie Marshes on a wet and slippery day. Five minutes out of Quambone, into the rainy landscape, we happened upon some broken down bird-watchers. Well, their car was broken down.

After offering to carry one of them (Bob) thirty kms or so along the road to their camp and second vehicle, Vanessa squished into the backseat with our ludicrous load of luggage and I took off at a rate of knots. For some reason I had it in my head that we needed to hurry.

But of course it was raining. And soon the sandy soil turned black.

"It's the trecherous, splippery black soils that make driving so difficult," stated Bob the birdman after the distraction of a frenzy of bird indentifications (in which Vanessa eagerly joined I might add). His hand wrenched on the handhold above the passenger door, grip tightening.

"Please let me know if I'm doing anything wrong, I'm not used to this 4WDing caper," I requested, surface cheeriness masking my growing anxiety as the car powered along... we seemed to be sliding around on the oily soil.

"Zzzhhhhhmming," Birdman tittered nervously, reaching up with another hand to grasp the handhold firmly.

I only lost control of the car twice.

After about half hour driving it dawned on me that we all might feel a little safer if I slowed from the hasty 80kmph I had been aiming at to a more sedate 60. The difference in my control of the vehicle was remarkable. Five minutes later we dropped Bob at the gate to his camp. He declined our kind offer to drive him all the way in, despite the fact that it was pouring rain and the camp was a good 500m away.

Bob's parting suggestion: "Perhaps you girls should think about taking the sealed road to Nyngan instead of the short cut across country to Coolabah. Some of the roads between here and there can get a bit sticky."

Kind man. We took his advice.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

ascending Jesus

Ever been to visit a town called Coonamble in country NSW?


Its a nice looking place.


Vanessa and I visited on our way through to the Macquarie Marshes on our Central NSW road trip. It was Easter Sunday. Coonamble was our first port of call after the Warrumbungles, and as we approached the main street we saw an effigy strung between two wires, hovering in sinister fashion over the main street. As we drew nearer, we were stunned into understanding just what we were seeing...




"It's Christ ascending over Coonamble," Vanessa whispered in disbelief.


"But why?" I requested to know. I still request to know.




VK rang her family while we were in range, and of course shared the news. Her bro Ben made a rather acute observation, "The scary thing is that it wasn't a single person who decided to create a Jesus ascending over Coonamble mannequin. No it would have taken a whole committee of people..."

Monday, April 27, 2009

the swinging of the ages

with my body I will sway to the swinging of the ages
with my head I will nod and say come into my life
I will praise and give thanks to the Lord of my life
for He is the source of my light


Ahh singing really is my favourite thing to do. Two weeks of driving through and living in this brown, red and white state means a lot of reflecting still to come, but for now I will say that meeting with and joining in life with goode friends (whom you aspire to be like) is a great way to fill one's cup (to overflowing).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

hatch yourself

Hi. This is the poem I wrote tonight at Fairy Floss while the girls painted their blown eggs (let's hear it for Jonno who poured his heart and soul into preparing the craft this week!)

It sort of reflects how I feel about the Fairy Floss girls. I think it's a healthy thought process in the making.


Egg...


Hatch yourself.


Don't expect
me
to hatch you,


because eggs
can
only hatch

from
the inside.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

healing

I recently discovered a poem that I wrote last year during a time of healing...

Roads wind
round like lanes;
but blue grey lines
between purple and green.

Everything has a sheen
as the sun glispers off
the grasses.
It looks warm
like Spring when
warm is welcome.
I want to stop,
but must fly past
fields of frenzied calm,
viewing through windows
the world -
unknitting and loosening the top of my head
and I feel the heavy frown
I have carried unknowing
lifted,
wiped away
by beauty I am driving through
and on past.


smoke gets in your eyes

Tonight I feel smoky but good.

It's good to have friends you look up to, respect and enjoy.

The women in my life are serene, cloudless eternal giants. And fun and flighty and hammy and shammy. I love them, I love these friends. I love the real thing, bursting buds

the rough tang of otherness

and I get to enjoy the sensation of being a live creature among live creatures.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

sleep lillith

Then first I knew what an awful thing it was to be awake in the universe: I WAS, and could not help it!

Out of sleep, my muddy mind comes sharply awake to hear these words whispered in my ear. I hear the rain plunge downward and fear that the roof will crumple. I share the whisperer's realisation, though I am not quite sure why.

I have been listening to some readings of George MacDonald in my MP3 player as I drift off to sleep over the last few days. Lillith, the current story of choice for me. It seems appropriate because of the dreamlike quality of the story. All sorts of bizarre and surreal events occur to our protagonist and my mind follows his journeys, creating a series of lagging, livid sleep images.

I am not used to reading such fanciful work, at least not in the form of a full length novel, and I really struggled to lose myself in 'Phantastes' when I had a go at it last year. So I am enjoying this 'reading' because because I do not have to concentrate on the reading and making sense of words on a page. Somehow in this relaxed form of listening my mind makes the sense out of it. I think it will make my reading of the story richer when I do come to it properly.

Please do head off to Librivox.org and download your very own version of 'Lillith' and have a go at sleep reading. The fellow who reads it has done a tip top job.

But sometimes it is rather frightening,

With a full face she [the moon] rose, and I began to see a little about me. Westward of her, and not far from me, a range of low hills broke the horizon-line: I set out for it.

But what a night I had to pass ere I reached it! The moon seemed to know something, for she stared at me oddly. Her look was indeed icy-cold, but full of interest, or at least curiosity. She was not the same moon I had known on the earth; her face was strange to me, and her light yet stranger. Perhaps it came from an unknown sun! Every time I looked up, I found her staring at me with all her might! At first I was annoyed, as at the rudeness of a fellow creature; but soon I saw or fancied a certain wondering pity in her gaze: why was I out in her night?

Then first I knew what an awful thing it was to be awake in the universe: I WAS, and could not help it!

Extract from Lillith by George MacDonald, etext found at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1640/1640-8.txt.

Also, free audiobook versions of Lillith and other George MacDonald favourites can be found at http://www.librivox.org/. You can also volunteer to record audiobooks for these guys - something I would love to do when I get some more time!