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.

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.

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)...

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.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

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

Ahh - savouring the speaking of that word.

It is an ugly one.


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. or

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


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

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?!?