Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rain at Christmas

Just a bit of fancy that, literally, came down in a shower ..

It falls so grey and drear. The light is gone.
And greyness conquers with fixed misery
And all the world is shrunk to bear this weight
Of water falling on our finity.

The soil must be prepared. I know, I know,
Without the watering no life can be.
Yet how can blessing wear so bleak a form
As water falling on our finity.

And did it snow in Bethlehem long since,
Or was it just this unremitting rain
Leaching the joy from every traveller’s steps
And adding damp and cold to labour pain?

Huddle humanity beneath the fall
Of the bleak soaking blight of Adam’s curse,
Wearing the weight of all our fallenness
Until the day breaks and the clouds disperse.

Until the day breaks in the midnight clear
Not with the sun but angel-glory bright
Here is the rest which Adam’s children yearn
Here is our hope, His dawn, the Light of Light.

Therefore I wait in this occluded grey
Knowing His certain dawn shall shine on me
For unto us, (to me!) a child is born:
His blessing falls upon my finity.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Anna at the Temple

Waiting.
Waiting.
Through the lean stretch of the years,
The thinning of the bones,
The flesh exhausted.

Waiting.
Hope fades, transmutes to prayer,
Prayer faint and regular as breathing,
In the waiting, aching flesh,
A breath that barely flutters,
Yet sustains all life, all thought ..

Waiting.
Waiting.
Beyond patience, into stubbornness.
Believing. What. God. says.
Holding still.
Waiting.

Remembering Sarah.
As the body dries its courses
And finds new ways to sag.
All beauty fled and vanished
Save the one who holds her heart.

Waiting.
Knowing His promise surer
When all history is against it.
Waiting still.

Here, with uplifted eyes
In the very house of prayer
Walking among the symbols of the covenant,
Waiting.
Past caring if this is a woman’s place.
Waiting.
Breathing in, breathing out,
Waiting.

And when He comes
She knows.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Marginalised

Just another family on the edge
Not quite our sort, the ones that we pass by,
The dwellers on the margins of our tidy world.

Item: an unwed mother,
A man, not the father, giving her his name,
A journey when all decent girls stay home
To give birth by their mothers.

Item: a squalid birth,
Not even a midwife there,
Not even a decent room.
Strange visitors at midnight,
Such a rough lot – shepherds!
And later foreigners that wore weird clothes,
And babbled about stars.

Item: a midnight flit
Just when they seemed to be settled.
Did they know the sharp cruel soldiers
Bringing grief that dripped like blood?

They went off as refugees
To go and join the heathens.

Not quite the family
For our cosy white bread suburbs,
Never a two-car garage
Or neat bedrooms all en suite,
We weigh hotels by stars,
And we book our rooms online.

But mud and dust and weariness,
Plans overturned by angels,
Pregnant with impossibility,
In the grinding tedium of life.
Chased by deranged royalty
To a foreign, lonely place ..

And bearing with them
All the hope we have.

Three sunsets and one sunrise -- Kimberley




Monday, December 01, 2008

The people who walked in darkness ..

For Advent ..

Long we have walked in the darkness
In the unlight of confusion
Whispering shadows
Our tenebrae of fear.

We have reached out and clutched the nearest hand
Trying to still the panic
Of the utterly alone
Who cannot see love
In any other face.

We light our own torches.

Strange fire, wildfire,
Sickly phosphorescence,
Flashlights under blankets and the heart’s auto da fe.
Any light, anyway,
Trying to see our way,
To see the way forward.
Make progress,
Invent our own way home,
As if the whole wide world were not in night.

To such as us, light comes.

Light we did not create, more terrible than beauty,
Searing as lightning, brighter than the noon,
To whom the very sun is a shadow, faint and pale
Whose embrace we flee from,. and whose love we crave

Light clothed in flesh,
Deep in the womb-cave darkness,
We are pregnant in our longing, and barren in our dreams,
Stumbling in the night.

Come to us in mercy, lest we die in dark.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Mudgee photos




Thanks -giving

One good custom Americans have which we missed out on, because of the vast differences in the history of our national beginnings, is the celebration of Thanksgiving. But, since all of us, everywhere are commanded to "give thanks in everything, I thought I'd have a go at scratching the surface ..

For these I give You thanks my Lord, my Maker and Sustainer,
At the turning of the year, and the ending of the season,
With the lifting of my heart, the submission of my reason,
I give thanks.

For the unexpected sunlight, the shaft that pierces darkness,
The stars in silver clarity, the mystery of shadow,
The lorikeets in rainbow hues, piercing as an arrow,
Summer rain.

For trees that dance against the sky, and flowers dressed in wonder,
The green curve of a wave, the enormity of storm,
The blessedness of bread, the dew upon the lawn,
Pelicans.

For unexpected hugs, and gentle words of healing
The clasp of hands, the smiles of friends, the deep embrace of prayer,
For shelter and for cosiness, Christ’s beauty everywhere,
Lovely light.

For life in You that has no end, the comfort of Your promise,
The certainty that stays my days, forgiveness past my guessing,
One cross to answer all I am with overwhelming blessing,
I give thanks.

Mudgee Photos -- Critters




Authentein

Authentein is the Greek word used in 1 Tim 2:12 where Paul says that he does not allow a woman to "exercise authority" over a man. That is the traditional translation, others take the word to mean "domineer" or "usurp authority" or some other word denoting autocratic and illegitimate authority -- something no Christian should exercise! A friend and I were checking out the word today in my Logos Bible programme which he finally got working for me (long story, but blessed be he!)and were stunned by the bias and dismissal shown in some of the references -- especially considering how this potentially impacts 50% of the population! So I turned my indignation into a poem ..

AUTHENTEIN

Pull the drawstrings tight
Around your carefully garnered authority
Lest you spill it on the ground
Irreclaimably.

Keep them in their place,
Infantilised,
Not responsible for anything,
Except somehow, in their weakness,
The sin of all the world.

Oh contain the She!

Never face to face
Limb to limb
Part and counterpart,
Heirs together of glory.

Give her fine words
But not the one that matters.
Equality in the realms of philosophy,
Fantasies of fair meaning,
But guard your dictionaries well,
Lest she dream of standing beside you.

I do not know this God,
Lord of the hidebound lexicon,
Who would take one half of the parable of being
And treat it with despite.
Is your Grand Order
His true, most holy cause?

We must have regard for our sisters,
For the ones slain by a word,
Taught by the phallocentric
To move shame-faced through the world.

Go hoard and strut your primacy while we
Stand bare-head in the rain, receiving His anointing.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Seven Weird things about me ..

Ok, this is all Karen's fault .. since she tagged all her readers!!!

1. I'm an Australian who can't swim .. never got the hang of it. Ok, co-ordination isn't my strong suit!

2 my third class teacher nicknamed me "Miss Dictionary" (after I corrected her spelling of Gallipoli)

3. When I was little, I used to spend time playing with the toys I didn't like, so their feelings wouldn't be hurt.

4. I was 9 years old in 1964 when the Beatles came to Australia. All the girls in my class went crazy over them. At 9 I couldn't figure what the fuss was about, and I said so. So i was the strange kid in the class who didn't like the Beatles!! (and I don't do peer pressure too much either!)

5. I really dislike the flavour of peanuts.

6. Having no brothers, I had no idea as a child what the physical differences between boys and girls were -- and no one would tell me! So I tried to figure it out for myself and thought that boy's hair didn't grow!! In the 60s, when males started to wear their hair longer, I got very confused.

7. In my student days I used to sing in the train. because of my schedule I was often travelling in moderately empty trains, and I would get in the end section of the carriage, by myself, and, while the train was moving and making a noise, i would sing and (presumably) no one would hear me ..

Too much information?
if you have a go at this "confessional", let me know ..

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nothing original ..

Nothing original here:
Only the same old heart,
Weary and smudged and weak,
Shop-soiled in every part.

Only the same laments
Born from the same long pain;
Only the same desires,
And the same prayers again.

Here the same hidden fears
Writhe in their same tired dance,
Wasting my vital strength,
Limiting love’s expanse.

Here the same battle’s fought
For its ten thousandth round
When shall I overcome?
When is the victory found?

Only the same despair
Mocks at my faith’s thin thread
Only the same resolves
Hunger the same scarce bread.

And yet, the same, same God
Turns not his face from me
And with the same vast grace
Holds me with constancy.

And the same promises
Capture again my heart
And His same love still breaks
Every defensive part.

So the same song I join
Which all the saints must sing
Wonder and praise to Him:
Lover and Lord and King.

Monday, November 17, 2008

"I am Australian"

I don't usually share this sort of thing, but this is part of my heritage, my world, my life. Wehave, like any other nation, our share of national songs, but this is the one that moves me.



Please feel free to ask about any references you don't understand.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Unborn

There has been much talk recently on the subject of abortion, and it reminded me tonight of this poem. Many years ago (August 1981 to be exact) I had a miscarriage, at 10 weeks pregnancy. It was the more poignant to me because it was 2 1/2 years later before i conceived our beautiful daughter. There was a period when I wasn't certain if I would ever have another child, which made me all the more grateful for the precious son I had already been given. Yet, at the time, I never really grieved the child I lost, I just pushed the issue aside, and got on with life. it was 9 years later that it all came back to me, and I allowed myself for the child who was never born, who spent such a tiny time alive. that was when I wrote this poem. (Poetry has always been a major emotional outlet for me). One final note: it has taken me by surprise in recent years to learn how debatable the salvation of these little ones is to some people; rightly or wrongly I have never doubted that my child-who-never-was is waiting for me in the Father's presence.

Some sunlit run; fresh, sparkling, clear and free,
With lilting laughter, brave to meet the day;
The legacy of light lives large in them,
With a glad liberty, they run their way.

But, others in dark stillness are enclosed.
The shade their heritage, no day they know.
Bound to the lifeless silence of the night;
No harvest theirs, who never forth did go.

Lips virgin of all speech; sad, sightless eyes,
A personhood unstretched to measure life;
The ponderous regret of "might-have-been",
The reaching out, with endless yearning rife.

The tragedy of being, being not.
Unheld, unknown, naked in the night,
Unformed, in bitter smallness so alone,
Never to drink the Day-spring of Delight.

Never to be, yet held in perfect love,
Somewhere beyond the reaching of the flesh.
This Never-Being cherished into joy,
By Him Who holds us all in tenderness.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Letter to my Blog

Dear Little Blog,

Sorry it’s been a while since I talked to you. Please don’t think I don’t love you any more.
But sometimes I’m busy, and sometimes .. well .. old friends should have room for contented silence in their conversation, shouldn’t they? I don’t want to bore you, so, when I have nothing to say, I say nothing. But life’s been happening, and it’s probably time we had a little chat.

** The US election: even on holidays we turned on the tv in time to get the candidates’ speeches, and were very moved by them. Aussie politicians could learn a few lessons from these guys. At the risk of alienating all my American friends, I have to admit that I’m glad Obama won. Things look different from the other side of the world – over here we’re a lot less concerned with America’s domestic policies (and can’t see what’s wrong with things like universal health care – we have had it for over 30 years) and a lot more concerned with having an American neighbour whose foreign policies make sense to us. And I admit that I was crying at the sight of the faces of black Americans, faces shining in wonder because they had never believed this could happen in their lifetime. Whether americans want their friendship or not, it’s a simple fact that many other countries will feel friendlier towards America because she has a black president. As to how well he’ll perform – to be honest I haven’t the foggiest idea – but I do know that sometimes symbols can count for more than empty rhetoric.

** Holidays: Alastair and I went away for a week to Mudgee (central western NSW, wine growing and general tourist area,) The place we stayed at was lovely – 10 minutes out of town, a set of cottages on the brow of a hill. From our cottage verandah we looked over 50 metres or so of lawn, studded with trees, then a little lake, then about 200 metres of vineyard back to the main road. Idyllic, especially as we had the place to ourselves, even the owners were away. Mornings and evenings the big grey kangaroos would come down from the bush at the back of the property to graze on the lawn, and currawongs and little blue wrens flew in and out of the trees. We went to several vineyards, but really, two or three in a week were enough for us. Craft galleries, national parks (including an amazing place called Dunn’s swamp, where bright red bottle brush (Callistemon) were in flower along the water’s edge) and the historic old town of Gulgong, where there is a museum dedicated to Henry Lawson, a rather tragic Australian literary figure, who was born there on the goldfields.

**Sickness: So I went and got bronchitis on holidays. Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but at least being married to a doctor sometimes pays off – I was able to get a prescription for antibiotics as soon as I recognised what was happening to me, so I never got really sick. Then I go to the doctor today for my 6 month checkup and get told I’m anaemic (at my age!!) so I have to get on the iron tablets ..

Birthdays: end of October, beginning of November is birthday season round here. Beginning with my special day (Oct 28), then my FIL is November 7 (he just turned 88), my DIL is Nov 9, and my son is Nov 11 (he just turned 29) So that has taken some time and energy as well (and a very nice family dinner at a restaurant with views of the dock area of Sydney harbour). Oh, and what did I get for my birthday? What I wanted, of course –a compact digital camera with 10x zoom .. fantastic for photographing birds and flowers ..

My Masters: just before we went away I got a letter from UTS to say my application for my masters has been approved (exciting but scary) So I had a heap of paperwork to get organised. What am I doing? A Masters in Adult Education – this one is specially geared for people who’s undergraduate degree was in other fields (not education) but who want to learn better ways to teach and train in their own discipline. Of course, I would have liked to do my Masters in Theology, but as a woman in the church here, there would be absolutely nothing I could do with it. This degree will open doors rather than closing them.

The internet: Another reason I haven’t blogged is that our internet has been subject to a lot of intermittent drop outs, often for hours at a time. Finally they sent us a technician yesterday and he found some corrosion at the junction of our cable internet with the street. Changing those connections seems to have fixed the problem

Well, I’m sure there’s lots more, like the sermon I have to prepare for Sunday (the first I’ve had to do for months), church matters etc etc,but hey, at least we’re speaking again. Now I just hope, dear blog, that you will be generous and forgiving and speak back to me and not get all huffy

Bye for now
Lynne

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

After prayers, lie cold -- C S Lewis

The previous post reminded me of this poem by C S Lewis, where coldness becomes the symbol and experience of repentance.

After Prayers, Lie Cold


Arise my body, my small body, we have striven
Enough, and He is merciful; we are forgiven.
Arise small body, puppet-like and pale, and go,
White as the bed-clothes into bed, and cold as snow,
Undress with small, cold fingers and put out the light,
And be alone, hush'd mortal, in the sacred night,
-A meadow whipt flat with the rain, a cup
Emptied and clean, a garment washed and folded up,
Faded in colour, thinned almost to raggedness
By dirt and by the washing of that dirtiness.
Be not too quickly warm again. Lie cold; consent
To weariness' and pardon's watery element.
Drink up the bitter water, breathe the chilly death;
Soon enough comes the riot of our blood and breath.

C S Lewis

The Weather and me

It's that sort of day .. yes, THAT sort! Cold, winter cold in mid-spring, wet, windy grey, the sort of weather when I start seriously pondering the merits of hibernation! Miserable weather, though why we call the weather miserable when the weather, as far as I know, is probably perfectly happy, and we are the ones feeling miserable .. Could it be we humans are sometimes a touch ego-centric?

I look out on this inhospitable day, and words form in my head, stream of consciousness really:

Rain, cold and sharp as sleet,
Fall on my hands and feet,
Consecrate me anew,
Sanctify all I do.

Well, for the literal minded, :-) obviously the rain isn't falling falling on my hands and feet, I'm indoors, dry if not quite cosy (my inner puritan can't quite grasp the idea of turning on the heater in October, even if it is only 11C outside), but perhaps, bear with my fancy for a moment, there is a sense in which I can surrender to coldness, bleakness, uncertainty and loneliness, acknowledge them, acknowledge that loss and dying and need are simply realities of the human condition, and that dying, in small things and large is a necessary precondition to living in Christ.

Then, accepting these things would become as much an act of consecration as accepting the richness of the Spirit's anointing and the warnth of the Father's embrace. I am not an ascetic by temperament, my natural bent is to see God most easily through loveliness and wonder, but I recognise the reality of the discipline of simplicity, and the fact that we cannot wholeheartedly live to one thing without dying to something else. (An analogy would be marriage -- in committing myself to life with one man, I die to the possibility of having the same kind of relationship with any other man, if I did not do that, I would be something less than wholly given to my marriage.)

Likewise, as much as God showers good gifts on His children, and cares for our human needs and pains, I am less than wholly given to Him if I look for my ultimate comfort anywhere else. He has promised us more love than we can conceive or imagine, He never promised to give it on our terms. And, day by day, I must surrender afresh to the discipline of receiving life on His terms, not my own, and acknowledging the reality of His presence in absence as well as richness.

And the cold rain, that falls alike on the just and the unjust, is still His mercy to a parched and weary earth ..

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hymn

With the issue of women in the church very much on my mind lately, I wrote this. it would fit traditional hymn tunes, like "The Church's One Foundation .." I think perhaps it needs a concluding verse, but my mind went blank at that point

O Lord of earth and heaven
We lift our prayers to you
We would be your disciples
In everything we do
The brokenness from Eden
Has left us sore oppressed
Then Lord make haste to help us
And give your daughters rest.

O Christ our sure Redeemer
Who has made all things new
Give love and grace and wisdom
To all who follow you
Who conquered death and hades
From all sin’s curse set free
Grant us to serve together
In our entirety.

O Spirit of the Highest
Who blesses from above
With your anointing power
And your indwelling love,
Your gifts you shower freely
That we may all proclaim
As blessed sons and daughters
The glories of your name.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ten things I don't need in my life

both the profound, and the .. not profound. in no particular order:

1. Men who want to put/ keep women in their "place" (I am beyond tired of being told I can only be godly by being someone else's fantasy)

2. Tea and coffee (I am the no caffeine freak. Seriously. I don't drink either. At all. Ever.)

3. Broccoli (except to keep my husband happy. he likes. I loathe)

4. Media obsession with politics and politicians. They go to some very unhealthy places to find something "new" to say

5. More gadgets. to do more things we never knew we needed. (let's just replace what we've got when it wears out, and take time to enjoy it)

6. A Magisterium to tell me what to think. (Of course I'll listen to their opinions. But I reserve the right to disagree)

7. Begging phone calls from charities I've never heard of. I'm convinced that some of them spend all their donations on phone calls

8. Billboards with "adult" content. I'm glad I don't have young children, I'd hate to try and explain a couple I've seen recently

9. Hatred and bitterness. they are the acid that corrodes our souls.

10. Toothache (are we all agreed on that one?)

how about you?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Eternal Subordination of women?

Over at Suzanne's Bookshelf, there's a discussion about a CBMW paper which suggests that wives will still be subordinate to their husbands in Heaven. Quite apart from the fact that this directly contradicts Jesus' words about the woman who had had 7 husbands, it is a terrible sentence to pass on abused and struggling women. This is what I wrote:

I shall not be your plaything forever
Or the mat on which you wipe your feet.

I servant willingly,
Having another master,
And bondslave to His glory.
Here I am whole
In the place of his calling, becoming
Everything I am in Him
Stretched into authority
Fashioned by His love
His precious poiema forever.

Not for the glory of your ego
Did He shed His blood for me.
For the Kingdom of Heaven is greater
Than the petty realms of men
And He calls His sons and daughters
To reign with Him forever.

There you no longer own me.
Stamped with His Name and His glory,
I shall stand, wearing His beauty:
And your mean rules die away,
In the freedom of His joy.

Grace

Hold me in my smallness,
The night is very dark.
I hear my own heartbeat
Reverberate in silence:
Tiny and alone.

I have put off my assumptions
And my soul is naked
Though I flutter to cover my shame.

Yet you know me already
Throughly and throughly,
As I do not know You,
Though I long to understand.

I walk into the fire
Burning, burning,
Your holiness too much …

Yet I am not consumed.

Politics for Pickles

The American Presidential elections are not a private internal American matter, they affect the whole world, simply because the President of the United States has so much power. America has so much power. Their internal decisions affect the world’s economy (as we have seen so graphically in the last couple of weeks), their external decisions affect international politics, including whether our country (as a close ally) goes to war or not. How could we, on the other side of the world, in a country of 20 million, an outpost of western Anglo culture on the edge of Asia, not care massively what America does and what direction she moves in? And of course, if America’s political and economic influence is enormous, her cultural influence is even more pervasive. Yet for all this, as the continuous saga of the presidential election campaign dominates our television, newspapers and internet, it becomes clearer and clearer to me, that, for all our genuine friendship and interconnectedness, there are many respects in which we think differently, or at least the Australia of my personal experience thinks very differently to the America I see through the media and the many personal blogs I read. I’m not a sociologist, I haven’t attempted to integrate these factors, I just present them as a few random points to help explain why I don’t see things the same way. Some of these points are general/cultural, some are more personal.

1. I live in a country where voting is compulsory, not optional. I have spent my life not seeing my vote as an option I may or may not choose to exercise, but as a responsibility I have to my country. I am confused by the whole American concept of voter registration, here we must all register to vote when we turn 18, and if we don’t vote we receive a letter from the electoral office with a fine to be paid. Elections are always held on Saturdays, to make it as easy as possible for people to get to the polling booth, and there are arrangements for people who are sick, busy travelling or whatever.
2. abortion is not really an election issue here, simply because neither major party is anti-abortion, not surprising in a country where less than 5% of the population are regular church goers. So we choose who to vote for on a very different set of criteria. There are minority parties that are anti- abortion, they have about the same support as people like the fishing party or the marihuana party, i.e. less than the greens.
3. There is no alignment, at least not in my suburban world, between conservative Christians and any particular political party. In my own church, just a few years ago, two members were standing as candidates in an election, both for minority parties, one very right wing, one very left wing. As far as I’m aware, no one in the church had a problem with that and more than once I saw the 2 candidates at morning tea after the service having a pleasant chat together about some of the practicalities of campaigning.
4. Very few Australians have any notion that we are trying to create some sort of perfect godly society here on earth, and when we pick up strains of that in American politics, we find the notion quite strange. I’m sure that there are historical reasons for this. Your nation was founded by the Pilgrim Fathers and their ilk, who came to a new land with the express purpose of setting up a society where they could live and worship according to their understanding of scripture. My nation was founded by a bunch of convicts, (and the soldiers who guarded them and were often as corrupt and desperate as the convicts). They didn’t have any choice about coming here, and their goal was simple survival. In this harsh, strange land you didn’t survive unless you helped one another.
5. Australia has always been less authoritarian and more egalitarian than America. The differences between rich and poor are less extreme (though still far greater than they would be in a truly just society), and we have had a universal health care system (to name one example) since the mid 70s. We still have a huge problem with working out how to best help Aboriginals, and it is to our shame that it’s taken us so long to start wrestling with that. Like every nation on earth we have an underclass of people that need constant welfare intervention, but there’s still a perception that you can make a go of it if you have a job, and that the minimum wage is enough for people to live on.
6. Australians distrust authority. We’re cynical about politicians to the point of being disrespectful. Obviously disrespect is inappropriate from the viewpoint of Christian courtesy, but we certainly don’t give them a pass on anything just because they’re our leaders. We don’t expect perfection, which is just as well, because we don’t get it.
7. if an Aussie politician says he’s a Christian, he’s probably pretty serious about it, because there are no votes in it. Serious Christians are such a small proportion of the population. Bob Hawke, our prime Minister in the 80s was an avowed atheist, and that was hardly commented on by the press.

Of course, the minute I post these, I’ll think of other things ..

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Wolves

A prayer for all churches in need ..

The wolves have come upon Your flock O Lord.
They have come down in horrid, ravening spite.
The wolves have come with howls that chill the blood.
They come with burning eyes in bitter night.

These wolves, these children of the Pharisees,
Bearers of blight, and instruments of death
(Which they call life). Their heat that chills our bones
Is borne towards us by their every breath.

The shepherdly who strutted in the sun
And stroked their staves, and organised the sheep,
Have all gone fleeing to a safer place
Fled helter-skelter, tumbled in a heap.

The sheep who know, they crouch with frightened eyes,
And softly moan, immobilised with fear.
The other sheep rest on, contentedly,
Or vie for grass, and see no danger here.

Arise O Lord, Great Shepherd of the sheep,
Riven and ravened, stricken and restored
Giver of Life, who gave Your life for us,
You are our only help, our mighty Lord.

Unless You keep us, Lord, we are not kept.
Unless You hold us, into dust we fall.
And would you see us perish into night,
Your very own, for whom You gave Your all?

Rather, O Christ, our hope and sure defence,
You will uphold us in the midst of strife
You will, yourself, deliver from the wolves
And, fast in You, we find, not fear, but life.

Spiritual types test

Just did the Spiritual types test http://explorefaith.org/tools/my_spiritual_profile/index.php

The answer seems a pretty good fit ..

YOU ARE A LOVER
Lovers are people who naturally connect with the Holy One through their emotions. They feel deeply that no matter what they do or do not do, they are held safely in the embrace of God’s love. They focus on the generosity, mercy, and compassion of God and believe that even when judgment or justice seems called for, God’s response is one of tenderness. They seek to relate with the Holy One through inner reflection. They tend to be more emotional in their prayer and in reading the signs of God’s presence. If they were to meet God face to face, they would want to open themselves completely to God’s intoxicating love and show their love in return.
One such person in the Bible was Mary of Bethany. She had a tenderness for Jesus that led her to acts of love for him even when she might have been ridiculed for her unorthodox behavior (John 12:1-9). She had the confidence that she was being invited into a space of love and being surrounded in that divine embrace gave her the desire to show her deep love in return.

If you are a lover, you will find prayer and meditation likely ways to deepen your love relationship with the Holy One; the prayer and meditation section of explorefaith.org may assist you in this. They offer guidance as to when, where, how and why to pray, as well as tools for meditating with art, music, journaling, poetry and more.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

He ...

I know, silly title for a post, but I couldn't think what to call it. Sometimes we need to de-institutionalise our images of Jesus, and be struck afresh by the wonder of it all ..

He was the Flame. He came. He burned
Fierce in this dark, dry hollow place
Burning the chaff of futile words
From lips He touched with flaming grace.

He was the Stream, the Living Fount
Water of Life from God’s own throne
Flowing to wash our filthiness
Submerging us in Love unknown.

He was the Bread, the wheat ground down
Broken: we eat and are made whole.
Passed through the furnace of our death
Food for the hungry, desperate soul.

He was the Stranger, life disguised,
Walking the paths we should have trod
Lifting the veil of blazing truth:
Him we must meet to know our God.

He was the Lamb, the stricken one,
Shepherd for sheep in mercy given
Blood on the doorposts of our hearts
Life for our lives nailed up and riven.

He was the laughter on the hills
Breaking death’s solemn tyranny
Calling across all space and time
“Come, leave the husks and follow Me!”

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Superpower

Question:
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Answer:
Well, let's think of some possibilities --
X-ray vision might be fun .. but I'd hate to see through everyone's clothes. most of us wear them for a reason.

Flying? All my best dreams involved being gravity defying, but in real life there wouldn't be so much point. Besides, I'd keep bumping my head on the ceiling!

Invisibility? There have been times in my life when I felt invisible. It wasn't much fun.

Cleaning things up with a click of my fingers, a la Mary Poppins? well, yep, that would be useful. But I sure don't want the big thing in my life to be about housework!

You know what I would choose?
To really, really understand people .. to be able to get inside their hearts and really know what they're feeling and why, and, even more, to understand enough how to speak words of real healing into their lives...

What would you choose? Something I haven't even thought of?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Twisted thought

Hmm .. whenever I comment on someone else's blog I get that little phrase from Blogger "your comment has been saved".

Are they trying to tell me something about the unregenerate nature of my comments?
Or have they checked it (how?) to see that it qualifies as a genuine born-again comment?

the concept of salvation by blogger is definitely a worry .. ;-)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Grief

Really feeling for R P's grieving family tonight ..

It’s right to grieve.
Christ’s tears at Lazarus’ tomb
Blaze through the sodden lie that all is well:
The arching, vast material untruth.

All is not well.
Here sorrow, loss and pain,
Unfinished lives, words lost, a touch withheld,
The sorry outflow of a muddled life –
A muddied life that’s never wholly clean.

All is not well.
This body born for death
Carries decay within its very life,
Wearing away with mortal weariness
The blood’s perpetual rush : down, down to death.

All is not well.
This is the land of grief
Where promises grow bankrupt and stars fall,
And faith transmutes to courage to survive,
Or just keep breathing. Night is very dark
And bitterness lasts longer than the night,
The lights go out, the air is growing cold.

All is not well.
Then grieve your holy tears
And let the light perpetual shine on them
And shine on you.
Go kneel in utter grief
Prostrate before the barrenness of time
And own despair
And own He has been there.

There is no answer from that garden tomb
Except its emptiness.
That is enough
Enough and more.
Enough and everything.

In Memoriam

This morning I received the painful news of the death of a former assistant pastor of our church, now ordained and working in rural Victoria. There are some difficult cicumstances surrounding thesituation, and he leaves behind a wife a nd 3 teenage daughters. Please pray for them

IN MEMORIAM – R. P.

Father, take your scattered children
Broken in their lonely pain
As they wander in the tempest
Bring them back to you again.

Who can carry, who can bear it,
Life in all its dreadful weight?
Heart’s transgression, hope’s long failure:
Cruel defeat in fullest spate.

Who can bear the weight of knowing
Who we are and how we break
Dust to dust the flesh returning
Every atom, every ache.

Dust to dust, to loss, to sorrow
Yet your silver trumpet-note
Swells and shears across Hell’s darkness
For your love is not remote.

Fold them in the love of Jesus
Death and hell are silenced there
Tears are wiped and sins forgiven
In the mystery of prayer.

Hold them, fold them, Father take them
Where locked grief finds full release
Human agony outreaching
Touched, upheld by heaven’s peace

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thoughts on "The Inklings"

I have just finished reading “The Inklings” by Humphrey Carpenter, a biographical account of the group of Oxford Christian friends that met together, centred on Tolkien, Lewis and Charles Williams. I am, as anyone who knows me well knows, a long-time lover of the works of Tolkien and Lewis: I fell in love with Narnia as a child, and fell in love with Jesus as represented by Aslan, connecting to Him in a way I could never connect to the rather boring figure in my Sunday School lessons. Later I read, and loved the space trilogy, and as a brand new Christian in my teens I devoured his theological works, starting with Mere Christianity. Although there are issues where I definitely part company with Lewis (purgatory, the role of women, his position on creation/evolution etc – on the last I am more conservative than this man of my grandparents generation) he shaped my foundational thinking in many ways, making me very much an Anglican, albeit a different type in some particulars. And then Tolkien – I enjoyed the Hobbit, but it was just another book for the most part (and I read everything I could get my hands on) – it was LOTR that won my heart and captured my imagination with its imagery of absolute courage and humility and devotionlived out in the context of things that truly were high and wonderful. Charles Williams? I tried reading one of his books once, but I didn’t really get it, it was like reading a poem whose imagery compels your attention, but you don’t have a clue what it’s about, or why it matters so much.

Lewis is the centre of the book, and rightly so, for he was the centre of the group, the one whose enormous gift for friendship held the whole thing together. I have read other biographies of Lewis, but this was different because it was less interested in the isolated facts of his life and more in seeing him through the lens of his relationships with others. Fascinating, but left me pondering a couple of things:

1. The misogyny of these people. Oh, they weren’t anti-women in any nasty patriarchalist sense, and much can be explained simply in terms of their being the products of their particular time and culture, where academia was still very much a boys’ club, but still .. They took for granted that intellectually stimulating rich and fulfilling world of male conversation was precisely where females didn’t belong. Ok, that’s going to get up my personal bristles, because my best friends (mainly male, I must confess) have always been precisely the sort of people with whom I can talk for hours in exactly that way, and the men I have had the most trouble relating to are those who feel awkward with a woman whose conversation isn’t all domestic and girly. To be fair, I have no idea that anyone at the time felt excluded in that sort of way, but it conjured up memories for me of all the times I have felt brushed aside and excluded from what interested me most precisely because I was a woman. So maybe it’s more my issue than theirs ..
2. The apologetics are dated, the works of imagination don’t date. Not that Lewis isn’t still worth reading, and his continuing sales attest to that, but the parts of his writing that are most defensive and argumentative have worn the poorest, whereas, even in his non-fiction, the parts where the poet breaks through stay undimmed, for instance that beautiful sermon, “The Weight of Glory”, whose last part still moves me incredibly every time I read it and helps me treat my fellow human beings with a little more reverence. But then, I have a theory (based on the not-so-weighty evidence of my personal reactions!!) that head-stuff, valuable and important though it is, (and I’m not knocking or demoting it) needs to be constantly refreshed not to grow stale and same-old, whereas heart stuff keeps its freshness from a deeper spring.

What do you think ..

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rejoice in the Lord ..

Let Him be to you as a star is to the darkness
Let Him be to you as a hand stretched holding yours
Let Him be to you as a blanket to the shivering
Love comes gently.

Let Him be to you as the wind that shakes the dead leaves
Let Him be to you as the medicine you need
Let him be to you as the challenge you must answer
Love calls firmly.

Let Him be to you as the partner of your dancing
Let Him be to you as the rhythm driving song
Let Him be to you as the plummeting of gannets
Love laughs wildly

Be Thou My Vision



a lovely version of one of my favourites

Friday, September 12, 2008

And Spring Shall Come

Spring has been a little late arriving this year:

And Spring shall come.
Surely, as His promise, though it be delayed;
With the fragrance of flowers
And the miracle of blossom
Dry wood brings forth beauty
And our sleep is put aside.

Surely Spring shall come.
Faithful is His promise, though the night is long.
Love shall greet the barren,
And the frozen heart
Thaws to sing His melody again
The night is put aside.

This, our Spring shall come.
He, Himself our promise, though our faith is small
Wonder of His radiance in a world re-made
All our tears
Wiped by His hands in star-stopped tenderness
And death is put aside.

The Empty Ones

Not sure where this one suddenly came from, but it's a terrible picture ..

They dance the dance of loneliness
The ones with bitter eyes
They smile the grin of circling sharks
Whose teeth are pointed lies
Where truth’s too sharp for clumsy hands
They simply improvise.

They walk beneath the blessed sun
And do not feel its light
Sharp through the shadows of the heart
In gloried hardness smite
They only moan and close their eyes
And seek the old respite.

They run from pain, but pain pursues
And will not give them peace
They seek the darkness like a friend
But find no true release
Only the dreams to nightmare bent
Till even dreams must cease.

Even their hearts to stone have turned
Only the ache remains
Shell of the things that might have been
Forge of their chosen chains
Love poisoned into dead desire,
Wisdom become inane.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Psalm of an Abused Woman

I have watched the sands sinking
Through the hourglass of life
And my own hope drained away.
Betrayal that goes to the bone:
Heart knit to heart now bleeding
Haemorrhaging faith.

I have felt the waves wash over me, the salt of soul’s destruction,
While your words beat against my ears
No longer tuned to you,
But hearing just the buzz-saw as you sliced me up.
I have felt my very limbs go limp:
Muscle melt against muscle with no force to hold them up,
While the poison of condemnation
Turns all strength to sickness.

I know myself as nothing,
And go down into the dark.

But the light shines in the darkness
And the darkness has not overcome it.
And He who became nothing
Is here where you cannot go.
Saviour, Lover, Deliverer ..
He cherishes my tomorrows
Which you had ground down to dust.

I shall awake in His likeness
Fully, fully satisfied ,
My bare heart overwhelmed.

He shall give me strength where I have no strength
And His song shall light my way.
He has called this worm to be warrior
And His weapons are Light and Truth.
I shall strike down the lies that you told me,
And laugh in the shining hour.
I shall dance on the grave of my heartbreak
Fully loved .. at last!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Leprosy and Sin

This morning I preached on the story of Naaman. I talked about the nature of leprosy, and how it has been discovered (by the missionary doctor, Paul Brand) that the disease destroys people's bodies, not by eating away at them, but by anaesthetising the nervous system so the person, no longer feeling pain, causes the injury themselves.

"The resulting nerve damage causes loss of sensation in the extremities, eyes, and eyelids. Because of lack of sensation the leper can be unaware of injuries to his fingers, toes, hands, or feet, resulting in the infection and loss of those members. Because of the loss of sensation in the eyes and eyelids the person does not blink and his eyes dry out, or gets dust in his eyes without knowing it causing infection, both resulting in loss of sight".

I spoke of Naaman, and how, in his pride, he didn't want to follow the one way God had ordained for his cleansing, and how we are just the same, because God has ordained a way for us to be cleansed of sin, and we deal with it in other ways -- denial, lying, making excuses, compartmentalising our lives (like Jekyll and Hyde) reinterpreting scripture to justify ourselves, blaming others etc etc.

And how are sin and leprosy alike? this was the list I came up with:

 makes us unclean
 no one is immune
 numbs us to the promptings of the Holy Spirit
 will eventually numb us so much we become self-destructive, The Bible speaks of being "hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Hebrews 3:13, NIV) and of being given over to a depraved mind (Romans 1:28). And we don't even realize that it is destroying us.
 more contagious to the young and the ill-nourished
 causes isolation and destroys relationships
 in Bible times leprosy was incurable by any human means
 started out in one small area, ended up affecting the whole person
 in Jewish law even the smallest thing wrong on the skin had to be examined to see if it was the symptom of disease deep inside the person
 it produced misery, shame and disfigurement in the person’s life, taking away the joy from every earthly privilege they might have known

I finished with this quote I found from the testimony of a Chinese Christian:

"A Christian from China was giving his testimony and he said, "I had slipped into a great ditch and the ditch was sin." Buddha came along and said, "Come up half way and I will lift you up." Muhammad came along and said, "Here are five pillars that will get you out." But I couldn't get up those five pillars. Confucius came along and said, "You're not really in that ditch, you just think you're in that hole." But I was still there in the ditch of sin. Then Jesus came by and saw my predicament. He didn't say a word but laid aside his regal robes and got down in the ditch along with the sin and the mire and he lifted me out of it by his grace. The difference was his love and who he was! He who was God was willing to come down to my level in order to lift me out of sin."

Friday, August 29, 2008

No longer bright young things ..

This poem is dedicated to everyone who's ever struggled, who's ever had to learn things the hard way. it is for those who have tried to walk by faith when they could no longer remember where their faith came from, who are no longer young and beautiful, but have kept trying anyway .. Maybe that's all of us ..

No longer bright young things but old and dull
Toiling our weariness across the days
Numbed by long pain and whispers of defeat
Not unto us, Oh Lord, the brilliant blaze.

Not unto us the swift grab at the prize
Not unto us the battle laughter high;
But unto us the stark and dreadful will
And unto us the love that will not die.

Blessed are we whose eyes have seen the night
Drench its chill terror through our aching frame
Who have held on because we can’t let go
And seen the morning rise with distant flame.

Blessed are we who have not given up
But scrabbled handholds in the blistered rock
And wondered if “one more” would get us there
While scrambled thoughts whirled round us like a flock.

We shall not lead the charge nor flail our swords
Glinting with sunlight in our high salute
We falter far from any podium
And know our courage is not absolute.

And yet we know what no bright youngster knows
Have touched that tenderness that wracks the soul
From any cheaply bought or sloganed truth.
We know it is not needful to be whole.

We know we have small wisdom of our own
We know that we are broken, incomplete
We know our knowing is the least of it
And breathed that grace that lies beyond defeat.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let your light so shine ..

Let's be honest -- sometimes we're just not very shiny. it doesn't take much effort to see what trimming and cleaning the lamp and refilling it with oil would be analogous to ..

LET YOUR LIGHT SO SHINE

Lord, my lamp is dirty, soiled by smoke
Sprung from strange fire, false longings of my soul
Seeking the sacrifices men demand,
As if I were the priest, in Jesus’ role.

There is scum here, all hardened on the glass
Where I did not burn hot and clear and bright
But smouldered sullenly with bitter heart
And wondered why I gave so faint a light.

And I have hid my lamp beneath shy flesh:
The longing to conform, to strike no fear
From walking through this timid world ablaze,
And so I posed as if You were not here.

And I have used poor fuel, not my heart’s best
And quenched your Spirit to a comfy spark
Only to shiver in despair’s stark chill
And find myself thumb-twiddling in the dark.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Definitely not Type A

This one is sooo true .. the Type A person in this house is the one I'm married to!




You Have A Type B+ Personality



You're a pro at going with the flow

You love to kick back and take in everything life has to offer

A total joy to be around, people crave your stability.



While you're totally laid back, you can have bouts of hyperactivity.

Get into a project you love, and you won't stop until it's done

You're passionate - just selective about your passions

To the Narcissist ..

Back to the theme of poems on abuse, this is about the emotional abuse suffered in relationship to a narcissist. It is a subtle kind of abuse, the gradual undermining of the victim's selfhood (a victim probably already insecure in her sense of self because some form of lack of parental affirmation). One day she wakes up and realises that while Narcissus was glorifying his own self-image, he did so at her expense, parasitically taking from her (all in the name of "love") until she is faded away to just an echo. By then she may not have enough sense of self left to know how to get disentangled.

You are the thornbush, I the clinging vine.
You are the thirst, and I the water poured.
You are the trophy, I the polish cloth
You are the desert, I the empty gourd.

You are Important – ah! So neat, so sleek!
I am the lower case, the little vowel,
You are the lion that struts the sunlit plain,
I mourn in darkness, like some faint-voiced owl.

You are supreme, complete, you have no want
Save adoration, faint praise brings your wrath.
I am the audience and you the star.
You are the trophy, I the polish-cloth.

You are the grinding heel, and I the clay
Waiting to bear your print, I have no form.
Unfit to carry meaning, I must yield,
Since I am aberration, you are norm.

Guru? me?

Not too sure about this one (h/t Kansas Bob), a lot of questions it was a toss up which way I'd answer them. besides it's terribly hard to choose between superlatives to describe yourself, I want to tone the whole thing down a bit!!




You Are the Guru



You are a naturally good counselor. You are inspiring, encouraging, and compassionate.

You are eager to help everyone who crosses your path, even those who don't want to be helped.



You are a natural healer. People feel at peace when they are with you.

You are so good for people, in fact, that they go through withdrawal once you're gone.



You quietly do your own thing, without openly resisting. You secretly try to fix every problem.

Your biggest regret is not being able to help as many people as you'd like.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Consider the Lilies ..

Did you ever realise (I hadn't thought of it) that "Consider the lilies" is actually a command?

Consider these petals,
So easily bruised,
So fragile and tentative in their beauty ..

Yet their perfume would adorn the palaces of kings
With promises of heaven,
And trampled they will Spring again
Each succeeding season,
And who can deny their renewal?

Watered by the rain from heaven,
Under rich blessing,
They struggle through the soil, seeking light that they might flourish.
Shall I find my parable there?

I have never sighted Solomon, in all his rumoured glory
But I know the cult of celebrities, in all their brittle beauty,
Polished to a paradigm
Before their star debunks.
I know the perpetual effort,
To catch the moment’s magic,
The flurry and the fury
Like chasing after wind.

Give me the lilies.
I would learn of their humility
To fear no season’s turning.
To drink of this day’s blessing, not hoarding up the manna,
Seeking to become,
Only,
The beauty of my Christ.

Take these hands ..

Not in the same league as Frances Ridley Havergal's classic, but still a seriously meant prayer ..

Take these hands, these clumsy hands,
Let their fumbling do Your will.
Take these feet, these stumbling feet
Shuffling Your commandments still.

Take this tongue, scared blurting tongue,
Let it utter words of grace
Take these shoulders stooped and bent,
Your light yoke in failure’s place.

Take these eyes and fix their gaze
On Yourself, my true desire.
Take my heart, soiled, broken heart,
Meld to wholeness in Your fire.

Take tomorrow from my grasp,
All my days are in Your hand.
Take these shackling, pris’ning fears
Till Your grace I understand.

Sabbath

"the Sabbath erects a weekly bastion against the commodification of time, against reducing time to money, reducing time to what we can get out of it, against leaving no time for God or beauty or anything that cannot be used or purchased. It is a defense against the hurry that desecrates time.”
-- Eugene Peterson

I love the principle, for years I have believed that the point of the Sabbath was to show that we are not slaves to this world and its material pragmatism. We exist in time, but only for a time; the sabbath is like raising our heads to breathe a different air.

That being said, I have no idea what, in our Christian liberty, the Sabbath should actually look like in practice. Certainly the legalistic dreariness of the puritan/Victorian version chills my soul. But there is a principle we forget at our peril, that we need to have time for the unnecessary, the immaterial, whatever is pure and lovely, whatever refreshes us from the grimness of daily life. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? We need time to re-attach our souls to the things that are unseen, and so much greater than the things that are seen, and to be reminded that even in the most ordinary dailiness of life, we were created for worship.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Instrument of Thy Peace

Kansas Bob this morning has reminded me of the prayer attributed to St Francis (I read recently that it wasn’t, in fact from him, but much more modern) which I have always loved, “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace ..” When I was a uni student (long ago, in another century) the last section of that prayer was one of the things stuck on the inside of my folder:

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life

I don’t pretend to have lived up to it, but, despite the criticism I have heard of it in some quarters, it is still my goal. To me it is Jesus’ words “take up your cross and follow me” made personal to my situation. “Bearing your cross” has been a horribly misused phrase among Christians, used to apply to everything that causes pain and discomfort in life, as if pain and discomfort weren’t everybody’s experience in this fallen world. Pain in itself doesn’t make anyone holy, there are plenty of people who use their pain to justify every kind of self-centredness. For instance, most abusive parents are mistreating their children because they aren’t coping with their own pain and take it out on someone smaller and weaker. But pain, of course, can be the plough, that tears up the soil for the fruit of the Spirit to grow.

Much more relevant is the calling to die to self-centredness. Here my own pain becomes, not a demand for your pity, but a doorway to understanding your pain so that I can offer you my pity. It does not diminish my need to be loved (if only ….) but it actually becomes a faith act to entrust my neediness to God while I comfort your neediness. Of course, to broken human beings that can easily turn into a twisted demandingness: now that I have ministered to your need, you are obligated to minister to mine. That, too, is the failure of love. I don’t pretend to have worked out the balance of how our own essential needs are met while we learn to give ourselves away. If all our core relationships are healthy it’s not much of an issue, because people will meet love with love, generosity with generosity. And if the core people in our lives are doing that, it is easier to give ourselves away in free kindness to the rest of the world. Where core relationships are unbalanced, it is a much harder road. But I still believe it is Jesus’ road: not to be a self-righteous martyr in an unjust relationship, but to find a way through to God, from where you can both protect yourself as appropriate and yet give with no thought of return.

We can only become the instruments of His peace, the agents of His kingdom, when we have laid aside the expectation of building a kingdom of our own. We cannot do it ourselves, trite moralism achieves nothing that builds love or hope into people’s lives; it must be a burial of the self into Christ, allowing Him to love through us. Sometimes, in difficult situations, when I have long since run out of any love of my own, I try to see myself as a pipeline through which Jesus’ love can reach that person. Please don’t misunderstand, I am nowhere near success with all of this, I only know what goal I aspire to.
So what does this look like in daily life? On one pragmatic level it can be like the other verse I used to carry inside my uni folder;

I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there are those who are;
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.
I would be friend of all—the foe—the friendless;
I would be giving and forget the gift;
I would be humble, for I know my weakness;
I would look up and laugh—and love—and lift.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Miracles for Sale!

Now, it happens that I do believe in the continuation of the miraculous gifts, but I don ot believe that everything that claims to be revival and miracle working is anything of the sort. Simon magus thought he could buy the gifts of the Spirit for coin; his spiritual descendants want to use the power of God (or the appearance of it)to make money. There are so many directions from which wolves seek to prey upon the flock ..

The huckster’s voices clamour loud
Sales’ pitches batter at your mind
“Step up! Step up!” they urge the crowd,
“This sweet prosperity to find!”

The crowds toil by with laden hearts,
Fragmented dreams, defeated eyes;
Their longings have so many parts
And every day their courage dies.

“Step up! Step up! Take hold! Take hold!”
The barkers with their megaphones
Offer the gift that can’t be sold
Proffer the power no one owns.

“See here, I have it – the one thing
Needful!” Raw power tints the air.
The hype, the money, everything:
For healing’s now a fairground ware.

We need some tinny organ tone
While the slick talker works the crowd
And dollars flash and angels groan
And prophet’s profits laugh aloud.

The weak, the poor the lame the sick:
Christ Jesus gave them all His heart
But now, for well-hooked promise slick,
The needy from their coin must part.

And faith joins hands with fantasy –
A mind game and a great pretence,
The hypnotist’s false ecstasy,
The disappointment too intense.

They travel over land and sea
To make one “convert” twice as bad.
Whilst those of anxious piety
Can scarce acknowledge they’ve been had

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In Fairytale ..

Just a bit of doggerel..
We know that in all good stories (the sort we learned in childhood) the heroes and heroines pass through pain on their way to glory and happy-ever-after. And their endurance proves their authenticity ..

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

In fairytale, the ones of royal birth
Suffer ignominy to prove their worth.
Courage is needed, peril is abroad,
Wise is the prince who knows to use his sword.
Wise is the princess, in the midst of pain,
Who wears fidelity without a stain.
Rags they may wear, by jeering foes beset,
But we still know they’ll have their kingdom yet.

Likewise, stand firm, beloved of the king,
Midst every heartache life’s long loss may bring.
Walk in His light, whatever dark befall
Until the day when He shall conquer all.
Only believe His promise shall prove true
Then joy to walk the kingdom won for you.

World Youth Day!

This week is World Youth Day in Sydney, with Catholic pilgrims from all over the world pouring into Sydney for special events with the pope. It’s all a bit bemusing for the non-Catholic rest of us and, to be honest, I haven’t tried to keep up with it. Since it’s all being held in the inner city, and I rarely go near the city in business hours (going to the theatre, galleries, museums etc at other times is something I’m always keen to do), and my husband’s practice is in the leafy streets of outer suburbia, it hasn’t really touched us at all. But it does put Catholicism on the front page.

Now I don’t want to get into all the old arguments about Catholic/Protestant doctrinal differences. I grew up with that. My grandmother, an ardently low church Anglican, made me promise when I was a little girl (about 7 or 8) that I would never marry a catholic. Well, I married a Presbyterian, so I guess that was ok. And credit where credit is due: I think the Catholics beat us hands down when it comes to pastoral theology, and reverence and such. But I still think most of those Catholic distinctives are wrong: praying to saints, the cult of virginity, Mary as co-redemptrix, purgatory, indulgences, transubstantiation, And I’ve read the Council of Trent documents on justification, in fact did my major tut paper on them, and felt the doctrine was very muddled, and based on premises that are simply not biblical. But there’s a couple of other aspects of Catholicism I would like to address.

One of the things that strikes me about the whole culture of Catholicism is how very paternalistic it is. Now some people may like that, I’ve lived long enough to know that some people thrive under authoritarian systems and find their security there. I guess I haven’t lived long enough to understand those feelings. I don’t want to spend my life sitting back in blissful ignorance while someone else does the thinking for me; I’m a questioner by nature (though I do try hard not rock other people’s boats with my wonderings) and I’m never happy about something till I’ve figured it out for myself. And the thought of calling my minister “Father” (which Jesus expressly said we were not to do) really troubles me, let alone thinking of the pope as Il Papa. God is my father, the imagery of the church should be feminine, and I’m uncomfortable with the implied patriarchy of the Catholic usage.

Which leads straight to my second point, which is my bottom line for “why I could never be a Catholic” It’s the issue of authority. I simply cannot conceive just taking church tradition (or recent rulings, e.g. contraception) on board without deciding for myself what I thought. No man, whatever line of apostolic succession lies behind him, has that sort of claim on my conscience. The Word of God (because He authoritatively speaks through it) has that sort of claim on my life, the Holy Spirit is promised to me to guide me into all truth. I am not discarding tradition willy-nilly, anyone who thinks they have invented all the truth for themselves is just being silly and presumptuous, but while we listen to and weigh the words of those who are our elders in the faith, we very soon discover that there is much on which they do not speak in unison. We ponder their wisdom, we prayerfully consider the scriptures, and then we decide for ourselves. And along the way we may well change our minds about some things – certainly I don’t believe exactly what I believed when I was 20. And some of the things I still have the same opinion about, I believe for different reasons. That’s ok. It’s called growth, and as long as it doesn’t involve discarding the heart of the gospel, it’s probably a good thing. But if I don’t always agree with myself  the chances of my agreeing with the magisterium are even slimmer!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

This made sense

Found on the blog of PTC Sydney(the Presbyterian college where I did my Hebrew)was this comment on the issue of the emergent church:

McKnight's take is that lots of the questions are post-fundamentalist. In Australia where fundamentalism has not been the same phenomenon the emerging issues are not the same.

This makes so much sense, and explains why a lot of the conversations on American theoblogs don't sound like they're happening on the same planet I'm on. It actually is the same planet, but a different continent!

Beware of the horse

I don't normally put news stories on my blog, but these coroner's statistics were so quirky I couldn't resist. Courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald:

AUSTRALIA'S deadliest animals do not lurk on the banks of muddy Northern Territory rivers or slither on hot rocks. Nor do they hunt in the shallows of the sea or crawl on eight legs.

Horses are the creatures most likely to cause a human death, statistics compiled by the National Coroners Information System show.

Cows are the next most dangerous, followed by dogs. Sharks are in fourth position, while crocodiles and spiders account for only slightly more deaths than emus, cats and fish.

Of 128 deaths linked to animals that were investigated by coroners between 2000 and 2006, 40 were caused by horses.

Most occurred when riders fell off, including one that resulted in a coroner recommending that helmets be encouraged for commercial horse riding and mandatory for tourism operations.

Cows and bulls were linked to 20 fatalities, usually after a car hit the animal or swerved to miss it.

Dog-related incidents left 12 people dead, including two from cars trying to avoid them, two from people falling over them and seven from being attacked by them.

Of the country's traditionally most feared creatures, sharks were responsible for 11 deaths, snakes eight, crocodiles four and spiders three.

Two people were killed when their cars struck emus, another person died after a vehicle struck a sheep, and an elderly person died after tripping over a pet cat.

Final figures:
Horse 40
cow 20
Dog 12
Shark 11
Snake 8
Bee 5
Crocodile 4
Spider 3
Emu 2
Tick 2
fish 2
Sheep 1
Jellyfish 1
Cat 1
Kangaroo/elephant/pig/hippo
15

It's the last category that's really got me fascinated -- elephant?? hippo???
And why are these 4 animals grouped together? Are they not sure which one did it?
Things to ponder when you're really, really bored ..

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Chasing song ..

.. by Andrew Peterson.
Isn't this the truth?

Communion meditation

Here the true centre, where the planets whirl
In true procession. Here love is made real
The Word made flesh speaks to eternity
And all creation comes at last to kneel.

Here is the song behind all poetry.
Here are the arms in absolute embrace,
Here brokenness is broken to bring life,
And, in this Work, the fountain of all grace.

Here, where our tears are shed and wiped away,
And the shed blood becomes the kingdom’s wine
Here all our cries to harmony resolve,
I my Beloved’s am, and He is mine.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I want to dance ..

This started out as a piece of lyric frivolity -- and then I realised it wasn't quite so frivolous after all ..

I want to dance, within your arms,
Across the mountains of the moon
Be unconstrained by gravities
(For morning always comes too soon.)

I want to laugh in polka dots
And see the star-clouds scurry by
To taste the flavour of the Spring
In winter’s final lullaby.

I want to be where hearts are whole
Where sorrow’s tearing teeth are stilled
Where tears are wiped and death is dead
And every promise is fulfilled.

I want to walk the sunset’s rays
The day that brighter light shall shine
Soar to salute a world new-made
And drown in Love more rich than wine.

Meme: 8 unboring things about me ..

h/t to Kansas Bob.
I have no idea if these things are sufficiently unboring, after all, most of us egotistical human beings find our own stuff incredibly interesting, even if no one else does ..


1 I nearly died when I was born, from a blood clot on the brain. This was the 50’s when a lot of new technology was just coming in, and apparently I was one of the first people in Sydney to be put on an EEG machine to find out what was going on in my brain. (At least there’s medical proof that I have a brain!)

2 I started writing poetry almost as soon as I could talk, making up long rambling rhymes about anything and everything. But by the time I got to the end I’d forgotten the beginning! It wasn’t until I was 7 that I had the brilliant idea that I’d be able to remember my poems if I wrote them down (!) Shakespeare it wasn’t, but my first written poem dates from then. It was called “Birthdays.”

3 I first fell in love with God by reading the Narnia books. I was 9 years old and sick with the flu, and a friend lent me the Silver Chair. I devoured it and sought out the others (from the school library) as soon as I was well. When I read the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe I recognised that Aslan represented Jesus. It made Him much more real to me than any boring Sunday School lesson.

4 Have I ever mentioned I LOVE chocolate. Chocolate with almost anything. Except peanuts. I don’t like peanuts.

5 When I was 10 I had to write a composition for class on what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I was going to be a great poet, a great scientist, and die a martyr’s death (!!!!) None of those things have happened, and (except for an occasional guilty daydream regarding the first) I don’t even want them too. What WAS I thinking??!!

6 I grew up in an all-girl environment, with 2 sisters, all girl classes at school, and my only male cousin was about 8 years younger than I am. When, at nearly 16, I first went to the church youth group, I would blush if a guy said hallo to me.

7 My husband was the first guy I ever dated. We met about 3 months before my 21st birthday, and were married within 18 months. That was 31 years ago.

8 I have started learning Latin in my spare time. I wanted to learn it at school, but my father wouldn’t let me. He wanted me to study “useful” subjects. For senior high school he made me concentrate on the highest levels of maths and physics. I was soooo bored, I just lived for my English classes, where, studying Yeats, Keats, Eliot, Austen etc I really came alive. I still don’t know how I ever passed my HSC and got uni entrance – it must have been sheer grace since I never did any work ..

I am no singer ..

One of those poems that just come out of nowhere when I was thinking about something else ..
(Incidentally, this is apparently my 400th blog post)


I am no singer, yet this song
Is graven in the bones of me.
I trill and shrill, yet don’t belong:
Come Lord, and set the songless free.

I shiver in a cold, hard wind.
The night is bare, my lips are blue
Yet in this wilderness I find
Your summons to sing after You.

Across the desolates of life
Where morning barks its bitter prose
Your music swirls above my strife
My smart complaining to foreclose.

See now, where nothing can be seen,
The glory at the heart of things:
The minor chords of might-have-been
Transcended as they say, “She sings!”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Father

Australians don't celebrate Father's Day till the first Sunday in September (the first weekend of Spring for us), but all the things I've seen online in the last few days have brought the issue of fathers to mind. My Father died suddenly when I was 21. He was only 49. I never grieved till i was in my mid thirties (about 15 years later), when our then minister's sermon about his own recently dead father, and his qualities, released an enormous grief in me for all the fathering I never experienced, the love he was incapable of giving. my memories of my father are still coloured by fear and weighted with regretful sorrow, I tried today to put some of that into verse:

MY FATHER

Other trees shade and shelter, bear rich fruit.
Lush liveliness, and strength against the storm
But some are blasted; sere, with dreadful sticks.
This tree was blasted before I was born.

I do not know the history of trees
Or what befell, or poverty of soil
Whence came the sapless dryness of your branch,
The barren bitterness that marked your toil.

I do not know your story only mine.
This is not blame this telling of my tale
But simply grieving for what never was
The shelter never found against the gale.

Here I have placed a gravestone in my heart
For one most surely cut down in his prime
Before the blessing and the fruitfulness
And yet whose falling brought a sunnier time.

You were my fear, a shadow always there
Yours was the love I could not reach or earn,
Your lacks the wound which tore across my days;
Your affirmation something I still yearn.

I have another Father. By His graft
I am a living branch upon His vine
Here richest blessing given all unearned
I my Beloved’s am, and He is mine.

Femininity

I am a woman. I am not a woman because I wear certain clothes or take up certain social roles, I am a woman because I am a woman. This is biological, God-given fact. I have two X chromosomes, and all the normal physical consequences. I have borne children. I do not have to do some particular things to become feminine, I am feminine by definition, because I am a woman. When I read particular complementarian (or worse, patriarchal) blogs and articles, I am bemused and confused by their definitions of femininity. They seem to me to have a lot more to do with a particular, idealised cultural image (was it ever REALLY like that?) than with anything explicitly biblical.

I am a woman, but first I am a person: a redeemed sinner, a blood-bought child of God. His calling on my life is to pursue godliness: to honour Christ in every way. Godliness is not one thing for men and another thing for women, we are all called to be obedient, to be prayerful, to walk in step with the Spirit and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience etc are not divided up, with some of them for men and some of them for women. Nowhere do I see a command to pursue femininity, but many to pursue Christ.

Some of my characteristics and behaviours fit certain definitions of “femininity”, some do not. So what? I was a stay at home mum to be there for my kids, but I think I missed out on the “nesting” gene .. I would rather read a book or write a poem than have the neatest house around. I wear skirts in summer and trousers in winter (comfort and convenience come first). I wear make up. I like to keep my hair between chin and shoulder length, I don’t feel like me if it’s any shorter. I NEVER wear high heels (they hurt my back) and I detest pantyhose. But I like to wear pretty colours (especially purples). I enjoy wearing jewellery. I hate expensive designer fashion, and most of it doesn’t suit me or my personal style anyway.
I can cook reasonably well. I can’t sew if my life depended on it, and ditto for handcrafts. I’ve yet to work out why people even WANT to do handcrafts. I missed out on that gene too. I can enjoy a morning of girl-shopping with my daughter, and I got tremendous satisfaction out of my Greek and Hebrew classes, in both of which I was the only female. I have a good sense of colour, my spatial sense is abysmal. I hate action movies, screen violence repels me, I have almost as little time for formulaic Hollywood romance, probably because I don’t believe it. I’m a verbal person, but I’m not afraid of silence. I am calm and laid back, and never believed I had to micro-manage my children’s lives. (Incidentally, my two kids have grown up to be very organised people – I claim no credit, and they’d laugh at me if I did) I never bother with diaries or to do lists, but I’m punctual to a fault. I can’t open jars but I can kill cockroaches. I have male friends and female friends. I have never had the least desire to be a guy (I LIKE being a girl) but I have been deeply hurt by misogyny and gender injustice.

Am I feminine? Do you know, I don’t really care. I am a person who happens to be a woman. Because I am a woman, what I do is feminine by definition. I don’t care for a gender separated world, with a male sphere of existence and a female sphere of existence. That has always seemed to me a form of apartheid. Every aspect of life is richer if male and female can work in harmony together. The gender wars are a product of the fall. Hierarchical relationships are a product of the fall. The Kingdom of God is about serving and blessing one another, with whatever gifts we have. Our maleness or femaleness is just one aspect of that.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

You are the Sun

My daughter just sent me this Sara Groves song:



She said it reminded her of a point in my sermon last Sunday (I have never heard the song before) I was transitioning from "I am the Light of the World" to "You are the light of the world" and I suggested it was like Jesus was the sun and we are the moon, and as the moon only lights the earth when it is turned fully towards both the sun and the earth, so we only light the world when we are fully turned towards both God and our neighbour. In other words, in order to be light givers we must both love the Lord our God with all our heart mind soul and strength, and love our neighbour as ourselves.

Wisdom for life

Over on codepoke's blog he's been talking about the discovery that the Bible doesn't actually have the answers for every little detail of life. I couldn't agree more. this is what I wrote:

I believe the Bible is the Word of God,I believe it is true and contains everything necessary to salvation, and a lot of clues on how to live godly lives, but it is NOT a magic answer book. And (sticking my neck out a bit further) I think that's the way God wants it. He isn't playing some power game with little robots who live by a set of legalistic rules, He wants sons and daughters who honour Him by wrestling with the hard questions of life, trying to work out how to live with love and integrity in their own unique circumstances, and sometimes even wrestling with Him. He never said it would be easy, but I think there are some hints that it might just turn out to be glorious ..

It's painful, it turns your heart and soul inside out and leaves the hard questions dangling in the air, but in the process He teaches you real wisdom, the sort you can't get out of any book, including His.


I guess I'm not a fundamentalist, and never have been. (Hey, I'm an Anglican!) The Bible is authoritative because it is the word of the One to Whom all authority belongs, it is not the final word on every subject. When people try to turn it into a science textbook, or a medical book, or a dietary guide, or a manual on negotiating all aspects of modern western culture etc etc. it is the revelation of God, the history of His saving work in the world and His dealings with a particular subset of humanity. Above all, it is the revelation of Jesus Christ and how to walk in His salvation. Get that right, then pray for wisdom and seek to walk in and with the Holy Spirit and even inour brokenness and confusion, there is fellowship there with the Living god Himself.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another quote -- crucifixion of images

I just came across this -- much food for thought.
What other images is it true of?

Austin Farrer, in commenting on the debate between Rudolf Bultmann and several German colleagues on the question of "demythologizing" the New Testament, suggested as an alternative that in the New Testament itself we are presented, not with the demythologizing, but with the crucifixion of images. He had in mind specifically the crucifixion, in Jesus's death, of the image of Messiah as God's means of deliverance.

Feeding on Christ

My last sermon was on Jesus the Bread of Life. I covered a lot of ground: the unbelief of His hearers, the equation of eating with faith (compare v 40 and v54) the nature of a covenant meal (having a bit of fun with that strange story in Ex 24 along the way) But this was a particular analogy I used, which occurred to me one night, lying in bed:

When we eat, we eat dead food. We are alive, our food is dead; when we consume it, it changes to become part of us. I can't look at you and see what you had for dinner last night -- the meat the vegetables, whatever you ate, are changed into the substance of your body. BUT when we feed on christ (by faith) something very different takes place, he is not dead, He is gloriously alive. When we take Him into ourselves (or whatever language you want to use for the intimacy of faith) it is we who are changed to become more like Him.Over time, our degree of engagement with Him will become visible as our degree of Christlikeness.

Consider it. Far more importantly, consider Him.

Creativity -- Michael Card

A great quotation from Michael Card (yes, that one, the singer)expressing something I really believe:

Creativity is worship because, at its essence, it is a response. I hear the Word and I respond with music, with silence, in adoration, in appreciation by picking up the basin and the towel. It is a romantic response to this Person whom I adore. He is beautiful! I want nothing more than to be in his presence. I love him! And so I sing and I write. If I could paint or dance I would do that as well. I forgive someone who couldn’t care less about being forgiven. I try to reach out across the vast distance between me and my brother or sister.

Because creativity is a response, it does not originate with me. God speaks. He moves. He is beautiful. We respond. We create. We worship.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Graduation Photos

Three photos from my graduation (ok, 2 months ago ..)
The first is a group of students and lecturers .. I am on the far right in the front row.
The next is with my son and daughter in law, and the third is with a group of friends -- my daughter is peering over my shoulder (in green) and my husband is the tall guy at the back



A Counter of Jerusalem ..

Psalm 48:12 Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers ..

Lord, I would be a counter of Jerusalem
Would see and tell the stretching of Your kingdom
Brushing off accretions,
Bringing hidden things to light
Measuring that sure grace beyond all measure
You pour in broken places.

I would know Your works and tell them
To this weary generation
This people of downcast eyes and too much busyness
Who need to hear again that our God reigns
In the drought and in the city,
And the mindless, pleasured beaches.

You build an unshakeable city
On a crucified, risen foundation
Your works proclaim your greatness
And Your people awake to adore You,
Stand up to speak Your praise.
Why should we fear the fall of night,
Or the folly of the enemy:
His mindless, grinding boasts?

I would sing of the secure thing
That no one can take from us.
I would count and recount the wonders
Of the God who never lets us go.
I would measure again Your mercy
And know all our measures fall short.

Monday, June 02, 2008

In The Art Gallery

A confession -- I'm a frustrated artist. Ever since I was a little girl I've wished I could draw, paint .. anything. I have a very visual imagination, and it irks me to not be able to express and reproduce what I see. But my fine motor skills are rather lacking (to watch me try and thread a needle is pathetic)and I also lack the spatial sense to translate what I see onto paper. I have often said I write poetry because I can't draw what I'm thinking/feeling. So I wrote a poem about that particular frustration (because I can't draw that, either!!!)

Frustration aches my fumbling heart
I bow to beauty as it speaks
Through line and paint of truths that burn:
Thrust into me by their techniques.

These dull, autistic fingers curl
Against my sides – I cannot draw,
I cannot show the things I see
And what else is an artist for?

If I could make the canvas sing
Of mysteries of loveliness:
The supplication of a leaf,
The smile within the wind’s caress,

The mystery of a forest place,
The wild, salt yearning of the sea,
The bashful promise of the dawn,
One face with full humanity:

If I could draw, I would not need
These clumsy words that clunk and fall
To try to catch the starry light
That wraps the darkness like a shawl.

I cannot show, can only tell
Of how the stormlight wracked my soul.
My words are just the skeleton,
Your sight must make the picture whole.