Saturday, February 25, 2006

Our Father

For some reason (probably because I've been talking to my daughter about one of her friends) i have the whole parents-and-children-and-abuse thing on my mind this afternoon. It probably doesn't help that we're going to the theatre tonight to see a play that has something to do with a nun wondering whether a priest is a paedophile. So I thought I'd post a poem I wrote some years ago when I was dealing very heavily with abuse issues. Please don't read it if such subject matter upsets you. It's not graphic, my father was not a sexual abuser, but it does say some pretty strong things about the emotional wounds that fathers can inflict.


OUR FATHER (Mine said, “You’re not good enough”
All my best efforts were still poor and bad.
He stamped the F for failure on my life.)
WHO IS IN HEAVEN (Earth is very sad.)

HALLOWED (I am unholy through and through,
A thing polluted) BE YOUR NAME (He would
Not let me call him Dad. He liked respect.
Besides he wasn’t Dad -- I never could)

YOUR KINGDOM COME (I could not bear to live
In his whose reign meant deadly slavery)
YOUR WILL BE DONE (I never could obey)
ON EARTH AS HEAVEN (Still I am not free)

GIVE US TODAY (That I might know it’s real.
He promised things he never meant to give)
OUR DAILY BREAD (He thought a stone would do.
Why should his little robot wish to live?)

FORGIVE OUR DEBTS (I owed so very much
Food, shelter, clothing, and the dignity
Of carrying his name. There was a price
I must repay. The cost was bankruptcy)

AS WE FORGIVE (And still the anger burns
Deep underground. A smoulder of such heat,
Exposure would burst forth a wall of flame,
And my long self-control would know defeat.)

Must be seen but not heard. They must not speak
Truth, but do nothing. Emptiness is good,
Virtue is passive, useless, small and weak)

Over to wolves who joyed to bite and tear.
What did it matter what became of me?
I didn’t matter, I was only spare.)

YOURS IS THE KINGDOM (He shall reign no more)
AND THE POWER (Love is greater than his lies)
AND THE GLORY (Lord, how can I honour him?)
FOREVER (Let the tears dry from my eyes)

Note: if anyone's wondering, not only was my father very emotionally abusive (a rageaholic perfectionist, for starters), he did nothing to protect his little girl from others.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

waiting prayer

From time to time, as the mood takes, I thought I might put some of my own poetry on this blog. Today, as an antidote of sorts to mega-church hype, I post this:

In stillness I await
The working of Your will;
My emptiness infill,
My path illuminate!

Direct my faltering feet
And show them where to tread;
So shall I step ahead,
Nor fall in stark defeat.

Indwell me with Your love,
Real love that bears all things:
A heart whose wounds are wings
Empowered from above.

And give me eyes to see
Yourself in everything,
And honour You, my King,
In life’s entirety.

Let this poor life of mine
Thus glorify Your name,
And your great grace proclaim,
And in the darkness shine.

megachurches etc

I see it was Monday when I last posted, and now, Sydney time, it's Thursday. Where did the last 2 days go? Tuesday was Hebrew exegesis class, I leave soon after 8:30 am (travelling with MC) and get back about 1;30, exhausted. That 5 hours includes 3 hours actual class time (with concentration revved to max), travelling both ways (about 25 min coming home, longer to get there with morning peak traffic) morning tea break and a bit of time before class starts (our leeway in case of traffic jam) I don't think I'm likely to blog on Tuesdays the weeks I have class; zombies don't blog. Yesterday I spent the morning with a friend and dealt witrh a few practicalities. Today I have to pop out soon and pay the guy who's coming to renovate the bathroom in our granny flat, then i want to settle down and take this sermon out of my head into written form.

Which brings me, by a very graceful segue, to today's titled subject. The sermon I am supposed to preach on sunday is the first in a series our church is running based on one of those "everyone's doing it"courses spawned by a "successful" (ie gets the numbers) megachurch pastor. Now I don't want to shred said pastor, I'm sure he's a really nice guy who sincerely loves the Lord, and obviously a lot of people like his stuff (equally if you type its name into Google, you find a lot of people who don't, for all sorts of reasons). I don't want to suggest that the material he produces doesn't bless the kind of people he's been called to minister to. But they aren't the people in our church. I went back to our minister Sunday morning and told him I couldn't preach this stuff the way it was presented (yeah, it was a scary thing to do, but conscience is more important than conformity). It was not even evangelism, but pre-evangelism (and 90-something % of our church would be already christians), pop-psychology and marketing, hype and guff, and, while it quotes several verses of scripture out of context in odd translations, it never once mentions Jesus. I have the pastor's permission to take out the good points that were there and completeyly re-package them. So I am going to preach that we should live purposefully (as opposed to drifting aimlessly) because of 1. the example of the Son 2. the embrace of the Father and 3. the empowering of the Spirit. Now I just have to put it together (60-90 minutes work)

Then, in this morning's online SMH (the Sydney Morning Herald) I read an article about a Kenyan guy from the World Council of Churches warning against megachurches for promoting a Christianity that it "two miles long and one inch deep". I don't want to suggest that megachurches are all bad, or anything like that, but I think there are some fallacies in the megachurch thinking that we have to beware of. Ones I've noticed include:
size = success
excitement = spirit
a prosperous middle-class existence is what God wants for us
feel good philosophies with God's name attached to them = biblical preaching
involvement in church programmes = dedication to God

The list could go on, and I haven't even touched on the money thing, and the manipulation to "give us your money and God will bless you" At that point I shudder. ..

Monday, February 20, 2006

Just a Monday

It's really quite surreal (really surreal? oh dear!) entitling this Monday, since I know that, the website being American, it will be officially dated with yesterday's date .. it's enough to make a fish swim backwards! Passed the morning quietly, browsing a wonderful website called Sheepcomics a series of comic strips satirising some common church practices through a bunch of (literally) sheepish characters. Strictly for those who can discern the difference between loving God and agreeing with everything that is done in His name. Not that I agree with every single thing the author says, but his central premise is one I can get up and cheer about. And "Lionel the average Lamb" who questions all the church leaders' manipulative pronouncements, is a wonderful character!

Then I went out, got my hair cut (it hadn't been cut since last October, so the ends were getting dry and unruly) and bought meat for the next few days and some hot cross buns, some of which I put in the freezer to keep them fresh for later in the week. When they're available, they're one of my favourite breakfast options. Generally I've had a blobby day, but tomorrow I have college in the morning, 3 hours of Hebrew exegesis, so a restful Monday is a good thing. I don't have any Hebrew homework to do for a couple of weeks, since I've worked ahead, so this week I can concentrate on preparing my sermon for next Sunday, which I will be preaching at all 3 services. I think I'll organise things so I don't have to cook Sunday lunch; preaching twice in the morning is going to leave me wanting to put my feet up and rest my back before fronting up again to preach in the evening...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Words I love

Thinking about the word "benison" I used in my post a couple of days ago makes me think of other words I love. Here's another one:
SANCTUARY The word has 2 meanings, a Holy place (like the sanctuary in a church, and of course "sanctus" holy is where the word comes from) and also a place of safety. Somehow I mentally combine the 2, and to me the word sanctuary means a holy place of refuge, a place where one can encounter the healing love of God. And of course, that can be anywhere, and some of the most blessed sanctuaries are internal, not external. A sanctuary can be a beautiful sunset, a kind word from a friend, a snuggly bed when a storm is howling.

Rembrandt the Rhinoceros

Today I went out and bought Rembrandt the Rhinoceros .. sounds like a great first sentence for a kids' book, or perhaps a quirky piece of general fiction (or a zookeeper's memois ...) Actually, my home remains pet free, if you don't count the goldfish in our outdoor pond (and of course there are always the wild birds, lizards etc and the occasional possum throwing a party on our roof) Actually, I bought a cushion that has an embroidered rhinoceros on it, and M said I have to give it a name, so I decided, since it was a very arty and ornate rhinoceros, to call it Rembrandt. Along with van Gogh, and perhaps Monet, Rembrandt is my favourite artist, when it came to painting human personality, and the hidden life of the emotions and spirit, he was the master of them all. My Rembrandt is a little less exalted, but he is going to have a significant role in our family room, providing needed cushioning in the little purple bucket chair that has become known as the "Humble Chair" (don't ask!) and blending in to my mauve and green decor. He is a serendipitous rhinoceros -- I had been "sort of" looking for the right cushion for nearly a year, and today, when I wasn't looking, but just wandering round the furniture store while A did time in the electronics queue, I spotted him sitting on a lounge! But most good things aren't found where you pursue them (which ids why I take issue with the "pursuit of happiness") they pounce on you while you're busy getting on with life. Then you pause and give thanks ..

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Grey days

Today is, mostly, a grey day. We don't get many of them, and I really don't like them very much. rainy days are fine (no pun intended), we need rain so very much, and, rain being a luxury round here, I love to watch the garden drink. it comes alive, almost before my eyes. Ever since I was a teenager I have had the mental picture of the flowers bowing their heads to receive the rain, like a congregation bowing their heads to receive a blessing. For some reason I always think of the old word "benison" (which I suppose comes from the Latin bene) the blessing given and received, bringing good to the receiver. Rain like that, in a dry and needy land, is such a picture of grace ... But today is not like that. today we have neither blessed rain nor dancing sunshine, but just greyness. I am thankful that, in sunny Sydney, we don't get many days like this, it is like a blanket of depression thrown across the soul. To lose the sun and not gain the rain is like falling through the crack between 2 things. And it is a glary, breezy grey day. Some grey days have their own magic, heavy with dark cloud, with that special light that makes ever colour more intense, cupped in stillness, waiting for the rain to make its entrance. Today just doesn't make the grade.

On being a pickle

Rereading my initial post this morning, I found I'd left out an important detail. Why a pickle? Well, it's a bit silly really (surprise!) When my daughter was in primary school, she came home from school one day with a riddle, "What's green and bumpy and stands in the corner?" The answer was, "a naughty pickle." For some bizarre reason I said, "That's me!" and, perhaps more bizarrely, it stuck. My daughter (M) said to me only recently that I have a green and bumpy soul. Since I have no idea what that means (do you?), I find it very hard to argue with. But I did suggest to her that some days I feel kinda purple instead .. So a pickle I am to my family and closest friends, and now I sometimes feel more at home with that name than the one my parents gave me. I have said that if I ever have grandkids they can call me pickle. I'd feel uncomfortable with a formal title (hey, I'm just a barefoot Aussie girl at heart, rigid etiquette .. as opposed to simple courtesy and consideration ... is way out of my comfort zone, though I can play the part when required of me), and besides, it does away with the whole issue of finding different names for both grandmas, no child is likely to have a pickle on both sides of the family!! And there's one other advantage of being a pickle, whenever I say or do something silly, (which happens often) I have the ultimate excuse. I simply claim that it's because I have brine instead of brains!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

opening the jar

I never thought I'd be a blogger. On the one hand, I'm not the sort of person who wants to spill my heart in public, my deepest feelings, and the circumstances that provoke them, are far too private for that. On the other hand, I'm not the sort of person who wants to write a catalogue of my day's events, I never enjoyed doing that sort of factual writing when I was at school, and I don't enjoy it now. It was always much more fun to make things up, but I would like to imagine that I'm not psychotic enough to write myself an imaginary life. The one I've already got is a full-time occupation! So why start this exercise? Because I intend this to be my sort of blog -- quirky, a bit oblique, sometimes passionate about an issue, sometimes pondering deep things, sometimes simply bemused by the colour of the sky or something funny someone said. You may not learn awfully much about my daily life, but if you hang around and listen in, you may learn something about me, the little quirky things that you would tallk about with a friend you knew very well. i won't post every day, just when I feel like saying something, and who knows whether anyone else will answer? It's a bit like sticking a message in a bottle, not knowing if it will ever come to shore ...

So why a pickle jar? The simple answer is, because I'm a pickle! Ok, ok not literally, literally I'm a middle-aged suburban Aussie woman, with a husband (referred to from now on by his initial A) and 2 grown kids -- a married son and a student daughter still at home. I was a stay at home mum all the years they were growing up, now I'm a part-time theological student (went back to study at age 47 after being a drop out from uni at 20) with dreams of being a preacher. I'm a reasonable cook, a quirky home-decorator, hopelessly untidy (though I do make an effort, really!!) can't sew if my life depended on it, have zero interest in handcrafts, love reading and internet and passionate conversations, my best friends are people I can pray with and laugh with. I write poetry at times, enjoy crosswords, and try to always be there for the people I love. Oh, by the way, my real human name is Lynne (short for Lynnette, but I'm never called that ..