Friday, January 23, 2009

Prayer from an Old Diary

Cleaning out some old papers I came across a prayer diary I kept for a while in 1991, when I was dealing with some pretty heavy stuff in my life. Skimming through it I came across this (edited slightly for context):

Quicken Your Spirit within me, my Father, that Your transforming power might be at work in me, even in this impossible situation.

In the midst of turmoil, saturate me with Your peace
In the midst of my pain, be a wellspring of joy within me
In the midst of rejection, let me rest upon Your love
In the midst of injustice, make me steadfast in longsuffering
In the midst of provocation, keep me gentle
In the midst of change and confusion, hold me in Your faithfulness
In the midst of evil, let me be a channel of Your goodness
In the midst of persecution, help me be glad in meekness
In the midst of passion and self-indulgence, temper me with the Spirit’s fruit of self-control.

I am not these things, but You are, and there is my sufficiency.
To look for fulfilment in any other place is frustration and futility.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Trying On Old Jewellery

The other day I was going somewhere, and trying to work out what would make that particular outfit "look right", I tried on some old jewellery I had at the back of the cupboard. i was shocked at how "yuck" it was -- some years ago I used to wear those things regularly! Part of it is fashion of course, but part of it goes much deeper ..

I am no more the girl who wore these things,
This coloured plastic: dated, dull and plain,
The sum of all I ever dared aspire.

I dreamed small dreams, that me of way back when,
Scared of the risk of pride I huddled close
Hiding both hope and fear behind a mask
Of littleness, and drab and careful thoughts.

I am no more that girl, the one afraid
To be the thing she is, the thing I am,
To be myself in all my brokenness,
To learn to sing my hidden, secret song,
To let both tears and laughter freely flow.

Yes, she is me but not me. I still wear
Her wounds, carry her fears, name the old pain,
Taste the old shame that kept her caged so long.
But not me. By some precious, precious grace,
I have escaped, have found my flimsy wings
And dare await the Spirit wind to lift.

I stand entire within that timeless place
Which I have not yet reached.
I can aspire
Towards that beauty which shall one day be
And even now I trust that grace for me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Not my way ..

Lead me through darkness, for my way is known to You.
You have counted the hairs on my head and the sands of time,
Seen the end from the beginning, and adorned each brittle flower.

My ways are not Your ways, but I how would they were,
That love, like the alchemist’s stone, would touch my leaden heart,
Transmuting it to malleable gold.

My ways lead to futility, I cannot what I would.
In me dwells no good thing, except You dwell in me,
Then am I satisfied, for I shall wake up in Your likeness.

I am a child, Your child, still small in incompleteness
I must lean on You and learn, for You are my only wisdom,
My way, my Truth, my Life, Yourself my whole fulfilment.

So, not my way, but Yours; there is my hope, my freedom,
In the centre of Your will, where mystery turns to meaning,
In my heart’s most hidden place, continue Your redeeming.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

32 years ago -- some recollections

January 14, 1977. It was a hot muggy night, with small thunderstorms hovering around. I had not had much to do all day, since the wedding wasn’t till 6:30 that evening. In those days, unless you were rich, you did your own hair, makeup etc. So there weren’t all those trips to hairdressers etc which seem to keep modern brides so busy. I was a young, sheltered 22 year old who had a lot of growing up to do.

My bridesmaids were my 2 sisters, then aged 17 and 12. My mother had run up their dresses – simple floral dresses as suited their age. Again, we did things much more cheaply then. I was impatient, I just wanted to get the whole thing over and done with. I wasn’t the sort of girl who had spent her life dreaming of her wedding day, to me a wedding was just what you had to go through in order to get married. I was a virginal bride, innocent enough to assume most brides were, I wanted to marry this man, and a wedding was the process you went through to do that. So, while I wanted it to be “nice”, and I was certainly girl enough to want to look good for my bridegroom, to me the whole ceremony was a means to an end, not the end itself. The important part wasn’t the walking down the aisle, or the posing for photographs, the important part was the part that said, “till death us do part”.

I honestly don’t remember many details of the ceremony (come on, it WAS 32 years ago!!). At that time the Anglican church was in the process of discarding the 1662 prayerbook and bringing in more modern forms of service, but had not yet produced a definitive new prayerbook. So the form of service was the one the minister chose, one of the forms of service floating round at the time. We had no say in any of that, our choice was restricted to the Bible reading (Ephesians 3:14-19), and the hymns ( Praise my soul the King of heaven, and Take my life and let it be) OK, I didn’t have the popular choices of the time (! Corinthians 13 and O Perfect Love), not because I didn’t like them, but because everybody else had them, and I wanted this to be our wedding, not a carbon copy. My uncle gave me away (silly expression, he’d never owned me!) because my father had died suddenly 8 months previously. I don’t even know the wording of the vows we used (except that they didn’t say “obey” – something which was immaterial to me then, but important now.) what I do remember is the wedding vow I made in my heart, that I would do him good and not evil all the days of my life (Proverbs 31:12) That is the one I have tried to keep.

The reception was a blur – it wasn’t my choice it was my mother’s. I would have been happy with a few sandwiches in the church hall, just to say “Hi, thanks for coming”, but my mother insisted we had to have a proper “reception place”, so we could, but, considering my mother’s widowhood and our fairly penniless state, we chose the cheapest one in the area. ‘Nuff said.

I married a penniless full-time med student. We didn’t want to wait the extra 10 months till he graduated, so we ended up arranging the whole wedding in 11 weeks. Easy. I just don’t get what bridezillas fuss about.  I had dropped out of uni the year before and got a basic clerical job (which I never enjoyed) because one of us had to be earning to pay for the roof over our heads. I quit the moment he became an intern and started earning, and have not been back in the paid workforce since. So, remarkably in this day and age, we have always been a one income family.

So where are we now? 32 years older (self-evidently) and living about 10 minutes drive from where we started. The med student has become a successful gastroenterologist, with a thriving practice and a young partner. The bride has weathered the mothering years, storms of abuse issues, the ordinary griefs of life, and finds herself, at 54, looking around with some astonishment. When did it all happen? I now have 2 wonderful kids, older than I was when I got married, plus a lovely daughter in law. The dropout finds herself with a theology degree, the painfully shy girl finds herself a preacher, the dreamer finds herself with new dreams. The one with zero domestic skills is a proficient and rather original cook (my husband tries to tell me he’s never had the same meal twice – that’s not true, but hey, there are always subtle variations. ) I have taught him to appreciate the theatre and art galleries, he has taught me to appreciate cricket, and given up trying to convince me that there is anything to appreciate in football. I’m just temperamentally allergic to it! I can sing in tune, he can’t; he is good with his hands and I have 10 thumbs. I’m an indoor girl who loves poetry, books and long conversations, he loves getting outdoors and is the master of the two minute phone call. We both love birdwatching. He is a doctor, I’m the one who’s had health issues (not sure this last one is exactly complementarity!) His spiritual gift (according to a thingy we did at church once) is hospitality, but I’m the one who has to do the cooking. His background is firmly Presbyterian, I am an Anglican, sacramental and at least semi-charismatic. In Myers-Briggs terms, he is ESTJ, I am INFP. In other words not a single trait in common. But M-B don’t measure things like I make jokes and he laughs at them, or that he is steady and predictable, and I constantly catch him by surprise. He never knows where my next thought is coming from (neither do I). He is very into family and tradition, I am into friends and embracing new ideas. He is SUCH a morning person, I am a creature of evenings. More than one friend has commented to me the fact that such extreme opposites are still married is substantial proof of the grace of God. I say that after all the hard yards we’ve earned ourselves a nice dinner out!

And I’m so thankful that all our days are in God’s hands and not entrusted to ours – we would have dropped and broken everything!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

five question quiz

Your Word is "Peace"

You see life as precious, and you wish everyone was safe, happy, and taken care of.

Social justice, human rights, and peace for all nations are all important to you.

While you can't stop war, you try to be as calm and compassionate as possible in your everyday life.

You promote harmony and cooperation. You're always willing to meet someone a little more than halfway.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Bundeena Ferry

A few days ago, while my husband was still on his Christmas break, we drove to the beachside suburb of Cronulla (about 20 minutes drive away) and caught the ferry across the Port Hacking River to the little town Of Bundeena, in the Royal National Park. It was a fun trip, but for some reason I got it into my head to want to compare that trip to that other journey across a river, the one portrayed so well at the end of Pilgrim's Progress. The thought has stayed with me, and this is the result ..

Of course I have just now noticed that my first blog post of the year was on the subject of emotional abuse, and my second one on death. Should I be concerned? :)


That will be no reversible excursion
No pleasure trip with cameras bags and hats
Only the roiling of the bitter tide
The final coldness .. and awaiting glory.

Summer smiles.
The children clamber, chatter, drop their things
Laughter and conversation fill the boat,
The very waves are small and kind today
Sweet is the stranger’s camaraderie.

Not so that journey.
That other river, bourne of dreadful fear
Where we must go alone, alone, alone
Without a boat or easement of the way
Down where the waters close above one’s head.

The river must be crossed.

There comes a time
At the end of land, with nowhere left to go,
When the river must be crossed.

Rivers are not alike, they vary greatly:
Size, speed, the time of year, the weather’s mood,
And still, and still, the ferry boats go forth.

I can plan my journey.
Pick a fair day, an easy pleasant passage,
Sit back, anticipate the other side,
And pay my fare, a little, easy sum,
And lack for nothing, taking what I will.

The other river
Cannot be planned, controlled, or promised sweet,
And, Oh my Lord, the fare cost everything!
(Nor could I pay it from my bankruptcy)
I do not know the hour when I must go,
How inconvenient or terrible,
I only know who waits the other side
And how my whole heart yearns to be with him ..

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Emotional abuse

yet another themed poem on abuse. We all recognise emotional abuse when it comes with violent words and blatant cruelty, but what about the subtle abuse by someone who just ignores a child or partner's essential humanity?

Death by a thousand papercuts
The little words that prick
Disdainful eyes that cannot see
The “harmless” gibes that stick.

The ground that opens up beneath
Each step you try to take
The confidence that swallows yours
The strength-destroying ache.

The trust confused, the hope abused,
The truth that won’t stay still
The conscience tangled hopelessly
To guilt-trip your own will.

The “love” that doesn’t satisfy
The “help” that undermines
The mockery that tarnishes
Each little dream that shines.

The overwhelming weariness,
The ebbing of the soul
The strain of living in a world
Where nothing’s clear and whole.

The tears, the sodden helpless tears,
And yet not cried in vain
The silent rage with God and man
The enervating pain.

And not by easy platitudes
The broken souled are blessed.
And yet, and yet, the God of grace
Is near to the oppressed