Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year - at the right time

(from stock.xchng)

Do you ever watch QI? There are lots of questions with seemingly obvious answers but the responses you think are true turn out to be wrong.

Last night's episode asked how many senses we have. The obvious answer is five. But no. As well as the usual  five, we also have a sense of balance, a sense of direction, a sense of body position, and a sense of time. Some people list up to 21.

For the past few months I have been hearing those familiar words...
"It's almost Christmas. Can you believe it? The year has gone so fast!"
Does our sense of time really tell us things are going too fast?
Are we fighting time?

Look at medicine - we are trying to defy disease and decay. Look at cosmetic surgery/procedures - we are trying to defy age. In our work, we try to do more in less time, bowing to the gods Efficiency and Outcomes. In our families we value 'quality time' and hate to 'waste' time. On birthdays, we focus on advancing age as a sign of decrepitude rather than a sign of wisdom. We gingerly celebrate the passing of time but nervously laugh that it may just 'catch up with us' as we run from it in fright.

But time goes at the pace God set it to go. Time passes because the world is on its way through a journey from its careful formation, to its eventual transformation. Each day has night because our bodies need restoration and relief from daily strains. Each year has seasons so that we and the earth can be renewed and refreshed. The marking of time allows us to be anchored, yet travelling, in our walk through life.

It's easy to wish that time would stand still for us to savour goodness or fit more worthy stuff in. And then sometimes the trials of life drive us to pray for the acceleration of time. We long for the shortest, fastest time of suffering for those we love, and it is natural that we do.

But let's stop fighting so desperately to beat time. It is actually our friend, a companion guiding us to the fulfillment of our lives. It is not our master, berating us for not getting enough done. Or our enemy, forcing us to measure our inadequacies. Time rescues us from being trapped in our mistakes and failures, drawing us to ultimate redemption. It gives us now to experience mercy and grace, today. It gives us hope, for tomorrow is new, fresh, unblemished. Time delivers us into a new day.

I want to try to accept my experience of  the pace of time. Not wish it away, not claw it back to me as I resist its flow. The new year will arrive at a propitious time, at just the right time. It will bring fresh hope and opportunity. The daily renewing I need to survive.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas joy

It seems like December is a race. I just need to keep pushing, to make it over the finishing line. Marked by December 25. I am only relieved once Christmas Day is here, and I am starting to relax now that it's the 27th.

This feels like a slightly sacrilegious thing to say. I love the concept of Christmas, but I don't really like the reality. I love the reason for Christmas, the story of Christmas. But I dislike doing Christmas, being squashed by Christmas, and losing real life in Christmas.

Why do all my Christmas-defining activities feel burdensome? Shopping for presents for people who don't really need anything. Cooking for a meal where there's always too much food. Co-ordinating family activities or meals with people who I'm not sure want to spend time with me.

The have-tos and should-dos seem powerful in my pre-Christmas blur. And I realise that the world's crazy Christmas drowns the stillness of the first Christmas. Noisy advertising, crowded shops, the pressure of how beautiful Christmas should be. I realise that sometimes I would like to escape the pressure of 'having a good Christmas'.

My struggle is exemplified in Christmas tree decorations. I would love to have a lush, 7 foot, colour-coordinated, tastefully decorated extravaganza adorning my lounge room. Early in December, my children excitedly ask when we can set up for Christmas. Grumpily, I make them wait until the first weekend in December. (Imagine the inconvenience of decorating mid-week!) So we get out the boxes stored on the garage top shelf. We put together the 4 foot tree (perfect to put up on the coffee table, out of reach of toddlers). And they love getting out the many and varied decorations, and arranging them on the tree - as only kids can.

And I have to stop myself from arranging them better, from making it look better. I want to control Christmas so much, make it so much about me, that I want to re-arrange the decorations. So they can look, well, more beautifully arranged.

I am enticed by the expectations of what Christmas should be - the beautiful, tasteful, well-planned Christmas - to forget the values that birthed Chistmas. Humility, generosity, self-giving love.

I read it and remember, because I need to remind myself...
So this is Christmas.
"The Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son."
(John 1:14)

And this truth makes the four-foot lop-sided tree the best one in our street, it makes the impromptu meal with friends a feast, it brings peace in the mad rush to the finish-line. It makes Christmas a joyous glimpse of our God - glorious grace and truth.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reflections on Family

The kids had started to call me Dad...

Desperate to belong, to fit in the picture. You know the one. The smiles range from awkward to delighted. It was taken the last time we all got together. "Do we have to take one?' someone groans, but we cherish the have-to. The necessity is the mark of belonging together.

He's been her boyfriend for just on three months, and one of them calls him Dad. Of course he's not their dad, but the instinct is deep in both of them. The pitiful story of a fatherless child looking everywhere, because he longs for that loving eye on him. The bedraggled, broken man clinging to this glimpse of himself with possibility. Wondering how to earn the name and the love bestowed so early and indiscriminately.

Is it the expectation which leads to his retreat? He turns his back on the lisped invitation to fatherhood, ends the relationship. Disappoints himself, and the child, because he is afraid of being a bigger disappointment.

My mind turns to the disappointments I create. When I cannot be what someone in my family needs. When I don't try because I'm afraid. When I try so hard to please that I miss seeing what is really needed. Family and childhood memories blind me to reality. Emotions rise, so deeply familiar, so sharp-edged with anxiety. I realise, too late, that I've made the wrong choice and disappointed again. It makes me sob - and I'm not one to sob - frustrated, disappointing eight year old me sobs.

I marvel at this messy, paradoxical invention - family. Delight in the belonging, the familiarity, the shared history - we can laugh, and care, so deeply. Frustration with the misunderstandings, the different perspectives, the pleasing everyone and no-one. Hurting and healing in one complex gift. God knew we would need family, but he also knew that family would need his redemption.

No wonder the church is complicated when we are seeking to be family.

'The kids had started calling me Dad' at Circumstantial

Friday, December 17, 2010

Uncomfortable with being listened to

Important words are tricky to find. The hardest time to speak is when I know it must be said.

I can discuss all sorts of issues and situations, as an observer. And its easy to make a statement that will be forgotten by all who hear it. But my tongue stumbles over sentences that reveal too much of me.

People apologise for talking of their struggles, for spending time on their sadness, or their anger, even their delight. Are they sorry for their honesty? Or is it an acknowledgement that saying what they've said was tough. Because it was important. Because it revealed who they are.

And most of us protect our vulnerable selves from too much exposure by preparing in advance. We decide what we will say, what feels safe, and what we will hold back. We know how to filter. And we do it to survive.

When we really listen, and hear what people are saying, sometimes we hear what they are trying not to say, too. Sometimes we see and hear more than they intended. No wonder they feel uncomfortable.

Accept the apology, because they are sorry for their revelation. They were not intending it, and it catches them by surprise. Accept them. You may not like or agree with what has been shown, but remember it has cost them to show it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The inconvenience of advent

I bristle at inconvenience. Respond hastily, not with patience.

There's so much that needs doing, so many that need pleasing. And Christmas shopping doesn't do itself.

Why can't you just calm yourself down and go to sleep? I don't say it aloud, but I think it loud enough for all of us to know.

Endless reappearing after tucking-in, reassuring after another drink or trip to the toilet. And its just more inconvenience. I'm double minded in my comfort - wishing peace for him, ... and for me.

Advent is about waiting, quietness, contemplation of the Christ-child. I read it many places. Just in passing.

I wonder about Mary. Travelling on a donkey. Waiting for a baby near birth. Laden, swollen, tired. Perhaps she had this impatience, too. Not just serenity and thought. There is a messiness to Christmas, an inconvenience.

Maybe I need to feel stretched this way, so that I'm not caught in my own holy purifiance. I'm caught between. Desiring God with me, in my senses, and cloistering me. Knowing life and its messy, busy, selfish neediness. In peaceful advent, the cure for impatient lostness. In broken humanity, the antidote for holy pride.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Blogging and Repentance

So I wrote about leadership.

Mainly because I was hurt and angry. Partly because I wanted to stop being resentful. Bitterness in me breaks people I care about. So I wrote about it.

And then, in a series of unconnected moments, everything was turned upside down.

Suddenly there is spirit movement in the process and I see more around the corner than I expected.

How did the misunderstanding and disappointment sink into the ground and help things grow?

I confess amazement at the power of God to turn things upside down - especially my hurt, angry heart and my helpless hesitancy about the future. Now that is power.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Is she playing with my mind?

Is she playing with my mind?

Desperation. It drips from him. Only to be sopped and dried by lasting reassurance that he's loved. Where can he find it?

He's stuck at the question about a game, this playing. Urges me to see the proof and decide. Why does my opinion matter? Especially when others have already gently (even roughly) laid this possibility in him.

He trawls an ocean of emotion in the wake of her messages. Rocked, pulled under, lost. Washed up on unfamiliar sand expanses. He has no map, no compass and nothing to steer.

No wonder that he sees her as malevolently controlling. That he suspects her motives, her actions and her ability to control him. He is consumed by her.

Reassurance is impossible, brief at best. Can he even hear me through the confusion?

I long to tell him - no human exerts this God-like control over another. He has been tricked into powerlessness. He is blind and lost. She is much more inert, broken and confused than he imagines. She is washed ashore on her own forsaken place, adrift from him, yet seeking. Desperate, too.

Know that we are like grass, every one of us. That we are all desperate, lost and blind.

THIS IS NOT A CONSPIRACY. A game. To be played by another.

We all need someone to find us, to heal our blindness, to love us out of our desperate confusion.

Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:35-36)

'Is she playing with my mind?' at Circumstantial.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Post triggers

How to prompt a post?

Talking with a faithful friend of mine has made me realise that I often blog in response to things that happen to me during the day. (You may have picked this up?) I keep it pretty general/anonymous but the emotions are often the trigger for me.

So I'm going to post once a week in response to a question or statement that someone makes to me. The twist to the challenge, is there will be two posts - one here and one at my other blog. Two perspectives. This post is an example of one I've already done that sprang from a statement someone made to me one night.

My friend also mentioned wondering what had happened to prompt a particular post. If you do the same, I'd love to hear from you. Email me or leave a brief comment and I can tell you a bit more (with some confidentiality limits). I don't share specifics because this is a public space, but I'm happy to 'talk' more in other places.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bother is good

She's sorry to be a bother.

How do I answer? That she's not a bother (my desire to calm and reassure). Or that she is a bother but that's what we are called to. To bear one another's bother-ness.

She is loving me enough to let me bother.

Another apologises for the tears she sheds over coffee. Sorry to talk about the depression or the failure or the overwhelming lostness. We tell her that it is joy to be real, to know her search and that she lets us talk about God and his comfort.

Why all this delicacy? This hiding from pain? This pretence?

People hidden but longing to be noticed and their wounds salved. Sad, that we go to such trouble to be OK and to not make trouble for people. Sad that inside we are trembling and teetering on tears, and comfort seems such a bother.

We are the disciples of the one who bears burdens and soothes the weary. The more we do that for each other - the more we allow the bother in, and let the bother be OK - the more people will be drawn to this family. Because we are real and we let each other in.

Monday, November 29, 2010


It's time to get ready!

The web is buzzing with Advent ideas and resources (and competitions). I am inspired that we can find all sorts of creative ways to remember and celebrate the story of God's love for us. (It's a birth story that's never been trumped at any playgroup or mothers' group I've been to).

We made advent calendars in our family church service yesterday. In my mind, they looked much more orderly, but I am growing to love their cluttered chaos. Each numbered shape has a short passage to build up the Christmas Story over the 25 days. This is craft for amateurs (ie. me).

The shapes were prepared before-hand and the kids worked together to collect them and tie them all together. And everyone took home a calendar to use this advent!

number 25

And I am keen to join the Advent Conspiracy... Here is the 2009 promo.

And a place to shop online...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Now and Not Yet.

I turned from teens to twenties looking forward to later. The later of being confident. The later of being competent. And the later of being known, cherished. Perhaps I wished for a later me - a more defined and comfortable self. I reached and softly yearned but it lay beyond grasping.

Sitting on a bus, one day, I realised that I could do whatever I wanted to do. I watched the streets tick past that I could explore, if I wanted to. My chest was filled with the cliff-edge realisation that I, alone, chose and lived it out. The flooding of exhilaration and trepidation, and my life crystallised, in that moment.

We hang in a tension between the surrounding now and what's to come.

'Enjoy the moment.' Awareness of current experience and mindfulness anchor us in reality. Future dreams and aspirations draw us on. But how to ration myself to both? To be content with now, but also look for more to come?

I resist investing time in future gain, because it steals 'now' moments and sensations. Am I as gloriously free  as I felt that day, or am I a slave to the present?

Illusionary freedom is doing whatever I want. True freedom blends now and then, and I live each one in the reflection of the other.

A longing for future gain, or heaven, does not dull the taste of now. Instead, it enriches today with purpose and direction.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What makes a leader?

Is a leader defined by the way people follow them? If the following is faltering and small and broken, does that mean the leader is no leader?

It seems logical to say that we can recognise good leaders by the success of their ventures and the loyalty and commitment of those who follow. And perhaps we can.

When a leader has charisma, single-mindedness and strong vision, we are drawn to them. It is easy to respond to their call and to follow. Does that mean leaders should be charismatic, single-minded or committed to a particular defined vision? Can the more prosaic, the broader thinkers and the inclusive among us lead? Would God expect it of them, or call them to it, or gift them for it?

I am asking these questions out of confusion. I do not know the answers. I am resentful of those who criticise leadership or vision, but do not want to follow, support or encourage their leaders. I am afraid they are right to ask for more, yet dread their narrow view of leadership.

Jesus said,
"But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave." Matthew 20:26-27.

Jesus, whose leadership embodied a clear-sighted vision of servanthood and spurned the cult of personality and celebrity.

What happens when the serving, humble, (self-doubting) leader is called visionless? When he is so unsupported that he decides to give up on leading as something he is unfit to do? Can you teach and pastor people without leading them?

Is it cynical to say that the leaders we aspire to are the ones that talk themselves up, the ones who build personal profiles and mega-church ministries? Do we judge leadership by fruit or by heart?
Perhaps their fruit shows their leadership gift, or perhaps we are just not so different to the world in how we see value in people.

I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Poem, by Eugene Peterson

Blessed are those who mourn

Flash floods of tears, torrents of them,
Erode cruel canyons, exposing
Long forgotten strata of life
Laid down in the peaceful decades;
A badlands beauty. The same sun
That decorates each day with colors
From arroyos and mesas, also shows
Every old scar and cut of lament.
Weeping washes the wounds clean
And leaves them to heal, which always
Takes an age or two. No pain
Is ugly in past tense. Under
The mercy every hurt is a fossil
Link in the great chain of becoming.
Pick and shovel prayers often
Turn them up in valleys of death.

from, The Gift, by Eugene Peterson.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Catalog Poem


Gone from the window, sheer drape gently sweeping.
Gone from the table, leaving no reply.
Gone from my lap, slipping down, turning, running.
Gone. Wisps of farewell.

Gone to the sound of laughter in the garden.
Gone with clatter of running in the hall.
Gone to the scraps of re-conversation.
Gone, I follow senses, thoughts, more.
Gone, I sit.

Linked to with

Storm Lights

There is a heart and mind broken-ness that separates him from the world. He searches for help where he knows he'll get rejected. In desperation. His, mine, ours.
He cannot still himself to listen because the terror is so loud. And then he hurts himself so that someone will listen to him.

His anger (someone calls it spite) stumbles me today. On facebook, my "inner bird doesn't feel like chirping". And I lightly turn from disappointment, return to love and tight-gripped welcome home hugs.

But he sits, enveloped. The anger, disappointment, rejection, fear and alone-ness. He cannot escape. Only numb and blame and rage.

If he could collect himself. If he could turn to God in desperation. Would this be his prayer?

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.   (Psalm 22:1-2)

Would he find himself here?

But I am a worm and not a man.
I am scorned and despised by all!
Everyone who sees me mocks me.    (Psalm 22:6-7)

Extreme tortured pleas are answered. If they are made. But what of the one who does not know to make them. Are they instinctive?

Who can bring the lightning flashing in his deep, dark night?

lightning at night

Monday, November 8, 2010

Jesus lives here.

Jesus lives here.
What do you think of this for a church vision?
Can we be a gathering that makes this phrase happen?
Yes. Let's do it...

What do you think?

God's love

This post from Cathy at Women Bible Life had me excited today, as I read of her realisations about God's love. I firmly believe that it is as we understand and know God's love more, that his spirit works in us.

That as we experience being truly loved
( not with "edited, flat, hollow, superficial, fluffy bunny, impotent love", but with robust, sacrificial, nail-pierced, death-conquering, all-seeing, gracious, merciful, marrow-deep, present in all circumstances love.)
we are transformed. We participate in God loving the world because he can love through us - perhaps this is being filled with the fullness of God. And he can do the unimaginable - show us real love and then empower us to love that way, too.

So thanks to Cathy for this verse, what an encouragement.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:19-20

Friday, November 5, 2010


I've written a post about having a child with a mental illness. You might be interested to check it out, over at Circumstantial.

When I consider how I would respond to the news of a child of mine having a major mental illness, I am ashamed. I realise how perfect I hope my children's lives will be and how unrealistic this is.

 'togetherness' at three

because the glint of mischief in his eye matches the hesitant smile in hers.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Life follows certain patterns. Walter Brueggemann called the pattern of life a script, (via John Mark Ministries and Soupablog). Scripts are shaped by our experience and socialisation, and we are drawn towards safety and happiness.

From infancy, the world gently nurtures us into the script. TV whispers selfishness and consumerism into our ears. Society fosters dissatisfaction and the need for power. We are mentored to seek fulfilment in achievement and recognition. We live it and barely question.

Then, the counter-script. A life which is not characterised by safety, 'happiness' or the world's values. The central character is God, rather than ourselves. The journey of faith is to gently disentangle ourselves from the first script. To relinquish its shaping and disengage from its values.

For each of us, there is a choice between the wide gate and the narrow gate. The narrow can be painful and uncomfortable. Sometimes our line of sight is obscured as we seek to understand where we are headed. The script gets messy. And elusive. I am tempted to domesticate the new script, right its upside-down-ness, tame its wild abandon, tone down its sharp-saltiness.

So its hard to give ourselves wholeheartedly to the new script. The world script is just comfortable and it takes so little effort to participate in it. I want to put a dollar each way, even blur my allegience. Ambivalence is wanting to run both scripts simultaneously.

Ambivalence (am-biv-uh-luhns)
  1. uncertainty or fluctuation, esp. when caused by inability to make a choice or by a silmultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.
  2. psychology. the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings towards the same person, object or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.
When I am angry, I would rather stew, and ruminate than forgive and encourage. I want to (self) righteously show another person their faults and failings. I want to withdraw my grace and teach them new ways (my ways). Is that the script of sacrifice and reconciliation, or the script of  "he's making a list and checking it twice - he's gonna find out who's naughty and nice" ungrace?

It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. 
(Romans 7:21-25. The Message)

I long for purity of heart, that I might see God more clearly. Bring it on.

Thank you (and yes with Ann at Holy Experience),

that Jesus can and does

that ambivalence will end

that we will see God

and that we already do.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

God's gifts challenge us

“While God’s gifts are welcome, in fact they do disrupt. God’s gift of truth disrupts our systemic mendacity that denies our lethal social practices. God’s gift of generosity contradicts our parsimonious selfishness. God’s gift of mercy interrupts our hard-hearted indifference. God’s gift of justice exposes our systemic injustice. God’s gifts amount to an inconvenient reality among us; they remind us that what we have come to regard as ‘normal’ continues a deep abnormality in which we may have no complacency.”

–Walter Brueggemann, Living the Word. (Sojourners)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Blog

I have started another blog. Check it out here.

It is a 'work-related' venture, and I'm excited about it.

Today's post is about negotiation skills. I've just re-read it and realised it the tips translate to negotiating with kids - except for 'psychotic' read 'having a tantrum', and for 'medication' read 'vegetables'. ;)

And I am suddenly aware of how slow I can be to answer the 'mu-u-um' call. Prompt responses might win me more negotiating room!


In idle, pondering moments, I've composed an idea of myself.  
I am the outsider. Walking lesser known paths but fearing obscurity.
'In the margins', I say. Not quite mainstream faith - born again and discipled in a Uniting church, nurtured by a Sydney Anglican university ministry, married into being a Baptist. Working as a doctor, that's not a 'real' doctor.

Is my deepest fear that I will be thought boring or not thought of at all?

I romanticise myself.

"Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?"
Deliciously soul-piercing words, because they utter the fear, in all of us, of being misunderstood and forgotten. Why do I feel kinship with Jane, and not Mrs Fairfax or Adele? Would I imagine myself as Blanche Ingram? I call myself obscure while casting myself as the heroine.

Part of me longs for my 'honourable' or different choices to be noticed. And yet I am called to live a quiet life. Another layer peeled away reveals my pride. Why do I need you to see and acknowledge me?

I have been exorted to live my life for an audience of one. To care what God sees of me, and measure myself in his eyes. I forget this, and I become the 'one'. That's when I wonder what you think of me. I long for them to notice me. Because my opinion needs confirmation.

Jesus said it 3 times, and still I flounder.

Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
Matthew 6:4,6,18.

He sees everything. I don't need to wave my arms around, or be different, or blog profoundly, or be the most generous. Just live it, and stop worrying about who's noticing. Discard self-consciousness. Worry about the one who never doubted my soul and heart, because he carefully formed them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wise words

Then Jesus added,
“Pay close attention to what you hear.
 The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given -
and you will receive even more.
Mark 4:24 (NLT).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I ate my lunch on the train. On my way home for dinner. There's words to write tucked in the pocket of my bag. Work trickling over into life. Breaks postponed till the rush of tasks are left as I bolt out the door to the station. Daylight saving is the saviour bringing me to sit at the table I would have missed, were it winter.

I realise the thought space, the energy directed into work. True, it's into people who (often) desperately need it. True, I love the task and have found a place that fits all my unusualnesses (mostly). I could sink all my self there, and draw great reward, enough to fill my outstretched arms. Enough to fill my ears, to drain my heart, to meet my need to be useful.

I am troubled by knowing where these energies are drawn from. Every story of illness or brokenness that fills my ears, is replacing a whispered child's story of their day. It's a picture book I haven't read, with a writhing body on my lap. It's a plate of vegemite sandwiches I didn't make and serve with crescent apple slices. It's the time spent lying sundrenched on a trampoline side-by-side with a four years old.

Time is only spent once. Choices must be made, and bills must be paid (may this never be my guiding reason or excuse). And teamwork in our marriage means we both spend time at home and both spend time at work.

I'm not saying work outside home and parenting can't go together. There is not textbook template for family, beyond love, grace, wisdom and following God's words and ways.

But I regret that my mind is divided. That, at times, my imagination, my attention and my concern is not with my family. I know that this distraction takes from them. And I realise, that if there was no work, there would be something else to draw me from them. We are so distractible, drawn to passing fashions and things that make us feel good. I am fickle in my attention, lacking perserverence. And busy-ness or pressure in one sphere weighs on me in the other.

The discipline I need is to focus on the person I am with - my child, my patient, my workmate, my husband, my neighbour - and listen to how I can serve them, now. To put aside the distraction of ruminating on elsewhere and attend to what I can do, here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Light of the World

You are the light of the world
like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.
(Matthew 5:14)

A call to Israel to realise that chosen-ness was not just a blessing but a calling. That God wanted to show himself to everyone. Jesus' spoken picture, calls the listening crowd to fulfill their heritage. I read the words, and am swept in, too. I am the light of the world. Not just me, but all those countless ones who have seen and then been the light. I sputter, a poorly connected neon-tube.

Each December, the light comes again. A reminder of how to sputter less and reflect more. A reminder of the grace given. And I can be part of it, with the light born of mercy burning in my belly - to give me courage and understanding.

Thanks be to the God of glory, the Father of the heavenly lights. He could just command and show. Instead he brings us into his glow - makes us the illumination of his grace. Gives weak glow-worms a part to play in a fire-works spectacular. Forms a shining city out of you and me.

Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.
Luke 1:78-79.

giving thanks with Ann, at Holy Experience.

holy experience

Facial expression

Did you ever wonder at the difference between disgust and contempt?

I didn't. I plonked them in the 'I'd prefer it if you didn't look at me that way' basket and left it at that.

A look of disgust begins with a bad taste in your mouth (dis-gust = bad taste), and a look of contempt begins with a bad smell in your nose. Go on, make the faces to try it. I know you want to. Interestingly, in studies of facial expression, left wing politicians favour disgust and right wing politicians favour contempt.

In fact, perhaps that illustrates the difference ;)

Perhaps that's a bit flippant, but there is more superiority in contempt and gut reaction in disgust.

The funny thing about this train of thought is that it began with reflecting on my day. The small ward I spend about half my time in was overcome by a patient with fairly significant flatulence. And facial expressions were eloquent today. Barely a word was said, but lots of opinions were shared (both of contempt and disgust).

It reminded me, again, of how the intricacy of communication and the many facets to trying to understand a person. Something I'd like to get better at - understanding people.

I would like to do this training in facial expression recognition, written by Paul Ekman, a psychology professor whose research is in facial expression and emotion.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Luxury is milkshakes for everyone, with muffins and raisin toast.
Saturday morning coffee, enjoying the moment.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Water (life + death)

Let's talk about water. Why water?

He tells us about the spa they've bought and the logistics of installation. Later, I hear about the new pool, mapped out in the backyard. Fingers crossed, it's ready for the pool party.

Some women walk miles to bring water for their families to drink. Some of us can turn a tap and it flows unstinted.

There are places where children die because they drink water that's not clean enough. It carries infections and their under-nourished bodies cannot retain enough water to keep functioning. Nearly 38 000 die each week.

There's a river system winding its way from Queensland, to the sea, in South Australia. It supports irrigation to much of our fertile farmland. The plan released last week proposes keeping more of the water in the river, so it can flow. But solutions are not simple when people farm to support families and homes, and communities are built intertwined with rivers.

Today is Blog Action Day (Oct 15th) and the focus is Water. About 1 billion people do not have access to safe water, according to, who have powered this blog event.

So why don't we...
  • donate to a development organisation that works to work to aid development, including safe water - such as TEAR Australia or Water Aid.
  • give our birthday (or Christmas) gifts to development, like this.
  • learn more about ways we can use water wisely. Work out what we use.
  • stop buying water in plastic bottles - I'm going to get a re-usable drink bottle.
  • think about the water needed to make what we wear, drive and eat.|Start Petition

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I love this old Sesame Street clip. Especially the cameos. Check Jeremy Irons.

I'll leave you to figure out a deep meaning for it...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why sacrifice?

I have always puzzled about animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. There is a messy barbarism to slaughtered animals, and I've wondered what pleasure God gains from the process. I cannot ignore that Israel are told to do it.

Hebrews cleverly dissects the practice to reveal that it is ultimately preparation for the gift of Jesus. He is the once-for-all-time sacrifice that draws us back to God. I get that.

But why start it in the first place? Was it to fit in with current cultural practices in other early civilizations? Did we (humans) do it and then include it in the Law to legitimise and syncretise the practice into Jewish lore (and law)? Did God think it was a good idea, or was it like Israel having a king, a human preoccupation given into by a God trying to win the hearts of his people? *ALERT - ideas in this paragraph are highly speculative*

I think I have recoiled at the idea, as slightly unpleasant and another thing about God that is 'beyond my ken'.

Then I read this article by Jean, and remembered that just because I don't know or understand, yet, doesn't mean there isn't an answer.

And I read Psalm 50.

O my people, listen as I speak.
Here are my charges against you, O Israel:
I am God, your God!
I have no complaint about your sacrifices
or the burnt offerings you constantly offer.
But I do not need the bulls from your barns
or the goats from your pens.
For all the animals of the forest are mine,
and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird on the mountains,
and all the animals of the field are mine.
If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for all the world is mine and everything in it.
Do I eat the meat of bulls?
Do I drink the blood of goats?
Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God,
and keep the vows you made to the Most High.
Then call on me when you are in trouble,
and I will rescue you,
and you will give me glory.
Psalm 50:7-15.

God 'has no complaint about sacrifice'. People doing it are fulfilling his commands. But God does not need the physical gift (v9), in fact it is his already (v10).

The physical sacrifice is for the people. It is an outward expression of the thankfulness God wants in their hearts. In fact without the thankfulness, the acknowledging of God's endless giving to us, the sacrifices are worthless. Thankfulness makes sacrifice beautiful and holy. Thankfulness directs glory to God.

I understand a little more of God's desire for his people. He wants us to have hearts that give thankfulness in everything, thankfulness that hurts us because it takes from what we have, to acknowledge who owns all. Thankfulness that hurts means gratitude for things I find uncomfortable, for life being what I need rather than being what I desire. Gratitude for life that refines me, for dying with Christ.

But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.
If you keep to my path,
I will reveal to you the salvation of God.
Psalm 50:23

Thanks be to God for his word, that brings refreshment, wrestling and direction. Glory to him.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Blog Crisis

I am having a bit of a blog crisis. The writing is what I like but the direction I've been going has the risk of Hallmark-iness.

What to do?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Light to see

I climbed up the ladder to the top bunk. Teetered up to lie beside my lanky son. In the darkness, came his whisper. "How does my body go from awake to sleeping?" We followed the progression from quiet awareness, through softening muscles, stilling limbs, closing eyes, slowing brain waves, REM dreaming to deep, peaceful sleep. The cycle of shortening deepnesses repeated through the night that delivers us to meet a new day. The lessons learnt by newborns that make this calm slipping away so natural that we are not aware of our efforts as we do it.

It reminded me that so much of what we do is automatic, instinctive and not part of our conscious consideration. Some days I sail through with minimal awareness and hardly a nod to intentionality. I realise afterwards, the opportunities I've missed or the little things I could have done better.

The light dawns slowly. And I form these ideas...

To see clearly, I need to stop and look. I need to intend to use my eyes, and allow what I see to be a focus, not just the scenery to my life. I want to put useful pictures in my conscious mind, and then be moved by them, or let them change me. When I see something that is wrong, I want to feel compassion, and think of ways to bring help. The movement I want is from really seeing with my eyes, so that my heart and brain and spirit push my body to considered action.

To see clearly, to really see, I need the right light. Looking at the world in the light of God's love and of Jesus changes how we see things. Jesus' light survived the extinguishing power of death. It is a light that can search out and shine into any darkness. It illuminates rather than blinds. It highlights values like mercy, goodness, purity, faithfulness, humility and love.
The lights of this world shine off gold, money, comparisons, beautiful things, achievements and red carpet smiles. And the lies they entice us to believe are about how to be rich, how to be loved, how to be powerful and to trust in ourselves.
The light that God shines into our lives is unchanging. We just need to allow our eyes to become accustomed to it. To read his word, to see the cross of sacrifice and brokeness, the resurrection miracle that brings us into the light. To experience his mercy and love so that our eyes see the world bathed with his compassion and glory. To really see is to allow what we see to pierce us, to drive us to ask God to act and to rescue. To really see is to trust that God will bring his kingdom. To really see, is to look and see Jesus in each broken, human story before us, including our own.

The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:4-5)

Jesus said, "I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark." (John 12:46)

Sharing with Ann about really seeing, today.

holy experience

Monday, October 4, 2010

Marriage is like a dance. It takes time to co-ordinate and to learn a shared rhythm.

It becomes familiar, comfortable and dependable. I can know the steps and anticipate. The safety of being held in common movement allows vulnerability and understanding.

But what if the steps are a pattern that stifles? Sometimes the dance we develop allows us to keep underestimating each other. To keep blaming each other. To drain each other, rather than build each other up.

How do we change the well-learned steps? Sometimes the footprints are worn deep in the carpet from years of this mutual to-and-fro. To keep treading in these spots would be easier, but what would we lose? Would the dance become automatic, taken-for-granted rather than mutually safe.

I question myself - is this drive to change the dance just my headstrong pride, or my bruised anger? Or is it the transformation we need to spur each other on, in love and good deeds? How can I know?

And maybe I've just never been very good at dancing with someone else...

I think about the dance, and search for courage to experiment. How to start? This balance of familiarity and freshness teeters back and forth. Does anyone ever get it right?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Joy and a Holiday...

Sunlight and shadow flicker on my eyelids, head back on the rest. The train glides down the track, descending back to the city. Bliss curls up through me, swelling to fill my chest. That I am at this moment. That today has allowed me to wander slowly through it. To sit and let it seep through my cells and my soul. To stand and shout my joy to an attentive God-with-me. That paradoxical straight-righteous God who bent himself to breaking, so he could iron me out. Me, all excuses, defensiveness and pretensions. Jesus, none of these.

Now, to see a flash of blinding joy, a glory beckoning almost undoes me.
Yes. Possibility is here. We can, with this spirit coursing in our vessels, do what feels impossible and turns our hearts to lead. This cross and resurrection tears down strongholds, implants new hearts. It can transform the unchangeable, intractible. I am lifted from a shroud and planted fresh to flourish.

It's not rocket science, she says. The rightness of it hits me. The daily, the patience, the serving, the participating as I am renewed. It's not complicated, or secret. Just humbling.

I was encouraged by spending Friday night and Saturday at wkc (Women's Katoomba Convention)

Going on a family holiday for 2 weeks, so I'll be blogging again in October.
See you then. :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I hate disappointing people.

Most of us do. I don't want to be the one who couldn't deliver what was needed. Sometimes efficiency, big picture decisions and 'the way things are done' trump really being there for someone. And I let people down. I have to say no to what a distressed person is asking me because my job only goes so far. I can't stretch it any further.

I cannot clearly express my failure to a colleague. He thinks I'm being too precious, his teasing, mildly facetious 'You're too worthy," just makes my cheeks redden. I am trapped in this 'feeling sorry for...' and unable to do what is being pleaded for.

But I don't want to be the one who hardens my spirit, so that I can escape this not being enough. Inadequacy or helplessness can give birth to heart hardening. It's so easy to reflect..."If I can't fix it then that problem is not a real one, or worthy of my effort." And the next step is to dismiss and ignore, to avoid painful dilemmas.

And for some stories in an acute mental health ward, being in there is not enough. It will not bring solace or rescue. It will not heal a soul scarred by abuse, repeated abandonings or self-loathing scored deep. That sort of healing comes slowly, a winding, wearing journey, needing companions who walk patiently alongside.

I disappointed her. She ran away because I did not give her one request, the one I could not grant. She couldn't hear anything else I said because I abandoned her again. Yes, I know I'm just a page in a story written long, but my wish was to be different. Sadly, I do not have armour or a thoroughbred, and gallant rescues are beyond me.

But as I write, I see that I will be hurt by not rescuing, by disappointing. The hurt comes of not protecting with hardness. Not becoming blase or cynical. I can avoid disappointing by never getting close and never really listening. Safe, to some degree efficient, but lifeless.

There is a call to soft-heartedness that hears pain spoken, and does not shut it out. There's a call to see needs and not be able to meet them. To be broken by that failure, but to see that hope lies in rescue way beyond what I can do.

At Holy Experience, Ann has written about her trip to Guatemala with Compassion. I encourage you to read these posts - Sept 9, Sept 10, Sept 11, Sept 14, Sept 15. She has captured the call to soft-heartedness lyrically.

Linked with Emily and Ann

holy experience