Monday, June 28, 2010

Don't forget

Death. A longed-for, gently-gestated, not-yet-born, peachy baby and a limb-weary, heart-faltering, broken-skinned beloved great grandfather. The prologue and the epilogue pass out of our ken. Fingers press at the glass, but the glaring reflection is blinding. Take it on trust.

Leaving arms that have held them, even but briefly, they enter a line. Names marked off next. Paying the ferryman to cross mythical rivers. Thrust again into life, someone new with vague memories of being someone old. We have searched, theorised, wondered and wished. How can we know if we cannot even look across the divide?

Not just death. Life. It tears us, too. I nod and I mmm as the life and the pain tumbles onto the table. I can't fix it or change it. Just listen and hear. Make recommendations for 'treatment' but that's band-aid stuff. The stories I'm told, replay in my head as I stare out the bus window. Walk ... Bus ... Train ... Walk. Home to the reach of size one arms - Pick me up.

Bad news is momentous, world-stopping, but the fractured beams of hope, of blessing can trick. Almost overlooked.

Don't forget to stop and count!

871.  picking up size one body to soak in the hug
872.  new hand-me-down bikes
873.  sharing the headphones
874.  constructions of cardboard and sticky-tape
876.  milo hot chocolate on a chilly night
877.  a bat colony at the creek
878.  afternoon tea with our mates
879.  just catching the train
880.  a baby who chuckles as he stands on the table ... again
881.  being rescued when the battery is flat
882.  egg and bacon rolls at the soccer
883.  a message from Gill that she was right near Frank Lampard when he didn't score (Well he did really)
884.  a friend told 3-6 months, 6 months ago, who is enjoying her children still
885.  a big brother taking care of a little soon-to-be-motherless brother
886.  Jesus knows what follows death
887.  Resurrection is coming

The Gratitude Community...

holy experience

the bats hanging out

Yes... another day, another blogger design template. Like I've got a whole new wardrobe at my finger-tips...

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I want my children to live their lives avoiding the mistakes that I have made. Most parents want good things for their children - safety from pain, fulfilling, blessed life, good job healthy relationships... I'm sure you have a list, too.

Dissecting my wishes, I realise that I would like them to be a more advanced version of myself. To have evolved to be less sinful, less broken, less young. I actually want instant, unearned maturity.

My anxiety about this leads to catastrophizing...

One evening, a bedtime conversation,
- 'Mum I don't want to pray. It's boring.'
- pause... 'Don't you believe in God?' (Anxiety talking)
- 'Of course I believe in God, how would we even be here if there wasn't God.'
- 'True.' Smile, relieved and sheepish.

These babies entrusted to me are on a journey through life. I am helping them along, but it is their journey. Daily routines, chance happenings, words in passing are forming the path they tread. I recall that there were incidental bedtime conversations, childish tantrums and playground experiences that made me.

Helpless baby to independent adult progresses slowly, as we are shaped, wounded and refined into our grown up selves. I can refresh them, equip them, soothe them on their way but I cannot teleport them to their final destination, nor would it help them. I can tell them stories of my travels, and point them to the map that has served me well, but I cannot even choose their ultimate destination.

And, yet we also journey as a family. We build a home, a pattern around following Jesus. Build him deep in the foundation, so his grace may seep up into the brickwork, the air we breath, rest welcoming on the table that we share. But the anxiety can distract me from the daily, repetitive business of showing love and grace.

Wishing for maturity, seeing childish, broken behaviour as a sign of faulty parenting, is tied to the false hope of an evolving humanity. It assumes that society is getting 'better', that we are becoming more civilised. Don't believe that lie, I tell myself. Let your children be young, be ready to learn, to be unformed in character, be immature. The journey will shape them, the spirit will breathe on them. God will look after them.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Inspiration weekend

"Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God.

It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, the nourishment of mind by His truth, the purifying of imagination by His beauty, the opening of the heart to His love, and submission of will to His purpose.

All this gathered up in adoration is the greatest of human expressions of which we are capable; and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centredness which is our original sin and the source of actual sin.

Yes, worship in spirit and truth is the solution for perplexity, and the liberation from sin."

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, Readings in St John's Gospel, 1945.
Maurice Denis, The Offertory at Calvary

Our church is spending time considering our vision and purpose. The themes of mission, worship, discipleship and community have guided our preaching, and discussion.
I have difficulty stretching my mind around vision statements. They can feel like motherhood statements. Read it and think, 'of course that's what we're about, but do we need to state the obvious?' A friend said it more graciously, 'It can seem that a vision says nothing, but it actually says everything.'
A vision is capable of lifting me by the heart, to action. I need to keep reminding myself of the beautiful things of God - his grace, his resurrection, his forgiveness, mercy and love. Then I see possibility in his mission for us.
There are tensions, too, in what we are to be. Not tensions rooted in disagreement. Tensions of dialectical dilemmas.
The tension of acceptance of people while also teaching them to turn from core-deep sin.
The tension of accepting broken-ness but seeking resurrected transformation.
The tension of necessary unity with exploring cloudy truths, and strongly held opinions, openly and honestly.
The tension of following leadership while leaders serve sacrificially.
God help us to be his people in our neighbourhood, ... and beyond. Help us to gather, grow and glorify Christ, creatively, passionately and intentionally.
Thanks today...
835.  being inspired together
836.  the power of a resurrected life
837.  God calling us to be his hands in the world
838.  a life journey of worship in spirit and truth
839.  encouragement from people who love me
840.  children learning new things
841.  being given a 'maybe'
842.  a clean bench, even just for a few minutes
843.  peaceful sleep
844.  winter turning today
845.  gloves on cold mornings
846.  an accepting, growing, resurrected community
847.  adoration of God in all aspects of life
848.  teaching, learning, growing, transforming together
849.  Jesus using us to grow his family (please)

holy experience

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jesus Shaped Values

Two posts at Jenny's blog provoked thought today. Economic rationalism shapes how we ascribe value to work (by salary size) and the perceived necessities for raising kids.

We live in a world where some people earn 6 and 7 figure salaries for moving money from place to place, while others work in physically demanding jobs, for long days and receive a few dollars. From a global perspective, money as a measure of either the difficulty of a job or the significance of a task is bankrupt.

Salary is much more dependent on your location in the world, the economy you work within and the power of 'the market' in determining employment. Still we are drawn in to measuring our labour and often our value by the money we receive. At the root of this thinking, is the idea that the value of a person is in what they do.

As Jenny pointed out, so much valuable work is unpaid (child-rearing, care of elderly or disabled family members, volunteer work) or paid comparatively little (eg. teachers, welfare, service). Pay as a measure of value fails.

A market economy will never truly estimate the value of care, of service or of nurture. It just does not compute, because economic rationalism has difficulty with intangibles that have hard-to-measure outcomes. The wisdom of putting time and energy into love and family is foolishness to someone who measures value in dollars.

Money has such high value among us because it is a means of obtaining things. Most people want to have things. Unfortunately our covetous hearts are ripe and ready to be plucked by the lie of "You need more stuff". Then we have children. And loving our children can become synonymous with making sure they have enough of the right stuff.

Where I live, plenty of kids share bedrooms and don't go to private schools. But I still see parents who worry about the size of their Christmas laybys and Chrisco hampers, at the expense of creating a loving, nurturing home for their children. Expressing love is difficult and we have been sold the lie that giving stuff is an effective way of loving someone.

We live in one of the richest nations in the world. and we can be fooled into thinking we are poor because someone else has more than us. When we feel poor (and in reality we are not) we become poor in the values that really matter - generosity, thankfulness, grace and celebration - ultimately, poor in love. We assume scarcity rather than abundance and start protecting our patches and feathering our nests, rather than sharing our blessings.

Jesus worked in an economy based on love, service and sacrifice. Using that measure, the work of nurture and care of our families is exceedingly valuable. He did not choose people based on salary or monetary worth. He did not love people by giving them stuff. Instead he spent time with a vast array of people, often those who scored low on the measure of value employed by society at the time. Outcasts, sinners, the sick, children, women, to name a few. He treated each one of those people with dignity, with love and with compassion. He called them to turn from worldly values and live with heavenly values, with a passion to serve and to bless.

People need to see us doing that, so they can begin to question the lies that the world tells them about how to value people and how to love people.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Paradox and Synergy

Paradox in marriage...

Feeling isolated in intimate relationship.

The moment of love depletion is when love is most needed.

Meeting betrayal with grace. Injury with pardon.

A long life together is not the fulfillment.

Familiarity breeds both devotion and contempt.

We know each other best, yet can never know or be known completely.

Synergy in marriage...

We are more than just the two of us.

The space between us is important. It is where we become one, where we create together, where we love people together.

The repetition of daily life together delivers space for renewal. The errors of the past are redeemed as we practice getting them right, over and over again.

Intimate relationship can magnify our faults, but provides a safe place for unexplainable healing.

holy experience

My husband still insists that if I let him get Foxtel, he would be truly happy.


Love blossoms. Anger burns. Joy transforms colours, brightening, heightening. Shame sinks, into the pit of my stomach, pulling my thoughts inward to berate.

Compassion draws me world-ward, lifts reflection from the yawning pit of self. The suffering of a sister or a brother has power, if we let it. Push aside the blinkers. The ones which protect me from dismay and despair, keep my eyes on the goal, the task, the race. Pushed aside for a moment (or a year) to notice havoc wreaked by the garden-banished universe.

Our father, source of compassion, origin of ears that really hear and eyes that really see. He empowers us to notice. To notice another and be moved by their predicament.

On my own I never reach compassion, so absorbed am I in me. Only the breath of God, the God-with-me within can shatter my absorption. My own mistakes can be the seed of compassion for those with a common struggle or loss.

I pray for eyes to see. I pray for ears to hear. Often half-hearted. Sometimes distracted, guarded. Momentarily, I see. His broken heart engulfs my own in that brief glimpse. Perhaps I am stuffed into a crevice with a hand across the gap because I cannot bear the brilliance, the searing sadness, of a truly godly vision.

Compassion is a good gift from above. Supernatural in its strength to pull us other-ward.

Compassion today... mothers blamed for their criticism forming broken spirited children.

My colleague, "Some of us know what it is to have a critical mother..."

Me (I inwardly gasp at a dawning reality), "Some of us know what it is to be a critical mother." Oh how I wish I did not.

Some mothers never know the grace of God which can begin to heal their disappointment with themselves and their children. My prayers today are for them.

The paradox of compassion - our broken-ness reveals, but our forgiven-ness empowers.

The Compassion Blog Carnival - One Word at a Time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Giving thanks each Monday

"Turtles! They're my second favourite sea animal. Dolphins are first, then turtles."
A titbit in an overheard conversation, at home, today. I need to write it down because I smiled for about 2 hours as a result.

I remember loving to catalog my likes and dislikes, favourite colours, favourite foods, favourite songs... I still do it sometimes. Springing out of a desire to know who we are and where we fit in. It's a buzz to find someone who likes what I like. Someone who understands my experience and shares it. Connects.

Perhaps it is an urge to know we are not alone out there, misunderstood and anchorless. Again, we discover our identity, our belonging through relationship.

We begin friendship with shared things, common favourites. We progress to agreement about thoughts and ideas. Opinions that match, or at least, interract and create a dialogue.

Then comes the power of shared emotion. Knowing sadness together grows intimacy in relationships. Shared joy or excitement builds powerful bridges. The deepest friendships have well-worn paths visiting painful and precious places. Paths wide enough so that we do not walk alone.

Sometimes, I catch for a moment, a brief impression of God's emotion. His sadness for a damaged person, his compassion for our helplessness, his joy in sharing our lives. I have been friends with him for more than half my life, but I realise that our friendship is only just beginning. I realise that my attempts to be devoted in the friendship are paltry and distracted. Not in an "I'm such a terrible sinner/bad person" kind of way. Instead I mean that in comparison with his towering, sacrificing, searching, gracious, enduring love, mine is quite..., well,... human.
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Phil 3:8a

The list of blessings continues...

802.  Sparkles on a plastic table cloth
803.  Making bubble and squeak, memories of childhood Boxing Day breakfasts
804.  Relaxed dinner at home, friends around
805.  Children in PJs, warm and clean
806.  Friday night footy, a family ritual
807.  Brilliant sunshine in cold weather
808.  Shoes that have served me well
809.  Ingenuity in all its manifestations
810.  New mercy every morning
811.  Twinkling eye trickery over a cup of milk
812.  An orange love seat from the op shop
813.  Looking forward to special things
814.  Planting seeds unexpectedly
815.  Comparisons that reveal my human love to be such a pale, limp version of God's

To learn more about the gratitude community follow this graphic link to holy experience.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Local photos (3)

I've managed to take some more neighbourhood photos.
Walking to school is one of our daily rituals.

It is a chance to see our neighbours, and smile at the people we meet.

It is the opportunity for little boys to balance on long logs, by the path, with their arms like aeroplanes. Even though sometimes they fall and scrape their noses.

Often we are warmed by the sun as we walk, even on a winter's day.

Walking home again, later in the day.
The Top Shops (not sure if that indicates location or general superiority)

Running down the last hill to home...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Covenant Love

Marriage, that blessed arrangement, that dream within a dream... (from the Princess Bride)

What makes marriage?
Is it the strength of the relationship?
Is it spending lots of money on a big celebration?
Is it people thinking you make a 'great couple'?
Is it survival? Through pain and betrayal and loss.
Is it romance and being in love?

Throughout the world, marriages are made in a myriad of ways.
Stripped back, what makes marriage?

The word I arrive at is Covenant. A religious, slightly jargonish word.
Persevering commitment to love and serve.

Deep down, we all want to know that there is someone we can count on, no matter what.

What a great blessing, what a comfort it is when our marriage brings us that experience.

But marriage does not always deliver. Not because it was poorly designed, but because we are human. We are not always able to persevere unswervingly in our commitment to love and serve. Big and little betrayals, personal failures, terrible storms and trials, touch many, perhaps most, marriages.

Sometimes our dream of the perfect or fulfilling marriage distracts us from being really available and listening in our imperfect human marriage. Disappointment with my husband usually springs from unfair or selfish expectations in my heart.

Marriage is an earthly shadow, showing us God's love for us. A metaphor for Jesus serving his people. A gritty, hard-work, mix of joy and struggle. A touch of heavenly grace mixed with the messiness of human hearts.

It is easy to idolise the shadowy reflection, while missing the reality it illuminates. We need words like covenant as we talk about marriage, because they remind us of the covenant-maker. We need forgiveness and grace in our marriages, to reflect the forgiveness and grace of Jesus among his people.
And when our marriages fail to give us what we need or dream of, we need Jesus. The one we can count on, no matter what.

holy experience

Richard Beck posted about 'traditional' marriage, linked to a column in The Atlantic.

It is actually a compliment to marriage, and the importance people attribute to it as a unique commitment, that same-sex couples want to get married. People look at marriage and see a love that they want to have.
Perhaps a desire to marry can reflect a desire to participate in the forgiving, committed love that God has for his people.

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Chronic feelings of emptiness...

Persistently unstable sense of self...

We find out who we are, in relationship. Babies gradually learn that their mother is not just an extension of themselves. Children look into their parents' eyes and the 'gleam' they see there is a little reflection.

Gradually our 'self' gets defined edges. I know what I am not...

The space between me and another is alive with expectancy, with unspoken and voiced messages, with understanding, curiousity and the unknown. A strange mixture of clarity and cloudy obscurity. Do we ever really know another?

Between the defined edges, our very being, our soul. A unique arrangement of ideas, gut instincts, rationalities and unexplainables. Shaped in DNA but scored and sculpted by life as we see, hear, taste, touch and smell it. A very you-ness or me-ness, unmistakable and ready for discovery.

The meanderings of existence bring glimpses into the self. For some, this process brings maturation through challenge and the experience of nurturing relationships. Others search avidly but cannot find the ones to give their care and guidance.

Sometimes nurture fails, in its task to shape nature. The self remains mysterious, unknowable, a chasing after the mist.

And yet there is hope...

There is one who knows us not in fleeting glimpses, not as uncontainable mist. The God who knit our bodies also knows our souls. He sees us face to face, spirit to spirit, no need for shame at our naked brokenness. We can look into his eyes and the reflected gleam tells us deeply who we are.

We are people formed for relationship. With him and with each other.
People drawn into his kingdom by his son.
People who can participate in his nature and know his compassion. Sometimes, but briefly, now. One day wholeheartedly.
People dependent on his grace and touched by his holiness.

Today I ponder thanks for,

715.  love which helps me know myself
716.  hope for healing from human failure
717.  human love which kept me safe and helped me grow in childhood
718.  human love reflecting god
719.  opportunities to learn
720.  wisdom from others
721.  a one year old standing cheekily in the high chair, crowing
722.  a four-year old swinging from a place he shouldn't
723.  freshly clippered heads
724.  rats tails
725.  chocolate self-saucing pudding
726.  finding a favourite blanket
727.  having a dishwasher

holy experience
This made me think today...
"The bible will never be a living book to us until we are convinced that God is articulate in his universe."  A.W. Tozer

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Rain this week...

"When he sees how I yell at the kids, he must be disgusted with me..."

The words linger in the air as I realise that our time together has suddenly become real. Every week we four gather and we listen to the words of our maker. We ask for his help, we praise his goodness to us, we plead for the ones we love. We listen as his word rains on us and we try to let it soak into the soil of our lives. Hardly knowing the depth of our parched-ness, we allow trickles.

Eyes drift, minds wander, tongues search for the expected answer. Then it arrives, the truth shining like a glistening drop of rain. My friend looks to Jesus and sees disgust in his eyes, for her and for her broken-ness. The heat that evaporates each tiny raindrop before it can penetrate and refresh.

Compassion and love fills me as I listen, a tiny glimpse of the Father's heart, hearing self-condemnation and blame. She hides from the expected judging, disappointed eyes, and misses the look of grace, forgiveness, love.

I psychologise internally, but bite it in. No point in theorising, understanding humanly why. All that matters is to share the truth, the rain. God is love. Jesus looked into the eyes of a sinful woman and said "Neither do I condemn you".

For each of us, his broken body on the cross has shared the bitter, disappointment of our daily failure to love. Disgust is defeated. For each of us, his risen body brings the renewing, forgiving, spirit into our lives. A foretaste of pure life with him in a golden city, thirst-slaking from the spring of the water of life.

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the one who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. Revelation 21:5-6.

Father, free us from the things that steal the rain before it can soak in. Help us see our dryness and know your rain is falling. Help us know for what we thirst.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Uncomfortable truths

Marriage reflects some uncomfortable truths.

I really like being the one in the right. The one who is managing. The one who looks virtuous.

Sometimes I love that buzz of 'having it together'. Sometimes I even enjoy that my husband is having times when he struggles because I can be the one who covers for him.


How can I find even a skerrick if joy in the person dearest to me being sad or downtrodden? Why can I 'manage' when he is defeated?

Part of me knows that it is OK for him to need time and that 'managing' is what I need to do for the rest of my family.

But part of me likes to look good, for him to be thankful and realise what a great wife he has.


Real love does not delight in another's struggle in their pain. Real love reaches out to him, bears his burdens with him. Acknowledges that I am like him. I hurt and I especially hurt with him.

Real love does not rob him of the chance to be the one who rescues me and cares for me.

Marriage is teaching me that real love is sacrificial, and not about what other people think of me.

Marriage is a gift from God that will refine me, if I let it. If I can face what I see in the mirror marriage lifts before my face.

holy experience