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?