Sunday, May 31, 2009

Striving for the wind

This cosmic remembrance of our frailty:what we once were, who we really are and will be again, terrifies and humbles me all at once.

As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

-Psalm 103:14

When all that we have built around us fall, our comfortable lives - where do we go then? I am lost.

Reading this for the first time brought an unfamiliar prickle to my eyes - brings that prickle every time I re-read it. I've been waiting to blog this for a long time now but couldn't find the words: how to do this without preach-y twee sentimentality?

Twee and preach-y be damned. Remember me, I want to say, when I forget - and I always do - remember me.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Snippet: Made in Australia

A: So,oh wow, your group's pretty big. I thought you said it was a small group.

B: It used to be smaller. Then *pointing at D, J and K* we imported that one, that one and that one, all from Australia......

D: Geez,I feel like a cow

Purpose Driven Life

PDL Day 6 – Life is temporary

Oh boy, nothing scares people more than this concept. We like the concept of invincibility and immortality –which is probably why Hollywood celebs grow “younger” every year.

For we were born yesterday, and know nothing,
Because our days on earth are a shadow.(Job 8:9)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Butter and Cheese

I should probably state for the record that J writes for a food magazine and is passionately devoted to the pleasures of the table, a passion I share.

A: So if you had to give one up, what would you give up, butter or cheese?

J:*horrified silence*

5 whole minutes pass during which I can practically see the gears turning in her head.

J:*wild eyed* Oh my god, I really don’t know; this is hard!

2 more minutes pass.....

J: Ok, butter because I suppose there is always margarine…but it’s so not the same…

To J, an ode to cheese.


How many odes to the cow are sung?
More honour is bestowed on the moon,
that languid autumn Gouda
eaten by hungry shadows.

But cheese is taste, the moon is dust
and I’m buttering up to the real thing,
that warm fuzzy mouthed feeling
that can’t be found in low fat singles

A real cheese is like a real man
gives your lips something to remember.
Matured, blue veined or cream;
A fine cheese talks back to the olive.

Even rotten sandshoe types
Crumbling in sealed Tupperware,
walk themselves into nights of wine,
turn crackers into soft music.

I am never bored in this marketplace
I like to peel back rinds and taste.
My unfettered senses praise the cow
my bones know her as mother.

From Knifing the Ice by Jude Aquilina.

Purpose Driven Life

PDL Day 4:-Made to last forever.

Eternity in the hearts of man (Ecc 3:11) – important because throughout history, men have always had that sense of their own mortality and immortality.

Thought of Sailing to Byzantium – Yeats – Art through the ages speak of this eternity in our souls. Poets and artists, convinced that what we have within us is everlasting encased in this dying form. No, soul and body cannot be divorced- not in the way Yeats imagines anyway.

"An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress"

Contrast with Psalm 33:11-12

“ The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
The people He has chosen as His own inheritance. “

If the here and now is temporary, then what comes next? What if what we do has reverberations for eternity? Moment of reality - how do I account for my wasted time?

Ties back to yesterday’s study on purposefully using my resources – time,money,education- what have I done with them? It is difficult enough in the sobering light of adulthood, to confront the time I wasted and bitterly rue those days and years but - there is a ringing fear about my ears- when I think about the fact that I must also account for that time to my Maker.

Note: Gosh – strange thought – first time I’ve really come to terms with God as the Creator – as my Creator- really brings home that potter and clay concept. We who were dust and could be dust again but for His grace – who are we to challenge his rule?

PDL Day 5 - Seeing Life from God's point of view

Change in the view of life -

Life as a test and a trust - in law, a trust is created when the legal ownership of something resides in A but the beneficial ownership resides in B.

Radically different view of the world if we see ourselves as mere guardians and trustees of our lives and time - the real/beneficial owner being god.

"Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. " (1 Cor 4:2)

Again this idea of stewardship! True though - isn't it the same with employment? You start people off with small things then gradually hand them more when they have been proven to be trustworthy with what little they've been given.

Test - in this case, everything is a test: it's not just the dramatic situations of being presented with actual hardship or tragedy but everything we're given, large and small.

My view is that one of the greatest gifts- besides redemption- that we've been given is time. Time to live and love, laugh and cry, time to learn and fall down and stumble forward, time to be wild and times of solitude; it's the reasoning behind that great hymn about humanity and time in Ecclesiastes.

" I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God."(Ecc 3:12)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Purpose Driven Life

So Eilonwy and I are co-blogging this series and being enormously lazy, instead of blogging them day by day,I've consolidated a few days into one long post.

PDL Day 1 - It's not about you.
  • You were made for God and not vice versa. It’s about letting God use you for His purposes and not your using God for your purposes.
  • Speculation vs Revelation – Bible as God’s revelation to us.
  • God – as the source and author of all life. The bible – our guide. The only way to know our purpose in life is to know God.
  • Identity and purpose are to be found through our relationship with Christ.
  • Self discovery through discovering God.
  • Paradigm shift away from most self help books where you help yourself and find your purpose in life by doing stuff. If its not about you then you’re stuck if you look to yourself – need to look to God for an answer.
Random thoughts

No more cognitive dissonance – when you know that one area of your life just doesn’t ‘gel’ with the rest.
Giving over every area of your life – can’t segment or cordon off one part and pretend it’s ok.
Relief – now that it’s in His hands and not mine.

PDL Day 2 -You are not an accident

"And He has made from one blood[c] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:23-31)

  • Runs not this speech like iron through your blood!
  • God who is unseen,who does not dwell in temples or things.
  • Who has determined our preappointed times, our lives so that we might seek Him.
  • We- human,blind and groping for the truth- for Him despite His nearness.
  • Life and our being are bound up in Him.And oh- the appointed day.- Terrifying thought.
  • Today’s B-study was worth it to read this verse.We find ourselves in Him, are perfected in Him.
PDL Day 3 - What drives your life?
  • Eccl 4:4 - vanity and grasping for the wind. Why do we do what we do?
  • People driven variously by guilt, anger, resentment, fear, materialism and a deep seated need for approval.
  • Knowing your purpose simplifies your life and gives your life meaning and focus.
  • Forces an assessment of the various things I do, and why. Approval of others? Oh yes *raises a virtual hand* - always.
"See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is." Eph 5:16
  • Redeeming the time - this struck me in particular - idea of stewardship of the time and abilities you are given.
  • The question begging to be asked is how I've been using my time and going forward, what I plan to do with my time.
"You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You." Isa 26:3

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Favourite lines from Julius Caesar

Finished reading Julius Caesar while in Bali ; it's been too long since I sat down and read Shakespeare just for fun, in a non lit-crit manner.

I didn't examine it too much - just let the glorious language swirl about my head. I've excerpted some of my favourite lines below, very deliberately leaving out the famous and over-quoted "Friends, Romans, country men" speech by Mark Anthony. Not that the speech isn't unbelievably well written - the performance potential of it is stunning - but precisely because it's so over used that I just couldn't be bothered to reproduce it.


For the eye sees not itself.

But by reflection, by some other things

Act 1 Sc 2

The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.

Act 2 Sc 1

I have seen tempests when the scolding winds

Have rived the knotty oaks, and I have seen

The’ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam,

To be exalted with the threatening clouds.

Act 1 Sc 3

I am as constant as the Northern Star,

Of whose true-fixed and resting quality

There is no fellow in the firmament.

Act 3 Sc 1

(Note: Recognize that first line? It appears in the Joni Mitchell song – A Case of You. She uses the whole line; wonder if she read this play before,or if the language has so entered our cultural consciousness that she didn’t even realize it was from Julius Caesar.)

There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which, taken at the flood,leads on to fortune.

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such full sea we are now afloat,

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures.

Act 4 Sc 3

O setting sun,

As in thy red rays thou dost sink tonight,

So in his red blood Cassius’ day is set,

The sun of Rome is set. Our day is gone,

Clouds , dews and dangers come, our deeds are done!

Act 5 Sc 3

(Note- absolutely love the completeness of the image and its dramatic resonance. Oh, I want to watch this play just to hear these lines in all their glory! )

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Guarding your heart

Keep your heart with all diligence,

For out of it spring the issues of life.

Proverbs 4:23

Question – How?

Just like that, the answer came.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

Ephesians 6:13 - 18

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mama you've been on my mind

We have a strange and sometimes strained relationship, my mother and I. For as long as I can remember, I was her constant ally, her best friend, her confidante – but for all that, I never felt as though she understood me, or my value as a person.

You see, intellectually speaking, my mother and I are poles apart. She is a math whiz, a genius with numbers, logical, organized, practical almost to a fault. She also does not like and therefore does not read fiction - why would anyone read anything that is not real? - and while she has an excellent memory, is poor in verbalizing her thoughts and has trouble with language and words. She is also a brilliant pianist – my earliest memories are of dancing around the piano while she played Chopin.

I could not be more different.

My mother is filled with strength, an unbelievable tenacity, positivity and a love for life – traits that I have only recently come to appreciate. If you tell her she can’t do something, she will fight and find a way around, until she gets where she wants.Up until a few years ago, I was a will ‘o’ wisp, blown by the wind, people’s opinions, filled with self doubt and a nagging inferiority complex.

There has also never been a time when books and stories have not called out to me. Often, by name. I have a good visual and verbal memory, a decent if unstructured sense of narrative, love manipulating words on a page and took to the study of humanities and literature like a duck to water.

Math on the other hand, I could do without. I struggled with algorithms, complex equations left me in tears (my father’s predilection for shouting at me while trying to tutor me didn’t help) and generally revolted against anything that involved strings of numbers. Like her, I loved music, but lacked the drive and focus to learn theory properly when I was younger.

Left brain, right brain.

Right. But when it’s your own mother, then the situation becomes vastly more complex. There have been times and seasons of such resentment and anger, especially when she met and deeply disapproved of Ex,my first boyfriend. There were battles royale during that time and I thought our relationship was damaged beyond repair.

We eventually met halfway - with music. She brought me up to love music, even though she believed, mistakenly, that I would not be able to learn to play. To this day, I cannot listen to Chopin without thinking of home, of her. Sometime in my third year in Australia, I cried, listening to Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude, missing home, missing my mother,wishing I could play and finally understanding how right she had been about Ex. That year, I began to grow towards my mother, began think more gently about her decisions, about her life.

Often I have wished – for a different set of skills, a different brain when really, what I wished for was to be my mother’s daughter. I wished for her positivity, her strength of will and force of character - never realizing that these already lay within me.

It is said that all women turn into their mothers in the end. I know I have. We share - among other things - the same sense of humour and the same values - integrity, a belief that family should come first and a deep, abiding love for art and music.

We may never understand each other fully, but we work well together - she helps me file my tax returns, ensures that my money is well invested, buys my health insurance and takes care of me in all of the ways which she is able. I listen to her, decoding her language and translating for her when she is unable to articulate the right words. I help her find clothes that match,explain restaurant menus and interpret business articles to her in simpler language.

Just as I used to listen to her playing the piano, she comes to my room in the evenings when I am home, to listen in peace to Bach. It has been my joy, in recent months, to introduce her to the wistful compositions of Bill Evans.

Since I’ve moved back,we meet for lunch and tea regularly, shop together and laugh together about the same silly things. These times are precious to me, doubly so because of all the years we lost, fighting and failing to understand how much we loved and needed each other. I know we are blessed, my mother and I, to have met with this peace and still have the time to walk together awhile.

Mother’s day this year is special to me. This year, I will take another step towards my mother, one that I had not expected to make.

This year, I will finally begin to learn to play the piano - not to pass exams but so that one day, like my mother, I will be able to play Chopin's Nocturnes to my children and watch them dance around the piano.