Go mbeannai Dia duit.

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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The oil of joy for mourning...

"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11

Chara. Joy. Used at least 60 times in the New Testament. The 2nd *fruit* Paul lists as a fruit of the spirit: love, joy...

C.S. Lewis wrote a whole book about joy: Surprised by Joy. It was a bit of a joke amongst his friends because it was while writing it he met & fell in love with an American woman called, of all things, Joy!

But what is joy & how do I get it? What I have decided it is not is in how the giddy world would define it. It is not to be found in things, or people or places. Money won't buy it but I have found it in grief. It is not simply happiness but it always has elements of a deep & fundamental peace.

In 2006, just before Christmas, my Brother, Mark, was killed in a low level flying accident. My mother rang with the news very early in the morning & for the 2nd time in 2 years we began the process of grieving a husband, father, son, brother. There were tears ~ & plenty of them. Mark was very like my Star: outrageously extroverted, happy~go~lucky, sunny natured, very warm & popular ~ & dead. It is such a stark word & Mark's death was so totally out of left field, unexpected, unbelievable, impossible.

I was asked to speak at Mark's remembrance service, as I had spoken at my father's also. My nearest & dearest are always a little askance on these occasions. They do, after all, know me rather well. I am the one who will howl at the sad bits in sentimental movies ~ & the happy bits. I am prone to bursting into tears just because something is beautiful, or brave, or...well, just because....So you know, relying on me to keep it together when everyone around me is in a highly emotional state is a bit like expecting the PM to walk on water. Not going to happen. Only it does.

It happens because the word most closely associated with chara is charis, grace. It the midst of grief & turmoil grace is extended & joy abounds. I am much better at articulating the intellectual aspects of belief than I am at discussing the personal relationship I have with God. It sounds so mad when you start putting it in to words. It is mad. There is no logic to it. Yet I have experienced it over & over again in my life. I am like a plummeting stone into still water; I come to rest on the bottom & the ripples close over my head.

God is the eye of my storm. He is the depth of my ocean where no wave can break. He is the stars singing in the morning & a pillar of fire by night. He is not my happiness because joy is more than simply happiness. Happiness is fleeting & dependant on fickle circumstance. Joy is unchanging & the circumstances do not alter it. It has elements of hope & trust. So I was able to return from farewelling my brother & keep my appointment to deliver a message to my church family, not because I am particularly brave but because grace abounds & where there is grace there is joy.

To use a Quaker analogy, those who have found the secret of Life glow with the Inner Light. No, they may not sing the loudest, or praise the mightiest, or pray the longest but they radiate with the Spirit & in times of trouble & affliction they hold steady because they believe: Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. It is not, as we are so prone to believe, all about us. It is not simplistically just letting go & letting God. It is found in the renewing of our minds, in changing our thinking & lifting our eyes of ourselves to the One who holds the power of life & death in His hands, who is our strength & our refuge, our hope, our joy. Our joy is found in Christ but we have to live it out in our lives.

And I have noticed something else. The less I have of *things* the more I am full of joy. There is a deep pleasure in simplicity. It prevents us becoming jaded by the world & the things of the world. It is more likely to give us an appetite for the things of God rather than worldly pleasures. Surrounding ourselves with what God has made lifts the heart. Surrounding ourselves with what man has made is not good for our souls.

Charis. Chara. Grace & joy. Where one is the other abounds. We need more of it because one thing is for sure, the World wants it & if they think we have it they will come seeking our secret.

A very special day.

"There isn't much that I can do, but I can share an hour with you, and I can share a joke with on our way we go." ---Maude V. Preston
The cats weren't happy. They knew something was up this morning. The sun was barely above the horizon & Star was up & showered. Not functional, but pottering about like the living dead. Marlow was so paranoid he practically glued himself to my heels! Kirby watched the car pull away with the look that says, " If looks could kill..."
We were off to Star's favourite Brisbane street, the one where some creepy old man decided to approach her in ways that still make the hair rise at the nape of my neck, the street where a much younger Star voiced over loud puzzlement about why the *lady* in the very short, very tight mini skirt needed to clean her teeth in a public restroom, the street, I found out today, that has something called *The Den* that we had to walk past. In broad daylight. Displaying ....well, I'm not sure what because neither Star nor I were looking.

Past the Old Museum, known to us from music concerts.....
And up the hill. This, believe it or not, is a hospital. Ok, so it's the old part & so old they don't actually use it as a hospital any more. There is a perfectly modern building behind here but as it's nowhere near as interesting I'm only showing you the interesting bit! lol . Besides, we got lost in here, meandering round & round despite asking several different people how to get where we needed to be because where we needed to be was here.... Now Ruby very kindly gave me a description of herself so I would recognise her but when I finally met her all I saw was her smile. She has the most wonderful smile! She forgot to mention that! We had a very lovely couple of hours. There were no awkward silences. We found we actually still liked each other as real people, not just as blogging buddies. I'm not good with meeting new people for the first time. Paranoia is my friend. Ruby made it so easy for me, greeting me like a long lost friend that she knew very well ~ which I guess, in a sense, is true. We shared & got to know each other a little bit better & now when I read Ruby's blog I will hear it in her voice, with the smile in it...
We passed the cameras to Star to catch the moment for prosperity & share with those of you not as blessed as we were today. I am so happy Ruby risked meeting up with me ~ & so sorry for those of you who haven't met Ruby yet. She is lovely: warm, sweet, nurturing, Oh, & the best bit. She likes me!
A big THANK YOU to Star who went & got the coffees so we could say chatting & endured the two of us going a million miles an hour so that Star, who is no slouch in the verbal diarrhea department herself, had absolutely no hope of getting a word in edgewise!
Thank you, Ruby, for being my friend. ♥

Friday, August 27, 2010

Why do I do it?

History is written by the conquerors. There are plenty of things I'm not overly comfortable doing; explaining why I wear a bit of cloth on my head is one of them. It is part of an ongoing dialogue with the Lord wherein I roll my eyes a lot, rather like Star, & say things like, "Must I? Do you really mean it?" And the Lord waits patiently until I acquiescence.

See that's the thing when you start getting serious about God. He takes you at your word & it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. So the easy answer to your question Rosemary & Ember is I wear a covering because God told me to. So terribly dull of me. The more interesting question is why did God tell me to? We are still working on that one because I am not charismatic. I grew up Anglican, low, not high, without even the whiff of Catholic mysticism about the place & from choice moved in a direction where any mysticism is quiet & reserved & prone to out work in very practical ways. One of the things that drew me to Quakerism was the social conscience. I'm not the sort to dance in the aisles & wave my hands about. Great if that's your thing but I have 2 left feet, no sense of rhythm & can't sing to save my life so, no, not about to make a public spectacle of myself if I can help it.

Quakerism is nice & quiet & there is a lot of emphasis on serving practically. Oops. Not so good at that either but I like the idea. And you know, the island is quiet & very traditional & the only church when we arrived was Anglican. High. Very High. A little strange but whatever. A very nice man came over once a month for the Eucharist & all I ever had to do was remember to turn up on the right Sunday & keep my pew warm for an hour. Suited me fine. God had other ideas.

The Anglicans swore they couldn't send a man out every single week & the very small congregation struggled to survive spiritually from month to month, eventually forming a little community church with other disenfranchised Christians but of course getting a preacher was always going to be a problem & over the years lots of lay people stepped in to do that. At different times I was one of them.

And it was at that point God really started meddling in my life. See, I never thought I was a preacher, not even when I was behind the pulpit "laying down the law with exquisite insolence" as Dorothy L. Sayers so happily put it. The preacher is the man with the dog collar & the black cassock & a PhD in theology. As it turns out I'm right but that is no consolation.

I'll pause here for a little church history because I'm not charismatic & while I believe in the charismatic gifts & have no problem, in theory, with their outworking, it was never part of my religious experience so while tongues is a little obvious & healing is quite dramatic I didn't even recognise my gift, even while exercising it, because the outworking of it can be partly in teaching & preaching & I'm still a little awkward even naming it. Prophesy. There, I've said it. Don't shoot me.

What is prophecy? A prophet is one who speaks for God & the call is usually to repentance, warning of judgement & exclaiming praise. I'm still learning to listen for how, when & to whom I am to speak His word. My responsibility is to catch God's vision for His people, proclaim His message boldly & exhort others to follow Christ ~ which is interesting because I have always said my call is to God's people for the strengthening & upbuilding of the church, rather than to unbelievers. Evangelizing is definitely not my gift. What people do with that message is their responsibility.

Apart from the fact I know what tended to happen to God's prophets & it is not something likely to make me sleep well at night I came from a background where women served tea & bickies & washed the sanctuary linen, not served in a public ministry. Apart from the fact I'm not an extrovert. That's Star. Star likes being in the public eye. Me, I'm the quiet sort. I like the last pew beside the door & I'm not likely to put my hand up for anything.

I was so deeply uncomfortable with this whole experience I went looking through my bible. The Talmud identifies 7 prophetesses: Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah & Esther. Plus Rebecca, Rachel, Leah & Noadiah but they aren't included amongst the seven for some reason I didn't quite get. When we move into the new testament we get an even longer list starting with Mary & Elizabeth; Anna, the 4 virgin daughters of Phillip....

So what has all this got to do with covering my head?

Like I said, I'm not the brightest spark in the tinder box. When God first started leaning on me I thought it was all about the submission thing, & even a cursory troll through blogland will turn up hordes of women who have rediscovered the covering & are extolling it's virtues. Dearest was horrified & to wear a covering as a sign of submission to my husband when he wasn't in favour of it was so ironic I thought God should get of my case ~ & I told Him so. He didn't. I gave in but still didn't get the point because I still didn't understand how God was leading me.

The answer is in 1 Corinthians 11:5 ~ But every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonoureth her head: for it is one and the same thing as if she were shaven. It was only when I got the prophesy bit I understood why the covering. It wasn't that I didn't know this verse; I did. I just didn't make the connection about what I was doing.

Initially the covering was an act of obedience, a gut feeling that this was what God wanted & right but I had no understanding of why. That has changed ~& in some very interesting ways. One of the things I always say is, " Search the scriptures for yourselves & see if these things are true!" It is so important. I have walked out of two churches who couldn't show me from the scriptures where they got their teaching from. I get alarm bells going off like sirens when that happens. Every believer should. When I speak out on such things the covering reminds me not to speak on my own authority. It reminds me I am under the headship of Christ. It reminds me that I need to remember to walk the talk because I am very public even when I don't want to be, even if I think I'm not being observed.

I now mostly cover all the time & I'm sort of used to it. Why, especially as I'm not even in a regular Church any more? Because I can't help myself. [Thanks, God] Invariably people start up religious conversations with me & they'll make some wildly inaccurate observation that I just have to correct!!!! It's as though I'm walking round with a big sign that says: GO ON; ASK ME. Actually the covering in itself seems to do that too. That being the case I need to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that resides in me ~ & as, for me, that is part of the prophetic gift I cover. All. The. Time.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I worry that the person who thought up Muzak may be thinking up something else. ~Lily Tomlin

Wednesdays are always exhausting. I think I am getting old. Not that I have to do anything ~ except drive the child to & fro & wait patiently while she tweets like a canary ~ but sitting around is just so tiring!

Anyway....the first of the Gothic music got handed out last night. Oh. My. Forty pages & that's just the first of 4 scores! Star is singing seconds [alto] & there were just two of them & neither of them is a great sight singer.

Alison took them through the score & chatted some about the production, which will be at QPAC, as expected, under the direction of John Curro. The kids have worked with John before, which is just as well as this is being filmed by the ABC & Alison will be doing *switch*. Cracks me up but it just means she tells the cameras, who don't read music, where they need to be filming. I just had to ask, given the size of this thing, how they were going to fit everybody in but apparently the first 5 rows of seats are being removed & the kids are up in the wings somewhere. Ten cameras, 2 symphonies, 4 brass bands, hundreds of choristers. I get stressed just thinking about it. And it's in Italian! Not Star's favourite language to sing in. German is fine. She's got enough German under her belt now to manage the German fine but Italian! Well, that's another story & I just don't think she likes the sound of it. Tough.

Alison hands out all these scores & the kids don't even bat an eyelid. Full working score. They spent 20 minutes just highlighting their parts. Dither. Do I want a ticket to this thing or not? I suspect not. I think it's too big for the space it's got & by the time this production is up & running I will know too much & would sit through the whole thing with my heart in my mouth just praying any catastrophe will be small enough to go unnoticed!

Naturally by the end of 3 hours Star was ravenous & polished off my chips as well as her own. I did manage the chicken burger but I will be pleased when summer is here again & we can revert to salad sticks & dip. Much yummier but the westerlies are coming through now & the jetties are absolutely bitter ~ especially at night. I was sooo cold last night though Star was comfortable just in a T & lightweight jacket. Something warm to eat was just so comforting!

I used to think standing round a sports field cheering for whichever maniac was out there kicking a ball was the height of insanity but I swear, music takes the cake, hands down. The end product is worth it but the in between is insanity making.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

But what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light & hast thou walked in the Light, & what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God? ~ George Fox.

One of the books that has profoundly shaped the way I think & the way I view the world is this one: Thee, Hannah by Marguerite De Angeli. Yes, it is a kiddies book. There is nothing complicated or difficult about it in the least. The story line is very basic. Even the illustrations, which I loved as a child, are rather two dimensional & flat but... it is a profound but. The questions this little book raise are some of the ones that still plague me today.

There is the outward journey & people who have shared along the way may turn to you with utmost surprise & say, "But it wasn't like that at all!" That is to deny the inward & parallel journey which may be very different indeed. Thee, Hannah is part of my inward journey. Here I first met the idea of personally connecting with God, as opposed to a minister interceding. [Not what my mother's church taught but no~one I knew talked about listening to God. They talked about prayer & what to say to God but not how to listen, not how to hear, not how to know if it was God at all.] Here I first ran into the idea that to be distinctive might serve a greater purpose than eccentricity of being. Here I ran into the idea that non~violence did not equate with passivity.

So here is Hannah, youngest child in a large Quaker family who hankers after the things of the world: the pretty dresses, the fancy pantaloons & most of all the pretty, fashionable bonnets. She hates her plain Quaker bonnet. Don't misunderstand. I get Hannah completely on this one. An uglier contraption for the head I have rarely met!

Now the Quaker bonnet served multiple purposes. It acted as a covering at a time when most women still covered their heads, & certainly in public. It served to distinguish Quakers from non~Quakers. It was a public rebuke against worldliness & vanity. It let others know that one held to certain basic principles. It also told runaway slaves that here was a person who would help. It is in helping a runaway slave that Hannah learns the deeper meaning & purpose of her plain, ugly bonnet.

But here's the thing: there has been a steady movement within the church body to make itself more accessible to the world by aligning itself with the world. It has not made itself more accessible. It has simply blurred the lines until it is impossible to tell who is a Christian & who is not by simply looking. And we have done this despite what scripture says: Come out from among them : be not yoked unequally with unbelievers [yes, I know most people interpret it as to do with marriage but think about it...] ; a peculiar people...hordes of scriptures talk about Christians are to be different, to stand out from the culture around them, to hold to different [Godly] standards, to be salt & light to the world around them. They are meant to be distinctive.

Now you may think it doesn't really matter ~ & perhaps it doesn't ~ but consider this. When the Amish shootings took place in 2006 the world watched in awe the Amish response to their tragedy. No one was in any doubt that this was a Christian community. Nor was any one left in doubt that their act of forgiveness arose from their Christian beliefs. No~one was preaching anything. They simply were. Or there is the testimony of Skeet Savage ~ Founder of Wisdom's Gate, who talks of being threatened late at night in a shopping mall by a gang of thugs, who desisted when one of the boys noticed their coverings & decided that "God would get them" if they hurt His people.

I'm not *dresses only*. For me, dresses are impractical & immodest. I do not necessarily think dress should be *Plain*. After all, God adores colour & pomp. Just look at how He outfitted the temple & garbed His priests! I understand that dress does not necessarily reflect a heart that is right with God. I still think the questions are worth asking. What does God require of me? For one it will be a cape dress & covering. For another, pants & tunic. And then there are the Christies of the world. About to approach a company director for an exorbitant amount of money she splurged on the prettiest, fanciest hat in the Milliner's shop window & won her cause!

Our dress says something very profound about who we are. I learnt this the hard way because I don't have a fashionable bone in my body & am perfectly content to paddle round in clothing I have owned for half a century. I rarely even look in a mirror so when I felt the Lord's leading to plonk a bit of cloth on my head [long story & nothing to do with submission to my husband, poor man] I was quite able to ignore how peculiar it looked with a salwar kameeze, or jeans & T. I never thought about it but it was there & reminded me of the thing I wore it for. However, you better bet others noticed & commented! Not to me. People were a little shy but they were bailing Liddy up in the shop going: "So what religion does your mother belong to?" Liddy took great delight in evangelizing to them! Now I have come to expect that the hurting of this world who would never set foot in church will approach me at the shops or on the jetty & pour out their grieving hearts to me. They feel free to ask the big questions: Do you believe in life after death? Do all religions lead to God? And sometimes they say rather wistfully, " I used to go to church, you know. I still read my bible..." Now I just have to remember to act in accordance with my calling!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; Ecclesiastes

One of the biblical precepts I find hardest is the principal of celebration. I know. I'm weird. I don't enjoy Christmas. Birthdays worry me. Don't dare suggest a dinner party or more than a couple of guests. I'm just not a party girl. I loathe crowds, noise, excitement. Yes, even as a teen. I think my parents were a little concerned about my lack of socialisation but I've just never got it. Why do people do these things?

I understand prayer, meditation, worship. I get confession, silence & solitude. Submission, service, study, fasting? I get them all but when it comes to celebration I freeze. By the time the house is scrubbed, the food prepared [all that food! ugh!], the decorations in place, I'm exhausted & want nothing more than to curl up in a quiet corner & preferably go to sleep. What I don't want to do is try & keep up my end of a conversation over the noise & babel of a crowd of people bubbling over with excitement. Sad to say this is not a biblical attitude so I'm trying hard to get over it.

Celebration is built into the very framework of the bible. From the very first God set the stars & the sun & the moon in place to mark the seasons so that we would know the times of celebration.
Seriously, every time I think of the Jews piling into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover my insides curdle. All those people! Or the wedding at Cana! This was no cup of tea & a dry bickie at the end of an hour's church service. We're talking a good seven days here! Seven days! I'd be demented.

Leaving aside the fact I have, IRL, a quiet & reserved personality that enjoys the fruits of solitude & that is just my personality, what is the point of celebration? The first & most glaring point that comes to my mind is it exposes my selfishness. I just don't want to be bothered. All that fuss & to what end? But if I am serious about serving others, if I am serious about putting others first, if I am serious about following Jesus, I need to get over myself. Fast.

Secondly, it exposes my lack of understanding. Celebration is not about too much food & too many people, not when put into a biblical perspective. Celebration is about setting aside special times to acknowledge & remember the goodness of God & to rejoice in His sovereignty over us. It is a form of corporate worship when done right & I think it is a pity the church allowed the Jewish festivals to slip into disuse because, instigated by God Himself, they are immensely rich with symbolism & deeply profound. We found this this year when we did our Passover meal. My girls aren't little but even so they were surprised & blessed by the richness of the symbolism & how Christ was reflected in every aspect.

Thirdly, biblical celebration shifts our focus. It necessitates generosity, even in hard times. It involves hospitality. It requires thought & consideration for what will please & bless others. It means we have to consider the effective use of our time, plan ahead, set aside other plans. It reminds us that we are all God's children & should take pleasure in being His sons & daughters. For these reasons Richard Foster lists Celebration as one of the spiritual disciplines, because done properly it is as much a discipline as fasting or worship or prayer.

Fourthly, celebration cultivates a spirit of unity amongst believers. Now I need to clarify here because I have belonged to many churches that promoted *fellowship* meals & there was anything but a real sense of fellowship amongst the congregation. I believe the motives were wrong & the focus was on the wrong thing. When the focus is Christ the celebration is not about us ~ & that is a good thing!

Lastly, celebration is a discipline because it is a conscious choice to live our lives in a state of abandonment to God, with joy, acknowledging that every good thing comes from Him. This includes birthdays when we celebrate the life He has given us, marriages when we celebrate the mate He has chosen for us, funerals, when we give thanks that even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us. Celebration reminds us that our joy is in the Lord & He is our strength. It then allows us to live lives of grace & fulfillment because we are content with what it has pleased God to grant us.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The people have spoken...Julia Gillard.
I can't resist. I just have to crow on my own dunghill....& open Pandora's box...
Dearest & I were discussing the election on Friday ~ unusual in itself; I am the most politically uninterested person I know, holding firmly to the opinion that it doesn't matter who you vote for, a politician always gets in. This was a particularly uninspiring lot of pollies. Who to vote for when one stabbed her leader in the back, claims atheism & lives with lover~boy or the chappie who thinks his biceps are his brains? I was so totally disgusted...

Anyhooo...whilst trying to decide how to register a protest vote without actually implementing the donkey I ventured the opinion that Sunday would see a hung government. Dearest told me in no uncertain terms that that was not about to happen & lookee see; a hung government!

Can I say? very quietly; I told you so...

dancing a little jig here..

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

An oldie but a goodie. Reminds me to keep a grateful heart towards God.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who won't survive the week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 20 million people around the world.

If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than almost three billion people in the world.

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.

If your parents are still married and alive, you are very rare, especially in the United States.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

If you can hold someone's hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder, you are blessed because you can offer God's healing touch.

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hic jacet Arthurus, Rex quondom, Rex futurus. ~Malory

I spent my 21st birthday in Cornwall. For the uninitiated Cornwall is the traditional country of the Dumnonii & Tintagel Castle the traditional birthplace of King Arthur....& yes, I do know that the ruins everyone paddles through were built by one Richard, Earl of Cornwall, brother to HenryIII, in the 13 century & have nothing whatsoever to do with Arthur.

Never~the~less, this is Arthur's country & the excavated site has proven to be that of a high status household between 400 ~ 700AD, which makes the time frame right. Arthur, whoever he really was, supposedly ruled Britain about the 5th century AD. The castle may have been known under the more Celtic title of Carn Brea, but it is a fact more high class Mediterranean pottery has been dug up here than from all the rest of the contemporary sites put together. From this period there are North African red~slip bowls, Carthaginian dishes, Aegean amphora fragments from the eastern Mediterranean, huge Tunisian oil jars & Byzantine jars.

Tintagel comes from the Celtic, Din Tagell, fortress of the narrow entrance & Tintagel is spectacularly situated on a narrow isthmus that runs out into the Atlantic Ocean. Water surrounds the cliff on 3 sides, throwing spray high up the cliff pillars of Cornish stone & the only entry is across the very narrow isthmus. Here, to lend verisimilitude to myth & legend, Glasgow University unearthed, in 1998, what has become known as the Artonou Stone. Inscribed in Latin is the name ARTOgNOV ~ Celtic Arthnou~ & Arth, as we all know, means Bear, & is the first part of the more familiar name, Arthur.

The place, as is only to be expected, is over~run with tourists. We were fortunate. My birthday fell on a gloomy overcast Cornish day with a nippy little wind off the sea & most of the tourists had opted for the local pub rather than the dubious pleasures of a castle that has mostly disintegrated into the sea. It is just possible, if one has a good imagination, & I do, to stand gazing out to sea & visualise a Saxon sail breach the the horizon, hear the alarm raised ...The briny scent of the sea, the rough wind, the smell of coming rain & damp heather ~ these things remain the same down all the ages & for just a moment time slips sideways, the axis of the world tilts, ghosts walk...& then some loud, obnoxious accent exclaims, " Wal, you can just imagine it all, can't you?!" Yes indeed.

We took ourselves away for the more prosaic pleasures of Cornish scones, raspberry jam & clotted cream.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Farewell, adieu, travel well, see you soon...

A true friend never gets in your way unless you're going down. ~ Arnold Glasow.So not good at goodbyes.
So we had a *last meal* on the deck: roast lamb with all the trimmings, cheesecake. The kids abandoned us to hurl water bombs at each other in the front yard & whack the pinata Star had made to bits. Star always does a pinata to celebrate her & Irish Lad Number One's birthday.
A last photo...

And all that's left is an empty table, abandoned chairs & the sort of memories only good friends leave behind.
Two years & counting down.

Hearing from God.

The Holy Spirit over the bent world broods...Gerald Manly Hopkins.

I made the mistake once, of telling our leadership that God spoke to me. I am not ever likely to forget because no~one ever calls me *Dear Heart*. Well no~one bar God.

I was confused by the scepticism I met with because doesn't every Christian hear from God? Isn't that the idea?

So here's my soap box for to~day: hearing directly from God is not something confined to the first century church. This is what Christ procured for us with His death & when He ascended into heaven He left us with the Holy Spirit to lead us into all Truth.

Now I've run into people at different times who've said some really strange things to me along the lines of: "God told me to leave my wife". Um, no. Sorry. God didn't say that at all. How would I know? Because the Spirit that inspired the scriptures will always lead us in ways that are consistent with scripture ~ & God hates divorce. Scripture says so, so no, God isn't going to suddenly tell us to divorce our spouse.

Scripture also tells us to *discern the spirits* Now this is interesting because when it comes to hearing personally from God we often walk a razor fine line but there are tests to help us discern the truth. There are the outward tests: scripture, circumstances, reason, other believers. There are inward tests like promptings, *concerns*, personal integrity. There are exceptional tests: visions, dreams, signs, fleeces, angels. At different times God has used some or all of these things ~ as is His prerogative. It is up to us to discern what is going on spiritually.

Now I will grant you that discernment isn't always easy & quite frankly I prefer a clear directive backed up by scripture. That's pretty unmistakable. It is also a gift, & not always a gift for spiritual babies. As with so many things we learn, just as babies do, how to discern the voice of God amongst all the other racket that goes on inside our heads. This is why a solid knowledge of scripture is so important. This is our first line of defence for learning about the nature & character of God & dispensing with falsehoods. God never acts against His own nature. This is how we learn how to love God & serve Him; the Spirit nudges us along the right path & will confirm it with scripture more often than not & little by little we become accustomed to what the voice of God sounds like. Just as scripture has promised, His sheep know His voice.

The other thing I have learnt about discerning the will of God & hearing His voice is that I have to ditch my preconceived notions before we're going to get anywhere. If I try marching into the throne room with a list of demands I'm going to encounter a shattering silence. On the other hand God doesn't seem to mind me ranting & railing but pride & a haughty spirit will get me nowhere.

This is where I have found the spiritual disciplines of silence & meditation so helpful in my personal walk with God. They allow me to become calm & still. They allow the turbulence in my everyday life to ebb away. They force me into a place of submission where it is possible to say, "Not my will, but thine be done." They enable me to listen. It is only by listening we can hear.

Like so much else, listening for God requires practice ~ & patience. It takes time because we all cart so much baggage around with us. We clutch the tatters of our pride about us in a vain effort to cover our naked spirits. We try lying to the Holy Spirit in a vain effort to bolster our petty egos. Little by little God has to unwrap our clutching fingers & prise from our unwilling grasp everything that hinders us: the good things, the noble things, the right things & the sin that besets us.

And there it is; when we finally relax & rest in Him alone we hear his voice like a clarion call: unmistakable, like no other voice, ever.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tuesday Trivia.

A good holiday is one spent among people whos notions of time are vaguer than yours. ~ John B. Priestly.

In just 4 more days our Irish friends will be returning whence they came. Where did all that time go?

Time is funny. The older I get the faster it flies yet I remember as a child, 6 weeks of summer seemed like forever & ever.

So here are some oddities about time & distance & that sort of thing because it's not just me, you know. Time really is odd.

Out here we say, "In a jiffy," all the time as in, "I'll be with you in just a jiffy", or "Hold on a jiffy". Jiffy is an actual measurement of time. It equals 1/100th of a second. We all needed to know that didn't we.

Do you count the time lapse between thunder & lightening to work out how close a storm is? Well the typical lightening bolt is 2"~4" wide & 4 miles long. I'm sure somewhere out there, there is a physicist with too much time on his hands & too little to do who has worked out the math for this information ~ but it's not me!

And here's a doozy. America & England adopted the Gregorian calendar on September 14th 1752 ~ & lost 11 days! What happened to them? I'd've been peeved, growing so much older so fast! Still if you fly from London to N.Y by concord it is possible to arrive 2 hours before you leave. Who said time travel wasn't possible?!

Then there's Armageddon. You know, when the stars fall from the sky. The sun is a star. When it goes it will be 8 minutes before anyone will even be aware of the fact we don't have a sun any more. Boggles the mind, doesn't it.

Most of us are time deprived ~ so we purchase self help books to help us manage our time better. 95% of self help books purchased are never used.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"It might be more amusing," said Giles idly. "Only if you're going to be wicked, do it on the grander scale."

A long time ago I came across these books by Antonia Forest. I've read them all ~ even The Thursday Kidnapping. Actually I think that was the first one I read. Like a lot of people who like these books I was intensely curious about the very private person who hid behind the persona of Antonia Forest ~ & at various times I have gone looking for odd snippets of information, driven by furiously annoying dedications that give hints that her characters were based on real people. In the process I came across this site. This site links to fanfic. Oh my...

Now I'm not normally a fan of fanfic but haven't you ever wanted to know what became of your favourite characters? OK, my imagination is quite up to the task but it is fascinating to see how others view the various characters, who likes who, who is disliked, & how they view their various lives turned out. Quite the eye~opener!

Which got me thinking...Fanfic's not that new. I first came across it when I was about 10 or so ~ only it wasn't called fanfic. I fell in love with Pelagie Doane's illustrations. Simply gorgeous. My librarian was horrified that I was about to read the last book in a series before reading the previous two. In fact she insisted I take out the first book. Having no choice, I did. I never read it, not then. Nor the second one. I began with Heidi's Children ~ & worked my way backwards.

At some point it occurred to my addled brain that this series was written by 2 different people. Charles Tritten is no Johanna Spyri. The quality of writing is just so inferior though I suspect far more appealing to white middle class Americans ...& Australians. The Heidi of the latter books is nothing like the original Heidi imagined by Johanna Spyri. For the adult me this is incredibly jarring. Tritten was obviously more interested in filling in the gaps than staying true to the tone & feel & character of the original book. I never could visualise Heidi marrying Peter ~ but then stranger things have happened.

Anyway, that is one of the things I noticed trolling through a site dedicated to all things Antonia Forest. Those who are doing the fanfic try really hard to keep the tone & mannerisms of the characters as Forest originally portrayed them so there is a seamless mesh between the original & the new. I don't know, but it seems there are quite a few of us out there who enjoy reading vicariously others interpretations of an author's characters.

What about You? Ever tried this? No idea? Loathe it? Great for giggles? Leave us a comment & let us know.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Paintball Fun.

There is no hunting, like the hunting of man. ~ Pursuit Combat Systems

Yesterday the girl went paintballing. Yes, that one ~ the girly girl. I did not go. I rather thankfully handed said child over to Irish Dad & one of the Irish Lads & left them to negotiate the rather dubious instructions I downloaded from RACQ out to Samford. Samford is where we decided they'd get the best value for money.

They arrived back home after dark absolutely filthy having had a wonderful time all round. I picked them up from the jetty & promptly asked my child, " Well? Did you have a wonderful time?" Before Star could get a word out [& believe me she's not slow!] Irish dad proceeded to tell me all about it. I think he had a better time than he expected. I think he was brave. As I expected the place was full of testosterone riddled young men letting out their aggression issues! Star says Irish Dad was a real asset. He's a large Irish man & was extra good for providing useful coverage.

I've never done this but if I was 20 years younger I might actually give it a go. It was a larger do than I expected. They had two teams of approximately 50 people each & played 10 minute games over several different war zones with high powered rifles full of paintballs. Sounds messy to me...hence the protective gear, I guess. It must work. Star had a few little bruises but nothing like I was expecting her to have. It was steep; I feel for Irish Dad, I really do. He's a business man in real life. Lots of travelling. Running up & down steepish hillsides riddles with Aussie scrub is not his usual thing.

Apparently my child was rather good at this game. She got at least a dozen *kills*. *sigh* I guess the archery classes paid off somewhere. Now she wants to take her sister. She reckons Liddy will enjoy this. I told her to start saving.

Meanwhile Liddy arrived home very late Friday. Saturday morning she left before Star for a youth training seminar at the church then all the youth proceeded to the EKKA & I haven't actually seen her yet. If all else fails, I have to drive her into Garden City on Monday so will have a good half hour to chat uninterrupted. She comes home, runs herself ragged catching up with everybody & socialising, eats all my chocolate because sweets are hard to come by on an Alpaca farm, then heads back to work to rest. Seriously, however hard she works it's nothing to how hard she parties when she comes home!

[sorry. No paintballing pics as cameras & other damagable things aren't allowed in the compound so you will just have to use your imaginations. ☺]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Today is pristine. Wednesday the rain bucketed down. Yesterday it was bitter. The wind blew like the clappers tossing broken branches on the roof, howling dismally & snaking icy fingers under the doors but today is picture perfect.

Yesterday Star went to the EKKA. EKKA is simply Queensland slang for exhibition & that's what the EKKA is, an exhibition show for displaying numerous things ~ not that most kiddies know that. EKKA is all about sideshow alley & show bags. I think Star is growing up. The EKKA has lost a lot of its attraction for her. She had her hard saved cash, which I supplemented knowing the EKKA, & high hopes ~ all dashed. I do not know how families afford this. $10~ for a single ride through the House of Horrors, or whatever fancy name they call it! $10~! $5~ for 3 bullets in sideshow alley. Star was not impressed. Imagine if you had more than one kid...

Days Star has poured over the newspaper guide comparing value for money in showbags. She even went on~line & did her research thoroughly. I did supplement for that, agreeing to go halves in a Morish bag ~ I admit it; I'm a nut freak. Besides I share. I'm good like that. Anyway Star sat down & worked out how much money she had all up, how much the bags she wanted were, what it was going to cost her in fares & entry fee [who said this child couldn't do math?!], how much she was prepared to sacrifice for food then wailed that last time the Irish Lads were over they'd made her splash all her cash in sideshow alley. Lesson Learned, I think. Anyway it was all wasted effort. ALL the showbags Star wanted were sold out! Every last one. Luckily Star is easy~going like that.

I have a confession to make. The EKKA is big in Queensland. They fuss about it up here more than Sydney does about The Royal Easter Show. I hate the EKKA. I've been ~ once. I never ever took any of our kids. They went ~ with the school, or Guides or friends but it's so crowded. And dirty. And noisy. Why would anyone with any sense want to spend a day splurging on overpriced rubbish? Not when you could spend a day looking at that view. Maybe my priorities are warped...

Since it's inception in 1876 the show has been abandoned just twice; once in 1919 when an outbreak of Spanish influenza turned the showgrounds into a hospital & again in 1942 when the grounds were used as a depot for moving troops north as part of the war effort.

Anyway I had a day pretty much completely to myself. You don't want to know how many years it's been since that happened. I waved my child down the jetty, Star whimpering that I should be coming too, not abandoning her to the Irish Lads [how that child can go on!] & went home to fix the sewing project that had somehow gone completely catawumpus with all the wrong pieces being sewn together. It was a profitable day on my part. Star arrived home after dark to cheerfully inform me that she had taken over 10 000 steps before her counter died & did I know how many calories that was! *sigh* She's such a flibberty~gibbet!

The cats, who had been prowling unhappily all day, constantly underfoot in case I too took it into my head to disappear, promptly relaxed on hearing Star's voice & curled up to sleep. I think they missed her. I know I did. It was very quiet.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, & will not be afraid.
For the Lord God is my strength & my song;
& He has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A testimony of sorts.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, & renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation...Psalm 51

Warning: if you hold strong conservative convictions about a woman's place in the church & vocal ministry you might want to skip this post. This is not about women's ministry as such & I will not enter into a debate on the subject or allow this space to be used for such a debate.

I joke that Quakers were the first modern charismatics. They have always emphasised the personal leading of the Holy Spirit, a personal relationship with God & the equality of the sexes in Christ ~ all reasons why, as a child of the 6os & early 70s, I was drawn towards Quakerism.

The 60s; do you remember them? It was a heady elixir of free love, freedom, & profound spiritual searching outside the bounds of Christianity. God died; the church was already dead. And then the Jesus Freaks burst on the scene. Hot on their heels came the charismatic movement. The face of Western Christianity changed forever.

I lost & found my faith in the midst of this spiritual chaos. Nothing in my spiritual training had prepared me to deal with the charismatic claims. My reserved nature found their extroverted worship distasteful. My curiosity was piqued. If I was truthful I was spiritually starved. I began the long slow process of abandoning knowing about God for knowing God.

For a prolonged period of time I stagnated in the place many Christians falter at in their walk with God, knowing something of Him, yet unable to move forward into a deeper personal relationship. Prayer was a wasteland & a pointless exercise in narcissism. I avoided prayer. Worship was arid but we are told not to refrain from gathering together so I worshiped with other believers & kept my opinions to myself.

I grew, but oh, so slowly & painfully & always with this gnawing hunger that I'd missed the point. Then God intervened, the way He does.

At the time we were worshipping at the only church on the island that held a worship service every single Sunday: very sedate; very traditional; very conservative; very, very small but full of lovely Christians. Dearest happened to be the chairman of the committee as Christmas rolled around & he had all the preaching spots filled for the holiday period & was quietly congratulating himself when the bombshell dropped.

Twenty~four hours before the service was due to start the man designated to preach the Christmas message went down sick. Dearest turned white as he put down the phone. He told me the bad news then said, "Well, it's either you or me & we both know it's not going to be me". Dearest is incredibly dyslexic. He can barely string a written sentence together & even his spoken language tends to be enigmatic & obscure. I wasn't happy but, hey, my degree is in English Lit.,. I can do this stuff standing on my head under water. How hard could it be?

I dragged out all my reference books & cobbled something together. I was not happy. All my teaching said this was a man's job, a man's place ~ but we didn't have a man, not on such short notice. I was totally unprepared for the spiritual onslaught that happens to anyone who steps out in ministry. I was incredibly ignorant.

I delivered my message & thankfully retired to my obscure corner in the last pew, congratulating myself that never, ever again... you know where this is going, don't you? Yep. From necessity the church used lots of lay people & I suddenly found myself on the preaching roster.

Now I have no idea how proper preachers go about organising their sermons but I was in a quandary. I had absolutely no intention of getting up there & sprooking my views on this, that & the other! If I was getting up there then it was imperative I hear from God Himself on what He wanted His people to hear ~ & I had absolutely no idea how to go about that! None. Not a red hot bazooka.

I knew lots; lots & lots of head knowledge. As I've said before I'm not the practical sort so the doing was incredibly problematic & time consuming. It did not help that the church kept saying I had a gift for preaching. It just didn't sit right with me. As it turns out my gift is not for preaching but sometimes, you know, I'm not the brightest spark in the tinder box. So from the time I knew I had a speaking engagement until the time I'd written up my paper I was in serious meltdown. I would, quite literally, scream at God, ranting & raving that He needed to be clear, very, very clear, as in I can't hear you, God, speak up. Shout if necessary. I was desperate. I knew, scripture says so, that those who presume to teach will be judged more strictly so I wasn't taking any chances on getting it wrong. Not if I could help it. I tell you, I'm a woos.

And God was gracious unto me. Each & every time He gave me absolutely clear, unmistakable instructions on what He wanted said. He gave me the scriptures. When I ran into difficulties He made crooked paths straight. He gave me courage when I wanted to run. He strengthened me when my courage faltered. Suddenly I found I had access to the Holy Spirit. When I spoke I knew when I spoke with the authority of the Spirit. He told me how much He loved me. Over & over.

Over time I noticed something. God was on a soapbox. The same themes repeated themselves again & again. Repent. Be thou holy as I am holy. Come out from among them...Um, yeah, I know what happens to God's prophets.

When we began home churching I breathed a sigh of relief thinking I was off the hook. No~one to preach to except the kids & they are used to me. I reverted to the form of worship I was most comfortable with: silent, focused, alive with the presence of God. I lie to myself rather nicely but God is persistent. My little spiritual dingy gets swamped. God isn't silent. His message is still coming through loud & clear: Repent: Be thou holy; Come out from among them because He promised...Afterward I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons & your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men & women, I will pour out my spirit in those days. ~ Joel 2:28~29

For now the word from the Lord is : Wait. Some things I don't mind waiting for...

Tuesday Trivia

Before the gods who made the gods
Had seen their sunrise pass,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale
Was cut out of the grass. ~ G.K. Chesterton
It's been a while but I felt like doing a Tuesday Trivia again so here it is. If I've got stuff wrong I'm sure Sandra will pop in to put me right! ☺ Sandra owns horses. Sandra breeds horses & I'm sure she knows more about them than I do.

Despite my ignorance, here goes!

A horse isn't considered a horse until it is 5 years old. Five seems an arbitrary number to me but maybe horses have an extended adolescence? A horse is anything over 14.2 hands. A hand is 4 inches but I couldn't be bothered to do the math to put that into feet & inches. It's big.

A horse will drink about 10 gallons of water a day so it's no surprise to find they produce 10 gallons of saliva as well. More to the point from a house keeping view they may poop 14 times a day. Horse poop makes good garden manure & plenty of it!

Horses are weird. They can't breath through their mouth, can't vomit, don't have a gallbladder & can sleep standing up because they have the uncanny knack of locking their leg muscles so they don't fall over. Weirder yet a different image is seen by each eye unless they are looking down their nose. They see better in the dark than humans but their eyes are slower to adjust from dark to light & vise versa. However its brain is about the size of a baked potato & in point of fact their teeth take up more space than their brain!

Some of a horse's closest relatives are the tapir & the rhinoceros.

Being a handy beastie horses have been used by man for centuries. The Celts used nailed on horse shoes as early as the 5th/6th century BC. Women rode astride until the event of the sidesaddle in the 11th century & in the 11 century King Alphonso nailed his horses shoes on backwards to mislead a pursuing Moorish King. This dubious piece of historical cunning was then apparently replicated by Robert the Bruce fleeing King Edward [Longshanks] in 1303 & Duke Christopher Wurtenburg in 1530 fleeing Emperor Charles I.

And lastly I'm sure you all want to know why every rider mounts from the near side. Back in the day men all wore swords strapped to their left side & this got in the way if they tried mounting from the off side. See, everything has an explanation if you know who to ask.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Monday Musings.

The church...for too long has followed Caspar, the Friendly Ghost, instead of seeking the fire of the Holy Spirit. We have turned limp at the thought of our own cross; we faint when we think of suffering or sacrifice. Beloved, it is time to embrace the fire of God's Presence. ~ Frances Frangipane

We have had some bitterly cold nights again but the mornings are something else ~ particularly once the morning sun hits the deck. Even Marlow, who spooks at the tiniest breeze ruffling the leaves, has been lured outside to lounge in one of the deck chairs toastily.

It has been such a year of changes, some good, some not so good ~ & the year's barely half done! One of the harder ones has been Liddy moving out. Now I know she needed to go & it was God's plan for her & all the rest of it but the pure & simple truth is we miss her. Star misses her, I miss her, her dad misses her. The cats are psychotic every time she leaves. Planted close together for so many years we have lots of entwined tendrils & separating can't been done without some damage.

There are bigger separations ahead. I am excited for Liddy about what the Lord has shown me of what He has in store for her & as so often happens with the Lord's people our spiritual journey touches at multiple points & prayer connects us despite distances. For so long I have watched Liddy struggle to work out God's will for her in her life & now I am finally seeing the butterfly struggle free of the cocoon & spread wings in anticipation of flight. It awes me.

It awes me because I can see so clearly the Lord working in her life, more clearly than she does at times. I know the propulsion of the Holy Spirit to do what the Lord has put on your heart, & the peace that comes from obedience. I also sense a great shifting of the Spirit in different ways in different people & different countries.

We have had a spiritual oasis, very calm, with neither great highs nor terrible lows but that is about to change. We are being warned to gird our loins, put on our armour, take up our swords & prepare for battle. I'm not so good at the battle stuff. My first instinct is to find the nearest dug~out, dig in, cover my head & wait for the shouting & the tumult to die. No, not the warrior sort. *sigh* And it is so difficult to fight an enemy you can't actually see!

And you know, I know that when it comes to the sticking point the Holy Spirit will give me the backbone I need so I'm not a complete jellyfish! It's only later I'll wonder what on earth possessed me, what was I thinking? & how I ever managed. So how is God dealing with you just now?

And now for the bad news...

In mathematics, you don't understand things. You just get used to them Johann von Neumann ...we are stuck with the maths! I could cry. Star did.

This is how it works: We have to carry 4 subjects with our umbrella school; we can ditch science. Relief all round on that one & we actually like science ~ just not the way it comes in textbooks & is taught by scientists. Then it is very dull indeed. *sigh*

We have to keep English. This was a given & Star is OK about that. Besides we are strong in English. We are keeping history. Star less happy about that but again we are strong in history so it won't be a drama ~ at least not as much of a drama as the math.

Math. Such a waste as Star will not be advancing because the next step is algebra & I can assure you that is just never going to happen. I can't do it, Star won't do it. We both think it is silly. Please, don't shoot us. We manage very well without it for everyday living. So more of the same & that is boring. Very, very boring. Hopefully the school will provide something sensible along the lines of what Liddy did: rental agreements/contracts; budgeting; cell phone plans; car insurance. It was very useful & we were able to provide a lot of practical applications for her.

If you can count that high you will have twigged that is only 3 subjects. Star wants to resume her German. Having considered Rosetta Stone years ago we consider it over~rated & over~priced. No problemo, I thought; Abeka...but Abeka only does French or Spanish. Oh. Konos does German. Tell~Me~More does German. Anyone out there got any recommendations? What do you think?

Added to that we are doing a cert., III in Child Care through on~line DL [distance learning] & Star will keep her home economics & music going with the theory that I can send tests in so that adds up to 7 subjects ~ more than enough I think. Especially as said child needs to do some work experience in child care. *sigh* We are sending her island hopping for that.

Two years to survive. Now don't get me wrong. I still love homeschooling but I could do without the government meddling & that is only going to get worse with the National Curriculum. I think homeschoolers should write government policy on education. Now, wouldn't that shake our education system up!

Friday, August 6, 2010

"You must be mad," said the Cheshire cat, " or you wouldn't have come here." Lewis Carrol. My cats have issues. They love their people. The problem is that they want to be right there with you ~ helping. This morning this was how I had to deal with my washing up. Kirby sprawled along the sink following every movement until I removed him because cats don't belong on my benches ~ or in my sinks.
Marlow was hanging onto my leg. I could barely move, what with one cat trying to get in my sink & the other being dragged round the floor as I moved.

Oh, & Marlow has a real thing for Star's nice shiny material & pulled it all into the armchair with Kirby & him. Dearest says they need a cat psychologist. Lucky for them we can't afford one.

There is no cure for the common birthday ~ John Glenn.

My mother never forgets birthdays. Ditz glammed it up in her new French beret for choir. Her father & I merely provided the funds for an I~pod ~ bright, bright hot fluorescent pink! We are both happy about this as Alison e~mails song parts through which means Ditz requires hours on my computer if she is to learn her part. Now she can download it & take it away. Yes!

This is particularly good as I believe AVAE are doing the children's chorus for The Gothic ~ Havergal Brian's cursed symphony no1. It is the largest, longest & most technically difficult symphony ever composed & will be conducted by John Curro: 2 orchestras, 4 brass bands, 4 vocal soloists, 300 choristers ~ & AVAE! December 22. Just what I need right on Christmas.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

And when he had fasted for 40 days & 40 nights, he afterward hungered. Matthew 4:2

My friend, Seeking, has been blogging recently about her fast & it has got me thinking because you don't really hear much about fasting these days.

I am not very disciplined about fasting, doing it irregularly as I felt the need or felt called, & not at all while I was lactating & raising small children because I am a low energy person anyway & fasting takes all my energy. Pregnant women & diabetics shouldn't fast either ~ or anyone who is unsure it's safe for them. Optimally a fast is initiated by God & fasting is an act of obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Why don't we fast any more ~ & why does the church not teach on this?

I think one reason so few people fast is we just don't know how to any more. I am talking here of solid food fasting, not switching off the t.v for a couple of weeks, or shutting down the computer, or giving up Starbucks or Tim~Tams. I am talking about a really truly fast of the sort Jesus knew & practised where your insides gnaw at you, you feel light~headed & food begins to obsess your mind; that sort of a fast.

I know! Hard to believe I ever become obsessed about food but a bit of a fast will do it for me. Makes me appreciate the food on my plate I can tell you!

I have never found short fasts particularly difficult, mainly because I tend to miss meals anyway, hating to stop doing something interesting just in order to eat, or quite simply not realising that I was supposed to eat. Only when hunger pains really begin gnawing at me do I suddenly realise that, Oops! I've done it again!

Just the same I didn't have a clue about fasting, the really truly proper sort of fasting ~ so I've always used Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline as a sort of guide because he has a whole chapter on fasting: why, how to, when to, is it mandated in scripture? I'm actually on my second copy of this book. I read my first copy to pieces but when I realised I no longer had all the pieces it was definitely time to get a new copy.

Now Jesus never commanded his disciples to fast. However he did rather assume they would do it. Matthew 6:16 When you fast...However you then hit stumbling block number one. With what attitude, purpose, expectation do you approach fasting because I can assure you people fast for all sorts of strange & peculiar reasons. As Christians our primary purpose should be to seek God first, to seek God only. Other things can & do happen but the primary purpose is to seek God.

Now God is Good & he's not about to send babies out into the desert for a 40 day fast. Baby steps for babies. Foster suggests beginning with a partial fast from Lunch time to Lunch time. I've never tried this so have no idea of how well it works but I imagine it would be easier than waking up hungry & not eating. He recommends fruit juice or water.

The next step is a slightly longer fast of 24 hours & so on until you are accustomed to the small fasts. The next step is the 3 to 7 day fast. This is the most I have ever done but be warned. The body starts to detoxify & headaches are not uncommon. I'm normally a coffee drinker, not excessively so but I do like my cuppa first thing in the morning, so I do get headaches, dizziness & general lethargy. Because I am a low energy person any way I sometimes have a commercial egg nog ~ no alcohol, just milk & egg. Otherwise I stick to juice & water though I find water pretty hard to drink lots of.

One of the worst things you can do before commencing a fast is to eat a big hearty meal. It is much easier if you have eaten lightly several days prior to commencing your fast & cut back on the tea, coffee & sugar. Fasts should be broken as carefully as they are begun with fruit or vegetable juices, then fruit, milk, yogurt. Avoid starch, dressings & grease. Gradually add salads & cooked veggies remembering the stomach will have shrunk. Whatever you do, don't over eat!

Given how little modern Christians understand about the physical aspects of fasting they tend to simply ignore fasting altogether. Sometimes it's dismissed as O.T & not applicable to those under Grace rather than the Law. The fact that Jesus is our example & He did it should be reason enough for us to consider fasting more closely for hand in hand with fasting comes prayer.

The denial of ourselves & our very real physical need for sustenance seems to open spiritual doorways that are normally securely fastened, or crack open a bare smidgen. I don't understand the whole spiritual dimension but if our hearts are right before God then He seems to really bless those that fast, drawing them closer to Himself in greater intimacy in prayer.

If you are interested in studying more about spiritual fasting get your hands on a good guide that talks about all aspects of fasting & begins with little steps. As in all things spiritual we have to grow spiritual muscle before we can take on the longer fasts.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, sweet girl. Fifteen, My, you're almost a lady.

I'm a cool mum.

Every time I close the door on reality in comes in through the windows. ~ Jennifer Unlimited

I'm a cool mum.
Who would ever have guessed?!

How do I know? My child told me so.

Now this is super special for a number of reasons. 1.I homeschool. The kiddo doesn't really get too many opportunities to get away from mummy. I own the wheels that take her where she wants to go. 2. I homeschool. This means that pretty much wherever my child goes I go too. This is not cool if you are over 5 years old. 3. I homeschool. Pretty much wherever my kiddo goes I go too. This could very easily turn her into an object of ridicule & harassment by her peers. I know this. So Star & I pretend that I'm not really there ~ well, I pretend & Star pretends to pretend.

We have played this strange little game for over 3 years, ever since Star joined AVAE & I began spending Wednesday evenings closeted at the back of rehearsals with a good book & a block of chocie. I remember not to answer for a child that is perfectly capable of answering for herself. I don't interrupt to remind said child that she needs to use her manners & speak respectfully; her teacher is perfectly capable of reminding her of that. I don't tell her who she can have as friends ~ despite rumors to the contrary homeschooled children are perfectly capable of choosing their own friends & maintaining friendships. I don't tell the teacher what she can & cannot teach my child. I don't meddle with the other children ~ in fact I am so low profile I'm barely there at all. AVAE is Star's thing. My job is to get her there, get her to performances, tell her she's wonderful & not complain too loudly when she starts warming up in the car. Unless you have experienced this you have no idea what a road hazard this is! I'm her mother & it's my job. It is not my place to take over her life.

Occasionally, when she thinks of it, Star remembers to tell me how much she appreciates me. Or at least how much she appreciates being driven round. On Saturday I got the bonus compliment. Apparently I am one cool mum. AVAE says so. I always come to rehearsals. I always compliment AVAE. I come to all the concerts. I help out if needed. Who would ever have thought that just doing what a mum does would be so cool.

I think Star thinks it's cool that everyone thinks I'm cool.

Monday, August 2, 2010

It is a pretty weak girl who has only her body to attract somebody. ~ Spencer W. Kimball.

My friend, Ember, has an interesting post today on modest clothing when you aren't a *dresses only* girl. Check it out. As always her posts are interesting & thoughtful. Even if you are dresses only this may help you better understand your sisters in Christ & the journey they have made in regards to modest clothing ~ & why they aren't *dresses only*. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tears of the Spirit.

Thou tellest my wanderings: Put thou my tears into thy bottle; are they not in thy book? Psalm 56:8
Jesus was a man of sorrows & acquainted with grief. If I had to name an all time favourite bible verse, the one I return to again & again, the one that most deeply touches my heart it would be simply this: Jesus wept. It says everything, doesn't it?

We are all acquainted with grief. Life can be hard. Things happen. We partake of sorrow. We have wept into our pillows at night like Job & railed at heaven. If you are like me you've ranted rabidly at God so one of the things that I have struggled with in my prayer life is less grief than the tears of the spirit ~ & you know, no~one talks about it though I believe the Eastern Orthodox has some tradition & understanding of what happens.

Um, yeah. I can hear you. What is she on about this time? Ladies, if you have experienced this please speak up because I can assure you nothing makes me feel more like a complete & utter dill than to be quietly sitting in Meeting meditating on God & to suddenly have tears streaming down my face for no discernible reason! Only one thing is worse: holy laughter. Makes you seem quite mad but I can assure you that whatever it looks like I am completely sane!

I have spoken here & there on prayer, on entering into the silence, on entering into the very presence of God, on listening in prayer. What I have avoided are the less tangible, more uncertain aspects that I don't quite understand. The tears of the spirit fall into this category.

Now I know most of you aren't Quakers but I will assume the Spirit isn't choosy & sometimes operates the same way regardless of denominational differences. For me tears happen so regularly I am accustomed to experiencing them as part of my *centering*. Entering the silence, *centering* can sometimes be very difficult. Other times it happens with relative ease. Then there are the times when it is as though the spirit overshadows me & tears well up in a great gush & a deep sadness engulfs me.

It is true I am the emotional sort. I laugh & cry with embarrassing ease. For a long time I thought it was just me being me ~ embarrassing as that may be. Then I realised I never cry in just this way & I never cry like this unless I am in prayer. Lightbulb moment! If it's not me then what is going on here?

I have had some thoughts on the matter. Just one or two, you know. Firstly Scripture tells us that it is given to us to partake in Christ's sufferings. I can be very literal. I've found God isn't. Christ suffers for the world still: for it's sin; for it's injustice; for it's violence & for it's poverty of spirit. Christ suffers for mankind made in the image of God distorted. Scripture tells us that our hearts of stone will be replaced with hearts of flesh. Lastly we are told that when we don't know how to pray the Holy Spirit will pray on our behalf with deep groanings.

What is going on? When I shut up & stop telling God, when I start asking how I should pray & what it is that God would have me petition Him about, the Lord can give me His mind, His heart, His spirit & that changes something in me. It empties me of ME, ME, ME. Trust me, this is a good thing! Only then can the Spirit minister as He wishes. Only then can Christ share His grief. It can be devastating. Shattering. What possible purpose can it serve?

Well, I've thought about that too. I can be very hard, very selfish. I think, if we are honest, that is true of most of us at least some of the time. When we are like that we can't effectively be Christ's servant hands & feet, we can't be His agents of love to a broken & damaged world. Tears humble us. They break us. They gentle us & make us vulnerable. When we are humble & broken & gentle Christ can work through us. His compassion for His world invades our very souls & we see it with His eyes rather than eyes grown weary of the struggle to reach the unreachable, teach the unteachable, minister to those who resent us.

Psalms says God collects our tears in a bottle. This refers to the ancient practise of lachrymotories ~ plain earthenware vessels used to collect tears at funerals & buried with the corpse. A little over the top even in the ancient world. Tacitus expressly forbade the practise for his burial. Jesus wept. His tears are stored with ours, recorded with ours in God's book because God does not forget: not our own deep personal griefs, not the tears we shed by the Holy Spirit. God is in the business of changing His people, molding them into the image of Christ, a holy people, a compassionate people. There must be tears: tears of repentance; tears of sorrow, tears of joy.

I do not find the tears of the Spirit easy to bear but they are necessary. I weep for myself & the sin that besets me. I weep for the world that knows Him not. I weep for the fallenness & brokenness. I weep because Jesus wept. It is part of sharing His sufferings.