Sunday, December 5, 2010

I am but a pencil...

I started in a new job recently. And like most people in a new role, I’ve had my fair share of doubts and meltdowns over the last few weeks. Why on earth did they hire me? When will they realise how bad I am at this job? Do they remember that I’m not technically qualified for this role, and I’m figuring it out as I go??

At the same time, however, I have been able to regularly remind myself that I am blessed. I have been chosen to be a part of an organisation that I whole-heartedly believe in, and do a job I never imagined I would have the chance to do. That is, combine my two loves of writing and social justice.

As a communications coordinator, will I be able to sufficiently put into words and design the importance of Jesus’ mission for justice, love and grace in our world; the importance of thoughtful development and missiology; the vital role we, the church, must play in speaking and acting against injustice, poverty, colonialism, empire and the oppression of others? And do my words honour the God whose kingdom I am trying to describe and live out?

And in my personal writing, how do I illustrate the hope and grace I have experienced? How do I make sense of the beauty in the chaos and brokenness?

Amongst all these thoughts, I came across this beautiful quote recently:

I am but a pencil in the hand of a writing God – Mother Teresa

And my perspective changed! I am reminded that the God I believe in is so much more creative and mysterious then I can ever fathom! I am but a small instrument in God’s display to His creation. My challenge is to remain faithful to God’s voice and movements in my life, to the lessons I’ve learned, the realities I see. And then to allow God to speak and move through the words I write.

I love to write.... and I pray God does the writing....

Monday, November 29, 2010

Paying attention #2

A few weeks back I wrote about paying attention. I described a new phase I am in, a new way of seeing that I am trying to instill in myself. This quote from Frederick Buechner sums up beautifully what I have experiencing and living these last few months...
pay attention to the world and all that dwells therein and thereby learn at last to pay attention to yourself and all that dwells within.... Literature, painting, music - the most basic lesson that all art teaches us is to stop, look and listen to life on this planet, including our own lives, as a vastly richer, deeper, more mysterious business than most of the time it ever occurs to us to suspect as we bumble along from day to day on automatic pilot. In a world that for the most part steers clear of the whole idea of holiness, art is one of the few places left where we can speak to each other of holy things..... If we are to love God, we must first stop, look, and listen for him in what is happening around us and inside of us. If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in. From 'Art' in Whistling in the Dark by Frederick Buechner (pg 15-17)
Each day I seek to pay attention to the world around me in creative ways; to see things in new frames. I see beauty and mystery and chaos and pain. I see brokenness and transformation. And yet when the injustices, the politics, the immensity of non-grace might overwhelm me, when I begin to find within myself the same chaos and brokenness, I look to find the glimpses of mystery and grace. I look to find the holy in the commonplace.
I revel in the rich complexity of words in an Emily Dickinson poem. I marvel in the power of a single photograph to capture an entire story. I take the time to sit with a friend and speak of truthfulness and love and hope. I find therapy in the preparation of a wholesome meal.

This new way of seeing has been particularly helpful as I have begun work in communications with a church-based NGO who is seeking to alleviate injustice, transform communities and engage the Church in this mandate.
I am trying everyday to see people with my imagination, to see their stories as well as their faces. I am conscious that how I communicate - whether it be through words or photos or design - should speak of truth and grace. I want to allow people to see the world in new frames, to 'see' people from places unknown with imagination.

I long to be creative and to witness creativity as a way of entering in to the mystery of being, the holiness of our world and the God who created all these things.

Friday, November 19, 2010


I heard this song (and this artist) for the first time today, and it blew me away! It is so beautiful! It's one of those songs that I wish I'd written because it seems to sum up so perfectly so much of what's in my head and heart... but couldn't quite articulate.


I want to be a songbird
And I want to sit on the tallest branch of the tallest tree
And I want to sing lullabies to Earth as she cries
But I really want to try and make her laugh.
I want to be a songbird

And I want to watch sunrise
With my love by my side
And I want to grow and I want to learn
I want a fire and I want to burn
I want to rise and I want to fall
I want to run and I want to crawl.
I want to be a songbird

And I just want to try to know how far and deep and wide
This love is that you give cuz that’s what it is to really live
To just try and look around
See when our breaths and hear you in our sounds
I want to be a songbird

Go thru things that I need
Make me hurt and make me bleed
Cuz I will arise and see the light
I’ll pray my way through the night
And I want to be a songbird

And I want to sing lullabies to Earth as she cries
But I really want to try and make her laugh
How you made me laugh
You made me laugh.

Take the strings and the things I use to tie me to the ground
Let them all be gone
I want to be a songbird.
- Jillian Edwards

Check out her album/ep 'Galaxies and Such' on itunes, Myspace, or CDBaby; or watch a live performance.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Good friends help us bounce back

October is Mental Health Month in Australia.

Mental health is an issue close to my heart. Not only have I suffered from Major Depression (formerly known as Clinical Depression) and anxiety for over 10 years, but I have watched as family and friends have journeyed through Anorexia, Bulimia, Bipolar Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, Depression and Anxiety disorders.

The reason awareness of mental illness needs to be raised is that while it is now one of the most debilitating illnesses facing society, it is also one of the most misunderstood and incorrectly treated - medically and socially. Sadly, I have often found that the Church is particularly unsympathetic and continues to espouse many false ideas about the issues surrounding mental health.

The two major realities are that:
  • One out of every five Australians [about 20%] will experience some form of mental illness each year. Three out of every ten [about 3 %] will be seriously affected.
  • Only one third of people (34.9%) with a mental health disorder used health services for their mental health problem. Mental Health Council of Australia
One of the major reasons that two-thirds of sufferers don't seek help is the stigma and lack of understanding associated with mental illness. But the fact is that mental disorders are indeed an illness AND just like illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease, they are totally treatable.

The Mental Health Association NSW has chosen for their slogan this October, "Good friends help us bounce back." I love this phrase for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, sharing a mental illness or struggle with someone can often be the first step in breaking the stronghold that it has on your life. Whether you seek help from a professional doctor or psychologist, or simply confide in your friend, change and hope will seem more achievable with someone alongside you.

Secondly, this phrase sums up perfectly the key to my personal recovery. Without the love and encouragement of a faithful group of friends, I would not be where I am today. I have been greatly blessed by people willing to wade into my darkness, sit with me, challenge me, cry with me, pray with me and remind me of hope when I have none.

Mental health issues are a prison that so many don't know how to escape. If you know someone today who is struggling, reach out to them; tell them they are not alone and that there is help and hope available. If you are struggling and feel that there is no hope, dare to reach out and seek help.

Here are just some of the great web resources on mental health:
Mental Health Association NSW

Saturday, October 23, 2010

God bruise our heels

The new Jars of Clay album is amazing. Just when I think they can't get musically or lyrically better... they do. And because the new album is all about community, I already loved it before I'd even heard it.

The lyric that has been rolling around my head the most this week is this:
So God, bruise the heels we've dug in the ground
That we might move closer to love
It is always such a challenge to allow God to move us from where we are comfortable; whether that be in our actions, theology, doctrines or relationships. But the example that I see Christ setting is one of love above all else.
I can hold on to my beliefs and my interpretations of scripture and I can question people who don't see things the same way. But if I 'dig my heels in' and hold on to these things above loving that person in grace and mercy, then I've lost sight of Jesus' call on my life.
I know that far too often I need God to bruise the heels I've dug in the ground. May we love each other enough not to dig in our heels; and when we do, lovingly nudge each other to free them and find grace.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The tyranny of things

After I posted last night I re-read one of my favourite Wendell Berry poems, and realised how applicable it was to the issue of greed and the church.

We Who Prayed and Wept
We who prayed and wept
from liberty and Kings
and the yoke of liberty
accept the tyranny of things
we do not need.
In plenitude too free,
we have become adept
beneath the yoke of greed.

Those who will not learn
in plenty to keep their place
must learn it by their need
when they have had their way
and the field spurn their seed.
We have failed Thy grace.
Lord, I flinch and pray,
send Thy necessity.
From A Part (1980)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Church

[Disclaimer: This post was inspired by this article about the current discussions in the Sydney diocese of the Anglican Church. The older I have become, the more confident I have become in my 'liberalness' and what some would describe as a social justice gospel (I just call it the gospel). This has meant that I've struggled for many years with the tension of disagreeing with many of the teachings and practices of these congregations, yet knowing many wonderful people who consider themselves part of this group of believers. I struggle constantly with believing what I believe and relating to other followers of God with grace and love when we don't agree. So while the following words are inspired by the Sydney Diocese I want to acknowledge that we have all failed the church in some way or another. I mean this as no specific judgment or offense. I am simply a fellow traveler seeking to make sense of faith in the reality of our world. We must all take responsibility for how we, as a global Church, love each other and the world.]

We bank and barter and argue, just like any other company. We accumulate and justify, just like any other group. But I have a sneaking suspicion (no, I should be bold)... actually a firm belief, that the Christian church is not supposed to be like any other company or group.
I know it's unhealthy to make simple judgments about very complex issues. The hierarchies, structures and businesses we have created within, and surrounding, the church are complex and intricate. What started out, I only hope, with the best of intentions has too often become a web of corruption, greed and moral judgment that have tainted the message of hope, grace and love we have to offer.
We have become apathetic to the compromises we have made along the way. I believe we have lost sight of what it really means to be 'in the world, but not of it'; to be both peacemakers and revolutionaries; to be uncomfortable, but help others feel comfortable.
I struggle to make sense of a church leadership that can find themselves in deep financial trouble while still holding onto great wealth, whether that be property or capital. To me it seems something of this situation reminds me of Jesus in the temple; in anger and frustration, turning the table on the money-changers and sellers.
In our gatherings, such as the synod meeting, should we not be asking ourselves how God has called us to love in real and practical ways? Should we not be questioning where our wealth and overflowing prosperity comes from and where it needs to go? How can we as a church stand out from other organisations in the way we are structure and administrate? Should we not be willing to 'live simpler, so that others may simply live'?

Monday, October 11, 2010

The stories we miss

The world news has been filled with stories about the tragic oil leak off the coast of America for over six months now, but large oil spills are old news in the Niger Delta. When I stumbled across this article back in June I was once again reminded of the lesson I've learnt almost every day of my degree....

There are stories all around the world that we never hear about. Stories, tragedies and realities that never make it to the news. When they miraculously do, they appear as a 100-word corner of the World Section, hidden at the back of our newspaper. And unless they have picture quality , they'll certainly never make it to our television screens.

Why are some events newsworthy and others not?

In this case, the same type of event has been happening in a developing nation for years on end with no recognition. And yet the spill off America's coast has had the media machine working overtime since the moment it happened. There is no doubt the spill in the Gulf is serious. It is a colossal environmental disaster. It is a window into the corruption and greed of the rich oil companies. And yet we haven't been at all concerned about the fact that thousands of Nigerians haven't had clean waterways and food sources for years.

The massive amount of wealth underneath the ground in Nigeria is not visible to a large majority of the nation and extreme inequality persists. There is corruption and greed rife in Nigeria at all levels of government and society. Western countries and companies continue to extract resources from this nation with little thought about the injustice and poverty it creates.

Change is desperately needed, in the way Nigerians treat each other and in the way the rest of the world treats Nigeria (and any other developing countries like it). If we ignore these stories, I believe we risk legitimising the corruption and greed of transnational corporations and the wealthy few of the world - which includes you and me. If we ignore the stories, what does it say about our capacity to really tackle injustice and poverty? I think King said it best....
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Martin Luther King Jr.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Paying attention

"What we pay attention to is how we spend our lives."
Ann Voskamp
I've spent much of my life paying attention to negative thoughts and feelings - of self-loathing, of hopelessness, of mistrust, of fear, of hurt and anger. 'Life' has been consumed, and wasted, in paying attention to these things, and not really living at all. To some degree it was out of my control - it still requires daily medication to stay on an even keel - and yet, so often I made the choice to pay attention to these things above all else.

This morning as I sat enjoying my home-brewed long black and almond biscuits, reading this beautiful article by Sandra McCracken, I was reminded that I have a choice to be grateful for specific moments and things. I can choose to see the beauty, the grace, the blessing in any given moment. I can choose to pay attention to the comfort of a good cup of coffee and making fresh biscuits rather than giving attention to thoughts of fear and uncertainty.
I can choose to see beauty and hope in life rather than seeing no hope and endless darkness. I can choose to believe in a God of grace and love.
And in these choices, I believe I've paid attention to life and spent my time actually living it.
As Sara Groves says in her song 'Add to the Beauty':
Redemption comes in stange places, small spaces
Calling out the best of who we are
And I want to add to the beauty
To tell a better story....
This is grace, an invitation to be beautiful
I want to pay attention to the things in life that tell a story of hope and redemption and grace. I want to spend time seeing beauty and creativity and abundant life.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday's inspiration

I've been inspired by quite a few things today: An invigorating and interesting job interview; a UNHCR photo exhibit; the new Brooke Fraser album 'Flags'; an (as always) interesting discussion about all things development, the church, human rights and missiology with my friend Bron; a Wendell Berry poem about loving our enemies; making a beautiful cabanossi cabonara and enjoying it with a glass of my favourite Margaret River shiraz. It was an enjoyable day, a day I'm deeply grateful for. But I was struggling to think of anything useful, constructive or coherent to write and then I saw this....
"What we pay attention to is how we spend our lives."
Ann Voskamp (Taken from Roots and Wings.)

I'm not sure yet what I make of this quote or why it struck me so much tonight... Let me think about it, and maybe tomorrow's blog will be a little more coherent!
Meanwhile, pay attention to life

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Unclench your fists
Hold out your hands.
Take mine
Let us hold each other.
Thus is his Glory
- Madeleine L'Engle from The Ordering of Love

This is a much more succinct and beautiful description of the truth that I have experienced over the last few years: It is living in community - true, honest, messy, loving community - that we experience the fullness of God.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Just another Wednesday

My head and heart are full from a long day. It's so hard to know where to start, what to write at this late hour of the night.

I have the absolute blessing of caring for two beautiful little human beings as a 'job'. I watched Will grow up all the way from birth to the beautiful, sensitive, imaginative, crazy 3-and-a-half year old boy he is now. Today we played lots of games that included 'baddies' and 'goodies'. We made massive bubbles out on the deck in the sunshine. We talked about making up stories.
Sascha was born just over a year ago, and is the most intense, loud, gorgeous, dare-devil 1 year old girl I have ever met. Today she managed to climb onto Will's motorised mini quad bike and off she went (with me running after her, I should add)! Will wouldn't ride it himself until he was at least 2! When she woke up from her nap she snuggled back into my shoulder and stayed there cuddling with me for another ten minutes. We sang along together to our favourite Justine Clarke dvd.
I love those two kids as if they were my own. Every day that I get to spend with them and love them and play with them is a blessing, not a job. Yes, sometimes I get cranky when they are too demanding. Yes, sometimes I'm glad I get to go home and sleep without having to wake up to them. But overall, my life would not be the same without the little brown-haired boy with a beautiful smile and the blonde-haired girl with the big blue eyes.

This evening I spent a couple of hours with three of my favourite people in the whole world talking about life and hope and faith and choices and brokenness and redemption and blessing and curses and prayer and so much more.
I was reminded of the verse from Deuteronomy:
... I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. Deut. 30:19
When we choose to live (instead of merely exist or waste life) we open ourselves up to more and more of the abundant blessings that God intended for us, and longs to lavish on us. When we choose to live in blessing, and allow God's blessing into our lives, we can experience so much hope and restoration. It can been painful, hard work to choose life.... but it is worth it.

I'm tired from a long day. But my head and heart are full and I am blessed.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

inspiration & mystery

My beautiful and creative friend Katie wrote on her blog yesterday:
It seems that this is how things always go: I want to write and be creative every day but then… life happens; It seems as though there is always something [else] to do, someone to see, errands to be run. Yet, in defiance of these patterns of late, I am resolved to write a blog post every day for this week at least.
Happily Katie
I feel the same way a lot of the time. I am currently in the most creative space I've been for many years, I'm finding inspiration in so many things everyday.... and yet I don't follow through with a lot of the thoughts that pop into my head. And I've been challenged lately that if I want to be a serious writer (and one day maybe even get paid for it!) then I have to do what my piano teacher always told me: practice, practice, practice!

So I'm going to set myself the same challenge and write something on my blog everyday for the next week. Here it goes.....

I have been reading Brian McLaren's brilliant book 'A Generous Orthodoxy' lately. Every chapter contains something beautiful and profound for me, so I am pacing myself to one or two chapters a day. Sometime last week I came across the following quote, and have been reflecting on it ever since:
"To address the issue of a truth greatly reduced requires us to be poets that speak against a prose world." Walter Brueggemann quoted in Brian McLaren's 'A Generous Orthodoxy'
McLaren believes, as do I, that in many parts of the Christian community today the 'Truth' is not alive in the vibrant and dynamic way that it should be. Our call is to speak against this. How then can I be a poet in a prose world?

The most profound way I understand is to be open to the mysterious, paradoxical, messiness of our faith and belief; to acknowledge we misunderstand and don't begin to understand so much. This is the faith I want to seek to live today...

McLaren quotes a Catholic chaplain as saying this:
[when one] attempts to convey something of God's holy otherness he tries one earthly simile after another. In the end he discards them all as inadequate and says apparently wild and senseless things meant to startle the heart into feeling what lies beyond the reaches of the brain. Something of the kind takes place here: 'Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has for prepared for those who love him.' (1 Cor. 2:9) These realities beyond understanding can be brought closer only by the overthrow of everything naturally comprehensible. Flung into a world of new logic, we are forced to make a genuine effort to understand. A Generous Orthodoxy, 153-54.
May we all experience God's holy otherness in new, mysterious and profound ways, that we might be drawn closer to Him.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Life feels like hard work most days at the moment and it has left me feeling pretty flat. I’ve discovered there is a fine line between letting go of the things in our lives we can’t control, understand and change - the things that must ultimately be God’s domain - and take responsibility for the things we can and should change.

This week my friend led our small group through a meditation on hope. Considering the experiences, both past and present, of members our group, it was an ambitious and sorely needed reflection. Despite our faith, life seems dark and hard at the moment for some and sometimes we need reminding to choose hope over being consumed by the darkness. I especially needed the gentle reminder. It has left me trying to articulate why and how I hope.

On a wall somewhere in my high school was this quote:

"Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope."
- Author Unknown

As a teenager with depression, I thought I understood this to some degree. But in the ten years since high school, I have begun to live and believe this idea with greater fervency and need than I ever could have imagined then.

If it were not for hope, I would not be alive today. Literally. Hope has saved me on multiple occasions from the dark road of self harm and suicide. Hope has saved me from losing all perspective when I, or dear ones around extreme difficulties. I would not call myself a natural optimist. In fact, I've had to work very hard to not automatically see the worst in any given situation. Depression, as a mindset, teaches you to misread and distort the truths that appear around you. In this context hope is very hard to maintain, and yet absolutely essential to fight for!

A couple of summers ago, my life fell apart. I was already struggling with the worst episode of depression I'd ever had, when a number of factors beyond my control sent me spiralling into severe anxiety, resulting in panic attacks which I had never experienced before. Those months were the blackest months of my life. During that time Ian and Gina (and their daughter Anna) welcomed me into their home and their family. They loved me and cared for me unconditionally. They sat with me though panic attacks and hours of tears. They talked through my deepest hurts and fears with me. They prayed with me. They taught me how to love reality tv shows, and that laughing was irreplaceable medicine. They spoke words of life and hope over me, when I had no capacity to think straight and believe in anything much.

I vividly remember the morning the first ray of hope and light broke through my wall of pain. Sitting at the kitchen bench sipping a cup of tea, I was unable to move with the weight of all that was on my heart and in my head. Ian was speaking to me, when I was overcome with the sense that I was loved. I WAS LOVED. In that moment I was struck with the undeniable reality that I was loved, by God, and by this family that had seen me in my darkest hours. I can't explain why it was that moment I trusted that truth, except to say that the weeks of persistent, practical love and hope finally started to break through my thick head! It was in that moment I knew that there was HOPE. And that hope was life-giving. In that moment, I believe, I experienced the love and grace of God in the most real and profound way. That beloved family were the hands and feet of Christ in my life that summer.

The road back from that dark time was long and windy. And there have been other really difficult times since then. But I have lived through each day in the knowledge that there is hope and that it is the only thing giving me breath.

Now, Ian, Gina and their family are facing one of the darkest time of their lives. Ian is recovering from a blood clot, a stroke and a number of very serious brain surgeries (among other things). There have been a number of times in the last three months when I, and others around me, have been tempted to lose hope. This situation is so unfair. This situation doesn't make any sense. Why do things improve only to get much worse? Will things ever return to ‘normal’?

Towards the end of our evening together this past Wednesday, my friend asked us to think about what we hope for, and what our hope is in. It is easy to think of what I hope for: Ian to recover quickly and fully; for my body to heal from months of post-viral syndrome; my mind to heal from years of depression; and the list goes on.

But being able to describe what my hope is in is a little harder. But I was reminded of this beautiful passage from Colossians:

We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he's there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

Colossians 1:15-20 (The Message)

Hope, for me, is in the knowledge of a God who loves and cares; a God who redeems and restores all things, creating vibrant harmonies where there once was pain and hurt; A God who blesses us with more than we can imagine or dare to ask for.

I believe I am blessed to have already caught glimpses here and now of the restoration that is promised in Christ. I have seen fractured relationships restored lovingly. I’ve experienced the beginnings of restoration to my completely tattered self-esteem. I’ve seen beauty come out of life’s tragic circumstances.

And these glimpses spur me on to hope more....

That is what I hope for.

"Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing: that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us."

— Anne Lamott (Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Seeking Justice Together

The state of Australian political parties is rather pathetic. The international aid and development industry is rife with bureaucracy and greed. The Christian church is as much a breeding ground for hypocrisy, fear and hate as any other community.
These aren't the most hopeful of conversation topics, but in the last month I have blessed by time spent with good friends discussing these very issues at length. I have found great encouragement in fellowshipping with others attempting to combat the apathy and confusion we see around us and within us everyday.
Having spent the last few years studying for a BA in Development Studies and Cultural Change, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the lack of understanding and concern in the wider community around me. Concern for justice, integrity and compassion in our government, the global community and our churches. I struggle to understand how Christ's followers, the very people who should be the voice of revolution and hopeful justice, are so often lacking in compassion and action.
The Jesus I've met in the gospels was a voice of hope, justice and compassion throughout his life and ministry. But to be honest, I haven't met this Jesus much in current Christian culture. I've had some very lonely times wondering if maybe I was alone in my experiences, wondering if I had got this Christian faith all wrong. I knew there were writers and thinkers out 'there', but did anyone in my communities feel or think the same way as me?
Thankfully, I've discovered the answer to that last question is yes! I'm blessed to have met other Christ followers studying development, working with churches to advocate for the powerless, using their creativity to bring attention to poverty; people seeking change and justice in whatever situations they find themselves. This gives me hope... and challenges me to make some noise as well. And the more I talk with others wrestling with the same issues and questions, the more I am energised to seek solutions.
We don't often seem to find answers. Things continue to depress us. We raise more questions. People criticise us. But in meeting together and sharing our burdens and passions, we catch a glimpse of the community Jesus described and the way of life he lived on earth. It is for this reason we must not give up talking and asking questions of each other. It is only in beginning to seek justice together that change can begin to happen.
My prayer is like Leunig says:
"God help us to change. To change ourselves and to change the world. To know the need for it. To deal with the pain of it. To undertake the journey without understanding the destination. The art of gentle revolution. Amen"
And I'm so grateful to Laura, Alex, Bron and all the others who are seeking justice with me....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Things that are good for the soul (and recovering from Glandular Fever)

I've never been very good at resting. But I've learned that there must come a time when our bodies and hearts revolt from all the stress we put them through! So I have spent the last two months attempting to recover from Glandular Fever.
At the beginning I did not appreciate the forced rest. But one of the things I've begun to learn of late is that sometimes we must choose to be grateful even when we don't feel it. I believe it is in this act that God begins to open our eyes to his abundant blessings. And before you know it, you actually feel grateful!
So with my changed perspective, I have tried to rest well and feed my soul. Here's a list of the things I've had the chance to enjoy in this last month and a half of rest (in no particular order)....
  • I'm relishing the chance to cook lovely nutritious food (and some treats as well of course!) My favourites: Lamb Shank and Winter Vegetable Soup; Chorizo, fetta, sundried tomato and spinach pasta; and my own creation of Choc Chip and Peanut Butter Cookies.
  • Reading poetry again. Old favourites like Emily Dickinson and Madeleine L'Engle. I've also just discovered the profound and beautiful Wendell Berry. Their words are beginning to inspire and challenge me to start writing again.
  • Discovering great new music such as Wakey! Wakey!, Amy Stroup, Rosi Golan and Matthew Perryman Jones. As well as listening to the 'always on the ipod' selection of Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Patty Griffin, Switchfoot, Sara Groves and Katie Herzig.
  • In order to curb my coffee addiction and limit my dairy I've been trying new teas. My current favourite: Royale Earl Grey from T2.
  • Catching up with dear friends over cuppas.... and making some new ones as well.
  • Setting myself ambitious reading projects such as The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider. While I'm making my way through these very slowly, I'm enjoying the challenging stimulation.
  • My Mum and I have been making our way through all seven seasons of The West Wing on DVD. It's just the right combination of drama and intellectual stimulation.... not to mention the profound quotes on society and politics!
  • I find there is something very therapeutic about being around small children. I've been caring for Will (3) and his sister Sascha (10 months) since they were both born. I also have the most gorgeous, talented and happiest nephew Finn (nearly 2). While children require energy (which I haven't had), they (almost) always leave me feeling hopeful and refreshed. They require you to be in the moment and fully 'present' at all times.... a good lesson to learn and very freeing for the soul.
  • When I go walking around my neighborhood I am reminded how blessed I am to live in the beautiful Blue Mountains.
  • And hopefully all of this inspires me to write more.....!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Just showed up for my own life"

I've spent large portions of my life waiting. Waiting for something better, the next thing. Waiting for my real life to start.

"When I finish my university degree...."
"When I get healthier...."
"When I find a soul mate...."

I'm always planning to start living when I get things together. But unfortunately things never seem to get together!

This predicament has revealed itself to me in the last twelve months in a number of ways.

For the past twelve months I have been attempting to finish my final two semesters of a university degree. It has been a hard slog; what is a three-year degree has taken me four-and-a-half years (and looks like it could take longer)! In my home stretch, whilst battling a bout of Glandular Fever and the community around me is suffering through many difficulties, I've spent a lot of time contemplating the future. I've allowed myself to dream and plan and even occasionally take risks; all very new actions for me! I have for the first time, in a very long time, begun to feel inspired - about life and faith, about beauty and creativity, about injustice and speaking out. I've begun to be inspired to live! For someone who has spent the better part of the last fifteen years depressed, negative and doubtful, this is rather miraculous.

And yet I've caught myself thinking, "I'll do that when I can finish my degree, or when there is less drama happening around me, or when I feel less tired". While each of these things are justifiable reasons not to write a blog/write, or be involved in a protest or volunteer in my community, they are also not reasons to stop living each moment like it really matters.

Now I am facing the possibility that I have not completed my degree, my health has not improved and I have wasted many inspired moments thinking I should be doing something else or being somewhere else.

About a month ago my dear friend and mentor, my spiritual dad of sorts, suffered a massive seizure caused by a brain hemorrhage. In the past four weeks he has endured multiple seizures, two brain surgeries and a stroke. Praise God, he is now recovering and doing incredibly well all things considered. But the crisis shook me. This is a man who has seized life with both hands. A man of God who has taken great risks and attempts to live each day with great integrity. Whilst navigating all the emotions and challenges of the last month, I am most confronted about my lack of living!

So now, while I am on a break from study and awaiting news on job prospects, I am determined to set about the business of living! I want to be inspired - I want to read as much as I can; write whenever I feel words come; listen to great music; enjoy conversations with friends and family; drink good coffee and wine; cook good food; speak my mind about things that matter; cry with those in pain and laugh with those in joy; I want to walk in the beautiful bush and mountains surrounding me.

I'm reminded of the great Saint Irenaeus quote "The glory of God is man fully alive."

And maybe as I live life to the full I'll finish my university degree and get healthier and one day find a soul mate! Until that day I'll show up to the life I've been given.

Just showed up for my own life
Spending my time sleep walking
Moving my mouth but not saying a thing
Hoping the changes would take by working their way from the outside in
I was in love with an idea
Preoccupied with how a life should appear
Spending my time at the surface repairing the holes in a shiny veneer

There are so many ways to hide
There are so many ways not to feel
There are so many ways to deny what is real
And I just showed up for my own life
And I'm standing here taking it in and it sure looks bright

I'm going to live my life inspired
Look for the holy in the commonplace
Open the windows and feel all that's honest and real until I'm truly amazed
I'm going to feel all my emotions
I'm going to look you in the eyes
I'm going to listen and hear until it's finally clear and it changes our lives

There are so many ways to hide
There are so many ways not to feel
There are so many ways to deny what is real
And I just showed up for my own life
And I'm standing here taking it in and it sure looks bright

Oh the glory of God is man fully alive
Oh the glory of God is man fully alive

By Sara Groves (From the album "Add to the Beauty")