Thursday, May 30, 2013

Song in minor key

Life is like a song in minor key:
unresolved moments, seemingly discordant
achingly beautiful.
Hints of deeper, darker
awakening in notes
you least expect.
Sadness turns to joy
as each note reveals the whole.
There is beauty in the dark notes.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Words for Wednesday

Into the land of the living
Black bleeds orange into blue
I am coming to life,
Light is breaking through

I can hear the bells in the city
Across the ancient shore
I am ready to fight
Let down the scarlet cord

It's time to shed this masquerade

You cannot love in moderation
Dancing with a dead man's bones
Lay your soul
On the threshing floor

Between the walls of the river,
Shoulders bare the sacred stones
We made it alive
We are not alone

Kiss the ground
And change your name

You cannot love in moderation
You're dancing with a dead man's bones
Lay your soul
On the threshing floor

I heard the distant battle drum
The mockingbird spoke in tongues
Longing for the day to come
I set my face, forsook my fears
I saw the city through my tears
The darkness soon will disappear
And be swallowed by the sun

I am coming home
I am coming home
I am coming home
I am coming home... 

Copyright Matthew Perryman Jones
title track from the album Land of the Living

Check out MPJ's music at
or iTunes

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I Spy Beauty...

A (sometimes) weekly post about beauty seen, heard or discovered

A young girl/woman from Sierra Leone stands before a room of a (predominately) white, privileged crowd and speaks of trying to overcome the scars of her past life in this new land. Of being given space and words through the wonderful work of Sydney Story Factory. This brave young woman moves me to tears as she shares a poem entitled, 'Home, away from home' and speaks of the hope she has in the power of words to free her from the demons of the past. 

Sitting across from a friend talking about life and religion and belief and sexuality and church and friendship and things in between. Knowing that while we share a common painful present, we share faith and hope and thirst for knowledge in so much more.

Listening to a political hero speak with astonishing grace and dignity about the depressing state of local and global politics. About the need for each and every individual to be a brave voice of peace and activism in a world obsessed with greed. And then showing us how it is done by living the example.

A educator, musician and conductor describes the intricate power and beauty of bringing a work of art to life. "And if no one comes to see it, it really doesn't matter. I followed the vision I was given"

Listening and singing along to old favourite hymns. Transported to memories of Grandma and Dad singing and teaching me the words. Words I still know in my heart today.

A week with many moments of beauty.... If I keep my soul open to see.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The year of living... Jealously?!

A few days ago a dear and talented friend told me about her current plans post graduation this year. I was taken by surprise- it is a gutsy and bold move that she's thinking on. One which will take her on many adventures.

And I started to get a bit sad (or cranky, I'm not really sure).

Part of the conversation went something like this:
Me: Why does everyone have to make all these big plans and leave me in boring old Sydney.
Friend: Sorry, but I like change.
Me: I HATE change. I run full tilt in the opposite direction from anything remotely change-like.
Later, I was thinking about my reaction and current penchant for self-pity about my situation (30, single, still no BA, negligible savings and a too-vague plan about becoming a writer).

The epiphany: I'm jealous!

Not of this specific friend, I wouldn't dare attempt what she is thinking of doing. But if I'm honest, the sadness I get when hearing about friends adventures, accomplishments, travels etc is just a little bit of jealousy. (Just for the record, I am also happy for and proud of my friends!)

I've been struggling with and thinking a lot lately about the zig-zaggy pattern of my young adult life. The disappointment I feel. The comparisons I continually make between my own twenties and that of friends taking more logical, straightforward paths. So many of my plans were waylaid by illness, crisis' and pains.

That's a lot of time thinking and a not a lot of time living!

And it doesn't really fit in with my word for 2013: fearless.
When I chose that word in January I knew what I was getting myself in for. I knew my fear and the way it can numb me to the point of inaction. And yet the first few months of this year have been so unsettling and difficult that being or doing something new (or brave) has seemed impossible.

And this thought reminded of something Sarah Bessey, one of my favourite bloggers, said on facebook earlier this year:
Yes, I have some hard work to do when it comes to achieving my goals, overcoming my tendencies to fear and accepting my own story. But Sarah challenges me to be mindful of the present, and to be present.

Which also reminds me of a Sara Groves song (what a surprise!), I Just Showed Up For My Own Life:
I was in love with an idea
Preoccupied with how a life should appear
Spending my time at the surface repairing the holes in the 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
Copyright Sara Groves & Joel Hanson from the album Add to the Beauty
In order to 'work' at being fearless, I must first show up. I must seek, in this day, to love and show grace, to find beauty in the everyday and be mindful.

So, the cure for my jealousy.... Live my own life! Not particularly profound, I know. But an important lesson I'll probably be learning everyday for quite a while.

It is already looking a bit brighter.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I Spy Beauty...

A (sometimes) weekly post about beauty seen, heard or discovered

Rob Bell is a genius.

If I had to name one writer/thinker/pastor that has had the most influence on my adult faith, it's Bell. Each of his books have played a pivotal role in shaping my theology and practice, encouraging me and challenging me beyond myself.

His latest book What We Talk About When We Talk About God (HarperOne 2013) is, so far, no different.

Bell is not only a thinker and theology, but he is good, creative writer. He has a way with words. This week I have been deeply moved by his thoughts on the depths and limits of language...
"So when we talk about God,
we're talking about our brushes with the spirit,
our awareness of the reverence humming within us,
our sense of the nearness,
and the farness,
that which we know,
and that which is unknown,
that which we can talk about,
and that which eludes the grasp of our words,
that which is crystal-clear
and that which is more mysterious than ever.

And sometimes language helps,
and sometime language fails....

....For many people in our world, the opposite of faith is doubt. The goal, then, within this understanding, is to eliminate doubt. But faith and doubt are not opposite. Doubt is often a sign that your faith has a pulse, that it's alive and well and exploring and searching. Faith and doubt aren't opposites; they are, it turns out, excellent dance partners....

....conviction and humility, like faith and doubt, are not opposites; they're dance partners. It's possible to hold your faith with open hands, living with great conviction and yet at the same time humbly admitting that your knowledge and perspective will always be limited.

Do you believe the exact same things you did in the exact same way you did five years ago? Probably not....

....I believe that this is one of the most urgent questions people are asking at this time about the very nature of faith: Can conviction and humility coexist as the dance partners we need them to be?

I say yes, they can. I have seen it up close, and it's possible. It requires that we pay as much attention to how we are talking as to what we are talking about, and it requires us to leave the paradox as it is, the tension unresolved, holding our convictions with humility." (excerpt from pages 91-95)
If you want to know about more on what the books about, watch this.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Words for Wednesday

“Thomas Merton wrote, “there is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.” There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage.

I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.

Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock-more than a maple- a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”
Annie Dillard from Pilgrim At Tinker Creek

Monday, May 13, 2013

I Spy Beauty...

A weekly (sometimes) post of beauty seen, heard or discovered

The past week was a very dark one for me- the darkest in quite a while. The last few months have been difficult and it has been hard to find beauty... much less write about it. But this weekend, I was desperate. I needed something to give me some hope. All my usual standbys- prayer, exercise, reaching out to friends, music- had so far not made much of a dent into the dark cloud.

The first thing to come along was on Saturday night. I hired a DVD, made my scrumptious home-made chorizo, sweet potato and fetta pizza, and sat down with my mum to enjoy.

Liberal Arts was a surprisingly beautiful, funny and heartfelt movie. Its a coming of age story about coming of age... at any age. I was expecting a light romantic comedy, but it turned out to be a funny, heartfelt, profound and very deep story. Its about finding truth and beauty and reality in unlikely places; about embracing the season of your life, whatever that may be; about opening your eyes to the transcendent moments that happen every day, everywhere.

For example, there is a beautiful montage where the young college student Zibby has given the older graduate Jesse a mix of classical music to 'discover'. It's stunning and candid and hilarious.

The scene that spoke most deeply to me was a scene where Jesse is sitting in hospital with a young boy he befriended from college. Dean has just attempted suicide, but survived due to a phone call to Jesse at the last minute. (Note: the following is my paraphrase.) Jesse tells the young Dean that the horrid and dark place he is in will end and there will be a time when he will be able to appreciate the freedom and beauty of all that life has to offer each day. Dean asks in response if that is what is been like for Jesse since he left college? "Hell, No!" Jesse responds. But some days it has, and you learn to appreciate and see more clearly when the beauty comes along. I haven't really done the scene justice, but it is a beautiful, poignant reminder of grace and hope.

And then there are the random throwaway lines that stop you in your tracks like "Any place you don't leave is a prison".

Allison Janney (CJ Cregg from The West Wing) and Zac Efron also make brilliant and funny cameos.

You can watch the trailer here, but I don't think it really shows you just how beautiful this movie is. So go watch the whole thing!