Sunday, August 31, 2008

By Kindly Powers Surrounded

It's not a new year, but spring feels like the beginning of something new. So I'll post this wonderful poem which DB wrote for his family shortly before he died.

By Kindly Powers Surrounded

By kindly powers surrounded, peaceful and true,
wonderfully protected with consolation dear,
safely, I dwell with you this whole day through,
and surely into another year.

Though from the old our hearts are still in pain,
while evil days oppress with burdens still,
Lord, give to our frightened souls again,
salvation and thy promises fulfill.

And shouldst thou offer us the bitter cup, resembling
sorrow, filled to the brim and overflowing,
we will receive it thankfully, without trembling,
from thy hand, so good and ever-loving.

But if it be thy will again to give
joy of this world and bright sunshine,
then in our minds we will past times relive
and all our days be wholly thine.

Let candles burn, both warm and bright,
which to our darkness thou has brought,
and, if that can be, bring us together in the light,
thy light shines in the night unsought.

When we are wrapped in silence most profound,
may we hear that song most fully raised
from all the unseen world that lies around
and thou art by all thy children praised.

By kindly powers protected wonderfully,
confident, we wait for come what may.
Night and morning, God is by us, faithfully
and surely at each new born day.

Deitrich Bonhoeffer


I am feeling ridiculously happy because it is spring tomorrow.

And I live in Brisbane!

I can only imagine how joyful you southerners are feeling.

[Though, of course, if your sins aren't forgiven warm weather won't help you.]

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Just back from Mark Driscoll

Today I heard Mark Driscoll speak about preaching and contextualisation and ministry stuff. I expected it to be amusing. It was. Also very challenging. Am I able to say that I'm doing all I can so that as many people as possible come to know Jesus? I don't think so. Something to work on.

Something else interesting. Australians are socialists when it comes to many things. Particularly church. Entrepreneurialism is not encouraged. Capitalist Americans, on the other hand, get things done.

Jo - no ultimate wrestling, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


This issue of AFES' magazine Salt is really worth a read. I particularly enjoyed the article on tithing - it challenged my thinking about something that's been concerning me lately. If you don't get it sent to you, call up AFES and order yourself a copy.

just thinking...

Change in an organisation won't happen unless someone is willing to stretch the rules to breaking point and then make new ones.

seriously, why wouldn't you live in brisbane?

Xn friends vs non-Xn friends on weightloss

On the first of August I stepped on the scales and found that I was 7.5kg heavier than I'd like to be. I love food (how much chocolate slice is enough?) and have put on weight, despite exercise, by eating far too much over the last year or so. Not the end of the world, but my summer wardrobe works best if I can actually fit into the clothes. So I thought I'd lose some weight.

The CSIRO diet works a treat for me. I don't follow their menu plan (much too much work!), just the basic idea - 2 weetbix for breakfast, 2 slices of bread + 100g of protein for lunch, 200g of protein for dinner, low fat yoghurt for dessert, 2 pieces of fruit a day and unlimitied veges (not potatoes). I set myself the goal of losing 1kg per week. 7.5kg in 7.5 weeks. I know it's achievable for me (though the last couple of kgs could be tough). So far I'm on track.

What I've been most surprised by is the difference in response between my christian and non-christian friends when I've told them my aim. Almost all of my christian friends thought that 7.5 weeks was a pretty short time in which to lose the weight. But on three separate occasions, non christian friends have said something like, "I guess there are good reasons for taking a slower approach to weight loss..." Slower?!?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Australian Idol is back...

... and I love it. And I'm not ashamed.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wesley on changing hymn words

Oh compilers of the 'rejoice' presbyterian hymn book**, why did you not heed this?

"And here I beg leave to mention a thought which has long been upon my mind, and which I should long ago have inserted in the public papers, had I not been unwilling to stir up a nest of hornets. Many gentlemen have done my brother and me (though without naming us) the honour to reprint many of our hymns. Now they are perfectly welcome so to do, provided they print them just as they are. But I desire they would not attempt to mend them ; for they really are not able. None of them is able to mend either the sense or the verse. Therefore, I must beg of them one of these two favours : either to let them stand just as they are, to take them for better for worse ; or to add the true reading in the margin, or at the bottom of the page ; that we may no longer be accountable either for the nonsense or for the doggerel of other men."
London Oct. 20 1779. JOHN WESLEY. From the preface to the 1780 hymn book.
Have a look at this verse from Charles Wesley's famous hymn 'And Can It Be'

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Nice hey. Now have a look at the pressy version.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Your sun shine turned my night to day
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, your voice I knew,
I rose, went forth, and followed you.

Pretty poor.

** I tried to find a graphic for the very awful 'rejoice' hymn book. Alas, this is what came up! AAAHHHH!

John Wesley on poetics in his brother's hymns

Something to which we can aspire...

"May I be permitted to add a few words with regard to the poetry? Then I will speak to those who are judges thereof, with all freedom and unreserve. To these I may say, with-out offence, , 1. in these hymns there is no doggerel ; no botches ; nothing put in to patch up the rhyme ; no feeble expletives. 2. Here is nothing turgid or bombast, on the one hand, or low and creeping, on the other. 3. here are no cant expressions ; no words without meaning. Those who impute this to us, know not what they say. We talk common sense, both in prose and verse, and use no words but in a fixed and determinate sense. 4. Here are, allow me to say, both the purity, the strength, and the elegance of the English language; and, at the same time, the utmost simplicity and plainness, suited to every capacity. Lastly, I desire men of taste to judge, (these are the only competent judges,) whether there be not in some of the following hymns the true spirit of poetry, such as cannot be acquired by art and labour, but must be the gift of nature. By labour, a man may become a tolerable imitator of Spenser, Shakspeare, or Milton ; and may heap together pretty compound epithets, as pale-eyed, meek-eyed, and the like ; but unless he be born a poet, he will never attain the genuine spirit of poetry.

London Oct.
20 1779. JOHN WESLEY. From the preface to the 1780 hymn book.

note to self

must stop reading american blog posts on parenting and marriage.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Dailies: She Goes

How beautiful are the vocals on this song? Go on, folks, go listen. It's worth it.

Who do you love more?

In this post (linked to, once again, by Nicole) Tim Challies asks the question: who should we love more - our kids or our spouse? Challies argues that he loves his wife more than he loves his kids, and that this is right. And maybe it is.

I agree that there's a primacy about the husband-wife love. They loved each other before the kids came into the world and it's their continuing love for each other that holds things together and provides a secure home for the children. But. Isn't it silly to compare love for spouse with love for kids as if the loves were the same? Apples and oranges surely. Or at least, oranges and mandarins.

There is an innate love that a mother (at least) feels for her child, a fierce desire to protect, such that she would unthinkingly throw herself under a bus to save him or her. And the death of a child is something that a parent never really gets over. One can (I'm told) come to a point of closure over losing a spouse, but not so a son or daughter. With this in mind it seems unnatural to assert that you love your spouse more than your kids. What is this 'love' that you are speaking of?

A couple more things...
  • is the question actually different for men and women? Ephesians 5 tells husbands to love their wives and give up their lives for them. Wives are not specifically asked to love their husbands - but to honour, respect, obey them. Perhaps the father-child relationship is actually more similar to the husband-wife relationship than the mother-child relationship is to the wife-husband relationship. Any thoughts on this?
  • In situations of an abusive father, I think it would be quite unhelpful for a wife to have it in her head that she needs to love her husband more than her kids. The safety of the kids should come way before any affection she feels for her husband.
  • I'm hesitant to write this one, so I'll put it in a small font so maybe you won't see it... It gets on my nerves that some men (thankfully not the wonderful one I'm married to) use this kind of argument to demand more sex from their overworked and tired wives. Such men need to think about what it actually means for them to love their wives more than they love anything else (work, hobbies, newspapers, tv) and leave it to their wives to do their own thinking...
Overall, I do agree with Challies' basic idea. It's good that our kids understand that the primary relationship in the family is between mum and dad, not between mum (or dad) and them. In our home we try to find ways of expressing this, and often our kids don't like it - but we think that in the long run it makes them feel more secure and behave better as well.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

body pump 67

Body Pump is my favourite class at the gym. I love it. If you don't know what it is, look here. Basically, 8 working tracks plus warm up and cool down, each focusing on a different muscle group - legs (squats), chest, back, triceps, biceps, legs (lunges), shoulders, abs. All good. Trick is to pick just the right weights to use so that your muscles fatigue about 10 seconds before the end of the track.

The new pump cd was released last week (number 67). Has anyone done it yet? There are some changes in a couple of the tracks. I don't get the point of the rows in the second half of the bicep track. Am I doing them wrong? I think it would hurt a whole lot more if we just kept on with the normal curls.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

2 Samuel 12

I've been reading 2 Samuel over the last few days. I'm up to the Bathsheba bit. David's sin is horrendous. Mercilessness, greed, lust, murder, faithlessness, and a gross ingratitude to God. But God's reply to the whole situation is amazing. He forgives David completely as soon as he repents - in the very same verse, in fact. Yes, the consequences of David's sin play out for generations and generations, but David is forgiven. His relationship with God is none the worse for his treachery. Amazing.

Monday, August 18, 2008

these black flowers

This poem was inspired by this review which I think Nicole linked to.

these black flowers

like an alcoholic escaping into the bottle, we escape into our sin

these black flowers I tend
in summer heat,
in winter frosts,
they blossom.
watered, carefully

there's comfort in the fragrance
of death.
memories of
the old life
there's grief in leaving

black flowers

I pick a bunch for the
see them bare, exposed!
my friends retch.
I stand appalled
pick in hand
strike by strike
uproot my beauties.

every one.


these black flowers I tend
in summer heat,
in winter frosts,
they blossom.

sar 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Safe In Our Saviour's Hands (new and improved)

I think this is significantly better than yesterday's version. Not sure, though, about 'tempest'. Might be a bit old fashioned. The alternative is 'through storms that rage' - which is clumsier.

Safe In Our Saviour's Hands

Safe in our saviour's hands we stay

shielded from danger, held within
hidden while whole worlds pass away
fearing no evil, trouble, sin.
The nails that pierced his flesh have made
a crevice safe, a resting place
and here we stay though tempests rage
safe in the shelter of his grace.

Safe in our saviour's hands we stay
though human hands have done us wrong
and though hard pressed in every way
the humble are in him made strong.
And though perplexed, we won't despair
and though forgotten, not alone
safe though all earthly hopes subside
safe for our saviour brings us home.

Safe in his hands, no mortal dread
shall grip my soul, for if I die
my life is held by Christ my head
and I in him will surely rise.
Nothing ahead, nothing that's past
will ever turn his watch away
from now until forever lasts
safe in our saviour's hands we stay.

sar 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

a very 'safe' lyric

I didn't get called in to work today, so instead of doing the washing, I sat in the coffee club and wrote this lyric (posted just below).

We're looking at 2 Corinthians in church and at bible study at the moment, so I tried to write something inspired by that. This kind of is.

A few questions ...
  • Does it matter that I jump from 'we' to 'I'?
  • I've used some form of the word 'safe' 12 times in this three verse lyric. Overkill?
  • Does it's subject matter demand that it be given a tune like this? If so, forget it.
  • With a decent tune, is this something you'd actually want to sing in church?
  • Any ideas for the 'something else' in verse 3?

safe in our saviour's hand

safe in our saviour's hand we lie
shielded from danger, held within
hidden from harm as worlds pass by
fearing no evil, trouble, sin.
The nails that pierced his flesh have made
a crevice safe, a resting place
and here through every storm I'll stay
safe in the shelter of his grace.

safe in our saviour's hand we lie
though human hands have done us wrong
and though hard pressed on every side
the humble are in him made strong.
And though perplexed, we won't despair
and though forgotten, not alone
safe though all earthly hopes subside
safe for our saviour brings us home.

safe in his hands, no mortal dread
shall grip my soul, for if I die
my life is held by Christ my head
and I in him will surely rise
No sin, no guilt, no [something else]
will ever turn his watchful eye
forever til forever's past
safe in our saviour's hand I'll lie.

sar 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Article in the Australian...


I've not had much to say lately. I've noticed a cycle I have...

1. obsess over an idea for a poem or lyric,
2. start writing it,
3. torture myself with reasons why I can't or shouldn't write it,
4. write it anyway,
5. feel flat and exhausted.

I'm just coming out of the flat and exhausted stage after my last effort (hence no posts of any significance lately).

But already the cycle is starting again. Found myself awake in the wee small hours last night, thinking about disengagement. The games of hide and seek we play with eachother. The passive power play of withdrawal... Have written a couple of lines (stage 2) and am feeling this is a poem that shouldn't be written (stage 3). Maybe it's the voice I'm using: that of the triumphant withdrawer... Not so edifying. Probably need to do more thinking. Interesting how disengagement is not God's way of dealing with hurt and anger. Quite the opposite, actually.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

karate kid

I just watched The Karate Kid with my boys. Have to admit, I found it unconvincing.

My seven year old, however, is sitting up in bed practicing his moves.

Clearly, I'm not the target audience.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

did you know...

...mayonnaise can be used as an inexpensive head-lice treatment?

True, apparently.

Just get a big jar of cheap, full-fat mayo, smother your kid's head with it (or your own), leave 2 hours and comb out.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

our humanity and our sin

I spent Saturday at MYC Lite (an afes supporters day) hearing talks about the incarnation and the difference it makes. Tony Rowbotham (one of the speakers) argued that Christ's incarnation teaches us that our humaness matters - and we should embrace it. Those who love football should spend time loving football. It's okay. Those who like to surf, let them surf! Let those who dance, dance! Let those who write, write! Our personalities are part of our humanity and God does not ask us to leave them behind when we become believers.

What Tony said was welcome and compelling but left me with a couple of questions. While our humanity is something that we shouldn't aim to put aside, our sin is. And in my experience the two are fairly tricky to separate. What about when surfing or football become an obsession? Or in my case, what if I want to use poetry to give expression to things which shouldn't be expressed?

For the last few weeks I've been pondering whether or not to write a particular poem. Back here I decided not to write it. Then I changed my mind. Then I changed my mind again. Saturday's talk motivated me to finish it. I posted it here. It ended up as probably the most overtly christian poem I've written yet. It's quite different from how it began - more hope and less angst.

Anyone else have trouble separating out personality/humanity and sin?

nothing is so bad...

... that you can't sing about it.

Even dying is okay if you can make it into a duet.

[just something I've learnt from musicals]

The Soprano...

... will get the man in the end.

Even if the alto is nicer, prettier, and sings better.

[Except maybe in chess, where neither get the man. But the soprano comes closer. (This is worth watching just for the beautiful alto with the even more beautiful voice. What is the tenor thinking? Choose the alto!)]

[just something I've learnt from musicals]

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sunday, August 3, 2008



If, as now I see,
these twists and loops were fashioned by design
and guiding hands divine
held and tied the threads intentionally,
these tangles aren't what first I thought they be.

Stitches binding hearts.
I felt each pull of in and out, around
and fancied I was bound
and tugging chords were tearing me apart,
the needle piercing, wounding like a dart.

This tangle's nothing new.
Two chords unwound will soon become entwined.
Your thread is linked with mine.
They move together, separate on cue
with in and under, out, around and through.

Mistakes, maybe they were
but now I see each knot was artfully
positioned, carefully
arranged so the pattern would not err.
And even if the picture seems a blur

turn over, see it clear.
Below the threads are ripped or pulled too tight
but over all is right.
So let our needles move in joy and tears
and stitch and stitch through all the coming years.

sar 2008

Friday, August 1, 2008

Oh No.

Today I'm teaching the worst year level in the worst school I go to. Maybe even that class.

I've also been asked to take them on Monday.

I don't think, in all sanity, that I can do both. But we'll see.