Health Schmelth

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Friday 30 November 2007

If I ever feel like writing a blog post and getting no response, I just write something about health hehe :) Why you don't want to know about the innards of my bowels is just beyond me, people.

I'm feeling a lot better since yesterday. I think maybe I'm over the worst of the die-off. Still feeling tired and happy to go lie on the couch. It's my birthday tomorrow, so I'm going to lie here and hang on with gasping breath to the last shreds of 36 (this ageing thing is getting really roolly scary now. Time to stop, old man time. Ya hear?)

It's also the first day of summer tomorrow. Rock on :) The sexiest time of year.


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Thursday 29 November 2007

I know detoxes are one of those health nut buzzwords that sound like ploys to get consumers handing over their hard earned, but I'll tell ya what. They work.

I am in the midst of a parasite cleanse. Began a week ago. If I knew I would have a week of headaches, muscle aches, brainfog, lethargy and nausea I probably would have thought twice about doing it. Actually, that's not true. I probably would have been delighted I am feeling this way. Rather like the lovely woman in this picture here. She looks like she's doing a detox too. But she still remains all lovely and ethereal in her angst. I'm more kinda blotchy and grouchy in mine, so believe me, it's much nicer having her as my pictorial representative :) I am delighted that this cleanse is working. I am also really fucking annoyed that this cleanse is working. It is making me feel like poos.

Seems I have to have paradox even in my health regime (and believe me, when I say health, I mean health. My aim when I got well was not just to be well, it was to be healthy. I haven't wavered from it, despite the layoffs and the detours into the couch and eating Milo out of the tin. Whatever it takes. I know what it is like to be sick. I also know what it was like to think I was healthy just because I wasn't sick, but my body was slowly wilting under the weight of the shit I was putting in it and the good shit I wasn't. I lived like that for years, and I think it took a 6+ year bout of sickness to wake me up. Now, I've got a taste of what it feels like to be healthy, to have good wads of energy, to feel like everything is working. I know I'm gonna get there. (I wish I was that committed to, say, cleaning my house, but you know. You can't have everything. If I can be this committed to health and writing, then that shall be a good life.)

When the parasites die off, they release ammonia into your body, plus whatever other toxic stuff that goes along with them. Yerk. This is why detoxing makes you feel worse before it makes you feel better. It's why some people resist doing things like this. I don't understand the logic, myself. I can't wait to get rid of whatever beasties have taken up residence inside me and are stealing my oxygen (literally), making themselves at home inside my cells and eating my food. Now I've begun this cleanse, I know those little buggers are there. Before, I just suspected. That gut feeling thing again. Thinking about having dead things dying off inside my body kinda makes me want to hurl (the way thinking about all the dust mites in the doona gives me the creeps. Hehe. It also makes me laugh, in some way which is probably betraying my sanity levels).

There was a reason why our grandparents' generation and previous used to regularly take things like castor oil, regularly delouse themselves, deworm. What's strange is why we've stopped doing it. Do we think that magically all of these things don't exist anymore now we have antibiotics? Some studies estimate that 90% of people have parasites of some persuasion.

We forget these things when we buy our vegetables (gas-ripened) under fluorescent lights and our meat in polystyrene trays. I want to start living closer to the ground again. I think there's a reason why tilling the soil tills the soul. We belong to it. We come from it and we return to it (but don't you love the paradox that we are also made of the same material as stars, and at the same time we can be described as pure energy? We are all of those things, and much more than that).

I'm going to lie down and dream about having more energy :)

PS: Detoxing is a hopeful place, really. It's not like when I was sick with CFS (although I had hope then, too, that the next thing I tried would be the thing to tip the health scales back in my favour). This feeling ill is a purposeful feeling ill. There is certainly an end in sight. I can still do things. I just lack energy, and find the strange no-woman's land of being half here a frustrating one. Some days, in this kind of state, I have to consciously focus over and over again on whatever it is I am doing at hand, instead of becoming stressed about the things that I need and want to do and don't feel I have the energy for. It is a land that I have worn clear through and I don't relish returning, even for a visit :) Me don't do sick good now, pliz stop.

Tonight, I have the urge to write, at almost-midnight. I have to resist the urge because I need to sleep. But how nice it is, to feel pregnant with words. And hope. Knowing that the words will come, that I get to play and swim in them (scary as it is entering the pool). How lucky I am.

A Definition of Grace

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Wednesday 28 November 2007

From Strong's:

"the Divine influence upon the heart as reflected in the life".

Wow, that is amost as beautiful as grace itself. Thanks Cindi.

Circular Time

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Tuesday 27 November 2007

Allow me a bit of self-indulgence this evening. I have returned to 1982 to visit my then-incarnation, the 11 year old Susan, whilst contemplating my creativity and my desire to write, and those people in the past who have unwittingly stifled it. It strikes me clearer tonight just how much Susan 1982 is told, inaudibly but comprehensively, in hundreds of different ways by the people in her household, that she isn't "real" enough to really be there. Does that make sense? And the problem is, Susan 1982's most "real" stuff is the creative stuff, the stuff that needs nurturing if you're going to plumb its depths. So Susan 1982 hasn't learned to trust what is inside her, nor her ability to bear its expression, nor the process that is involved in learning to bear that expression. I feel very sad for Susan 1982. To plumb the depths you need a pretty strong anchor. Susan 1982 has a strong anchor ... it's just that she doesn't recognise it - or Him/Her. Yet.

So even though Susan 1982 believes somewhere deep in her core that she isn't "real" enough to meaningfully take up space, paradoxically she also doesn't believe that in her core. It's the imprint of the Him/Her she doesn't know what to name yet. Life suggests itself to her that she is real, Him/Her Unnamed whispers it on the verge of sleep, and Susan ponders these things in her heart. So Susan 1982 believes she isn't "real" but she also believes that she is. For now, Susan must sit with paradox. Those in her household make her feel small. They don't mean to; they feel small themselves. But somewhere inside, Susan feels big. She just needs to meet the One that brings it all alive (and in some ways she already has; but he is patient and the greater meeting is to come. Susan 1982 isn't as into paradox as Sue 2007 is, so I'm not quite sure how much of it she understands. But she will. Paradox is a taste for a more mature palette).

So despite Susan feeling "not real", she's there, totally filling up the casing of her body to its outer edges. Despite the behaviour in the ensuing teenage years that screams from the rooftops that she is too fucking numb to cope with it all - something is holding Susan together. Despite the not real, there's no containing her. There is life in Susan 1982 no matter how suspiciously you look at her, how much you ignore her, how you don't show her affection, or show it inappropriately. Those things hurt and twist Susan but the life remains. Her spirit spills from the edges of her own body even while she feels dead. This spirit is in the other family members too, despite their attempts to quench it and kill it. Even if they do manage to kill it entirely ... it's still not dead. It's just people who are dead. But even when your body lies stiff in the ground, or walks deadly on the earth, the life is still there waiting for you to acknowledge it on your next breath in, or your last breath out, or the breath beyond the breathing. Nothing is wasted, not even ourselves.

Sue 2007 tries not to be too precious about her past hurts, recognising that she lives in a world full of people who are really generally doing the best that they can do, but she can't help thinking - could this household not see how sensitive Susan 1982 was, or did her loudness fool even them, her family members, the ones who should see past the masks and into the cracks? Encouragement - it must have come, but the words have not stayed. How stretchy words of encouragement and affirmation are. They stretch right across years and decades and down into your gut and your heart. If the words of encouragement had been spoken they would have fallen on a desert beginning to parch at the edges even at the same time as seeds were being planted by an unseen hand which I would not begin even to name for another decade. But who was planting seeds in the other family members, too, even if 25 years later you still can't see them.

Regrets are pointless enterprises but Sue 2007 can't help wishing that Susan 1982 knew that the void she was too scared to plumb was love. Then she would have known that she could jump in without drowning. But no matter. It's never too late. Sue 2007 can plumb them now because she has met Love. We have danced together unseen while the family members held themselves captive. The music is Love, and it sings out into the desert. Even theirs.

One day I will watch them dance, too.


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Monday 26 November 2007

Sometimes we imagine that God thinks


But really, he thinks more


Lester Lecter

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I don't know how you parents cope taking your kids to be immunised. I can barely cope taking my dog to the vet, and he doesn't even feel his injections. It's just that he shakes so much it makes me sad, and it's the indignity of the Hannibal Lecter mask that really is just the final straw. But when mild-mannered Lester gets to the vet, the fear takes over. And he just acts out of his fear and is willing to bite the hand that inspects him. It's just beyond his control, really. I guess we can all relate to that in some way or shape :)

My way of coping with the stress of the vet was to take a photo of Lester. Which is just the final straw of indignity for him (hates photos - that flash thing is yerk). What a bad, selfish parent I am.

But it's over, for another year, so it's some beef liver treats for him, and a cup of tea for me, to celebrate :)
"All the world can give us is small mind. But small mind, without the unitive experience of big mind, makes us feel unbearably alone. We feel lost, existentially guilty, and often fragile and powerless. A lot of guilt is not about this or that particular sin; it's really a guilt about not having lived yet. We call that essential or primal guilt. It's deeper than guilt for an offense we can name. It feels like shame, not about anything in particular, but about who we are and who we aren't. Many of us suffer from this primal guilt and this essential shame.

"There is a certain fear of death that comes from not having lived yet. I had to face death myself when I had cancer a few years ago. I don't think I was afraid of death at that time, but I also knew I had already lived. Once you know you have touched upon this mystery of life, you are not afraid of death. But there's an existential terror about losing what you've never found. Something in me says, 'I haven't done "it" yet.' I haven't experienced the stream of life yet. I haven't touched the real, the good, the true, and the beautiful - which is, of course, what we were created for.

"When we know we have experienced the stream of life, we will be able to lie on our deathbed like Francis and say, 'Welcome, sister death.' I'm not afraid to let go of life, because I have life. I am life. I know life is somehow eternal, and another form is waiting for me. It is the last threshold, but I've been over this threshold before. I think this is what Paul means when he speaks of 'reproducing the pattern of his death and knowing the power of his resurrection' (Phil. 3:10). It is an actual pattern that we must live through at least once - and then we understand something forever."

"We have to pull back and learn the great art of detachment, which is not aloof, but the purifying of attachment. Our religion is not pure detachment or pure attachment; it's a dance between the two. Another set of images for this reality is the desert and the city. Jesus moves back and forth between desert and city. In the city, he feels himself losing perspective, love, and center and has to go out to the desert to see the real again. And when he is alone in the desert, his passionate union with the Father drives him back to the pain of the city.

"We go back to be purged by God's mercy and regrafted to the vine; we go back to the well until we know what the real is, and then we return to the city. The work of the soul is attachment; the work of spirit is often detachment. Without the art of detachment, the culture becomes addictive, and we have massive codependency. We have people enmeshed in one another who do not know their own identities. They have nothing to give because there is no "I" there. Without attachment, however, there is no risk, no passion, no compassion, no social justice, no holding the tension and collision of opposites ...

"The contemplative stance is the Third Way. We stand in the middle, neither taking the world on from the power position nor denying it for fear of the pain it will bring. We hold the realization, seeing the dark side of reality and the pain of the world, but we hold it until it transforms us, knowing that we are complicit in the evil and also complicit in the holiness. Once we can stand in that third spacious way, neither fighting nor fleeing, we are in the place of grace out of which newness comes. Creativity comes from here, and we can finally do a new thing for the world. When our ego stops getting hooked, when it's not our agenda, then we can hope ours is the agenda of God. We can stop building our kingdom and become usable in the kingdom of God."

Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs

Returning to Writing

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Saturday 24 November 2007

Lucy posted over a week ago about Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. I've read a few other of Julia's books and found them edifying, and I thought I had at least begun this book in years past - but if I have, I have forgotten (such a fish memory; how do I function in society?) I have been trying unsuccessfully to get writing, but have been stumped as to how to get back. The past several weeks have been very strange for me, a sort of no-man's land of unmotivation, desire to write but a feeling of inability to get back on the horse.

So I ordered my copy of The Artist's Way and it arrived yesterday. It's a bit scary starting something new, committing to something, to a 12-week course of morning pages and artist dates*. I mistrust my ability to stay the course. But I need something to get me back into things, and doing this has the feel of God path about it. Stopping smoking the wacky weed was the first step. I think this is the second.

I'm interested in the concept of synchronicity and Cameron says this in the Introduction:

The heart of creativity is an experience of the mystical union; the heart of the mystical union is an experience of creativity. Those who speak in spiritual terms routinely refer to God as the creator but seldom see creator as the literal term for artist. I am suggesting you take the term creator quite literally. You are seeking to forge a creative alliance, artist-to-artist with the Great Creator. Accepting this concept can greatly expand your creative possibilities.

As you work with the tools in this book, as you undertake the weekly tasks, many changes will be set in motion. Chief among these changes will be the triggering of synchronicity: we change and the universe furthers and expands that change. I have an irreverent shorthand for this that I keep taped to my writing desk: "Leap, and the net will appear."

It is my experience both as an artist and as a teacher that when we move out on faith into the act of creation, the universe is able to advance. It is a little like opening the gate at the top of a field irrigation system. Once we remove the blocks, the flow moves in.
What think ye of this comment? Of the idea of synchronicity? Of faith? I love the way Cameron puts this; the mystic in me yells, "Yes! Yes! The universe is like this! It waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed." I have certainly found in the past that taking the first step opens up the second. But it is a scary path at times. You can see only the next step in front of you. Walking out into it feels like you're being asked to step off the edge of a cliff. And yet you put your foot forward and find solid ground. But then the next step forward feels like the cliff edge again. And on and on.

The last short story I wrote was like this; I had an inkling of an idea, a line from a song. I started with that and took one step forward. And got a couple of lines. Took another. Got another couple. And then suddenly, in the space of a few hours, I had this short story written. Afterwards, it felt like it was inside me fully formed somewhere and just kinda fell out. But in the process of writing it, it didn't feel like that at all.

And of course, having done it then, I don't feel at all like I can do it again. I'm sure even if I manage to write 3 million short stories and 19 novels, it will always feel like this. Perhaps if it doesn't it's because I'm writing formula. Which is good. And bad :)

* Morning Pages - three longhand pages written first thing-ish in the morning. Whatever you want. Just write 3 of the suckers. I'm familiar with this concept and that of artist dates from Cameron's other books I've read. I must say, I kinda approached this idea with trepidation (mainly because it would mean curtailing my other addiction, blog writing and reading, which tends to happen first thing in the morning). But this morning I did them, and hopefully tomorrow morning I'll do them, and I can't say any further than that. The aim of these pages is to get some of the useless crap that's swirling around in your head out of your head and onto the page, hopefully allowing for some other stuff that's lying underneath to come forward. Many people swear by them.

Artist date - a once-a-week occurrence. Can be anywhere that feeds the artistic part of your personality. Things that fuel the mystery rather than being things you feel like you "should" do. Magic, delight, fun. Things that you can put off because they're not urgent. Art gallery, movies, live music, whatever. They don't even need to be places to visit outside. They could be cooking something, or lighting incense or candles or whatever. Just things that feed your creative soul. And they must be done alone. Just you and yourself. Which is really fun, once you get over the idea of going somewhere by yourself. I've done these artist dates before and they really are quite powerful.

So I'm feeling good that I have a bit of a compass to guide me back in again. It's a bit scary, but not writing is scarier.

Thinking and Boasting

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Well, in a week where I've bragged about being linked to in the WSJ (well, at least, the online edition), I'm now going to boast about receiving the Thinking Blogger's Award from Joy. Boast. Boast. Thanks Joy! Yay! My very first award, awwww *cuddles pixellated award to pixellated chest*.

Here I'm meant to pass on this meme to another 5 bloggers who make me think. I think every blog on my blogroll makes me think, but I am declining on passing this meme on, this time. One is more than enough for one week (It made me feel dirty having to tag people, like I was an Amway consultant watching porn).

Must Have Book

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Friday 23 November 2007

Richard Beck over at Experimental Theology had an amusing post the other day on Why the Anti-Christ is an Idiot. One of the commenters, Phil, referred to a satirical work called Right Behind which parodies the Left Behind series:

"The climax has the hero duking it out with the "antiChrist" in a Christian bookstore, throwing Precious Moments figurines at each other and smashing each other over the head with Thomas Kinkade paintings."

Must put it on the burgeoning to-read list :)

More About Tithing


Warning: church rant ahead :)

This global blogland is bizarre for so maaaaaaaaaany reasons. My post on tithing has been linked to in a Wall Street Journal Online article. How bizarre. How bizarre.

I loved this quote:

Steve Sorensen, director of pastoral ministries at Cornerstone, says the church requires its paid and volunteer leaders to tithe, and teaches new members to do so, although it doesn't make them show proof of income. "When you tithe, God makes promises to us, that he ... is not going to let anything bad or destructive come about," says Mr. Sorensen. For those who don't tithe, he says the Lord "is not obligated to do those things for you."
Yep. His hands are tied, folks. Bad luck. So if anything bad happens to you and you haven't contributed your tithe, then it's YOUR FAULT. If your child dies in a car accident? YOUR FAULT. Shame about that. You should have given more and this wouldn't have happened. God? What about God? Don't we think he is all-powerful and almighty and yet on the other hand sometimes bad things just happen? Of course we do.

Yes, of course you do.

Creative Constipation

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I went to sleep somewhere just before 2am. Which isn't all that out of the ordinary for me, it has to be said. I'm a night owl of the first order and I had things on mah mind. But when I woke at 6.30 this morning, my night owl tendencies became rather irksome.

Then the mind did switch in as soon as the peeps flew open, and yea, it did start rankling and poking, prodding and seething at my life - thinking as it does that it holds the power of change and control when really, while it has a whole lot of good things going for it, change doesn't seem to be one of its better abilities. It's better suited to the more practical things in life, and leave the important stuff to the heart and the spirit. But lately, my mind doesn't even seem to be able to do anything much practical outside of its paid work. Completing anything resembling a to-do list seems to be beyond its ken.

It doesn't matter how long the list is. If it's a list of one, I just can't seem to get it done, or started even. And while I'm there, I'm not all that good at doing the bit in the middle, either. But if I manage to get over that hurdle, there's the end bit to contend with. And I'm not much good at the end bit, either. Do you see my dilemma, o reader of my blog?

I writhed into my pillow this morning, "Aaagh, Papa. Help! Pliz! I feel like I don't know where I'm going ... rudderless." That's it. (And no, that's not an indication of how I'm going to be voting this weekend, because I won't be voting. I forgot to put my reenrolment form in, and so now my vote for the Greens with preferences going to Labor - as if there is really any difference between Labor and Liberal anyway - shall not count).

When I was sick over winter I would do that thing that is so good when you're sick, projecting forward to when you're not sick. I thought, "If I wasn't sick, I would be writing right now, feeling as I do that I am coming into a new period of creativity where I am going to grow as a writer. Oh! How dandy and fine it shall be when I am well and I shall be able to write again! And oh! How dandy and fine it shall be when it is Spring and I shall be able to write again!" And I would trip through meadows of flowers in my projections of what my Spring would be like.

So far, it's more like walking through a concrete jungle that has a few piles of dog poo hanging around the edges. What gives, dear innards?

I feel like I am at a point in the journey where I really can't see what is ahead at all. Well, as if we ever really can, but sometimes you've got a bit of vision, you know you're walking into stuff that God has prepared for you (look, here's one I prepared earlier!) But I don't feel any of that at the moment. Not that I'm stressing about that. I'm beginning ever so slightly to get to know a couple of God's 9 million facets. I know he's up to plenty. He always is. Probably even especially is when we're (a) suffering real bad or (b) flailing about rudderless or (c) flat with no idea what to do next. I'm not worried or concerned about being in this position. This is just par for the course. It's necessary. In some ways all of those 3 things can be indications that we are right on track, right in the middle of God's dark forest for us. Following the breadcrumbs.

I think somehow that my creative block may be linked with my propensity to be dishonest with myself about what I'm feeling if it doesn't line up with what I think or hope or really want to be feeling, or not feeling, as the case may be (the shoulds still pop up from time to time, try as I might to swat them with a should swatter, or spray them with should killer. Those beasties multiply in the night like Gremlins). How easy it is for us to try to skim over our lives without stopping to inspect what it is our bodies are telling us, to grab the thread and follow it inwards and see what it's core is and be honest about what we see and turn, and be healed (or comforted at the least). How strange it is that we do that, being as it is a form of emotional leprosy when our hearts are screaming out at us to pay attention to this, this, this, and we squash it because it is inconvenient. Or because we don't want to pay attention to it because it makes us feel vulnerable. Problem is it festers and rankles and goes down deeper and then one day we are left wondering why we feel so bad. Time for some centering prayer. And honesty with myself.

I am so exhausted I feel like I am gently swaying in my seat. Methinks maybe not going to work today is an entirely feasible proposition


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I give thanks that Thanksgiving is nearly over and I can stop hearing people say Happy Thanksgiving. (But Christmas is still to come).

I give thanks that this is my blog and if I wanna be grouchy and nasty on it there's nothing you can do about it Mwahahahahaha (oh - except not come back? Oh yeah, hadn't thought of that).

I give thanks for bizarre animals. How come they all look fake? I give thanks that this website has me cracking up again tonight.

headcat is just a head
moar funny pictures

ceiling cat
moar funny pictures
Babushka cats are in ur box bein, old wimmens
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures


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Thursday 22 November 2007

I've discovered this Hafiz dude on the net over the past couple of months. He keeps turning up, whispering into people's blogs, like Kel's today. Her post inspired me and made me hungry for more so I went on another search. I need to buy a book of his stuff so I can read it under the sun. He was a Sufi poet and a mystic and really saw the beauty of reality.


Resist your temptation to lie
By speaking of separation from God.

We might have to medicate

In the ocean
A lot goes on beneath your eyes.

They have clinics there too
For the insane
Who persist in saying things like

"I am independent from the Sea,
God is not always around
Pressing against
My body."


There are different wells within your heart.
Some fill with each good rain,
Others are far too deep for that.

In one well
You have just a few precious cups of water,
That "love" is literally something of yourself,
It can grow as slow as a diamond
If it is lost.

Your love
Should never be offered to the mouth of a
Only to someone
Who has the valor and daring
To cut pieces of their soul off with a knife
Then weave them into a blanket
To protect you.

There are different wells within us.
Some fill with each good rain,
Others are far, far too deep
For that.

From: The Gift. Translated by Daniel Ladinsky


I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger

because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our

I have come into this world to see this: all creatures hold hands as
we pass through this miraculous existence we share on the way
to even a greater being of soul,

a being of just ecstatic light, forever entwined and at play
with Him.

I have come into this world to hear this:

every song the earth has sung since it was conceived in
the Divine's womb and began spinning from
His wish,

every song by wing and fin and hoof,
every song by hill and field and tree and woman and child,
every song of stream and rock,

every song of tool and lyre and flute,
every song of gold and emerald
and fire,

every song the heart should cry with magnificent dignity
to know itself as

for all other knowledge will leave us again in want and aching -
only imbibing the glorious Sun
will complete us.

I have come into this world to experience this:

men so true to love
they would rather die before speaking
an unkind

men so true their lives are His covenant -
the promise of

I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands
even at the height of
their arc of

because we have finally realized
there is just one flesh

we can wound.

"What did Paul and the apostles believe was their work? It surely was not to bring churches into being. They believed that their business was to bring Christ into every place. Will you tell me where in the New Testament you have any apostle arriving anywhere saying, 'Now, we have come to form a church. The Lord has sent us to this place in order that we may form a church.' Well, you will spend a lot of time trying to find anythign like that in the New Testament. It is not there. There are lots of other things that are not there, which we think are there. Things we have come to teach as being there, and they are not there at all. That is not there; you get back to the Gospel. "And Jesus sent forth His apostles two by two." And it says, "He sent them into every place, where He Himself would go." He has never changed that principle. He does not send us to form churches or set up Christianity. He sends us before His Face to bring HImself there. That does not mean that churches have no meaning. But that brings us right to the point. What are churches? They are just people gathered into Christ where He Himself is. The supreme thing is this eternal thought of God, the Presence of the Lord. The Presence of the Lord, that is the purpose of anything that is called the church. And that is the only purpose."

T Austin-Sparks, That They May All Be One, Even As We Are One
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Wednesday 21 November 2007

lolcats - there has been glitch in da maytrix
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funny pictures

funny pictures


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"Grace rarely makes sense to those looking in from the outside" (The Shack).

I think this is why it's an imperative to learn to not fear (hu)man so much because no one else really understands where God is leading us except us and God. Thoughts?
"Improvisation is the most natural and widespread form of music making. Up until the last century, it was integral even to our literate musical tradition in the West. Leonardo da Vinci was one of the great pioneers of improvisation on the viola da braccio, and with his friends put on entire operas in which both the poetry and the music were made up on the spot. In Baroque music, the art of playing keyboard instruments from a 'figured bass' (an harmonic outline that the player fills in according to his fancy of the moment) resembled the modern jazz musician's art of playing over themes, motifs, or chord changes. In classical times, the cadenzas of violin, piano, and other concertos were meant to be improvised - a chance for the player to put his own creative display into the total artwork. Both Bach and Mozart were renowned as very free, agile, imaginative improvisers, and many stories, both moving and amusing, are attached to their exploits in this field. Beethoven, when he first came to Vienna, became known as an astounding improviser on the piano, and only later as a composer."

Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art


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Tuesday 20 November 2007

On my way to the station tonight I noticed the jacaranda tree in the gardens near Flagstaff Station. It was just so big and so damn mauve and beautiful and I thought, how can we all just walk past and keep going without it changing us completely? Why don't we just all stop and stare in amazement at this enormous mauve tree and fall down and worship God right there on the hard warm concrete?

Today on the way to work on the train, I had that overwhelming feeling of love for everyone in my train carriage again. It was like I could look at everyone and see how beautiful they were. Seriously, you'd think I was stoned but no. I think I was just getting a glimpse of how God feels when he looks at us, and how we are all in this life thing together.

Then tonight, when I was sitting waiting for the 6:40 to Sydenham (running 8 minutes late as usual) a man went past, talking to himself. He was so skinny, so obviously homeless. I wonder when he last got a hug by someone who really gave a toss. He stared at the ground, looked nobody in the eye. I thought, why don't I buy him a meal, as he walked off into the distance and the girl next to me told her boyfriend about how she owns 30 pairs of shoes - two blue, but only one yellow pair.

If I really wanted to worship God I could have worshipped him in that man instead of in the tree but I don't have enough courage yet to do that sort of thing. I find it easier to hug a tree than to hug a homeless man. But I would find it easier to hug a homeless man than a girl who owns 30 pairs of shoes.

My heart is so soft. My heart is so hard. God must have long-range vision.

Virtue and Impulse

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"William Blake made a curious and interesting remark: 'Jesus was all virtue, and acted from impulse, not from rules.' We usually think of virtue as something that stems from following rules rather than impulse, and we usually think of acting from impulse as acting wild or crazy. But if Jesus had followed the rules of conventional morality and virtue, he would have died old as a loyal citizen of the Roman Empire. Impulse, like improvisation, is not 'just anything'; it is not without structure but is the expression of organic, immanent, self-creating structure. Blake saw Jesus as the incarnation of God, acting not according to the fixed expectations of someone else's limited ideas but in accord with a deeper, bigger Self, beyond consciousness, the wholeness of the living universe, which expresses itself impulsively, spontaneously, through dreams, art, play, myth, spirituality.

"This difference between impulse and rules was explained most clearly by e.e. cummings:

when god decided to invent
everything he took one
breath bigger than a circustent
and everything began

when man determined to destroy
himself he picked the was
of shall and finding only why
smashed it into because
Stephen Nachmanovitch - Free Play: Improvisation in LIfe and Art

I now know I'm a real, rool blogger, because I've been tagged! Thank you to my wonderful new blog bud Eileen. Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
2. Post these rules on your blog.
3. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself.
4. Tag seven random [?] people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.

Okay, here goes:

1. As a child, I used to eat strange things. I would stand at the window gazing out (daydreaming has always been a feature of my life) and thoughtfully scrape some of the paint off the windowsill with my teeth. I also used to eat the dog's dry biscuits. I was partial to the cream-coloured bone-shaped ones, but I also liked the pink heart-shaped ones too.

2. I once found a piece of chicken meat in my belly button (the flat kind you get from the delicatessen and put in your sandwiches). I have no idea how it got there.

3. I have no idea where my life is going and I don't even care anymore.

4. I love inventing new words. This week's is "foolity" but I'm also really partial to "blerty". I'm wondering what the word "qwerty" would mean if it was a word - which it will be, by next week.

5. I am going skydiving one day in the next year or two. I have no idea how I'm actually going to jump out of the plane when I'm up there ... but I really hope I do.

6. I'm not scared of dying anymore (just of being tortured so please, Papa, let me go peacefully - please! And also, while we're here, can I also not live till I'm 110 stinking away in a nursing home somewhere because that would just kill me).

7. I think being environmentally conscious is a good thing but I still can't take showers that are shorter than 15 minutes. I'm sorry, water catchment areas, for contributing to your lowness, but I just get in there and away my imagination goes. Sometimes when I'm in the shower and I'm singing, I will pretend that I'm on stage in front of an adoring crowd. What a total, complete, utter, egotistical daydream that is. And really totally childish. But it's fun. I also have rehearsal conversations with people, which is a bit scary.

I now tag the following people (I don't like this bit. It feels manipulative. Please don't feel the need to contribute at all if you don't want to): Kent, Tina, Urbanmonk, Cindi, Erin, Barbara, Joy.

Do Not Despise The Day of Small Beginnings

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Monday 19 November 2007

Really, it doesn't take much to get going. Just a whole shitload of discipline. But after that, very quickly, the snowballing effect starts happening.

So it goes like this: sit down and do some centering prayer. Mmmm, noice! Feel the spaciousness start. Feel the mind wander. That's okay. Come back to the centre (Maranatha). "Look" at God for a while. Isn't he beautiful. He's got it all under control. Feel the mind wander. That's okay. Come back to the centre (Maranatha). Mmm, noice! Etcetera. Keep doing this for 20 minutes. Amazing how quickly the time goes.

Next: go into your study, or office, or writing room, or whatever you want to call it. Sit down at table. Light four candles. Admire candlelight. Start writing something about candlelight. Extend to two paragraphs. Remember glimmer of story idea had on train the other night on the way home. Decide to incorporate into story. Hey look - while you weren't looking, you started writing a story!

Get up and get online.

Oh well, don't despise the day of small beginnings. And resist not evil. Even your own. Which means, don't get on a big giant egofest about what a pathetic worm you are. Just accept that you are an internet junkie. Just laugh at the fact that on a day where you weren't going to be online you managed 4 posts. Don't think about how pathetic aforesaid comment is. Just incorporate it into your day of small beginnings of one hour duration.

It's an hour more than I did yesterday

Buy Nothing Day

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Is on Thursday. So try not to buy anything on that day, and we can all collapse the economy, and then we can all go back to a bartering society, and live in tents in the forest.

Which sounds really fun when you think about it.

So I'm buying nothing on Thursday (except my lunch, and my Metcard ticket)
Jane and I have just been chatting about creativity and vulnerability. Seems that it is a constant difficulty as humans to be vulnerable, to be open to things - because being open means risking being hurt, and who the hell wants that, right? I feel better about being vulnerable since a month or two ago when I felt like I was wearing my heart outside my body. Shudder. What a ghoulishly unpleasant experience that was. But still - sometimes being open-hearted has to be a conscious effort. Life is a bit fat scary bitch sometimes, kids, that's for sure.

It's the same when sitting down in front of a blank page. It feels like you're being vulnerable in front of a giant cave where big ghoulies might be dwelling. I guess that's why so many creative people drink or take drugs. Facing the void is a frightening experience. It's why I really could handle a couple of puffs of a joint right now. It's why I really don't want to have a couple of puffs of a joint right now - because that doesn't solve anything, and it doesn't even make me write more ... although sometimes it does. But I want to be able to sit in front of the blank page and wait and feel empty and feel alright with feeling empty because really, everything is full. Right?

I am trying to be okay when I'm feeling crappy because I know it will pass. As soon as I realise this, the earth stops spinning so fast and it feels alright again. I stop blindly grabbing. How natural that state is. It doesn't matter if an hour ago I was having mountaintop experiences of calm and tranquility; fast forward the clock and it's Susie acting right out of her Brehaut genes (thanks Grandma, thanks Grandpa; mighty unobliged).

Resist not evil, some dude somewhere said, and I am starting to understand what that means a bit more, and that it applies internally as well as externally. Facing the fact that passing moments and emotions are just that is a key thing for me to be somewhat equilibrial. And that's one of the reasons why Jane said she feels so resistant to the idea of journalling. Being a Buddhist she is mindful of the temporality of our thoughts and feelings even more than I am, and what makes her resist writing them down is that somehow it is making them concrete. She likened it to a doctor taking a sample of your blood, and having the blood test results forever stamping you in time - this is how your blood is; this is how you are if you write down your snapshot in time.

It's true. It does feel vulnerable. There's always an inner thing of thinking that you are only presenting one side of yourself. If I write about this part of my personality, then people will think I'm like this all the time, and it's just not true. And of course there's always that part of you that feels fake, that you're only presenting one side of your personality. There are big giant wads of things that I don't even write about on here, which is why I wish I would do more journalling than I have been, because they must bear expression. This blog has become too much something I rely upon as a one-stop shop to suit my writing needs, and it can't be that way.

Anyway, kiddies, as I have so boringly whinged at you over and over again for the past few months, I haven't written anything more than a blog post for five months. When I was sick I thought that when I was well, then I would start writing. Well, now I'm well, and I can't for the life of me explain why I'm not writing. It's just that there's nothing concrete. There's no real gems of ideas jumping out at me.

What I really need to do is just sit down in front of that page and wait. If nothing else comes, I shall doodle triangles. If something comes - as it often does - it's not going to happen in an ethereal flash of inspiration - even though I have those quite often. It's going to happen with the crafting of something until I see its shape as it materialises. It's sitting with something messy and half-formed and not having any idea about where it's going and being okay with that. And I am okay with that. But for whatever reason I'm also really really really not okay with that at all. Paradox paradox everywhere. Paradox paradox in my hair.

Someone give me some bum glue so I can park my bum down and write something, before I go all blerty blerty blerty and melt into the floor :)
No humourous morning posts here for me today. For one, I'm too tired. Not enough sleep, awakened early because it's already heating up too much to sleep. It's gonna be a 37 degree stinker here and there's that crap northerly wind thang starting to go down which creates hysteria in children and madness in adults. Time to stay inside and crank up the aircon - and even that has tinges of environmental/fiscal guilt about it, unfortunately. Like a pensioner, I have been planning my airconditioner consumption this summer, considering keeping costs down by venturing out to public places in the daytime on really hot days to save the bill at home, hehe. My granny would be so proud :) But 37 degrees - all the rules go out the window on such a day.

I have just received confirmation from Abebooks that both my books are on their way. Yippee. Like the junkie who knows that someone is coming over with their next fix, the world seems a friendlier place when I know two of my books are winging their way across the ocean. One is another Richard Rohr book, a man whose breadth and length of vision I am swimming in and drinking in, this one about the humanity of Jesus, called Near Occasions of Grace. I really look forward to reading what he has to say. "Earthy spirituality," someone called it in a review, which sounds pretty damn edible to me.

Thing is, if I had thought 7 or 8 years ago that I was going to be raving about stuff written by a Franciscan priest, I think I would have found it quite difficult to believe. I had quite a loathing for Catholicism back then. It was my favourite ranting stop. Particularly, it was to do with the whole veneration of Mary thing - it seemed so fundamental that this whole deal was taking something that just plainly wasn't there in the Bible and making something out of it to suit people's needs. These days, I still don't think the whole Mary thing is any closer to being reality, but I can definitely see how a refusal to acknowledge the female side of God in the Church as a whole has resulted in something like that happening to balance the scales. But I digress ... again.

So yeah. It's amazing where the journey leads. Sometimes it seems to almost double back on itself. I think that if we haven't changed our minds totally on some things over, say, a 10 year period then there's probably something wrong and we're not wading out deep enough. I have found the willingness to sit in not knowing - a difficult thing for Westerners - yields some pretty amazing goodies if we can stand the tension. It's the death Jesus talked of dying. The death to our own knowing what the hell is going on.

In times past of not-knowing, my well-meaning AOG attending Kenneth Copeland loving next-door neighbours said to me on more than one occasion, "Well, God is not the author of confusion," with the inference that because I was feeling confused about something, therefore I have dropped off that oh-so-narrow path. Bah to that. Where's the fun and the discombobulation in that? Where's the end growth? What kind of shallow roots that sort of journey provides. If we really are in some sort of relationship with God, then surely it stands to reason that we will be (often) disorientated if he is leading us in new directions? I can't understand how a religious system could get so damn intellectual about everything that it removes all the mystery and the not-knowing, an element of the experience so eloquently set out in the OT.

Well, it's been fun, blogosphere, but I need a break from this place today. I find that when I spend too much time on the net, and particular in the land of blogging, as fun as it is, it gets a bit disconcerting and disorienting and paranoia-inspiring. Just seems to be the nature of dealing in such a flat medium. This internet thing is way cool and way weird but it needs to be managed a bit better than I have been managing it this weekend :) Time to get out into 3D and get a bit more balance going today.

Snap Poll

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What song's going through your head right now? No cheating.

Mine, for some strange reason, is that horrible song Substitute by Cheetah ... although now I think about it I think they were an Australian band, so that won't mean much to most of you. Before that I had Sweet Sweet Baby by Lone Justice - remember that? loved that song - cos I saw it on Andrea's YouTube favourites page. Good stuff. That Maria McKee had a sweet sweet voice.

If I didn't have my internal radio station - even when it plays Goonies 'R Good Enough over and over again - I would have my stupid mind going blah blah blah chatter chatter chatter blerty blerty blerty. I think I need to go to bed :) (And do some more centering prayer tomorrow. It's the only way to stop the bad monkey mind talkin'

My friend Jane is coming over tomorrow to utilise my air conditioner on the first total stinker for the year. Which is really good, because it means that I can't get online. And that's a good thing :) (Hooray for outside determinants).

The Book of Revelation

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Sunday 18 November 2007

I remember the first time I dared to read it. I had been a Christian for about a year. It sent fear shudders down my spine. I didn't know how to reconcile the God I was beginning to follow, so wonderfully demonstrated in this Jesus guy who gave me glimpses of presence here and there, with this God of Vengeance who at some point in the future was gonna do horrible things to the entire world.

Every time I read Revelation - I have read it heaps of times now - it got a little bit easier. And then, a couple of years ago, after I had come to conclusions about the whole "eternal hell as human invention" trip, through reading, praying, pondering, and what I believed were God-given insights (but in the end who knows? Coulda been God, coulda been Satan, coulda been last night's tacos. That's the thing with going on guidance from God; it's a deep inner knowing but it's different to an outward mental kind of knowing, and it's not provable, a terribly frustrating idea until you come to a place of knowing you don't need to prove your own journey to anyone else because no one else can really understand your journey).

Anyway I have digressed again (blame it on the weather; man, it's too sticky to do much, and definitely too sticky to think, but here I am anyway). So I started thinking about the whole Revelation and Armageddon thing, and how having that sticking out ahead of your future was just major mental illness land, and how on earth could we live as kingdom people knowing that God was gonna do all that stuff? There was just something that didn't sit right with me; one of those inner itches that again could be God, your digestion, or Satan, but somehow you start learning to trust that you think it's God and so that's what you have to go with or else it's just not gonna leave you alone unless you medicate it somehow.

So I started reading a bit about the ideas that some people had that the book of Revelation was written to the people at the time about things which "must soon come to pass" - namely, the destruction of Herod's temple, and the sacking of Jerusalem in 70AD. I tend to take the view these days that all of those things that we take as future - Armageddon, the antichrist, the Tribulation - have already occurred.

Of course I couldn't say for sure, obviously. Who can? But the problem I have with those who take a future viewpoint is that they seem to be almost hell-bent on making the politics of today fit their views. If Jesus can't return until all the Armageddon stuff happens - then hey, let's hope Armageddon is gonna happen soon, so that we can get that nasty business out of the way and all the evil people out of the way and then Jesus can come back.

Problem is, what if they're wrong? What if trying to fit world politics into your view of this book is terribly wrong? What then?

The thought really scares me.

Unpaid Advertisement

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Michael Isaiah Designs

11940 Manchester Rd Ste B
St Louis, MO 63131-4501
Phone: (314) 966-3233

Winner of the Best of Citysearch Hair Salon 2006 award

Hairdressing really is a pretty amoral activity, despite my previous blog post. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look our best. It's how the species has been reproduced, after all. You can still be a Holy Fool and have nice hair (you want to look nice on your YouTube vids, don't you?)

So if you're in line for a haircut and you live in the St Louis, Missouri, USA area, make sure you drop into Michael Isaiah, where Derrick, Chance, Ella, Christina, Tammy and Priscilla (did I miss anyone?) will make you look like a good child of the Empire. (Try not to get Kent, as he is in the habit of crying into his clients' hair and the end result is a big jagged. He's a good storyteller, though, and he needs the money to fund his Japanese maple addiction, so maybe people with really curly hair should let him do theirs - you can't notice the jaggedness as much).

(Aside: who the hell is Robert Banyaga? Is that you, Kent, in your African stance?)

For more endorsements visit:
The right-wing, conservative, law-abiding, goody-two-shoes political Christian Americans have hogged the limelight for w-a-a-y too long (and with too much world carnage). It's time for a rehaul of what it means to be Christian. Time to go a bit loony tunes loopy for God. Time to bring back Holy Foolity. Time to become homeless, to speak in riddles, to answer questions with questions (very Jewish, very cool). Time to befuddle the Empire and make them wonder, "Just what is it those Christians are smoking?" (From my corner, the answer is, well, nothing. So :P).

We have got it wrong, in our buying into the culture. Trying to look like everyone else with a bit of Jesus thrown in may have increased visits to Kent's hairdressing salon, but it's done nothing for the cause of Christ.

Time, methinks, for the crazy ones of the Body to step out and begin doing crazy things in the name of God. Some ascetics in the past have chosen to sit on the tops of giant poles (I think this just proves that marijuana smoking was going on even back then). Others have chosen to live in caves, to leave their underwear lying in weird places until it decomposes and then use it as a visual to show the Jews how rotten their faith was*. It's this kind of thing which will bring Jesus back into the spotlight, return a bit of cred to the Body, prove points, and get good YouTube viewings, all at the one time.

And we get to run around naked, too, which should be interesting (I think I'll check out on this one, but it shall be interesting to watch everybody else).

Holy Foolity. It's the new black.

For starters, see:

* Edit: did you know that that verse in Isaiah (?) where God says "your righteousness is like filthy rags", what it actually says is "your righteousness is like used menstrual cloths". Which is rather - well, shall we say, in-your-face? God really does know how to get his point across, doesn't he. He doesn't mince nothin'.

Law or Promise??

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Something Wayne said (amongst many things) which has stuck with me:

What if the Ten Commandments aren't commandments at all ... but promises?

You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. One day you shall not. Because I shall have changed you, and you will no longer strive after anything because you will know that I am all you need.

Not, you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, and if you do, I'm gonna burn you up, you little worm.

Hmm, there's a lovely thought :)

I look forward to the, you shall have no slightly weird neighbours who are mowing their lawn for some strange reason even though it's really wet outside and only 9.30 in the morning.

Or even better, you shall not be petty minded about your neighbours doing stupid inane things :)

Awake Again

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This is the second day in a row I've woken up at the 6.30am mark. I think the rain woke me up. It's still sultry, thundery, rainy weather. Stormy weather.

I am thinking I will probably go back to bed at some point, but for now I'm content to sit here online, drinking tea, feeling cosy, contemplating my book on my bedside table (a bit of T Austin-Sparks; has been a long time since I've read any theological stuff and I found it good and necessary to have a long break. Even so, a little goes a long way, these days.

My house has a flat roof, and I think the rain sounds louder than it really is outside. But that's okay. If you're gonna have rain, you may as well have it belting. Just like if you're gonna have music, you may as well have it loud.

It shows how little it rains here in Melbourne when it becomes a defining characteristic of my day. I forget how cosy it feels to be inside while it's pelting outside (and I remind myself that those five foot high weeds growing monstrously around the side of the house shall be much easier to pull out now the earth is wet). I feel pleased that my day is being defined for me by external forces like the weather. It gives me a childlike feeling somehow, a security feeling (is this just me?). Today I am content to stay home, to do some writing (and some weeding, if the rain stops). I am most pleased because I was going to wash Craig today but the rain has done it instead (I still have Craig; Mocca's plaster is off but he's not able to drive for another couple of weeks, so me and the sexy black beast have a bit more time together before Olive the Skanky Mitsubishi returns to my life with her rust, her McDonald's wrappers, her skankiness, to remind me that I don't really care anyway about material items :).

I am enjoying the rain this morning in a way only the seasonally affectively disordered can, knowing that it's not winter and that it shall not discombobulate me because today's forecast is for 31 degrees celcius. Tomorrow is going to be 37, which is just ludicrous for this time of year.

I did some more centering prayer yesterday afternoon and it never ceases to amaze me how it turns me from a bumbling occasional stresshead (it's in the genes, unfortunately) to a calm Zenlike creature full of contentment and Mona Lisa smiles. Really. It's amazing. And my lifeline. It makes me feel the way that writing and God do ... and all three of those things of course are tied up in each other. How beautiful you are, o Mysterious One.

I am now the proud owner of The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and The Writer's Life by Annie Dillard (both being prepared to head my way from the good ol' US of A on Monday). Has anyone here read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Dillard? Oh to be able write about nature the way she does, with such immediacy. It really was wonderful and deserving of its popularity. The image of that exploding frog is impinged on my mind forever (in a horrible way unfortunately). But the way she unflinchingly recounted it just captured all of the angst of living in a fallen world. And made me think that it's only when you a have a vision of another world that you can face this one unflinchingly in all its ugliness.

Book Addictions

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Saturday 17 November 2007

The internet is a nasty little beastie when it comes to fuelling my book addiction. I was reading Lucy's interesting post and the comments about the blurts we have in our heads that stop us creating. Lucy mentioned she was going through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, which I have done before - at least partially - but don't own. I really like Julia's stuff. She has cool tips like taking yourself on an "artist date" once a week (I have found this quite powerful; has anyone else?) It's a date that you take by yourself, to wherever you go to fuel your creativity (for me it is often the movies). It must be done by yourself, and this is where I think its power lies. Doing stuff by yourself is empowering, but to frame it as an artist's date, while sounding a bit formal, is actually very inspiring. It's like telling the inner critic that you are serious about your talents. Good stuff.

Anyway, so all it took after that was a quick look at my bookshelf - a couple of other Cameron titles but not that one - and a couple of mouse clicks and voila, I am the leading bidder on EBay. So here goes another 30 buck purchase.

It's often cheaper to buy stuff secondhand from the US than Australia, even when you throw in postage. It's one of the bad things about being at the arse end of the world. (Although really, I guess that all depends on your perspective.)

I am just full of addictions, it seems. Stop smoking dope, start buying books. (Or keep buying books, I should say. My prayer to God to stop lasted for a few weeks but I have sinned again). Oh well.

I don't really care, to be honest :) Can you tell? I have other worse addictions than books (and no, I'm not telling. I've bared my soul enough lately).
So this is the third post for the day, and that when I have gone back to bed and got up at 11, and it's just hit 1pm. I guess that makes me a junkie today. I've decided I may as well mainline a couple of hits at a time just 'cause it feels so good, baby ;)

What happens when you overdose on the internet? Does your computer blow up? Do you get RSI in your fingers? Does your head explode? I actually feel like I've written something of substance on here this morning (regardless of whether anyone agrees with the content), so I have that nice feeling of accomplishing something.

I was thinking before about how I have this propensity to think that because I have blogged once about an idea that I (a) can't blog about it again and (b) can't write about it anywhere else. But I also know of writers who have blogs who use them as measuring sticks for audience reaction. So there's an idea.

(The concept of making money from writing is still a very foreign one to me. I don't think I shal quite believe it until it happens to me, until someone pays me 100 bucks for something I've slaved over for hours).

It's very sultry here today. I find it no coincidence that sultry applies to the weather and also to passion. Sometimes, sultry weather just ... does it for me, know what I mean? :) Sometimes it sends me to the couch. It's difficult to say what reaction I'm going to get. (And yes, I'm going to refrain myself from talking about randiness levels this time. I don't find other bloggers needing to discuss theirs so I figure I can exercise the same discretion. Or maybe as Christians we just don't talk about all "that stuff" as much as we should. We hide it all, make something shameful out of it, and then wonder why porn use skyrockets in hotels where Christian conventions are being held ;).

There is a threat of a thunderstorm. My dog has moved closer, so I know this without needing to look out the window. I feel it anyway. It's very pregnant and exciting. It feels like I might be able to get a bit done today without striving. Just being. Because I don't feel like I really care in that striving way if I get much done, I will therefore probably get more done effortlessly than those many myriad times when I am stressing about getting stuff done. I wish I would learn my lesson and just go and lie on the couch and chill out whenever I'm stressing like that. I may as well, for all that I accomplish then. How paradoxical and strange this life is. Sometimes it makes me laugh. Sometimes it makes me want to smash plates. Sometimes it makes me want to scream and vomit. Sometimes it makes me want to hide. Today, it makes me smile. Happy Saturday, everyone (and happy Friday night for you laggers ;)

Hell and Loving God

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I'm sorry if anyone finds what I'm going to write offensive, but I just feel so strongly about this these days. It is so clear to me what our conceptions of hell do to our peace of mind that it is becoming something like anathema to me. I apologise if my anathema conflicts with your strongly held beliefs.

I don't think it's any coincidence at all that
consistently the Christians I find who are the most loving and the most free are the ones who have got the concept of hell worked out in their own minds, hearts and spirits, and found it to be the demonic bondage that it is - at least, our modern-day concepts of it. I will go further and stand up loud and proud on my soapbox and say that we won't be able to trust God as much as he yearns for us to do until we get this idea out of the way. I can't think of any other idea we have about God which so limits his power, his love, his control, his reach, and what Jesus Christ achieved on the cross.

Neither do I think it is coincidence that consistently I find that the Christians who are the most fearful and lacking in fruitfulness are the ones who believe in a God of eternal torment. Which makes complete sense. How close do you go - as much as you are drawn by Jesus - to a God who is going to do that? Because if God is going to do that, our hearts whisper, then he seems a bit ... well, from my limited darkened human perspective, very ... well ... like a tyrant, an egomaniac.

In this view, God commands we love him enough or he will throw us into eternal torment. How do you command people to love you? (This was partly one of the things the Old Testament showed us - you can't. Love cannot be commanded by fear). And how incongruous Jesus seems in this light. He seems like the wussy, girly part, while God is nasty, distant, unemotional and removed from his creation. This is where the good cop/bad cop dichotomy comes in (apologies Wayne for using all your analogies :) Jesus is the good guy we can run to, who has died on the cross for our sins to protect us from the bad God, who cannot dare to look at us in our disgusting, sinful, horrid, gut-wrenchingly evil state. Right. How come, then, God still walked in the garden in the cool of the day as soon as Adam and Eve sinned? It was Adam and Eve who were hiding. The wrath of God is directed towards the sin, not the sinner. He knows that we are dust (so bah to you, Jonathan Edwards and your disgusting sermon). Causing us to hide is what sin does, what shame does. And the concept of eternal hell if we fall or somehow do something not quite right (and we can never quite be sure we've got it right enough to keep God's wrath at bay) just keeps us locked up in a box of shame which drives our sins deeper. How funny that our fear of God doesn't cause our sins to disappear, as you would imagine - it just sends them underground where we feel even more shame abut them, but they become even more juicy, hiding just where they like in the mushroom compost where they breed and grow the best. I know all this from experience. I spent years living a shame-filled life and I know the dynamics. I also know what being free (or beginning to be freed) from it feels like. It's a lens cleaner, for sure.

How can you draw near to a God who is so ego-driven that he would throw the majority of people into hell because they haven't performed well enough for him or they haven't called on his name or whatever? What kind of a God is that? Not one that I want to worship and, I am convinced, one that turns good Christians into the kind that the media loves to vilify (and with good reason, too - you become like the god you worship, and their god is a rigid, dogmatic, nasty man; rather like them a lot of the time, unfortunately).

Did you know that hell as the "eternal punishment for daring to not believe in/or follow God well enough" is not found at all in the Old Testament? And in the history of the Church, the idea didn't really gain a foothold until around about the time of Constantine (for more reading on what the early church believed see here). This was around hte time the Church went from being a persecuted Body on the sidelines to the baby of the Empire. Think about that. It's no coincidence.

Now, having said all of that there is definitely stuff in the Bible about God's wrath. I just don't think we've understood the idea very well. The best analogy I have found is one told by Wayne Jacobsen. He remembers a day when his family is camping, and his two-year old son is set upon by a swarm of bees. As Wayne's wife hears the screams of her son as he is being stung by heaps of bees, she rushes like the wind towards him to rescue him. What struck Wayne was the face of his little two-year-old boy as his mother rushed towards him. Her determination to rescue her son must have appeared fierce on her face. All her son saw as she rushed towards him to rescue him was wrath. But it wasn't directed at him. It was directed at the source of his affliction.

I think that everyone is destined to suffer at the hand of God's "consuming fire". It just depends on whether it is now, in this life, or afterwards. The words we translate as hell - sheol, hades, tartarus and gehenna - are a
temporary state. And the suffering that so many of us go through now feels like flames. It has been a recurring refrain in my life over the past few months and years. God is definitely a consuming fire, and when you are in the midst of the furnace it is very easy to lose sight of the fact that he is purposing something in that suffering. I have come out of all that stuff with insights I just don't think I could have gained any other way but through those difficult times when I am forced to draw near to God. I wish it was different, but I am always grateful for the experience afterward because the view is just amazing.

This site, Tentmaker, has stacks of stuff on hell. I roolly roolly encourage you to explore it. I know if you believe in the concept of hell but are questioning it that this is a difficult place to be in. You feel like going down this road is going to lead you to hell forever - and you want to guard against making that mistake if you can. I have been in this place before. I can't say anything to encourage you to explore this further but just hope that you listen to the Spirit of God and go forward into exploration, even if it's scary. You will be amazed what you find at the end of it.

Hell? Hell is a crock of demonic crap :) Nothing has kept Christians in bondage more than that one doctrine. I don't even care anymore if what I say steps on some people's toes. I personally have seen how the idea of eternal torment is one that has been rejected more and more by people over the past five or so years. I have seen how it is a weight that we just cannot live under and live the way that Jesus asked us to. I don't care if people find this idea offensive. Because I find the idea of hell way more offensive.

End rant.

*Sigh* I think it's almost time I went on some sort of blogging fast. I can't seem to keep my internet addiction under control.

Last night I came home from work. First thing Friday night. Hundreds of different things to do (and some centering prayer I really NEEDED to do). Edifying things. Enjoyable things. Things that I am craving to do. Did I do any of those hundreds of things? Nope. Sat my bum down online for three hours.

And it's not even like I enjoy it when I'm online for that long. It just feels kinda ... obsessional. I hate that.

Why is it that I can be at home with tons of things to do (like housework, or writing, or reading), and once I start doing those things I get some sort of enjoyment out of them - even if it's just 'cause I'm moving my body instead of sitting in a damn seat - but then I'll think, "Oh, I'll just get online for a few minutes", even though I was just online 10 minutes ago and I'm sure nothing earth-shattering has happened that can't wait for an hour or two. So I'll sit down for "a few minutes" - read half an hour - and I'm bored.

IT'S SO STUPID!!!!!!!!!

Broadband really only has one downfall, as far as I can see it - and this is it :( Maybe I need to pretend I'm on dial-up. Set some sort of structure - an hour offline, an hour online or something. I find this so incredibly frustrating.

On the upside, it's Saturday and I don't work again till Tuesday. Mmmmmm. Yummy. I woke up this morning, stared bleary at the pillow and thought, "What day is it?" I was thinking it was a work day and the joy the joy the joy when I knew it was Saturday. Problem was it was 6.40. So what did I do? Turn over and go back to sleep? Nah. Got up and got online, of course!!

I'm going back to bed now.

Tithe Schmithe

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Thursday 15 November 2007

Synchroblog: Money and the Church

You can't really blame the institutionalised elements of the Church for having the unnerving ability to turn our freedom in Christ into principles and programs, rules and regulations that start resembling Old Testament temple practices as soon as our backs are turned. It goes with the territory, whenever the structure is allowed to usurp the focus on the people who really are the Church. But of course, the problem really lies deeper. It goes all the way down to our own tendency to want to reduce God down to manageable size. Sometimes he is just damn scary with his unknowableness, his disarming tendency to ask us to do things we don't want to, to just invade everything. We want him small enough to put in our pockets. I think we can safely call this part of us our flesh ;) It doesn't love freedom half as much as our spirit does.

So many church building groups seem unwilling to see how the concept of the tithe is just not really anywhere in the New Testament. The thing is, it's in the interests of church buildings to have a tithe. They need their people to contribute to them to keep them going, keep the full-time pastor paid, keep the lawns watered, the electricity bill paid for. On and on it goes. Anyway - it's only right that those who frequent the building regularly should contribute towards its upkeep. I just don't think that the people who do this should brush off their hands when they put their 10% in the offering plate on a Sunday morning and think that they have done the "Lord's work". What they have done is contribute maintenance towards a gathering that they frequent. That's all.

What would happen if we took our 10% principle, our "God won't bless you financially unless you give him his due" law (purlease; do you really think God is that small?) and instead expanded the conceptions, regarding everything as his already? Not only the cattle on a thousand hills. And what about if we expanded it even further again and thought that not only is it all his, but it's all a gift. For us. A generous gift from a generous god who is not interested in skimping. I suspect our flesh's preference for a 10% tithe reflects our deep dark thoughts in the middle of the night that maybe God is not as generous as we would like or need him to be, nor as kind. If we are dealing with a nasty, small god, then of course our flesh finds it easier to bury our talents in the offering plate, because it's safer; then we've "done our bit" and God can't call us onto the carpet and accuse us of not giving him his due.

What happens if God's ideas of how he would like us to use our money are more fluid than giving our 10%? What if it's more organic, less able to be reduced down to an Excel spreadsheet? What happens if one week he doesn't ask us to give him any money (perish the thought!), but the next week asks us to give the homeless bloke on the corner 100 bucks, or to donate the same to a micro finance project, or to just put away in our purses and wallets and see if he won't give us directives on where he would like us to give it? What would happen if we took our "tithes" to the streets, to the current day "widows and orphans" instead of using them to keep the plumbing going, or nice new downlights for buildings that less and less people are frequenting anyway (have we noticed?)

Maybe God is more good than we thought he was, more kind, more generous and more giving. What would happen if we as the Church began flirting with the idea that God really is the kind of god that wants us to jump into his lap and call him Papa? What then? Then our fists would loosen.


This is part of a synchroblog. The other contributors are listed below. Follow the links, and watch the fur fly!

The Check That Controls at Igneous Quill by Adam Gonnerman
Trusting God: A New Perspective at Eternal Echoes by Sally Coleman
Greed and Bitterness at Square No More by Phil Wyman
But I Gave at Church at The Assembling of the Church by Alan Knox
Moving Out of Jesus Neighborhood at Be the Revolution by David Fisher
Money and the Church: why the big fuss? at Mike's Musings by Mike Bursell
Bullshit at The Agent B Files by Agent B
The Bourgeois Elephant... at Headspace by Lainie Petersen
The Church and Money at Khayna by Steve Hayes
Pushing The Camel at Fenando's Desk by Fernando Gros
Lord, Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz at Hello Said Jenelle by Jenelle D'Alessandro
Walking with the Camels at Calacirian by Sonja Andrews
Money and the Church: A Fulltime Story at The Pursuit by Lew A
Coffee Hour Morality at One Hand Clapping by Julie Clawson
Bling Bling in the Holy of Holies at In Reba's World by Reba Baskett
Money's too tight to mention at Out of the Cocoon by Paul Walker
When the Church Gives at Payneful Memories by Leah
Greed at Hollow Again by Dan Allen
Magazinial Outreach at Decompressing Faith by Erin
Silver and Gold Have We - Oops at Subversive Influence by Brother Maynard
What if We had Nothing by Tim Abbott
Who, or What, Do You Worship at Charis Shalom by Bryan Riley
Zach at Johhny Beloved by Zach Forrest
Wealth Amidst Powers at Theocity by Kirk Bartha