Tuesday, 26 December 2006

well that was a Christmas present I didn't need

Christmas lunch was great. mum prepared most of the vegies, but i looked after the turkey, stuffing it, preparing it and getting it in and out of the oven every 20 minutes to baste. it was an absolutely delicious meal, even if i do say so myself, the turkey and stuffing done to perfection. the day wasn't too hot, we were all happy and comfortable and content at the end of the meal.

but by the end of the day my lower back had started to hurt. a lot. by that night i could barely stand it, and by this morning i could barely walk. turns out lifting a 4kg turkey in and out of the oven probably isn't a great thing to do when you already have a dodgy back. i'm sure there are OH&S issues at play here... :)

but today i had to go out for lunch with dad, janice and nic because i hadn't seen dad for Christmas. so i went out but probably would have been better served staying in bed all day. managed to sit up okay at lunch (at the lowenbrau in the rocks) but afterwards when they all strolled down to the water to take photos, i felt like crying i was in so much pain. janice looked at my face and told dad he needed to take me home - which he hadn't picked up on, even though i'd said several times "i think i just need to go home". mum came over and made me dinner (bubble and squeak with the Christmas day leftovers) and i keep dozing, but haven't been able to settle down completely. i've been tentatively doing exercises and stretches and it seems to be loosening up a bit, but pray that it would be completely healed! and soon!

Sunday, 24 December 2006

conspicuous Christmas

okay so this may seem a little extreme, but i was at westfield bondi junction yesterday and can testify to the spending frenzy that ensued. i ended up buying the last of my presents for family, and not being especially pleased with those purchases, but it got to the point where i just had to get out of there because it was sapping the life out of me.

the thing that struck me was that so many people looked so unhappy! there were all these women marching around with scowls on their faces, men herding recalcitrant children around, teenagers absolutely weighed down with bags shoving past. lots of barging was going on. i just tried to walk as fast as i could through the crowds to get where i needed to go, but i tried to smile at people as much as possible. i don't know if it made a difference to anyone, but hey, i was one less scowling, un-Christmaslike person.


it has long been lamented by parents and friends that my brother will often refuse to pose for photographs, or if he does, is obliged to pull a silly face in them. for example, at his birthday dinner the other night:

however, it has been brought to my attention that perhaps this is not entirely his fault and the problem is in his DNA. let me present exhibit B - me, my dad and nic (who actually looks quite good in this one):

ok we look slightly less freakshow in this one:

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

emotional bronchitis at Christmastime

as someone who suffers from depression and has been a pretty severe asthmatic in the past (though apparently not anymore, thank God!), James Fong's words in the latest issue of the Sydney Anglican newspaper Southern Cross resonated with me.

Depression is like emotional bronchitis. You just find it difficult to breathe. Antidepressants function as a bit of a Ventolin to help you breathe more easily, but you still have to do the hard work.

it's a tricky time of year. we're all so tired, we're all so frazzled. it can be hard to get into the 'Christmas spirit', whatever that is. you help run multiple church services and carols services and feel cynical and jaded. you sing along to joyful songs and feel no joy whatsoever. all you can think about is how you wish it was holidays and you could just hide for a while.

but Fong has more words for those of us who are finding it hard to breathe, and this is the key.

The big turning point for me was acknowledging that God is bigger than my greatest darkness. I realised that even if things were really black, if I was incapacitated from serving in ministry, or even if I lost my mind, none of that could separate me from God's love.


Thankfulness is the last thing on the mind of a depressive, but it's the very first thing we need to do to reverse the effects...often you just need to stop for a minute and work out what you can be thankful to God for, just bit by bit.

so what am i thankful for?
  • that Jesus was born into this world to save it

  • that God loves me even when i am ungrateful and cynical and wishing i could just give up

  • that i have godly, loving and encouraging people around me like mum, jen, mark and barbara, to help me persevere

  • that God has given me the gift of music, that i can sing and play and express my faith and my feelings in that way

  • that mulan, a little girl from church who sings and plays piano, wants to be like me when she grows up (how cute is that?!)

  • that i have been given so much, that i am so wealthy compared to most of the world, that i have the freedom to come and go as i please, to eat and wear and buy what i want, to go to church, to go to work

  • that i can have Christmas celebrations in my own home, the way i want, with my mother and brother

  • that in small ways i am an encouragement and a Christian witness to others, even though i feel isolated and invisible most of the time

and that's just the tip of the iceberg, really. it's easy to get discouraged, but there is a lot to be thankful for when you stop and think about it, even for just a moment.

We build walls of pride around ourselves, and in the end I've found that my brokenness is a great gift: it's an opportunity to allow God's grace to seep through.

~James Fong, Southern Cross dec/jan, p19

Monday, 18 December 2006

quote of the day

i'm feeling fried, sad, frustrated and underappreciated. i think i need to sleep for a while. sleep always seems to help.

in the meantime, here is a quote that i really liked today (that possibly says a lot about how i'm feeling):

men often applaud an imitation and hiss the real thing.

Saturday, 16 December 2006


have just come home from a most beautiful wedding - that of Bec Richards and Laurie Carleton. it was a gorgeous pink and white affair, with lots of love and joy overflowing. i got to sing in the ceremony with camilla and also did the church flowers with mum. i love being involved in peoples' weddings, especially when they are Christian weddings like this one and both families are Christian, because you really get a sense that everyone is rejoicing, not only for the bride and groom, but for what it all symbolises in God's plan. that was clear in Laurie's speech to Bec at the reception when he said he was looking forward to spending every day together for the rest of their lives, and for eternity.

i wish them long-lasting happiness!

bec signing the register

the sisters

danielle, bethany and me at the afternoon tea


camilla and me

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

i'm home!

yay! i'm back, unpacked, freshly showered, very tired. might have some ice cream and crawl into bed.

just had to share with you the current state of the flat. my flatmate (aka the industrious elf) has bedecked the entire place with fairy lights of all sorts of colours, so we are kind of living in a Christmas grotto (or my house has turned into a bizarre disco of some sort). the photo doesn't really do it justice, but it looks very fun. i love it!

there are also copious amounts of tinsel. no further evidence of Christmas ducks, however.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

running on empty

my fuel light has come on. it's just there, glowing persistently at me, and i know if i keep going much longer without stopping i'm going to just grind to a complete halt.

i'm getting little top-ups day by day, in singing fantastic music, in being moved to tears by the talks, in being encouraged by my Christian brothers and sisters, in sharing what i believe in the plainest terms with friend who's an avowed atheist and not being afraid, and in eating chocolate in my room by myself at night.

but i need my bed. i need my sleep. i need to have a long, hot shower and slough off the week. i need some big hugs and some big belly laughs. homeward bound - tomorrow afternoon!

in the meantime, here are some pics of the last few days.

sharon and harrison

howard and harrison

richard chin

the crowd of students in the ballroom

sally, julie and alex - the singers

the view over canberra
me and miss jackie

Monday, 4 December 2006

our nation's capital

a little bit of a change in today's schedule. after this morning's talk from Richard (which i will post later), i've had most of the day off. well, since lunch time anyway. stacie and i went to the canberra centre and walked up and down it several times looking for some decent going-out tops. nothing. all very trashy. same shops as sydney but it just seems like everything is slightly...trashier. i don't know, might be my mood. still, i managed to find a cute red dress in tree of life, so that's something.

last night j and i decided we needed a drink after the main meeetings (probably not the normal modus operandi of staff on a Christian conference, but hey). it was 10.30 on a sunday night, but we figured there must be somewhere open. surely.

nope. after driving around and around trying to find somewhere - anywhere - we could sit and have a glass of wine, we ended up at...the canberra casino. oh goodness me. if you think canberra itself is parochial, then this place just sums it up. it's like someone decided they'd have a casino night in their garage and organised a few blackjack tables. it was dowdy and sad and a little bit pathetic, but there were still plenty of punters. we got our glasses of red, found a couch in a corner and holed up there for an hour, talking about life, the universe and everything. had a great talk about relationships; i love it when you can be open and honest with a Christian brother or sister and know they are being as open and honest with you. so it was good. but i ended up have really bad dreams all night about a long lost bad ex boyfriend and i really didn't need to be reliving that trauma over and over.

but now...i am going to go back to my room, put x-men 3 on, lie on my bed and maybe even fall asleep before my darling jackie comes to pick me up for dinner.

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Living in God's Time - Phillip Jensen talk 1

Phillip's talks are about 'eschatology', or a look at the 'last things', what God's plan is and where we are headed. in his first talk he used Ephesians 1:3-14 to expand on what it means if we pray the words of Psalm 31:14-15:
But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, "You are my God."
My times are in your hands

there was just so much in this talk, i can't even begin to condense it yet. but the key things that resonated (that may not make as much sense out of context, but dovetail quite nicely with Richard's talks (below)):

  • to say "my times are in your hand" changes our way of thinking, allows us to put 'last things first' (the theme of this conference)

  • God is blessed as both the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and the God of our Lord Jesus Christ - he has supreme authority and is Christ's Father and God

  • as Christians we have been given every spiritual blessing, even if we don't feel it, even if others seem to have more or be more successful, even if others tell us we will receive more blessings by doing whatever - if we are in Christ then we already have these blessings. they only come to us in Christ. these blessings are as follows...

  • election - God chose us before the foundation of the world to be his people. He is sovereign over all time (my times are in his hands). we have already been chosen to be holy and blameless (Eph 5) therefore we will be seen as holy and blameless on the last day.

  • predestination - the reality in which we live under God. God is our king and we are his subjects; heaven is not a democracy! God has all power. My times are in his hands to do as he wills, for he is the creator. The true and living God is in control of all of my life; we are little planets circling him, not the other way around.

  • adoption - the chief blessing? a natural child could be an accident, but an adopted child is definitely chosen, is wanted. in love, God chooses that we join his family so we are subjects and slaves, but we are also beloved children. only through Jesus can we call God "Abba, father".

  • redemption - the purchase of freedom of a captive. God's generosity is very expensive - he had to redeem us to adopt us. Amazing Grace! It's astonishing.

  • revelation - we are not left in the dark, we know the secret of his will. we know that God has planned the end of the world from the beginning.

  • Rom 8:28 - God is at work in everything to make me more like Jesus. no matter what they throw at me, I am a child of God and nothing can change that.

  • therefore we have understanding (v15) of the riches of our glorious inheritance, so it's impossible not to see how impoverished we are in the things of this world

i've kind of just blurted all my notes here onto the page again. i find it really exciting. i hope some of it makes some sense to you. email me if it doesn't...

the pre-eminent Jesus - Richard Chin talk 2

from colossians 1:15-23

Jesus is very attractive - his character takes your breath away. he had no mixed motives, he spoke the truth in love, he loved his Father to the point of death. Paul describes him in this way:
  • he is the image of the invisible God - any other representation is idolatry

  • he is the firstborn over all creation

  • he is the creator of all things - everything made by and for him. this includes everything visible and invisible, good and bad, the principalities and powers

  • in him all things hold together - he is the sustainer. without him, creation would disintegrate

  • he is the head of the body - the church. is this an anti-climax after hearing he is the image of God, the creator, the sustainer? no - the church is God's people for whom Jesus' blood was shed

  • he rules over everything

  • he reconciles all things to himself - again, including the good and the bad. he makes peace between himself and creation through the cross - he restores true order, either willing or unwilling.

    ch 2:13-14 willingly - to have our sins forgiven, our debts cancelled. every sinful act, every lustful or impure thought, every lie, every slanderous word - all these sins are cancelled, nailed to the cross. total forgiveness.

    ch 2:15 unwillingly - he will still rule over those who don't want to submit to him, but their reconciliation won't be forgiveness - it will be judgement.

    be warned - every knee shall bow, reconciled either in forgiveness or open shame.

  • psalm 2:11, 12b
    Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling...Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

    there is no refuge from Jesus, only refuge in Jesus. May we delight in him!

Darkness - Richard Chin talk 1

from Colossians 1:1-4

  • darkness is out there in the world, but also in us personally

  • God can deliver us from this domain of darkness - we need to look to the radical rule of Jesus

  • Paul prays for the Colossians, a group of gentiles he had never met. he prays wonderful things for them, that they would be:
    - filled with the knowledge of God's will
    - live lives worth of the Lord, fully pleasing to him (God's delight), bearing fruit in every good work
    - strengthened with all power to endure because living a life pleasing to God will put us in a direct collision course with darkness
    - joyfully giving thanks to the father that he has dealt with our greatest need: forgiveness of sins. we give thanks to him for delivering us from a world of darkness.

i sat there on the floor in the auditorium with tears running down my face, listening to richard speak. the parts i've put in italics above just made me weep - in a good way. the power to endure is so important, and knowing that God is giving me this power is wonderful, that even though i'm tired and uninspired and burned out and whatever, that anything i'm facing is part of God's plan and he is strengthening me. and so i can joyfully give thanks to him despite the struggles because i know he's looking after me, and these struggles are because the darkness of the world knows i am trying to live a life pleasing to God.

ramble ramble. don't know if this makes sense, it's still percolating.


i'm down in canberra at our national training event. i have had an exhausting couple of days but i'm starting to feel as though i am vaguely human and able to communicate coherently with strangers. with my health being stupid and my body letting me down at eveery chance it gets, it's been harder this year to get motivated and to feel excited about NTE, but i'm trying to take every chance to have a rest that i can and making it clear to others that i need that space/recharging, which helps. being with a group of Christians is great because by and large they are concerned for your welfare, not flogging you workwise until you can't function any more.

it all makes a difference when you get into the main meetings, sitting with 1100 other people to hear amazing talks, to sing praises to God and to be challenged in the way i live my life. all the dross falls away, all the stresses and the little niggly things that have been worrying us in the office fade, and i just feel recharged and immensely privileged to be sitting under God's word with so many godly people and people who are just thirsting for a better understanding of Him.

i am tired though. i will post some notes from the talks soon.