Thursday, 26 August 2010


It's not quite spring yet, but everyone can do with some daffodils.  Here are a couple that are bringing me joy in my garden at the moment.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

history comes alive!

I had a marvellous experience this week. I met with a group of other musical directors from other Sydney churches at St Philip's York Street. This was a lovely occasion in itself, to meet with other people who are doing the same sort of thing I'm doing at Wild Street, and to also share our experiences and knowledge and hear how others do church (for example, Bren and Ro's experiences at St Paul's Castle Hill, where they have around 1100 people attending over four services differs greatly from Huw's at St Philip's, where they have around 150 people attending over three services).

Although that fellowship was well worth the time, the highlight of the day for me was actually being shown around St Philip's, the church, and learning a bit about its history. It's a beautiful building, designed by Edmund Blacket and built between 1848 and 1856 (more about the building's history here).

[caption id="attachment_116" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="St Philip's York Street, from the bell tower gallery"]St Philip's York Street, from the bell tower gallery[/caption]

Huw led us down to "the dungeon" - first to see the strange little choir room (a most uninspiring space for a choir but good conditions for preserving boxes and boxes of choral scores that Huw has no idea what to do with). Then we went into a little locked storage room, and Justin, the rector of the church, joined us to chat about some of the things therein.

There was a case full of impressive silverware and a wall of photos and drawings of the past ministers of St Philip's. But the things that took my fancy the most were the two books Justin brought out.

Richard Johnson's Bible

This is the King James Bible that Revered Richard Johnson brought over on the First Fleet.  He preached his first sermon from it in 1788, and continued to use it as he ministered to the new colony.  As Justin said, if you became a Christian in Australia, you could trace that heritage back to this very book.  (I'm not sure why I opened it at Job to take the picture, it just fell open there...)

Prayer bookAnd this is the prayer book he used.  Justin said "this is the only page with the splatters on it - what do you think they're from?"  The clue is in the contents of the page itself; convicts getting married would sign their marriage papers or register on the pages of the prayer book (presumably because they had no table or anywhere else to do it).  We also had a quick look at the beautiful marriage registers from the 1800s, complete with people signing their names with Xs because they were illiterate, or being given permission to marry by the government, as they had no family here to vouch for them.

It was just an amazing connection through history with people who had worked hard and preserved the gospel, bringing it on a stinking boat all the way from England to this new, alien country, because it was important to bring God's word to those who needed it.  Working alongside criminals and the dispossessed to tell them how much God loved them when nobody else did.

I was struck by how much we have in Sydney now, the freedom to worship, the ready access to all sorts of resources, Bibles in multiple translations.  And yet even though they might not be in the exact same circumstances as the convicts who came over on the First Fleet, the majority of people in Sydney still need to hear about God's love for them, about him sending Jesus to die for them so that they didn't have to be judged for their sins.  It's awe-inspiring to stand on the shoulders of men like Johnson, but also a reminder that there is still much work that God has set aside for us to do.

It's exciting to see the people at St Philip's working hard to reach people, especially in the CBD area.  I'm praying for them to stand firm and persevere in a tough harvest field, and that God will bring them much joy.

Edit to add:

Just after writing this I did my Bible reading for the morning, and the passage was Luke 10:1-20, which seemed to tie in beautifully with what I'd just been reflecting on.  Jesus equips and sends out 72 disciples to go ahead of him and tell people that the kingdom of God is near.  They go out and come back with reports of great success:

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

(Luke 10:17-20 ESV)

That is something really important to remember in all the work we do for God, whether we have times of great joy or great sorrow, whether things seem easy or are a big struggle, that it's not about us.  That we can only do this work because Jesus has given us the power to do so.  And that ultimately the point is to glorify our great God.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Fearfully and wonderfully made

There are babies all around at the moment. It is very exciting to me that 2/3 of the Hive Mind are becoming first time parents this year.  Today Astrid Winter Beilharz was born to Karen and Ben!  I'm very excited and can't wait to meet her tomorrow.

On Saturday I went along to M's baby shower.  Like Karen's baby shower it wasn't an occasion of groan-inducing dread as some showers have been (I hate the ones where you play ridiculous games like how many nappies can you peg up, or how fast can you change the nappy on the plastic doll, or - the worst - the baby food taste test where you have to identify commercial brand baby food by eating out of unlabelled jars. Ick).

At Karen's we played fun games like Spicks and Specks and designing imaginary Facebook pages for Peanut, I mean, Astrid.  It was a lovely mixture of people from Karen's different spheres of life, there was yummy food, and lots of laughter.

Baby clothes for little UnAt M's we also had lots of yummy food and drinks (complete with a drinks menu).  It was a pretty relaxed affair, made even more relaxed by the gorgeous, tranquil St Ives setting of her parents' house.  For entertainment, we had creative pursuits, like making origami animals to be hung up in the nursery, and decorating plain baby clothes with fabric paint.  My effort is pictured on the left there, and induced many "ohhh you're so creative!" gasps from other girls.  I was kind of taken aback by that, because I hadn't thought it anything special, and in fact thought I'd mussed it up a bit.

I said to Karen later that I always find that odd when people say things like that (although nice of them to say!), and I realised it's because most of my friends are creative in one way or another.  They can write, draw, play music, etc, etc* so I just assume that everyone can.  I've always been able to do these things easily, so just assume everyone can.

I guess it's much like people who are good at maths being astounded at my inability to do simple arithmetic, or people who are good at sport not understanding what it means to be completely uncoordinated!  Thank God that he has made us with so many different skills and given us so many different gifts.  We are all "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Ps 139:14).  Wouldn't life be boring if we were all the same?


* this cheekily puts me in mind of this passage from Pride and Prejudice...when I looked it up to quote it, I couldn't just take one line but had to put in the whole lot...sorry it's so long! :)
"It is amazing to me,'' said Bingley, "how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are.''

"All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?''

"Yes all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover skreens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.''

"Your list of the common extent of accomplishments,'' said Darcy, "has too much truth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse, or covering a skreen. But I am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished.''

"Nor I, I am sure,'' said Miss Bingley.

"Then,'' observed Elizabeth, "you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished women.''

"Yes; I do comprehend a great deal in it.''

"Oh! certainly,'' cried his faithful assistant, "no one can be really esteemed accomplished, who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.''

"All this she must possess,'' added Darcy, ``and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.''

"I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.''

"Are you so severe upon your own sex, as to doubt the possibility of all this?''

"I never saw such a woman, I never saw such capacity, and taste, and application, and elegance, as you describe, united.''

Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley both cried out against the injustice of her implied doubt, and were both protesting that they knew many women who answered this description, when Mr. Hurst called them to order, with bitter complaints of their inattention to what was going forward. As all conversation was thereby at an end, Elizabeth soon afterwards left the room.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

A moan about shape

I feel like my top half doesn't match my bottom half.  Well I think I've kind of always felt like that.  It's hard to buy dresses for this reason, because if they fit up top they don't fit around the middle, and vice versa.  I've kind of fallen off the weight loss wagon too, so I'm stuck in that in-between phase of all my clothes.  Nothing quite fits, but I'm loathe to buy anything new because I may either lose weight or put it back on (I hope not!).  This is mainly why I spend most of my days in jeans and t-shirts.  You don't have to look polished and have everything fitting perfectly; you're supposed to look kind of casual and if there are a few lumps here and there it doesn't really matter.

But today I wanted to wear a skirt.  And nothing's working. I feel lumpy and frumpy and horrible in everything I put on.  And I'm trying not to acknowledge that the jeans and t-shirts look isn't really that flattering on me anyway because that's my only other recourse.

And I'm complaining, which frustrates me.  This will not do.  I should just be content.  I'm so much healthier shape-wise than I was eight months ago.  I should concentrate on fitness, not weight loss.  I should...I should...I should...

Friday, 13 August 2010


Further to that last post and talking about design skills, something I've been enjoying lately has been drawing. You wouldn't know it, by the length of time it took me to finish some comics for the upcoming Kinds of Blue anthology, but I realised I actually got quite a lot of pleasure out of it once I stopped comparing myself to everyone else and just enjoyed what I was able to do.

The little falling girl and cat in the header is one of the characters I drew for Guan's Labyrinthine and I like how she looks here, on my blog.

loss of joys

I gave a talk to my chaplaincy group at college the other day about what it's like to have depression.  I've been sick all week, so it wasn't the most coherent of chats, and thankfully it was very informal and relaxed.  I am always happy to answer questions about depression and what it looks like for me, as I feel that if I can at least contribute to peoples' understanding of it, then it will have been worth something.

One of the things I talked about was the loss of things that give you joy, and I've been reflecting on that a bit more since I gave the talk.  It took a long time for me to realise that two of those things for me were reading and writing.  Well, I kind of understood the reading thing; depression can make it really hard to concentrate, and I know my mum talked about being unable to even read the newspaper when she was going through a period of grief.

It took longer to come to terms with the writing thing.  Writing had been part of my identity for so long, and expressing myself with words was what helped me sort out my thoughts and emotions.  It came easily and what came was reasonably polished straight onto the page, even without editing.

I definitely took that gift for granted.

When the creative writing slowed to a trickle and then eventually dried up, I didn't want to admit it.  I thought "I'm just being lazy" or "I'm just stuck on this stupid novel".  People would lovingly try to encourage me by telling me how much they looked forward to reading my book, how much they loved my writing, how talented I was.  But I wasn't writing.  Can you be a writer if you don't actually write?  If you suddenly have no love for the written word?  If the thought of finishing your novel fills you with dread, rather than elation?  If you think you have nothing to say that anyone would want to read?

I didn't want anyone to know this.  I didn't think they'd believe me anyway.  But especially when I was standing up in front of people at events like The Faithful Writer and giving writing advice, what a charlatan I'd appear if they knew I couldn't actually write anymore!

I'd say that every writer goes through periods like this.  But it took me so long to link this with my depression, to see it as a symptom of the black dog's presence in my life.  That my joy was being stolen.

The decline in my writing seemed to coincide with the ascendancy of my graphic design skills.  It's almost as though I lost the ability to express things in words, so found the immediacy of images more suitable.  I have struggled with feeling confident in this area too, thinking "I don't know what the rules are", "I never learned this stuff", "someone's going to find out I don't know what I'm doing".  But I realised the other day when I saw some books I'd designed for sale in a bookshop that I was actually proud of my work!  Seeing them on the shelf alongside other books for sale made me realise that my work stands up well.  And suddenly those negatives can be seen in a more positive light - "I don't have to stick to any rules", "I can make this up as I go along", "I taught myself how to do this from scratch!"

I think I am getting better.  Very, very slowly.  Each day has its own challenges.  But the fact that I can be proud of my work and positive about my skills is a huge turning point.

Maybe one day the words will come back too.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

winds of change

I've decided I need a bit of a change. I also need to simplify my life a bit...I was using Expression Engine to power the blog, and it has been a good platform to use.  But I feel that I am hampered by my lack of HTML and CSS ability, couldn't get the blog to look the way I wanted or do what I wanted, and got to the point where I realised I didn't actually care that I couldn't do it and that there are many other people in the world much more talented in this arena and I should avail myself of their skills.  This is quite liberating!  Normally (as I discussed with Karen recently) I feel this weird need to master everything, be it coding, craft or...something else beginning with C.  And that's just not possible!

So I've moved on over to Wordpress for some hassle free blogging, and am playing with some beautiful themes courtesy of the excellent Elegant Themes. I'm also moving everything over to my own domain so even though I don't feel like I know what I'm doing, I can blunder around forever in my own space.

Hopefully I will blog more as a result too... :)