The Unprotected Life.

I’ve had a week of being scared. And of trying to convince people that I’m not scared. My son, Jasper, who was born with club feet and has had multiple surgeries, seems to be getting worse. In that he is in a lot of pain and has trouble walking. So we are taking him to see his specialist in Melbourne next week to see what’s going on. And when I googled his condition and deterioration and further treatments, I discovered that sometimes it ends in double amputation.

And then yesterday he had some strange, enormous pains, and fainted twice in ten minutes, so we ended up in the emergency department. And the doctor told me that they needed to x-ray his chest to make sure that it was nothing ‘sinister’, as they had no idea what was going on. So I, who does tend to catastrophise, admittedly, spent an hour thinking that he had some kind of bone cancer. He doesn’t, it’s probably some weird muscle spasm but they’re not really sure. He also just seems to be someone who faints. In fact, that’s why he is now deaf. He was knocked unconscious 3 years ago and sustained damage that has caused moderate, but permanent, deafness.

But I don’t feel like I can take these fears and worries to people because then I’ll have to deal with their feelings and concerns. Why is it that when we need to share with people, we end up having to look after them? Or is that just me? It’s easier not to tell people things when you know that they’re going to fall apart in front of you, and then you have to be coping for an extra person, as well as for yourself and your children… Being guarded means you don’t have to hold your own feelings up for examination by other people.

I haven’t been reading during the last week; watching The Office all night is just easier. But I picked up a novel this afternoon that I bought some time ago called Chasing Francis; A Pilgrim’s Tale, and started to skim. I’ll go back and concentrate and underline and take notes when my mind is more settled. But it talks about how we need to tell our stories, with all their ‘shadows and fog, so people can understand their own…trying to figure out how to follow the Lord Jesus in the joy and wreckage of life’.

It talks about living a life (Franciscanism specifically, but lets expand it, hey?) thats ‘dangerously open, revealing all that we genuinely are, and receiving all the pain and sorrow the world will give back in return’.

Aquinas described two kinds of souls- the magna animi and the pusilla animi. The first is open, allowing space for the world to enter and find Jesus. The latter is the defended heart. Guarded, suspicious and closed, viewing everything as a potential threat and an enemy waiting to attack.

Maybe sharing our brokenness and our fears with people is the only way that we can authentically connect. In our world of #soblessed status updates, have we have lost the real connection of exposing our souls to others for fear of judgement, or for fear of being known too much.

I’m almost 100% convinced that my catch phrase of ‘everything’s fine, thanks’, is not going to be altered by these musings, but it’s something to think about…


Nadia, my new favourite person, in a totally non-stalky manner.

I’m deeply smitten with Nadia Bolz-Weber at the moment. I think that I’ve highlighted about 80% of Accidental Saints; Finding God in All the Wrong People and I really appreciate the fact that she clearly wrote the book specifically and just for me, which was considerate.

Even though she ministers to, and often writes for, the marginalised and those on the fringes, and I couldn’t be more un-persecuted, white, straight, and middle class, she reaches everyone, I think (although I do say fuck and am tattooed and my sarcasm level is perpetually at a 10, so maybe we are totally in synch).

Rather than just quote huge swathes of it (because you know I want to), I’ll just point to two of her articles that I love;

Sermon on Baptism and the Devil represents a perspective that I hadn’t really considered,


The Parameters We Prefer Jesus to Work Under, about how we need to spend less time defending positions and more time appreciating God’s love.

Ok, I’m going to just have to quote a little bit from that last article…

A couple weeks ago I got to hear Catholic theologian James Allison talk about how we think faith is about striving – keeping parameters, calling people out for not having it right, spiritual practices, doctrinal purity …  whatever – but that really faith is about relaxing. Specifically, relaxing in the way we do when we are with a friend who we know for certain is fond of us. We don’t have to strive around them and we somehow still become our best self – funny, spontaneous, free. Allison suggests that faith is trusting so much that God is fond of us that we just fricken relax.

Seriously good stuff.

I believe?

“I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)

I think about these words from Mark a lot.

I believe. But please help my unbelief. Followed shortly by, ‘Where are you God, and what use are you to me anyway?

I know that’s its my smallest, most ego driven self saying this, but sometimes that willful toddler of a self is the most real thing that there is, you know?

Because the times that we are at our most expansive and embracing, seeing everything and more with a beautiful clarity are wonderful, but few and far between.
Why is it that when you really feel that you need God the most; comfort and reassurance or just a smidge of diving reassurance, he seems so far away? And you find yourself saying ‘What is the use of you anyway?

And when you find yourself sitting in church thinking What the fuck am I doing here? I don’t belong here’

And you wonder why don’t people talk more about doubt and unbelief. Am I the only one, you think, or are people scared that faith is like a 3D picture that will fragment from a picture of God and disperse into so many palm trees and you’ll be stuck with coconuts. Or that if you confess that you are struggling then you’ll lose your place on the cool believers table and you’re even more suspect that you were when you were an atheist.

And I think (ok, enough of the third person, we all know it’s all about me) What is the damn point of believing in God if the hard times as a believer are exactly the same as the hard times when you’re not a believer? If the hard times without God are the exact same as the hard times with God then where’s the pay off? What’s in it for me?

Ah, the ego. I’m pretty attached to mine.

But maybe (and this is just coming to me as I write this, because blogging is just a cheap form of therapy after all, and the quasi-anonymous internet is the best place for soul-baring, after all, and what else is there to do at 2am anyway?) the hard times with God seem just the same as the hard times without God because there is never really a time without God.

There is no with or without,
No black or white,
No worthy or unworthy

and it’s our dualistic thinking, our insistence on focussing on how we should feel and what things would look like if we were happy or fulfilled or peaceful that is the real problem. And God is just sitting out there/ within there going, ‘Yeah, I’m going to have to ask you to sort this one out for yourself. But I’ll be right here there whole time. You’ll see’

I believe. Help my unbelief.

For now we see through a glass, darkly.

I still expect to have all the answers, don’t I?

So many shoulds.

I believe; help my unbelief, doesn’t have to be the hopeless concession that I’ve tended to see it as. It’s actually beautiful. We’re human. We do our best. It’s not always that amazing. Or transcendent. Or loving. But as long as we get back up and give it another go tomorrow,

We’ll get there eventually.

I’m a feminist but…

Nope. ‘But’, nothing. There’s no but. I’m a feminist.

The woman who has just become the Turnbull Government’s Minister for Women said, in 2014;

“I have never been someone who labels herself in terms of feminism, I’ve never been someone who really associates with that movement. That movement was a set of ideologies from many, many decades ago now.”


I don’t even begin to know where to go with that.

It’s not just frustrating, it’s also incorrect. This article provides a good, quick overview.

(Look, this post is a bit directionless. I have lots of feelings about this but I’m not entirely sure what they are exactly…)

So many teen girls that I know don’t want to be associated with the term, and one of my male students said last week ‘I think people should have equal rights but I don’t like it when women get all Feminazi’. Surprisingly, he couldn’t actually articulate what that meant. And then I made the joke about how wanting equality is exactly like invading Poland…

I’d like to say that I’ve never had a problem identifying as a feminist, but I’m pretty sure I was in the ‘well I want equality but I wouldn’t want it to go too far’ camp when I was younger.
Too far.
Too seriously.
Silencing tactics that try to stop dialogue and infer that you are being unreasonable. I still don’t know what people mean when they say ‘too far’. Well, I do know what it means actually, because I have been stupid enough to engage in parts of the internet where MRAs lurk. And Reddit. I should know better…

(there’s a certain irony that this is the largest size that this top comes in but it only just fits me)

Christianity and feminism.

The two things aren’t incompatible.

I’ve been surprised to learn just how ‘feminist’ the early Jesus movement was, as recorded in the New Testament.

Although current dialogue often sees Christianity as a patriarchal religion that relegates women to roles of subservience and deliberate silence, this does not accurately reflect the early church. Within a patriarchal Greco-Roman society, Jesus chose women as disciples, supporters and travelling companions, and Paul, long regarded as a misogynist (certainly by myself) , praises many women active in ministry at the time, describing Phoebe in Romans 16 as a ‘deacon’ and Junia as ‘outstanding among the apostles’.

Some of the lines that have stopped me connecting with any of Paul’s writings (‘the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak’ 1 Cor 14:34) are now regarded by many to have been inserted by those who composed the deutero-Pauline writings. When read in light of the approval and encouragement that Paul gives to women in his other writings, this line is totally incongruous.

Of course, as it became part of the establishment, these early beginnings were silenced because = Patriarchy. But, at its heart, Christianity isn’t incompatible with feminism. Women were leaders, passionate adherents, and an important factor in the spread of the Gospel in the Roman Empire.

Maybe if we can understand that within any given group, there is a huge array of ideas, and apart from certain broad definitions there is room for a diversity of viewpoints.

The fear of claiming a truth because of the perceptions of others, or buying into the idea that ‘feminism’ or ‘Christianity’ is so narrow that it can’t handle discussion or diversity trivialises the importance of both these traditions.

They are both old enough, and tough enough, to handle our questions and our doubts.

Kevin Hart fangirling

I’ve been writing a post for a few days, about our souls, and about sin, and about the things that take us away from God. But I’m getting wrapped up in my own self-indulgent hyperbole and I’ve been irritating even myself with my words.

And then I remembered that I’ve actually touched on what the soul is here, when I wrote about the way that we are inexplicably touched by beauty or nature or a connection with someone else, and it steals our breath in a way that we can’t quite understand.

And I’ve mentioned before that poetry doesn’t really do it for me; I’m more likely to feel the transcendent in nature than art or poetry.

But Kevin Hart? Kevin Hart’s poetry blows my mind. It’s both other-wordly yet completely comprehensible to me, even if I’m left grasping to verbalise what he means, or even what the poem was about.

Anyway, there’s this. I think it should be read with a glass of Cab Sav. Unless it’s 9am, and then not so much.

A Word

Some words are dipped in silence for a while,
So when you murmur forest, wine, or sleep
The other words to left and right seem loud
Like people on a street outside a church.

Some words come wrapped in a horizon- far,
and final bring a desert home,
And if you write one on an empty page
Your earthly years may be quite swallowed up.

And there’s a word that has a darker night
Than any dead man knows: it first was said
Before tall shadows fondled vines and trees,
And in rich quiet that word still speaks in you.

Kevin Hart, Morning Knowledge

What does baptism really mean?

First of all, I’m going to talk about baptism for a while, and then I’m going to ask for your opinion. So this will be one of those posts that needs other people’s feedback to make it complete.

Just so you know.

And I think that this might be a little bit self indulgent, so if that makes you roll your eyes and go ‘first world problems’, then head on over to these great Countess of Grantham gifs and I’ll see you next post.

So, I’ve been thinking about baptism lately. And I’ve been thinking that it’s something I would probably like to do. And what it means.

Is baptism mainly about belonging? About belonging to the faith, tracing back to the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul. And about belonging to a church.

But a church that isn’t, in its most pure sense, a building. Church is a people. A disparate and eclectic and imperfect and wonderful people trying to bring about their best version of heaven on earth, while also trying to navigate their own lives, and other peoples lives, and the tricky bit where everything intersects and what do we say, and how do we say it and what happens then?

People are fantastic. I know that I joke that I’m a bit of a misanthrope, but I’m really not. I love people. I like to be challenged and to connect and to question and be questioned, and to spend time with the energy and the ideas and the stimulation of others.

But what I don’t like is to be exposed. And I don’t like the walls to go down too far. Because you can connect with people deeply, and forge friendships and make a pretty good go of life without opening up yourself too much.

I know that some people would say that you can’t, but you can.

But I don’t really think that you can say, in front of a group of people;

I repent of my sins…

I turn to Christ…

I commit myself to God…

Without pretty much exposing yourself completely. Don’t you think?

I’ve read that it’s an ‘outward sign’ of an expression of faith, which immediately puts my back up. Outward sign? What, for other people? An expression of faith for other people to accept?

Or maybe it’s much more than that. It’s about God and I. But I thought God and I were doing pretty well. Will getting baptised cause me to be anything in God that I am not already?

I suppose I’m a bit confused at what it’s all about.

Because it will take a bit of interior realigning for me to get there. Which I can do, of course, but it would take some work.  But doing something just because it’s what people ‘do’ when they are a christian isn’t something that I can connect with on an authentic level.

So what is it all about? Do you think it’s necessary? What does baptism mean to you?

Over-quoted bible passages…

Are, I think, usually over-quoted because they are fantastic. There’s always the temptation to go all hipster and find an obscure passage to fall in love with so you can be all ‘I dug Ezra 8:21 before it was cool’, I suppose, but (sigh) 1 Corinthians 13;4-7

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

It is just the best. BEST. I read this passage at a funeral two years ago, and it would have been equally appropriate to use at my wedding 13 years ago (except I didn’t because ugh, bible and religion).

I’m finding this verse particularly pertinent at this stage of my life, because GOD HELP ME PARENTING IS HARD. Wonderful and great and all that stuff but hard, too. Hard as in lay your head down on the kitchen bench in the middle of a conversation and close your eyes, or pray, or use the worlds worst swear words to yourself for a minute, hard.

Every year has it’s ups and downs, of course. This year has been…tricky. My eldest son was diagnosed with hearing loss a few months ago and now has hearing aids. Which was a shock, of course, but now I get to yell ‘PUT YOUR HEARING AIDS IN, GRANDAD’ a lot, which is fun and give the whole thing a bit of a comedic upswing.

But the main challenge for me at this stage is Maths and my Anxious Child. And the patient and kind love that I have to show to him, and, in turn, the 9 year old Eva.

Backstory; my 9 year old first manifested OCD at the age of 5*. This year we have discovered that he also has high anxiety. Which we kind of knew but an actual diagnosis makes it a bit more real. So, OCD and anxiety. You can imagine. Or you can’t, which is good. Not imagining how hard anxiety and OCD are packaged into a 9 year old boy is good. Because it’s really shit and a bit heart breaking.

And you add to that Maths.

Archie is not particularly bad at maths. In fact his recent grade three tests show that he is above his grade level. But that doesn’t mean that any wrong question isn’t greeted with tears and trauma and end-of-the-world apocalyptic really big feelings, which also tend to be loud and angry. When he doesn’t understand something, he really doesn’t understand something. And his brain locks down and he just can’t take the new ideas on board. I thinks it’s the finality and the injustice of it all. ‘But I went through all the steps properly! How can this be wrong?’

Which is exactly what happened to 9 year old Eva when she was trying to learn maths (I went to third person. Is that weird?)

Because when I was a child (and now), I really didn’t understand maths. And it scared me and challenged me. So people decided that I was difficult, and part of our family lore is that I made such a fuss about doing maths in grade three that the teacher had to stop teaching it to the whole class. Because of me.

This is a story that is still told, by the way.

And I was so resistant and stubborn that everyone gave up trying. This is what I’m told.

Did I mention I was nine?

So when my Archie gets so upset about the fact that he can’t do that maths that he cries and yells and blames me and everything is JUST. THE. WORST, I remember…

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

And I say to him…

I’m not going to give up on you. I will stay with you in the tricky bits, and the messy bits, and through the angry and the yelling and the sad. Because I love you, and I understand that you don’t always know how to behave. And you don’t know why you feel the things that you feel, and sometimes these things make you angry. But I will be here, and I will try to be your stillness, and when you are ready then we will keep going. Together.

And I like to think that God feels this way about us. Patient, kind and there when we are ready.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Never giving up, even though we yell at the problems and sulk and be our very-most-not-best selves much more often than we would like to admit. Reminding us that, with a sense of perspective, the problem that we are raging it is probably not that huge on a scale of one to eternity, even if it seems pretty damn insurmountable right now.

Although maths does, and always will, suck and I will be having a strongly worded conversation with God about it one day.

Edited to add; I’m studying a course at the moment, and coincidentally we are looking at Paul this week, with a focus on this passage. As it turns out, Paul was actually giving the Corinthians a bit of a schooling, and essentially telling them that they were the opposite of all the shiny and nice things in the passage. Paul being his usual know it all self takes the gloss off it a bit for me, I must say ;)

*the same age as I first developed OCD, incidentally. Which isn’t really related but is so completely related because I want so hard to ‘get it right’ with him.

This has nothing to do with parenting or maths but I took it here at home last month and it's pretty.

This has nothing to do with parenting or maths but I took it here at home last month and it’s pretty.

Telling people to F- off is not an option.

In the last month or so, on hearing that I’m a Christian, people have said the following things to me; ‘How did that happen?’, ‘Really, you don’t seem like a Christian’, or ‘Wow, that’s really interesting. Could you tell me about it?’. *

Actually, the ‘how did that happen??’ is kind of wryly amusing. I’m currently working with a man that I’ve known in a round about way for about 20 years, and is friends with my (extended) atheists family members. We’ve been chatting and a few times he has made ‘Omg Christians, right???’ jokes to me (which I once would have been right on board with), and I thought I’d let him know just so he doesn’t feel too uncomfortable if/when he finds out.

So I told him, and he literally didn’t believe me. As in, laughed out loud and stared at me in shock for a minute. And then, ‘How did that happen???’. And I laughed kind of made fun of myself (as you do) and laughed at him when he joked that I was probably now going to be a pedophile and basically didn’t account for myself in a very impressive way

I need a good story. More than a tweet, less than a blog post. Something that I can tell people when they ask ‘how did that happen???’. Without poking fun at myself, or my faith, or apologizing. Something where I don’t I blither on and make vague comments and giggle a bit and say ‘But I’m not, like, a gay hating biblical literalist or anything’. I’m not looking to evangelise anyone (If I accidentally made someone a Christian I’d probably be horrified) but I would like people to respect my choice, and the best way to do that is to craft my words carefully.

I need to think of something to say that explains myself without over explaining. Something that doesn’t involve, as one friend suggested, telling them to fuck off and mind their own business. Because I’m fairly sure that’s not very Christian…

*My faith isn’t something I open with. Or really discuss much. But it has been coming up recently for some reason.

I may have to sleep in the chook pen tonight.

I’ve pulled my religious/ christianity/ faith type books off the shelves and my Grand Plan is to organise and curate them beautifully into concise sections. I’ve got ‘social justice’, ‘apologetics’ ‘NDEs’, ‘Jesus’, ‘Christian living’, ‘Catholocism’, ‘Rohr’… well, you get the idea. I’ve also got ‘Really Hard Books That I’m Too Simple To Comprehend’. I’m looking at you, Brueggemann and Philokalia.

This idea was much better in theory, believe me.