Friday, 27 February 2015

Sharing is caring. Or is it?

This week after Bible study we started sharing about our families and how we met our husbands and things like that.  It was fun to hear a bit about other people’s stories.  Sometimes I felt like exclaiming, “Oh, me too!  That happened to me!”  But I didn’t.  I’ll tell you why in a moment. 

We get excited when we have experienced what someone else has experienced.  In part I think it’s because it validates our own experiences.  But I sense that it’s more than that.  I know that I get excited about a shared experience because it’s a way of connecting with the other person.  It says I understand what that was like, I understand you, and hopefully then, you understand me too.  Because we all have this fundamental desire to be known. 

And this reminds me that birds of a feather really do flock together.  It’s much rarer that opposites attract.  Even with friends who seem like opposites you’ll probably find that there’s a number of major similarities between them that attracted them to each other in the first place.

Picture from

I wanted to exclaim that I shared that experience.  But I didn’t say anything.  Because I’ve been trying to listen.  That might sound odd from someone who you know stands pretty often on the listener side of the line in group situations.  What I mean is that I’ve been trying to listen to the other person without speaking to make the conversation about me. 

I went looking for a picture for this post and found these two guinea pigs who illustrate my point quite nicely.  While they are sharing the leaf, it certainly looks like one is trying to take it away from the other. 

Picture from

Instead of pointing out a shared experience and bringing attention in the conversation to me, I want to stay focused on the other person as I listen to them speak.  I want to care by giving them my attention and not thinking about myself. 

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”  - C. S. Lewis

Of course there are times when it’s great to share that you understand someone’s experience, especially if they ask!  Often it can be greatly comforting in a hard situation to know that you’re not alone or someone else has been through it before.  But perhaps especially in these times I think we need to be careful about showing the other person that we are listening to them, to their particular situation and feelings.  We can’t assume that they feel the same way as we did just because we’ve experienced the same situation. 

But maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe exclaiming “me too!” is caring and I’m just being overly sensitive thinking that I’m being attention-seeking when I say that.  I don’t think that I have all the answers and I’d love to hear from you if you have some further thoughts.  What do you think?

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Thankful Thursday

This week has been tiring.  I’ll explain why a bit further on.  Here are some things I’m thankful for this week:

The car pool
I may have mentioned already that there are some major building works going on at college at the moment.  One thing this has meant is a reduction in car parks reserved for our community.  But thanks to the generosity of the other satellite community we now have two car parks we can use.  This has meant we can get more people in to college with our car pool.  Thank you Westies!
But this also ties into why I’m tired.  I’m in a 7:30am car four out of five days a week and I haven’t been very good at adjusting my sleeping patterns.  But I’m trying to remember to be thankful that I don’t have to walk two and from the train station anymore. 

Friendly Friends
Someone cared enough yesterday to sit next to me when I was alone.  We’d arrived a little late to college because of a broken down bus in a clearway.  There were no spare sets next to friends so I took a seat in an empty row.  A few minutes later a friend from the row behind me moved into the seat next to me because she didn’t want me to be alone.  I don’t think I was sad about sitting alone but I was really thankful for her expression of friendship.  Thanks Ra Ra!

My husband
I seriously should write about him in every Thankful Thursday post.  But this week I am particularly thankful that he cooks for us.  I don’t enjoy making dinner but he generally does and I’m so glad this means that I don’t have to do it.  Even on Wednesday night when he was out with his Bible study group for dinner I didn’t have to make my own dinner because there was something for me that he had prepared earlier.  Thank you J!

What are you thankful for this week?

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Thankful Thursday

Here are some things that I’m thankful for this week:

Electric Fansimage from
There have been a couple of times this week when I’ve gotten home from a run or the walk from the train station and I’ve turned on the fan and just stood in front of it to let it cool me down.  The humidity in this city really makes it hard to cool down.  So I’m thankful for electricity and fans. 

Bible study
This week the women’s Bible study in our community started.  Over the past two years I’ve loved this group.  It’s been a great way to get to know the other wives who live here and to love and support each other.  There’s a different dynamic to a Bible study group when it’s all women and it has been wonderful to hear from different people’s experiences and wrestle with the Bible together. 

Harmonies and forgiveness
I didn’t know that I was rostered on to play the piano at women’s chapel this morning.  I should have known, the roster was emailed to me last week.  I just hadn’t integrated it with my diary.  So when I was almost at my train stop for college I got a call from someone asking if I knew that I was on music this morning.  Cue speed-walking from the station to college.  I didn’t have time to practice with the singers (I found out later that my lovely husband had been around earlier when they were waiting for me and had helped them practice).  Thankfully the one song I played was familiar to me and we couldn’t find the music for the other song so we sung it acapella.  And it sounded great!  We even had some harmonies going on.  I’m thankful that it all turned out okay, the singers forgave me and the singing was fantastic.  I love music. 

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The argument about poetry

This year at college we’re studying the Psalms and we had our first lecture on it yesterday.  Though almost all of my subjects at college are the same as J’s, this is one that isn’t (because I’m studying the Old Testament in English and J is doing it in Hebrew).  J will study the Psalms too but not until later in the year.  So I was telling him about my class later in the afternoon.

Psalms are examples of Hebrew poetry so we started the lecture talking about what poetry is.  It turns out that J and I have different definitions of poetry, specifically, his definition is much narrower than mine.  Now, I’ve written some poetry in my time, mostly in the anxiety-ridden final year of school, and I suppose not much of it was very good.  But I fought for my definition of poetry because what I’ve written doesn’t fit into J’s definition. 

Here’s what our lecturer had to say about poetry.  Poetry uses images and metaphors, it condenses experiences (economy of expression as J eloquently put it), there are less verbs in poetry than in prose (called verb gapping), poetry can have some sense of metre, and it can have structure with the use of parallelism, word pairs and so on.  But poetry is more like a syndrome than a disease.  To diagnose a syndrome you have to tick a number of boxes from a list of symptoms, but they don’t all have to be there, and it will be a different set of symptoms in each case. 

Here's some pages from my year 12 poetry textbook, complete with tabs and scribblings.

I didn’t really mean to write about our argument about what poetry is (but you might like to know that J apologised for devaluing my poetry with his definition, though he’s yet to read any of it). 

I wanted this post to be about how I’m excited to be studying the psalms.  Though I didn’t always enjoy studying poetry at school I actually find myself wanting to go back and read some poetry again.  And I’m inspired to write some poems again.  Maybe, if you keep an eye out, you’ll even see some here one day!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Thankful Thursday

So it’s Thursday again, just as it always happens after Wednesday.  Now that I’m back at college and (getting) back into a routine I feel obliged to again pick up the routine of this regular post series. 

It’s been a while.  That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thankful in life between these posts, but with routine can come the mundane so I think it will be important for me to continue to remind myself of what I’m thankful for in my life. 

With that introduction aside here are some things I am thankful for this week:

Friends who drive into college
There are some major building works going on at college at the moment and among other things this means that our regular car parks are no longer available.  Despite this there have still been people in our community who are willing to drive into college and venture through the maze of back streets and side streets to find a park off-campus.  So I’m thankful that I’ve been able to get a ride into and out of college every day this week.  I’m not adverse to catching the train or the bus, but the car is quicker and gives us the opportunity to enjoy chatting together. 

Running faster
On Saturday I participated in my first parkrun.  I ran the five km much faster than I expected and have been motivated to run faster for the rest of the week.  My running goal is to run the eight km home from college but I’d prefer that it didn’t take all afternoon so I’m pleased that I’ve been able to pick up my pace.  But most of all I’m thankful that God has given me legs to run with and the surprising pleasure in doing it. 

A veggie patch
I’ve just started growing some things in a veggie patch at out community.  There are a limited number of these and in the past I have been content to just grow some herbs in pots but this year I wanted to grow something bigger.  A friend gave me two tomato plants he wasn’t using, I left some marigolds behind from the previous gardeners and I’ve started some other seedlings.  I’m thankful for this opportunity and space when we live in a small place with no garden.  I’m thankful for friends who help and I marvel at God who makes it all grow.

What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, 2 February 2015

Someone to Blame

Last week J and I went to see Into the Woods at the cinema.  It was a fun movie to go and see if you like fairytales and musicals, which we do.  Into the Woods was originally a stage musical (lyrics written by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine).  It combines the classic fairytales of Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella with a fifth storyline linking them all together. 

Into the Woods (be careful what you wish for)

After the movie J and I got talking about a particular song.  This song was all about blame.  Because each of the characters’ stories were linked together there was always a way for everyone to excuse the consequences of their behaviour by blaming it on someone else.  Some of the lyrics include:

Baker:  It's because of you there's a giant in our midst,
               and my wife is dead!

Jack:    But it isn't my fault, I was given those beans!
               You persuaded me to trade away my cow for beans!
               And without those beans, there'd have been no stalk
               To get up to the giant in the first place!
Baker: Wait a minute, magic beans for a cow so old
               That you had to tell a lie to sell it, which you told!
               Were they worthless beans?  Were they oversold?
               Oh, and tell us who persuaded you to steal that gold!

The characters go on at this, trading the blame back and forth between them all.  The witch eventually concedes to accepting the blame herself if that’s what they want.  But she still thinks that she is right. 

The movie (/musical/song writer?) offered a kind of solution to the problem of the blame game.  I also found this song very interesting.  Here are some of the lyrics: 

People make mistakes,
Holding to their own,
Thinking they're alone.

Witches can be right, giants can be good.
You decide what's right, you decide what's good.
Just remember:
Someone is on your side.   (Our side)
Our side--
Someone else is not.
While we're seeing our side   (Our side)
Our side--
Maybe we forgot: they are not alone.

This song gave a very relativist idea of what is right.  It was a good reminder to look at things from other peoples’ perspectives of course, but after singing this the characters still did what they had originally planned to do. 

One way of presenting the atonement (Jesus’ death on our behalf) is that there is a dilemma between God’s justice that says evil and sin must be punished, and God’s love for his creation which means he doesn’t want anyone to die.  God solves this dilemma by talking the blame and the punishment upon himself in Jesus. 

The characters in the movie were all to blame but no one was willing to accept a punishment for their actions (or anyone else’s), there were enough other people to pass the blame off on anyway.  They solved their problem by killing the punishment (the only innocent party in the movie).  But that doesn’t really finish the issue. 

Even if you play the blame game forever eventually someone has to take the punishment.  Someone has to pay for what has happened.  Someone has to make it right. 

Jesus did this, ending the blame game once and for all.  He willingly took the punishment for all the blame in the world, even though none of it was his.  And he made things right, he made things good.