I just don’t feel like it. 

A few of my posts recently have circled around the tricky space between emotions and will, and a conversation at Bible study yesterday prompted me to address this head on. 

What do you do when you feel emotionally and spiritually dry, and you know the sacrifice God desires is a contrite heart? That He wants our heart’s attitude to be shaped for Him, and that He hates hypocrisy? Do you keep going to church even though “your heart’s not in it”? Or would that be an insult to God and others, and/or make things worse? 

There’s so much that could be said about this but to give us a smaller arena for discussion, I’m gonna focus on Isaiah 1, which was our passage at Bible study yesterday and prompts my thoughts on this issue. 

In Isaiah 1, God is criticising His people for their empty religious practices. 
““The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭1:11-15‬ ‭NIV‬‬

At this point, it’s important to notice that the sacrifices etc were required by God’s law. The problem (here at least!) is not that they’re sacrificing to idols or something like that. God is saying that He is sick of their sacrifices and prayers. Why? Well, the explanation begins in the final phrase of the above verses, “your hands a full of blood”, which God then tells them to wash off themselves. 

“Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭1:16-17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So, we do see a problem of hypocrisy; they’re doing the right religious ceremonies, but they leave it at ceremony, instead of letting God’s will direct everything else about their relationships, individually and as a society. They’re not obeying God’s will in all things. So, they’re hypocrites. Unjust ones. 

But we don’t actually see a hypocrisy of emotion. It’s not that they’re prayers don’t feel genuine to God, or that their sacrifices don’t have a ring of emotional sincerity. The hypocrisy is the gap between their religious ceremonies and the rest of their lives. God isn’t concerned with their emotions at all in this passage, but their actions, and the way their actions reflect their understanding of and attitude towards themselves and God. 

So does that make it irrelevant to the issue I’m trying to address, of when there’s a gap between how we feel and the way we follow Jesus? Shouldn’t I pick a passage that talks about emotions?!! 

Well, yes, but also, a huge part of that problem is simply us, our society and culture. The culture of the Bible is aware of emotions, most emphatically, they’re not ignored or discounted, but they’re not given the high place our culture gives them. So the hypocrisy we feel regarding emotions and actions isn’t necessarily directly addressed. 

For a few different reasons, we’ve ended up with a culture where emotions (which are notoriously changeable and unreliable) are the main measure of genuineness. How we feel about a decision is how we should make it, our preference or mood should dictate our actions. “What do you feel like for dinner?” Is a normal question to us.  Dinner is no longer about nutrition, price and community, but, emotion…? 

This obsession with emotion and genuineness is particularly emphasised by the idea that spontaneity = authenticity. If two people fall in love “instantly” it must be genuine, and if it takes longer or even much longer than that, we question it. This has an interesting side effect in church, is a prepared prayer still genuine? What if someone else wrote it and we’re all saying it at the same time? Are these really “my” words? 

How we feel about something has become the only measure for truth. We leave jobs, relationships, houses and countries all because we’re not “feeling it” any more. We seek new jobs, relationships, houses, countries and other experiences so that we’ll feel something. 

Whereas, if we pause for a second and ask, “hands up who feels better about things after a good sleep?” Our collective hands would be raised, in acknowledgement that our emotions can change, simply through physical processes! “Hands up if you’ve felt sad at 11pm and ok again by morning? Or if you’ve been grumpy and then eaten a good snack and everything has improved?” For heaven’s sake, we’ve even got advertising based around that fact!  “Hands up if you feel better after a good cry?” And bam, you’ve got a whole field of psychology. 

We do actually know that emotions change a lot, over time, for heaps of different reasons, including medication, but our culture tells us that how we feel should be key in decision making and general actions. But is this what the Bible says? And what do we do about that? Does God want me to “genuinely feel” some particular way about Him and His people and the thing we’re doing for me to do it? What should we do when we’re not “feeling it”? Take a spiritual snack? Have a spiritual nap? Is the old, “break from church” the solution??* 

Well, if we return to Isaiah for a moment we can see that God’s solution to their hypocrisy was not simply to have an emotional response and a change of emotions, but actually is a call to fresh action. “Seek justice, learn to do right, defend the oppressed.” They’re not going to fix the problem of their hypocrisy simply by emoting about it; mourning, regretting, etc. All of those would be appropriate emotional reactions, but, more than that, God is calling them to act. He wants what they do to represent what they say they know and believe. Elsewhere, He will talk about mourning and sighing over their sins (for eg) but He wants action, that aligns with that they say they believe. 

Our culture says, “let your emotional state govern your actions”, the Bible says, “let God’s will govern your actions”. We might not feel anything in particular about God and His people. Or we might be angry, disappointed, sad, etc etc etc. But what do we say we believe? That God is the divine ruler of the world and deserves all honour, power and glory? That means we could take at least a tiny slice of our week to be devoted to a sacrifice of praise to Him? Do we believe that we should not giving up meeting together, as instructed in Hebrews, because each of us has a part to play in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians)?

I am a person of interesting emotional states. I have depression, which means often my emotional state is “die or hibernate under quilt forever.” Or the great, yawning gulf of “meh” which some of my fellow depressives are familiar with. “Cute cat”, meh. “Mum died”, meh. “Won lotto”, meh. And, some of my days are a constant battle against the conviction that everyone would be better off if I was dead. In fact, if there was a way we could erase my exitsence altogether, that would be better, let’s make it as if I had never been born. Is that an emotional state? Mm, kinda Mostly. Should I act on it? No. Why not? Cos it’s not true. It doesn’t define me and shouldn’t be allowed to make my decisions for me. 

Yes, sometimes stuff like going to a church service is hard or just boring. Or prayer feels like it’s not happening cos it’s not an emotionally rich experience. Yes, I look forward to the day when I will feel how I’d like to feel about these things, but for now, the gap between my feelings and my actions is not hypocrisy, it’s hope. Hope that how I’m feeling now will change. Hope that putting into practise what I believe will be better for me and for everybody around me. And better for them too, if they do it too. 

*I’m not actually gonna say it never is, sometimes a break is just necessary for sanity, especially in tough circumstances. Talk to someone whose emotions about church are mixed because they’ve been molested in a church, or whose congregation is constantly at war over trivial matters, or whose minister is a discouraging hate monger and you’ll be talking to some people who find church emotionally tough. Talk to someone whose mental illness makes it difficult to leave the house, or whose chronic pain makes sitting upright in a pew excruciating, and you’ll be talking to someone who finds church mento all tough and might need a break from going to services.           

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You too can make grown women cry! 

So, I’ve got this friend Graham and he’s magical. For lots of different reasons, but especially including his incredible talent for making women cry. 

Now, I recognise that that’s not something everyone wants to do, so, maybe that’s not the magical part… 

Maybe the magical part is that the women almost always feel better afterwards. Feel… Reassured, welcomed, listened to, cared for. It’s pretty special. So many of us have to pay someone for that. A counsellor, a psychologist, a psychotherapist. Graham does it for free. And it’s an effective and beautiful gift. 

What does he do that brings women to tears? Apart from being the friendliest, smiliest man ever? (There was this one time when he was sick on a group trip, and not smiling, and like, the whole dynamic of the group changed. It’s like the bottom fell out of everything. Graham unhappy. So weird!) 

What he does, is that he sits down with you, looks at you and says, “how are you.” 

Yup. That’s it. The question we all hear a bunch of times a day really. So why is it different when he asks? 

It’s partly that he manages to communicate that he’s actually asking and actually wants to hear the answer. Think about it, when was the last time someone said “how are you” as more than just phat speech? The fill in speech we all say. The type of thing you can easily say at the same time and just laugh it off, cos it matters but doesn’t matter. Phat speech. When you accidentally say, “hihowareyou” at the same time. 

It’s rare to be asked “how are you” and know the person wants the answer, whatever it is. Graham manages to convey to you that he does want the answer. AND, he’s happy to hear the answer however long it takes. 

Graham is used to me, and probably used to people like me, which means he knows we’re used to being asked “how are you” but not used to having the answer welcomed or listened too. We’re hesitant at first when he asks us because it feels like actually the answer to that question could never end. And we know people don’t have time for that. They don’t actually have time to bother. We feel like we’ll be a hassle, so we don’t answer. 

Or, we feel like the person asking won’t understand. Yes, we could tell them that bit and that bit, but not all the bits. We’re constantly self-editing. We have to. There are very few people who give us the time and safety to say how we actually are doing. 

Which is why Graham is magic cos he manages to inspire the confidence so quickly, you believe him when he asks and you can tell from his body language and tone and everything that he’s not gonna push you, but he’s hearing. It really is pretty incredible. So many times, my heart has been lifted because Graham has said, “hey! How are you?!” 

Now, with Graham, I know there’s more to it than that. Like I said, there’s the smilingness. And he gives great hugs. And he’s big and comfy and friendly, he’s the perfect, non-threatening listening post. Not all of us have those qualities. And not all of us do have have time all the time to ask all the people this. And that’s ok! But it’s certainly interesting to observe Graham’s magic in action and figure out what the rest of us can replicate. 

I think the key thing is that it starts in the same place Graham starts, which is asking. And making it clear you’re asking seriously, and have the time to hear the answer and want to hear it. 

I am so blessed to have Graham as a friend. He has lifted my heart many many times in many ways, but including lightening my load by asking “how are you”. I’m also even more lavishly blessed to have quite a few people in my life who, if they ask this question, I know that, like Graham, they want to know. But so many people don’t have that. For lots of reasons, they can be hesitant to actually tel someone. But also, for many of them, too few people actually ask. 

How about we all try to use the magic of “how are you”? You might be amazed, surprised, dismayed, enlightened or amused by the response. But whatever the content, it’s a wonderful gift to someone. 

Now just wait til I blog about Graham’s incredible wife Sarah!!
*disclaimer – I’m sure this has a pretty similar effect when Graham asks his many guy friends how they are as well , just maybe not the crying part? IDK. They might do that behind closed doors. 

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Sometimes I’m good at welcoming*

*and by welcoming I’m mostly talking about at church, but also in my people based ministry job.  But I actually apply these things all the time, at people’s parties, funerals, sudden shared public experiences. I like to think I’d be useful in a plane crash. 

So, I’m an introvert, and I don’t like new things, and I don’t like people (OK, well sometimes I do) and yet most people think I’m an extrovert who loves meeting people. Is this an evil deception on my part? Poor ability on behalf of others to understand people? An accident? 

Well, I hope it’s not an evil deception, and it’s true that some people aren’t great at looking below the surface, but it’s certainly not an accident. 

Instead, it’s an intentional practise on my part, for quite specific reasons, in most social circumstances, to be more than my natural self in order to love others.

1. Intentional. If left to my own devices, I would possibly never leave the house. Well, maybe occasionally, but only if people promised to be interesting and skip the small talk. If I’m ever gonna be welcoming, it has to be on purpose. 

2. Specific reasons. This is connected to the final point, but I don’t just do this cos I feel like it’s what people should do. I love manners, I think they’re a sign of a gracious society  of respect, but I try to be welcoming because it’s a measureably, provably good way of helping people become part of a community. So, the big reason is love, the specific reasons are; welcoming is a form of hospitality, it helps new people integrate into a community, it encourages others to think outside themselves too. 

3. In most social circumstances. As stated above, I’m particularly thinking about the process of welcoming people at church (you know how the people up the front keep bugging you to be welcoming? I’m talking about that) but I do usually try to be welcoming wherever I am. It’s a service you can provide for others who might feel shy, sad, uncomfortable or uncertain. Plus, when you meet people, you never know what could happen through those a new connections, so it’s good to keep that in mind too. 

4. In order to love others. When I’m at church, and there’s new people, or new-ish people, and I’m thinking about me, I could be thinking any or all of the following:

 – I am fat and ugly, no one would want to talk to me. 

 – I am tired and want to go home. 

 – I am sick of being the one to do this, why can’t someone else talk to that new person?!

 – I’d really love to be nourished this morning, instead of having to give, I give all week. Being nourished does not include awkward small talk. Ugh. I just really wanna talk to just my friends. 

 You will have your own versions of this. It could include things like:

 – I am here to flirt. I only have one chance to see that girl this week, I’m gonna make a beeline for her and start leering. 

 – I have no idea what to say to people. This would be awful and full of awkward silences and they would never want to come back and may instead prefer to move to another state rather than have to talk to me again. 

 – I feel awkward talking to that weird looking older man, for I am but a 19 year old girl. I can tell from here that he’s weird. 

Most of these things, when focussed on me instead of the other, would prevent me from ever bothering. 

But here’s some things the new people are thinking:

 – gaaaaaaaah!!! This is so awkward!!! I hate meeting strangers, and here I am, surrounded by strangers! And I don’t know what I’m doing, cos this is a new church and they do things weird here. 

 – ohmigosh, that weird old guy is going to come over and talk to me, and I am but a 19 year old girl. I can tell from here that he’s weird. Oh! He’s the minister… Awkward!!! 

 – I am trying to be brave today, but everyone is just talking to everyone else, and I don’t feel confident enough to break into someone’s  conversation. Maybe I’ll just really quickly finish my awkward cup of tea and go and find another church where people are nice. 

 – I am fat and ugly and no one wants to talk to me (unfortunately, I’ve had people, real life people tell me that at this point they’re thinking, “it’s cos I”m Asian/black/gender-ambiguous isn’t it” (for eg) which is sad enough that people have so many reasons to feel that and terrible when/if that’s actually what’s going on!!!).

Imagine feeling all that stuff! And being surrounded by people who are so busy thinking of themselves they can’t be bothered talking to you! 

If you want to love and welcome other people, you’re gonna have to get over yourself. Yes, you might be fat and ugly, you might hate meeting new people, but this is not about you. It’s about them. 

So, if you’re like me, what do you do to be better at this? Once you’ve fixed the attitude that is. 

1. I try to take care of myself. What a place to start, right? But seriously, I tend to feel most depressed and self-conscious when (I stop taking my medicine) I don’t get enough sleep, or spend some time doing things I enjoy, or having fun with people I love. So, I try to make sure I do that stuff so I’m as energised and fresh for the (for me) harder task of meeting new people. 

2. You can actually learn small talk and practise makes perfect. “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met before. Is this your first time here? Oh, and what brought you along today? What do you do during the week? How did you find the service today? Would you prefer to eat poo flavoured icecream or icecream flavoured poo?” There are various questions that work across lots of different demographics, and the key thing is to listen because then you might have a follow up question. “Oh, so you’ve moved to the area, how did the move go? What brought you here?” Etc etc etc. Before you know it, you’re having a conversation. YES it’s not the most riveting conversation ever had, but it’s better than leaving them standing there alone, and you can introduce them to someone else too. Then they know TWO people! 

3. Recruit other people. Maybe you are a 19 year old girl and don’t want to approach older men (for eg), then, get to know some of the guys in your church and, when you notice the new guy, drag one of the guys you already know with you to make it less awkward. 
ALSO, sometimes you do just need a week on the bench. The week has been really draining and you do just need to catch up with a friend. Your anxiety level is high today and the fact that you left your house is energy enough. That’s great! You do that! Let someone else do this occasionally. If we’re all welcoming, everyone can have their necessary time off. Sometimes it’s your friend who’s had the crazy weekend they just need to debrief with you. Again, that’s great, you’ve encouraged all the other people at church to be welcoming, so you don’t have to carry the whole load by yourself. Hooray! 

And that’s it actually, that’s all I’ve done/all I do, and I’ve convinced literally hundreds of people that I’m confident and happy to meet them! Slash, and more importantly, I’ve helped hundreds of people survive their first week at a new church and showed them some of the love of God. 

You do not have to be a glamorous, extroverted, confident person to welcome people into your church and church family, cos even I can do it! You don’t need a personality change; you just have to care. 

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What’d I miss?

It’s the holidays, and so of course, I’m home alone and in a reflective mood. Particularly at the moment I’m thinking about the moments of 2015 that passed me by. 

Fitbit – this is a thing right? Is it just a pedometer…? Or what? I’m confused, but they’re everywhere. You know you can get a pedometer for $3 at Kmart right? Anyway, it seems like Fitbit (and pedometers in general) could end up involving maths. Ugh. Best left alone. 

Biebs –  Of course there were more Justin Bieber moments in 2015, there have to have been. But as I only recently started listening to commercial radio again, I have mercifully missed most of them. Unfortunately the words, “my mama don’t like you and she likes everyone” are torturously circling through my head rn, but I choose to blame the shopping centre for that one. Other than that, I’m sorry Biebs, you garnered even less of my attention in 2015 than granola. 

Star Wars – a late entry into 2015 in terms of opening date, but not in terms of public consciousness. Notsomuch for me. I know I watched the original trilogy at some point in early life, but I really don’t remember it. I can remember some bits of The Phantom Menace, but mostly cos we got the computer game. I just… Well… Meh. Sorry guys, it’s not that I don’t like Sci Fi (did somebody say Jean Luc hubba-hubba Picard?!) but I just don’t “get” the Star Wars thing. I am however enjoying people saying “pew pew pew” to me. 

Crop tops – of course, I am forbidden by fat-ists from wearing one (and even the fat positive blogs would probably blanch at the public display of my Robin Williams-esque quantity of upper tummy hair (hey, it was apparently quite cold at some point in my genetic heritage!) even if they found my chub acceptable), but yeah, apparently crop tops were/are a thing this year? All I know is, when I wandered into Sportsgirl for the first time in years because I was desperately trying to find black lipstick, a lot of the stuff in the store looked like I’d walked back into highschool (especially circa 10 Things I Hate About You (oh Heath! Why?! Why so young?!)) up to and including white crop tops with long black skirts. Well, idk, welcome back crop tops I spose. Will we get all those little bejewelled butterfly hair clips back too? 

Burgers – ok, so I didn’t really miss burgers, like, I ate some, and not all of them from McDonalds. I even queued in the dark at a food truck (and then several hours later revisited that delicious meal… At least I got to smell it all again) for one (I’m very trendy). But apparently, Sydney at least, went crazy for “American style” burgers, but I didn’t keep up my end of the bargain and I haven’t even been to The Burger Project. Of all the things I’ve missed this year, this will be one I aim to catch up on. 

What a year it’s been. So many highlights. And much to look forward to next time. I might even discover when the anti-griddle became a thing. 

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A reason to sing. 

Soooooo, if this link works, you should be able to hear my poorly recorded but not as poor as the morning version of my sermon to St George’s Anglican Church, Paddington on December 6th.

The text focuses on Zechariah’s song, but takes into account the full story of Zechariah and Elizabeth mostly in Luke 1.

Sermon Luke 1 – Zechariah’s Song

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What happens after you say, “I forgive you”?

There’s a trouble that confronts us all when we consider the disturbingly high statistics of domestic violence. 

What happens afterward? 

There’s been a story floating around from the U.S the last couple of weeks about a TV ‘star’ called Josh Duggar. He’s hosted some shows on Discovery and is part of a show about his family, as he is one of 19 children in a religious family. 

It’s become clear that as a teenager he sexually molested five young girls, including four of his own sisters. 

Now, part of me wants to share further details, because, I think rightly, we do recognised that there are shades of intensity in such crimes. For example, we distinguish between murder and manslaughter, when both at their core are the killing of another person. 

But the other part doesn’t want to because that information should be enough! So much abuse is denied and shaken off as “high spirits”, “youthful mistakes”, “just a bad mood” etc etc etc. “Justified”, or, to be more accurate, “excused” based on endless permutations of advocation of responsibility. 

Which of these are justified though? 

In most cultures, we accept that childhood and adolescence involve a lessened amount of responsibility based on lessened knowledge, experience and control. And I think that’s fair enough, I think there should be different treatment and judgement for juvenile offenders. So, there is some justification for it being unfair for the press to drag Josh himself through the mud. 

The real problem is his parents. Like so many others, they did not deal well with the situation. When the learned of the initial molestation, they “disciplined him at home”. This was clearly ineffective as he continued in the behaviour, so eventually, Jim Bob talked to the church elders and they sent him away for a few months. 


I just want to let that sit for a moment. As usual, the Christian impulse is often to cover up, hide from or pretend sin hasn’t happened, as a greater priority than generously and lovingly caring for those effected. 


After Josh came back from his summer break, dad Jim Bob introduced him to a policeman, who instead of reporting the issues, as a mandatory reporter which of course he was, he gave Josh a stern talking to. In other news, which some claim to be unrelated information, that policeman was later arrested on charges relating to child pornography and is serving a 56 year sentence. Yeah, totally unrelated. 

So anyways, by the time the official reporting happened, it was more than three years after the events and therefore, according to Arkansas law, couldn’t be prosecuted. His parents waited at least 16 months before telling any authorities. Besides, y’know, the church elders. 

So, there’s lots to be said. But the thing this mostly makes me think about at the moment is “how do we deal with the after effects?”

Obviously for the victims (hello-o!!! ANY help for the girls?! No? Thanks mum and dad!!) but also, what do we do with the perpetrator?

Does the fact that he was a juvenile mean we should “forgive” him (whatever that means anyway)? Even though he was never punished, counselled or rehabilitated? 

What if he was punished, counselled and rehabilitated? Do we ignore all the stats that say he’ll reoffend and carry on as usual?

What if Josh (and his wife and kids) were at your church? Would you be happy to have him on the crèche roster (although I don’t think the men at his church do that) (although let’s face it, that’s reality for a lot of churches. Apparently guys are happy to make the kids, they just leave the crèche roster to the women and children)? Or would you feel like a bad Christian for not wanting him near your kids? Does forgiveness complete the process of restoration? Can it? Should it? 

It’s strange isn’t it that for a religion centred on forgiveness and mercy, we’re often unclear on how to deal with the details and struggles of forgiveness between people in a sinful world.
And we’re definitely not clear on how to do this when it comes to domestic violence, because we’re usually to busy covering it up or pretending it’s not happening. 

It’s difficult people. What do you  do when your son has sexually molested your daughter

I know I’ve mostly just raised questions for now, but I do have some pond rings to share later on suggested, partial answers. 

What about you? 

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Would you like the number of my cleaner?

Just kidding, I don’t have one, but I’d definitely pass their number out if I did and they were good! And I’d get rid of them if they weren’t any good. 

So, is this the most sickeningly middle class blog post I’ve ever made? Possibly, but gimme a sec. 

I’ve discussed the ‘issue’ of cleaners and food delivery services with various people at various times, and there is a lot of guilt out there! 

One of my dear friends had cleaners every fortnight and I was SO GLAD for her! She worked really hard all day, and then on into extra hours and also participating really fully in her church community. She lived alone, and, as I’m sure you can understand, keeping on top of cleaning and cooking for herself in the midst of all this was a bit of a headache. And she had money. She gave to church and charity, wisely saved and wasn’t indulgent, why not spend money on something that almost every previous generation of Westerners wouldn’t question and what many other cultures see as a normal part of life? 

In fact, certainly in our past, but also in other cultures now, it’s seen as somehow selfish and ungrateful if you have the income to employ ‘help’ but don’t. And having been in that side of the coin, being the help, I’ve really needed the money and have been grateful people were happy to have me in their home and taking care of their children. Their employment of me has kept me in food and shelter. 

So where does the guilt come from? 

Is it guilt at having that much money? 

Ok, y so you’ve been entrusted with this income, what’re you gonna do with it? Is spending it on semi-skilled labour any better or worse than the other options? Which will include what? Saving for holidays…? Buying a fancy car? Or providing employment for people which will help your household function well and driving a slightly crappier car because seriously, having a cleaner is more useful?

Maybe it’s guilt at the idea that you should be able to do it all? 

NO ONE has EVER done it all!! Seriously! 

Ok so, you grew up without servants, well surprise, your family had gadgets instead, which are supposed to help but usually don’t. Running a household is TOUGH especially if you want to actually spend time with your family as well as keep everything clean. So, it’s not a surprise we’re always looking for help of some kind. 

Now obviously this would be a ludicrous conversation to be having with people or families who don’t have enough income for shelter and food, but I know that like me, most of my readers can afford that and then some. So. Ponder where your guilt has come from and examine it. 

Also, think about what kind of help would help you most? 

Is it laundry that kills you? Ironing? 

Would your life run a bit more smoothly if you had someone in once a fortnight to vacuum, mop and dust? I know if it were me, that would be the only times such things occurred as frequently as that! 

Maybe instead of ordering semi-crappy take out three times a week cos you’re all exhausted, recognise that gap in your life and preorder food from a decent home delivery service that provides fresh food. 

If your pantry is already full of prepackaged, processed food because you have five minutes a day for cooking, recognise that you’re already spending a tonne of money on that and consider if it’s the best option. 

If a robot is already doing your vacuuming, you officially don’t have time to do it. 
Maybe just try it. If you find yourself wishing you had help with something, and you can, give it a go and see what happens. Maybe it does free you up to focus on what you’d like to. Or yes, it impacts other things financially but it’s worth it. Less money on coffee, more on not living in a cess-pit. 

My money is prioritised in other directions at the moment, but for most of the people I talk to about this, I love them, they work super hard (whether it’s paid or un-paid), the decision is not about ostentation but using their time and money well. I don’t begrudge them one minute of their fortnightly cleaner or ironing lady.

And if I have to go back to un/semi-skilled labour, I’ll be thankful for anyone who’ll pay me to do the above. 

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Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (gay Irishman).

It mostly happens with authors of non-fiction of course. I want to start talking to them. 

I can still remember reading the delightful Bill Bryson’s account of driving an ocean road and trying to remember the words to Waltzing Matilda. I so wish I could’ve done that trip of Australia with him, explaining as we went, including the fact that we enjoy making up alternate words for our songs, so rather than correct him, I would’ve wound down my window also and sung loud and crude. 

I mean, it’s a song about a suicidal thief anyways, it’s not quite a ballad of king and country. 

This impulse is worse when I listen to the author read his work. My audible addiction is mostly to biography, I particularly enjoy comedian’s accounts of themselves, but of course, Bryson’s works are just as fun and fascinating. 

Through biography, almost more than simple ‘objective’ historical narrative, you can understand and gain insight into what being middle class in England in the sixties actually meant. I grow to understand more cultural references on current television, by hearing authors explain what their favourite childhood television shows involved. 

And when you stumble on a good one, a thinker, someone taking a broad sweep, not just narrating their individual experiences, it is FASCINATING. 

Recently I finished listening to Graham Norton read his The Life and Loves of a He Devil: A Memoir and therefore gained a great deal of insight into Norton, of course, but also, through his eyes, growing up Protestant in the very Catholic south of Ireland, the impact of AIDS on the gay community in the 80s and 90s, and the change Ireland has undergone in the second half of the twentieth century. SO INTERESTING!

And it makes me want to talk to him. I feel friendly now. Half the problem of celebrity I suppose, people feel like they know you! 

I want to say, “I admire your work ethic. I feel like that’s a large part of what’s kept you grounded all these years, through the celebrity, and means you very much still understand the lives of non-celebs as well.” AND I want to say, after viewing a recent Ep of his show, “what was with the beard Graham?!” It’s not that I don’t like beards, far from it, but it was such an unexpected place to see one! 

My dad has been clean shaven all the time I’ve known him, so it’s just how I see him, and how his face should look to me. So much so, that for years, whenever I’d opened the family albums, I’d seen a photo of him with a bunch of people at his little brothers wedding and never realised it was him! For about 25 years! He had a great big bushy beard and I’d never picked it as him. 

So it was a surprise to see Graham up in the audience he loves, sporting a grizzly, grey fuzz, well manicured of course, but surprising. 

I’d also want to ask him if he’d seen the film Calvary, and if so, what’d he thought?
I love the movie, am overwhelmed and shocked and provoked by it every time I watch it. And inspired. Saddened. Given hope. 

It’s an appropriately named film. 

But I want to know what Graham would think. He’s Irish, has felt the change increased travel and technology has brought to his culture, and yet, would recognise the occasionally suffocating atmosphere of small community. 

What would he think of this encounter with a good priest, who receives all the hatred, vitriol and punishment meant for the bad ones. 

Would he see how far the condemnation of abuse of has changed things, but for the worse as well as the good…?  

I think Graham’s insights would be very interesting, and particularly open up the Irishness of the film to me properly. I watch it as an outsider, and, as Graham would point out, he does too, being brought up Protestant. But he knows, and sees, and feels the response of his countrymen in a way I never can. 

The story isn’t just Irish though. It’s a story for everywhere, and for everyone. It represents and reenacts and reflects on the greatest swap there’s ever been in history. All the injustice and hope of it. 

Graham explains several times that he doesn’t believe in God, and, as is so often the case, I don’t believe in the God he doesn’t believe in either. 

Partly Graham’s unbelief (disbelief?) is down to a familiarity with, not just a comprehension of, the suffering that plagues human life. You can tell he loves his family and friends, and extends to others the same compassionate recognition, and so, in seeing people “senselessly” suffer, he recognises there’s a problem. 

He just makes the mistake most do of assigning the problem to the wrong origin, and the wrong rectifier. He is like the dad in the movie, who, having lost his little girl, sees her walking down the road with a priest – egad! And flings hate at him while ‘rescuing’ his daughter from this terrible situation. 

By this point, the viewer knows James, the priest, very well. Most would observe that he thoughtfully remains on the opposite side of the lane to her, hands in his pockets. And that his questions to her reflect the fact that he’s concerned for her welfare, without in the least alarming her. He doesn’t recognise the child, and it’s therefore strange to find her wandering the lanes alone. He’s probably going to find out where she’s wandered from, where she should be, and return her to the best place for her. But his actions are mistook, misread, because of the vile mess we make and are victims of. And so the offer of help is rejected. 

I’d like to hear what Graham thinks of the movie, because I’d love to see if it expose his own misconceptions to him, just a little, and what he wants to do with that. 

I’d like to hear the next chapter. 

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

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How to be a super awesome lobby group, yay!

In the spirit of Mungo MacCallum, but with none of his style, here’s some tips for the aspiring Lobby Group or Minor Political Party Director on how to be super awesome. 

1. Make it clear to your supporters and anyone else who’ll listen that when governments or whichever group you’re pressuring/threatening responds to your wishes, they are making a sensible, measured decision in the interests of the people. BUT, whenever they respond to your opposition, make sure people know the government is spineless and are responding in a knee-jerk fashion to powerful but shadowy figures who don’t represent the average punter. The evil bastards! 

2. Whenever you use an expert opinion, make sure no one figures out too quickly that though they may be an expert, they’re not actually speaking on their field of expertise. A classic eg is Richard Dawkins, the biologist, discussing philosophy, theology and literature. I’m sure you can think of more examples. 

3. Make sure your press releases are eminently copy-able. After all, journalists are busy, hungry creatures, and sub editors just need to fill in the space between ads. They’ll suck up any content you feed them, especially if you make it seem like you’ve done the fact checking already. That way they can just whack it in. 

4. Take a leaf from the instruction book of great leaders and appeal to whichever emotional lever you can find. John Howard appealed to our occasionally latent patriotism with his characterisation of refugees as some sort of invasion, Hitler made it clear the Jews were responsible for every bad thing which ever happened in Germany, you can do likewise. Make it seem like children are threatened, or that those shadowy figures are out to steal everything good about television, or some other equally beloved treasure. The mouth frothers will join you immediately. 

Of course, this is just the beginning, stoop lower and further greatness awaits you. 

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Mother’s Day

This is an old post of mine from my other long-standing blog heartbeatpoecy 

I’ve thought about importing that blog to here as well and closing it, but I’ve decided to let it stand as an artifact of bad poetry. 

This was my Mother’s Day post there from 2012.

Mother’s Day

Every mothers mothers mother’s made mistakes.

Frowns, beatings, disappointments, frozen heartaches.
Emotional shutdowns, fire words,
warring jealousies, cold grudges.

Wounds nursed not just for lifetimes,
but generations,
blood passed, mother to daughter,
bruises repeated, one to another.

77 times, and 77 times more.
Forgive, forgive, forgive,
clasp hand to breast.
Swallow the poison again and again,
vomit it up,
get rid of the gall.
Spew out the bile on Jesus’
bare, anointed feet.
Wash off with tears,
and then,

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