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Alison
11 April 2014 @ 04:45 pm
I lose track of what we are supposed to think about presentation of self on the internet. One minute it is liberating, the next minute it is dangerous. One minute it is our authentic self, the next it is a pack of lies. We tell young people to be careful about what they share on facebook, what they send to their friends via the latest social networking platform. What's done in secret will never stay a secret - be careful even about your private communication!

Last December this blog turned 10 years old. And as the years have gone and the hype swells and retreats, I keep asking myself: Is my blog potentially dangerous? Have I written irresponsible things? Boring things? Have I misrepresented myself in public?

I think the answer to almost all of those things is yes! But I don't regret this haphazard collection of writing at all. In the end, almost by accident, I've collected a strange public record that tells a narrative of my life, my development from exuberant teenager to settled young lady, to who knows how much further into the future.

Is it an irresponsible record? Definitely! I suppose it would be a neat resource for anyone who wanted to target me for identity theft. Is it a boring record? Yep. There are so many random memories, in-jokes with myself and references to people and events that readers don't know. There are half-baked ideas and rants about music and television shows and music. There are memes and quizzes (back from the day when a meme was a quiz) filled with information that is no longer, and arguably never was, interesting or relevant.

And does it represent who I really am? Well, no. For every post here, there are 500 things I haven't shared (actually, this is probably not true of what was written in 2004 - I think I was pretty free with sharing every thought back then). Am I the same person now as I was in 2004? Well, yes. And... no? How fascinating and slippery is our identity! It's been me all along, and I know that full well, but these days I think and speak and process ideas so differently compared to ten years ago.

Ultimately I think a 10 year old blog can represent an individual very well! It is a powerful reminder that while some things don't change about us, many other things do. We like to assess other people's identities, values and opinions by the things they publish - from blogs, comments, and wall posts to poetry, works of literature and scholarly articles - but in these end these moments of published writing are just snapshots in time. To really grasp the person, you need to know how to place these moments on the story of their life.

As my life has shifted in and out of different seasons I've always resisted dumping this blog and starting afresh exactly for this reason. I am not the same person I was in 2004, but actually I am. In the end I don't think I want to publish anything that is disconnected from my story. I have been faithful to this blog, and faithful to this blogging platform, for a long time! Sadly though, the culture of the internet has not been particularly faithful to this blogging platform. We use the internet a little differently now, and I am blogging a little differently now, and the time has come to move. I'm heading over to a new domain, and taking this whole 10 year project with me. Who knows where it will go next>

Despite taking every post and every comment over to newblog, I know this is a real rupture for Akrokorinth (the actual name of my blog for those playing at home on their friends page). The community here at LJ is a legitimately wonderful one. I'll miss the freedom this platform gives to rant about things that highbrow blogs don't care about (it's also kind of liberating to not have access to any visitor stats!). But even more I'll miss my LJ friends - you whom I've never met personally, and you whom I know face to face (the few of you who are left!). I'm sorry my posts won't be turning up on your feeds anymore! I'll still be stopping by to visit you.
 
 
Alison
21 March 2014 @ 11:08 am
I think I just read one of the most helpful explanations of what biblical apocalyptic language was used for:

If you had been a journalist in AD69, what language owuld you have used to describe the Year of the Four Emperors? Probably the same kind of cosmic, apocalyptic language that was used after September 11, 2001. 'The End of the World'? Well, naturally. But it wasn't of course. It was simply the end of a world order in which certain things had been assumed to be fixed and unalterable, and which were now discovered to be frail and vulnerable. Of course, highly charged metaphors about the sun, the moon and the stars invest such events with a particular significance, just as journalist language does when it speaks of an election in terms of a 'landslide' or of a new campaigning politician as a 'tornado'.
- N.T. Wright (2013), Paul and the Faithfulness of God, p165-6.
Emphasis in the original.


Controversial, I know, but I'm adding it to the pile of ideas anyway!
 
 
Alison
16 March 2014 @ 03:36 pm
Thanks be to God for rest days, for scripture, for quiet places, for understanding and loving friends, for tea.
For a roof over my head, and for rain on the roof. For a garden I can eat from, for the food others made for me.

It's hard sometimes to carve out time to sit and rest, to quietly exist. To recuperate from crowds, long drives, endless jobs.
It rained today. It was lovely.

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Alison
11 March 2014 @ 11:06 pm
March has been a diverse month: high highs, and low lows. Moments of clarity and thoughtfulness. Moments of knee-jerking and sudden reaction. We are not even half way in.

Here are three texts I have been meditating on over the last couple of weeks.

SongCollapse )

SonnetCollapse )

ScriptureCollapse )
 
 
Alison
13 February 2014 @ 05:10 pm
After many years of promising to give the university chaplains a proper place to work, the university administrators finally fulfilled their word. Our ramshackle fibro cottage was knocked down to make way for landscaped gardens and we moved into a new building. Desks! Air conditioning! A store room! A fire escape!

In the context of working with university staff it's given me a surprising sense of security and belonging. Even though I still barely work from the chaplaincy offices, just knowing that there is a desk I can work from makes me feel like I belong here. Legitimately. I belong like all the people I am ministering to. I belong like all the people I am trying to share the gospel with.

I'm scared of what this sense of belonging betrays. It kind of feels like my identity as a Howie (a pastor? a missionary? a harvest worker? whatever I am.) is tied to a room with four desks that I have never actually worked from. That seems a little bit ridiculous! How would I cope if I was doing the work of my peers in France, who aren't even allowed to be on their university campuses? Surely my sense of belonging should be tied to my identity in Christ. I should sit uneasy knowing that we are given a space to work on a campus where the majority of people hate that we are here. I should stand firm knowing that we are more than conquerors in Christ, and that nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8). Upon reflection I remember that Jesus is a more stable and permanent reality than the chaplains' offices at Sydney University.

Last week I walked past a woman who runs a cafe on campus on my way into work. She smiled and said hi. And today a security guard that I've walked past almost every day for the last year finally replied to my greeting with a friendly nod of the head, a smile and a 'what's up?'

This is a different kind of belonging again, the kind where people know who I am. They know I am in their buildings every day. They might not know my name yet, and they might not know what I do yet but I hope I get a chance to tell them over the next 10 months! Place is important, but it's the relationships that should matter most to me at the moment. This year I think my challenge will be to ground my identity and my work on Jesus first, relationships with staff and students second, and the beautiful campus last.
 
 
Alison
[Warning: I don't normally swear on this blog but this post includes some swear words. Just letting you know if you need to prepare yourself!]

'It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well. It isn't only the synonyms; there are also the antonyms. After all, what justifcation is there for a word which is simply the opposite of another word? A word contains the opposite in itself. Take "good" for instance. If you had a word like "good", wehat need is there for a word like "bad"? "Ungood" will do just as well - better, because it's an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of "good", what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like "excellent" and "splendid" and all the rest of them? "Plusgood" covers the meaning; or "doubleplusgood" if you want something stronger still. Of course we use those forms already, but in the final version of Newspeak there'll be nothing else. In the end the whole notion of goodness and badness will be covered by only six words - in reality, only one word. Don't you see the beauty of that? ...Don't you see the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?'

1984, Chapter 5
George Orwell


Language is a subjective thing. What counts as a swear word? The memory of my adolescent self is still apologizing for saying 'damn' so much here in the early days. I had no idea it was that offensive in North America until a few years ago.

What counts as a curse word seems to be constantly changing, dependent on time and place. And for Christians there are a range of different views on what kind of language we should be using, supported by a hundred different arguments and counterarguments (many drawn from the bible) to back up whatever position we've taken:

- "Don't take God's name in vain, people!"
- "I only use swear words when things are really bad - when they really express something!"
- "The bible says 'let no filthy talk come from your mouth'. And swear words are filthy. So logically..."
- "Some people might be offended by those words, but that's not what I mean when I say them."
- "They're just words - they have no power."
- "You're quoting the bible out of context."
- "Those words are demeaning to women, we shouldn't be using them."
- "I am free in Christ to express myself."
- "I use my freedom in Christ to sacrifice my self expression for the sake of others."

I've heard them all.
This is not what I'm writing about today.Collapse )
 
 
Alison
31 January 2014 @ 06:09 pm
This Australia Day, my Dad won an award! Even more - he was accepted as a member of the Order of Australia, which as far as I can make out is like Australia's chillaxed version of the British knighthood.
"Sir Frederick and Lady Wentworth! It would be but a new creation, however, and I never think much of your new creations."
- Mary Musgrove, Persuasion, Chapter 9

Haha! I had that quote in my head all day after I found out!

In all seriousness I am very proud of my Dad. I think I had the most memorable Australia Day celebrating with him, both at the local council ceremony where he was given his award for local citizenship, and at the big party my mum threw for him afterwards. My Dad works really hard, it was very special to see him recognised. He is going to have a great time when the Governor (General?) gives him whatever he gets to acknowledge his Order of Australia membership later in the year!

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That's my Dad, getting an award :)


The day was also memorable for opening up two new experiences for me:
1. My first ever citizenship ceremony.
2. My first party almost exclusively attended by agnostic and atheist 50+ year olds since I starting working in Christian ministry.

So, along with overwhelming feelings of pride in my Dad and sharing his joy, my head was also abuzz with 500 other thoughts:
- What does it mean to Australian when everyone is disagreeing over indigenous history and migration policy?
- How do Liberal party members manage to sing the second verse of the national anthem with any integrity?
- If I was making a bingo sheet to take to a future citizenship ceremonies and awards ceremonies, what politically contested buzz words would I include?
(my list so far includes: 'contribution', 'celebration', 'invasion', 'survival', 'migrant', 'heritage', 'volunteer', 'founded in 1788', '50 000 years'.)
- What on earth is the deal with Baby Boomer spirituality? They all seem to be believe in some kind of weak-but-still-spiritual pluralism that I have never encountered in anyone outside of their age cohort. They also all seem to assume that everyone else thinks the same way they do.
- Will Baby Boomers ever understand that Gen Y and those coming after them will never be able to purchase homes close to the Sydney CBD?

Lots of things to chew over, lots of difficult questions. Maybe I'll tackle the easy one first and work on my bingo list for next year.
 
 
Alison
31 December 2013 @ 09:48 am
You'd think that with a job in student ministry I should be disciplined enough to get my personal bible reading in order. Sadly, no, it's still a struggle to spend time alone in God's word every day. Thankfully, however, God has still been teaching me great things this year through the many other contexts where I've spent time considering scripture: at church, with friends, in bible studies, conferences and even (sometimes) in the quiet of my own home. There have been many recurring themes coming out in my learning throughout the year, especially as I read the same book in many contexts (at one point I was being taught from the book of James simultaneously by three different people!). I'd love to end 2013 by remembering the ways that the scriptures have challenged me during the year.



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Alison
12 December 2013 @ 09:08 pm
Christmas is only two weeks away!

I have been relatively quiet here on Livejournal but not in the wider blogosphere. Matt and I have been working on The Advent Project, a labour of love that we have been planning and writing over the last couple of months. Now we are in Advent and our blog has been live for a couple of weeks. There is (if I may say so myself) a great collection of music, poetry, quotes, art, DIY ideas and book reviews to help reflect on the advent season, with more to come as we lead up to Christmas. Please have a look, I hope you find something interesting and edifying.

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Alison
After a two year hiatus I have returned to netball this summer for a short season. Returning once again to the sport that occupied my childhood and adolescence has brought fresh perspective to some interesting phenomena of netball. Here is the second in a series of three posts.

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Part 2: Facial recognition and spatial awareness

I had forgotten, in the intervening years, just how physical and embodied team sports actually are. They really do lift your social engagement to a whole new level of heightened physical awareness, and sensitivity to emotions, and careful analysis of others. Except that people are physically moving everywhere all over the place really fast and ferociously. And the emotions are driven by competition, reacting to every little thing that happens in the moment. And the careful analysis is not to understand the person holistically but to analyse their playing, to determine strategy, to beat them. So heightened, but much less personal.

My positions on the court are defence and goal keeping. Sometimes I play against a shooter that I really get, right from the moment we step on court. Those are the most fun games; I can tell exactly where she will go, and how she will move. When I play against these girls, they hardly ever get opportunities to score because I usually intercept passes to them before they can get into the circle. I can stand a metre or two in front of my partner, with my back to her, and know exactly where she is from the sound of her feet and the pattern of her past plays. I've noticed, after a few weeks in a row of partners like this, that I struggle to identify the girl I was playing against when it comes to shaking hands at the end of the game. After an hour of being able to plot her every move without looking directly at her, I'll still have no idea what her face looks like!

Sometimes I play against shooters that really get me. They know exactly what I am going to do and where I am going to go. They run rings around me and get every goal into the ring. I feel like an idiot, waving my hands in the air, knowing that I cannot stop the inevitable. I know what the faces of these girls look like! Some of them are girls I played against as a teenager, their faces are still buried in my subconscious. I feel a tiny pang of fear when I turn up to the court, and see them, and recognise them. Memories of old, difficult matches come creeping back and wonder if she is now old enough - like me - to be on the downward spiral of fitness with a slowing metabolism. Hopefully she will be an easier opponent today? Nope. It hardly ever works out that way!

Such strange social interactions! Such a heightened awareness of others' movements, such strong memories of faces, all driven by adrenalin! The thing that is so weird is that for all this heightened interaction I know none of their names, none of their stories. It's all very unbalanced.
 
 
Alison
After a two year hiatus I have returned to netball this summer for a short season. Returning once again to the sport that occupied my childhood and adolescence has brought fresh perspective to some interesting phenomena of netball. Here is the first in a series of three posts.

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Part 1: Gender and Uniform

One of the students I've had the pleasure to meet in my ministry this year is Becki - a wonderful pre-service PE teacher, a new follower of Jesus and a very thoughtful feminist. Listening to her talk about sport and women one afternoon my eyes were opened to a distressing trend:

When men wear particular items of clothing to play sport, they often become fashionable. Think converse shoes, baseball caps, football jerseys. However the clothes that women wear to play sport are often determined by fashion. Think hockey uniforms, beach volleyball uniforms. Are women really playing international beach volleyball in skimpy bikinis because it's comfortable?

This observation is really just the stuff that appears on the surface, the fruit of a whole disturbing culture of sexism in sport. This phenomenon is tied to the reasons we watch sport, the way women's sport is marketed, the way women are marketed. The only sport where I have seen women celebrated as (semi-)professional athletes, where games are broadcast on television and the players allowed to wear a comfortable uniform is football/soccer. Maybe cricket. In all other sports I can think of the women are either mocked for playing or participating, or they have to wear something ridiculous to be taken seriously.

About a month after this clarifying conversation I turned up at the netball courts for my first game and collected my uniform from my manager.

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Alison
15 November 2013 @ 11:19 am
Doctors visits are few and far between for me at the moment. Thank heavens! Health wise, budget wise, time wise - it makes everything easier!

I visited the doctor recently for an extended consultation; it happened to be the week that saving for Christmas had left my budget particularly tight. I prepared myself emotionally (for a long conversation with the doctor), and financially (for a large bill, only half of which would be covered by Medicare).

And then the consultation happened. The best doctor's visit ever! The doctor was beautiful, perfect bedside manner! Everything was fine, nothing to be anxious about! And then I went outside to pay the receptionist:
"Don't worry about it sweetie. She put it all on Medicare."

!!!!!

THANK YOU LOUISE!! What a wonderful doctor to forfeit her extra income for that visit and only take the basic Medicare rate! And THANK YOU GOUGH WHITLAM!! Medicare is amazing and you were a crazy visionary. And THANK YOU to the Lord, for somehow orchestrating this moment to happen at just the right time. I was emotionally wrung out, a little financially stretched - it was a wonderfully practical moment of grace that has left me feeling buoyant and hopeful and very very grateful!
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Alison
01 November 2013 @ 04:51 pm
We have been growing a mystery vegetable in our garden all winter and spring. It's beautiful, it was a climber, with tiny leaves and flowers and tendrils. And then it started bearing fruit, tiny pods. Were they peas? Nope. It turned out to be a lentil bush.

It's exciting to finally work out what it is, but I also feel a little let down. I've invested a lot of time and energy in caring for this plant, and to harvest all the lentils from it will take even more time and energy. In the end I will probably nearly get enough lentils for one meal. It's hasn't turned out to be a particularly cost-efficient crop.

I've planted more seeds anyway, and they are already sprouting. Maybe I am a little foolish, but those leaves and flowers are so beautiful! I would love to grow them again. Maybe in a different part of the garden. This time I'll save the vegetable patch for actual vegetables.

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Alison
07 October 2013 @ 02:09 pm
In 2008, Matthew, myself and our friend Yi started a Sunday afternoon international bible study at our church. Yesterday our group met for the last time. We finished reading Acts, we celebrated Tao's recent engagement, we prayed for each other and sent each other off to our new ministries.

After 5 years, almost 50 different people from at least 10 different countries and many, many books of the bible, our group finally reached the stage where it was time to shut down. There are now enough Mandarin speakers in the church to sustain two Chinese bible study groups (praise God!), and at present no-one else needing an ESL group (please, God, help us to welcome more people from other language communities!).

Finishing up was the right thing to do; it feels appropriate to free up our friends to lead others in their mother-tongue. But I also feel very sad. Sure, it was hard work. It was difficult to have people constantly coming and going, and the weeks that no-one turned up were the hardest of all. But even as people came and went I always enjoyed gathering around God's word with people from around the world. I learned new and surprising things I had never considered before. I got to read the bible with people who had never opened it before. How devastating to think that it's over now!

I praise God for all the people who helped us to get the group off the ground, supported us and helped us to lead it over the years: for Yi, Katrina, Toby, Brice, Jason, Dan, Leo, Ryan, Tao and Jan. And for all the others who came through and blessed us with their insights, company and friendship: for Juan, Sunny, Pablo, Jian, Michelle, Allen, Alice, Lulu, Lin, Forest, Irina, Jin, Emily, Andy, Deepak, Fifi, Adrian, Sashi, Benny, Cam, Jonathan, Julia, Ivy, Jennifer, Myung Sook, Vanessa, Oscar, Heyley, and many other friends of friends who dropped in for a week or two.

Nostalgia in picture form, under the cutCollapse )
 
 
Alison
27 September 2013 @ 05:21 pm
Now that I've been a Howie for close to a year and I'm definitely out of the honeymoon phase I feel more comfortable comparing my old job with my new one. I am 100% convinced that it was the right time to finish at Anglicare and work at something other than research. However I realised recently that the change in work has meant that I don't write very much anymore. This has made me really happy on one hand, and really sad on the other. I don't miss writing research papers, reports and briefings. But all that writing put me in a good and reflective headspace, a place where I would think, and read, and reflect, and then write. I don't get many opportunities to write now. Mainly I think, and read, and reflect, and then speak. It's different. I miss writing. I wonder whether my relative silence on livejournal this year is connected?

Of course student ministry shouldn't necessarily stop me from writing. Lots of fellow Howies have blogs, and lots of fellow Howies have made time to read, reflect and write. Praise God for them. Here are two great articles my colleagues have written recently:

Richard wrote this article on humility and power in the context of university ministry. I found it pretty confronting. It’s a huge challenge to the way I think about my own work.

"The desire for power is at the heart of sin: Adam and Eve’s temptation was to take hold of the power to define good and evil (Genesis 3). The temptation facing students at the University of Sydney is one and the same: it is the temptation to think we can remake the world in our own image. It is easy to be blind to this temptation for many university students on my campus because they often come from the upper echelons of Sydney society, have significant family wealth, or have graduated from a highly respected school. In addition, many come from churches that are almost exclusively populated by upper-middle class Anglo-Saxon professionals, thus completing the illusion that there is no real tension between the humility of Christian witness and the way we wealthy Westerners lead our lives.”


Brian wrote this article about the impact of student ministry on an introvert. It’s one of the most uplifting pieces on personality and ministry that I’ve ever read.

"Do I get drained by all the social interaction?
Yes. But not as much as I used to be.
Do I sometimes withdraw and act like a hermit?
Yes. But not as much as I used to.
Am I socially awkward and shy?
I AM SO AWKWARD. But I think I’m better than I used to be.
Am I still an introvert?
By golly, yes!”


I feel like I've been learning so much this year, and thinking deeply about many things. I have read and thought more about the doctrine of the Trinity than ever before. I've dived deep into the book of James through multiple sermon series and bible studies. I've been thinking hard about ethics, public Christianity, popular culture, presentation of the self and how university ministry intersects with it all. I've been dreaming about leadership models and pastoral skills. I feel like all these ideas are too complex and interconnected for to easily spin into blog posts. But they're not, really. I think I just have to keep working at my writing.