Sunday, July 31, 2011

The ancient art

I owe L an apology. 

Let me start at the beginning.

Once upon a time, back last century, when I first left home to attend university, I lived for the first year in the halls of residence on campus.  Email was very uncommon back then, only post grad students at the university had access to it.  So I kept in touch with all my family and friends with old fashioned, pen and paper kind of letters.  Does anyone else remember those?  I remember writing 3 or 4 page long epistles, describing all sorts of daily adventures, thoughts and musings, and general conversation.  I remember the excitement at checking the mail each day, and it was a depressing day when my mailbox was empty.

Writing letters was fun.  You didn’t just get to tell the stories of your daily life, you could decorate the letter in lots of creative ways, and include interesting clippings and other treasures.  And there was the pleasure of buying nice stationery and pens.

That was the good old days.  And then came the arrival of email.  At first email was good.  I would still exchange the newsy chatty letters, but now they would get there instantly.  But slowly it deteriorated.  My inbox became filled with emails that you had to scroll down two screens of everyone’s forwarded email addressed just to read some lame joke that someone thought was funny enough to pass around.  I found I was reading very little in the way of real news and correspondence from my friends.  Once I filtered out the spam, I was left with business type emails, and not much else.  A bit like how my physical mailbox only brought me bills.

Sometime ago, I drew up a list of a few friends that I thought would be interested (mostly those that hadn’t found their way onto my social media sites) and sent out a series of Real Letters.  I got a few replies electronically, and it was lovely to actually get a chatty newsy email again.  But L was the only friend to enter into the spirit of the correspondence and reply by “snail mail”.  And so for more than a year I’ve had again the pleasure of a REAL correspondence.

But now comes the bit about the apology.  I’ve been overdue to write to L for more than a month.  And I don’t have any real excuses.  I’ve probably been spending too much time reading and writing blogs. 

Today I got out my fountain pen and ink, and my notepad, and again revived the ancient art of letter writing.  I wrote about stuff that would normally be too private for sharing publically on a blog.  I wrote my thoughts as they occurred, without editing, as part of a conversation.  Then I had an enjoyable walk on the sunny Sunday afternoon down to the post box to send it on its way.

So L, I apologise for the delay, but rest assured, your letter is on its way to you now, and you’ll hopefully have it by Tuesday.

P.S.  If anyone else is interested in a snail-mail correspondence, email me at with your details.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Deep calls to deep

Following along from my post last week about Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I figured I should start actually re-reading the book.

A cold, wintery Sunday afternoon.  The lounge is the warmest room of the house.  It’s also the room where everyone else is keeping warm.  I open the book to the first chapter.

We must not be led to believe the disciplines are for spiritual giants and hence beyond our reach, or for contemplatives who devote all their time to prayer and meditation.  Far from it.  God intends the disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings: people who have jobs, who care for children, who must wash dishes and mow lawns.

A DVD of Beatrix Potter stories is playing on the TV.  The eldest child is playing a game on the family PC.  The teenage from next door is hanging out on our sofa, chatting to Hubby about school, siblings and life in general.  I’m listening to the conversation while I’m reading, and adding an occasional question or comment.

I turn the page, and try to concentrate on reading again.

Psalm 42:7 reads “Deep calls to deep.” Perhaps somewhere in the subterranean chambers of your life you have heard the call to deeper, fuller living.  Perhaps you have become weary of frothy experiences and shallow teaching.  Every now and then you have caught glimpses, hints of something more than you have known.  Inwardly you have longed to launch out into the deep.

Peter Rabbit is being chased by Famer McGregor.  I put the book down to intervene between the two younger children squabbling over the blocks on the mat.  The teenager stands up and starts saying goodbye.  The eldest child gets frustrated with her computer game, and asks for help.

I struggle with the contrast of the daily working, parenting life, and the deeper, spiritual life.  How do I make the “deeper” a reality when it’s a challenge to find some peace and quiet to even read about it?

Snow in our City

We don’t often get snow at sea level around here.  Apart from a few centimetres that melt by lunchtime.  Last Big Snow was 1992, and prior to that sometime in the 1970’s.

I’m not going to work today.  Phoned the boss to say I was going to be late getting the car out of the driveway, he said we’d wait until later in the day since the roads aren’t safe.


Rugged up the children for them to explore the unfamiliar white stuff.

Miss Seven and Daddy made a snowman and had a snowball fight.

Picture 091Picture 094Picture 095

Miss Five ventured out to help for a short time, then ran inside crying because her fingers were hurting even with gloves on.

Mister Two got as far as the doorstep, then turned around and came straight back inside.  The younger children admired the snowman from the window.

I am VERY thankful we have our fire.  The electric heater would not have kept up. (Our house is an older house and doesn’t have very much insulation).

Everyone I know in Christchurch is posting snow photos on their facebook pages.  We’re like a city filled with excited children.

I might even get some writing done today!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Good Morning World

I went to bed last night determined that I would get up 15 minutes earlier than I normally do, so I could have more time in the morning.  Ideally I’d like to have an extra half an hour in the morning, but 15 minutes should be more achievable.

At 6:00am the radio turns on.  I roll over.  The newsreader merges into a background hum as my sub-consciousness drags me back into the dreamscape.  When a child inserts herself between the sheets next to me, I roll towards her and snuggle her warmth close.

6:30am – the alarm on my cell phone chirps.  The plan is to get up in another 15 minutes, so I push the snooze (or did I click “off”?) and tuck the phone under my pillow.  I try to actually listen to the radio news.  I find myself hearing the North Island weather, bit drift back into oblivion before the forecast for Christchurch.

I’m wedged between hubby’s back and the sleeping child.  There's a cat curled up at my feet.  I feel warm and cosy.  My eyes are still closed.  I tell myself that it’s time to start moving, but nothing happens.  I visualise myself getting up and having a shower.  I start dreaming about the bathroom.

I become aware that the radio announcer is reading the news again.  I open one eye – 7:05am.  I realise that I can’t remember any of the news items from the previous bulletins, so decide to listen to it again.  The house is still and dark.  No-one else is moving.  My eyes gradually close.  I try to will my eyes to reopen.  There is no response.

I finally pull myself out of bed, tucking the bedding back around the sleeping child, and head into the bathroom.  It’s now 7:15am.

When I’ve finished my shower, I sit down for my morning prayer.  I try to focus on the Psalm I’m reading, but one eye is still on the clock.  It’s now 7:25am and I need to be having breakfast in 5 minutes if I want to be ready to leave for work on time.  I finish the readings, and realise that I haven’t really taken anything in.  I want to be able to spend some more time re-reading and reflecting and praying, but instead I close my Bible and head for the kitchen.  Tomorrow, I promise myself, I’ll get up 15 minutes earlier so I have more time to pray.  15 minutes should be achievable…


CCI19072011_00000 I’m aware that my faith is not at the depth I would like it to have.  I could make all sorts of excuses about why I’m not putting more time into my spirituality – tiredness, busy-ness, earthquake disruptions – but at the end of the day I know that I need to be more disciplined in my spiritual practices.

I’ve been reading this book on and off for the last few months.  But there’s a gap between the reading and the putting into practice.  Is that just me?

I’ve decided that I’m going to try working more slowly through the book and actually try to put each discipline into practice.  I don’t want to rush through each chapter – I’ll spend two or three weeks on each discipline until I have mastered  reached some competency  gained a very basic grasp of each one. (Don’t worry, Craig, I have a copy on order from Book Depository, so you won’t be waiting a year for me to return your copy.)

These kinds of challenges are always easier to do with others.  Is there anyone out there interested in joining me?  Drop a comment below to let me know.  Then buy, borrow or beg a copy of the book and have a look at chapter 1.  I’ll pop back each week with how I’m getting on. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

I'm Loving... WotWots

I don't often do these linky things - but today I really needed to "Love" being loved.  I've blogged the full story over at my "Family" blog:

Vici Emarjay: I'm Loving... WotWots: "J loves the WotWots. What's a WotWot I hear you ask? J is right in the middle of the target age group for these characters..."


Monday, July 11, 2011

Community - The glue that holds us together

We humans are social creatures. We are not designed to function well in solitude (the odd hermit making an exception usually turn out rather odd, which proves my point).

Here in Christchurch we have rediscovered the importance of community. 

Miss Seven takes water to a classmate
a few days after Feb 22nd
Our neighbours have become so much more than just people who happen to live in the same street. Within a few minutes of each of the main quakes - even at 4am on 4th September – our neighbours knocked on our door to make sure we were okay. The night of the 22nd February was spend camping on our neighbours lounge floor – just to be together. We've got a bond, a shared connection from having come through life changing experiences together, from supporting and helping each other. 

I wrote about the rootedness I've found in Christchurch. I've realised that it's not so much the physical place (although it plays its part) it's the people, the community. I like being able to know and become friends with my neighbours. I like being on first name basis at the dairy, the greengrocers, my favourite cafe. I like being able to stop and say hello and chat with people I know when out and about shopping. It's the connectedness to these people that gives me a sense of belonging.

At least 5,000 families in Christchurch are going to lose their neighbourhoods that have bonded so strongly, as they queued for water tankers or portaloos. These neighbours became the strength and support that have brought these families through disaster. The financial reimbersment for the house and land from the insurance companies and government will never make up for what is really being lost – the community that will be fragmented by the dispersal of these families to other parts of the city, country and world.

In February we grieved in community. Now, we hope and rebuild in community.

One of the key themes from Share an Idea was the need for the new inner city to focus more on people than buildings or things.

Didn't it stir the hearts of all of us when we saw the thousands of students heading out with their shovels an wheelbarrows. Power company technicians working around the clock to rig emergency cables to restore power in our crippled city. The international USAR teams crossing the globe in our hour of need. The whole country decking out in Red and Black, and filling donation buckets.  The shared grief and shock and solidarity when we heard about Japan's quake and tsunami.

In the last 11 months since I started blogging I've found a different community again – the online community. I never realised that blogging was so much of a dialogue, how much you could get to konw people you'd never met. I never realised how much you – all of you – would become friends, even from around the world.

It was special to be able to be invited to the Christchurch bloggers get together last week by Miriam, and actually meet in person a community that I'd become a part of.

Community is vital for a thriving and growing faith. When my own faith wavers and prayer becomes difficult, by praying together with others who share my faith builds up my own.  It goes beyond attendance at worship services, it's also the sharing of life together.  Our congregation also makes the effort to have regular social events, ranging from a lunch once a month, to a more elaborate annual family event.  While they're fun, I think they're also important for building those connections, so we become more than just a bunch of people who happen to spend a few hours on a Sunday morning in the same place. 

The events of the last 10 months have reminded me of how important these different parts of my community are.  I need to keep reminding myself, otherwise as time moves on it would be so easy to forget this, and begin to take them for granted again.