Jamberoo Abbey-part one.

Two weeks ago I actually left the comfort of home and travelled to New South Wales to visit Jamberoo Abbey. The Abbey was featured on a not-awful-reality-show years ago and ever since then I’ve wanted to visit (even though I’m fairly sure that was right in the middle of my ‘I’m an atheist and you’re an idiot’ phase so who knows what was going on there?). I planned to go last year but pulled out because comfort zone and all that but I finally made it and I so incredibly glad that I did.

It didn’t take a whole lot of planning obviously (because one plane and one bus is something that even I can organise) but it took a lot of mental fortitude to leave my children- hence the postponement from when this was meant to happen back in December.

This is the kind of conversation I had in the weeks leading up to it;
“So what’s happening with you, Eva?”
“I’m going up to Sydney for a silent mediation retreat type thing and I’m so excited (I called it a ‘meditation type thing’ because I don’t know what kind of circles you hang in, but in mine you don’t announce that you’re going away to pray and attend chapel 6 times a day)
‘Great, Sydney! Where are you going to eat/shop/ sightsee?’
‘Actually I’m going to get straight on a bus and travel for several hours into the bush where I’ll spend two days in silent contemplation. Then I’ll get back on a bus and go straight home. I’M SO EXCITED!’

At which point the person wanders off to find some a bit more interesting who doesn’t consider that sort of shenanigan to be a good time.

I suppose that describing the goings on of a weekend when you essentially did nothing doesn’t make for particularly good blogging. I read, I went to Vespers and Compline and Lauds and all those other lovely things that make you realise how important it is to insert ‘sacred pauses’ within your normal day. I did go shopping, because there was a little book shop and it was lovely to spend some time looking at Catholic books instead of the more easy to find Protestant ones that I usually find myself reading (this photo is of my stash. Too tiny, but click if you’re interested).
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Now, becoming Catholic has always been a concept that has loitered around the periphery of my mind (my family blames a show called ‘Brides of Christ’ that screened here in Australia during the ’80s). I’m fairly sure at this stage that it’s never going to happen, principally because it seems like a lot of effort for something that I don’t really feel hugely convinced about. I do feel drawn to it but I think that its more of a cultural thing that a deep conviction. Heck, I have enough trouble actually calling myself a Christian. There’s a whole lot more baggage you have to take on board to get to Catholic-city. There’s more side-eye WTF about Catholicism for me than there is about Christianity in general so I’d have to go all Saul/Paul to convert at this stage. Which would be entertaining for all I’m sure but unlikely.

But there are things that I love about Catholicism which are able to be integrated with my own beliefs, as much as I’ve criticised people who cherry-pick bits and pieces of spirituality for their own gratification. So much wisdom is to be found within the great Catholic writers and thinkers. Ignatian spirituality is wonderful, and I’m looking forwards to eventually finish Julian of Norwichs’ ‘Showings’ (actually one of the Nuns recommended to more digestible Julian book that you can see in the photo) and I loved “The Way of the Pilgrim” (which prompted me to buy The Philokalia. Have you ever tried to read that?? Jesus. I’ll get back to it when I finish rereading Summa Theologica for the third time).

In between bushwalk and sitting and listening to the Nuns singing, I finished reading several books (Gods Smuggler, Six Sacred Rules for Families and Something Other Than God), journalled (as much as I do which isn’t much) and contemplated life and all that it entails.

Of course the crushing realisations of how I can be a better mother and person that come when you have time away from your children and real life made an appearance early on, but once I got through the general self-loathing part of the weekend it wasn’t half bad. Somewhat surprisingly (because I thought the pressure of YOU ARE IN THE PRENSENCE OF NUNS, GET YOURSELF A RELIGIOUS EPIPHANY!! would mean that I’d end up playing Candy Crush for two days) I did have some useful and potentially meaningful spiritual thoughts. Potentially, because if I don’t actually follow up these ideas then they will just fade away into nothing, wont they? I’m going to have to pursue some rabbit holes a bit further, I think, but I do like a new idea to wrestle with.

I’ll elaborate more on these next post. Not because they are amazing and merit their own space but because this is already stupidly long and rambling.

Incidentally, do you have any idea how many subscribers you lose when you abandon your blog for four months? About 40, that’s how many.

My inaugural ‘7 Quick Takes’.

 

  • – This is my first ‘7 Quick Takes’, although I’ve been reading them at http://www.conversiondiary.com for years (I’ve been known to comment ‘I REMEMBER HER BEFORE SHE WAS FAMOUS!!’ which isn’t at all stalky and obnoxious). I love reading Jennifer’s writing, and it’s a good lesson for me to remember that I can like and respect someone while disagreeing (a lot, in some cases) with some of their opinions. And as I’ve said before I feel really drawn to Catholicism. Not drawn enough to become one, but still.

 

  •  So, Christians held World Vision hostage and demanded that the organisation change its mind about the decision to employ people in same sex marriages. Because Jesus absolutely said ‘Come to me, little children, unless someone on the other side of the world pisses me off, in which case please go and die of malaria in a shanty with no plumbing. Off you pop’. THIS is why people see (some) Christians as hypocritical, legalistic and nasty. And in this case they entirely have a point.

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  • I’ve been teaching Grade 10s about the Holocaust this week. Absolutely the worst part of the teaching year for me. And the part that really really makes me question an all loving God. I know, I know, just because I can’t understand something doesn’t mean that there isn’t some huge bigger picture thing, but sheesh.

 

  • I’ve had a few emails recently from people asking if I’d be willing to feature some guest posts. This is a great idea for a number of reasons and I’ll write more about it later in the week. But if you are a blogger or even a non-blogger with an opinion and you would like to be a guest poster here, keep your eye out for more info. There’s only so many times you can put up with me going ‘Hey, I believe in God today!’ and ‘Nope, that’s it, it’s all hopeless’ before you click over to FoodGawker permanently. We need some new material, people.

 

  • On Wednesday, my Archie who is now eight, asked me ‘Why is it that when there are lots of girls and a few boys in a show it’s called a girly type show, but when there’s more boys than girls it’s a normal show?’. I showed great restraint and didn’t  launch into a ‘because patriarchy’ rant. I’ll wait till he’s ten for that.

 

  •  I’ve noticed lately that most blogs that I comment on have a moderation policy. I’ve never felt the need for one and I’m wondering if I’ve just been lucky when it comes to polite and generally good- mannered comments here, or if it’s because I don’t automatically go TROLL!! when someone doesn’t agree with what I’ve said. (I hope that this doesn’t jinx me and unleash floodgates of crazy).

 

  • I quite like this ‘7 Quick Takes’ thing. It’s a place for all the ideas that aren’t really worth a whole post but that I’d quite like to share. And it means that I’ve posted twice today so I’m practically a professional blogger.

 

 

 

For more Quick Takes, visit http://www.conversiondiary.com.

Well this is quite big, really.

Ok. Right-oh.

I’m ready to state categorically and definitively that I do now believe in life after death.

That’s it.

If you’re waiting for the punch-line then don’t bother because there isn’t one.

No, God hasn’t spoken to me and I haven’t seen a ghost or had a NDE. As I’ve always protested and lamented, my much longed for belief would have to come with one of those circumstances preceding it. There’s no way that I would just take other people’s experiences or claims as truth without seeing the reality for myself.

Arrogant? Maybe. But to me this whole area is much too important to just jump on a bandwagon willy-nilly.

As I suppose I could have expected, I’ve finally read myself into belief and there is one book that, just last week, finally made me go; These people aren’t lying. This man is legit. This is really happening.

The book is Return To Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives and it’s pretty amazing. Back in my seriously Skeptic-Atheist days I could debunk a claimed reincarnation at 50 paces but the cases in here are absolutely mind-boggling. And I just realised ‘This stuff is for real’. And then I re-read Holy Ghsots and Grave’s End and the fascinating books by my favourite Karina Machado and I realised that people aren’t delusional, or manipulative or ignorant or any of the other words used to describe people who believe in God or spirits or ‘other realms’.

The simple explanation is, it’s true. Not everyone can sense these things, not everyone feels a direct connection to God, but that doesn’t mean that they are not valid. I have a seriously awesome sense of direction. My sister gets lost going to the shop. I can’t explain my ability to her, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

So I’m not quite sure what this all means. I feel that I should be writing a more profound post, but this is what we’ve got. I know some of you will be disappointed that this does not neatly segue into my being a Christian. Sure, culturally that would make sense but I think I’ll just sit with my new understanding for a while.

Here’s to not being dead!!

Today is my 40th birthday and after two weeks that have seen the death of several acquaintances, I’m happy to be able to announce the fact that I’ve had the privilege of travelling around the sun fourty times.

After a morning of unwrapping lovely handmade gifts from the boys and self- bought but husband wrapped books and DVDs ( it’s better that way, I think) I’m sitting in my favourite local drinkeree ( it’s my birthday, I can make up words) having a coffee and a read.

I’m not a celebrator of birthdays ( well, more specifically MY birthdays. I’m a crazy person for other people’s). I’m not sure why. Not because I mind ageing because I absolutely don’t. They are just prone to make me cry a little rather than do the dance of joy. I’m not going to analyse it, I’m just going to drink my coffee and then spend the rest of the day doing my normal Saturday type things with my family.
Because normal ordinary everyday life is the best type of life, after all.

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Spending for Jesus

See? I’m taking this James thing seriously. Quick trip to my friendly local Christian bookshop and I’m set.

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When ever I go in to town to visit the shop (called Koorong), I let the boys buy some cheap plastic balls or whistles or what ever are for sale, to keep them happy while I browse.

Usually, at some stage over the next week my husband will ask ‘Why is there a box of crayons (or eraser or squishy thing with tentacles) here with ‘Jesus Loves Me’ written on it?’ I swear that shop personalises every.single.thing.

Voice of…something. Not making any sweeping claims.

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Like pretty much every body alive (except maybe Benedictine nuns or Zen Buddhists), my monkey- mind is fairly dominant. There are constantly 8000 thoughts clammering for attention in my head. I do attempt to calm this all down; I’ve been trying to meditate lately, and given that I don’t have a quiet second from 5am onwards this has been at about 8.30pm. (So far I’ve gone a whole 5 minutes before falling asleep. Win!)

Sometimes though, I get these very clear, very succinct thoughts. I think of them as my block letter ideas.

They are clear, fully formed and usually quite wise; three things that I’m not particularly famous for. I have to concede that they’re not amazingly insightful thoughts that I couldn’t get on my own (if I had 5 minutes to sit quietly or compose a thought, that is). They are more along the lines of being good, sensible advice that I’d be better off taking notice of.

A less skeptical person (less skeptical than me, I mean) would see this as a God-thing I’m sure, but given, as I said, that these thoughts are not always 1000 times removed from the sort of thoughts that I would have myself then I’m not going to automatically call ‘voice of God!!’.

So the other night I was umming and ahing over what I should read. Something light (Kisses for Katie), something heavier (The Seven Story Mountain) or just give it all up and watch Real Housewives of OC, when the bold letters appeared in my head

‘Read the Book of James’

and I thought ‘Oh, that’s a good idea. I haven’t opened the Bible for ages. I’ll look at a bit of James’.

‘All of it’

‘That’s not going to happen’, I thought. I knew that there were about 30 minutes before my narcolepsy kicked in. Of course those amongst you who have more bible learnin’ that me will know that James is really short- only a few pages. So I went down stairs and found my ‘Case for Christ’ Bible (I like this Bible but I don’t love Strobel and think that his case is weak and unconvincing. So there).

I read James, thinking ‘hmmm, lots of good stuff here; I should make time to really get into it and study it’.

Do it properly, take notes.

Hmmm.

So now we have ‘Team God’, who would say that of course this is God leading me in a particular direction and ‘Team Subconscious’, flying the flag of ‘it’s your own thoughts, leading you in the direction of where you think you should go’.

Obviously I’m now reading through James very carefully, because I’ve either had an instruction from the Big Fella or my subconscious is giving me really clear and explicit instruction.

And you know what? Given the amount of work/ parenting/ life decisions that I have to make on a daily basis, and the fact that I often feel as if I have no idea how I’m supposed to navigate this thing called ‘life’, being given big, bold, don’t mess with me instructions is pretty fabulous.

Barefoot Faith

I’m reading a compelling and beautifully written book this weekend called ‘Barefoot Church; Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture’, by Brandon Hatmaker.

It quite cheap on Kindle at the moment- I really recommend it if you’re in the mood for some ‘Kingdom work here on earth‘ motivation (and aren’t we always?).

There are lots of excellent ideas and quotes and- gasp- I’m actually seeing the relevance of some biblical passages. Who would have thought it??

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This quote in particular has stuck with me. Obviously I’m applying it to faith, but it could be used for anything from losing weight ( yes please. I’m shallow, OK?) to having a neat house (yes please also). Thank goodness I’m applying it to more lofty ideals 🙂

Quote-Full Friday #4

‘I was very, very religious. And of course I wrote about it in ‘Night.’ I questioned God’s silence. So I questioned. I don’t have an answer for that. Does it mean that I stopped having faith? No. I have faith, but I question it.’

Elie Wiesel