Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Son is Born

My friend Bei-En posted this powerful piece of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I just had to steal it for my Christmas Eve blog.

Look up, you whose eyes are fixed on this earth, you who are captivated by the events and changes on the surface of this earth. Look up, you who turned away from heaven to this ground because you had become disillusioned. Look up, you whose eyes are laden with tears, you who mourn the loss all that the earth has snatched away. Look up, you who cannot lift your eyes because you are so laden with guilt.

“Look up, your redemption is drawing near.”

Something different than you see daily, something more important, something infinitely greater and more powerful is taking place. Become aware of it, be on your guard, wait a short while longer, wait and something new will overtake you! God will come, Jesus will take possession of you and you will be a redeemed people!

Lift up your heads, you army of the afflicted, the humbled, the discouraged, you defeated army with bowed heads. The battle is not lost, the victory is yours—take courage, be strong! There is no room here for shaking your heads and doubting, because Christ is coming.

Today's sentence from the Australian Prayer Book fits in rather beautifully, too:

This is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.

This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Isaiah 25:9

My return to western civilisation has been marked by the general sensation of being unfashionable, unconnected,uninteresting, and unintelligible. I'm finding it difficult to have conversations - to connect. I'm acutely aware of my Bishkek style. But you know what? Tonight, I don't care. These things will pass, for Jesus is come, the light of the world and the king of Heaven!

Friday, December 23, 2011


I have a proclivity for worship.

If I were married, my husband would be my god.

If I lived a middle-class life, a perfect lifestyle would be my crowning glory.

If I had money, a bank account would be my king.

If I had children, they would be little gods to me.

By some kind of grace - though it doesn't always feel like grace - I am not at a point in my life where I am worshipping a regular person, or an ideology, or a lifestyle, though God knows how close I've come to each.

(I hoard my little idols. In fact, without much effort, I could easily end up like those junk-pile ladies in Labyrinth):

So, this Christmas, I look to Jesus, the author of my life, who knows so perfectly what I need. What else have I to bring him, and what more does He ask for, than my worship?

What is there here for me? Are these like Him?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Haiku: The Glorious Revolution of Today

From here:

A Bright Winter's Day

Today is Emily's due date, but someone forgot to tell the baby, so we went for a walk along the canals near Leighton Buzzard instead. It was very beautiful. Tonight, we're going to make gingerbread and plan out a Christmas menu.

This time last year, I was also in England, but it was frosty and I was in a fog of anticipation about Bishkek. Now, Bishkek is my home, and England is sunny and a strange place to me. I still don't quite know how to act and what to say - but it's coming back, slowly.

Anyway, here is Emily with me and with Roy, healthy and well and nowhere near about to give birth.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

10 Astonishing Things

1. Cars that pay attention to road signs and lane markings.

2. Being able to flush toilet paper (instead of binning it).

3. Instant hot water.

4. Shop assistants who thank you.

5. Great coffee available on every corner.

6. Perfect strangers on the street who say make eye contact and say Merry Christmas!

7. Internet as fast as lightning.

8. 78 types of muesli.

9. The absence of stray animals.

10. Speaking English!

More to come, once I recover my senses...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bonhoeffer Prays in Prison:

God, I call to you early in the morning,
help me pray and collect my thoughts,
I cannot do so alone.
In me it is dark, but with you there is light.
I am lonely, but do not abandon me.
I am faint-hearted, but from you comes my help.
I am restless, but with you is peace.
In me is bitterness, but with you is patience.
I do not understand your ways, but you know the right way for me.
Father in heaven,
Praise and thanks be to you for the quiet of the night.
Praise and thanks be to you for the new day.
Praise and thanks be to you for all your goodness and faithfulness in my life thus far.
You have granted me much good,
now let me also accept hardship from your hand.
You will not lay on me more than I can
You make all things serve your children for the best.
Lord Jesus Christ,
you were poor and miserable, imprisoned and abandoned as I am.
You know all human need,
you remain with me when no human being stands by me,
you do not forget me and you seek me,
you want me to recognize you and turn back to you.
Lord, I hear your call and follow.
Help me!
Holy Spirit,
Grant me the faith
that saves me from despair and vice.
Grant me the love for God and others
that purges all hate and bitterness,
grant me the hope
that frees me from fear and despondency.
Teach me to discern Jesus Christ and to do his will.
Triune God,
my Creator and my Savior,
this day belongs to you. My time is in your hands.
Holy, merciful God,
my Creator and my Savior
my Judge and my Redeemer,
you know me and all my ways and actions.
You hate and punish evil in this and every world
without regard for person,
you forgive sins
for anyone who asks you sincerely,
and you love the good and reward it
on this earth with a clear conscience
and in the world to come with the crown of righteousness.
Before you I remember all those I love,
my fellow prisoners, and all
who in this house perform their difficult duty.
Lord, have mercy.
Grant me freedom again
and in the meantime let me live in such a way
that I can give account before [you] and others.
Lord, whatever this day may bring – your name be praised.

– Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Sunday, December 18, 2011

An Overview

In the last 48 hours, I've had a staff Christmas party; a student Christmas party; a Christmas concert; an all-night lock in with the middle schoolers (which included, but was not limited to, three hours of theatre sports between 2 and 5 am); dinner with a school family; afternoon tea with a school family; and lunch with a school family.

In the next 24 hours, I have to: pack up my apartment; pack bags for London; confirm new apartment; attend a rendition of Handel's Messiah in Russian; and catch a plane at 5 am.

And strangely, I'm not fussed. Not even breaking a sweat. Everything I've done, I love, and I even got some sleep in there somewhere. What's to come is about to be tremendously exciting. I'm so thankful to God who provides all my needs and more besides.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I thought I was handling the busyness and the stress brilliantly, I really did. The mountainous workload, the constant building of relationships, the thousands of extracurricular activities, the pressures of living cross-culturally, the below-zero weather, the lingering sickness - I was getting rather proud of myself for managing everything, by the grace of God. Until today.

Today was the day that I had to mourn my precious cat back in Australia. I loved her - I raised her from a kitten - spent countless hours with her curled up in my lap like a soft, purring donut - I'll never see her again. It hurts like the dickens.

Today was the day that I found out I would also have to take on the sixth grade English class, beginning in January. No new teachers means extra classes. I've been holding back a mild panic attack ever since. I can do it - of course I can - but it will require the use of untapped reserves of energy. This kind of workload is new territory, and therefore frightening.

Today was the day when the devil found a chink in my armour; the chink is my lack of self-confidence. He prised it wide open and the full force of doubt came flooding through. A couple of imagined slights - an ill-conceived lesson - and suddenly I'm laid flat with the paralysing fear of Not Good Enough. It doesn't just paralyse - it eats away.

Today, the world caved in a little: just a little.

As I lay in bed, desperately tired and unable to sleep for the racing of my heart, a truth was slowly borne in upon me, and I reached for my journal so as not to forget it. The truth is this: Jesus can do immeasurably more than I am able to ask or imagine. There's nothing lying ahead that he doesn't know about and hasn't equipped me for. He is who he says he is. These are fragmented, childlike thoughts, and yet I cling to them like a drowning man, glad and grateful. I've been drowned by Not Good Enough more than once; but not this time.

I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep what I've committed to him until that day.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Christmas Poem" by G.K. Chesterton

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost — how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wife’s tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall all men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

Shamelessly lifted from Along Addison's Walk.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

It's the Little Things

I am somewhat giddy with excitement this morning. A small stall, selling fruit and vegetables from Tashkent, has sprung up at our local bazaar, and you'll never guess what I bought: eggplant! And field mushrooms! And what's more, I heard tell of a place that's selling leeks right now. I'm going on an expedition to find it shortly. Leek and potato soup coming up.

I hope I still get excited about vegetables when I'm back in Australia. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Two Views from the Seventh Floor

Taken with my trusty iPhone on Saturday morning: it is very pleasant to wake up to a white city, so long as one knows that one isn't required to walk around in it, and that the rusty old heating system is actually working!