Living the Questions


The German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, in his Letters to a Young Poet, counselled:

‘Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves … Don’t search for the answers, which cannot be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.’

This piece of advice contains Advent themes: patience, waiting on answers by living the questions and hope for future resolution.

I don’t generally listen to talk-back radio, but yesterday, in only five minutes of a discussion about men and women sharing household labour, I heard a man live into his answer.

He rang in to say that he couldn’t understand why his wife didn’t always react well to his attempts to help her around the house. The guest speaker replied that perhaps he could re-frame his approach: rather than offering to help, he could ask his wife what he could do to share the work.

But, he replied, he was more than willing to help, why did she not understand that. The guest speaker tried again. By offering to help, he was implying that the work was hers and perhaps, she was failing in it. They lived together, the household was theirs, by offering to share the work he would be saying he understood that.

He started to speak again, but then paused, and in that moment of silence the listening audience heard the penny drop. His next words told us that he could see the distinction.

It was an Advent moment, for both of us. Clearly, his question troubled him, he had been living it and yesterday, on public radio, he lived into the answer. And the answer surprised him, not something he could do, but a different way to think about it. A way to re-frame the question.

As for me, I witnessed the coming of light into darkness. I heard the birth of understanding and insight, made all the more wondrous because I did hear it rather than see it.

Have patience … love the questions … live everything.

An Advent call.

A Time to De-Clutter


Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!

Advent is a time of preparation and way-clearing. It is a time to de-clutter. This is a tough call when everything around us calls us to come, to buy, to add more.

I suffer from piles: I let things and stuff pile up around me. The desk where I write is frequently covered with books and papers, lists and notes. My sewing cabinet is always open and littered with patterns and fabrics, pins and threads. The coffee table beside my chair in the living room is piled high with books and journals and things to which I need/should/must pay attention.

I know that this external clutter has a flow-on effect internally. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the higher the piles, the more likely I am to miss the exit off the freeway (which I did twice last week).

So, in preparation for Advent, I’ve cleared out my study. As I type this, the window in front of me is clean, I can see the desktop, only my sewing machine sits on the sewing cabinet, and a candle is burning. I still have a busy week ahead, but this external order calms me.

It helps to prepare the way.

Advent Dawns


Advent: noun, a coming into place, view, or being; arrival
Macquarie Dictionary

When God comes
comes again:
maybe an Indian this time
or a Bantu (what do I know?)

When God comes
comes again:
maybe a woman this time
or even a woman-and-man
a couple.

When God comes
comes again:
maybe in the many
the new society
where justice dwells.

When God comes
comes again:
maybe the city of God
the land of the goddess of
reconciliation between
people and nature.

When God comes
comes again:
from one end of the earth
to the other.

This Kurt Marti poem in Flowing Streams: an Anthology of Anthologies seems a good place to start as another Advent season dawns.

It invites us to notice God in the unexpected and the unlikely, in the spaces between what we long for and what is.

Advent calls us to wake up, to be present and to clear a pathway for the coming of God.

Twice this week, I drove past the freeway exit that takes me home. Yes, I hear the call to pay attention!

Advent calls us to mindfulness.

When God comes
comes again:
maybe …

Sing and Make a Joyful Noise



O sing to the Lord a new song

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

From Psalm 98, this one of the Scriptures from the Revised Common Lectionary for this coming Sunday. Inspired by it, I looked to see what I might find on TedTalks under the topic ‘sing’. I’ve got to say the choices are not overwhelming, but these three claim my attention for different reasons:

Bobby McFerrin plays the audience as an instrument is a short clip in which he demonstrates that the Pentatonic Scale is hardwired into our brains. He makes the connection between notes and neurons in what is a fun watch.

Claron McFadden: singing the primal mystery goes further. She claims that music is a primal instinct and connects it to meditation. It makes me want to connect it to prayer. A beautiful and fascinating watch.

But, my favourite is Will Hewitt, Singing yourself alive. this seven minutes contains some profound ideas and quotable quotes including this one:

Time bows to authentic commitment and it stretches to accommodate it

Will Hewitt committed himself to sing for fifteen minutes every day for a year and did it. He discovered, among other things, that the world was already alive with singing and once he entered the practice, singing, making a noise, connected him to himself, the world around him and the world beyond. Watch it with others and allow some time to reflect on his findings.

And then, in the words of the psalmist, Sing and make a joyful noise.

The Field Beyond



In a week in which conflict has been an underlying theme, I find myself longing for Rumi’s mystical field.

But …

Where is that field?
What does it cost to go there?
Will the Other(s) meet me there?

Imagine what the world would look like if even some of us make the journey …

The 2016 AFL Grand Final Win

How are we to explain the 2016 AFL grand final win? The seventh-placed Western Bulldogs have defeated the minor premiers, Sydney, by 22 points.


Shall we put it down to:

The Coach

or …

The Boys
The Bont
The Bye

All of these, and more, will be under the microscope and certainly, all have played their part, but even the commentators recognise there’s also something more mystical at play in this ‘miraculous, fairy-tale’ win, the ‘dream-come-true’.

Let us then include:


The Western Bulldogs have a strong band of loyal, faithful supporters who have wished and willed and sighed and prayed for this win. This year, and especially during this last month of finals games, those supporters have been joined by countless others: well-wishers, dreamers, sympathetic second-team supporters (like me), and onlookers. Together, we have held our collective breath, crossed our fingers, whispered and shouted our desire and imagined this win.

And all of the above have prevailed; truly a quantum entanglement.

Western Bulldogs fans watching on a big screen outside the Sun Theatre in Yarraville celebrate their team's win over Sydney Swans in the AFL Grand Final. Picture: Andrew Henshaw

Western Bulldogs fans watching on a big screen outside the Sun Theatre in Yarraville celebrate their team’s win over Sydney Swans in the AFL Grand Final. Picture: Andrew Henshaw



Wonder Watch in the Face of Fear

Yesterday, I woke up to a discussion about the poll findings that one in two Australians want a ban on Muslim immigration. Later in the day I stumbled across this podcast of Dr Rachael Kohn interviewing Irish poet, Pádraig Ó Tuama, which offered me a way of thinking about it.

He read one of his poems, which contained the line

Who has taught us to fear?

A very good question.

Further into the interview, talking about differences in language, he said, ‘pain is never exhausted by language’ and invited his hearers to a stance of curiosity over issues of pain.

This word, ‘curiosity’, in Irish includes the idea of ‘wonder watch’. Wonder watch first puts me in mind of wonderful things – a magnificent sunrise/set, glorious colour, but Ó Tuama posed the question,

How can we observe pain and argument with wonder?

He called us to a spirituality that respects pain.

Thinking about this interview afterwards, I found myself composing my own Wonder Watch. What are the things that stir the snake-like coil of fear in me? What causes fear to stir, raise its head, prepare to strike?

What stirs the fear in you?

Let us seek to observe our fear with wonder and maintain a Wonder Watch in the face of it.




Yellow Flowers




Yellow flowers have sprung up in recent weeks along the Western Highway and Deer Park Bypass. This afternoon, I noticed at least three different varieties: small wattle bushes, clumps of bright yellow flowers standing out against the grasses and tiny flowers on long stems waving in the breeze.

I suppose the wattle bushes have been planted, but the other two have simply sprung up along the roadside and in the median strips, unbidden and largely unremarked.

When the sun is out, they shine and nod at the passing traffic. More than that, they serve as a kind of resistance to the landscape with its concrete and every-spreading development. For instance, they are prolific along the fence that borders the new Ravenhall Prison site currently under construction.

They were here before us and will continue long after we have gone, these humble flowers; not a ‘host of golden daffodils’, but all the same, ‘fluttering and dancing in the breeze’.


Love Makes A Way

bring them here(3)

This morning I participated in a public action in response to the release of the #NauruFiles last week. A few of us gathered outside the offices of Brendan O’Connor, who is the federal MP in my electorate of Gorton, to protest the Australian government’s asylum seeker policy of detaining people offshore, particularly in Nauru.

The Nauru Files show evidence of sexual assault, bullying, intimidation and worse. Detainees quoted in the Nauru Files express discouragement, hopelessness, mental and physical agony and ongoing trauma. And yet, the release of the files has barely caused a ripple in the media.

Refugee advocates including Love Makes a Way, Mums4Refugees, Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children, ChilOut and People Just Like Us organised a series of actions all over Australia, all of them lawful and peaceful, ‘to draw attention to and as a symbol of each person who has suffered from abuse and trauma as detailed in the recently leaked Nauru reports‘.

These have been ongoing all week at various politician’s offices. I organised the one at Brendan O’Connor’s Caroline Springs office via facebook with a friend I really haven’t seen for years.

Nauru files signSix of us gathered, including my friend’s two young daughters. We posted paper dolls with an accompanying explanation of what they represented at the entrance to O’Connor’s office buildingBring them here and then made our way to his 2nd floor office where we were met by six Victoria Police officers. When they realised we were a small group and we intended to hold a peaceful vigil, they radioed ahead to ‘stand-down’ reinforcements who were on their way from Melton. Nevertheless, two of them stayed with us for the whole 30 minutes we were there.

We read a moving poem about leaving home, fleeing danger and seeking safety. We affirmed our faith and our intention to welcome the stranger. We finished with alternate voices quoting from Martin Luther King Jr.

This last part is what I found most moving, so I include the text here:

Reader: “The ultimate measure of a [person] is not where [he or she] stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where [he or she] stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
All: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Reader: “We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls ‘enemy.’”
All: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Reader: “…we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”
All: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Reader: “Non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with the good.”
All: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Reader: “The time is always right to do what is right.”
All: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

On Sunday, the biblical text which we read and I preached from reminded us of ‘the great cloud of witnesses’; the people of faith who have gone before us and yet, in some mystical, spiritual way are still with us. The people who make up this great cloud of witnesses are not mere spectators; they cheer us on and lend us strength to continue the race of faith. Even when we feel most alone, we are never alone for they surround us and support us and urge us to persevere.


As the words of Martin Luther King Jr rang out in the hollow corridor space, and we affirmed that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice’, I felt as if he was in the corridor with us. Our six swelled to hundreds, thousands. A chorus of ‘Amen and Amen’ could almost be heard and I knew that our action, seemingly insignificant, set against the backdrop of police laughter, was bigger than we can hope and imagine.

Indeed, Love Makes A Way.

Blindsided by a Shared Past

Making small-talk over coffee
The obligatory question:
What do you do?
Oh, really? Where?
And before that …
When were you there?

A shift, the widening of eyes,
Comprehension dawning.
She’s falling, grabbing for purchase, failing
Plunging back to the worse day of her life.
You ….

Now I’m back there with her
Not my worst day, but a terrible day
Memorable for all the wrong reasons
Unwillingly, reluctantly shared.

We are both stunned
Awkwardly concerned for the other
Unable to recover.
Neither of us will sleep tonight.