Thursday, 20 June 2013


In a study about managing depression, it was discovered that ‘passage lines’ in the brain connect positive words and actions with serotonin, the ‘happiness’ trigger. This explains why passionate praise, combined with exuberant movement such as dancing, actually triggers enjoyment of God.

 Psalm 100 tells us how to enter into His presence and it begins and ends with a lot of loud shouting. Silence doesn’t get a mention.  After the loud shouting there’s singing with boisterous joy, followed by hearty thanksgiving and more loud praise. There are two reasons why we know it’s loud: firstly, the Hebrew tells us the singing was to be by massed choirs and secondly, the word for praise, in this instance, is tehillah, meaning ‘a praise shout’. This shout of praise expresses the life and soul of the worshipper – something akin to the fans welcoming the team hero as he runs onto the field. When did you last hear a sports hero welcomed with whispered reverence?

The Book of Revelations (chapters 4-7) tells me it’s pretty noisy in Heaven. It is full of loud singing, not to mention ‘noises, thunderings and lightnings’.  So when we pray for it to ‘be on Earth even as it is in Heaven’ are we prepared to accept what’s coming? Or don’t we really believe God will answer that prayer? Either way it’s foolish to expect God will answer according to our puny standards. Is it possible we have believed the religious lie that approaching God is best done in silence with folded hands and bowed head? I’m not saying there isn’t a place for silence once we have entered His courts - we certainly need intimate times of quietness so as to hear Him speaking into our hearts – but the thing to notice about Psalm 100 is that ‘come’ is a command, not a suggestion. If we are to enter His presence we need to do it the way He instructs us.

The scriptures tell us that King David, the greatest worshipper of all, was totally outrageous in his worship of his Creator. So many of the Psalms tell us that not only was he a praise shouter (e.g. Psalm 27:6) but he was also prone to praise dance, in the equivalent of his undies, and in public!  God, Himself, shouts (e.g. Isaiah 42:13).  He even shouts (shabak) over, and through, His people with great joy (Zephaniah 3:17).

Oh yes, I’m sure God loves big, loud sound!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013


Oscar Wilde said, "Every great man nowadays has his disciples and it is always Judas who writes the biography." No doubt there's truth in that, but for every Judas there is also a 'toadie' writing sycophantic slop, and one is as distasteful as the other.

I’m thinking a lot about biographers – because I can say now that I have joined their ranks, albeit on the lowliest rung– and wondering why we do it. It’s a hard slog: all that research and interviewing; all that dodging and weaving of delicate issues. I’m thinking, because I’m worried I’ll do it again. I keep meeting people I itch to write about.

I waded through a lot of biographies in the course of writing my own book and I was sure about the ones I didn’t want to emulate. Not for me the cheesy, sweetness- and-light treatment, but by no means do I like gratuitous scandal, either. I want to present a warts and all picture that makes the person and his actions understandable; a real person, neither saint nor devil. As Bernard Malamud said, “…all biography is ultimately fiction,” and as any fiction writer knows, a character who is entirely saint or sinner won’t engage the reader very long.

It seems to me that biographies all too often fall neatly into one or other of these two camps. Christian writers, in particular, often present a saccharine view of worthy, upstanding individuals who have done much good in this world. In the light of all that these people have achieved, why is it necessary to ignore their mistakes and failings? To address such issues is not to muck rake, but to demonstrate that the grace of God is greater than their failings. Then there is the other camp, populated by sensation seekers who delight in  the dirty linen so beloved by readers of gossip magazines. Scholarly biographers don’t fall into either camp, of course, but some do get bogged down in the painfully boring detail of careful research. 

I have great appreciation for the secular biographies written by Peter FitzSimons; he is a riveting read. His treatment of the Australian boxer, Les Darcy, was the first one I read, it being the only one of his titles not out on loan at my local library. I had no prior interest in boxers or their sport, but FitzSimons made Darcy's story completely un-put-downable. I went on to read four more titles in quick succession, each one showing me what it was to write candidly but without condemnation. 

I'm still searching for my ideal christian biographer. To be fair, I haven't, so far, read as widely as I might.  All suggestions gratefully accepted!.

Saturday, 8 June 2013


Recently, I found a new-to-me second hand book shop; just one of the pleasures of being in the Barossa Valley on a gloriously mild winter’s day. To go through its doors is to experience literature overload; books on shelves, tables and floor; in stacks, in boxes and in cabinets with glass doors and key. It casts a spell. It lures you into its Aladdin’s cave of treasure, deceiving you into thinking it’s the usual higgledy piggledy second hand place, but it isn’t. It isn’t even dusty. And, like all good second hand book shops, it’s quirky. The cinema posters of old Errol Flynn movies I could understand, but the life size stuffed alligator and lioness?

This luscious display of the desirable and the downright covetable, is the work of an orderly and discerning proprietor. Every section is carefully marked by hand written signs and the arrangement is deliciously alphabetical. If it’s there, you’ll find it. No problem. And while the area housing valuable collectibles is roped off with an attached piece of cardboard informing children it’s not for them, the range of genre and titles in the rest of the shop is not at all snobby. It’s a bookshop for everyman. Which reminds me; I must take my husband to salivate over its extensive range of automotive manuals.

I barely moved past the rows and rows of W.E. Johns’ Biggles books, lost in childhood reading memories, although I did make a quick foray into the Enid Blyton’s and ‘Australian Writers’ before time ran out on me. I was utterly overwhelmed by the variety and number of treasures. Inevitably, I left empty handed because I couldn’t decide which of the goodies to take home. Libraries, too, do this to me. I keep telling myself not to go through the doors of either of them unless it is to look for a particular title or author. But that’s no fun. I can always rely on the lack of cash to referee the conflict. So I left empty-handed, but I’m going back cashed up!