With eerie premonition, Bloganuary’s final question is “What would you title the chapters of your autobiography?”

With Bloganuary’s first question about what I was hoping to achieve this year, I answered vaguely and ambiguously about improving my writing across several genres. Behind this, I have been wondering how to respond to a request to write my autobiography following almost fifty years in public ministry.

I am at the “gathering material” stage – collecting old photos, journals, diaries, and making notes of how they might come together. Sorting these out into a storyline that can be divided into chapters is an arduous task with some hard decisions to make. Will my story be told chronologically or thematically? The keepers of the archives will want a historical documentary. This would go against my grain. I’m a storyteller looking for particular expressions of universal themes. I look for the “why?” more than the “what?”
So it will take more time than this evening to set out neat chapters of my story.

I will, however, disclose that the first chapter is to be called The Shoulders We Stand On. I don’t believe we can tell our story without telling the story of those who have influenced us – even before we have started our journey. Some of us are able to delve back many generations and discover uncanny twists and turns of fate that affect who we are today. Even if we can’t go back so far, there is a village that raised us. Some have named this the constellations of which we are a part. Constellations was going to be the alternative title for this opening chapter, but seemed a bit obscure, so I’ll use it for this blog post instead!

So The Shoulders We Stand On will be Chapter One!


Bloganuary probes and asks, “What is something you learned recently?”

To speak of what I learned today
I’m not at liberty to disclose
For such occurs in many a way
It comes with the territory, I s’pose.

For I’m a hearer of stories
Whispered from places deep
‘Tis a privilege to receive them
and in safety and silence keep.

Many a day I hear yarns old and new
And I sift them as they come
Some can be shared, but they are few
‘Tis a well-known rule of thumb.

So what I learn is treated well, precious as a treasure
Thus story-hearing and story-making becomes a cherished pleasure.

A curmudgeon and his cake

Bloganuary demands, “Describe your perfect birthday cake.”

Another trip around the sun?
Another year’s journey just begun?
Another cake to mark the occasion?
– I find it hard to raise the passion!

Clown face cakes with lots of icing
Adventure themes destroyed when slicing
These were part of long ago youth
To think of such now seems uncouth.

A perfect cake now seems quite moot
Maybe I’d rather a bowl of fruit
Besides, there’s the challenge of how to handle
Blowing out such a multitude of candle!

Wait a while

Explain the pros and cons of procrastination.
Such state seems to cause some consternation
For those who are anxious to see some action
And who want to see their work get some traction

Pros allow time for proper discernment
Shifting some tasks to a sound deferment
Preventing the job from decisions rash
Thus changing the design into so much trash

Cons can spell opportunities lost
How can one count the weight of the cost?
To wait and wait for a circumstance perfect
Can abandon to neglect a worthwhile project.

Procrastinate well then and know when to stop
Otherwise there’ll be no reaping your crop!


Two days ago I was asked to write about how a song spoke to me. I am compelled to add another, that just came to my notice.

It is a perfect foil to the whipped-up debate that is marring and confusing preparation for the referendum on the long-awaited Voice to Parliament. What better statement and comeback than the clear tones and message of John Farnham’s “The Voice” in a local indigenous language.

This performance lifts me from the doldrums of laying low yesterday.

Tongues of Angels

Bloganuary asks “What language do you wish you could speak?”

Having dabbled in Latin, Koine Greek, French and a smattering of Hebrew and Arabic – even a light touch of Shona, Ndebele and Hindi, (and some of our own local indigenous words – Nungyar.) I rather wish I was better acquainted with my own language (the one I’m communicating with now.)

This may sound odd as my life’s vocation is reliant on my language’s spoken and written word to explain, teach, exhort, comfort, persuade and, above all, listen to what is hidden behind words that others speak in the stories and dilemmas and experiences that they share.

Although I have received occasional accolades for what I have spoken, I always feel there is room for improvement – not because of some neurotic desire for perfection, but from an awareness that the task of communication is always ongoing and never quite finished – there is always something more.

And I am mindful of the words of St Paul when he says, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

So I shall continue to be a learner of my own tongue, as well as others, to this end.

Music that takes us Beyond

Bloganuary invites us to write about a song or poem that speaks to us:

I heard this on ABC Classic about six months ago. It has haunted me ever since – in a restful, peaceful manner. It is not an earworm like those that occasionally cling to my consciousness from my range of otherwise eclectic musical tastes. Rather it is meditative and takes me to places of deep rest. The meter and tone ranges seem to synchronise with the oscillations of my bone structure. I do not know what the song is about (apart from the title). The words are not in a language familiar to me so they do not distract. Rather I can sink into the music’s resonance, and sense its vibrations. It is neither secular nor sacred but takes me beyond and is therefore experienced by me as holy.

To Be

And so they ask “How do you show love?”

Is this question academic or particular?
Foundational or extracurricular?
This was an issue of struggle for me
Until I discovered the answer “To Be!”

Full “being” creates a hospitable space
For others to flourish and discover their pace
I find inspiration from a living slain Lamb
The one who’s amongst us as the loving “I Am!”

Shrinking Pinocchio’s Nose

Bloganuary asks “What’s a lie you tell yourself?”

Old taunting voices have been gagged into silence
No longer do they hold me in utter reliance
“You’re feeble, not smart, you don’t cut the mustard,
Look at you now – you’re getting all flustered!”

I ceded them rightness for some little while
‘Til following a Way helped develop my style
So those voices have gone along with complicity
No more self-lies, just authenticity!

Retiring a Marriage Celebrant’s Licence

Today I voluntarily surrendered my licence to celebrate marriages. It’s part of “incremental retirement,” I suppose, but I prefer to see it as part of “a changing shape of vocation.”

So why now?

My last wedding was four years ago. Since then, administrative changes, including the advent of online form filling and streamlining legal obligations, have meant I would need to retrain myself in case there is a next. As I am no longer a minister of a congregation, I don’t officially retain the criteria to continue as a celebrant anyway, but there is some leeway in how this condition has been exercised.

Passing in my license inevitably awakens some reminiscing.

My first weddings were concelebrated while I was in training. My sister and her beloved were the first taxi off the rank. Then there was a navy couple in a Roman Catholic ceremony in the chapel on their base. The chaplain was very accommodating, even offering a choice of vestments to wear. I reluctantly declined, seeking to guard my “plain clothes” tradition! I confess that, since then and in three instances, I have gowned up for cultural reasons.

Each wedding has had its own array of stories, including my own! A whole book could be written.

For a few years, I developed and presented courses on conducting weddings. It was part of a “rites of passage” package for our ministers, looking at how they might engage more creatively with the “hatch, match, and despatch” requests that come their way.

There was one media occasion where I defended the concept of marriage against the rising rates of separation and divorce, and a more recent one, televised, where I gave a voice to “marriage equality” during the recent national and politically polarised debate on same-sex marriage. It caused a little stir within my tribe, but some colleagues privately and confidentially commended my “courageous” stance.

My last wedding service was for a delightful couple, both widowed, both in their 80s, and both deeply in love. Their story was later nationally televised. Sadly I conducted the groom’s funeral service precisely three years later. He himself had also been a marriage celebrant with whom I had often compared notes.

It is with a sense of thankfulness and yet relief that I pass in my licence and wedding paraphernalia!