Life in Adelaide: a Source of Inspiration for Writing

How is life in Adelaide a source of inspiration for your writing?

My Take On it

Members of the Writers in Adelaide group have been asked to contribute to a ‘blog chain’ on the subject of Adelaide as an inspiring place to write or inspiring me as a writer. I’ve just come back from the UK where every day was hot and sunny, and I’ve returned to a cold wet and windy Adelaide.  There are British programs on the TV.  I’m confused!

A Good Place

Adelaide, Jacarandas, Rainbow, Spring
One of My First Photos of Adelaide

Putting that aside, the Adelaide that I’m used to is good for writing.  It seems an open place to me, as the streets are wide, the houses are spread out and there’s plenty of parklands.  There is room here, room to think – room for my mind to roam and seek big ideas. The climate also helps, because we can keep our houses open (okay, maybe not in winter), open into the garden and the wider outside; we can look around, relax, explore, see the sights, do stuff and meet people.

Connectivity

Adelaide is a close place, a connected place.  Surprisingly for a city of 1.5 million people, everyone seems to know everyone else, usually via two or three acquaintances. I’m constantly amazed at how someone I know is also known by somebody else that I know, with apparently no reason for them to be connected: yet they are.  This is also conducive to writing because it reminds me that good stories are about people, characters and their connections.  A compelling story gives the reader empathy with our characters and their relationships and how they are motivated – driven – to act accordingly.  How we love to discover these connections, especially when the characters would rather they remained a secret.

When I was in the UK writing was a solitary existence, which was fine as I’m comfortable with my own company.  However, when I came here I joined Writers SA and found the Adelaide Writers Group, one of many here, and I haven’t looked back since.  I found a friendly group of people who give me positive criticism and support me, and in return I critique their pieces, learning about writing and growing my skills as a result.  Now, I know that there are writers’ groups all around the world, but I associate Adelaide with this sociability, meeting people down the pub who are also interested (okay, obsessed, let’s be honest) with writing.  Mixed together are earning writers willing to share their knowledge and my fellow amateurs.  Some of them are on this blog chain, and it’s my pleasure to be part of it.

Summing Up

So Adelaide is a good place to write, but it’s also inspiring in itself.  At the start of this post, I mentioned some similarities and differences between Adelaide and the UK, where I’ve spent most of my life, and about half of my writing life.  Adelaide feels like a cross between the UK and USA to me, familiar enough for me to feel at home and different enough to appreciate.  This mix is stimulating, and it’s led me to question a lot of things about life that, I guess, I had just taken for granted.  Coming here has changed who I am and challenged what I identify with.

Let’s hope it improves my writing!

What Others in the Blog chain Said…

Truth in Love

Speaking the Truth in Love – a Sermon on Mark 12:28-34 and Ruth 1:1-18 (Year B, Ordinary 31).

Mark 12:28-34

  • Although the man is wise – Jesus thinks so – I find him smug.
  • He says Jesus is right, but really he’s saying “we’re both right – aren’t we clever?”
  • Jesus says he is “not far from the Kingdom of God”:
    • Might expect Jesus to say The Teacher of the Law had ‘arrived’.
    • Maybe speaking the truth wasn’t enough – not spoken in love.
  • Contrast this with the words of my wife:
    • I had made some flippant comment about something on the TV;
    • She said “You can be a bit of an oaf sometimes” – how can you say that, just because it’s true?
    • What I hope she really meant was “don’t be an oaf, because I love you, and I know that you can be better than that.  You are worthy of my love and I am worthy of having a husband who is not an oaf.”

Ruth 1:1-18

  • Naomi has taught her daughters-in-law about God.
    • The women spend more time together – work/social convention.  [Muslim story]
    • She has no special knowledge of God but uses personal contact and example.
  • They have been together for a long time – a lot more ‘face time’ in those days.
  • Notice the contrast between the physical and the spiritual harvest.
    • They (and we) are used to good and bad times being defined by the harvest (work).
    • Naomi planted the spiritual seed in the good times and now harvests in the bad.
    • Orpah does not remain true when tested, but Ruth does.  Doesn’t God do the same?
  • Ruth ‘walked the walk’ AND ‘talked the talk.’

Meaning for Today

  • Today we face a difficult spiritual harvest.
  • Times are good in this country and people don’t seem to feel the need of God:
    • Some think that they can appease God by the superstition of religious ritual.
    • Some think that they can ignore God; he is distant, impersonal.
    • Some think that they can put God in a box, based on their theology.
  • However, the Bible tells us the truth about God:
    • Is personal, he is alive and wants to know us – all of us.
    • Wants us to know Him, this knowing not academic/theological, but personal.
    • God loves us, but He is Holy and those who reject Him are doomed.
  • We will not get through to non-Christians by just proclaiming the truth.
    • The teacher of the law did that – did you warm to him?  I didn’t!
    • People need to get to know God through us outside of a church.
    • We need non-Christian friends and we need to invest in them and believe in them for their sake, and because we value them for themselves.
    • Person of Jesus attractive; devotion to Him more attractive and reliable than knowledge.
  • Our challenge is to be disciples, to ‘speak the truth in love’, and ‘walk the talk’.  Integrity, consistency.

Book Review

Hi all,

I have been lucky enough to be asked to review the latest book by Adelaide writer Dean Mayes, called ‘The Artisan Heart’.  Now, everyone in Adelaide knows everyone else via two or three other people, so it’s no surprise that I know Dean.  I met him down the pub at an Adelaide lit drinks thing put on by SA Writers, and he’s a thoroughly nice bloke.  Now that I’ve disclosed that I’m biased…

…let’s get on with the review.  Well, sort of.  I am reading The Artisan Heart and thoroughly enjoying it so far, but I’m not finished or ready to review it.  Feeling a bit guilty about being so slack in my reading, I thought that I would mention Dean’s previous book ‘The Recipient’.

Review: The Recipient

The Recipient, Dean Mayes, Review, Novel, Thriller
Cover picture of The Recipient, by Dean Mayes

This is a contemporary thriller with a subtle, but important supernatural element to it, and sat mainly in Melbourne: so far, quite different from the Artisan Heart.  However, it also has strong, nuanced and believable characters, which Dean gets you to care about very quickly.  He reminds me of Nevil Shute in that respect.

The book also delivers on the thriller front, with a tough, driven heroine, who gets herself into some dangerous situations. There are also some interesting family dynamics, several characters who may have mixed motives and a well rounded, but lethal, villain.

Anyway, I hope that I’ve whetted your appetite!. Now I must get on with reading The Artisan Heart!

Cheers, Simon

Wholehearted

Wholehearted – a sermon on Mark 6 and 2 Samuel 6  (Year B, Proper 10 / Ordinary 15).

Scripture

In Mark 6 and 2 Samuel 6, we have images of people joyfully worshipping God.

  • In 2 Samuel 6, King David has the Ark, the earthly symbol of God, brought to Jerusalem.
    • David has no problem letting God take centre stage in his capital.
    • He dances and celebrates with gusto – abandoning his dignity!
    • Michal despises David, perhaps seeing her loss rather than her people’s gain.
  • In Mark 6 (the almost King) Herod does not want Jesus, the earthly symbol of God, brought to Jerusalem – it was bad enough having him in the country!
    • Herod is a puppet King, put there by the Romans, not God.  He is insecure.
    • He is also a guilty man.  Despite himself, he liked listening to John.
    • Herod put his own comfort and dignity before justice, before God.

Meaning at the Time

Of course, there are two ‘times’ here – OT and NT.

  • When Samuel was written probably already referring to a bygone age:
    • A united powerful kingdom, ‘the good old days’.
    • Yet not a whitewash of History – David’s evil deeds show through too!
    • Lessons from the past, guidance for today and hope for tomorrow.
  • Mark’s Gospel was written down much closer to the actual events.
    • The early church was still working out what it was, where it was.
    • It was growing strongly – not in decline/destroyed like Israel (OT & NT).
    • People are shown that Jesus repeats the OT pattern, perfect/completing it.

Meaning for Today

What do these stories tell us about ourselves, our Nation, today?

  • What is the context – personal, corporate, national?
    • Our church in the UK is in decline, like the UK itself, affecting how we see scripture.
    • Worship/Witness/Work: I’m not good at being wholehearted in worship/witness – I like to be in control; work is OK, I can drive myself to do that.
    • Tony Blair (former UK Prime Minister) criticised by Anne Widdecombe (former UK politician) for not accepting the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching; he replied ‘I am a modern man’: i.e. ‘my reason alone will decide what I believe’.
    • Is our rich western society, that has so much to lose if it were to give up control, afraid of surrendering to God?
  • Our church reminds me of working in the declining Ministry of Defence (declining public sector in general?).
    • We seemed to have no confidence in ourselves, our judgement.  Bewildered!
    • Decisions made for jobs, money, etc, not what really needed for defence.
    • Our leaders had no belief in us!  They were open to outside influence.
    • Can you blame them?  We were not making decisions on what was needed for our mission, but for temporary, narrow, factional advantage.
    • We lost sight of what we should do rather what was expedient to do.

Conclusion

The message from 1,000 years of scripture: let God in! let God rule!

  • We, as individuals and an organisation, can surrender to God with complete confidence.  Let society turn away if it wants to.
  • What difficult things do we need to do to succeed in worship, witness and work?
  • Let us wholeheartedly celebrate putting God first, and thus instructed, guided and inspired, wholeheartedly focus on our mission.

Nothing but Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Nothing but Jesus Christ and Him Crucified – a Sermon on Mark 8:27-38 (Year B, Proper 19).

Introduction

Tonight is my last preaching engagement at Zion, in the Bristol Circuit and in the UK.  As you may know, we emigrate to Australia at the end of October [I originally preached this in 2012].  (When we prayed about emigrating in church the scripture reading turned out to be Genesis 12:1 “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you”!)  However, I am pleased to end on this passage of scripture.

Scripture – Mark 8:27-38

‘Who do people say I am?’; they say a precursor of the Christ. ‘Who do you say I am?’; Peter says ‘You are the Christ’.  Peter argues with Jesus about his passion – his public suffering and humiliation.  Jesus rebukes Peter, harshly, saying Satan has led him to say that.  He warns his disciples that they must accept suffering, and to finishes with a stern warning – if we are ashamed of Jesus he will be ashamed of us in his glory and judgement.

Meaning at the Time

When Jesus fasted in the desert, the Devil tempted him and failed.

“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”  (Luke 4:13, NIV.)  Now the Devil returns to tempt Jesus with a way out of his suffering.

Peter means well, he wants his friend the Messiah (my friend the Messiah!) to be spared suffering and humiliation, but behind these human feelings, pulling the strings, as it were, is Satan trying to keep his hold over humanity.  We shouldn’t really blame him, he’s doing his job as accuser, trying to ensure that we get what we deserve.  But he enjoyed his job, his status, a little bit too much.  Perhaps he got carried away in his proud rebellion against God and wanted us to do the same, to think that it was all about what we wanted, that we could choose the kind of God we wanted.  Perhaps he wanted some company, some like-minded subjects to rule over.

Meaning for Today

Today we are offered all sorts of alternatives, options, wisdom, advice and choices.  We live in a pluralistic marketplace, where we are constantly offered more for less, or so it seems.  In this context, isn’t it unreasonable of us to say that there is only one God? That Jesus had to be crucified to save us sinners?  That Jesus is the only way to God?  Aren’t we asking for trouble by saying these things in public?  Shouldn’t we shut up, or at least water down this unpopular message?  Shouldn’t we avoid displaying the cross, that most provocative religious symbol?  Perhaps we should keep quiet for our own good: for our convenience.

Without the cross, Jesus would be just another superior offering wisdom.  With the cross, Jesus is the one who made the sacrifice, who did not grasp for equality with God, as the Devil did.  Instead, he made the sacrifice that gives him the authority to call on humans to do the same.  We do not choose him, like breakfast cereal from the shelf of a supermarket, but he calls on us to choose discipleship and a costly discipleship at that.  He calls us to accept the cross he has chosen for us and pick it up.  It’s the only option he offers.

Conclusion

When I became a local preacher I, very modestly, misquoted St Paul.  ‘For I resolved to know [preach] nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.’ (1Cor 2:2, NIV.)  Throughout history, this was never a popular message and it’s never going to be, but we haven’t chosen to be popular, we have chosen Jesus, the Messiah, the cross and surrender to God.  God bless us all.  Amen.