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O God Our Help in Ages Past

A reflection by Hetty

O God, our Help in ages past

Our Help for years to come.

Our Shelter from the stormy blast, and our Eternal Home.

I am a small girl, sitting on a hard wooden 1950s school desk.

High above the blackboard is a wedge shaped speaker, and out of the speaker comes a crackly, church organ led version of this hymn.

It’s Anzac Day.

A familiar tune that I only heard once a year in the same place at the same time. At first it was the melody that gave me comfort and peace. Every year I forgot, and then I heard it again and my soul remembered. I sat in that new classroom, one year older, and let the notes cascade over me, swirling around me, enveloping me.

Then I began to listen to the phrases. And in my young mind I joined the words to my life. Our help, my help. Ages past, my past.

There was only one event in my past. My father died. Whatever else had happened meant nothing to me. It loomed large whenever I glanced back and it touched everything that was now.

I let these thoughts skitter across my consciousness and then they disappeared until next Anzac Day.

Next Anzac Day. I was in high school now. No speakers on the wall, we were all in the quadrangle with the principal on a platform leading the service. We had sheets with the words of the hymns, and there it was – my hymn.

I stared at the words:

Our help, ages past. Our Hope, our Shelter.

Stormy blasts.

There was something I’d never noticed before. Our shelter from the stormy blasts. I’d certainly known some of those in my ages past. Oh, I knew it was meant to conjure images of soldiers hunkered down in trenches while bullets and explosions rained down on them. But I also knew the hunkering down I’d done while the circumstances of my life exploded around me.

Our Shelter, my Shelter.

My family began to attend a different church. Now we had a service every week and a hymn book in the pew. The services were long but the hymn book was a source of entertainment for a young girl with a good imagination. I silently read through the wedding vows at the back, choosing two random people in the congregation to marry. I read through the alphabetical index and the topical index and anything else I could find in that book.

And then I found it! My Anzac Day hymn.

There were more verses that I’d never known!

“Under the shadow of thy throne,

Thy saints have dwelt secure;

Sufficient is thine arm alone,

And our defense is sure.”

I hummed the tune under my breath as I read the words.

Here was the perfect marriage of my comforting tune and these life affirming words on the page before me.

I knew this. I’d lived this.

“Before the hills in order stood,

Or earth received her frame,

From everlasting thou art God,

To endless years the same.”

Did it matter that I’d lived through stormy blasts? Did it matter that more stormy blasts would be coming my way in the future? Not when I had the assurance of a eternal, everlasting Shelter.

“Time, like an ever-rolling stream,

Bears all its sons away;

They fly, forgotten, as a dream

Dies at the opening day.”

This morning I woke up singing my Anzac Day hymn. Much time has rolled on since I sat staring at the speaker above the blackboard. They fly, forgotten, as a dream.

But Thou……our Guide, and our Eternal Home. My Eternal Home.

Categories: Christianity, Faith, Hetty's Devotions, hymns, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Second Sunday of Advent Poem

The Battles of Advent

Preceding ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’

The battle raged:

The snake in the garden,

The first murder,

The lies, deceit

And betrayal.

The Old Covenant sad stories

Reveal

The real struggle.

When David stood before Goliath

The real fight

Was in the heavenlies.

When David lusted after Bathsheba

The battle raged in places

Far beyond earth.

When the second Adam

Was nailed to a tree,

The Romans and Sanhedrin

Were not masters

But slaves.

When Christ arose,

The false Prince lost.

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Splendour

The First Sunday of Advent 2019sunrise

A prayer poem

The whole earth is full of His splendour

Isaiah 6:3

 

Your splendour shines in the DNA of our being,

In the majesty of a sunrise,

Through the first cry of a new born baby.

 

Your splendour radiates through the myriad colour promises

Of a rainbow,

The majesty of mountains

And the delicate beauty of an alpine flower.

 

Your splendour glows through

The warmth of unbroken friendship,

The care of a helping hand

And the shoulder of a good Samaritan.

 

But, sadly, too often …

 

Our eyes are numbed to splendour,

To Your splendour.

Our hearts are diverted by

Foolish trinkets.

Our minds wander

To the distracting, the temporary,

The screen flickering vacuous.

 

Forgive us Lord.

 

When our eyes are really open

We see your splendour.

The splendour of love,

The splendour of Your love

In the promise

In the promises

In the coming of the “only begotten”…

Who is

The fullness of Your splendour.

 

Amen

 

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Another Survey and an OK Boomer

I received an email today from the Victorian Institute of Teaching inviting me to participate in the Australian Teacher Workforce Data survey. One of the first questions was very disconcerting. “In what year were you first employed as teacher/educator?” The list of years went down to 1975 and then implying that nobody could be that old still teaching, added casually: “before 1975”.

teacherIn fact, I was employed as a part time teacher in 1972 as I needed to “revisit” a couple of units in my university course at the time. But in a week in which treasurer Josh Frydenberg is encouraging oldies to stay at work (as a number of his predecessors have done) my original thought was dejavu – I have heard this all before.  Therefore it was ironic that survey assumed that there would be too few in the category before 1975 to be concerned about.

It is incredible that this influx of baby-boomers into retirement years continues to come up as a surprise. Governments have lived through the wonderful tax years when the (OK)Boomers paid into the treasury coffers but few, I say “few” because some have made an attempt to develop our superannuation system (- thank you Mr Keating), have had the political will to do something.  Most have either played with it as a cash cow or disregarded the problem altogether only echoing the previous treasurer when the next intergenerational report comes out.

I agree that our young people deserve better but so do those who have contributed their whole life time to advancing Australia’s economy. The fault doesn’t sit with the old or young but with a succession of our political betters who have, while knowing the inevitable statistics, done little to deal with the problem. Now we see a growing burden developing on our young but there are also many older people who are not on grand superannuation schemes who need to be assisted too. So there are lots of questions and very few answers.

Where are the leaders with vision who have the courage to look way beyond the next election? Don’t get me going. This is just one of many areas where vision is lacking. So, for the time being at least, I will heed my master’s voice and continue to teach. I wonder what the drop down box will reveal in next year’s survey?

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Church Buildings – a point of reference

Over the years, where ever we have travelled, I have made it my business to pray for the congregations and leaders of the various church buildings we have encountered. Large or small, magnificent or modest they have all had the Pieter prayer treatment. From my window in the albergue I can see 3 church buildings – all many hundreds of years old, and down the path just over the hill is another. This morning I went to visit that last one and pray for the people who come in and the priest that leads it. But there are many more close by that I haven’t been too. The small village of Luquin actually has a Basilica and a church. I haven’t discovered the history of that yet.

The church in Luquin

The Basilica in Luquin

The church in Azqueta

The church in its setting in Urbiola

And my constant companion in Villamayor

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Pamplona 2

Some more images of the characterful city of Pamplona.

City Hall

Cafe Iruna, the first place to have electricity in Pamplona and one its customers was ‘Ernesto’ – Ernest Hemingway

The amazing fortifications in the city

A series of draw bridges into the fortress

San Saturnino

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Pamplona

Today, on our day off, we travelled to Pamplona known for its bull runs but in fact far richer in history and culture. The highlight was Pamplona Cathedral, not just for its building but especially for its museum. This was a rich collection of religious and archaeological material presented in a professional and exciting manner. Below are a few photos.

Approaching the cathedral from the centre of the old town

Some of the side chapels

The cloister

An old bell from the bell tower

A stone coffin with a ‘cosy’ spot for the head

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A Photo Essay of Details part 2

The following photos give you some of the details around the little village of Villamayor de Monjardin.

The village shop

A building in the village

The medieval pilgrims’s bath

Looking up from the medieval pilgrims’s bath

A detail from the medieval pilgrims bath

The priest has 9 parishes

A tree on the way to the town bath

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A Photo Essay of Details Part 1

I will retry the original post in two parts

The following photos give you some of the details around the little village of Villamayor de Monjardin.

The comment below comes from a camino website:

The enclave is more popularly known as the village of four lies because its name suggests it to be a great town inhabited by monks and full of gardens: “It is not a town, nor is it great, it has no monks, or indeed a garden.” There is a small grocery shop that opens from March to October. The main site visited is the Romanesque church of San Andrés, from the XII century.

The town water fountain

The church door

A wall of the C12th church

A detail from the church

The town bath – no longer used

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The Castle at Villamayor

The castle behind Villamayor has a long history. The Romans were here over 2000 years ago and it is believed the castle is built on Roman ruins. Then the Moors came, later the kings of Navarre and also Charles the Great (Charlemagne 742-814) spent time here. There is a story that Charles, unwilling for his men to die in battle asked Santiago (Saint James) which of his men were going to die in a forthcoming battle. Red crosses appeared on the shields of 150 men, so he left these men in the camp. He went into battle and lost no men in battle. When he returned to the camp the 150 men were dead, or so the story goes.

It is clear when you get to the top of the mountain why the castle is here. There are magnificent views in every direction. Anyone who held this point would have a magnificent advantage in battle.

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