5 minutes with Kirsty (or maybe 10) ...
- Tell us a little about you
My work involves using music to engage people living with dementia, in palliative care, and chronic pain management. I love working for an independent Christian charity health care organization that takes its motivation from Matthew 25:
"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me... whenever you did this to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me."
Our mission is improving quality of life for people in need by serving people with complex health or aged care needs, regardless of their circumstances.
I feel that God opened up this role because I can contribute to the quality of life of people who are sometimes isolated, immobile, unable to communicate verbally, and sometimes isolated from family or community. Everyone is made in the image of God, everyone sins, everyone is ‘eligible’ for God’s generous grace and reconciliation, irrespective of circumstance, condition or capacity. Medical care is fairly sophisticated here, but providing emotional and spiritual support for people with dementia or disability is less well understood. Meaningful, inclusive experiences ‘in the moment’ that nurture personhood, dignity and respect, receiving love, and feeling belonging, are essential qualities for any human being. I feel genuinely blessed and fulfilled to be working in this area.
Previously, I worked as an academic – researcher and educator at two universities in Sydney: a professor of music, interaction design and sonification (sonic representation of data). That was a wonderful experience that fed my passions – enabling young people, opening minds, and discovery through research. It also exposed the best and worst of the human obsession with autonomy, worldly knowledge, atheism, and philosophies that idolize the self. Honestly, I love academia but not always the associated polity. In a secular university, practicing Christianity felt difficult, if not openly vilified. I guess that means I was ready for the sea-change and I am daily invigorated by the people we look after and whom I work with in the health care sector.
I’m a composer (of contemporary classical music – the modern variety – chamber and orchestral music mostly, and some electroacoustic music). The time I can devote to that ebbs and flows significantly and sometimes involves nocturnal stints to accommodate quotidian work. Composition was the focus of my university studies, opening the way to study, live and work in the UK, France and Japan. I think that music is a gift of connection, whether it’s playing violin, electric violin, Japanese shakuhachi (bamboo flute), writing new music, ‘communing’ in an ensemble or even simply curating music for people to listen to – people who can be moved out of pain, isolation, boredom, confusion, sadness, for a while.
A couple of years ago, I commenced a doctorate in Trinitarian metaphysics – an intersection of theology, philosophy and music – possibly a midlife crisis – or possibly pursuing a dream to undertake really meaningful research in an area I am passionate about with a wonderful supervisor who humbly nudges me in directions Christianly and academically that feel like a gift. I am truly thankful to God’s provision of this mature Christian mentoring in my life and for rescuing me for eternity. Although I’m forty-something, I am relatively new, or newly returned, to Christianity after a 20-year excursion in Buddhism of both the Tibetan and Zen kind. I need all the guidance I can find! I’m zealous about learning and reading and writing … but often I feel like a newbie, especially when one tastes the magnitude of God’s depth and mystery and develops an appreciation for the profundity of Christian scholarship. At the risk of sounding overly nerdy, the richness of Christian thought is something of an attraction. In fact, I am writing the PhD to explore in longhand the issues that created bumps when I was exploring Christianity anew. - What's your favourite bible passage & why? There are numerous ‘favourites’. It is also dynamic. I do try to annotate standout verses from daily Bible reading in a journal, to prompt reflection and prayer. Here are a few that are important at the moment: Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2 (HCSB) The potential of renewing, transforming our minds to God’s way is exciting and this verse is a reminder to be constantly vigilant, to discern between worldly and Godly paths and move in the right direction, remembering Who we are serving and following. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. … [The Lord] said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:7&9 (NLT) Especially in times of weakness and difficult, or repeated physical shortcoming, it is reassuring to know that humility is a tool that glorifies God and illuminates His great power. Things that bother us can be purposed for God’s glory (much like Romans 8:28), and spiritual maturity can be grown through tough circumstances. I’ve had my share of emotional and fleshly wounds in recent years: this verse helps me, especially as it was written by Paul who endured all kinds of torture, pain, shipwrecks, imprisonment, blinding revelation yet fervently pursued evangelizing the gospel across the world, undeterred. Even in this important missional work, he had to contend with “the thorn.” The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork … (Psalm 19). Just one psalmic example that turns our eyes to the glory of God evident through His creation. It was the beauty of natural creation that first prompted me to investigate the creator: magical skies, the sounds of the ocean, endless beauty of plants and animals, the infinite and incredible intricacies I notice in photography, especially the firmament, the galaxies, star-gazing. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you. 2 Timothy 1:14 (NLT) Slow down! It is absolute and ultimate TRUTH that we’re talking about and it is your soul and eternal life. That God gave us access to salvation through the gift of His Son and the Holy Spirit who lives in us, is indeed PRECIOUS. This verse encapsulates the preciousness of God’s sacrificed Son, the importance of His gift to us, and truth ‘entrusted’. ‘Entrusted’ implies responsibility and care – that truth requires a response and it is the ultimate sign of God’s love for his human children. Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 1 Peter 3:8 (NLT) I always need reminding of the value of humility in God’s worldview. Pride and selfishness are right alongside sexual depravity and greed at the summit of immorality. Humility is difficult and not even encouraged in contemporary society oftentimes when assertiveness, self-advocacy, status, authority, superiority of prowess, acquisitions, accomplishment, skills … everything … are blindingly prioritized in our material world. Humility is to love and serve like Jesus. Humility is recognizing human equality in God’s eyes, and absolute contingency/dependency on God for every breath and every thing. Attitudes of love, unity, tenderheartedness, peacefulness and understanding (empathy) would go a long way towards compassion, tolerance, unity in diversity, reconciliation, non-comparison, non-judgementalism, community and cooperation. Being of one mind means recognizing the Lordship of God rather than idolizing individual self, autonomy and autocracy, postmodern utilitarianism, and the social dystopia of contemporary anti-theism. There are many verses with this sentiment, but Jesus is never boastful, never proud, never cruel, and never lazy. Although he is the King, he is servant-hearted and humble. - How do you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus? Daily Bible reading, thinking (some would say meditating … trying to avoid the Eastern connotation here), praying and the constant informal ‘conversation’ that is not organized prayer. My strongest mainstay is a handful of close Christian friends, mostly Christian women, who guide, mentor, inspire, encourage, correct me and who pray with and for me. Even when I am weak, lost, or disheartened, they are always faithful and steadfast. They are people who have been Christians all their adult life (and more). They are unwavering. People like that are important – essential. - What would you like the next generation of Christian women to know? Jesus loves you no matter what … I’m not being hyperbolic. Know that whatever you’ve done in the past, however insignificant you feel – or perhaps you don’t – perhaps you feel self-sufficient, nonetheless Jesus is there for you and the Holy Spirit can unveil mysterious insights into scripture and wisdom that you cannot possibly experience in your own capacity. Also know that the church, the community who adopts you, is a group of people who will help and support you, be your friend, look out for you, provide wisdom, listen or simply pray when you cannot. Just accept the grace of God and the grace of His people. It is highly countercultural but they love you and care without judging. It’s never too late to call on Jesus. Start small. I guarantee nobody knows what they’re asking for, or getting themselves into, when they ask for forgiveness and open their hearts up to the Lord, but you will grow. God has never let me down. Find mature Christians who can mentor and pray for you. Get stirred up about being radical, countercultural, orthodox (true). - What's one thing that you love about your local church? It’s full of those people I mentioned above – the mentors, pray-ers, people further along the path, as well as full of humble, forgiven, broken people, people with problems, realistic people who will understand you: unity in diversity. People can be as various in background, interests, abilities, capacities, resource, culture, gifts, talents as can be, but they share a love of God or at least the aspiration to love God. They’re not even all local! - What did you learn about God at a time in your life you found hard? As for 2 Corinthians 12:7&9 above, we are earthen vessels, ‘dust’, a ‘vapor’, but God’s power works through our weakness. Take heart that we often don’t understand circumstances or timing but God’s plan is incomprehensibly INFINITE and His time is ETERNAL. It is an honour that we are even part of His concept, and that He has adopted us as children. God is steadfast. We grow through testing, and if we don’t, or if we flounder, He is still there and He loves us. God is not responsible for temptation. - What are you passionate about? Music – composition, violin, shakuhachi flute and traditional Japanese music, contemporary music, Native American flute; theology (especially Trinitarian theology), philosophy (especially phenomenology, hermeneutics, ontology, epistemology); photography, lenses and cameras; calligraphy and all thinks inky and fountain pens, vintage and flexible nib pens, pen[wo]manship, drawing; reading, teaching; Zephaniah – my rabbit; exploring nature, writing creatively and informatively – currently a book on music and dementia, and my thesis, research; helping people – theology of dementia and disability, the outworking of modern church; C20th painting, Renaissance Flemish and European painting, sculpture, art; design; robots; colour; natural sound ecology; geometry and creative artificial intelligence; exploring different cultures and languages; traditional Japanese (Zen) art-forms – brush calligraphy, archery, aikido, tea ceremony, gardens, and kaiseke (Japanese haute cuisine). - What do you enjoy doing when you rest? Reading, photography and wandering, Bible reading, calligraphy, drawing, thinking and journaling, playing shakuhachi flute, experimental cooking, walking, occasionally (though not often enough) composing music.