Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A great night

I had one of the best nights of my life on Monday night.

That's a big call I know. However, I think it's true. (Of course our wedding was better and there have probably been some other key moments that would rate a mention!)

I went to the James Taylor and Carole King concert.



Now some of you are thinking:
- "wow, you must be really old to like them" (no, I'm not - my mum was a big fan of James Taylor and it was soaked into me as a kid)
- "who are they?" - then you are too young!

But, hopefully some of you are agree with me that they (& I have to say for me, it was mainly about James Taylor) are fantastic. Their music is great and his voice is amazing. It was so much fun.


They are getting on in years, both exceeding the age of my still wonderfully young parents. James Taylor is 62 and Carole King is 68. But they do a great concert, still jumping around the stage and belting out the songs.


It included lots of their classic songs:
For Taylor - Fire & Rain, Carolina in My Mind, Sweet Baby James, Shower the People, Steamroller
For King - I Feel the Earth Move, Locomotion, It's Too Late, Way over Yonder, You've Got a Friend (which I thought Taylor wrote, but apparently King did), Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?


Did I say it was fantastic?!

***

And just a little taste for those that wish they could have been there...


video



video

Monday, March 29, 2010

Birthday cake

We had Mr 7's birthday party on Friday night. Inspired by a post I saw on girltalk*, I made him a Lego cake. He was delighted.

I share it for you, dear readers, because so many boys (& some girls) out there are Lego fans and this was very easy. A square cake (or 2) with mini muffins stuck on top, then all iced - simple!



Yummy too!




* I noticed (by following their links) that the photo on girltalk came from Betty Crocker, explaining it's highly professional look!

Friday, March 26, 2010

East West 101

Last year we enjoyed watching East West 101 (Season 1). Now we have just finished watching Season 2. It's very easy to finish off over a few weeks, being only 7 episodes. (unlike 24, for example, which feels like it goes forever...).*

Detective Zane Malik (Don Hany) reappears in this season, a Muslim cop working with the Major Crime Squad solving murders in Sydney. The overarching plot throughout this season is a car-bomb murder, which requires the Squad to work with the National Security Organisation (NSO). There are also the personal stories of the characters woven throughout.

It's a great series, high-quality drama. I wish we made more quality TV like this in Australia.



* It is a bit violent too, although sadly I am used to violence having watched 8 seasons of 24!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Pilgrim's Progress (audio book)

You might start to think that I am being sponsored by christianaudio.com! No, not at all - however I am becoming a big fan of their free monthly downloads. They have just put out another free download for March.

I have always wanted to read Pilgrim's Progress, and even tried a few times. This version is abridged and updated for the modern reader, so I have no idea how much it has been changed.

I have been listening to it on my walks, and it's great. It's a story of the Christian life told in an allegory, Graceless starts on a journey carrying a burden of sin. He is shown the way to the Celestial City. His burden is lost at the cross, he continues on the way to the City and is renamed Christian. He meets characters such as Evangelist, Worldy Wiseman, Mr Legality, Sloth, Charity and Watchman.

When he is relieved of his burden, he says these words:
Thus far did I come with my burden of sin
And nothing could ease the grief I was in
But when I came hither the burden I lost
And I found peace and joy at the foot of the cross (Chapter 7)
I am only about a third of the way through it, so I don't really know what is yet to come (although I have heard enough about it over time to guess!) I suspect the children could also listen to it in a few years - it's all in modern English and very comprehensible (the very things I struggled with when trying to read it years ago!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Change of scene

I felt like a change, and as they say 'a change is as good as a holiday'.

So, here is the new blog layout! Now waiting for the real holiday...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Easter

Last year around this time I did a little series about Easter and how to celebrate it in a Christ-centred way with our families. Please follow the links back to that series to get some ideas for Easter that may work for you.

I was happy with how things went last year - so we plan to continue with our bible reading plan this year. It is a 14 day plan, which has a bible reading, prayer and some things to think about each day.

Most days also have a little item hidden in an egg, which helps to tell the Easter story.

I have just realised it needs to start on Monday (March 22), so I'd better get it all organised this weekend!

I hope you also will be able to take time out in the lead-up to Easter to remember Jesus' death and his sacrifice for us.

The other posts from last year (here and here) also show some of the things we did over the Easter weekend, like having a Passover meal on Thursday night, having a Resurrection Cake on Sunday and going to church on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

I'll get back to you after Easter and let you know how it all went!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Disney gets sexy

The last two weeks I have made a few comments (here and here) about Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls, which I read with interest over the summer.

As many of you know we have two daughters, and we are in the 'princess' and dressing up stage with both of them. We were given Disney princess playing cards as a gift last year, and it intrigued me to see the change in Disney's portrayal of women over the decades, which can be seen directly by each Disney princess.

Start with Snow White, which was first released in 1938 (and re-released in 2009). She was a rather demure figure, looks like a girl, hardly any bust, has sensible shoes, and while thin-waisted has a reasonably accurate figure for a teenager.


Next we have Cinderella, which was released in 1950 (re-released in 2004) & Aurora, Sleeping Beauty (1959, re-released in 2008). Both still have discreet tops, but are much bustier. Their waists are also getting thinner.




After this point, Disney has a break for about 30 years, and returns to the scene with 3 bestseller movies in 3 years:

There is Ariel (The Little Mermaid, 1989), Belle (Beauty and the Beast, 1991) and Jasmine (Aladdin, 1992). Note that:


- their bustlines are more defined, larger and are much more on show,
- their waists are getting even thinner, and
- their eyes are really big, compare their eyes from the earlier version - if you had eyes that large you would look very strange!


I am willing to acknowledge that Disney has at least got more multi-cultural in the last 20 years, with Mulan (Chinese, 1998), Pocahontas (Native American Indian, 1995) and Tianna (African-American, 2009). However, none of them have really been raised to the same 'Princess' status, and all of them are still beautiful, thin (especially impossibly thin-waisted) and buxom.


I am not planning an all-out campaign against Disney. I don't really care enough! However, I do think it's helpful to be aware of these trends and be able to point them out to our sons and daughters. To encourage them to ask questions about what they watch, and the messages they are given:

- Do you think it's important that she is pretty?
- Do you think the movie is telling us it's important that she is pretty? Why?
- Do you think she is happy because she looks pretty?
- Do you know anyone who really looks like this?
etc, etc

Also, I am not banning such movies from our home, the ones that we have seen (which are only a few), have redeeming qualities of characters that you can emphasise, and they are fun! They have great music and are fun to watch.

However, it's yet another thing that I keep in mind as I continue to ponder the sexualisation of girls and how the media have helped it along.



*Pictures from http://www.ttrove.com/princesses.htm
Research done with Wikipedia and the Disney websites.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Calvin - Chapter 3

Chapter 3: The Knowledge of God Has Been Naturally Implanted in the Minds of Men.

It is worth remembering that in Book 1 (where we will be all year), Calvin is speaking of knowledge of God as creator.* In Book 2, he moves on to knowledge of God the redeemer in Christ. So, as we read his words about knowledge of God, he is not yet talking about saving knowledge through Christ. When he speak of all men knowing God and who he is, he is referring to the knowledge of God that is evidenced through creation and the conscience of man.

In this chapter, he talks of how the knowledge of God is in the minds of men:
There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity... God himself has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty. (Ch 3, pt 1, p43)
All peoples and civilisations have an idea of the divine, and even idolatry is proof of it - mankind are willing to worship objects of wood and stone to fulfill this knowledge.

Therefore, religion is not an invention:
it is utterly vain for some men to say that religion was invented by the subtlety and craft of a few to hold the simple folk in thrall by this device... (p44)
Even those who claim to be atheists cannot always fully sustain their own position. Like the friend who claims not to believe in God, but is happy for you to pray for him. The person who doesn't want to know God, but still asks you why He would let someone she loved die.

So, Calvin claims, actual godlessness is impossible.
Indeed, the perversity of the impious, who though they struggle furiously are unable to extricate themselves from the fear of God, is abundant testimony that this conviction, namely, that there is some God, is naturally inborn in all, and is fixed deep within, as it were in the very marrow. (p46)
Do we believe this? Do you assume a knowledge of God when you speak to un-believers? If we agree with Calvin, we can. For all the current ideas of post-modernism and the death of religion (which, as we see, is not so new if Calvin was writing about it!), generally people do have a sense of the divine. Someone (hopefully) is in control of the world. Someone made the ordered beauty we see in creation. People do search for meaning in life.

Perhaps we should let God as creator speak more clearly to his creation. Show people that innate longing for God felt by all mankind. Point out the knowledge of God that already resides in them.

And then, show them to the Christ who has saved them.


* Book 1 is in fact titled Knowledge of God the Creator

Monday, March 8, 2010

Getting Real - pt 2

Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls, edited by Melinda Tankard Reist

Last week I made a few general comments about this book, this week I want to share some of the things I have been thinking as a response to reading it:

Bigger Issues:
  • We need to keep trusting God. He is in control, he is sovereign and he also hates that girls are being sexualised by our culture. Instead of feeling overwhelmed or despairing, we must keep remembering that God cares for our children.
  • Do you know what the overarching question was that kept coming back to me as I read this book? Where are the parents? Why are parents not standing up to this, drawing boundaries around their children, refusing to allow certain things into the home, caring about their children and what they are exposed to? We need not be afraid to stand up for our children because no one else will, and because that is our job. We are their advocates in this world.

As mothers:

As mothers we need to be very careful how we portray ourselves to our daughters:
  • Do you spend a lot of time 'beautifying' yourself, rather than showing contentedness about your body
  • Do you talk about your body in a denigrating way, 'I hate my thighs', or worse 'pregnancy ruined my body'
  • Do you 'diet' rather than 'eat healthily'
  • Do you exercise to 'lost weight', or to be 'be healthy' / 'because you like it'
  • Do you have magazines around the house that focus on body image, beauty and gossip? Chances are they are not helping our own self-esteem, let along that of our daughters.

As fathers:


Fathers must play a crucial role, both in teaching their sons and daughters. My father was a wonderful example of this - he has two daughters. He told us we were wonderful, and beautiful, and clever and capable. He obviously loved us, he had great joy in our abilities academically and in sport, and he treated us as special women. He talked about his three lovely women and how much we meant to him. We knew, both in watching how Dad treated Mum, and how he treated us, that women deserved to be treated well & with respect, and that we should not put up with anything less.


Our sons:

Nicole made a very helpful comment about our sons with regard to this book:
But at times, I felt that some of the authors were assuming that girls were the only victims of the sex / pornography / industries - and that boys were only ever the perpetrators. As a mother of a boy (as well as two girls) I would hate to see my son grow up in a culture that was even more suspicious of and hostile to masculinity than it already is. (see her post)
I totally agree. I want my son to grow up loving & respecting women, knowing what real women look like, that sex is wonderful but for marriage, and that husbands and wives can truly love and delight in each other. And he is only going to learn that from us, from other Christians and from God's word. He is not going to learn it from anyone in the world. I suspect it is really here that fathers can play a crucial role.


Our daughters:

Most points from the other sections also flow over for daughters, however, here are a few extra thoughts.
  • What do you let your girls wear? Is the language/concept of modesty used in your home? Do your girls wear things you would never leave the house in?
  • Do you praise your daughter for her kind heart, her generous nature, her care of others, as well as telling her she looks pretty?
  • Read books that actually teach how to think about raising girls from a Christian perspective. I have read Girl Talk and 5 Conversations You Must have With Your Daughter and found both helpful in thinking through a number of these issues.

Practically:
  • Do you even raise the issues with your children? As you drive past advertising - do you ask "Why does she need to wear a bikini to sell a Coke?" Or "Why does she need to lie on the car to tell people to buy it?" We are probably a few years off raising these things explicitly with our kids, so if you are doing so, I would love to hear how you do.
  • Do you have practical steps in place to protect your children at home? No TVs, computers, mobiles in bedrooms. Internet filters. Computers where adults can see them. Access to their Facebook & My Space pages.
  • What TV shows do you watch as a family? What do you let them watch? Do you talk about what they show says about people?
  • Complain when necessary. Contact the Advertising Standards Board when you see something inappropriate.
  • Have a look at the Kids Free 2B Kids website for more information


Any other thoughts?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

How encouraging!

As I walked into church this morning, a dear lady walked up to me and handed me a present!*

She said she wanted to thank me for this blog. She has been encouraged by it and she wanted to let me know.

How encouraging! I felt uplifted all morning. I don't blog to get thanks and I really have no idea who reads it.

But to you - dear friend - thank you. I really appreciate it.




* A bag of Haigh's chocolates - what a treat! I have already sampled a dark choc mint and am looking forward to another later...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Calvin - Chapter 2

Chapter 2: What it is to Know God, and to What Purpose the Knowledge of Him Tends.

As I read these chapters I am amazed at how succinct, yet how meaty Calvin is. I want to quote the whole chapter because it is all gold.

As both Cathy & Meredith have already discussed, piety is a big theme so far. It's taking me a while to get my head around the idea of piety. It's a term we rarely use anymore, which is a shame. Calvin gives us a definition of piety:
that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces. For until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by his fatherly care, that he is Author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond him - they will never yield him willing service. (Ch 2, pt 1, p41)
Today when the term pious is applied to someone, it is rarely a compliment. Rather, it tends towards an accusation of self-righteousness (as Cathy also pointed out). However, when you see true piety, you recognise it. G & I know two men who we have recently described as pious, using the full complimentary meaning of the term - they are men who truly seek to serve God & do so obediently, because of their great love for him. When you see true piety, it is a joy to behold.

Calvin claims that piety is required to know God, to know him as creator and sustainer of all things, let alone knowing him as saviour and redeemer. In doing so, we acknowledge that all good comes from God, and from nowhere else.

When we seek to know God, what we want to know is "what sort he is and what is consistent with his nature" (p41). What God do we know?
the pious mind does not dream up for itself any god it pleases, but contemplates the one and only true God (p42)
Our knowledge of God serves to teach fear and reverence, and then with it guiding us, we learn to seek every good.

He ends the chapter with a rather pointed comment:
all men have a vague general veneration of God, but very few really reverence him; and whenever there is great ostentation in ceremonies, sincerity of heart is rare indeed. (p43)
This comes back to piety doesn't it? A piety that is self-righteous will want to be showy, to proclaim the greatness of man while giving lip-service to God. True piety will never be ostentatious, as the desire is to give God, and God alone, the glory. Or as the reformers, such as Calvin, claimed: Soli Deo Gloria (for the glory of God alone).

It seems appropriate to pray for piety, both for myself and for the Christian community - so that we can know God better and glorify him alone.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fifty Reasons - audiobook

In the lead up to Easter, you might be after some reading material, or perhaps, some listening material.

This month, christianaudio.com are giving away free downloads of the audio version of John Piper's Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. I read this last year around Easter and found it really helpful to think afresh about all the reasons Jesus came to die for us.

My guess is as an audiobook, each reason would take less than 10 mins to listen to - an easy bite-size chunk when on the bus, in the car or going for a walk.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Getting Real - pt 1

Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls, edited by Melinda Tankard Reist

I heard about this book last year, and waited months for it to arrive - well worth the wait! Although a depressing read, it's key reading for anyone who has anything to do with girls (& boys for that matter) - parents, teachers, church leaders ...

While depressing, it also issues a challenge, especially to those of us who are parents, to not sit idly by and let the prevailing culture (led by media and advertising) dictate who our children imitate, learn from and are influenced by.

The book is a collection of essays, all written by different authors and all addressing different aspects of the sexualisation of girls:

- the risks of premature sexualisation for children
- the psychological and developmental impact of sexualisation on children
- how advertising works on children and it is almost unavoidable
- the 'moral panic' raised by something like the Bill Henson photos in 2008, and the inability to allow proper debate on the issues raised
- the increase in medicalisation of sexualised girls - dealing with contraception, abortion, pregnancy, depression, STDs, etc
- how sex is so trivialised

One thing I found fascinating was the observation made of still advertising - predominantly the depiction of women in advertising is that they are young, thin, white and idle (p67). Next time you see a woman advertising something (especially in still media) ask yourself: is she doing anything? Does she have a job? Care for anyone? Chances are there are no clues - she has no background - she is just enjoying the product on offer, making the statement that "the perfect woman is beautiful, decorative and completely without identity" (p70)


I must admit that reading this book made me want to lock both my son and daughters up with no access to television, advertising, the internet or the outside world until they are 25! What children now have to face, in terms of exposure to pornography, a sexualised culture and society's ideas of how they should look and act (ie. be sexy and act sexy) terrifies me.

However, I do and must remember that God is sovereign. He knows all things and is in control of all things. As parents we need to trust that God loves and cares for our children, even more than we do.

That's not to say however, that we sit idly by and let it be. Next week, I'll make some comments about some areas this book got me thinking about more.

Nicole has also been commenting recently on this book - we often seem to read the same things at the same time! See her introductory comments on it here.

Going the Distance - Chapter 17

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives. 

Chapter 17 - Summing Up

We have reached the end of Going the Distance! I hope that you have been encouraged, as I have, to be excited about the work of the gospel that we are involved in, but also how to sustain it for the long-haul.

The gospel message is a great treasure and we have chosen to share it with others - it is a joy and a privilege. However, being wise and remembering God's grace will enable us to continue to run the race that Christ has given us.
Self-care is not an excuse for laziness in ministry. Rather, it is a way of making sure that we "live for Christ" for as long as he has work for us to do. There is no virtue ... in burning out before our time, because we failed to take appropriate care of ourselves. Reality demands that we face up to our frailty and mortality. The saying "every day I die a little. The big question is: Am I dying too fast?" helps us address this stark reality with confidence and hope. (p258)

Hopefully, this book has helped you and your husband to consider how to sustain your ministry for as long as God gives you, to His glory and honour.