Tuesday, November 30, 2010

End of year - cards and presents

When you have children at school, pre-school, daycare, and children's programs at church, you get to the end of the year and realise - there are a lot of people to thank!

Here are some ideas for thank you cards, with varying levels of complexity!

1. A TEAR gift card. Place an online order and you'll have the cards in a few days. Lots of other organisations are doing this now too - Compassion, CMS, etc. We just chose TEAR in the past and have stuck with them, for I felt they were appropriate to give to both Christians and non-Christians. I always buy the kids' school teachers a gift of 'primary schooling' - so they can be encouraged that other children are being supported to learn. For other teachers and helpers, they often get a 'school supplies card'. (Husband and I now also get each other a TEAR gift for Christmas - usually a goat or a toilet depending on our humour levels that year!)

2. A hand made card - once the kids are at school, it's better for them to write their own cards anyway. Last year we did paint handprints. Sometimes we attached a little Christmas decoration too.

This year we have traced cookie cutters and coloured them in. We write the message on the other side, laminate it, stick a ribbon through a punched hole - and voila - nice card, which one could hang on a tree, if one so desired.


3. Baked goods. For us, this accompanies a card to say a special thank you. I usually do a simple cookie recipe which you can make heaps of, wrap them in a cellophane bag with a ribbon, and it looks really nice. In the past it has been gingerbread. This year I cannot bear the thought of rolling that much dough, so a simpler jam drop or biscuit is the plan!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Everyone's got a bottom

Everyone's got a bottom, Tess Rowley and Jodi Edwards
(produced by Family Planning Queensland)

Here is a children's book that is excellent, well written and helpful - yet you wish it never had to be made.

This story about Ben, his brother and sister introduces the idea of self-protection and personal safety in a positive and clear way.

It introduces the family and how they have fun together. Then it talks about how kids learn to look after themselves - brush their teeth, etc. It moves onto to explain that they learn to look after our own bodies, giving proper names for private parts (helpfully explaining the differences between girls and boys). It explains the idea of privacy well, and the idea of rules about bodies:
Mum and Dad have given us a rule about touching. Nobody can touch our bodies including our private parts without good reason.

If someone bigger or older than me wants to touch or see my private parts or show me theirs, that is not ok. I think that is rude.

It might be a person that I know and like. It is still not ok...
What I really liked was that it said that we don't need to keep secrets about bodies "Secrets can be about surprises and presents. We can talk about our bodies feeling safe and feeling hurt."

Throughout the book on most pages it has the same refrain:
From our head to our toes,
We can say what goes.
My kids were chanting this by the end of the first reading, so the idea at least caught on.

You will probably find it hard to read it to your kids. It is well worth doing, but it raises so many ideas in your mind that you may find it tough (especially if you have a personal history of abuse).

However, it's a resource that is needed and for many families it will be a helpful way to start conversations with their children about their personal safety, as well as possibly adopting this family's house rules for your own. It matched almost everything I have wanted to explain to my kids, but did in a much better way (much more positive and much less scary) than anything I would have come up with.

One note though - if you have it in your house, do not leave it around for children to read on their own - the back page has detailed instructions for parents/caregivers, much of which could be alarming for a child to read. This is definitely a book to keep high on a shelf and then read with them and talk about.

Married for God - Chapter 6

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

Chapter 6: What’s the point of the marriage institution?

In this chapter Ash explains his third point (listed on page 30) – Marriage as a safeguard against public chaos.

When I first read this point at the beginning of the book, I had no idea what he was getting at. Now I understand, and I really appreciated the chapter. It clarified thinking on marriage I knew I believed, but had never managed to put into words myself.

Firstly, he addresses sex, and the fact that sex is to be surrounded by the marriage boundary. This means that sex is for within marriage, and only within marriage.
to love another person enough for sex means to love them enough to have publicly committed yourself to them for life in marriage. Short of that commitment, however passionately you may say you love them, actually you don’t love them enough for sex. (p101)
What a great statement! One we should be sharing with dating couples, and those who are sorely tempted together before they are committed in marriage. He goes on to discuss the dangers of sex outside marriage.

Ash defines marriage as: The voluntary public union of one man and one woman from different families.

In explaining this, he made some helpful points:
  • marriage is a voluntary union – it must be consensual, which includes consenting to what is part of a marriage – sexual union, the potential blessing of children, and a commitment to the marriage until one partner dies.
  • marriage is a public union – a public declaration of commitment and intent
  • marriage begins with public consent not consummation
  • marriage is defined by public consent not private emotion

He then talks about why marriage is better than cohabitation:
  • marriage is unambiguous
  • marriage is a union of families; cohabitation is free-floating
  • marriage provides protection for the vulnerable at the start
  • marriage offers some home of justice to those wronged when it ends
  • marriage strengthen private intentions with public promises
Obviously, I come from a viewpoint that marriage is better by far, but this actually gave me logical and clear reasons for my opinion – I finished the chapter thinking “why would anyone want to cohabit, rather than marry?”

Have you ever thought of the benefits outlined here of marriage, both to the marriage partners and to society at large?
How would you express these reasons for marriage to a youth group? How about to a de-facto couple in your church?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas part 2 - and a giveaway!

Sometimes preparing anything of your own is just too much at Christmas time. If that's you - think about doing an order from the Good Book Company. They have a number of products that you could use for your family:

1. Advent Calendar Packs* - I bought these to review earlier in the year and they look really good. There is an A3 advent calendar, which contains a picture and bible verse. Each day corresponds with a daily reading/activity in a little booklet which is provided. There are three versions:

- Countdown to the Coming of the King
- The Real Christmas Tree
- Christmas Opened Up


2. Beginning with God at Christmas - I have been doing Beginning with God Book 1 with my 3-year old and we love it. If an advent calendar full of bible readings etc is too old your kids - this could be a winner.


3. XTB: Christmas Unpacked - An activity book for 7-10 year olds in the lead up to Christmas.






*I have one of each Advent Calendar Pack to giveaway. So if it's all too hard this year, and you'd like some help - email me and go in the draw for me for me to post you a pack (with your address and if you have a preference for which of the three). In order for it to arrive by Wednesday 1st (hopefully!) - it's limited to Australian readers. Entries close noon Monday 29th.

My only request is that you let me know how it went, so I can review it properly for next year!!

Update - all packs have been won - congrats to Christine, Jenny and Emily.

My references to the Good Book Company in this post are all to the Australian store - but they also have a UK and US store.

The Book Thief

The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak

This is one of those amazing books I referred to yesterday.

Sometimes when you read a book, you are so taken by it that need a break from reading all together - just to think about it a little more. This is one of those books.

The Book Thief is narrated by Death - who is very busy, as it is wartime:
In all honesty (and I know I'm complaining excessively now), I was still getting over Stalin, in Russia. The so-called second revolution - the murder of his own people.
Then came Hitler.
They say war is death's best friend, but I must offer you a different point of view on that one. To me, war is like the new boss who expects the impossible. He stands over your shoulder repeating one thing, incessantly. 'Get it done, get it done'. So you work harder, You get the job done, The boss, however, does not thank you. He asks for more. (p331)
However, even with all the work Death has during the war, he is distracted by a girl he meets three times over the course of her life. The book thief, otherwise known as Liesel Meminger, is fostered to a couple in Germany in the 1940s. She develops a love of books, at a time of Nazi book burnings and racial intolerance. Even more dangerously, her foster family hide a Jew in their basement.

It's a powerful book, eloquently written and I found it quite devastating - both the story and the way it was written.

Highly recommended reading.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Books

What things on earth fill your life with joy and have the power to change you - at least for a little while?

For some, it's music - the enjoyment of a composition of brilliance.

For others, it might be an artwork that touches them.

For others (and sometimes me) - it's creation - the amazing array of the world and it's natural beauty.

But, above all, for me - it's the written word. I am amazed at what well written words can do.

God's word trumps them all. Yet there are some incredibly talented human authors too. I have read some great books over these holidays, I'll share them with you over coming weeks.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Christmas

Does Christmas sneak up on you each year?

(This is an edited repost from last year - because Christmas has indeed snuck up on me!)


In one week, we will be putting up the tree and starting our advent material. Some longer term readers may recall what we have done in previous years (see Advent posts if you would like to know).

We want to teach the kids that Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas, and to use every chance we have to do so. We have found that 25 readings/activities in December have been a great way to teach about Jesus as well as making it exciting to do so.
  • This year's readings (like last year) are focusing on the events around the birth of Jesus. We have 25 readings mainly from Luke and Matthew's gospels, so we can really spend time thinking about when Jesus was born and what it means for us today. Each day there is a bible reading, some questions to think about, a special verse and some optional extras - something to draw, a song to listen to, a craft to do, etc.
  • We still use the boxes - they are a big hit and have now become a family tradition
  • In each box there is a verse for each of our 3 children. The verse in full is written out for Mr 7, then a simplified version for Miss 5 which she should be able to remember bits of, and the same for Miss 3.



  • They will also get a special treat each day in the box, which will be a selection of little trinkets I got from Koorong (bouncy balls, erasers, stickers, etc), bubbles, Christmas decorations, craft or some candy/chocolate. I do this to make it FUN. We want Christmas to be fun and learning about Jesus to be fun too.

If you are interested, you have a week to do it. I am happy to share my material with anyone, just send me an email.

Now I am looking forward to December 1!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holidays

We have just returned from 2 weeks of holidays, 1 week in sun-soaked Queensland and 1 week at home.

For the first time in quite some time, we have had a very relaxing break.

We had lots of fun as a family.
We read lots of books.
We switched off our computers for 2 weeks.

It was wonderful.

Married for God - Chapter 5

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

Chapter 5: God’s pattern for the marriage relationship

How ought husband and wife relate to each other?
the Bible’s answer is simple, politically incorrect, and deeply beautiful: the wife ought to submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ, and the husband ought to love his wife as Christ loves the church. (p83)
He states clearly that while many today are uncomfortable with this teaching:
We need not be defensive. This is a beautiful pattern. It undermines equally the oppression of male chauvinism and the false dawn of aggressive secular feminism…This is how God has made the world, with men and women made equally in his image, and entrusted equally with the joyful honour of governing his good world. Equal, but different. (p84)
He also emphasised that this is not culturally specific (and therefore avoidable). Rather, “this is the pattern for every age and all cultures. This is God’s shape for marriage and we need to understand it” (p86)

His explanations of the key passages (Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3: 18-19 & 1 Peter 3:1-7) are very helpful and I recommend you read them yourself, rather than have me attempt to summarise them.

However, his summaries of what this pattern may look like bear repeating:
At the heart of this pattern is the husband who consciously reminds himself again and again that he is called to be like Christ going to the cross in his marriage: to lead by serving and loving and caring whatever the cost to himself…

At the heart of this pattern also is the wife who consciously reminds herself that she is to cultivate the gentle and quiet spirit of dignified honourable submission, serving alongside her husband with equal dignity, using her gifts to the full, but nevertheless encouraging him to take his place of Christlike headship in their marriage. (p95)

How does headship and submission work out in your own marriage?
In which ways do you struggle with it?
How do you discuss headship and submission with engaged couples?

Ash points out 4 distortions of this pattern, two from husbands behaving badly and two from wives behaving badly:
  1. The tyrannical husband – this is not a Christlike leader, but rather a bully.
  2. The bossy wife – she wants to lead rather than encourage her husband to do so
  3. The mousy wife – who surrenders her dignity as the man’s equal partner
  4. The abdicator husband – who avoids the cost of cross-shaped leadership. Ash suspects most men need to repent of this.

(You might also find it helpful to switch across to Lesley Ramsay’s post on this chapter in the Equip Book Club, she includes a very helpful table from Wayne Grudem)

Do you tend towards any of these distortions in your own marriage? How might you try to change your patterns of relating?


Ash finishes by wondering how our marriages might just point people to God:
I think that men and women may say to themselves as they watch a Christian marriage: ‘I have never seen God. Sometimes I wonder, when I look at the world, if God is good, or if there is a God. But if he can make a man and woman love one another like this; if he can make the husband show costly faithfulness through sickness as well as health; if he can give him the resources to love when frankly there is nothing in it for him; well, then he must be a good God. And if he can give this wife grace to submit so beautifully, with such an attractive spirit under terrible trials, then again he must be a good God.’ (p96)
Wouldn’t that be a wonderful witness.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Married for God - Chapter 4

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

Chapter 4: What is the point of sex & intimacy?

To understand the point of sex in a marriage, Ash thinks we need to be wary of 2 extremes.

1. Don’t have too high a view of sex. Then it really is “sex in the service of us”. The relationship becomes all about you and me and our fulfilment, it is what makes us whole and complete as a person.

This is a view espoused by society at large, and certainly forced upon us by the media. However, as Christians, we are often more likely to fall to the other end of extremes:

2. Don’t have too low a view of sex.
Christians tend to focus on the epidemic of sexual activity outside marriage, but I suspect we ought to devote at least equal attention to the epidemic of sexual inactivity within marriages… It is important to remember not only that the Bible forbids sex outside marriage, but that it commends sex within marriage (p71)
He goes on to say, while the expressions on intimate love may change with ages and stages of life:
At every age, the principle remains, that in marriage each owes his or her body to the other, to give the other all the love and intimacy of which they are capable. There will be times when this is sheer delight on both sides. But there will be times when, for one of you, this will be more of a costly giving, when, for whatever reason, you have little or no desire for sex. At these times especially it is important to remember that on your wedding day you committed yourself sexually to your wife or husband for life. Make space for it as marriage goes on; nurture it and nourish it in love. (p72)
Do you tend to have too high or too low a view of sex?

Is sex a priority in your marriage? Why or why not?


Ash goes on to talk about sex from an aspect I had not considered before:

The intimacy in our marriages should overflow in blessing to others.

He uses two ways to explains this:
  • God's love for his bride Israel overflows into blessing for the world
  • Marriages overflows into fruitfulness. Using the imagery in the Song of Songs and the garden, Ash claims that the springtime of love described, gives way to an autumn of fruitfulness. He also says that the love of the King for his bride, overflows into blessing for the people of the kingdom.
I must say I struggled with these descriptions a little. Not that I disagree with them per se, I just wasn’t entirely convinced of the reading of the texts. I would love to know what others thought about this section.

His conclusions to this section were:
Consider how your faithful love for another, fed and nourished through the delights of bodily intimacy, can overflow outwards to bring love and faithfulness to a needy world. Think about how, in partnership with one another, helping one another, your love can provide a centre of stable security; so that this safe home will be a refuge into which others can be welcomed. (p76).
We did. Our little group of 3 sat together and tried to figure out the link, because we couldn’t. How does sex in marriage lead to blessing to others? How does satisfying sex lead to welcoming strangers and being hospitable? The only way we could figure it out was by contentment. If you are satisfied with your sex life, are you likely to be more satisfied with each other and then more willing to be open and welcoming?

Do any readers out there have any ideas? How does a solid commitment to sex in marriage lead you to have an outward focused marriage that blesses others?

In the end, as Ash concludes, we need to have a proper view of sex:
When sex is put it its proper place, nether too important nor neglected, then it will thrive as it was designed to flourish, as sex in the service of God. (p77)

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Gruffalo

Preschooler Books:
The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

This is the book that dads and grandads love to read to children. A mouse wanders through the wood and is almost eaten by a fox, an owl and a snake. His quick thinking creates a scary creature - the gruffalo - the idea of which scares them all away:
"He has terrible tusks and terrible claws,
And terrible teeth in his terrible jaws."
"Where are you meeting him?"
"Here by these rocks,
And his favourite food is roasted fox."
Soon a real gruffalo turns up, yet the mouse manages to outwit him also.
"Well, Gruffalo," said the mouse, "you see?
Everyone is afraid of me!
But now my tummy's beginning to rumble.
My favourite food is - gruffalo crumble!"

"Gruffalo crumble!" The Gruffalo said,
And quick as the wind he turned and fled.
It's clever, the rhyme is charming, the story is engaging with a little element of fear (depending on how you read it!), and the illustrations are great.

(There is also a sequel - The Gruffalo's Child, which is my opinion is good, but not as good as the orginal)

Married for God - Chapter 3

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

Chapter 3: What is the point of having children?

Ash sets out over the next few chapters to expand on the Christian reasons for marriage, which he outlined in Chapter 2:
  1. Children rather than barrenness: sex is in order to have children, and children are a good thing.
  2. Faithfulness rather than selfishness: sex is for faithful intimacy, and intimate relationship is a good thing.
  3. Order rather than chaos: marriage guards sexual desires from destroying society, so that society does not descend into social chaos. (p30)
If asked for the reasons for marriage, would you come up with these?

In short, children are a blessing, not a curse. They are a gift from God and we need to be always open to having children. Ash suggests that if you do not want children, or if you view them as a curse, you should not get married.

Do you talk with engaged couples about whether they want to have children, and why?
Of course, a child may be an inconvenient blessing. A child will usually be an expensive blessing. A child may and often will be a blessing that takes us outside of our comfort zones and into the arms of grace. A child is usually a blessing that will be accompanied by sleepless nights and many tears. But he or she is a blessing and we must not forget this. (p57)
I found this statement really helpful, it wasn’t all “yes kids are wonderful, of course you should have children”. It was an acceptance of the realities of life with children, but still an insistence with they are a blessing. We often think this ourselves – yes, they are wonderful, yes, we are so glad we have them; but it’s really hard work at times.

In addition, we don’t just have children because they fulfil our desires or because it is expected of us, we do it with the intention of raising them to serve God.

Ash goes on to discuss three issues relating to children:

1. Is it right to deliberately not have children?

He says, categorically, no. Children are a blessing from God, and therefore a lifestyle choice not to have them (or open to having them) is not an option for Christian couples.

What do you think about this?

2. What if we cannot have children?

For those of us who cannot have children, we should grieve that loss, and the real pain that it brings:
The pain of childlessness is a unique pain… There is no date on which a couple become childless, no funeral anniversary on which to focus grief, no photograph or memory of the son or daughter who never was. (p58)
Fruitful service for a couple does not depend on having children. There are many ways loving service can be worked out in a marriage.

Do you talk about this possibility with engaged couples? Do you speak about “if you have children”, rather than “when you have children”? If this is your grief, how is your marriage serving God in other ways?

3. What about contraception?

This was a very brief segment, which I felt needed more. However, what he said was helpful:
The important thing with contraception is that it should be part of a lifetime together which is fundamentally turned towards the blessing of children, rather than turned against (p61).
Have you thought about the contraceptive methods you use and how they work? If you counsel engaged couples, do you talk about contraception with them?

We have just started doing this, I have prepared some information outlining the issues regarding contraception and we give it to couples when we first meet after they become engaged. We do not make suggestions as to what methods people use, but are raising issues that they might be unaware of. If you are interested in reading a little more about contraception, have a look at posts that Nicole and I have done previously on this topic (including the comments!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Married for God - Chapter 2

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

Chapter 2 – Married for a purpose

In this chapter, Ash seeks to answer the question “why did God make humans male and female?”

Going back to Genesis 1, Ash comes up with 4 reasons:
  1. We are made in the image of God. We have a unique dignity that plants and animals do not have.
  2. We are entrusted with a unique privilege. We are to fill the earth.
  3. We are created male and female. We are to use this to care for God’s world.
  4. We are to rejoice in our creator – thankful dependence on God and cheerful obedience to his command.

He sums up these 4 with this motto: marriage is sex in the service of God. He is clear to point out that ‘sex’ is shorthand for “the marriage relationship in all its fullness: in intimacy, friendship, partnership, fun and faithfulness”. (p33)

Do you agree with his motto that marriage is “sex in the service of God”?

He thinks that this is misunderstood in 2 ways, both which are self-centred. Marriage either becomes “sex for the fulfilment of me” or “sex in the service of us”. Marriage is not to meet my needs, or to assuage my loneliness, rather marriage is for serving God.
we were not made to gaze forever into the eyes of another human being and find in him or her all we need… We need to replace this selfish model of marriage with one in which we work wide by side in God’s ‘garden’ (that is, God’s world), rather than gaze for ever into each other’s eyes. (p42-3)
How easily does your marriage revert to “sex in the service of us”?
How do you try to prevent it?
It is too easy for Christians to think of marriage as a discipleship-free zone. So that outside of marriage we talk about sacrifices, taking up our cross and so on. But inside marriage we just talk about how to communicate better, how to be more intimate, how to have better sex, how to be happy. (p40)

Do you fall into this trap in your own marriage? How can you encourage one another to godliness rather than self-fulfilment?

How might you encourage couples to model their marriage on serving God, rather than each other?

Ash finishes the chapter stating that, because of the fall, we must always remember that God does not just want more people on earth, but he wants people transformed by the gospel who have been saved by his grace. The service of God must include as a priority proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.


How does your marriage help to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour?

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle

I'm not sure that I know anyone that didn't grow up reading this book! A classic since published in 1969, it has sold over 30 million copies.*

It teaches the days of the week, counting to 5, types of food and the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly - and it's fun because you can poke your fingers through the pages! We can all recite it from memory in our house.

I love books that you remember reading as a child, that remain just as popular when you want to read them to your own children.

One recommendation - get the board book, perfect for baby and toddler hands.


* Source - Wikipedia.

Married for God - Chapter 1

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


Chapter 1 – A word about baggage and grace

I found it fascinating that he started the book here. Upon reflection, it made perfect sense – we have to understand & accept the grace of God, and his forgiveness, in dealing with our sexual pasts before we can think clearly about God’s plan for marriage. However, it’s a hard chapter to start with, and I suspect, personally challenging for many readers (especially engaged couples). To turn the page and see in bold writing, The bible speaks to those whose sexual pasts are spoiled (p21) – was certainly getting right to the point!

Unless you are a committed Christian, I suspect starting at this point would get a lot of readers offside. Now he is clear he is writing this book for Christians. But even, so, I wondered if it might have been helpful to at least discuss why sexual sin is a problem and why it affects so much of one’s self. As we talked in our group about why sexual sin seems to be so hard to move on from, we came up with this:
  • Sexual intimacy is so personal and intimate
  • In Christian circles, there is a stigma attached to sexual sin, more so than most other areas of sin
  • We tend to be more open about struggles in other areas, but not about sexual struggles
  • If it’s willing intimacy, there has been a deliberate decision to sin at each time
  • If it’s unwilling intimacy, there are also issues of abuse of trust and betrayal
  • Amongst many (Christians and almost all non-Christians) – there is a denial of it even being sinful, or a deliberate attempt to justify behaviour (‘it felt good’, ‘we are in love’, etc)

He makes it clear that all struggle in this area, from some degree or another:
Personally, we have our own histories of sexual experience or inexperience; of hopes fulfilled or deferred; of longing or aversions; of fulfilment or frustration; of fears, anxieties, delight, regrets. What we have done or not done, how we have been treated or mistreated by others; all these things shape what we believe. (p20)

The three things he talks about are:
  • The bible speaks to those who sexual pasts are spoiled (eg. the church at Corinth)
  • Jesus Christ offers forgiveness and restoration to those with spoiled sexual pasts (eg. John 8:11)
  • God’s grace enables us to live lives of purity (1 Cor 6:9-11)

As I re-read this chapter, I wonder if the reaction one has to it, is a good indicator of one’s heart about their own sinfulness in this area. If one reads it, thankful and rejoicing that they are forgiven and that God offers grace, even in this area – they have acknowledged their sin and are aware of its danger. However, if one reads it and is outraged or offended, perhaps they do not truly believe they have sinned. This could have important implications for pre-marriage counselling, or our own ability to move beyond & deal with our own past.

One final interesting discussion we had was this: do we need to stop assuming (if indeed we do assume) sexual purity (or virginity) in young Christians? Research suggests that more teenagers are having sex at a younger age, with 14-16 year-olds regularly involved in sexual activity. As we minister to a generation of youth and young adults, who have had minimal Christian input and are living in a highly sexualised culture – do we need to be more open and honest about the bible’s teaching on sexual purity, and about the risks to physical, emotional & spiritual health that result from sex outside of marriage? Have you thought about this and what have you done?


Some things to think about:
  1. Did it also surprise you that this was the topic of the first chapter?
  2. How hard is it to trust in God’s grace when thinking about sexual sin? Why?
  3. Do you need to be reminded of God’s grace in dealing with your or your husband’s sexual past?
  4. How could you include dealing with this in the marriage-preparation that you do with engaged couples?
  5. How do you address the issues of sex, sexual sin and purity to the youth and young adults that you minister to?

On Wednesday: Chapter 2 – Married for a purpose

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader, Alan Bennett

Thanks to Meredith's lovely review, I put this one on my 'to read' list and spent an enjoyable few hours on a day off reading it. It's a lovely short read, unlike the larger books I usually prefer - which makes it a good choice when you have a day to yourself and a few cups of tea on hand.

One day the Queen stumbles across a mobile lending library on the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Out of courtesy she borrows a book, which begins her discovery of the joy of the written word and a love of reading. Over time, her duties start to suffer and she manages to read while travelling to and from (and even while doing) numerous public events. Her aides become increasingly concerned and try to stymie her at various points.

Bennett has woven in references to many other writers and books, and whether or not you have read them all, anyone who reads generally will appreciate them. I also loved his writing, he has a very dry wit and it's lovely to read someone who uses humour cleverly and keeps it understated.

Well worth a read when you have a few hours to spare.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Married for God

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

Married for God, Christopher Ash

Ash introduces Married for God explaining that he has not written a standard marriage book – which he terms as those which help you to get what you want out of marriage. Instead he says:
This book won’t help you with that sort of thing, because this book is about God more that it is about you and me. In some ways it would be easier to write a book of common-sense wisdom and practical advice about sex and marriage, glossing it with a Christian veneer. Instead, I want to start, continue and finish with God firmly at the centre. He is our Maker and he will be our Judge. We need to listen to him. (p14)

Ash states his goal is not to deal with the How? or What? questions of marriage – but rather Why?
If we get our aims clear, then we shall see why marriage has to be what it is, and we will be well placed to see how to build strong marriage. (p15)

So, his opening claim is that:
We ought to want what God wants in marriage. Or, to put it another way, God’s ‘Why?’ matters more than my ‘Why?’ (p15-6, emphasis in original)

When we ask what God wants, we are asking what is best for us. What is best for us is not what we want, but what God wants. (p17)
Ash asks that as we start reading, we repent of our previous attitude – what we want out of marriage, to seeking His will and goals for marriage.

So, what do you think?
Have your thought about what God wants from your marriage?
What His goal for it is?
Are you willing to investigate and find out?

Join us as we read about it together!

Next Monday: Chapter 1 – a word about baggage and grace.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Goodnight Moon

Preschooler Books:
Goodnight Moon
, Margaret Wise Brown


This lovely bedtime story, first published in 1947, was given to us as a gift when Mr 0 was born. It quickly became a favourite and was read almost every night before bedtime for close to 6 months.

It follows a bedtime ritual saying goodnight to things, in rhyme:
Goodnight room
Goodnight moon
Goodnight light and the red balloon...
It's very simple, but kids love it. There are details in the illustrations that you keep noticing over time, the time on the clock changes, the mouse & other items move around the room, the room slowly gets darker as night progresses.

This became our bedtime ritual for our kids when they were babies - a bible story, prayer, then Goodnight Moon. The lilting rhyme was the perfect tone to get ready for bed. Sometimes when they woke in the middle of the night, we would read it again, just to calm them down and reestablish the going to bed routine.

An oldy, but a goody.

Children's books

I have realised of late that we are leaving a stage behind us - the baby and toddler stage. And, while for me personally, there are some great joys in leaving such a stage behind (no nappies, no day sleeps, everyone can now speak and tell you what they would like, etc...).

However, there are some real sadnesses in leaving such a stage behind. For me, one of them will be the books that we have loved over this time. The books that have been lovingly read by all 3 kids over the last 7+ years. The books that are falling apart. The books that I have repaired just to keep them going a little longer. The books that I give to others as presents. The books that I want to keep reading. The books I want to pass on to others because I cannot bear to throw them away.

So, I thought I'd start a series of baby, toddler and preschooler books. Some may recall last year I did a series on our favourite children's authors. I probably won't double up too much with those, but we'll see, I may not be able to help it!


I will try post this series on Mondays.

Married for God

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

Our next book series will be on Married for God, by Christopher Ash.

This book looks at marriage and how we should view it – from God’s perspective. I have read it this year with the same group of ministry wives who read Going the Distance with me last year, and we have enjoyed thinking about marriage from a slightly different perspective than usual.

As we review it here on in tandem, we will obviously be thinking about marriage in general, but also:
  • any particular application to ministry marriage, and
  • helpful things to consider when we speak to others about marriage (something many of us do in ministry, either in pre-marriage discussions or post-marriage pastoral care)
If you would like to join in our discussion here on in tandem, grab yourself a copy.

On Wednesday we’ll kick off with the introduction and a few general comments, before we dive into chapter 1 next Monday.