Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fruitful children

I was honoured to be a guest blogger last week. Sarie invited me to submit a piece for her blog Complementarity and Culture for her series on complementarity and family. She asked for a piece of Scripture which has affected our marriage or parenting. I chose Galatians 5:22-23 and it's impact on our family.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

I have always loved this verse, since my early days in the faith – it seemed to cover all aspects of the Christian life. It was a goal to aim for, even if I knew I failed. Now, as a parent, I find these descriptions now on my tongue, more than they ever were before.

Since the children were born, my regular prayer point – both for my own personal prayer, and for anyone who prays for me – was that I would be more a patient, kind and gentle mother. This is from someone, who at one point, would have thought she really was a rather patient, kind and gentle person! Boy, did having children ever cure me of that delusion!

If you would like to read the rest, click over to Sarie's post.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Beginning with God

Beginning with God

For the next few weeks I am going to review some bible reading material for different age groups. I have been a fan of the The Good Book Company material for some time now, and their personal bible reading material for children is the main reason why.

The Beginning with God material is perfect for perfect for pre-schoolers (age 3-5). We started this with Amy when she turned 3 and she was just the right age. It has been designed to go alongside The Beginner's Bible, which is widely available. Using the stories from The Beginner's Bible, it picks out a key point to talk about, prayers to pray and a continual emphasis that these are true stories about God and his work in the world. You can do optional activities to emphasise which are suggested, and there is a sticker for each day when you have completed the study.

My daughter loves it - she begs to do 'bible time' with me each day, and it has been a special time for the two of us when the others are at school.

It's a great way to get little ones used to the idea of interacting with the bible, rather than just reading it.

If you want to see some examples of the material, go to the links available via here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wives away

Last weekend was that special time of the year when the preachers wives of our church go away together. I have talked about it previously in 2009 and 2010. This was another year at the same location, with almost the same schedule. We start with cheap beauty treatments at the TAFE, move on to lunch as we make our way down the coast and arrive at our destination at Victor Harbor. Then 2 nights of great company, good food and the encouragement of being surrounded by those who are like-minded in the gospel.

We always have some input or teaching time and this year we listened to last year's CV talks by David Cook from the Psalms. They were encouraging and challenging at the same time. We also spend a lot of time in prayer for each other. This year we were rather specific, thinking of something to thank God for over the last 12 months and something to pray for for the coming 12 months in the following categories:
  • Personal godliness
  • In supporting our spouse
  • In loving/training our children
  • In other ministries
  • In evangelism and prayer for a specific person or group of people who are not yet Christians
It was so encouraging to hear how people are growing in their faith and dependence upon God, yet still aware of areas of necessary growth and improvement. It is now so helpful to know how to pray specifically for each of these women and their families for the next 12 months.

Perhaps you are in a Christian small group or support network and could use these same prayer ideas in some way?


Our group (minus 1)


Friday, May 20, 2011

Take Heart

Take Heart: For families living with disability, Kate Hurley

After reading Ella, another friend recommended Take Heart, which also addresses living with disability in a family, but from a broader perspective.

It is also excellent. Ella was a personal story of one woman’s experience, this is a compilation of many families’ experiences.

What is the greatest strength however, is the biblical input it also provides. This is an unashamedly Christian resource, written by Christians and for Christians. It will help those who are already in the role of parent and carer, and others as they seek to understand and support those around them who care for people with disability.

It’s primary focus is children, all perspectives are written by parents or grandparents, however some of those children are now adults. It represents a high number of families managing autism, but also includes Down’s syndrome, deafness and some congenital and rarer disabilities.

Each section begins with a one-page summary of a characteristic of God and the way he has worked in the world, these include:
  • we are made in His image
  • the eternal hope we have in Christ
  • the peace of God
  • prayer
  • love, etc.

Each is very simple, yet also incredibly profound and helpful when thinking about disability. Each brings the Scripture to bear on the truth and shows how God works. It’s easy to read quite quickly, yet a slower and more thoughtful reading of each would bear much fruit. Interspersed between each of these sections is a personal testimony, mainly by parents, and here is where much of the emotion is found.

In the introduction, Kirk Patston makes a very helpful comment, which those of use who count ourselves ‘able-bodied’ would do well to remember: “When it comes to the ability to be wise, we are all disabled.” (p9)

Cecily Paterson, in her account of her son with autism, says this:
If we humans were truly able to love, having a disabled child would not be a cause of such sorrow. It might create a few extra challenges, but parents would not fear for their children, and societies would care for them. The ‘imperfect people’ in our world show up everybody else’s imperfection.

Love isn’t always easy. It isn’t always convenient. And the objects of love are not always attractive. I’m stunned again to think how great is God’s love for us, who are truly and thoroughly disabled, that he should give up his own son to make us perfect and beautiful in his sight. (p18)

For me, the most practically helpful section was the final chapter on how our churches can help. There were practical suggestions, but also the recognition that families with disabilities need understanding and they also need to understand ways people try to help (even if it’s not that helpful). There are suggestions for how we can support carers, siblings and those with disabilities, as well as making our churches better equipped to welcome those with disabilities. There is also the reminder that as a church we need to be willing to support these families for the long term: practically, with prayer, and with love and care.

For such a short book, it packs an incredible punch.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Farewells

Farewells are hard. Even when people are moving on for good reasons to good things, saying farewell to good friends is still hard.

Sadly this last week, we had to say goodbye to a dear couple, Arthur & Minli, whom we have ministered alongside over the last 4 years. They established an internationals ministry at our church and did a fantastic job.

But we also shared each others' lives. They came and stayed with us the week Arthur proposed, we travelled to Singapore for their wedding and then helped them settle in to life in Adelaide. We have shared times of great joy and times of great grief and our lives are richer for the experience. Sadly, for the next little while, our lives will also be a little emptier. They are headed overseas for bible college.

However, the great joy of farewelling Christians is that we know that we will see them again. While we know it is very likely we will see them again on this earth, we definitely know that we will see them again in heaven. And that makes farewells not the final goodbye, but rather "we'll see you again, one day". Thank God for that.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Church camp

This last weekend was our 7pm church camp. It is a great time, and really the only time in the year where the kids and I get to spend any time with the 7pm-ers that Husband ministers to.

We have been to this camp every year in the last 8, which again makes me realise how things have changed. Our first camp we just had Mr 1 with us, still a baby. We have had camps with newborns, screaming babies, hungry and tired toddlers and grumpy kids. We have taken travel cots, high chairs, prams and nappies.

Now, however we just pack our clothes and go. It's so easy. And now that the campsite has begun supplying linen for our accommodation I no longer arrive to make 4 beds & return home with loads of washing - fantastic!

But the highlight is seeing all the 7pm-ers - mainly young adults - continuing to persist in the faith, grow in godliness and love, and seeking to serve others.

For me, the other highlight is seeing how much the kids love it. Many of these young men and women teach them at Sunday School, and our children love them. One of the great privileges of having kids in ministry is seeing how many people care for and are interested in your children, and how many young people they can look up to as they grow in the faith. We are very blessed. And while our children do not know that life could be any different - I hope that one day they will realise what a true blessing it was to grow up in this environment. I am certainly very thankful for it.


One of the many 7pm-ers who played with Miss 3 (Miss 6 is hiding behind too)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A habit that is hard to break...

Our Miss has been sucking her fingers since 6 months of age. She chose the two middle ones of her left hand, and they were her mouth's constant companions ever since. At first it was cute and a little quirky.

At 6 months


It interfered with early food, because the fingers went in the mouth in between every mouthful. Eating was a full body experience. 7 months


10 months
1st birthday

At storytime and bedtime they were always present. 2 years


Even playing with a new sister wasn't enough to deter. 2.3 years
Then it became less endearing and the dentist was warning of problems, so we tried to encourage her to stop. I made mittens, which she ripped off as soon as she went to bed. Almost 3


Later we got a bit more serious and starting taping her fingers overnight. 3.75 years




After that we stopped taking photos, but the habit continued for another 2 years. After lots of tape and bandaids (which were often later found stuck under her bed frame), consistent reminding and encouraging and often bribery, she has finally kicked the habit.

We had promised for some time if she did kick the habit, she could have a packet of M&Ms (this was a promise of well over 3 years old and at the time I think we meant a tiny box packet). However, at age 6, we thought it doesn't bode well for oral health to offer an entire packet, so instead we found a better option.

The Polly Pocket present was well received, and we made a bit deal about it and how proud we are of her. Well done Miss 6!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Bringing up Boys

Bringing up Boys, Dr James Dobson

I read this a few years ago, realising it had a lot in it, but also that most of it wasn't yet applicable for my little tiny boy. Decisions about schooling, how boys relate, older boys, etc - it all seemed to far away to have to think about.

Now, however, my son is 8, and it all seems a lot more relevant. I enjoyed going back and re-reading it. Just like Bringing up Girls, which I reviewed last year, it contains lots of stories and anecdotes, which makes it very easy and interesting reading.

The main thrust of the book seems to be addressing all the issues that affect boys, so there is a lot of information and statistics to support his views. Dobson presents many issues that affect boys: the breakdown of family, absent fathers, the impact of feminism, women in the workplace, the gay lobby, post-modernism and educational decisions. There is a lot to digest and a lot of background provided so that you can understand the issues. I found this helpful on many levels, not just those related to having sons.

However, I do imagine you could end up feeling very guilty if you are a single mother, if you work as a mother, if you work long hours as a father, if you put your children into daycare, etc. He is sympathetic to the challenges many parents face, but he is also not hesitant in backing his views of things that can harm boys.

Obviously, being written by an American, it has a very strong emphasis on developments in the US, particularly with respect to educational policy and the gay lobby. I found myself wondering how strong the parallels really were between our two countries, but without a doubt it has overlap to the Australian context, perhaps just not as extreme. I did find myself thankful that we don't live in the US and have to deal with some of the issues there. When I first read this book, I grasped the argument for home-schooling and appreciated it as an option for the first time, whereas previously I never had.

Just like Bringing up Girls, I think the most helpful parts are those encouragements and instructions to mothers and fathers - to continue to love each other, serve their families, raise their children with integrity, kindness and love; to be involved in the lives of their kids and seek to pass on their faith.

A challenge to us all, but a worthwhile one.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Another fun run

I have managed to continue running this year, especially as the weather is now much cooler. So, I ventured out for another fun run.

The Mother's Day Classic was last Sunday (unsurprisingly!). This time I went on my own and ran solo. I enjoyed it just as much.

This one is a lot more poignant than the City-Bay run. I felt humbled for 2 reasons:

1. It supports breast cancer research and many run in it to fundraise or to remember victims and survivors of cancer. Many participants had signs on their backs stating who they were running for: Mum, Nanna, Aunty June, etc. It was quite confronting to turn up to a sea of pink and realise how many people were wearing such signs. To date our family has been remarkably unaffected by cancer, but I know it is very likely to change one day.

2. It is good for my pride to realise that there are many people a lot fitter than me. I had been rather pleased with myself leading up to the event, that I could now run 8kms non-stop. A little pride was creeping in there. Running in a fun-run is a great leveler. I was overtaken by kids, older people, men pushing prams, etc. In the end I placed round the 2/3 mark of the field. I was happy with my achievement, but was helped to realise it wasn't that amazing.

Anyway, it was a great morning, and as our church is in the city, I even made in back for 10am on time.


* For those that like stats, I ran the 7.5kms in 50.10 mins, and am happy to report that I didn't stop this time!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Busy Christian... Conclusion

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

The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness
Conclusion: Finding rest in the midst of busyness

The answer to our busyness is not in routines, organisation or doing more.

The answer to our busyness is theological. Our busyness turns on how we view God.

As Christians we should expect to be busy. We give our lives to Christ and no longer claim our time as our own. But we can find rest in our busyness and joy in our labour.
More often that not, those who complain about their busyness are those who are not finding joy in God. And those who rejoice in God as the Saviour, Master, Provider, Refuge, Joy and Hope do not find their busyness a burden. (p170)
Chester suggests that at the end of the day we could pray: “God, you have been with me all day. Have I spent my time well today?”
Taking God with you into the busyness of life means:
  • resting on God our Saviour when we fell the need to prove ourselves
  • serving God our Master when we worry about other people’s expectations
  • trusting God our Provider when we worry about things getting out of control
  • making God our Refuge when we want to escape from busyness or through busyness
  • enjoying God our Joy when we feel the attraction of over-working for more money
  • waiting for God our Hope when we fell we have to make the most of life now (p170-1)

As we finish this series on busyness and you have a chance to reflect on your life and the way you live it, remember these words of Jesus:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

I wonder what Mother's Day means to you. It may cover a large range of emotions, perhaps:

Joy & thankfulness
  • for your mother, and your relationship with her
  • for the blessing of your own children, and your relationship with them
  • for the encouragement it is to see you mother or children continuing on in the faith and growing stronger

Sadness
  • at the distance that separates you from your mother or your children
  • because you are estranged from your mother or your children, and you long to repair the rift
  • because you watch them make choices that you disagree with, and wonder how to support them

Grief
  • at the loss of your mother
  • at the loss of your child
  • at the loss of the chance to become a mother

Tiredness
  • because of the day-to-day realities of being a mum
  • because of the need for you to care for your elderly mother

We experience these emotions at different times, but Mother's Day is one of those days that can bring them out a little more.

****

Whatever your emotions on Mother's Day, I hope you have a chance to stop and:
  • give thanks for those women who have mothered you and cared for you
  • to pray for yourself as you mother and care for the children around you

I will be.

Friday, May 6, 2011

To Be Like Jesus

Continuing with music reviews for another week, we are loving the Sovereign Grace Kids CD To Be Like Jesus.

Two tracks about Jesus set the scene: To Be Like Jesus and Nothing Better than Jesus. Using the fruits of the spirit from Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, they have come up with a song to talk about each one. They are great songs, catchy and fun with good lyrics.

And as you would hope from good Christian kids music - not only will your kids learn, you will be similarly challenged as you sing along.

If you want to try before you buy, have a listen here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Busy Christian... Chapter 12

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

The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness,
Chapter 12: I’m busy because I want to make the most out of life - the liberating hope of God

It’s so easy to get caught on the treadmill thinking: I have to make the most out of this life. I have to give my children every opportunity. I have to see the world.

As God has been mostly been removed from general life, our lives have become purely focussed on this life, now. No longer to people look forward to eternity or outward to see the bigger picture of God in control. Now, the focus is all me, now:
Life is no longer a brief interval in eternity. People’s horizons are entirely focused on this world. Goals have to be fulfilled in this lifetime and so each day time must be used intensively. We have secularized time. It is no longer time in eternity. It’s just time. (p156)

The truth: an eternal future

For Christians it would do us well to remember that the days will never end, there is infinite time.

In addition, we need to remember that we are sinful people living in a sinful world. Sickness, suffering, and death are a reality. Sometimes, rather than wanting to search to get more out of life, we need to accept the life that we have:
That’s the way it is. Get used to it. And don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about missing out. Some of your friends may be out late partying, jetting round the world, climbing the corporate ladder. But this is the life God has given you – and he is always wise and always good. (p159)

The truth: a better future
a better world is coming for the children of God. You don’t need to rush around having every experience going. You don’t need to ‘realise your potential’. You just need to glorify God and enjoy him for ever. You don’t need to give yourself and breakdown trying to create a perfect life. Christ has already given himself to create a perfect life. Your role is to wait patiently. What should we do about our busyness? We should wait. Wait for the eternal rest of God. (p162)

A wise heart

The Psalm for this chapter is Psalm 90 – a meditation on a wise heart.
4 For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning—
6 though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered…
12 Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
13 Relent, O LORD! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
17 May the favour of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.

Some things to think about:
  • Do you fall into the trap of wanting all the experiences or opportunities of this life? Is that the message you are giving to your children?
  • How does remembering your eternal and better future help?
  • Do you trust God that he has given you a good life?

Next week – Conclusion