Monday, December 17, 2012

Holidays

The kids are on school holidays and it's time to relax, enjoy them and celebrate Christmas as a family. 

So this blog will shut down for the school holidays.

Thanks so much to all of you for reading this year.

I will be back next year with hopefully a bit more blogging than I managed this year.  If my planned reading list is anything to go by, there will be lots of reviews at least!

I hope you all have a Christ-centred, merry Christmas, a chance to give thanks for 2012 and to look forward with joy to 2013.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Snowflake craft

As we approach school holidays, you (like me) might be on the lookout for some things to do.

I recently discovered some paper cut-outs which should appeal to a number of ages and both sexes. 

If your kids can fold and cut reasonably well, let them at it - otherwise, you will need to help.  Or, as in my case, be near the computer to deal with the stream of requests for more printouts!

Ballerina snowflakes: translated from a Russian blog.  She has heaps of Christmas craft - have a look around for many other ideas.

Star Wars snowflakes.  My son loved these.  Look at both sites:  Matters of Grey and Anthony Herrera Designs.  If you have sharp cutting knives and are willing to let kids use them, the sky is the limit.  If you limit them to scissor use only - choose the simpler ones or adapt them to make them easier.

Some more general ones from Matters of Grey


Have fun!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hope Springs

Hope Springs

This movie does a rare thing - it gives an open, realistic look at intimacy in a mature marriage. 

After 31 years, Kay and Arnold have settled into a functional life, structured by routine and sleeping in separate bedrooms.  Kay longs to rekindle the flame she and Arnold once shared, so she pays for an intensive couples counselling course to which Arnold reluctantly attends.  As the week unfolds, they are each challenged to see their role in a relationship in which they have both settled for OK, but not good.   

The acting is great with Meryl Streep as the frustrated Kay and Tommy Lee Jones as the grumpy Arnold.   Steve Carell is the couple's counsellor and it took me a while to get used to him in a serious role, I kept waiting for him to make a joke.

It was honest and confronting, both heartbreakingly sad and very funny.  It did leave some questions unanswered (why had Arnold changed so much?).  Also, I would not recommend it to unmarrieds, as the main issue in the counselling was intimacy, and so the discussions and ensuing scenes were very frank at points.

I suspect we will buy this one on DVD* to have as a resource for marriage enrichment, I can imagine us using scenes from it at times to illustrate various points!
*I saw this at the movies over 2 months ago, so it's probably not long now till the DVD comes out!

Friday, November 30, 2012

A dip into some Christian fiction

In the past I have tended to avoid Christian fiction.  It always sat uncomfortably with me for some reason.  I liked to keep my Christian and my fiction reading very separate, thank you very much. I struggled to see how it could be done well and since many covers look like a discreet version of Mills and Boon, I was unconvinced.  

Yet over the years there have been some wonderful exceptions to this rule, such as Gilead and The Hammer of God.  (Surely these must actually be classed as Christian literature, but perhaps that is another discussion.)

So my mind has gradually opened up to the possibilities of good Christian fiction.  

Then a whole lot of factors combined: spotting a series on a friend's shelf that interested me (yes, I often judge a book by its cover); reading Lit! (a great book about reading about which a series will come soon, I am sure); and a sale at Koorong.  It turns out that in the last few months I have read five Francine Rivers novels. 


The best was Redeeming Love, a retelling of the story of Hosea.  Set in California in 1950, Michael Hosea answers a call from God to marry Angel, a high class prostitute who has only known betrayal and loss.  His call from God is to love her with an unconditional, persistent love.  It draws you in from the beginning and carries you along as you wonder whether Angel can ever truly respond to Michael's love. 

I really enjoyed the Mark of the Lion Trilogy too.  It follows the life of Hadassah, a Jewish slave girl and Atretes, a German warrior made to be a gladiator.  Thus quenching my thirst for novels about Ancient Rome as well as a fascinating story line with realistic characters, I devoured these three large books in a few weeks.  As I read them I was increasingly impressed with Rivers' ability to show the challenges of being a Christian or a Jew in a land of open, sensual pagan worship.  My understanding of the tone of Paul's letters to the churches of Rome and Ephesus was enhanced by the portrayal she gave of those cities.  Yet at the same time, the character Hadassah who truly believed yet was too frightened to speak of her faith also spoke to me directly of my own situation at many times.  They were interesting and challenging books.

Finally, I read The Atonement Child.   This is the story of Dynah, a bible college student, engaged to a would-be minister, whose life is broken apart by rape, from which results pregnancy.   Dynah is crippled with uncertainty and indecision about what to do, when all around her are suggesting that termination is surely possible and the right thing in such a circumstance.   Rivers has taken on a hard topic here and she has done it with sensitivity and awareness.

But this book pointed out some of my hesitation with Christian fiction.  It is predictable.  You know what the ending of each book has to be.  You wait to see how it unfolds, but you know where it is going.  I will keep reading Christian fiction and welcome any recommendations, but will also definitely keep reading other fiction, for it keeps me guessing just a little more.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Advent

Christmas is rolling around again (in case you hadn't noticed!)

If you would like celebrate Advent with your family and would like some material to do so, please feel free to use the ones we use, via the resources tab.
  • The Birth of Jesus - a set of 25 readings mainly from Luke and Matthew's gospels, so you can spend time thinking about when Jesus was born and what it means for us today.
  • Genesis to Jesus - a set of 25 readings covering the unfolding story of the bible and it's fulfilment in Christ 

Each day there is a bible reading, some questions to think about, a prayer, a special verse and some optional extras - something to draw, a song to listen to, a craft to do, etc.

This year our family will be doing Genesis to Jesus again.  We are looking forward to it already.  After 6 years, Advent is definitely one of those 'unbreakable' family traditions!   If you would like more details as to how we do Advent and what goes in the little boxes, see previous posts on Advent.

Our tree went up yesterday too (a few days earlier than usual).  Good times!


(update from 2017: these readings have now changed and are only 24 days of readings)

Friday, November 23, 2012

You Owe Me Dinner

I discovered this book via Jean's link to the macarisms blog.  I'm very glad I did.  It is a great book, easy to read yet challenging and heart-wrenching at the same time.

Jim Stallard worked with people with disability for years, but conceded he never really grasped the reality of a life of disability, even being an insulin dependent diabetic and blind in one eye himself.  Then an accident left him a quadriplegic and his daily life and health changed completely.

The book is the story of the 13 years since the accident.  You are allowed in to see the close family relationship of the Stallards and the many and various health issues raised by Jim's quadriplegia.  It is a gripping and emotional story.  Throughout it Jim weaves thoughts about society's inability to deal with disability, and challenges the church to be much more inclusive and understanding of the needs of people living daily with disability. 
I learnt very quickly that unless disability was personal, it could easily be ignored. (p94)  
It wasn't until I went to the CBM website to order the book that I discovered that Jim died last year.  He is already seated at the great banquet in heaven.  His challenge is to ask whether we are inviting those with disability to join our lives now.
I sometimes get asked if I want to be healed.  This question is not only dumb, it is demeaning, demoralising, and dehumanising.  Nobody with a disability I know has said, 'Gee, that's a good idea.  I wish I'd thought of it sooner!'  Nobody with a chronic illess thinks it is fun.  My disability is a circumstance I have to deal with, and I cannot afford to let my circumstances dictate my faith.  Rather, my faith helps me dictate how I handle my circumstances.  And my faith helps me wait for healing.

However, while I wait for healing, I need access, acceptance and affirmation...

...my disability is not my biggest problem.  My biggest problem arises when able-bodied people only see my disability and not the rest of me.  (p96)
It will challenge you to consider your response to disability, both as an individual and as part of the church.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Say it again in a nice voice

Say it again in a nice voice, Meg Mason

I have just recently dipped a toe back into the genre that is mummy-writing.   You know - those stories about motherhood that can make you laugh and cry with recognition in equal measure.  The ones that make you realise that other people's lives are like yours and some parts of it all really are very funny.

Say it again in a nice voice, by journalist Meg Mason is one of those.  What I liked about it was that she had kids young (at 25) almost ten years ago.  Her recollections of having babies in the early-mid 2000s are very similar to some of mine.  So I laughed out loud with recognition and understanding of this gem:
If you were any kind of earthy parent in 2004, you were deeply disdainful of jar food.  The banana custard laced with dextrose, the lamb casserole in squishy form.  This was before those squishy-sided packets of only-vegetable purees had been invented, instantly destigmatising factory-made baby food and creating an entire generation of toddlers who stumble around in the park self-administering pumpkin and sweet corn at ten in the morning.  (p85)
And this one, about the ever constant steam of Australians who move to London:
Moving to London in your twenties is so much like having a baby later on.  You're pretty sure you're the first person to ever think of it or experience all its glory and hardship.  Others will follow you there, but you'll always retain a quiet belief that were it not for your pioneering venture they'd never have done it.  (p7)
While very funny throughout, Meg Mason has done a good job of summarising some of the struggles of motherhood.  She has tried both staying at home with her kids and working, and so has insights into each.  Their family struggled with low to almost no income for a while and she has lived the strain that entailed. 

As she says about those early day of mothering:
the fact is every woman has to discover how to be at home with children for herself.  Whether she spends six weeks or the rest of her life as a stay at home mother, the early days are a solo voyage into the new world. (p26)
It is mildly crass at times, but it is also laugh out loud funny (as I discovered to my embarrassment on a plane recently!).  If you had kids in the last decade and want some light, entertaining reading, try this one.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Argo

Feel like a movie this week?

Go and see Argo.

Set between 1979 and 1981 when the Iran Hostage Crisis of the American Embassy captured the newsreels of the world, Argo tells the since declassified true story of how US intelligence agencies worked to get 6 escaped hostages out of the country. 

Realising that options for getting Americans out of Iran unnoticed in those days were extremely limited, they devised a fake movie and pretended to be the movie crew scouting for filming locations in Iran.  

I went having no idea of the outcome and I was kept in complete suspense until the final scenes.   It is tense, riveting, and yet very funny at times.

It is a bit violent at points, the opening scenes are the most confronting, showing the angry crowd gathering at the American Embassy and then breaking into the grounds.  It does have excessive swearing throughout, which was probably unnecessary.  However the story is so well told and the insight into an episode of history is so good, that it didn't matter.  

Throughout the movie and in the final credits, when they show real footage of the time, it suddenly became clear to me why the whole setting (the hostage crisis) seemed strangely familiar.  Then it clicked, we lived in the US at that time.  Yes, I was only a pre-schooler but it stirred vague memories  of news reports and that something major was going on.  I think I even remember some of the footage, having never seen it since.   Goes to show how some things can remain in your memory without you even realising it.

If you want to see an intelligent, adult movie - go to this one, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Heart of the Matter

Heart of the Matter, CCEF Faculty

I have a lot of respect for the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF).  Through biblical counselling they teach people how to “explore the wisdom and depth of the Bible and apply its grace-centered message to the problems of daily living” (from CCEF website).  I live in hope that one day they will come to Adelaide and I can attend a course!

The faculty are made up of some well-known and respected Christian authors: Paul David Tripp, Ed Welch and David Powlinson to name a few. The faculty have combined forces and made a one-year daily devotion, Heart of the Matter.  In 366 daily readings they bring the truths of scripture, God and Jesus Christ home to the reader. The readings keep your eyes focussed on God and his life-saving work through Christ and then encourage you to consider how this affects your own life.

I must admit I was hesitant at first. It looked like bite-sized chunks of counselling, with a few bible verses thrown in.  But the more I read it (I read through the first 3 months of material), I was encouraged how it pointed the reader to God in every case and how the gospel should shape our lives. Each reflection they have provided has a bible passage to match it, to further encourage thought and reflection.

I will say from the outset I would consider this a resource to be used in addition to daily ordered bible reading.  I think the benefit of systematic bible reading is so rich I would hesitate to suggest not doing it almost continuously.  However, this devotion has real benefit.  It will ground you each day in the word of God and challenge you to think about your response to it.  If you are willing to stop and think about each day’s reflection, I suspect you would grow greatly throughout the year, in both your understanding of God and his work in the world, but also how to live your own life in response to the gospel.

Again, as this is a New Growth Press publication, I have 2 copies to give away (paper in USA/Canada, ebook for the rest of the world).  Email me if you would like to win a copy. To buy a copy or read some sample pages, go via this linkUpdate: both copies given away!

Monday, November 5, 2012

A lifted vision

I have just returned from a wonderful weekend away. I went to the AFES wives conference – the group of wives who are married to university student workers around the country (or who themselves are student workers). Over 50 women gathered from every state and territory to share life together, encourage one another, confess struggles and pain, and learn from God’s word.

Each time I attend this conference it lifts my vision. I forget much of the mundane of life.  I am reminded of the great privilege of student work, and the many people who serve God by doing so.

We heard talks on Philippians and were challenged to serve in gospel partnership with joy and to continue knowing Christ through all of our lives.

I went to two of possibly the best seminars I have ever attended (high praise indeed – can you see this conference brings out my superlatives?!)  One on evangelism and one on enriching your relationship with God. Both encouraging, challenging, highly practical and neither were remotely guilt-inducing.

And yet again, prayer group was a time of great fellowship, encouragement and prayer.

I thank God for these women, they are a great source of encouragement and joy to me. 

 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

More resources?

I realise there are many more books about family, sex, babies and puberty written for children.  Do you have any you recommend?

I am keen to read Patricia Weerakoon’s new one – although we are a quite a few years off reading it to our kids yet, so I can wait on that for a bit.

Any other books your family has found helpful?

Friday, November 2, 2012

What's the big deal?

What’s the Big Deal? Why God cares about sex, Stan and Brenna Jones

This is a more detailed book you can turn to when you want to discuss puberty, sex, marriage and some of the consequences of each with a Christian mind-set with your older child.

Aimed at children aged 8-11, we decided to read this with our son when he turned 9. My husband sat down with him a few nights a week over a few weeks and they would read a chapter together. It is written like a play – so the child reads out a question/comment and the parent/s read out the answers.

It addresses topics like:
- Why do people have sex?
- Sex outside of marriage
- What does God say about sex?
- Puberty
- Why can’t I do that? (includes pornography)
- Homosexuality
- AIDS/sexually transmitted diseases
- Sexual abuse

The nights when they read together became quite a special time between father and son and they both looked forward to it. Considering the topics covered it also gave us the opportunity to see if there was anything he wanted to tell us or talk about, and the freedom to ask questions he might not otherwise have done.

Having read through it myself, it is a good resource.  My husband also thought it was good as he read it with our son. There were only a few things he wouldn’t have said the way they did.  I felt some of it was a little outdated (it’s 15 years old)and I suspect the information on AIDS/STDs might need to be updated, and considering the world today it probably needs to include a bit more detail on internet risks.   It also didn’t have much detail on how boys change through puberty.

However what we discovered and we were thrilled about is that our son kept saying (of the more detailed parts): “I have never heard about any of this”.

What we explained to him was that most of it he didn’t need to know in detail yet, but there will be times where people he knows will talk about and we wanted him to know the truth from us first and that he could always talk to us about it whenever he wanted.

So, we have decided that age 9 is a good time to address these things in depth and I will do so with our daughters at the same age.

We will also come back to it all again with him every year or so, perhaps with another book aimed at the same age group.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Who made me?

Who made me?, Malcolm and Meryl Doney

This book was the first one we got and it has been a good one. It is suitable for the 5-9 year bracket, but could easily be simplified and read to younger children (who can’t read the bits you are skipping!). Illustrated by Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen, it has fun, simple illustrations, which even parents will like (especially the one of the parents sleeping in bed looking rather sated after making the baby!).

It is rather detailed in some parts about the act of intercourse, so you can adapt it to suit your reading audience, if you prefer.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How God makes babies

How God makes Babies, Jim Burns

This is the next book in the same series by Jim Burns.  Again, it has great simple text and colourful fun photos.

Aimed at ages 6-9, it goes into a little more detail about boys and girls’ bodies and includes great section of personal safety talking about how no-one needs to see your private parts and no-one should get to touch them.* It talks in more detail about marriage, how husband and wife come together to make a baby and how a baby is born. Like the previous book, it also talks about how some children come into a family via adoption.

This is a great book to have on hand if you know someone who is pregnant, or you are about to welcome a little brother or sister into your home. It answers many of the ‘but how?’ questions.  It may give a bit more detail than you want, but it is all accurate and open and very well done.



* another great book which deals with personal safety is: Everyone’s Got a Bottom (reviewed here)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

God made your body

God Made Your Body, Jim Burns

This book is a great one to start with to explain to young children how God made them.  Aimed at ages 3-5, it uses simple, honest text and great, colourful photographs to explain how God created them. It talks about how God made each of us the way we are – how we look, and what we are good at doing, and the simple anatomical differences between boys and girls which are needed to make babies when they are grown up.  It briefly explains how mum & dad make the baby and how it grows. My kids all still remember that once they were the size of a cheerio!   It also has a brief description of adoption, which I thought was a wonderful inclusion.

It is a great beginner book to introduce kids to how they were made, that are loved and in a family, and it was all done by God.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The birds and the bees

Over the last few years we have been explaining the facts of life to our kids – how babies are made and all that jazz.

Our feeling is that we want to be open and honest from the very beginning with our children about sex, marriage, family and God’s plan in all of it.  We want them to find out the details from us first, even if they are a bit young when we tell them.  We are trying not to be squeamish about details, but to tell them what is appropriate to each of their ages.  So, obviously our 9 year old knows a lot more detail than his 5 year old sister.

Over that time we have found some good books that I want to share with you, for a number of different ages.  I have discovered that it is useful to have a couple of different books on hand, not just one.  I’ll show them to you in a series this week, so you have some resources available for when these topics come up in your house!

All the books are Christian, because we want our kids to know that God is in control, that he made families and people the way they are, and most of all – that sex takes place in the loving, committed relationship of marriage.  We don’t just want to give them the facts, we want to help them to make good choices and to be informed of what such choices mean.

Tomorrow: the first book - for little ones.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography

When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography: Healing Your Wounded Heart, Vicki Tiede

Rarely do you read a book that speaks directly to a certain issue with openness, honesty, vulnerability, gentleness and directness all at the same time. This book is all of those things, as well as being solidly grounded in the truths of scripture and of our loving and powerful Father in heaven.

In writing from her own experience, Vicki Tiede has created a book that many Christian women will thank her for – a resource and guide for dealing with the emotions and upheaval created by discovering their husband has an addiction to pornography. And if the statistics she quotes are true (that 50% of men and 20% of women struggle with pornography addiction, p102) this is a resource needed by many.

It is a delicate and serious subject matter and she has handled it very well. She has structured it around 6 themes (hope, surrender, identity, trust, brokenness, forgiveness), which have been divided into weeks (rather than chapters). Each week has 5 days of material, dealing with different aspects of that theme by searching the scriptures, talking through the issues and inviting response. This is a book to read with a pen ready to write in it – it is almost a workbook.

It is not a book about how to ‘heal’ husbands or anyone who struggles with these issues themselves, but rather to spiritually help those who as a spouse have been betrayed and damaged by such a discovery. For couples who have come through this challenge together, it is possible that it will be helpful reading for the husband to explain some of the things his wife has had to work through.

What is clear and overwhelming as you read it, is that Vicki is keen a wife to see her value in God alone, not through the eyes of her husband or anyone else. She continues to bring the reader back to God and his word, reminding them of his goodness in all situations. She challenges the reader to see the sin in themselves, not just their husbands, and is always looking to find a way forward in growth and godliness, rather than in bitterness and resentment.

As I read it I found that I would readily recommend it to any woman who has found herself in this situation. If that is you, you can read the introduction and the first two days notes via here.

I would love this resource to get into the hands of women who need it. You can buy it here.  I also have two copies from New Growth Press to give away – either paper copies (if you are in the USA or Canada) or ebooks (for the rest of the world). Email me if you would like to go in the running for such a giveaway. (For this giveaway, considering the nature of the book, I will not announce the winners on this blog, I will just email you back to tell you will be receiving a copy and to get your details).  UPDATE: all giveaways gone - you'll have to buy a copy!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New Growth Press

I have started a bit of a partnership with New Growth Press.

They are having blog tours to promote their new titles. They send me a copy and those that I like and recommend, I will review here on musings.

I want to up front about this.  I receive a free copy of the ebook to review in advance and will sometimes receive a free paper copy.  At times I will be able to offer some free copies (either paper or ebook) to readers.  I am not in any way obliged to write positive reviews, although when I choose to review a book it will be because I think it is good.

I have been very encouraged by some of the material I have seen so far and am keen to share it with you.

Later this week I will be reviewing one of their new titles – an excellent book and a great resource, although it's a sign of our fallen world that such a resource needs to exist.  Come back later and see…

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fun in Melbourne

I just had the most wonderful weekend away.

A trip to Melbourne.  A sort of celebration of the end of the pre-school years.  I wandered around the city, took photos, caught up with an old friend and met Jean in person (from inallhonesty).  It was lovely.

However, it wasn't just a fun weekend away.

It was also the culmination of 12 months of hopes and 6 months of training for the Melbourne Half Marathon.

It was fantastic.  The day was perfect: clear, cold and sunny.  I had such a grin on my face as I walked to the start line I probably looked like the Cheshire cat.

Even the race itself was good, all 21.1 kms of it!   

The finish line was inside the MCG and as I ran in, through the stadium and around the ground, I will admit - there were a few tears of joy in my eyes.   I was absolutely thrilled with my time of 2:16:26. 

If you want to see a photo that really captures my emotion on finishing, try this link!

At the risk of repeating myself from previous posts - if you think you could never do this - read all my posts under the label 'running' and see how much my running has changed over 3 years. Believe me, if I can do it - so can you. 


And now, it's time to stop talking about me and get onto some other blogging!  Stay tuned, dear readers...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What to do?


My husband has been insisting for a long time that when the little one starts school that I will not say ‘yes’ to anything new for a year. He does not want me to overcommit (which admittedly is quite likely). He wants me to stop and think about this next stage. As I look at things, the last stage went for 10 years, this one will go for 8 (with all 3 at school). That’s a good chunk of time to think about.

So that’s what this term is for – thinking through the next stage.

I’ll let you know my thoughts as time progresses.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A new phase - school!

Our youngest child started school this week.

It comes almost exactly 10 years after I finished my 3rd year Bible College exams 20 weeks pregnant with our first child. Therefore I have been home as a mum with young kids for a decade. That’s a long time. It’s also the end of an era.

No more babies or pre-schoolers.
No more naps or nappies.
No more kindy (pre-school) run.
No more little people to take grocery shopping.
No-one to chat to during the day.
No helper as I clean.
Just one pick-up and drop-off each day.

I have found it an absolute privilege and (mostly) a joy to be a stay-at-home mum over the last 10 years. I wouldn’t have done it any other way and I know I will look back over these years with thanks for the freedom and ability to be at home.

However, all good things come to an end, and as far as I am concerned, often move on to better things!  My overwhelming thought on Monday (when she started school) was:

It’s the first day of the rest of my life!




Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Moving house

We moved in the last few months.*  We have not gone far and nothing has changed except the house (school, work, church all remain the same). Therefore it was a very easy move in that regard. All went well and we are now happily ensconced in our new home.

Yet for all the relative ease – it took almost every moment of time and every thought I had. Lots to organise, tradespeople to see, boxes to pack, belongings to sort out.

I found myself again and again pondering just how much we have. One night I was almost in tears trying to unpack the kitchen and found myself saying “we aren’t supposed to store up treasures on earth – and this isn’t treasure, it’s just more stuff!”

It’s another one of the balancing acts of life on earth when our home is in heaven. We are living on earth, and we need to have furniture, clothes, kitchen appliances to do so. Yet at the same time, we risk becoming awfully attached to them don’t we?

Just the process of moving again, and having to go through everything made me realise a few things:
  • We are incredibly blessed, particularly materially. We want for nothing.
  • I do feel uncomfortable about that. Why are we so blessed when others are not?
  • I need to remember to thank God for his generous provision to us.
  • I also need to remember to thank God for generous provision when things might not look so good

We are thankful for our new home. I wrote a prayer for us the night we moved in, you can see it here.


* which is somewhat ironic considering this post! (only written in February).

Monday, October 8, 2012

Back online

Well, it has been a while. Perhaps I have no more readers - you all have left to read from people who actually write – fair enough!

There has been a bit going on over here in the real world, which has left me no time for blogworld. I will fill you in with details over the new few days. But for now, I am back online. Hoping to read a bit more, blog a bit more and string some thoughts together along the way.

Friday, August 17, 2012

I told me so

I told me so: Self-Deception and the Christian life, Gregg A. Ten Elshof

Have you ever thought about the role of self-deception in the Christian life? Chances are – no. Neither had I until I read this book and realised (as did the author) that there is very little written on the subject.

He starts by addressing the ways we commonly deceive ourselves in everyday life – managing our attention onto other things, procrastination, switching perspective, rationalising, etc. All of these are worth exploring in detail, but I’ll let you read it yourself to do that.

He goes on to address how easily it also occurs in groups – in families, in business groups, in communities. For example, if you live in a wealthy Christian community, chances are everyone silently acknowledges that it’s OK to spend lots of money on a car (for example), as long as no-one in the group ever challenges anyone else about it.

These two sections really just open our eyes to how much of our lives is spent deceiving ourselves. It’s helpful and illustrative.

Then Ten Elshof goes on to address what we do about it.

Firstly, we need to demote it - make it less of a vice (in our human eyes) in order to be willing to acknowledge it. If no-one is willing to own up to self-deception, no-one is going to be honest and work towards changing (I could see strong parallels with how to deal with some sexual sin here).

We need to realise that self-deception has some positive features, in fact God has made us capable of self-deception and it can be a gift. Truth is not all important. Sometimes believing things that are unlikely to be true has benefit (eg. I will be able to quit smoking this time).

Self-deception also allows us to change perspective and understand another viewpoint. We could not enjoy fiction if we were not capable of self-deception. How could I enjoy historical fiction books about time travel and relationships across time, if I were unable to suspend my knowledge of reality while reading them?

One of his most compelling reasons that self-deception is a gift from God is that there are two truths that if faced with them in their barest, most open truth we would not be able to function – 1. The complete fullness of God’s glory, and 2. The complete sinfulness of mankind (including ourselves).

Then Ten Elshof moves towards 3 ways forward and 3 things to beware of, each which are fleshed out. To summarise, however, the ways forward:
First, die. Take concrete steps to put to death those aspects of your character that make self-deception a necessity. Second, find you way into a diverse community of disciples to Jesus. Make sure it’s a group that invites disagreement and critical self-reflection. Third, make a plan to pursue a relationship with the one who knows you more fully that you know yourself. Set aside regular times to approach the Spirit of God, set your heart out as honestly as possible before him, listen for his voice, and reflect on your experience as you do. (p127)
A number of aspects of this book have stayed in my mind for some time, both the risks of self-deception yet how God has enabled us to be able to self-deceive.

It’s a short book and easy to read.  My slight caveat to that is that the author is a philosopher, so I did skim read more of the philosophical sections.

All of us deceive ourselves – a book like this opens our eyes to it and helps us see a way forward as Christians.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Bible Bites

We have recently discovered a great resource for family devotions - Bible Bites.  Written by Ladeane Lindsay and published by Anglican Youthworks, it was shortlisted for the 2011 Australian Christian Book of the Year.

It contains 356 (undated) family devotional times. Split into 7-day groupings, they are designed to be used daily, but could easily be used a few times a week instead.  Each Bible Bite is based around a key biblical theme and memory verse.  Over 7 days, you learn a memory verse together and look at difference aspects of that theme; which includes a bible reading, activity/sharing time and prayer.  It is designed for children aged 3-12 and to take ~10 mins at a time. You could easily increase or reduce the suggested activity as family life and your energy dictates (I reduce it, having almost no energy for memory verse games!)

It covers 52 ‘Bites’ about God, his characteristics, key events in the bible, Jesus’ life, death & resurrection, and Christian living. Your family will end up with a fantastic grounding in the overall message of the bible and will have memorised lots of bible verses along the way.

We are 5 'Bites' in - having taken longer than 5 weeks to get there.  I am pleased to discover that the kids remember all five memory verses still, and the salient points of the themes.  All three (aged 9, 7, 5) are enjoying it and learning about God along the way.

A resource well worth using in the home.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Prayer Project

Dear blog readers

I have started a new project. 

For some time I have been endeavouring to write out prayers.  I find it helps me to turn scripture into prayer, to think about what I have read more and to how to apply it.
I now have a collection of prayers from the bible, from other sources and from my own thoughts. 

I have decided to put them into a blog, in the hope they might also be helpful for others.

I would love you all to have a look around the site and tell me what you think


Thanks

Friday, July 20, 2012

Kate Quinn

I have found another historical fiction author to follow, along with Diana Gabaldon and Jean Auel. Plucked off a library shelf on a whim, Mistress of Rome, the debut novel by Kate Quinn was a great read.

Ancient Rome has always interested me, having been ‘tricked’ into studying Latin for 3 extra years at high school after 1 year of fantastic facts and interesting details about Emperors, gladiators, Pompeii, Mt Vesuvius etc. The reality of studying the language was painful (although slightly eased the way into NT Greek), but my interest in the time remains.

Set in the grim and bloody time of Emperor Domitian, a slave girl Thea knows only a life of servitude and pain until she meets Arius, a gladiator who becomes the conqueror of the Colosseum. Chance brings them together, scheming enemies tear them apart and yet their lives remain entwined when Thea becomes a favourite of the Emperor. As Domitian’s grip on the world becomes ever tighter, those around him start to wonder – can anyone dare to stop the Emperor, known to all as lord and god?

A number of the figures are people of history and it was great to read how she wove history and fiction together. At the end of the book she explains which is the fact and which is the fiction.


A quick search revealed she has since published 2 more novels. I quickly got my hand on the second: Daughters of Rome. Written as a prequel to Mistress of Rome, and set 12 years earlier in 69AD, known as the Year of the Four Emperors. As it suggests, Rome spend a year teetering between men who claimed the title of Emperor. Throughout each change the four women of the Cornelii family find themselves drawn into the instability of the city. One wants to be the Empress, another wants to record history, one finds herself married and divorced regularly according to whatever match brings most advantage to her family and the youngest would prefer to spend time with the racing horses. I also enjoyed finding a few characters from the first book and piecing some background details together.

Quinn has a real talent for taking an exciting period of time and then adding some extra characters to give it a personal touch.

I have eagerly reserved the third at the library – Empress of the Seven Hills.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gilead and Home

I finished the wonderfully touching and evocative Gilead by Marilynne Robinson the other week.

The Reverend John Ames is a minister in Gilead, Iowa in the 1950s. He is an elderly man surprised by the joy brought by falling in love later in life and the child that it has produced, and so he sits down to write a letter to his young son. It is a farewell as Ames knows he is nearing the end of his life, and so he sets out to record his life and the current events around him.

It is clear that Robinson has a deep and abiding understanding of and respect for the Christian faith, the bible and many theologians of the past. It could easily be read by anyone and appreciated for the quality work of fiction that it is.   But for those with faith and a familiarity with the bible, the references abound and add a deeper level of appreciation for the book Robinson has produced.

For those who are in ministry, there are also some wonderful gems:
That’s the strangest thing about this life, about being in the ministry. People change the subject when they see you coming. And then sometimes those very same people come into your study and tell you the most remarkable things. (p9)

Since supper was three kinds of casserole with two kinds of fruit salad, with cake and pie for dessert, I gathered that my flock, who lambaste life’s problems with food items of just this kind, had heard an alarm. There was even a bean salad, which looked to me distinctly Presbyterian, so anxiety had overspilled its denominational vessel. You’d have thought I died. We saved it for lunch. (p144-5)
It was a treat to savour, slowly.


After enjoying this one so much, a week later I moved onto Home, the companion novel which tells the story of Ames’ close friends and neighbours, the Boughtons. This was much sadder, almost too gentle and it alluded to some things so carefully and understatedly that I think I missed some of the meaning along the way. It does not contain as many Christian truths or biblical references as Gilead, but it is a moving, emotional story that is wonderfully written.

If you are going to try them, I’d start with Gilead.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Trials of Theology

The Trials of Theology, ed. Andrew Cameron and Brian Rosner

Here is a book to give the theological student in your life.

When you head off to theological college, your heart and mind is full of excitement – what treasures of God’s word will I learn today?  Now I will learn how to deal with that tough pastoral situation.  I will now have answers to all my theological, ethical and other questions. Now I will spend my days surrounded by like-minded fellow believers with whom I will become close friends and share the joys of ministry together forever!

Very quickly however reality and disillusionment can set in: Why do I struggle to read God’s word for personal growth when I study it all day? How much new Greek vocab must I master this week?   I did not realise there were so many ways of interpreting this doctrine, how can I know the truth?  How is it that so many Christians can have so many different opinions and personalities, and why do I find them so hard to get along with?

Ah yes, there are trials in theological study, and Andrew Cameron and Brian Rosner have created an excellent book, almost a handbook, for theological students. Filled with wisdom from great theological minds of the past and present, it gives a clear warning of the dangers of theological study, yet continues to raise our hopes to the great gain, joy and benefit that such study brings.

I will not go into each chapter in detail but suffice to say there were nuggets of wisdom in each. I especially loved the voices of the past: Augustine’s encouragement to take time out from study to read, pray and weep; the treasures of Spurgeon’s wisdom to study the books you have in detail, rather than accumulate books for the sake of it (something I need to hear!); and B.B. Warfield’s sobering reminder that our spiritual fitness is much more important than our intellectual fitness:
A minister must be learned, on pain of being utterly incompetent for his work. But before and above being learned, a minister must be godly. (p51)

And the warning that studying God makes him become common to us:
Think of what your privilege is when your greatest danger is that the great things of religion may become common to you! Other men, oppressed by the hard conditions of life… find it hard to get time and opportunity so much as to pause and consider whether there be such things as God, and religion, and salvation from the sin that compasses them about and holds them captive. The very atmosphere of your life is these things; you breathe them in at every pore; they surround you, encompass you, press in upon you from every side. It is all in danger of becoming common to you! God forgive you, you are in danger of becoming weary of God! (p57)

The current voices were also wise and helpful, with chapters by Woodhouse, Carson, Trumann, Bray and Hollinger, all commenting on various disciplines in study – doctrine, ethics, church history and biblical studies.

I leave you with Rosner’s closing words:
Students do well to remember that the goal of our theological study is not to figure out God, but rather, to arrive at awestruck incredulity and joyful confidence in God. It is to be blown away in wide-eyed, transfixed adoration. To miss that is to miss everything and to fail to glorify God in our studies. The aim is not finally an accurate eloquence, but to become lost for words, in the praise and wonder of God. (p191)

Well worth reading for any bible college student or anyone supporting them. 


(also posted today at in tandem)

Friday, June 22, 2012

A couple of movies

Our recent days-off have been cold and wet so we have enjoyed the chance to catch up on a few movies. We have seen two very different films.

First up was The Way, a great, gentle film starring Martin Sheen, directed by and starring his son Emilio Estevez.

It is the story of Tom, whose normal life in California is turned upside down when hearing the news of his son’s accidental death while holidaying in France. He travels to France to collect his son’s body and discovers that his son was walking the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James). Deciding to complete the trek for his son, he sets out to walk the Camino across Spain, like thousands of pilgrims before him. He meets up with 3 others along the way and so begins an unlikely friendship between them all.

It is a quiet film. To be honest not a great deal happens in it. But the story itself as it meanders along is a good one and the scenery filmed along the actual Camino is spectacular.

For those that enjoyed Martin Sheen as Jed Bartlett in the West Wing, this is another good role for him. And for those that like to see actual family acting together in movies, it’s amazing to see just how like Sheen Estevez now looks.


This week’s blockbuster was Men in Black 3, the next instalment of the series which started 15 years ago. We hired #1 and 2 and watched them again before seeing 3, so we’ve had a fun week or so in Men in Black land. It still stars Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith and both are still trying to defend an unknowing earth from alien invasion. It’s a fun movie with good special effects and without an overly complicated plot. It gives some good laughs along the way and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Good choice for a wet wintry day!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Real Marriage

Real Marriage, Mark & Grace Driscoll

Those who are in touch with these type of things will know that this book has gained considerable attention in the last few months. The reviews I read were not complementary and so I had decided not to read it.

Ah well – times change. As we continue to do a large amount of marriage preparation with engaged couples and an increasing amount of marriage enrichment/input, I felt the need to form my own opinion, as a number of people we know are ‘fans’ of the authors and therefore have purchased it or given it to others.

When you hear continued bad press about a book, it is very hard to come to it with an open mind. I have certainly tried to read it with grace and a willingness to learn. At the same time, I have come to agree with the hesitations I heard expressed.

I could go into great detail in this review but have decided not to knowing that others have, for example here and here .

Here are my general thoughts:
  • All is all, it is OK. It is not the worst book on marriage written for Christians, but by no means is it the best. (On a minor note, it had no cohesive logic from chapter to chapter and would have benefited from a very strong edit.)
  • It contains some good material. It is complementarian and espouses a view of marriage many of us would embrace. It has a good and helpful chapter on friendship in marriage; it encourages men to step up, lead and love their wives; and for women to respect and honour their husbands.
  • It is trying to be gritty and edgy. They have perceived a need for a book like this, one that answers the so-called tough questions and doesn’t shy away from some of the mess of marriage and sex.   It is very honest about the Driscoll marriage, the baggage both brought to it and the repercussions on their life together.  I want to ask whether we need gritty and edgy books on marriage at all?
  • As such, it lowers rather than raises our view of marriage. It primarily deals with issues such as previous abuse, previous sexual sin, pornography use and poor relating /communication. For those who are dealing with these matters, it could be helpful. (Although, I think there are better resource options for any issue this book deals with.)
  • If none of these previous issues (especially sexual abuse, sexual sin, pornography) have been a part of your marriage – rejoice. Stay pure on such issues and do not read this book. Why invite images or concerns into your marriage that are not there?
  • The chapter which raises them most questions is Chapter 11: “Can we ___?”. Using an appalling exegesis of 1 Cor 6:12, they create a grid of questions from which to ask “what can Christian couples do?” This becomes a very unhelpful discussion of various sexual behaviours, unwisely connected with statistics claiming how many people engage in such behaviour.  I am not squeamish about such matters, nor I am unwilling to discuss them (and often do with couples).  However, this whole section left me feeling incredibly uncomfortable.  I felt it could be so badly misused and misunderstood, even with all the caveats they tried to place over it. (Tim Challies did a very helpful 3 post series working through the issues with this chapter in considerable depth, you can find the first post here)

My conclusion? 
There are much better Christian books on marriage. Read those instead.
  • For those wanting to think about God’s purpose for marriage and how their marriage can meet it – try Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage
  • For those who would like some input on intimacy in marriage, both advice for the wedding night and the years thereafter, try Kevin Leman’s Sheet Music.
  • For those who want to work through some practical issues in marriage, try H. Norman Wright’s Now That You’re Engaged.
  • There are also many resources available for those dealing with specific issues in marriage – perhaps ask your pastor for suggestions.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Spine Poetry


I was tagged by Jean to do a book spine poem.

I have decided to do one of the stages of a woman's life (or at least mine to this point!) 



for women only
Girl stuff
Everywoman
The single issue
Loves me, loves me not
Of marriageable age
The first years of forever
Couplehood
Sheet music
10,000 baby names
And then I had kids
Naked motherhood
The memory keeper's daughter
Getting real


This was fun.

I want to do another one, but most of the Christian books that I want to use are in my husband's office.  Must make a visit in...

Lots of fellow bloggers have already had a go, but if you want to - go ahead and let me know.  Or, if you are not a blogger, send me a photo of yours if you like!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Yes Prime Minister

Yes Prime Minister

I have delved recently back into some books from the 1980s, into the wonderful dry wit that is the series of of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister.

In Yes Minister, we are introduced to the Right Hon. James Hacker, member of Parliament for Britain. He is Minister for the Department of Administrative Affairs and as such is responsible for the Civil Service and the man he must work with closely is the Permanent Secretary of the Civil Service, Sir Humphrey Appleby.  Appleby is a civil servant through and through, believing that parliamentarians only get in the way of the Civil Service actually running the country and therefore his job is to obfuscate and confuse Hacker so that he can continue to manage Britain the way it always has been done. Hacker’s own secretary is Bernard Woolley, a man of great wit and dry humour, never to let the opportunity for a pun to go by.

In Yes Prime Minister, by a remarkable turn of events, Hacker has managed to secure the plum job of Prime Minister. As Sir Humphrey is now the Cabinet Secretary and Bernard remains Hacker’s secretary at 10 Downing Street, the cast remains the same.

You will quite possibly have seen old re-runs of this on TV over the years. It is a very clever British TV show which manages to poke fun at British government, other nations, the bureaucracy of the civil service and most things it talks about. The books match the TV episodes.

It is great fun. I do enjoy intelligent fiction, some humour, wit, the ability to laugh at the ridiculous around us and Yes Prime Minister does it all in spades. What is surprising is that they haven’t really aged over the years. Government deals with the same perennial issues – education, budgets, international relations and defence, and so these episodes/books are almost as applicable today as they were then.

We have both re-read the books in the last few months, because last night we headed out to Her Majesty’s Theatre to see the new play. It was very good. Written by the same authors/playwrights and dated for 2011, it was very well done. The characters were the same as ever, yet the issues were more 21st century. It was an insightful look at relativism and morality in modern times.

A note: I suspect this series will be understood and appreciated most by those who have English as their first language. Following the logic, wit and roundabout sentences is tricky enough as it is and it would also help to have a general understanding of the British-type system of government.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Miss Potter


This lovely movie is a delightful, gentle, whimsical telling of the life of Beatrix Potter, beloved children’s author.

Starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor, it is set in London in 1906, when Beatrix is 32 and still unmarried, to the despair of her parents. She seeks to publish her books, which begins a wonderful friendship with the man assigned to be her publisher.

For anyone who enjoyed the stories of Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle Duck, etc) it will give an added dimension to her loved childhood stories, as you discover more about her own life. And, as it is rated G, I suspect older girls and teenagers who also loved the books would enjoy it.

Not sure many men would love it, but for a girls’ night it’s lovely.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Prodigal God

The Prodigal God, Timothy Keller

Some books become popular quickly and all of a sudden it seems that everyone has read them.  This was one of them a few years ago.

Using the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, Keller challenges us to see the parable afresh.  In it we meet 2 brothers – one (usually referred to as the prodigal) is the one we are most familiar with, the spendthrift, licentious younger brother.  However, Keller wants us to see also the older brother, the rule-keeper, yet joyless one who keeps his fathers commands but with no desire to serve.  Keller shows that both of these types of ‘brothers’ exist in the world today, and both need God as badly as the other.  One needs to repent of his sinful lifestyle and see the forgiveness that God offers, and the other needs to repent of his moral conformity as a way to control God and see the costliness of God’s grace towards him.
Jesus, though, shows us that a man who has violated virtually nothing on the list of moral misbehaviours can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most profligate, immoral person. Why? Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life. (p43)

There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. One is by breaking all the moral laws and setting your own course, and one is by keeping all the moral laws and being very, very good. (p44)
Keller then shows the free and yet costly grace the Father gives us in forgiving us, and that the true elder brother we really have is Jesus.

This is an easy to read, short and very helpful book, which will help you to see which way you tend, perhaps towards the younger brother with his journey of self-discovery or the other way, towards the older brother with his moral conformity.  It would also be a great book for unbelievers, especially those with a church background, who know of the parable of the prodigal son, yet have moved away from churches, put off by the more ‘older brother’ nature of its members.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A wonderful gift

I have just been the recipient of the most wonderful gift.  Time. 

Time to rest, read, meditate & be refreshed.

Time to listen to sermons, embroider, watch DVDs, take photos & sleep.

Time without noise, errands or tasks.

I have just been away for 3 days.  A gift generously given by my family, although given at most cost by my husband.  A gift generously supported by the congregation members who supplied a wonderful holiday home and a car in which to get there.


We planned this months ago, when life was busier and I was more stressed.  However, in God’s good timing, it turned into a continued recuperation from the operation and a quieter time than originally planned.

I caught up on sermon listening, read the bible and some Christian books and have generally been surprised by how much I wanted to spend time in God’s word and thinking about it.

A break from home routines has not been a break from God as well.  Instead it’s been a chance to stop, refresh, revitalise and be thankful again for His many abundant blessings.

God is indeed good, friends.  His mercies are new every morning.