Friday, November 28, 2014

Gingerbread

The results of the baking day
Last Saturday a group of 6 Christian families at our local primary school hosted a family gingerbread house event.  The mums have been praying together on and off for years, and this year it seemed like the right time to try an event.

It all crystallised in my head when a friend at a similar stage made the comment that she cannot interest school mums in events run for adults, but if their kids want to do it the parents will do anything to get them there. So I realised – run something for kids and families together.
Lolly sorting!

God was very, very kind in enabling it to go ahead and people certainly came!

We had 100 people there - 37 adults & 64 kids making a total of 65 houses. There were 32 school families represented, including our six.  I think about 10% of the school’s students came.

It was fun, it went well, people were welcomed and talked to, we met new families and chatted with usual friends, and they all heard a great interactive presentation of the first Christmas.
House construction

We were all so thankful for this opportunity to get to know other school families better and to share of our hope at Christmas time.

Already we are talking about doing it again next year! 

(As much as I would love to include photos of the whole event and the people, I do not have permission from anyone, so have kept it to my family.)

The set packed for houses to sell/give
Decorating with lollies

 



Our family houses

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lit!

Lit! Tony Reinke

This book came across my shelf because of Jean’s high recommendation a few years ago. I read it and loved it. I chose it as the book I would go through with a Ministry Trainee group in an annual seminar. Then I turned it into a “Reading as a Christian” seminar and gave it to two different groups of women, one through a bible study group and one through a conference.

So it’s fair to say I am a big fan of this book. As you know, I am a reader - an avid, keen reader. But this books appeals to me as much as it will to someone for whom reading does not come so naturally - because it encourages you to read, gives you good reasons to read and helps you to think about how to read through the lens of your faith, using wisdom and discernment as tools to assess books and what we can learn from them.

This review is not so much a detailed review of the book, but a collection of thoughts as a result and the basis of my seminar.

My overall question is: If our lives are to be lived to the glory of God, how does that shape our reading?

Firstly, we start with a Christian view of reading:

1.  The bible is in a category all of its own - it is the Word of God

2.  Christians value words - we value the Word of God, his Son is the Word, we know words give meaning in a way that images cannot.
 
3.  Being a Christian brings wisdom and gives discernment
“Faith in Jesus brings with it a critically important benefit for the Christian reader – discernment. Discernment is the ability to do three things: the ability to “test everything”, to “hold fast to what is good,” and to “abstain from every form of evil (1 Thess 5:21-22)” (p35)

“Christians can read a broad array of books for our personal benefit, but only if we read with discernment. And we will only read with discernment if the biblical convictions are firmly settled in our minds and hearts. Once they are, we have a touchstone to determine what is pure gold and what is worthless.” (p59)
4.  There are great benefits to reading Christian books - both fiction and non-fiction

5. There are great benefits to reading non-Christian books - both fiction and non-fiction
‘In non-Christian works we discover what is so close, and yet so far away, from what we read in the Bible. The challenge is to make use of the “so close” for our edification and for the glory of God while being aware of the “yet so far away”.’ (p77)

Following on from this, there are some practical suggestions:
  1. Examine your heart - what do you read, why do you read, do you read widely but with discretion or is your reading divorced from your faith and godly living?
  2. Dwell in the word of God - as first priority read your bible.
  3. Have a balanced reading diet - include Christian growth and understanding, life stage and professional development reading and reading for pleasure/enjoyment.
  4. Guard your heart in your reading - be aware if there are some types of books you should avoid
  5. Be active in your reading - take notes, put aside time for reading, be willing to stop reading a book
  6. Read with others - in a bible study, with children, in a book group
  7. Consider whether reading can be a problem - when, what, how much, etc
  8. Be a mature reader:
“1. Mature readers prize wisdom
2. Mature readers cherish old books
3. Mature readers keep literature in its place
4. Mature readers avoid making books into idols
5. Mature readers cling to the Saviour” (p177)
In the end, I really enjoyed Reinke’s conclusion:
“Regardless of how many books we read, we cling to the old rugged cross. When books overwhelm us, and our intellectual limitations discourage us, we recall the gospel. In the good news of Jesus Christ, overwhelmed readers find peace, and joy, and the courage to keep reading.” (p185)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Advent

If you are interested in using my advent calendars this year, just hop over to the “Resources” tab to download them. 

As usual, there are 2 options:
  • 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 The Birth of Jesus.  We are looking forward to it already, it is definitely a tradition we have all come to cherish.  If you would like more details as to how we do Advent, what goes in the little boxes, and how it has changed over time, see previous posts on Advent.

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Time away

Regular readers may recall that for the last few years I have gone away for a few days on my own.  I talked about it a little in 2012, and referred to it in passing in 2013. Both of those times were designed to be times of rest and recuperation, both coming in God’s good timing after appendicitis and then a mild fatigue.

These times were previously in Term 2. This year it ended up being a few weeks ago. I almost wondered if it was worth going. I had energy, I didn’t need to rest and felt there was a lot I could be doing at home & I have also been away a bit recently for other reasons.

However, sense prevailed (and my husband!) and I went. To the same wonderful place provided by generous parishioners.

And what a great few days they were. I had no idea how much work and planning I could get done with 3 days on my own with no interruptions, no school pick-up and drop-off, and the opportunity to work productively between the hours of 3pm and 8pm. Wow! I reviewed a marriage course, started planning a new one, became better trained in marriage inventory material and planned a talk series. I wrote blog posts. I read my bible. I prayed. I read books. I went for a few walks. And I did some embroidery and watched a few more episodes of As Time Goes By, the old BBC show.

I am thankful yet again for a husband who makes these things happen & our God who gives good gifts.

The hive of activity (& rest treats) at the work table.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ordinary Hero

I have enjoyed a number of books written or co-written by Tim Chester over the years, especially The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness which became the source for a number of seminars I have run on the topic (and a whole series on in tandem)

Two more of his books have sat on my shelf for ages. I finally got one down: The Ordinary Hero. I will say I started off on the wrong foot, because I thought I was picking up a book about Jesus - that he was the ordinary hero that we model our lives on, and picked it up because I was keen to read directly about Jesus again. While it is certainly based all about Jesus and how his death and resurrection shapes who we are, the ordinary hero talked about is each of us who live our lives centred around this fact. My mistake, but I think that’s why it took me a while to get into it and a while to get through it.

With that misunderstanding out of the way and some time to change my mindset, this really is a very helpful book. Chester focuses on the cross and resurrection through 5 sections:
  1. The pardon of the cross - that because of what Jesus has done in dying for us has shown us his love, given us humility for none of us deserved it; and then gives us confidence because there is no now condemnation for those who are in Christ.
  2. The practice of the cross - the way Jesus died in sacrificial service is to be our model for life - we are also to die to self and instead consider sacrifice, submission, self-denial, service and suffering to be what we are called to. In this we find joy and meaning
  3. The pattern of the cross and resurrection is to see that life in Christ is suffering followed by glory. This was Christ’s experience and it must also be our own. Christ was a king, yes, but a king who suffered and so to seek to avoid suffering ourselves does not recognise the pattern to which Jesus called us.
  4. The power of the resurrection - we see that the resurrection gives life and freedom, yet also the power to be weak for in the cross life comes through death and strength comes through weakness (p150)
  5. The promise of the resurrection is powerful hope - we await a truly resurrected world, of justice, love and joy. We await a promise that is worth dying for and worth living life differently now. He finishes with challenges to check again where your heart is, where your thoughts are and where your treasure is.
This is a book for all those out there who think their life does not matter, that their struggles in the Christian life are not worth it or there is really no point. It is also a powerful counteractive to the popular notion that Christians should not suffer now and should experience all their future glory in this present world. It will remind you of what your Saviour did for you and how in response our lives can be shaped by the cross and resurrection, for our joy and for his glory.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Christmas Books

 Do you find that Christmas sneaks up on you from year to year and so you never have the resources or books on hand that you had planned to when you had great dreams about it in March?

That’s why I planned to post this in March! Oh well. Perhaps there is still time...

Two books we have discovered in recent years may make it to your Christmas reading list.

The first is Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, edited by Nancy Guthrie. Meredith has been talking about her books for some time, and I was pleased to finally get my hands on this in time for Christmas last year.

It is a collection of 22 writings or sermons from authors such as Luther, Spurgeon, Augustine, Piper and Keller and each focuses on a different aspect of the Christmas story.

This was a great way to keep me anchored to the word of God throughout December and helped me focus on Jesus coming as Messiah and Lord. I combined it (accidentally, but with unexpected benefit) with reading through Luke 1-2 in depth at the same time and it was marvellous, there were treasures abounding in every verse.  I plan to do the same this year, starting on December 1.


The second one is for families: The Lion Storyteller Christmas Book by Bob Hartman and Krisztina Kallai Nagy. These are great read aloud stories for children. The book is divided into thirds:

1. These are the accounts of the first Christmas retold in segments. This section is very good and we really enjoyed them, they helped to add more to our own advent readings.

2. This section is a collection of stories explaining where various Christmas traditions have come from - like the tree, the presents, the man delivering presents, etc. These were interesting and fun.

3. The final section is a collection of Christmas tales and legends from around the world. These were fine, but we all preferred the first two sections.

We read it at night and it was a nice end to the day, especially if you read it around the Christmas tree! 

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Jesus Hokey Pokey

This new Colin Buchanan CD has been played regularly in our car in the last few months. It rose quickly to the top of the list and has steadily stayed there on request. We all loved the last Colin CD God Rock because it really appealed to my older son.

This one has appealed more to the younger ones, it seems Colin’s music has got younger again! There are the fun action tunes - Boss of the Cross, The Jesus Hokey Pokey, The Horsey Dance, Dig! Dig! Hammer Saw! (Building on the Lord) which all were great to experience the first time at his concert so we could see them in action. There are great songs about living for Jesus and the truth of the gospel: Truth is still True, God is Good all the Time, Invisible Believer and He’s the Greatest Name.

Then there are the songs that have great depth of meaning. Just like the older Press on Mums, his new Get Back to Jesus based on the prodigal son and his older brother brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.

If you have kids in the pre-school and primary years, get this CD. And if you are a parent of children in this age range, and struggling to remember the goodness of God, his promises to us and how to live for him -  listen to it yourself with them, over and over again. You will be fed, encouraged and refreshed.