Monday, May 30, 2016

Expectant Parents

Expectant Parents, Suzanne Hadley Gosselin

I was asked recently whether I knew of any books for Christian couples expecting a baby, things to consider for new parents.  A quick search of my shelves revealed a marked lack of such resources. 

Husband and I have couples around for a chat before their first child arrives, usually when they are about 6 months pregnant.  These are people with whom we already have a pre-existing relationship, often people we have also prepared for marriage.   However, it is always useful to have a book to recommend to others. 

So, off to the bookstore again to do some research.  I came up with Expectant Parents: Preparing Together for the Journey of Parenthood, and upon reading it, I was pretty impressed.  I was also somewhat gratified to note that almost everything Gosselin includes in her book were things we also cover when we talk with new parents. 

Gosselin has done a good job of combining together a whole array of sensible suggestions for both pregnancy and the early childhood years.

Some of her topic areas include
  • Make your marriage a priority and be prepared that pre-existing stresses will be exacerbated with children
  • Being a mum / being a dad - and how that impacts you
  • Thinking about post-baby career choices
  • Surviving the social side of pregnancy – including extended family
  • Finding a community – seek out strong friendships that are understanding and encouraging, not competitive
  • How your family of origin comes into play all over again
  • Thinking about your long term family goals and ideas
  • The false idea that you can be perfect parents – no, we are all in training

I didn’t write extensive notes on this book, I was really reading it to see if I would recommend it, rather than to get things out of it for me personally.   However, some of her ideas and quotes (often of others) did really resonate:
  • “While your true goal will be to have a Christ-centred home, the marriage itself is a foundational, God-ordained block for the family” (p14)
  • On body image during this life stage: “The biggest lesson I needed to remember was that life is full of seasons – a time to be a skinny teenager, a time to be a growing pregnant woman, a time to be a curvy and comforting mom.” (p38)
  • On being a dad: “Be ready for the wave to hit.  The loss of independence and and spontaneity can be depressing.  It’s a beautiful season, but life certainly isn’t about you anymore.” (p62)
  • On questioning God on why a child might not be healthy or ‘perfect’: ‘Sometimes my mind wander to what might have been, and I ask “Why couldn’t it have been perfect, Lord?”  And he lovingly answers, “It could have been perfect – by your definition – but then it would not have been my will – My good, pleasing, perfect will.”’  (p118)
  • On the myth of perfect parenting “it’s important for new parents to remember that ‘successful’ parenting is not perfect parenting.  Every family has issues; every parent makes mistakes.  Parenting seems so much more manageable when we abandon the idea of doing it right every time.  That’s an unattainable standard.”  (p140)

All in all it’s a good book, and recommended for impending parenthood!

(By the way, if you want something humorous and Australian for some light hearted reading, I also went back and re-read So You’re Going to be a Dad, by Peter Downey.  An online search showed it has now been completely revised and updated, which is good seeing it’s over 20 years old.   It is definitely worth a read, especially for dads, but really for all want to see the funny side of those early months and years.)



Monday, May 23, 2016

Some Movie Reviews

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

If you are in the mood for a light-hearted action spy movie, this is a good choice.    Set in the midst of the Cold War in 1963, American thief turned CIA agent Napoleon Solo is tasked to exfiltrate Gaby Teller from East Berlin.  Against the odds and a persistent Russian Agent, Illya Kurakin, he is successful (all in the opening scenes). Gaby’s uncle is involved in the continued developed of Nazi nuclear weapons, so Solo and Kurakin are ordered to work together with Gaby to infiltrate their network.     

As the Russian and American learn to work together (rudely calling each other Peril and Cowboy), the insults fly thick and fast even as they develop a loose friendship.  While it is a shoot-em-up, many of the potentially violent scenes are underplayed through the use of low sound and music, and so the intensity of them is decreased.  It was produced by Guy Ritchie and I really liked the cinematography and the soundtrack.   The humour is dry and clever, with both of the main actors dead-pan expressions just adding to the fun.

A fun, easy-going, action movie and a good choice for a night in.


Captain America: Civil War

If you follow the Marvel Avengers series like we do, you will be well aware of this one and that is bills itself as Iron Man vs Captain America.  Of course, the story line is a little more complicated than that – although not much!

In essence it follows the same plot line as the kids movie The Incredibles, that is – what happens when the world gets sick of super heroes getting in the way, saving some people but accidentally killing innocents and destroying property in the process?   In this version, the UN gets in the way with a resolution to bring all of the Avengers under their jurisdiction.   Iron Man sees the need for such action while Captain America is strongly opposed.   Bringing in almost all of the Avengers superheros to date (eg. Ant Man), including some new ones (I won’t spoil the surprise!), in one massive battle you end up with two sides, six Avengers on each pitted again each other.   Two of my favourites were missing (Thor & Hulk) but with 12 superheros there was more than enough to go around!  In fact, too many – in this movie they all call each other by their first names and for the less well known ones, I was struggling to remember who was who!

All in all, this is another fun episode in the very long running, multi-million dollar Marvel franchise.  Lots of action, no swearing, funny lines and clever humour.  Now I am trying to figure out when it would be appropriate to start watching them all again, under the excuse of introducing them to our son…

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Apologies!!

I owe my subscriber followers an apology.   Or at least it's possible I do!

If you received a whole lot of posts from me yesterday regarding an old series on a book called Radical Womanhood, I'm sorry.

I am in the process of transferring old posts from the In Tandem ministry wives blog across to this musings blog.  I was hoping I could do so quietly and discreetly, as they are all old and were keeping their original posting dates.  Unfortunately, I am not sure it happened that way.

So, if you got a whole lot of emails (or one very long email) - again - sorry!

And just so you know - on Monday I will post all the rest - about 70 posts.  I figure it's better to do them all in one go - be really annoying once and then it's done!   Thanks for understanding.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Technology contract

As Mr 13 has started high school and became even more entrenched in technology, it was time to write down some of the principles and ideas we want him to think about and adopt.

So we developed a technology contract (see below).  Mr 13, Husband and I have all had input and it has already gone through a few revisions.  It will be revisited at least annually, if not more often.

We could also have added in bible verses to back up the points, but I was trying to keep it manageable (it's already 2 pages) and just because it's not written down doesn't mean it wasn't talked about!

It has been a good opportunity to stop and think about what we expect, and what we want him to learn, and how to teach it.  There are always new things to consider in parenting!

It has also been a prompt to remind Miss 11 and Miss 8 about our expectations, seeing one has started a private blog and both are on email.  They now also have much simpler versions.

****
TECHNOLOGY CONTRACT – Mr 13

Congratulations Mr 13 – you now have a phone and a laptop to use!

SOME PRACTICAL THINGS:
  1. We own the phone and the laptop – we paid for them!
  2. We will pay for you to be able to use the phone, to a certain amount. You may have to pay any excess.
  3. If they are damaged or lost, you may be required to replace it.
  4. We will know your passwords at all times.  Your sisters need to always know your phone password, because there are times they will need a phone.
  5. You will always answer a call or text from us, as soon as you can. Never ignore us trying to contact you.  We will always try to answer your calls or texts as soon as we can.
  6. Check with us before buying or downloading any music or apps.
  7. If anything on a screen worries you or is inappropriate (eg. messages, pictures, websites) come and talk to us. You will not be in trouble.
  8. All screens will be downstairs overnight, charging if needed.
  9. “Find my iPhone” will always be activated on your iPhone, don’t ever disable it.
  10. If you are out on your own, we expect you to always have the phone on you and for it always to have enough credit for phonecalls.
  11. No games midweek – for schooldays, it is just a phone/laptop. You can play games on the bus, as long as you prioritise real conversations first.

THINKING A BIT MORE:

Technology is pretty cool. Your laptop has lots of power for creativity and design, and your phone is a smart phone. They can be used for many, many things – music, videos, phonecalls, texts, email, games, etc.
Above all – always remember 2 things:
  • Real life is better than the digital world – enjoy the real world, real conversations and real people.
  • Words and pictures have power. Be kind, honest and respectful with both.

Loving and Respecting Others
  1. Always speak politely and with respect when on the phone.
  2. Only call people between 8am and 8:30pm. Remember their own families and privacy. If you wouldn’t call their parents at that time, don’t call them.
  3. Meal times, family times or overnight are screen-free, as are the movies, at church, when in conversation with friends, or where it would be rude or inappropriate.
  4. Follow school rules regarding technology.
  5. It is easy to write unwise or unkind things – stop and think before you press send.
  6. Reply to text messages and emails when appropriate. Even just saying ‘thanks’ or ‘OK’ lets people know you have received it.
  7. Respect other people’s privacy – do not give out their details without permission, do not forward emails/texts that are intended to be personal.

Be Wise and Careful
  1. It is very easy to waste time on a screen– be careful how you use your time
  2. Make sure you control your technology and that it does not control you
    • You don’t have to answer a call straightaway (except from us – as soon as possible)
    • You don’t have to respond to a text straightaway (except from us – as soon as possible)
    • You don’t have to reply to an email straightaway – although it’s polite to answer emails that need answering within a day or two.
    • Most replies can wait till the end of the conversation, or the end of the school day, or even until the next day
    • Some messages never need to be answered or even read– eg. junk, spam, various requests (lost property, surveys) through school email.
  3. You don’t have to give out your phone number or email to any person / company. You have a choice. If you feel pressured to, try and say no, or give one of Mum or Dad’s numbers/emails.
  4. Remember – every thing you ever do or put online can be recorded forever. This includes emails, posts, tweets, photos, texts, comments, game statistics, web site browsing and time usage. All words and pictures online may be there forever: “only say it or post it if you want the entire world to have access to your message or picture for all time” (David A. Bednar). So, think very carefully how you use technology.
“The caution that marks our speech must also mark our texting, our emailing, our commenting, our blogging and our tweeting. The fact that we communicate at all should cause us to stop and consider every word. The fact that we communicate so often today and do so before so great an audience should cause us to tremble. As we communicate all day we give ourselves unending opportunity to sin with our words.” (Challies)
  1. Only say things on email that you would say in person (to their face)
  2. Only say things on email or online that you would say out loud with Mum and Dad in the room (or their parents).
  3. Never take photos of yourself without clothes on (one day you may think this sounds fun, or someone might ask you to). Always delete any photos of others like this that you might receive. Never forward photos like this on to others.
  4. Don’t look at inappropriate photos or videos on any device, and don’t share inappropriate photos or videos of yourself with others. If you encounter something inappropriate, delete it, or close it, whatever it takes. Just as importantly, make a mental note of the path that led to it to help you avoid it in the future.
***
Isn’t it cool to be growing up and getting more fun stuff! We love you and we trust you to be responsible and wise. We also know you’ll make mistakes and we will still love you and forgive you. There may be times that your technology will be taken away. There may be times when you lose it. We will work it out together.

Use all technology to glorify God and serve him and his people. Sometimes this will mean using technology wisely. Sometimes it will mean not using it at all. The rest of your life (and ours) will be spent figuring out how to do this well. We love you very much.

[Signed by all three of us]

Monday, May 2, 2016

Get Real

Get Real, John S. Leonard

This great offering from New Growth Press has been sitting unread as an eBook on my iPad for way too long.   I wish I’d read it sooner.

Leonard has written an excellent book which looks at the pitfalls of so called ‘traditional’ evangelism, and he presents a better way forward.   Many Christians are uncomfortable and awkward with evangelism.  They think they have to follow a set way, explain the gospel completely as soon as given the chance, and then often feel ill-equipped to do so.  Rather than a challenge to learn tracts or evangelistic presentations, Leonard challenges us to think about our whole life as evangelism, a life lived under the grace of God and one which is appealing to unbelievers.  I know that much of what he has to say is not actually new thinking, but it definitely was a helpful reminder of the things that matter when you seek to share your faith. 

He starts by reminding the reader again of the gospel we share, how it is grounded in grace, all of it and how that defines all of our lives:
We must realize it is all Jesus and nothing of use and give him all the praise and glory.  The Christian life is lived – from beginning to end – by grace.  If we are going to share this message with others, we must first know it for ourselves (p22).
Then the bulk of the book: A Real Approach to Sharing the Gospel, deals with many different areas of how we share our faith.  Some of the highlights along the way were:
  • Be normal but a bit crazy.   That is, be a normal person, don’t be weird: be honest about your struggles and weaknesses, don’t present a false front of faith.  But at the same time, be a bit crazy in your life of faith – because how you live and what matters to you (time priorities, money priorities, etc) will seem a little crazy to others.
  • Be more than a friend – be a support to people.  Get to know people well, ask questions and care about them.   Become the person they will seek out in times of crisis, and the one to whom they will ask when they need answers.   Obviously this takes time and care.  
  • Keep evangelising Christians – for they keep needing to remember they are saved by grace not works – and disciple non-Christians – that is, show how we live, what matters, what we prioritise.   You don’t just keep repeating the gospel to unbelievers, you show them how you live it out and how all of the bible can apply to life.  That means the moment of conversion is just one step along the path of becoming disciple of Christ.
  • Sow widely.  Be available to a wide number of people who come across your path.  Go through the same checkout to get to know the same person.  Talk to your hairdresser.  Smile at people on the bus and on the plane.  Ask shopkeepers from other countries where they are from and about their families, and then remember the details for next time you go in.   Stop seeking to be efficient in the self-check and the do-it-yourself section – but allow time to talk to people.   If you are clearly available to talk, people will talk to you.
  • Change your testimony to include all the ways God has worked in your life since you came to faith.  How he has changed you as an employee, a parent, a spouse, a child.  Don’t stop your account when you became a Christian – for many of us, that story is now very old and God has proven his faithfulness and grace countless times since then in ways which are much more relevant to people you talk to.   Talk of what he has done and is now continuously doing in your life.
  • Raise curiosity – challenge people’s views with an idea, but stop talking when you can tell they aren’t interested.   Much better to leave them wanting more and thinking about what you said.
  • Pray with your eyes open ­– People can be uncomfortable if you pray with your eyes closed, especially when you meet in public.  They feel self-conscious and awkward (let’s be honest, lots of Christians do too in public places!)  Why not just say you are going to pray but tell them it will look like a normal conversation, so no-one is embarrassed by it?

That is really only a taste of all the very helpful things Leonard had to offer here.   If you want to think about how to share your faith, but living a life of faith by grace this is the book for you.  Leonard will challenge you to be open and real with all people, to listen well, to speak less, to gently challenge where appropriate and to be available.   Highly recommended.  


Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Status Report

Status Report: It's been 5 months since I did a status report - just never got around to it!

Family Update:   Mr 13 has started high school (Yr 8) and while it has been a big transition (as we suspected), it has gone well and he seems to have settled in.  There is certainly a lot of change that happens quickly at this stage - technology responsibilities, getting to school himself, managing his own time, serving at church in the band, continuing to learn piano, and doing all this while becoming a teenager with all that brings.

Miss 11 is in Year 5 and Miss 8 in Year 3, and both continue along happily.   Miss 11 is very excited to now be allowed to drink tea (restricted to decaf for the moment)

Winter sport starts in earnest this term with all three playing sport - so Saturdays are now assigned to soccer and netball, spread over the whole day.

I turned 40 last term, which we felt warranted a trip away, so Husband and I spent a week in Port Douglas enjoying the heat in the last week of Term 1.  Marvellous.

Enjoying watching others turn 40: one of the delights of Facebook is being in touch with old school friends and friends you went through youth group with.  So over these last 8 months and for another 4 it is fun watching so many friends also get to 40!  So many people have so many things to be thankful for - it's very encouraging.

Study: I am doing some study with the CCEF this term, starting with their introductory subject, Dynamics of Biblical Change.  It starts next week and goes for 13 weeks.  Hence, I suspect my reading and reviewing on this blog may be reduced for a while.  I am looking forward to studying again, but it has been 14 years since I did any study and therefore I am somewhat out of practice!  The thought of handing in assignments for marking is a little daunting!

Reading: parenting books (which I have already reviewed here), a great book on evangelism (review coming out tomorrow), Romans and Psalms.

Blog:  I have included a "DVDs and CDs" tab up the top (for both adults and kids), listing all reviewed or referred to movies/shows/music on this blog.   I have also included a lot more children's books in the "Children's books"  tab - not all are reviewed, but are included if any of our children have liked them.