Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas closure

My musings and I will be on holidays for a month now. Christmas, school holidays, time with family and general fun means no time for blogging.

I hope you all have a lovely Christ-centred Christmas, that you can remember 2010 with thanks, and that you look forward to 2011.

See you in late-January.

Married for God - Conclusion

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

Conclusion: The Greatest Invitation

In Ash’s conclusion, you can hear his heart for the lost and for them to respond to the gospel of grace. Using the same imagery of marriage that the bible uses, he exhorts us to desire to be part of the greatest marriage of all time:
…the story of a marriage which includes within itself the whole history and future of the human race. It is the story of God, the Lover, the Bridegroom, the Husband, and his people the Beloved, his Bride, and in the end his Wife… All of the people of God in the new heaven and new earth are the bride of Jesus Christ. That is to say, he loves them passionately, and they love him with an answering love. (p166-7)
What a great note to finish on – looking forward to the end of time, eyes fixed on our heavenly marriage, not our earthly one.

As we come to a close, it’s worth pondering who this book is for. Ash clearly wants it to be used by single people considering (or not) marriage, engaged couples preparing for marriage and married couples as they work on their marriage. Think about how you might use it in your ministry:
  • together as you consider your own marriage
  • as a resource for already married couples to raise their eyes as to the purpose of their relationship
  • for engaged couples, to give them a solid grounding in God’s view of marriage and the importance of the relationship
  • for people wanting to think ‘theologically’ about marriage
  • for young people, to ensure they have a God-centred view of marriage as they approach their relationships and life choices.
I still see the need for ‘how-to’ marriage books – how to communicate, how to respect one another, the nature of commitment, etc. However, this books fills a great void in the marriage books I have read to date – God’s purpose for our marriage and how we serve him though it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Friend Bear

Preschooler Books:
My Friend Bear, Jez Alborough

This is the third in a series of books about Eddy, his teddy Freddy, a very large bear and his teddy.

In the first Where's My Teddy?, Eddy find the bear's giant size teddy and the bear finds Eddy's Freddy. Confusion follows until they find the right bear again.

In the second It's the Bear?, Eddy's out with his mum and worried about the bear that lives in the woods. The bear arrives, eats their food and terrifies Eddy in the process.

Both of these books are fun and it's good that there is some tension in each - will the bear eat Eddy? Will all be OK?

However, I think the best of the three is this one - My Friend Bear. Eddy and the bear, who are both lonely, meet in the woods, overcome their fear of each other and become friends:
The bear lifted Eddy up for a hug,
hairy and beary, safe and snug.

"Take care," he said. "Look after Freddy!"
Well come back soon," whispered Eddy.

Then off they walked,
with a smile and a wave
Back to a house,
and back to a cave.
Do you think that they're lonely?
Not any more...

That's what having friends is for.
The illustrations are bold and full of expression. The rhyme is delightful and easy to read. And the stories are lovely. I would recommend getting all three books. You could use them to show how some things that seem scary really aren't, but you'll also enjoy them just because they are such fun.

Married for God - Chapter 8

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

Chapter 8: What is the heart of marriage?

Up till now, we have been asking the ‘why?’ question – what is the point of sex and marriage. However, now it is time to look at the heart of marriage: faithfulness.

Our God loves us with a faithful, steadfast love:
Faithful steadfast love is the heart of marriage, for faithful steadfast love is the heart of the universe. The faithful steadfast passionate Lover God calls men and women to show faithful steadfast passionate love in their marriages. (p145)
This is a great chapter – it gets to the core of marriage and what is really important.
  • Marriage is a ‘one-flesh’ union joined by God. It creates a new family unit. We must not tear apart what God has joined together. The husband or wife must not put themselves before the marriage – their career, comfort or personal fulfilment. Others also must not come between a marriage – and this includes over-involved parents and employers who want more than their ‘pound of flesh’.
  • Marriage is a covenant to which God is a witness. God is present when promises are made and he holds us accountable to keep those promises.
  • Marriage faithfulness excludes all rivals for life. He then follows this with reasons why adultery is very serious. It’s sobering reading: adultery is turning away from a promise, it is secretive and dishonest, it destroys the adulterer, it damages society and it hurts children. I think Lesley Ramsay added a very astute extra point when she reviewed this book– it devastates the marriage partner. Anyone who has seen the consequences of adultery first hand cannot help but agree with all of these with great sadness in their heart.
  • Faithfulness in marriage is modelled on the faithfulness of God. God’s faithfulness to his people has remained strong throughout their continued rebellion and faithlessness. He is forgiving, and in showing his forgiveness for us, he has modelled true costly forgiveness that we also will need in our marriages.
  • Faithfulness in marriage comes from the faithfulness of God – God is faithful and pours his grace and faithfulness into me, if I come to him and trust him. It is only through his grace that we can live this way.
What you and I need most of all is to know the steadfast faithful love of the God who has never broken a promise yet. He kept every promise he has ever made when he sent his son Jesus Christ to die in our place. He is utterly faithful and trustworthy. If we will turn afresh to him and come to him in trusting obedience, we can rest our security in his mercy. And on that basis, building on that security, we will be well placed to show faithfulness in marriage, to offer forgiveness when hurt and to welcome back with tenderness even when things are at their most painful. (p162)

Do you realise that it is faithfulness that is at the core of marriage?

Do you talk about the commitment to faithfulness in marriage preparation with couples?

Do you warn couples of the dreadful consequences (yet still sometimes tempting lure) of adultery? And then give them practical ways to flee such temptation?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Secret River and The Lieutenant

Two reviews for the price of one today. However both are by the same author, and are part of a loose trilogy, so it makes some sense!

The Secret River, Kate Grenville

Thanks to Jean's recommendation, I had this one on my planned reading list a few months ago, and like Jean I loved the descriptions of London and Sydney in the early 1800s. I really enjoy reading about that time in history - 1st fleet, long sea voyages, convicts and I love imagining what Sydney Cove would have been like in its early days of settlement.

William Thornhill, from the poverty and theft of London, is transported (with his wife Sal and their children) to the colony of New South Wales. However, within years he is a free man and claims land for himself on the Hawkesbury River. Their relationship with the native Aboriginal people is tenuous and eventually he must choose whether they are friend or foe.

It's a fascinating account of what life would have been like, and the choices one had to make.

The Lieutenant, Kate Grenville

Having so enjoyed The Secret River, a quick online search revealed she has written quite a few novels, and The Lieutenant was the next obvious choice as it was based around the same time and also in the colony of New South Wales.

This is a much gentler story. Daniel Rooke, a soldier and astronomer with a brilliant mind, arrives on the First Fleet and establishes himself away from the main settlement. He forms a close friendship with the local Aboriginal people, particularly a young girl names Tagaran and she begins to teach him her language.

However, as expected, tensions loom between the new settlers and the local people, and Rooke must choose whether to follow King and Country or his own moral compass.

Apparently this novel is quite closely based on William Dawes and his notes from these times.

Two good books with good insights into our early history.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Little Yellow Digger

Preschooler Books:
The Little Yellow Digger, Betty & Alan Gilderdale

This is a fantastic books for boys, especially when they go through that phase of being obsessed with diggers and tractors. (although my girls love this book too).

The little yellow digger gets stuck in the mud, the next digger sent to help it gets stuck, as does a bigger digger and a bigger bigger digger.
Now in the next door garden,
slowly sinking in the ground,
was the little yellow digger
with its wheels spinning round,
and a digger on its side
in the half-dug drain,
with the bigger red digger
(which had ropes and a chain)
and the bigger bigger digger
all shining in the rain.

They were sunk down deep
with the bright red truck.
Deep down in the mud...
and all of them STUCK!
It's a fun story, with lovely rhyme, great illustrations and is enjoyable to read aloud.

Married for God - Chapter 7

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

Chapter 7: Is it better to stay single?

Up until now, Ash’s motto has been ‘sex in the service of God’. Here he flips the coin and asks, what about ‘no-sex in the service of God’? Where does singleness fit in. Why this is obviously a book on marriage, I was pleased to see that he included this chapter, and it’s a very helpful one.

Should those of us who are single consider remaining single in order to serve God?
There is really only one thing that absolutely needs to be said: the whole duty and calling of every human being who has ever lived is to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength. ..The only question is how we are going to love and serve God. And this is where marriage does make quite a difference. (p126)

He goes on to make 4 points:
  1. Sex makes no difference to our relationship with God. It’s important to emphasise this in a society which thinks sex matters a lot.
  2. We find our identity and experience love within the family of God. Marriage is not God’s answer to loneliness, but rather a relationship with God and other Christians.
  3. Some will endure not being married for the kingdom of God. The fact remains that singleness for many people comes at a real cost.
  4. Getting married makes life a lot more complicated. Marriage can make us anxious – it adds many more of life’s worries into our lives.
The rest of the chapter discusses some of the issues raised in 1 Corinthians 7. There is a very helpful section on the ‘gift of singleness, in which he concludes that the gift of marriage or singleness is defined by that state itself:
I know which ‘gift’ I have by a very simple test: if I am married I have the gift of marriage; if I am not married, I have the gift of being unmarried. My circumstances are God’s gracious gift to me; and I am to learn to accept them from his hand as such. (p132)
This gift may change over time. All of us start life with the gift of singleness, many but not all will have the gift of marriage and some point, and many will again end their lives with the gift of singleness.

Ash concludes by asking “Can I serve God better unmarried?’ He says no: neither better nor worse, but certainly differently. Those who marry will have to work out what it means to serve God while also putting energy into a faithful marriage and the raising (God willing) of children. Those who do not marry may grieve the loss of such relationships, but also be able to serve God more wholeheartedly, or in different ways.
So long as your proposed husband or wife shares your faith, if you are a Christian, and so long as he or she is willing to marry you, you are free to marry. You will not be closer to God if you do, and you will be no closer to God if you don’t. You will not necessarily serve God better if you do, and will not serve God better if you don’t, but you will most certainly serve God differently. (p140)

Friday, December 3, 2010

People of the book

People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks

Following The Book Thief, I turned to People of the Book - which unbenowst to me turned out to have similar themes - people who love books and Judaism.

The Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish prayer book, has recently been discovered in war-torn Sarajevo. A Sydney-based rare book conservator, Hanna Heath, is asked to restore the manuscript. What she finds leads her to uncover details of its 500 year history, crossing from Sarajevo, to Vienna in 1894, the dark years of the Spanish Inquisition, and Seville in 1480.

The story switches between the present to the past, slowly giving details about the manuscript over time. At the same time you are drawn in to the life of Hanna and how it has affected her. While the book is fiction, it is based on some facts known about the actual Sarajevo Haggadah, which was recovered after the Bosnian War.

There are many fans of Brooks' writing out there, and this one meets those expectations. She has also written March (from the view of the father in Little Women) and Year of Wonders (about the outbreak of plague in a village in England in 1666). She must do huge amounts of research for her writing, for you really feel like she has understood the times and then is able to convey it to the reader.

They all make great reading. If you appreciate history and how it can all fit together, chances are you will enjoy this one.