Monday, November 28, 2011

Radical Womanhood - Chapter 8

Chapter 8: Feminine Faith

As this chapter begins, McCulley openly acknowledges it is an overview chapter designed to present some issues of feminine faith and to encourage us to be women fruitful for God’s glory.

Indeed it is an overview, and I found myself wanting more. As she says, there are other books on the subject – but I wanted more meat in this section. After reading about all the problems that feminism has given us, some more thoughts about how to proceed today would have been helpful.

Having said that, McCulley clearly says what needs to be said – we need to look to God’s word for our guidance in everything, and the gospel is all we need. We do not need to be recognised by the world’s standards, but loved and saved by Jesus.

I finish with the words of John Piper, which she quotes, which describe strong women, whom we all could strive to be:
…Strong women! I think they are magnificent testimonies to Christ. Because if they are complementarian…they are combining things the world can’t explain. They are combining a sweet, tender, kind, loving, submissive, feminine beauty with his massive steel in their backs and theology in their brains! (p187)
I feel this book touched on many issues and helped me understand history more and how it has affected the present, yet left me wanting more about how to live a feminine faith today. Did others feel this way?

Do any of you have any book suggestions that others who are still interested in this topic might find helpful?

Hope you have enjoyed this series, I have!

Friday, November 25, 2011

More Joanna Trollope

I have now read a few more Joanna Trollope novels and these ones I enjoyed as much as Daughters-in-Law and The Rector's Wife.

First one was The Other Family - the story of Chrissie, loved by Richie for 23 years, who was father of her 3 daughters and the love of her life. However, they never married for he never divorced his first wife, Margaret. When he dies, both families have to learn to cope with the loss and pain, and begin to deal with each other. I have discovered what I like about Trollope's books (or those I have read so far) is that everyone moves a step forward by the end. Each character is more aware of their own weaknesses and is making progress towards being better.

The second one, Second Honeymoon, I really liked. It's the story of Edie, Russell and their adult children (Matthew, Rosa and Ben). The children have finally moved out, and Edie is bereft, uncertain of who she is without children in the home. Russell, on the other hand, would like to have to wife back to himself:
'You talk about wanting Ben back. You talk about his energy and neediness and that way it makes you feel. Well, just think for a moment about how I feel. I didn't marry you in order to have Matt and Rosa and Ben, though I'm thankful we did. I married you because I wanted to be with you ... Edie - I want you back. I was here before the children and I'm here now.' He put his cup down with finality. 'And I'm not going away.' (p15)
This was a great book about the realities of life in a mature marriage, with adult children who return home with various issues. It's like Packed to the Rafters (the TV show), without all the ridiculous drama.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Christmas rolls around again

When you have been blogging for a few years, the year develops a rhythm to it. For the fourth year in a row I find myself pondering a Christmas post. Yet also wondering if I can be bothered! After all, you can all press the button to the left --> the 'Christmas' label.

So, in brief: for those that are interested, our Advent calendar will continue again, now set as a feature of our Christmas tradition.

After two years doing the 'Birth of Jesus' advent material, we are now switching back to the 'Genesis to Jesus' material. After being asked by a number of you dear readers for it, I am now making both available* as a pdf file: Birth of Jesus or Genesis to Jesus.

We continue with the boxes, which include bible verses, but this year there will be very few treats in the boxes. Instead, I am planning more activities related to the stories. When the treats became the highlight, it was hard for all to concentrate for the bible readings.

For those that would like to take a easier option (which I highly recommend!) - better to do something than nothing at all - the Good Book Company is having a 20% off sale for their Christmas resources, including all the material I reviewed last year. I think our older two will do the Christmas Unpacked booklet, might as well keep doing these things while they still love it!

Next week the tree goes up and we start Advent - can you believe it's nearly Christmas!?

* Update from 2017: the resources tab now contains the most-up-to date versions of these materials. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Radical Womanhood - Chapter 7

Chapter 7: Raunch Culture Rip Off

This chapter is the one that many of us will find the most distressing, and yet also the most relevant. McCulley explains where the third and current wave of feminism has brought us – to today, a sex-saturated, porn-filled world where women mistakenly believe that by treating sex and their bodies as a commodity they are empowered in the process.

McCulley has done a good job of presenting the relevant issues in a discreet way. She even warns that young girls should not be reading the chapter.

A backlash has developed over recent years over this issue, and it’s not only Christians who are speaking out against it. Many others are appalled at what they see happening to women (and men), as a result of widely accessible pornography, the ‘hook-up’ casual approach to sexual intimacy, and the prevailing opinion that modesty equals shame.

One of the ways to combat this as Christians is to be open about the wonderful blessing sexual intimacy is, but within the framework of marriage alone:
We need to combat any false notions of sexuality and piety by presenting a clear and unblushing portrayal of marital intimacy. A generation that is well acquainted with the physical variations of sex needs to hear about the powerful security, attraction, and emotional freedom that attend monogamous marital fidelity. (p178)
Mothers and older women need to speak to younger women openly about the wonderful gift of intimacy in marriage and how, with the benefit of hindsight, they know the damage caused by sexual activity outside of marriage.

This is one of the issues that worries me most with my own children. We live in a sex-saturated society. I want to protect my son and daughters from it as much as possible. I know that God is in control, and some days, that is all I can cling to, as I see the world they are growing up in. I know that God is good and sovereign, but sometimes, I just want to keep them locked up until they are 25!

Things to think about:
  • How has the ‘raunch culture’ affected you and the way you feel about yourself?
  • What message do you want to pass on to younger women? Who could you pass it on to?

Next week: Chapter 8: Feminine Faith

Friday, November 18, 2011


Are you a dad? Go and see see this movie.
Are you married to a dad? Take him to see this movie.

Courageous is a rare thing in Australia - it's a Christian movie, full of gospel truths encouraging men to step up and be the fathers God wants them to be.

We saw it yesterday and at first even I felt uncomfortable. It is so unusual to hear Christian values championed on the big-screen that I was thrown for a while. Yet once we got into it, it is clearly a very good movie about being a man, a husband and a father who is willing to lead his family. Of course there are a few cliched moments, but we can all cope with that. It was good to see a movie that values men and the role they can have, rather than denigrating them.

Five men (4 are police officers) are close friends. When tragedy strikes one of their families, the man is forced to evaluate his role as a father. He turns to God's word and encourages his friends to step up and be good fathers. As challenges come for each man, they must choose whether to honour God and their family with their decisions, or not.

I wouldn't recommend it for non-Christians, I think it would be too full-on. I also suspect that if you are a Christian mother doing it tough without a supportive husband, it may not help with being content in your personal situation.

But I highly recommend it for all Christian fathers and fathers-to-be.

* If you want to see it, you should go soon, I can't imagine many cinemas will keep this one on for long. If you are in Adelaide, it is only at Hoyts Tea Tree Plaza. Cinema listings across Australia can be found here.

So Much For That

I decided to try another Lionel Shriver book after The Post Birthday World.

I was not disappointed.

Shep, age 48, has always planned for his Afterlife. That is, he has spent his whole life saving in order to retire early to a Third World Nation, where he will be able to live comfortably for the remainder of his life, on much less money than it currently costs in New York.

On the day he finally decides to go, with or without his family, his wife Glynis announces she has mesothelioma (cancer) and he cannot leave, for she needs his health insurance.

As her cancer progresses and various treatments are attempted, we see Shep caring for his wife, all the while watching his life savings disappear.

While some might say, "what value can you place on human life?", when you live in a world where all treatments cost money, and some exorbitantly so, it is a real question when everyone only has a finite amount of money.

It is a dark and harsh book, not only due to the subject matter, but because of the characters Shriver has created. Shep's best friend Jackson constantly bemoans his life. Glynis is often bitter and nasty. Their extended family are awful, including the standard over-the-top portrayal of Christians. (I do get the feeling the Shriver is pretty anti-Christian).

Having said that, I liked it. It was real. It didn't skirt around hard relationships or death. I like her insights into many aspects of life. I came away absolutely thrilled we don't live in the US and our health system is not the same.

In the end though, what is striking about this book is what it shows about people that have no hope. If you have no hope of heaven, this life is all there is. Therefore, extending this life for as long as possible, no matter how sick you are, is crucial. At the same time, enjoying every minute you can for yourself is very important, because that's all you have to live for. When your idea of the 'Afterlife' is living cheap in Africa, you really have no idea how good the real afterlife will be.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Radical Womanhood - Chapter 6

Chapter 6: The Mommy Wars

McCulley addresses the devaluing of both women (as wives/child-raisers/homemakers) and children that has occurred over the last two centuries.

It’s a long chapter and well worth reading yourself. In brief, the concept of motherhood being less valued than all other pursuits has occurred in three stages:
  • It began in the 19th C when the bulk of economic activity moved from farms and homes into factories. Therefore the household was no longer the workplace, but rather a place of replenishment for workers.
  • It continued as a form of social Darwinism, when it was claimed that child-rearing should become a professionalised collective activity. This followed from the idea that most women were unproductive and indolent.
  • The third stage was with Margaret Sanger, the founder of modern birth control, who believed that large families, especially from parents she deemed unfit were the cause of most evils. She believed in the possibility of a superior race and eugenics, a cause later promoted by Nazi Germany.

Then, McCulley moves from women to children:
of the myriad changes created by second-wave feminism, the most pronounced would be the movement’s unwavering commitment to abortion. (p132)
What is also clearly a result of abortion becoming legalised (or at least tolerated) in most societies, is that female feticide (the aborting of female fetuses) has cost millions of women’s lives. It is estimated that over 100 million girls should have been born in the world, but have not. 50 million of these in China and 43 million in India. For cultures that value a son much more highly than a daughter, there is now a huge disproportion between the sexes.

I remember reading an article about this a few years ago –this first generation of selective sex children are now reaching adulthood. But there are not enough wives to go around. So, you have a large group of men, with no prospective wives and a lot of excess testosterone in society. Not a recipe for peace.

McCulley then turns to briefly address some other issues, including:
  • surrogacy, egg and sperm donation and implications of such technology
  • fertility and that refusal of many to acknowledge it’s limited window

I think, as I watch younger women and the choices they make, fertility is one area where few are prepared to think about it honestly. Many women (and I include myself in this) fell for the line “You can have it all”, yet
those of us who have tried, however, know that it is not true. It may be possible to have it all, but not at the same time. (p138)
Yet I continue to watch young women in our churches mapping out their future with little idea of the reality of fertility or lack of it: “I’ll develop my career till my thirties, and get married in there, then sometime in my mid-thirties we’ll have children.”

I often have to ask young (married) women now, “Do you want to have a family, and if so, when do you plan to fit it in?” And this is not just women who would like a career, this is also women planning their life of ministry service, but thinking that having a family would be the end of their ‘ministry’. Please hear me correctly, I am fully supportive of women in jobs they like and find satisfying. It’s just that the message of ‘I can do it all’ has so permeated us as women, that often we do not stop and think ‘maybe I can’t’ until it’s too late.

She finishes the chapter with words of encouragement to mothers currently ‘in the trenches’:
I think it is easy for mothers to lose sight of the big picture when they are consumed with the daily ‘ordinariness’ of life. I hope that this chapter has helped you… to take the long view of what you are doing in training the next generation to be worshipers of God.’ (p140)
and also to older women. She encourages ‘empty nesters’ to start thinking of themselves as ‘open nesters’ – open to ministering to other people. Younger women need advice, help, guidance and instruction – from God’s word, as well as how to love their husbands, train their children and manage their home (Titus 2). There is a dearth of godly wisdom out there – for those of you who have lived it, please share it with the rest of us!

Things to think about:
  • If you are a mother, do you value it as a role? Why or why not?
  • If you are not a mother, do you value it as a role? Why or why not?
  • Do you / or did you think you could have it all – husband, kids, career, personal satisfaction, etc? Have you managed to?
  • If you are an ‘empty nester’, are you prepared to become an ‘open nester’?

Next week: Chapter 7: Raunch Culture Rip Off

Friday, November 11, 2011

Life of Pi

Life of Pi, Yann Martin

I remember hearing numerous accolades about this book when it first came out (2002), but for some reason I never read it then (probably college exams & morning sickness had something to do with that.)

Yet I seem to be surrounded by good books at the moment - what a delight it is to be reading lots of fiction again.

This one is clever, original, interesting, funny and insightful.

A teenage boy, Pi, is the son of a zoo owner in India. The family decide to emigrate to Canada. Their boat sinks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and Pi finds himself the sole human survivor of the tragedy. His companions aboard a fully equipped lifeboat include a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and an enormous Bengal tiger. The premise sounds ridiculous and impossible, yet it breathes possiblity as you read it.

Yann has a wonderful writing style, his turn of phrase, dry wit and humourous asides made reading this book a delight. It's partly a primer for zoo keeping. It has very insightful comments on religion, including Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. And all the while it's a great story.

I read it twice in the last month, as the first third of the book makes much more sense the second time through.

Read it - you'll be in for a treat.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Go Back To Where You Came From

Go Back To Where You Came From

This SBS show was shown in June, but it's taken us a while to get around to watching it.

It's compelling, absorbing and very emotional.

Six Australians with strong views on illegal immigration, boat people, detention centres and people from other nations take part in a 25 day experiment: to experience the life of a refugee in reverse. There are 5 stages:
  • to live with recently resettled refugees in Australia (either from the Congo or Iraq)
  • to set out on a boat from Darwin (made to look like an asylum seeker boat)
  • to live with a minority illegal immigrant group in Malaysia, waiting to move on to another country
  • to visit a large UN resettlement camp in Kenya, or the slums of Jordan
  • to visit the source countries of DR Congo and Iraq
Over 3 1hr episodes you see people's pre-conceived ideas exploded as they meet, talk to and share life with people and families living lives of squalor, fear, uncertainty and avoidance of the authorities.

This is crucial viewing for all Australians. Immigration (especially illegal immigration) is a complex issue that deserves greater intelligent, informed public debate in this country. This show goes a long way to addressing the issues involved. For those of us in comfortable homes with jobs and safety, we cannot imagine risking everything to get on an illegal boat to go to Australia. A show like this helps us realise the plight of many of the world's refugees, and that nothing is so simple or black and white as it seems from our position of relative safety and security.

It would be available in any public library, you can buy it from SBS, and you can still watch all the episodes online (1, 2, 3), including Episode 4 - The Response, filmed a week later. If you want to see a quick summary of what happened, or to whet your appetite - watch the first 2 minutes of Episode 4.

As an aside (and it's something that might require more thought at a later time) it did make me wonder how our government possibly came up with the 'Malaysian solution', and thought it was truly a solution.

Radical Womanhood - Chapter 5

Chapter 5: There’s no place like home

This chapter paints a picture showing how our idea of home has changed over time. Beginning in the time of Abraham, we are given an idea of how people lived. From those times, until the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, the home was where both work operated from and where the family lived. Be it a farmhouse or a city dwelling operating a business; husband, wife and family would work side by side, sharing the load of supporting themselves and their business and raising their children. Our current notion of a separated home and work life would have been unheard of and unexplainable.

However, with the Industrial Revolution and increased urbanisation, men were drawn into employment into factories and offices and work and home life began to separate. Now the job of working fell to men and the job of raising children and maintaining the home fell to women. At the same time, early women’s movements claiming that women were the more loving, gentle and pious of the sexes were laying the groundwork for later feminists. Finally by the 20th C, women were the target of marketing campaigns to make their lives easier, more efficient and complete with modern appliances.
Thus the shift from the home as a place of production to a place of consumption was completed. In the new culture of consumption - bolstered by the age of advertising and the push for consumer credit - all vestiges of nineteenth century concerns with character, self-restraint, and sacrifice were gone. (p113)

The true heart of the home

McCulley makes some excellent points at the end of this chapter, so I will quote her at length:
The heart of the home is found in the relationships nurtured there and the comfort offered to one another - comfort we have first received from God, the Father of compassion, and then share with one another. (p115)

More importantly, the home is a foretaste of the eternal heaven that awaits us when Jesus returns. He did not leave us to prepare another cubicle in His Father’s office - thanks God!... It is the refuge of a home- with a place in it for each of us - that Jesus promised. (John 14:1-3) (p115)

And a final quote to encourage the many of us who consider ourselves housewives:
“Just a housewife” is a phrase our culture uses to undermine the importance of the private sphere. Though the marketplace does not value the home beyond the goods that can be purchased for it, the ministry to be found there is of immense value to the Lord. The stability of family relationships, the care of elderly or disabled family members, the discipling and training of children, the warm reception of guests, the making of a lifetime of memories, the daily modelling of biblical instruction, the fresh nourishment in an age of processed foods that contribute to our general ill health, the joy of a Christ-centred marriage - all of these have long-lasting, if not eternal, effects. (p115-116)

Things to think about:
  • Do you say “I’m just a housewife”, or are you able to say with pride “I’m a wife and mum”
  • Even if this world does not value your role, do you see the inherent value in your role?
  • Do you risk making your home a ‘safe haven’, rather than a welcoming home?

Next week: Chapter 6: The Mommy Wars

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Post-Birthday World

The Post-Birthday World, Lionel Shriver

I have been planning to read something by Lionel Shriver for a few years, hearing so many positive reviews about her books. At the same time I suspect that emotionally I may not be up to We Need to Talk about Kevin, the story of parents as they cope with a child who has committed a school massacre. So I was happy to grab this one off the library shelf in order to 'give the author a go'.

It's based on the classic premise - 'what if?'

Irina has a long term partner, Lawrence - life isn't perfect, but it's comfortable. They have a friend, the hard-living snooker player Ramsay. One year, Irina and Ramsay have dinner for his birthday. After drinking too much they end up back at Ramsay's place and Irina is faced with a choice. Does she lean forward and kiss Ramsay, setting off one chain of events? Or does she stop herself, go home and therefore live out a different life?

We read matching chapters of each scenario, as they play out side by side over about 15 years. For those that remember the movie Sliding Doors, with Gwyneth Paltrow - it's exactly the same idea.

I enjoyed it. Shriver writes realistically about people, their choices and foibles. I enjoyed her writing style and her use of language. It's gritty at times, and if you don't like a lot of talk about intimate relations, you might be uncomfortable at a number of points.

I might have a look for some of her other titles, like So Much for That and give them a go too.

(If you would like to read the first few chapters online, go here)