Monday, September 29, 2014

What did you expect?

What did you expect?  Paul David Tripp

I have worked my way through this book over a couple of months. It took time and energy to read.  It took a willing heart to hear what it had to say and it took humility to accept it.  It will take longer to absorb its teaching and a lifetime to apply it.   It was very, very good.

Up until now when we recommend marriage books they have generally fallen into two categories:

I think Paul David Tripp has managed to combine the two in a way that is practical yet completely grounded in the gospel and God’s grace.

It’s not an easy read. It challenges you to the core of your being as to why you got married and what you expected from it. From that he makes it clear that:
  • You are conducting your marriage in a fallen world
  • You are a sinner, married to a sinner
  • God is faithful, powerful and willing
His overarching message is that a marriage of unity, love and understanding will grow out of a daily worship of God. It is our relationship with God that matters. How we view him as creator, sovereign and saviour defines the way we view our marriages. Addressing how we view God (our vertical relationship) is the key to how we view our marriage (our horizontal relationship). He emphasises that the mentality of a healthy marriage is living with a harvest mentality (there are consequences), an investment mentality and a grace mentality.

The main body of the book is structured around 6 commitments of marriage:

1. We will give ourselves to a regular lifestyle of confession and forgiveness. These powerful chapters nut out the real need for grace with each other on a daily basis. He strongly endorses a lifestyle that is confessional and forgiving in depth.

2. We will make growth and change our daily agenda. We must be willing to pull out the weeds in marriage – selfishness, busyness, inattention, self-righteousness, fear and laziness and replace them with fruitful seeds, for “you cannot escape the influence of what you do and say on the person you live with and your relationship to him or her.” (p117)

3. We will work together to build a sturdy bond of trust. We must be willing to trust one another and be am person who is trustworthy, for trust is “readily given, easily broken and costly to restore” (p152). He claims that the early years of marriage are building years so we must set patterns of being straightforward, keeping our word, facing up to wrong and keeping short accounts of wrongdoing. To keep this up we must be talking, listening and praying.

4. We will commit to building a relationship of love. These chapters were quite challenging, exposing false ideas of love – the attraction that might be only physical, emotional or spiritual. Yet true love is cruciform – cross-shaped - and has very high goals. This chapter was a little overwhelming in terms of how true love could really look in a marriage, yet again grace was emphasised to show that none of us can do this alone.

5. We will deal with our differences with appreciation and grace. These chapters addressed the positive ways differences can affect our marriages and then he dealt in depth with the idea of never letting sun go down on your anger. I am in two minds about this one, from personal experience, continuing an argument at night is often a bad idea for us. However the principle of never letting anger remain between you or always dealing with an issue is a good one.

6. We will work to protect our marriage. This is the section for those who already count themselves as having pretty good marriages. The risk of thinking you have a good marriage is that you stop working and start coasting, “there is one thing you have to accept: your marriage may be great, but it is not safe. No marriage this side of eternity is totally problem protected. No marriage is all it could be.” (p238) God’s grace can work things in all marriages, but you still have to do the work. He then encouraged couples to make prayer a central part of the marriage and to continue to remind themselves that it is their relationship with God that defines their marriage. It is both toil and trust. Work daily at the relationship yet trust that God is faithful, powerful and willing.

A very helpful book for any couple who are willing to keep putting in the work to make their marriage better.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Crash Test Mummies & Daddies

There are a few DVD/TV show reviews coming up in coming weeks.  I seem to have found a few of note recently. 

This week's one is Crash Test Mummies and Daddies.  Produced by the ABC it chronicles the first four months for first time parents.  With five couples from diverse backgrounds and situations, there is:
  • An Asian couple with a Taiwanese mother who comes out for a month and insists on a traditional confinement period.
  • A Greek couple with a large involved extended family and the husband who works a lot.
  • A couple with the unexpected surprise of a baby, who are hoping it won't change their life too much.
  • A couple who broke up but decided to try make it work once they realised she was pregnant.
  • A young couple with financial struggles.
So it seems to be a pretty typical selection of average Australian new parents.  It starts with the reality of birth and those early weeks of sleep deprivation and feeding, mastitis and early health scares.  It shows them coming to terms with this massive life change, dealing with extended family and their expectations, returning to work and managing life at home. 

For those of us past this stage, it's a helpful and sometimes humorous reminder of what those early months were like.  For those in the thick of it, it could be good to watch others going through the same thing.  For those about to face it, it could be a helpful dose of reality and a good conversation starter for the two of you.

I have to say though as I watched these couples the phrase that kept flitting through my mind was that quote from Thoreau: "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

I have only watched 3 episodes of the 6 so far, you can catch them all still on iView.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Operation Christmas Child

As it is definitely approaching that time of the year again, we have just completed assembling our Operation Christmas Child boxes. I know a version of this post appears every year, but we find it so helpful and so much fun, I just can’t let it go!

Here are some tips I have gathered over the years:
  • See if you can get boxes with the lids still attached, so much easier to keep all together. Keep an eye out for shoe boxes that enter your house throughout the year.
  • Wrap the boxes in Christmas paper and then cover them with clear sticky wrap (contact). The contact makes it look great, the box is sturdier and paper does not rip.
  • Pay your donation for the box shipping cost online ($9 per box), then print out individual bar-coded labels for each box to stick on the lid with a piece of contact. In a few months, you'll get an email telling you where your box went.
  • Take a list with you when you go shopping. This list was prepared by a member of our church who works in the box processing centre, so she really knows what works and what doesn't.
  • Remove all packaging from every item. Including a pencil case makes this much easier - put all the pens, pencils, erasers, etc in the pencil case. There is no rubbish collection in rural villages - imagine how much plastic rubbish you would add if you kept all the packaging on.
  •  Include a folded up bag (like an envirobag from the supermarket) or a string bag so that all the treasures in the box can still be kept together when the box disintegrates.
  • Put in a photo of yourself or your family, so the child has an idea of who gave them the gift - this makes it personal.
  • Put an elastic band around the whole box to keep it secure.
  • Drop it off to a collection centre by the end of October.
  • AND THIS YEAR’S NEW TOP TIP: buy $2 thongs/flipflops from Kmart (this is for Australians). They help fill up the box and are very practical.
All packed up and ready to go.

We started doing these boxes regularly 5 years ago (look how much everyone has grown!). It's a good activity for Term 3 school holidays. You might consider getting involved for these reasons:
  • It teaches generosity to your children (and to you!)
  • It's fun shopping for kids who you know have very little (much more fun than shopping for kids with everything).
  • If you like Christmas, it makes it feel that little bit closer.
  • If you don't like Christmas, you at least help a child like it!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Back online – and an update

After another extended break during the last 12 months, I think it’s time to resurrect this blog.

I have hesitated again and again about doing so, just like when I restarted again for a brief few months in March.  However I have decided that purposefully reading and writing is helpful for me and therefore I am back.  I am not sure there will be many who follow along, but while it continues to stretch my own mind it is probably a useful thing to do.

The last few months have held a variety of ups and downs.

One of the downs included the death of my maternal grandmother. It was a sad time and one in which I felt the distance of not living near my family. She is the last grandparent either of us had, but what a privilege it was that my husband and I still had 7 grandparents living when we got together and our children will likely remember 3 or 4 of their great-grandparents. Even greater was the privilege I had of leading the very small funeral service for her.

Highlights over the last few months have been (in no particular order):
  • The opportunity to give 4 talks and write matching bible studies on Matthew 22.
  • The chance to think about developing the marriage ministry at our church further.
  • Becoming a godmother again. This little god-daughter of mine is just new and it’s an honour to be involved in her life. It’s also a treat to have a godchild when you are no longer in the midst of young children yourself. I may actually have some time for her in a way I struggled to do with other godchildren.
  • Planting out our back garden including 2 apple trees, a lemon, lime and orange tree. I look forward to produce.  If they become anything like our mandarin tree which probably produced 100 kgs this year, we will have to set up a fruit stall out the front!
  • Watching my daughter start playing netball and love it.
  • A lovely holiday and another one coming up.
  • The training for and running of another half marathon – this was a great day, I had a ball. Sadly though I seem to have injured my feet on the day and have not been able to run since (a month ago).   I did not realise how much running has helped my body work well and my mind to refresh.  I would love to get back to it soon, hopefully having cortisone injections today will  help.

So, it’s nice to be back. Book reviews will be coming shortly, and other thoughts along the way.

Let me know if you are reading along, it’s nice to know who I share this with.