Tuesday, 23 December 2014

That’s Christmas to me

A few days ago J and I watched The Polar Express.  I remember really enjoying it the first time I watched it several years ago.  I thought it was a sweet film with a nice message.

This time I found myself frustrated. 

The message of the film is essentially that if you just believe you can keep the magic of the spirit of Christmas alive for yourself.  But believe in what?  That Santa is real?  All the adults who watch this film know the truth there.  And what exactly is the spirit of Christmas? 

Picture from egyptiantheatre.org

The truth is that Christmas is not about keeping the dream of Santa alive.  It’s not about ‘the spirit of Christmas’.  It’s not even about giving and family time, though we do enjoy doing this at Christmas time. 

Christmas is about celebrating the greatest gift this world has ever received.  We share the love by giving each other gifts, but it’s not even really about this.  God has given us the amazing gift of his son, Jesus Christ, God incarnate among us, Emmanuel.  Jesus humbled himself from his place as creator and ruler of everything to become a helpless, dependent baby. 

But it’s not the fact that Jesus, God himself, was born into this world that makes him the world’s greatest gift.  It’s what he did with his life that is significant.  He gave it up on behalf of sinners so that we would be forgiven.  It is because of what happened at Easter that makes Christmas important. 

On Sunday we heard a friend preach for the first time (which was exciting to be at) and he reminded us to remember the most important thing at Christmas time.  I felt particularly rebuked when he asked “would you feel like the day was less stressful if you took Jesus out of Christmas day?”  It certainly would make getting to things on time and having time to open presents with family easier if we didn’t go to church on Christmas morning.

I realised that Jesus isn’t often my focus at Christmas time.  Jesus gets about an hour of my day on Christmas day while I’m at church, and the rest of the day is about family and presents and food. 

As I was catching up with a good friend today we talked about this and both committed to putting Christ back into the centre of Christmas.  Here is one practical way we thought of for doing this: every present I open, every good bite of food I eat I want to remember that the gift of Jesus is even greater and thank God for him.  Hopefully this will help me to be more mindful of why we really celebrate Christmas. 

I’m interested to hear how others keep Christ at the centre of Christmas.  What do you do?

Friday, 19 December 2014

Do you stop?

He was standing on the side of the highway, next to his car, waving a hand in the air.  I was driving and asked J if I should pull over.  We had almost driven past him.

I pulled over.  The man had sheepishly run out of petrol, 20 kilometres from the next town.  We didn’t have any petrol in a can as he first asked, but we agreed to take him into town to buy some.  He told his wife who was waiting in the car what was happening and then came with us. 

It turned out he was going the same direction as us, for the same reason.  Visiting family for Christmas.  He told us all about his son, his grandchildren, where they were at school, what they were interested in.  And it turned out he was a Christian too.  We’d heard of the church he went to, and even visited the church his son and grandchildren went to in our home city. 

To be honest, we had both been nervous about stopping for someone in the middle of nowhere.  For me, the fact that he was a older man allayed some of my fears.  It was a relief to find out that we weren’t just helping a stranger, but a brother in Christ.  I always feel safer and more comfortable around Christians.  But we didn’t know this when we stopped. 

On our drive we’ve been listening to an audio recording of the Gospel of Luke, read by us and some of our fellow students.  One of the parables that Jesus tells is of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37).  This story is Jesus’ response to the question “who is my neighbour?”  Jesus turns the question around.

Which of these three do you think became a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”  The expert in religious law said, “The one who showed mercy to him.” So Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36 –37)

I was reminded that anyone in need is our neighbour.  And by helping we were being good neighbours.  I don’t regret stopping for this stranger and driving 40 kilometres more than we had to.  They were both so appreciative and couldn’t stop saying so.  Perhaps I won’t be so nervous about stopping for someone next time. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

What makes work enjoyable

Hello everyone.  I’m sorry it has been so long since I’ve posted anything.  College is finished and we’re on holidays but I still haven’t written anything.  I guess I felt that there wasn’t much to say. 

I’ve got a little bit more of an excuse for the past two weeks.  I’ve been working for two weeks and Monday was my last day.  I was working in a warehouse of toy company, dealing with the online orders they receive.  I helped fill orders by picking stock off the shelves and pack orders, sometimes with Christmas gift wrapping, ready for posting.  Someone called me a Christmas elf. 

I heard about the job from a friend at college and half the people working there for the past two weeks are people I know from college.  It has been fun working with people I already know.

L and I were excited about this huge Sylvanian Families order being completed.

I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy the work.  It’s fairly repetitive and far more physical than mental (not that there was much heavy lifting at all, just a lot of standing or walking around all day).  But I realised during this job that I don’t mind that at all.  I don’t mind doing jobs that are repetitive, physical and probably classed as ‘menial’.  I have told J more than once that I’d happily stack chairs and vacuum at church as my way of serving there. 

Perhaps admitting this is selling myself short intellectually, I don’t know.  Perhaps I’m just exhausted from all the thinking that I’ve done this year.  Maybe I would get bored of this kind of work if I did it all year.  My feet certainly would protest! 

Perhaps much of the enjoyment came from doing the job with friends.  Not even very close friends, but people I call my brothers and sisters in Christ.  People I trust.  There’s a sense of camaraderie in the warehouse, and I love that.  I’m glad for the opportunity this job gave me to get to know some of my fellow students better. 

People talk about doing a job that you find fulfilling so that work doesn’t really feel like work.  But perhaps sometimes the work is enjoyable not because personality and interests match well with the job, but because of the people you do it with. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Where should I sit?

At church on Sunday I made my way to the second row and sat alone behind the empty front row.  This is not a post asking for sympathy or reassurance.  It's not about asking people to sit at the front. It's just a reflection that I'm still thinking through.

Why don't we sit together at church?  Or more accurately, why am I sitting alone?

At our church it seems that people tend to sit in families (though the word couples would be more accurate).  Mind you, I don't see a lot of the rest of the church from the second row, so maybe there is some inter-family mingling.  I either sit alone, if J is playing the piano that week, or just with J. Sometimes someone might sit in the same row as us, but on the end, with a gap between us.

I know that part of the reason that we sit alone is because we're at the front.  Even in a congregation with a very low percentage of young people the concentration of people is towards the back rows.  That's part of the reason I sit at the front, to try to encourage others to fill the seats from the front too (after two years, I don't think it's working). 

Perhaps I could go and sit with someone else, but it has been very rare for someone other than J to sit with me so now I've become a bit shy about joining someone else in their row.

I remember a similar seating structure at our old church back home: people sat in family units.  And I understand the practicality of this: sometimes a whole family takes us a whole pew, and it's helpful for the parents to be able to block their young children into their row.  But it was different at the evening service of the church where J and I met.  This service was made up mostly of youth and young adults, and some of their parents.  No one sat alone.  The church was very social and you would always sit with your friends.  People didn’t sit in family units, but they still stuck with people they knew and were comfortable with. 

If we as a church are a family under our Father God then we should feel comfortable and able to sit with people at church who aren't part of our biological family.  We shouldn't need to leave gaps between people. 

And if the Christian faith is more than a personal and private experience then our time of corporate worship should not be spent alone as if it were. 

I think this means I should give up the second row and sit with others.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Stop and chat

“I didn’t want to live here.”

We had our community end of year party last night and this phrase came up a couple of times during the open mic time.  It was true for me too.  I didn’t want to live here mostly because the name of the community sounded funny (I won’t mention it here for internet security reasons).  I knew nothing about any of the college residential communities before we started college but this one was at the bottom of my list purely for the weird name. 

We had games for the kids during the afternoon of our end of year party

But now, like others reflected last night, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else while we’re studying at college (and even post-college too!).  I don’t know of anywhere else where you can have a meaningful conversation with your neighbours as you hang out your washing on the same line, as you walk to the car, as your children play together in the playground, as you study in the rooms specifically designated for study, as you stand in your front doorway, as you take out the rubbish, as you check your letter box, as you drive to college together, as you borrow things from each other and return them later. 

BBQ dinner together

Last night one of the leaving students encouraged us to make the most of these opportunities for conversations.  After all, if you can’t talk to your Christian neighbours in this safe and loving community then you certainly won’t be able to talk to your neighbours when you move away from living in Christian community. 

I haven’t been good at using these opportunities.  But last night I was encouraged to change.  Often I would pass people hanging up their washing as I walked to the studies and I would say hello but not much more.  It’s easy to tell myself that I was just busy with assignments or blame it on my introversion.  But sometimes I would wonder and worry if it seemed like I was being rude. 

One of the wives who I’ve become friends with over the two years we’ve both lived here told me that when she first met me she found me intimidating because I didn’t talk much.  I didn’t talk much because I was shy and didn’t know what to say!  She showed me that my silence can be misconstrued and I certainly don’t want that. 

In the evening the adults had dessert and games, prayers, awards and an open mic time

So neighbours, friends, I humbly apologise for the times when my conversations with you (or lack there of) have been cut short, awkward, rude, unloving or distracted.  I truly didn’t mean to come across that way and I really do want to get to know you better.  I’m sorry for my introversion, shyness and awkwardness. 

Because of last night I’ve decided on next year’s community–living motto for myself (which I will start on right away and not wait for next year).  Stop and Chat

I will hang my washing outside more often, as much as I can, and I won’t opt to hang it inside just to avoid a conversation at the washing lines.  As I walk to or from the studies I’ll stop to chat with the parents and children  in the little playground.  When I hear children playing outside I’ll go out to spend time with them and their parents. 

All this I will do because relationships are more important than what is gained from being reclusive.  Supporting each other is more important than studying.  People are more important than personal planning. 

I may need help, reminders and support.  But I don’t want to waste this time we have living in this wonderful community.  Thank you Christian neighbours for being so loving, welcoming and such great examples to me.  I hope I can be the same. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Confessions

Twice in two days I have heard two people, two men, confess to having pride.  And when it happened the second time it struck me that it was very brave for both of them to say so. 

Our culture doesn’t do this kind of confession.  Our culture doesn’t like showing personal flaws.  And definitely not by men. 

It’s because they are Christians.  Recognition of personal sinfulness is part of being a Christian, confession of this (sometimes to others, but always to God) is also part of being  a Christian.  But it still takes guts to admit it. 

The example of these two men has encouraged me to be real about my own sins.  I too am proud, though it may be in different ways than those friends.  And I need to recognise this and other things in my heart for what they are.  And I need to confess these sins to God, and perhaps to others too. 

I’m so thankful that I’m part of the Christian family that confesses sins and receives forgiveness from God.  That supports and encourages each other in personal struggles.  That doesn’t condemn but points to the cross of Jesus. 

If this hasn’t been your experience of the Christian family I am sorry.  Please don’t give up on us, or on God.  We are all sinners and we won’t always get love right.  I’m sorry for the times that I haven’t been this Christian family.  But I pray that God would keep making his children more and more like Jesus, including me. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Throw away decisions

I’ve never been very good at making decisions.  Big decisions, small decisions.  Often with small decisions I simply don’t have an opinion.  “Where do you want to go out to dinner tonight?”  I’ve never been good at answering that question. 

But I’m not good with big decisions either, life decisions.  I’ve been reading some of my old prayer journals and I was struck by one that I wrote during year 12.  I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  I didn’t know what to choose to study at uni.  I just wanted God to tell me what to do.  I wanted someone to be able to look into the future, tell me what I was doing, just so I didn’t have to make the choice.  I remembered that desire.  I still have it sometimes.

I think this was and is because I don’t trust myself.  I didn’t trust myself to make the ‘right decision’.  I didn’t feel that I knew myself well enough to choose something that would be good for me, or would be what God wanted me to do. 

It also shows that I thought there was a right and a wrong decision for my life’s direction.  I thought that God had a plan for my life, and what if I got it WRONG?  Somewhere along the line I was taught, or picked up the idea, that God had a plan for my life.  If he knows the future, and he  knows my every decision then he must have a plan for my life, right? 

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Of course these things are true, but not in the way that I thought they were.  God does know what will happen and he does have a plan for my life.  His plan is for me to live a life that loves and obeys him, the rest is just details that he has given me the freedom to choose.* 

God does not have a SPECIFIC plan for my life that I have to discover. 

I’ve had to fight with this idea a lot.  It has paralysed my decision making.  It has stunted my trust in myself.  I’m still fighting this idea.

Sometimes I still wish that God would make decisions for me.  But I’ve realised that making my own decisions is part of growing up, maturing into a well-functioning adult and a well-functioning Christian.  I pray that God would give me wisdom to help me in making decisions and I’m learning not to throw away my decisions.

 

* Discussion about free will obviously fits in here but it’s too much for me to address properly here.  Perhaps in another post. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Thankful Thursday

Here are the things I’m thankful for this week:

Assignments are over!
On Saturday I submitted my last assignment for the year.  It was meant to be submitted Friday.  Oh well.  It was a big assignment so I’m just glad to have finished it.  I think a number of students were relieved it was done.  On Monday morning back at college I had more than one deliriously silly conversation about the assignment  with a friend. 
But the year isn’t finished yet.  I’m thankful that this was the last assignment so that I can now concentrate on exams.  We’ve got two more weeks of classes, a study week and then exams. 

A family visit
This weekend J’s mum came to stay with us.  It was lovely having her with us, being able to show her our place, our community, church and college.  She was a wonderful house guest, she even did the dishes for us!  J and I are both thankful for her love and kindness and support.  We were glad to be able to share with her what our life is like here. 

Catching a leak in the act
On Tuesday night there was a big storm that hit our city.  I was at home watching NCIS.  (there are three NCIS series on at the moment, how am I supposed to watch them all?  Yay, for catch-up TV!) 
Our front window leaks in heavy rain and drips all the way down the venetian blind.  But it wasn’t just dripping Tuesday night.  The water was practically pouring down the wall and behind the couch.  I had to dash upstairs for some towels to soak it all up. 
The wall looks like it needs a bit of a clean, but I think I caught it before it got too out of hand.  If I hadn’t been home who knows what our couch would have looked like.  So thank you NCIS for distracting me from study so I was home to catch the leak.  Well, more like: thank you God for your providential timing. 

What are you thankful for this week?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Thankful Thursday

I’ve been thinking about this Thankful Thursday series this week and I realised that it has turned out to be an easy way of summarising my week and my thankfulness for the things that have happened through it.  This is of course one way that this series can be expressed. 

When I started it I thought I would write about ordinary things in life, like “I’m thankful for my toaster”, and so I would be reminded (and also be a reminder to you) to be thankful in even the little things of life. 

But instead I’ve most often been thankful for things that have happened.  This has made me realise just how blessed I am that my weeks comes with events I can thank God for.  I don’t have to search very far to thank God. 

But I do want to be reminded and be a reminder to be thankful in even the little things, so I’ll be trying to include some of these in my regular posts.  Perhaps one remedy is to blog more so that I share the events with you outside of these posts, but I’m not sure how easily that will happen.  We’ll see. 

So with that out of the way, here are thing things that I’m thankful for this week:

Rides to and from the airport
As previously mentioned I flew back home this past weekend, and I was extremely thankful to have family drop me at the airport and pick me up on the other side.  I’m thankful that my family love me and show it by doing this.  When I arrived my sister was there to greet me with open arms.  Dad even came into the terminal with me when I was leaving.  Thanks family for your generosity with your time. 

Our washing machine
I’m so glad that I don’t have to wash all our clothes in buckets or in a laundry sink (particularly because we don’t have one of those!).  I’ve done more washing than normal this week because we’ve had two occasions of people staying with us and I’ve washed their sheets and towels after they’ve gone.  I’m thankful for the way washing is made easier by being able to just throw it in the machine, set it going and do something else while it washes.  We only have two or three loads of washing a week and even with that little amount I am thankful for the washing machine. I’m sure I’ll be thankful again and again for a washing machine if our regular load ever grows. 

Bread Run
Once a week our college community collects the left over bread from a local-ish Bakers’ Delight.  I’m thankful that having this means that our grocery shopping is a little bit cheaper.  I’m also thankful for the banter that happens around the bread bags and the way that our community has fun together. 

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Bible verse chain mail

There’s a thing going around on Facebook at the moment where Christians are sharing their favourite Bible verse or verses and then nominating others to share theirs.  I was nominated today.

My friend who nominated me wrote about it as spreading God’s word.  And it got me thinking.  I wonder who started this Bible verse chain.  What was their purpose?  There are a number of purposes they could have.  Encouraging Christians.  Sharing the Christian hope with non-Christians.  The Bible has verses for both of these things.  But what you share will be different based on what you want to achieve. 

I don’t have a particular favourite Bible verse so I’ve decided that this frees me to choose any. 

The verses I chose are 1 John 4:9-10

9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

I want to share the Christian hope.  These verses tell us that God loves us so much that his son Jesus died in our place, as a sacrifice to pay for our sins, which separate us from God.  If you have questions about this, if it doesn’t make sense to you, I’d love to discuss it with you.  Give me a call. 

Monday, 29 September 2014

A celebration of a life still lived

Over the weekend I flew back home to attend my Grandpa’s 80th birthday party.  It was a very quick visit.  I flew in on Saturday afternoon and out again Sunday night.  My parents generously paid for the flights because they thought Grandpa would really appreciate it.  When we turned up at my uncle’s place where the party was being held Grandpa did seem particularly touched and surprised to see me.  It seemed like he was a little overwhelmed a few times throughout the afternoon, touched by who had come and what they said about him.

Grandpa’s oldest child, my aunty, organised a time for people to share stories about Grandpa. 

The thing that stuck with me the most was how much Grandpa loves Grandma.  It is noticeable.  People had stories about it.  He does things for Grandma as soon as she mentions it.  He still counts himself lucky to have her. 

My aunty said that she and her siblings, Grandpa’s children, had much to live up to in this area.  But not just his children, I thought.  His grandchildren too.  What a great example of selfless love my Grandpa is. 

The Bible says that marriage is a picture, a reflection, a model of Jesus’ love for his bride, the church.  And we all know what that love looks like.  That love laid down Jesus’ life for the sake of the church, of those who follow Jesus.  God calls husbands and wives to love each other sacrificially like this.  What a great example of selfless love my saviour Jesus is. 

I’ve seen some of this in my Grandpa and I’ve been reinspired by him to love my husband like that too.  Thank you Grandpa for your life well lived.  Thank you for the example of your love still lived.  Happy Birthday. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Thankful Thursday on Friday

So again I’m late with the Thankful Thursday, whoops.  I’ve been sick with a cold this week, since Saturday, and had a bit of a dizzy relapse yesterday afternoon so writing this blog post really wasn’t on my mind.  But here we are, better late than never. 

Here are the things I’m thankful for this week:

A gifted DVD player
We happened to mention to our friends J & E while we were in Brisbane that we didn’t have a DVD player and they offered us his old Play Station 2.  We had been wanting to get a PS2 for a while because we have some Guitar Hero instruments that only fit a PS2.  Well that’s why J wanted a PS2, I just wanted something to play DVDs because I was tired of using my old and slow laptop.  I was so thankful for this on Saturday while I was sick.  I think I spent most of the day lying on the couch working my way through a season of ‘Alias’. 

The Mark Drama
J rehearsed Thursday night, Friday night and all day Saturday to be part of the Mark Drama.  It’s basically a retelling of the gospel of Mark.  The actors memorise the structure of Mark and a few key links (a lot in Jesus’ case), and improvise the rest.  It was performed in a church hall set up as a theatre in the round.  The actors walked through the aisles as part of the performance, and the space in the middle was very small and intimate for the audience.  I loved the way seeing the gospel of Mark performed made the story come alive for me.  I’m thankful for the time the actors put into preparing for it and the great opportunity it is for sharing the gospel.  If you ever get a chance to see it I highly recommend it. 

The freedom to be stay home sick
I don’t mean that now I’m an adult I can decided if I’m too sick to go out rather than my parent’s deciding, though this is of course true.  I have the freedom to say home sick because I know that there are people at college who will notice that I’m missing.  There are people who will share their notes with me.  There are people who will pray for my recovery.  I am so thankful for the love of my Christian brothers and sisters at college.  I’m so thankful for the friends I have there.  I am so thankful for the beautiful way Christians care for each other.  And I’m thankful that God has made me part of his family to make this all possible. 

Reluctant stacking

Today I stacked chairs and I was annoyed.  But something else struck me at almost the same moment as I allowed myself to think these annoyed thoughts. 

We got to college a little early this morning.  The streets are quieter in school holidays so the drive from home to college doesn’t take as long as it normally does.  I heard the Friday chapel band practicing in our largest lecture theatre already and realised there must have been no 8am first year class today.  J told me there was none rostered this term. 

It’s the first years’ job to set up the lecture theatre for chapel.  We did it last year.  But when I went upstairs ten minutes before chapel was supposed to start the room had only just started to transform.  There were only about 6 people moving the tables and chairs, and it was definitely not enough people to get it done on time. 

I started to slide tables over each other, to stack chairs, and get a bit annoyed at first year.  It looked like there were only two first years helping out.  Why hadn’t they organised for some of them to be there to help out?  We organised this ourselves last year when we had no 8am lecture.  This isn’t the job for other years to do.  I shouldn’t have to be here, but there weren’t enough people as it was, so I had to help. 

I told these annoyed thoughts off almost immediately.  Why should I think that I’m done setting up for chapel just because I’m not in first year any more?  I shouldn’t resent service of others.  Doing this job is loving my fellow students and serving them.  But I love rules and allocated tasks so it’s hard for met to let others ignore them.  But in my annoyance I had traded the joy of serving others for anger at doing “someone else’s job”. 

I shouldn’t think myself above this job.  Christians are called to a life of service, and this was just one small way of serving others.  So I kept going, now with a better attitude.  Or at least without the anger. 

Ten minutes after I started I looked around and I realised how many people had come into the room to help out.  So many.  Many more than we needed to get it done.  And I realised it didn’t matter what year they were in.  I was filled with love for my fellow students.  People who are willing to help out even if it wasn’t their job.  And now I’m ashamed of my grudging service doing a not-my-job. 

Today was a reminder for me of my sinful selfishness.  My shameful self–centred nature.  And it was a reminder to serve, even when it means doing something that’s not my job.  In a way that’s the greater service, isn’t it? 

And how can I not serve when I have already been served by Jesus, who gave more than I could ever give to save my life?  I worship a Servant Lord who calls me to serve also.  I’m still learning to serve, but I trust that God is changing my heart in a way that I couldn’t.  A servant heart after my Servant Lord Jesus. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Thankful Thursday

There are lots of things for me to be thankful for this week that I almost don’t know where to begin. 

Someone is reading the Bible
On Friday night we had a community dinner at our church.  We have these every few months and we invite people from the community around the church to come.  Mostly this is kids club and playgroup families.  In the course of dinner I heard that a dad of one of the kids club kids, a Hindu man, had been reading the Bible.  This is wonderful.  Not only does it mean that this man is willing to learn about Christianity, it also means that God is working in his heart through the word.  After all, the word of God is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and it will accomplish his purposes (Isaiah 55:11).  And his purpose is that everyone would come to a knowledge of the truth, the truth about him, and be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). 

Generosity
I had my birthday this week and was touched by the love and generosity of my friends.  I received unexpected gifts, lots of “happy birthday”s and had a cafe date organised for a celebration.  I also received a package in the mail from my family.  It was filled with lots of little packages of joy.  J has been very busy this week and very apologetic about not being able to do anything special for my birthday but he’s been so lovely that I don’t mind at all. 

A visit from an old friend
Today a friend who I used to work with contact me yesterday because she was in my city.  I haven’t seen her for two years but it was wonderful to catch up with her, even though it was brief.  We had fun when we worked together and it was lovely to hear her laughter again.  I showed her around college and we caught up on what each of our lives is like now. 

A call from my sister
I got a call from my sister today because she was upset about something.  She called during a lecture so I had to call her back when it got to lunch time.  We didn’t talk for very long but the thing I’m thankful for is that when she was upset she wanted to talk to me.  We’ve never been particularly emotionally close, so this was special to me.  Thanks sister for relying on me. 

What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, 15 September 2014

Our visit to Bridgebane

Today was our first day of term four at college, and while it is good to be back part of me isn’t quite ready for it.  Holidays are never long enough when you’re looking at the end of them.  So I thought I’d relive a bit of our holidays by writing about it and showing some photos. 

We went to Brisbane for four nights to see our friends who recently got married (in Adelaide) and who now live in Brisbane.  We were very thankful to be able to stay with them in their spare room, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to afford to go. 

We left our house via a dash through the rain to our neighbour’s car.  The friends in our community are very generous with lifts to the airport.  I took this photo anticipating a contrast in the weather between here and Brisbane.  But I forget to take any pictures of the weather in Brisbane, and there wasn’t a lot of different during our first few days there!

After we arrived and settled in we went for a walk to Southbank, a section of parkland I suppose you could call it, by catching a free ferry across the river.  Southbank is a very pretty area.  I loved the winding pathway with overhead flowering vines, the community herb and vegetable garden, and the ‘city beach’ was amusing. 

We had a day trip to the Glasshouse mountains and had lunch in a little town there.  I was pleased that we did the thing you’re apparently supposed to do in this town: buy fudge!  From this place of all places.  It made me think of my sister.  She used to say ‘fatty-boombah’, which I image one would become with too much of this fudge.  It was delicious. 

On Monday night I filled in on my friend’s church netball team because they had a few injured players.  It was indoor with nets, which was fun.  I’d never played with nets before.  It made the court feel smaller but the game moved much faster.  I’m that dark blurry WA in the picture because I run so fast… 

One morning we walked up a mountain (big hill that’s called a mountain? it was only 2km) that gave us a great view of the whole city.  Our home city has a mountain like this so this was a familiar activity.  Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of this. 

J decided that the city should be called Bridgebane because of the sheer number of bridges over the river.  The river cuts right through the middle of the city so it’s no wonder.  This picture kind of gives you an idea of what the city is like.

We also had fun on the free ferries, seeing some river-side ‘art’, a visit to the Museum, catching up with our old Greek lecturer and the former student minister at our church. 

The view from our friend's balcony!

We loved spending time with our friends, catching up on each others’ lives and exploring the city they are making their home in.  Thanks for welcoming us friends, and sharing so much with us.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Why you don’t have to believe your intuitions are the Holy Spirit

Or, How the Spirit shapes our hearts

This second chapter of ‘Good News for Anxious Christians’ is closely tied with the first chapter and addressed the question of what’s really happening when we listen to our hearts.

Cary’s basic argument in this chapter is as follows:

We sometimes have a gut feeling or intuition that we cannot explain.  Because we can’t explain it we often attribute this feeling to something from the Holy Spirit.  But sometimes our intuitions turn out to be wrong so therefore they can’t be the Holy Spirit. 

The fact is that everyone has intuitions, all the time.  Christians (who have the Holy Spirit inside them) and non-Christians (who don’t have the Holy Spirit inside them) alike.  Cary suggests that instead of thinking of our intuitions as the Holy Spirit, they are more like skilled perceptions.  Our intuitions are shaped by the set of skills that we have, such as a musician hearing a piece of music as sad.  These skilled perceptions often run faster than our ability to explain them.  But this inability is more about our lack of the necessary vocabulary needed to explain the intuitive feeling, rather than a sign that it is from God. 

But intuition isn’t completely separate from reason either.  It is not a process of reasoning, but the end result (even if you cannot explain the reasoning that got you to that point).  Because of this our intuitions are worth testing and arguing over because they won’t always be right. 

But just like in the first chapter, just because intuitions are our own voices rather than God’s voice doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t listen to them or take them seriously.  The Holy Spirit does work in our hearts, even though the heart and all the voices in them are our own. 

Cary then goes on to talk about a specific habit of the heart, just like the skills talked about earlier.  This he calls virtue, and it shapes our hearts, how we act, feel, perceive and think, just like other skills.  The fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 are a list of virtues.  And like all habits of the heart they can result in intuitions.  But unlike skills that can lead to someone becoming a better musician or sports player, virtues are about becoming a better person.  This is why the Holy Spirit gets involved in them. 

This doesn’t mean that only Christians can have virtues but the Spirit does work in Christians to help them to become kinder, more patient etc. than they were before.  This shaping of the heart enables us and gives us the freedom to do new things.  The boundaries which shape a virtue are essential to the integrity of a good heart.  These boundaries aren’t restrictions to a person’s freedom but the source of new possibilities.  Just like the boundaries imposed by skills (like moving your fingers in the correct way on a violin) gives the freedom to play well and to play more complex pieces.  Spiritual and moral disciplines work in the same way. 

One of the freedoms of a virtuous heart is a new set of intuitions.  Christian virtues are all about following and becoming like Christ.  The Holy Spirit helps this happen in us, he sanctifies us.  So the intuitions of a sanctified heart are definitely worth listening to.  But we don’t have to pretend that they are the voice of God. 

Our heart won’t get sanctified by listening for the Spirit, but by listening to the word of God. 

This chapter has encouraged me to be more aware of the Spirit’s work, in me and in other Christians.  It has also increased my desire to have my heart shaped by Christian virtues by the work of the Holy Spirit.  And it has also encouraged me to test my intuitions and search for the vocabulary to explain them. 

Next up is ‘Why you don’t have to “Let God take control” (or how obedience is for responsible adults)’. 

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Thankful Thursday

This week is college holidays so it’s been different than recent weeks.  Here’s what I’m thankful for this week:

Safe flights
We flew to Brisbane and back this week to see some friends.  Both times when we landed I thanked God for the safe flight.  I don’t always do this, but I was recently reminded in one of my Doctrine lectures to be more aware of God’s providence in all things.  But I am also a bit of a worrier and in what other form of transportation are you as reminded of the things that could go wrong than on a plane flight?  I particularly get a little nervous when they go through the safety procedures.  On the way home we were sitting in front of the exit row and got to hear the special instructions the people seated there were given about pulling open the exit hatch for emergency evacuation.  That makes for extra nerves!  I’ve been in the exit row once, seated right next to the door, and I was travelling alone.  I prayed then that nothing would go wrong so I wouldn’t have to lift the 15kg door and throw it out of the aircraft.  But, as I said, everything was fine so I thanked God for keeping us all safe. 

The generosity of friends
We flew to Brisbane to spend some time with friends from home who live there now.  We stayed with them in their place in the city and really enjoyed spending time with them.  They picked us up from the airport, fed us, showed us around and shared their life with us.  More to come later about our holiday there.  Suffice to say, J and I are both thankful for our friendship with this couple, and their generosity towards us this week. 

A new look
As you can already see I’ve created a new look for my blog.  I’ve been wanting to do this for a while.  Though I don’t feel like this current look is particularly inspired it feels less kitschy than the old look so I’m happy with it for now.  What do you think of it?  I’m thankful for some time today to fiddle with these details.

What are you thankful for this week?

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Thankful Thursday

Here are some things that I’m thankful for this week:

A baking day
On Saturday I decided to do some baking because I hadn’t done any in a long time.  I made some brownies and some ANZAC slice.  I think I’ve avoided baking because I didn’t want to be tempted to eat all of the end result.  But I plan to freeze some of this to pull out in an emergency.  I realised that I’ve missed baking so Saturday was fun. 

Enjoyable nights because I finished my assignment
I submitted my last assignment on Tuesday of this week and I was really excited about the nights for the rest of the week.  Wednesday night was Bible study end of term social where we also finished off the Bible study that we had been preparing and writing this term.  I’ve loved talking about the Bible and our faith with these wonderful ladies.  Tonight we had dinner with another family in our college community.  I love this couple and their cute kid, even though we haven’t known each other for very long.  I’ve loved helping out with dinner, playing with their kid and chatting and laughing together.  I love the way that we can share our lives together in this community.  I’m also looking forward to tomorrow: the second years in our community are having an end of term party, which we do every term.  It’s always been a great way to debrief and relax, and spend a bit more time with the other wives and kids. 

Phone call from home
My sister was at my parent’s place for dinner tonight so they decided to give me a call.  It was lovely hearing their voices and listening in on the banter.  Thanks for thinking of me and just chatting.

What are you thankful for this week?

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Thankful Thursday

Here are some things that I’m thankful for this week:

New Shoes
I’ve been looking for some black boots for a very long time and I’m very particular about what I like.  Basically I just wanted something like my old ones, but they’ve proven very difficult to find!  On Saturday we went shopping and I found a pair that was half price and real leather (a bonus that I do preferred but expected to be too expensive).  Here’s hoping that they last longer than my old pair.  I’m very thankful to have finally replaced these shoes in my wardrobe.

College Revue
Before I got to college I didn’t know what a revue was.  Here it is basically a bit of a talent night mixed with a comedy night.  It is expected that all acts will be funny.  I enjoyed the fun and laughs of last year’s revue but this year’s was even better.  There was much less of the (admittedly very Australian) humour of paying each other out which made the night feel much friendlier.  I was in two acts; one a medley of songs re-written on the theme of Jesus’ ascension (a comedy of our recent second year hymn-writing Doctrine 2 assignment), and a dance with some boys attempting ballet in the background (they were the funny ones, not the ‘real’ dancers).  One of my favourite acts was about the strange things that some people donate to our college op-shop.  It was such a fun night and I am truly thankful for the community that I am a part of at college.

What are you thankful for this week?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Thankful Thursday

This week has been… well actually I’m not sure how to describe it.  Perhaps I’ll just tell you what I’m thankful for and you’ll get a picture of what my week was like from that.

Showing off my knowledge of the Zoo
Well perhaps that’s not the best way of putting it, but I was in charge of the map and the route we took to tour the zoo so I did feel a bit like a tour guide.  On Saturday we took three friends from church to the Zoo with us.  In our college community a number of families, including us, pool some money together to buy five Zoo membership passes and this means that we can essentially treat friends to a free trip to the zoo.  One of the girls we took on Saturday is new to our church and new to Australia so it was lovely to show her some Australian animals in particular.  I’m thankful for this opportunity to bless our friends and the fun that we had together at the Zoo.  I’m also thankful that the rain stopped pretty early on in the day so we weren’t miserably huddled under  our umbrellas the whole time.

Learning more about the Holy Spirit
This week our college has been having their annual lecture series.  This year the lectures are being given by Michael Horton, on the topic of the Holy Spirit.  I’ve really appreciated learning more about the Holy Spirit.  He’s the member of the Trinity who is spoken about the least so it has been good to look deeper into who he is and what he does.  Though there are moments when the technical terms go over my head, I’ve been pleased at what I have understood and it has shown me that I really have learnt lots over my time at college so far.  Last year I certainly couldn’t have understood as much as I did of these lectures. 

Opportunities to exercise
I’ve fallen out of my regular exercise routine, since the mid year holidays.  I haven’t been very good at getting back into it after my fitness slid downhill over the break.  Interruptions from sickness, study and being away haven’t helped, but this week I seem to be getting back into it.  I exercise with one of the other wives in our community, I play netball and I do ballet.  I’m hoping these things can help get my fitness back up and give me some more energy. 

What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, 18 August 2014

Why you don’t have to hear God’s voice in your heart

So I’ve finally gotten around to starting to write about each chapter of this book.  Sorry for the wait, I promise this book is worth it.

In this first chapter of his book Good News for Anxious Christians, Cary writes about hearing God’s voice and trusting your own hearts.  He states that you don’t need to figure out which of the voices in your heart is God’s voice, simply because none of them are.   Listening to your heart gives us self-knowledge, and this is good to have, but it doesn’t give you knowledge of God.  To know God you have to listen to God, and this means listening to a word that comes from outside yourself – the Bible. 

The Bible says that  Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Eph 3:17), but it directs our attention outside our hearts for what we should put our faith in: Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the word of Christ (that is, the good news about Jesus) (Rom10:17). 

We should be confident to name the little voice of wisdom in our heart’s as our own.  But often we label this voice as God’s in order to be able to take it seriously.  We think that our own voice or feelings are unimportant or wrong and not worth listening to.  This belief undermines our sense of morality, responsibility, and self-knowledge. 

Our hearts are largely shaped by what comes from outside them so it is important to hear the word of God properly preached and to take it into our hearts.  God does speak today, but it’s not in the voice of your heart.  God speaks through the Bible, which is his word.  This word gets into our heart and we repeat the word’s of God in our hearts, but this doesn’t mean that it is God’s voice.  God’s word shapes our hearts, but he speaks externally to our hearts. It has always been this way: God in his wisdom has chosen to speak to his people externally through the words of prophets, apostles, preachers and teachers.  

Cary also has some thoughts about how this idea of hearing God’s voice in your heart has gained traction which I won’t go into, you’ll have to read the book. 

This chapter was so warming to my heart.  I realised that guilt that I have felt for not hearing God’s voice is totally misplaced.  I was encouraged to memorise Bible passages so that I have the word of God in my heart.  This chapter has implications for decision making but that will be discussed in a later chapter. 

What are your thoughts about this?  Do you have any questions?  I’m very happy to chat about it so feel free to comment below this blog post.

Next up is ‘Why you don't have to believe your intuitions are the Holy Spirit’ (probably not until the weekend).

Friday, 15 August 2014

Postponed Thankful Thursday

Again I have been lax in writing here on my blog, and particularly in keeping up with my weekly Thankful Thursday posts.  Right now I’m just thankful that I’ve finally finished my essay (which I got an extension for because of being sick the week it was due).  This may be a short post because I am also thankful to be going to bed very soon.

This week I’m thankful for:

Help at Kid’s Club
J had to fill it at Kid’s Club last minute today because a couple of leaders were away, including the one who was due to do the talk.  With little preparation J did the talk on the relevant passage, brilliantly fielded some tricky questions from the kids about eternal life, and threw himself into the games.  I love watching him interact with children and seeing how much he enjoys it. 

Netball
On Tuesday we had our first game of netball and it was good fun.  I haven’t run like that in quite a while so even though we only played two 12 minute halves that was enough for me.  It was fun to do something as part of a team again and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get to know the people in my team.  I’m thankful for the invitation to join the team, which came as a surprise for me. 

Baby cuddles
A friend who I studied with last year and who lives near our college community has just had a baby.  One of the wonderful ways our community supports those with newborns is to organise a meal roster.  Today it was our turn and when we dropped off the meal J and I both got to have a hold of the little 3 week old cutie.  I’m always amazed at how little babies start out. 

Now I’m off to bed.  What are you thankful for this week?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The long-awaited wedding

Last weekend I was thrilled to be a part of my dear friends’ wedding.  You may have seen some photos on Facebook already.  These friends have been dating for a long time, so it was wonderful to see them so happy to marry each other that day. 

There were a few things that I particularly liked about the wedding that I thought I’d share with you. 

On the Friday I helped out with making table decorations.  I’ve never done flower arranging before, but it was lots of fun.  I oiled vine leaves, cut them up and used them to cover an oasis (the green pad that you stick flowers into).  Someone else cut all the other pieces and eventually it was organised into an assembly line.  Here’s the final product:

I was one of the bridesmaids and I loved the dresses and shoes that we wore.  It wasn’t a typical ‘formal’ dress,  and I think this is what the bride was going for, something a bit different.  They were a beautiful blue and white pattern with some white stripes.  We also had orange shoes to contrast.  I liked that it was different from the typical or traditional wedding style (though my own wedding was pretty traditional).  I like that the bride and groom were happy to do things their own way.  I love that I’ll definitely be able to wear this dress again, and it will remind me of this wonderful day.

Another thing that was different than typical was that the bridesmaids didn’t have flowers.  Instead we carried large Scrabble-style letters, representing the bride and groom.  This photo was taken outside after the wedding and we’re huddling close together because the breeze was cold.  

But the best part of the wedding was seeing these two dear friends finally getting married.  They looked so happy as it was happening, and then relieved when it was done.   I am looking forward to seeing their love for each other grow and continuing our friendship with them. 

Congratulations J & E!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Thankful Thursday

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything and I’m sorry for this.  Last week was also a busy week and the weekend didn’t slow down at all.  Here are some things that I’m thankful for this week:

Helping friends as they marry
Some dear friends got married on the weekend.  She was my maid of honour and he was one of our groomsmen for our wedding.  I was thrilled to be one of her bridesmaids and to be able to help her as she prepared for marriage and on her wedding day.  I’m so thankful for our friendship and that she lets me love and support her.  It was a joy to see them so happy to get married.  I’ll write more on the wedding later, but for now, here is a picture (with two groomsmen missing, I’m not sure where they were). 

bridal party selfie

My popcorn machine
I got this for Christmas from my sister because I asked for it.  Last year I tried making popcorn in a paper bag in the microwave and it failed miserably (and I was quite upset, perhaps I shouldn’t have tried to make it for a special reason; a date night movie night at home).  I’ve used it a couple of times this week so I could eat a light snack when I got home and I always love how easy it is to use, and it actually works.  I know that some people disparage one-function or ‘specialty’ kitchen items but the heartache that it has prevented is totally worth it.  Thanks sis!

The chance to play netball again
Today I was approached by a third year at college who asked if I was interested in joining a college netball team that plays on the uni campus just near college.  I haven’t played in a few years but I love the camaraderie of team sports and the fact that it’s a fun way of doing some exercise.  I can’t promise to be very good but I’m looking forward to running around on the court again.

What are you thankful for this week?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Thankful Thursday

I don’t really want to write this today.  This week hasn’t been a great week, and it’s not going to end soon enough for me.  But as I look back there are still some things I can be thankful for, which shouldn’t surprise me.  God’s blessings are all through my life if I only look.  And part of the point of doing this Thankful Thursday thing was to remind myself of the things I can be thankful for, even when I feel like life isn’t great. 

College friends
On Saturday night we had some friends from college over: two ladies from our year who live in the residence at college.  It was lovely to have them over.  I asked for advice with my knitting, a car was washed and we played a few games after dinner.  It was just nice spending time with them.  I’m also thankful for my friends at college and enjoyed seeing them again now that semester two has started.  I had a good conversation with a friend over lunch today about why this week is stressing me out and she was lovely and gentle as we discussed together.  Thank you friend.  

Chaplaincy Group
This morning I had chaplaincy group, a group of second to fourth years who meet weekly to discuss various issues of theology and life.  This is also the group we went with on mission together.  Today we met our new male chaplain, because the one we had last semester is now away on study leave.  He is a new lecturer at college.  It was lovely to meet him and get to know him a bit, as well as be back together as a chaplaincy group and laugh together.  I enjoy our camaraderie. 

Hope
I wrote about this already in my previous post so I’ll just mention it briefly here.  I heard a wonderful sermon yesterday that was so encouraging.  I am thankful for all that God has done, who he is, and who I am because of him.  I have hope because of Jesus, so I try to look up at him. 

What are you thankful for this week?

Look up with hope

Yesterday I heard a wonderful sermon in Women’s chapel from a friend and fellow second year.  She preached from Ephesians 1:15-23 and reminded us why we need to keep hearing the truths about God and the good news of Jesus.  And she blessed us by encouraging us with these truths.

Sometimes we know things about God and we can even explain them well, talk about them and write about them in an essay.  But do we really know know them?  Do they change our lives, our hearts, our focus?  We have to keep hearing the good news because we so easily forget.  We forget that God has saved us from the evil in our hearts, that he has forgiven us for our rebellion, that he loves us.  I have forgotten this. 

Look up and know the certainty of the hope that you have in Jesus if you belong to him.

picture from pintrest.com

I’ve been having a tough week.  Too many things have to get done and I don’t want to do any of them.  I want to just escape.  My friend’s words as she explained this part of God’s word to us were a soothe to my soul.  I have hope in Jesus, and nothing can take that away. 

I needed to hear so much of what she said. 

And then in the afternoon I heard another encouraging sermon from a friend in preaching group (one of my subjects at college).  She reminded me that God is sovereign.  That means that he is still in control even when I feel that there is no control in my life.  I grasped at this truth in the restlessness and chaos I was feeling. 

Thank you God for these sisters.  Thank you for these truths. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Late Thankful Thursday

I’m sorry that this one is late.  Yesterday was full of house cleaning and friends so I had no time to sit down and write this.  But here is is, better late than never.

Here’s what I’m thankful for this week:

Our time in Adelaide
We had a wonderful time in Adelaide, catching up with some family and friends.  We didn’t get to see everyone, and for that we are disappointed, but this did mean we didn’t completely tire ourselves out hopping from one appointment to another.  It was lovely to be back in our familiar places, hanging out with old friends, having meals with our families.  We are both looking forward to returning to Adelaide after we’ve finished at college. 

Being home again
But as nice as it was to be in Adelaide with friends and family, it’s also nice to be home, in our own bed, with our full wardrobe, our own bathroom.  Not that I didn’t appreciate the spaces that our parents made available to us.  There’s just something about being in your own home, where your things are packed away into cupboards and not a suitcase.  Now that we’re home I’ve been watching some TV, reading and relaxing before we go back to college next week. 

Time with friends
Yesterday we spent the afternoon with friends in town, walking through some of the Botanic Gardens and then visiting the Art Gallery.  Though we’ve been here for a year and a half, we still haven’t seen many of these things of this city.  Afterwards we had our friends over to our place for dinner.  It was lovely spending time with these friends.  They shared with us things we didn’t know about the Gardens or the Gallery.  They we’re patient with us as we finished preparing dinner, and we just enjoyed chatting and sharing our lives.  We are thankful for these friends.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Learning an old skill

I don’t know if people say that knitting is dying out.  I sometimes wonder if old ladies think that it is.  It kind of seems like it’s something that only grandmas do: they knit little booties and bonnets for their baby grandchildren.  But I’ve seen enough young women knitting to know this isn’t true. 

There are a number of women at college who knit: beanies, scarves, gloves.  And finally, they have inspired me.  I’ve decided to learn to knit.  

While back home I asked my mum to teach me to knit.  I'd learn before, as a child, but it never really went anywhere.  I think I only ever knitted one square. 

Here's my practice knitting.  

Now I've decided to knit an infinity scarf.  But I haven't decided what stitch to use.  I'm hoping to get some advice from my knitting friends. 

I know that knitting isn’t dying out, but I sometimes wonder about other ‘old skills’.  I remember a pin lace artist telling me that she thought her art was dying out.  What beautiful skills are we leaving forgotten because of our fast-paced, consumerist, machine-enabled culture?  It makes me sad to think about knowledge that has been lost or forgotten. 

Now I know learning knitting doesn’t really change anything.  If I really wanted to continue the knowledge of a dying art perhaps I should have tried pin lace.  But I do enjoy the feeling of accomplishment from learning the skill of knitting and I’m looking forward to having made something with it.  I won’t have relied on a machine, or someone else, to make me something.  And that makes me feel a little better. 

Monday, 7 July 2014

The faith of an old man

Today J and I visited a man who used to go to our church in Adelaide.  He now lives in a nursing home, at the age of 99, because he can't really care for himself anymore.  Visiting him was such an encouragement for me.

He was excited and surprised to see us, not knowing that we were in Adelaide, and told us that he had prayed for us just this morning.  This man is an exceptional man of prayer.  His eyesight is poor and his hearing is going so he can't really watch TV or read a book (not even the Bible.  He now listens to it through headphones).  He told us that instead he spends his evenings praying, every evening.  I suspect that he spends most of his time praying really.  I couldn't imagine concentrating on prayer for that long, but hearing his commitment to prayer was an encouragement for me to keep working on my discipline for spending time in prayer.

He is very old and is eagerly awaiting his death so that he can go to be with God.  When I asked how he was he complained that he was too well!  But he expressed his trust in God's timing and he makes the most of the time that he has left. 

Here is one example.  He told us that he spoke to one of the cleaners who works in the nursing home and asked her if she loved Jesus.  The cleaner told him that she did, and he was so pleased.  When he found out she didn't read the Bible often he encouraged her that she needed to be fed from God's word.  Later on he gave her an old copy of a Bible reading plan and commentary notes, which she found very useful and encouraging. 

I always find myself encouraged after speaking to this faithful old man.  He always encourages us to keep loving and serving God, and his faith shines through in everything he does and says.  I can only hope and pray that God would create in me such a faithful heart.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Thankful Thursday

Here are some things that I'm thankful for this week.

We're in Adelaide! 
This is one of the big things that J and I are very excited about and thankful for this week.  We're thankful that we had the money to buy flights home (and that we found cheap flights with Jetstar).  We're really looking forward to catching up with friends here.  We've already got some catch ups organised but we still have time for some more so please get in touch if you'd like to see us.  We want to make the most of our time here and catch up with as many friends as we can.

People who drive us places
Since we've flown to Adelaide we don't have a car to get around, but so far our friends and family have been lovely picking us up and dropping us off places.  A big thanks particularly to our college community friend who dropped us at the airport (and his kids for being fun in the car).  Having others drive us around makes me thankful again that we do have a car, even if it's not here.  It is a privilege to be able to drive at all, and to be able to afford owning and running a car.

A haircut
This morning I went with Mum to the hairdresser where we both had a haircut.  It's nice to go back to my regular hairdresser and catch up with them.  It's also a lovely feeling to have freshly cut hair.  I'm also thankful that they were able to fit me in while we are in Adelaide and that it's before my friend's wedding so that my hair is easy to work with for the wedding hairdresser.  It was also a bonus that Mum insisted on paying for my haircut, thanks Mum!

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

"Good News for Anxious Christians" book 'review'

This book was recommended to my class at college this year by one of our Mission and Ministry lecturers.  I've been wanting to read it all term but never really got the opportunity until the holidays.  J read it during semester and liked it so much that we bought it. 

The sub-title of the book is 'Ten practical things you don't have to do'.  I haven't finished reading it but what I have read has been such a soothe to my heart.  I've decided that I'd like to blog through the chapters of the book and share with you my highlights.  Hopefully you will find it helpful, as I have, and perhaps are even encouraged to read it yourself. 

In his preface Cary describes his book as an attempt to 'preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to Christians'.  His introduction is about why trying to be Christian makes us anxious and how we can see God's commands in the Bible as freeing us from anxiety rather than producing anxiety. 

Cary attacks what he calls 'the new evangelical theology' which has introduced supposedly practical ideas to help us in Christian life but which are not Biblical, and actually get in the way of believing the gospel. 

These are the areas he addresses in each chapter:
  1. Why you don't have to hear God's voice in your heart
  2. Why you don't have to believe your intuitions are the Holy Spirit
  3. Why you don't have to "Let God take control"
  4. Why you don't have to "Find God's will for your life"
  5. Why you don't have to be sure you have the right motivations
  6. Why you don't have to worry about splitting head from heart
  7. Why you don't have to keep getting transformed all the time
  8. Why you don't always have to experience joy
  9. Why "Applying it to your life" is boring
  10. Why basing faith on experience leads to a post-Christian future
There's so much of this that I'm looking forward to reading.  I hope you enjoy learning along with me as I read this book!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Thankful Thursday

Here are some things that I am thankful for this week:

Holidays with friends
This week J and I are up in the Blue Mountains with some friends from college.  We've spent the week so far sitting in front of the fire and listening to the 'cyclonic' wind outside.  We've ventured a few trips outside: once to a gingerbread cafe, once for op-shopping, and once for a short walk (which I didn't go for because I had some work to do).  We've completed two 1000 piece puzzles, both without a picture to refer to.  We've watched a little bit of TV, enjoyed everyone's cooking (but especially S's baking).  Many of these friends are the same ones we went away with in Spring last year (you can read that post here).  I love these friends, the conversations that we have and the care that we show each other.  This has been a wonderful holiday. 

Starting the third jugsaw puzzle

Tea
Many of us have brought tea away with us on holiday so we've been able to try different teas throughout the week.  There's something so lovely about curling up on a couch with friends, sharing a pot of tea.  The weather being so cold, has made it feel even more cozy than normal. 

The internet on my phone
Since we're away on holidays we don't have our home WiFi.  I've had a few things that I've needed to do this week that require the internet, and so I'm very thankful that I can use my phone to do these things.  Technology has progressed so much, even just in my lifetime and so often we take it for granted what we can do with it.  So I'm thankful for this blessing this week. 

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Bible and church

Lately I’ve been thinking about Bible reading in church.  I've posted about an aspect of this before in this post.  This week I'm preparing for service leading at church and it has got me thinking about it again.  How much Bible should be read in church? 

I’ve been in a number of church families with different styles of worship or format of service.  At my first church, a Uniting Church, we followed a lectionary, a three year cycle of Bible readings consisting of a reading (usually a whole chapter) from the Old Testament, a Psalm, a reading from one of the Gospels and one from the rest of the New Testament.  Not all of these readings were done each week at church, but at least one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament was read.  The Psalm may have also been incorporated into a prayer or some other part of the service.  One of these readings would usually be linked to the sermon.

I went to a Roman Catholic high school that followed the same lectionary in their weekly chapel service, so often I would hear the same readings twice a week.  Then in my later years of high school I attended another Uniting Church.  This church usually did two of the lectionary readings and almost always the sermon was was based on the gospel passage.

When J and I got engaged I started attending his church, a small independent church.  This church didn’t follow any lectionary.  There would be a Bible reading before the sermon, being the subject of the sermon.  Some shorter Bible passages may have been used by the leader throughout the service, but no other parts of the Bible were intentionally read.  The same is true for the Baptist church that we’re currently attending.

At college we follow our own lectionary.  We read a chapter from the Old Testament and a chapter from the New Testament each day that we have chapel.  They follow on from each other and when we reach the end of a book we start a new one (not necessarily the next book in the Bible).  We've just finished Ezekiel and 2 Thessalonians.  The sermon is rarely on one of these Bible readings so another reading is done for the sermon, sometimes read by the preacher himself. 

I don’t know if the churches that used a lectionary did so for any reason other than tradition, but I still think that reading from a lectionary is a good idea.  It gives the benefit of hearing from more of the Bible each Sunday at church.  After all, what is the most important part of the church service?  I acknowledge that people may have different opinions on this, but I want to argue that hearing the word of God is the most important.  More important than singing good songs, praying, and even the sermon.

With the lectionary you get to hear from more ‘obscure’ parts of the Bible that wouldn’t normally be preached on or talked about in Sunday school or Bible study group.  And even if your church does preach from the lesser known parts of the Bible, they don’t come up very often so reading from a lectionary means that you read more of the Bible more often. 

Of course, as the service leader I will read from more of the Bible than just the reading for the sermon.  Perhaps this is one of my responsibilities as service leader rather than anything rostered and organised by the church leadership.  But what I read is not going to be consistent with the previous and following weeks.  I could read a chapter from Zechariah but there will be no context for the people to understand it better, and it would just feel very random.  They won't have heard the previous chapter last week or the next chapter next week.  The Bible is meant to be read, it is meant to speak to us.  After all, it is where we find the truth about God.  If we sing five songs, pray three prayers and hear a half-hour sermon, surely we should read a few chapters of the Bible.  Church notices shouldn't take longer than our reading from the word of God.  So I'm working out how I can include more Bible in the service this Sunday. 

I’m not saying that my church isn’t doing things well.  I just wonder if we should be reading more of the Bible in church than just the reading for the sermon.  Because by doing this it can make it seem like the sermon is more important than the Bible reading.  This is because the reading feels like it is done for the sermon, when it should really be the other way around.  The sermon should be done to complement the reading, to expound it for the congregation.  But we shouldn’t ignore the fact that God speaks through his word without us having to say anything else.  Reading more of the Bible in church, parts that the sermon doesn’t talk about, helps to remind us that God’s word is powerful to speak to us all on it's own.  As people who base their faith on what the Bible says, do we believe this?  Do we let God speak from his word?  So let’s do this by reading more of the Bible in church. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Thankful Thursday

This week I am thankful for:

Exams are over now!
This week was exam week, and though we second years only had two exams I feel like I’ve been on the back foot the whole time.  I started study week with a cold and it lasted longer than that so my study has been slow and struggled.  So I’m thankful that now as I post this exams are finished!

Two wonderful years of marriage
On Monday J and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary.  We had an exam in the morning so we left the celebrations for the evening (and prepared during the afternoon!).  J made me a lovely dinner (chicken schnitzel and apple sauce) and dessert (salted nutella-chocolate tarts!).  He set the table with a new table cloth and placemats (all cotton, as the traditional second anniversary gift) and we exchanged presents after dinner.  I love how well he knows me, and the love and care he has shown me over the last two years.  Thanks for a wonderful marriage, my husband!

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The Reformation
Monday’s exam was Church History, and we’ve been studying the Reformation this year.  I didn’t enjoy studying history at school, but I’ve loved church history at college!  I’m thankful that the church was reformed and as a result of it we have the Bible in our native languages (and we’re allowed to read it!), and we don’t trust in our own merit to save us but rely on the grace of God that through our faith we are saved.  Thank you God for the Reformation!

What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, 16 June 2014

A different type of Bible

I said in my previous post that I would share a bit more about the recommendations from our end of term Bible study group.  People recommended things such as recipes, websites, tea, apps and other things. My recommendation was for a Bible. 

Now that doesn’t really sound like anything too exciting. Why would I bother to recommend a Bible to a whole Bible study group (who already have Bibles)?  But this Bible is a little different. 

It’s called The Books of the BibleIt’s different than other Bibles because it has no chapter and verse numbers.  It’s laid out in a single column like a regular book.  The textual notes notes are discreetly indicated by a grey dot and are listed at the end of each book rather than at the bottom of each page.  All this is to put the Bible into a form that we’re more used to reading and so make it easier to read.

I first heard about it from Tamie and Arthur’s blog, in this post.   Arthur has reviewed it there so I won’t go into his level of detail.   But I want to tell you why I recommended it. 

For me, I’ve found that without the chapters and verses I am less concerned about reading a set chunk of the Bible (such as a chapter or two) and instead I read until I get to a suitable break in the story or section.  Sometimes this means I read more than I normally would, sometimes less.  But that doesn’t really matter.  Reading the Bible has become less about ticking that box each morning.  I’m more motivated to read it because of this.  The Bible has become less of a textbook to me, and as a consequence has become more interesting to read. 

If you’re finding regular Bible reading dry, or you never really tried to read the Bible because it didn’t seem very interesting, then give this book a try.  I pray that it will help open up God’s word for you.  Because that’s what it is, and it’s worth getting to know. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Thankful Thursday

This week I am thankful for these things:

A hen’s weekend in Adelaide
I’ve already talked about it here.  It was lovely to go to Adelaide and spend some time with my family as well as some friends for the hen’s event.  I am thankful that we had the money to fly me there for the weekend, and that my family was so generous with picking me up and dropping me at the airport, as well as with quick dinners, gifts and hot chocolates.  I’m thankful for the friendships I have with the girls I spent the weekend with and the fun that we had together.  I’m thankful that my dear friend is getting married and that I am able to support and help her as she prepares for her marriage. 

Studying with my husband
I love that J and I are studying the same course and almost all the same subjects.  This not only means that we can study together and help each other out, but our holidays also happen at the same time and we’re both really looking forward to them! 

My women’s Bible study group
Our college organises women’s Bible studies for the female students and wives of students.  I’m in one of the groups that meets at our college community.  So I only have to walk over to the next block of units to get to Bible study!  I’ve been in one of these groups since we got here and have loved it.  It has been a great way of getting to know some of the other wives in our community here, and a great encouragement to me.  All of the women are godly and switched-on theologically.  This week was the last week that we met for this term and so we had an end of term party of sorts.  We each brought along a recommendation.  More on that later!

What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, 9 June 2014

Barossa Hens

This weekend I flew back to Adelaide for a very dear friend’s Hens weekend.  Admittedly I was a little nervous flying by myself, afraid that I would miss my flight home because the timing was pretty tight.  But it turned out that my Sunday afternoon flight was cancelled and I took the option of an evening flight which made everything much easier. 

Flying in to Adelaide was lovely.  Firstly, I was seated in an exit row so I was very glad we’d made it without me needing to operate the escape hatch!  I had a window seat so I got great views of the city lights at night as we flew over.  Though I wouldn’t necessarily be able to recognise my home city from an aerial viewpoint there was something comfortingly familiar about seeing all those sparkling lights in neat rows and straight lines.  That’s very unlike the city we live in now!  I wish I had a photo to show you but I couldn’t use my phone in the plane at that time.

Movie night with my sister!My sister had taken the night off work so she could pick me up from the airport.  Thanks sis!  We had a fun night of snacks and a movie with a bit of catching up in between it all.  In the morning Mum and Dad got home from Europe, where they’d been for a month.  We caught up for about an hour, I saw photos and was given some gifts to fit into my carry on luggage, before I had to leave for the start of the hens weekend!

We started the weekend off with breakfast at the hen’s house with her mother, mother-in-law-to-be and the girls who were coming for the weekend. 

 

Then we drove through the hills to the Barossa Valley, with the hen blindfolded all the way.  She had no idea where we were going.  I tried to drive gently. 

We stopped at a few wineries for wine tasting, went to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop, had a picnic lunch in a park and pizza dinner at a local restaurant, and played pool in a pub while attempting to fulfil the dares we’d given the hen.  Our evening consisted of silly games, junk food and a Disney movie. 

In the morning we went to another winery for wine tasting and then played croquet.  That was one of the highlights for me.  I’d never played croquet before and it’s not really like anything else.  At our cafe lunch after the croquet we asked the hen some questions about how well she knew her fiancĂ© and then called him to check.  She passed!

The hen is a very dear friend to me and I’m so excited to see her getting ready for marriage and to be able to stand with her on their wedding day.  I’m thankful for her friendship and the support she has always shown me and I so value that she trusts me so that I can support her also, particularly as she prepares for marriage.  I’m looking forward to many more years of friendship with you, my friend!