Tuesday, 28 January 2014

A week with old friends

This past week we’ve had a couple from home stay with us.  I’ll just call them A and R for short.  They are very close friends of ours; both were in our wedding party and we were in theirs.  They drove over to see some of her family and spend some time with us; to see where we were living and taste a bit of our world. 

Now when I say that they were staying with us, I mean that loosely.  After all our place has only three rooms (bedroom, small study, dining and living combined), plus a bathroom and kitchen.  But we live in a wonderful community of college students who lend out their houses for occasions such as these when they themselves are away on holidays.  A and R got to stay in a place in the unit block next to ours. 

While they were here we took them to the zoo, showed them our college and fed them King Street thai, went to the Rocks Markets and brought them to our church.  They also went to the Powerhouse Museum and saw The Lion King Musical.  They met some of our friends here in our college community and we played a lot of board games. 

The Lemur exhibit is open!

It was wonderful to have them here with us and show them a bit of what our life is like here.  Now that they’re gone we’ve hit the books hard with three holiday assignments to complete over the next two weeks!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The number one ladies running group

I went for a run on Saturday morning, ahh I am sore!  I think I ran further than I have for a long time.  I haven’t been doing the couch to 5k for a while because my knee started to hurt every time I ran, so I gave it a rest and never quite got up the motivation to start again for fear of injuring my knee. 

One of the student’s wives in our community here (I’ll just call her V) started up a ladies running group late last year.  It was around the time we were leaving for our trip back home so I didn’t get involved.  But now that we’re back I wanted to give running a go again. 

We got up to start at 6:30 (on a Saturday!) to beat the heat.  There were four of us and I certainly felt the most shabbily dressed!  I’ve been exercising in my old Green Team t-shirt and school basketball shorts.  My running shoes cost about $20 because they were bought in a hurry on a holiday for walks in national parks. 

I'm not even much of a fan of purple...

The loop we ran was about 2.7 or 2.8 km (someone had an app on her phone that tracked the run for us).  We kept a steady pace the whole time, stopping only at the top of a hill for a little walk, and waiting for the traffic lights to change in our favour. 

I know I’ve said before that I liked running by myself but I may change my mind.  If I had run the route we did yesterday by myself I definitely would have stopped half-way up the hill.  But because I was with others and V encouraged us to keep a steady pace up the hill and not stop until the top, I kept going.  I kept up with the others, because I had to in a way. 

When we got back to our houses V gave us the option of of doing another lap or calling it a day.  I certainly wasn’t capable of doing another lap!  I was finished, but I felt good.  The others did another lap (despite some looking as tired as me!).  Perhaps I’ll be able to work up to a second lap eventually! 

I’m excited about this running group and the motivation it gives me to run.  I may need to invest in some good running shoes though…


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Friday, 17 January 2014

Questioning “self-improvement”

Sometimes I think to myself, “you shouldn’t do this so much”, or “you should do this more”. Ways of ‘improving’ myself I suppose.  “You shouldn't laugh so loud”, “you should eat slower in company”. 
While some of the things I tell myself probably are good changes to make, not all of them are.  Some of them are simply things that I think would make me more agreeable to others.  They’re not good or bad changes to make, they’re just neutral. 

Then I wonder, shouldn’t I just accept myself how I am?  This is how I was made, why should I try to change that?  What’s so bad about having a loud laugh? 

But it is true that I should be working to better myself.  At least, I do want to be a better person!  Just as long as it’s in the right areas.  The areas that make me a better person, not the things that will make other people like me more.  “You should offer to help”, “you shouldn’t join in with the sledging”.
But even more than making myself a better person in the eyes of other people, I should be making myself a better person in God’s eyes.  Not all of ‘how I was made’ is good.  I, like all of us, was born into sin; it is in my nature.  And God hates sin. 
I should be getting rid of my sin, because I love God.  But actually, I know that’s not something I can do on my own.  It is God, not me, who makes me a better person. 

I know that my effort doesn’t count for anything with God, he has done it all and the only way to be saved is faith. 
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph 2:8-9)
It’s not being a better person that saves me, it is my faith and trust in Jesus, the only perfect person, who died in my place so that I could be free.  Thank you God for that. 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Service on CE Camp

J and I just got back yesterday from CE-SU Kid's Camp, something we've been doing together for a number of years now and J for many years before that.  CE stands for Christian Endeavour and SU is Scripture Union.  This camp we had about 80 kids and 30 leaders away for four nights with the aim of giving the kids a genuine encounter with Jesus and encouraging and equipping them to serve him wholeheartedly.

This was one of the pictures we used this year because we had a medieval theme.
Photo from cenetwork.org.au

J was the director, a role he also had last year, and I was a pastoral carer again.  This meant that I was available as a support for four leaders, stepping in to help as they needed me, or listening if they needed to talk about something, camp related or not.  If I wasn't busy with those things I found jobs to do, such as stray dishes, set up for the canteen, sweeping and cleaning and other things.

I love this role for a number of reasons.  Firstly, I get to pastorally care for people, which is exactly what I want to do.  I'm not sure how good I am at this yet and I do doubt myself sometimes, but I love the opportunity to listen to people, to comfort and support them and hopefully be helpful to them in the process.  I also like that the role of pastoral carer is so self-directed as I enjoy the opportunity to be working on this skill.  I really value this opportunity to serve and it's this that I want to write about a bit more.

A lot of the work that I do as a pastoral carer is unseen, or seen by only a few people.  I like this 'background' kind of service, not just because I am shy and don't like being up the front, but also because it prevents me from getting proud about my work.  There's something about hidden service that makes me feel closer to God.  Because I know that I'm not acting for my own benefit but for others.

This reminds me of something that the speaker talked about on camp.  Though I'd heard this before it was a good reminder.  He said that if you put Jesus first, others second and youself third, you will have true JOY in life.  I'm still working on this, I certainly don't always get it right and it isn't always easy, but serving at CE camp this year was a reminder of the joy that it is to serve others.