Thursday, 30 October 2008

Marie Durand

Today is Reformation Day. It is 491 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of Castle Church, Wittenburg. This event is now considered to be the start of the protestant Reformation (though its roots go further back than that). The truths for which the Reformers contended were bitterly contested from the very beginning, and in the centuries that followed thousands of men and women suffered imprisonment, torture and execution for their faithfulness to those truths.

Today, in honour of Reformation Day (and inspired by a brief reference in John Piper's talk at True Woman conference) I want to tell the story of one of these. Her name was Marie Durand.

Born in 1715, Marie Durand was a Huguenot (a member of the Protestant church in France). Huguenots were fiercely critical of the Catholic church, and as a result, faced persecution from the time of the Reformation. The most significant event was the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, in August 1572, when between 30,000 and 100,000 Huguenots were killed across France. By the time Marie Durand was born, the Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685 made it illegal to be a Huguenot, and persecution was once again increasing.

Marie Durand's brother brother Pierre was a Protestant minister and the Protestant church held meetings in their home. Because of this, in 1728, the authorities turned their sights on the Durand family. At first, because they were unable to arrest Pierre, they imprisoned her father. Before he was taken, he married her to a man named Matthew Serres in the hope she would be safe with him. The plan failed. In 1730, at the age of 15, Marie Durand was arrested, and soon after Matthew was taken too.

Marie was taken to The Tower of Constance. There, the female prisoners were kept in the upper room with little light and air. It was a place where heretics were kept and tortured and many died. The only thing the authorities asked her to do in order to be released was to abjure her Huguenot faith. All she needed to do was to say the word “J’abjure.” But she couldn't bring herself to do it. Instead, she inscribed the word Register (Occitan for Resist) on the walls of her prison cell.

An article in Glimpses of Christian history describes the life she led during the years she spent in the tower:
Although just fifteen, she became the tireless Christian focus of the Tower, and remained the spiritual leader of the prisoners for thirty-eight years. She nursed the ailing, wrote letters for those who could not write, and (after a psalter was allowed) read psalms aloud each evening. She encouraged her fellow-prisoners to sing Huguenot hymns. Not all the women were Christians. Some were crude. But the prisoners knew her family; they sympathized with her youth and they respected her for her piety. All were blessed through her.

In 1767, after 38 years in the tower, she was released. Her father, brother and husband were dead.

The life of Marie Durand, and her commitment to the truths of the Reformation, remind me of the preciousness of what I believe. Her one word slogan - Resist! - is not only a stubborn assertion of the individual conscience in the face of religious persecution, but also (and far more importantly) a hymn to the praise of Christ. When we defend the gospel of grace we are bearing witness to the truth that our salvation is to the glory of God alone. When we suffer for that gospel we are suffering not merely for an idea but for Christ himself, and showing that he is worthy not only of our words but of our lives.



This piece is posted as a contribution to the Reformation Day Symposium at Challies.com.

Sources:
The Wonder of Idiotic Perserverance;
Marie Durand;

Marie Durand Released at Last
Marie Durand - Wikipedia
Images from Wikipedia.

Eating, Drinking and Evangelizing

I've written a post at The Sola Panel today about how hospitality and being a guest in other people's homes ties in with evangelism. Here's how it starts:
Over the last year or so, my husband Dave and I have been thinking about the connection between evangelism and hospitality. We've become more convinced that while evangelistic events and other strategies can have their place, they can't be a substitute for real relationships with our non-Christian friends. And hospitality seems to us to be a key part of creating and maintaining those relationships. 

So we decided that we needed to learn how to cultivate a lifestyle where we give and receive hospitality as part of our relationships with our non-Christian neighbours and friends (especially in this phase of our lives when so many of our networks are local ones, within this suburb where we live). With three young children, most of the hospitality has happened between me and non-Christian mums of our children's friends from school, play group and preschool. Nothing groundbreaking, just afternoon tea after school, or morning tea with the little ones or a catch up during school holidays.

And while we have been invited back in some cases, and we've gladly accepted the invitation, I think my bias has been towards having people in my home. With all my thinking about how to do hospitality better, I think I've ignored the benefits of being a guest.
You can read the rest at The Sola Panel.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Revisiting the silkworms

Those of you who have been reading this blog since last year may remember that we had silkworms for a little while last Spring - and it ended badly when Elsie ate one of them (it's true - go read the story if you don't believe me!). This year, I wasn't sure if I was brave enough to try the silk worm venture again. But in the end, I think apart from the fact I knew the kids would enjoy the experience again, I just wanted to prove to myself it wouldn't end in disaster.

So far so good. Here is a picture of her refraining from eating them just to prove it!



I did save them from certain death today when she was seconds away pouring a cup of water all over them. She seemed to think the presence of mulberry leaves meant they needed to be watered. But I still think that's an improvement on last year!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

99 Balloons

Ever since I first read about them, I've been inspired by Matt and Ginny Mooney. They had a son named Eliot who was born with Trisomy 18 who defied doctor's predictions that he would die at birth, and lived 99 days. Knowing the time they had with him was short, they decided to celebrate every day of Eliot's life, and they shared their journey with blogosphere. After his death, they made a short film called "99 balloons". According to Leslie, Matt and Ginny were on Oprah this week, and used their opportunity well. For Australian readers, we're a couple of month's behind, so we haven't missed it! And if you haven't already seen the film "99 Balloons", here it is:

Loving God's world - Pt 5 (Loving the people who share the earth with us)

The whole creation is an expression of the glory of God and we see his handiwork in all that he's made. But according to the Bible, the pinnacle of the creation is humankind. We are not just another species, a kind of noxious weed over-populating the earth.

Unlike some environmentalists, Christians who care about the environment do so within a world view that is still radically God-centred, and one that sees humans as occupying a unique and privileged place at the pinnacle of God’s creation.

According to Jesus, the greatest commandment is not that we care for the environment, but that we love God with all our hearts and the second greatest commandment is that we love our neighbour as ourselves. That means that our environmental responsibility is not ultimately an end in itself, but a means toward loving and glorifying God and caring for the welfare of our neighbours (and the people who will inhabit the earth after we're dead).

That has all sorts of implications for us as Christians. It means, for example, that we ought not to let our zeal for the environment overcome the need to show kindness to people. At the local school where Jacob goes, there has been a big push this year to make the school ‘green’. A lot of the ideas are ones I have found quite helpful in terms of analysing my habits and assumptions: for example, there is a day a week where the kids are to bring in a package free lunch (Tidy Tuesday). That’s made me think a bit more critically about how much packaging I really need to use for school lunches. No harm in that!!

But, I’ve also noticed that environmental zeal without the knowledge of the creator can look a bit ugly sometimes. For example, there have been some very public ‘shamings’ of teachers and classes that have broken some of the environmental rules of the school. And interestingly, without a strong foundation of love for God and love for people, the strategy of behaviour change through legalism and competition and public shaming has not actually been all that successful. Most of the environmental campaigns that were so zealous in February have been quietly forgotten and abandoned by October. We need something bigger to live for than just environmental zeal, and as Christians that ‘something bigger’ is love of God and love of our neighbour.

And if our concern for the environment as Christians fits into that bigger picture of a love for others and a love for God and a passion for his glory, then there will be times when the priority of caring for the environment takes second place to other, even higher, concerns.

When I gave this talk, some of the women came up with some good examples of how this might work out in practice. I'd be interested to hear your ideas and examples as well - I await your comments!

Pic 1: Dreamstime
Pic2: Stockxchng

Monday, 27 October 2008

Rethinking Feminism

I used to call myself a feminist.

Then at university, I read a lot of the books written by feminists who were instrumental in the shaping of the feminist movement. I was also taught by some well known feminists who had led the movement in Australia in the 70s and were still just as passionate about women's rights. I was excited to be at university and learning about something I had felt committed to for so long. But the more I read and thought and listened to what they had to say, the less I was convinced. I realised that feminism as a philosophy was different from what I had thought it was.

It's not that I suddenly decided that women were no longer equal to men, or that we should all go back to the way things were in the 1950s. But the more I read, the more I realised that the underlying assumptions, arguments and solutions proposed by the feminist writers were inconsistent with the vision of creation, fall and redemption that I saw in the Bible.

I still rejoice that, along with all men and all women, I am made in the image of God. I still give thanks that my husband and I are heirs together of the gracious gift of life. I'm still opposed to all forms of abuse and oppression, including the abuse and oppression of women. But I believe those things not within the woman-centred framework of feminism but within the God-centred, Christ-centred framework of the Bible, and that (I think!) makes an enormous difference.

A little while ago, I promised that I would explain this thinking a little more. I've had a post in my drafts folder for months, waiting to be polished up, but in the mean time a few friends have got around to writing talks and blog posts that say it better than I would have anyway!

Here are a few that I think are worth looking at (or listening to):

* Jennie Baddeley has written some posts at EQUIP book club over the last month, in which she discusses a book by Mary Kassian called The Feminist Mistake. The book itself explains a lot about the history of feminism and the ways it has changed our thinking as a society.

* Emily Smuts gave a talk on Feminism at Petersham Baptist Church a few months ago, which briefly summarises the history of the movement and explains some differences between feminism (particularly 2nd wave feminism) and Christianity.

* Kirsten Birkett has written a book called The Essence of Feminism, which I reviewed at EQUIP book club yesterday.

And one day I still may get around to writing that post myself!

Pic - Artist - Arthur J Miller, from allposters.com.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Poetry Monday

I thought this Hopkins poem linked well with my post last week about delighting in God's creation and all the details of his handiwork.





Pied Beauty


Glory be to God for dappled things --
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced -- fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled, (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Gerard Manley Hopkins



Pic on flickr by tina_manthorpe.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Jacob's birthday

I promised that I would put some photos up of Jacob's birthday. Yesterday he woke up, opened his presents (we did that as a treasure hunt, thanks Jean for the idea!) and we had a special breakfast before he went to school. I sent along some cupcakes for him to have with his classmates, and he seemed to have a lovely day. Then in the afternoon, Dave's parents came and had a cake with us.

Rebecca enjoyed dressing up her grandma...

This year, I decided not to give him a party, but our public school kindly decided to put on their Spring Fair today, so we spent the morning there with my mum and dad. The kids had a ball - the highlight was the pony rides!

Even Elsie had one!
Then we had a BBQ dinner tonight with my family. The kids enjoyed having their cousins around...

Including a cuddle from the littlest cousin!

We had a shark cake that looked like this:


In case there are any other shark lovers out there having birthdays soon, I've done a separate 'how to' post for those who are interested.

Shark Birthday Cake

Because Jacob loves sharks, I decided to make him a shark cake for his birthday this year. But when I googled 'shark cake' all I found were 3D constructions that just looked too hard and I knew it would end in tears (mine that is!) if I tried one of them. So, in an effort to simplify, I designed my own shark-themed cake (with a bit of help from my mum - who has more kids' birthday cake experience than me!). It's super easy:

1. Make some blue jelly (you'll need that later)!

2. Bake a square cake. I made a marble cake with red marbling (blood from the feeding frenzy!). Either make a big square, or if you don't have a big square, you could do what I did and make 2 cakes, 1 square, 1 loaf, then cut the loaf cake into 4.


3. Put it on a cake board (with blue cellophane on it). Either arrange the 4 loaf bits around the outside creating a ridge around the outside OR cut into the cake about 1.5cm in from edges and 2.5cm deep. Either way, you'll need a well for the jelly. Then ice around it with blue icing.

4. Chop up the blue jelly, then add it to the well.

5. Add some cheap toy sharks to the jelly "water".

Voila! He loved it.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

To a six year old

Today is Jacob's birthday. I wrote this poem for him yesterday after having a bit of a 'moment' while dropping him off at school.

I originally planned to write a poem that we'd give him in his card on the day, but the poem that ended up coming to me was a bit adult! In the end I decided it would best be saved up till he was old enough to understand it, but here it is anyway.



To a six year old, on his birthday


My boy -
This morning I watched you run to class.
Feet tripping over each other,
Backpack bouncing awkwardly,
turning every few urgent steps
to wave goodbye,
your words carried off by the wind.

Tomorrow you'll be six.
The years rush by
faster than your rushing feet.
And I lose my breath,
winded by the realisation
that this goodbye
is just a practice run.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Loving God's world - Pt 4 (Sharing God's delight in the creation)

I've already discussed what I think are two wrong ways to love the world:

1) the way that as Christians we ought to stand apart from the worship of the environment, and the self-worship that acts as if we are ultimately the saviours of the planet; and
2) the way that we ought to stand out as being different from the people who love the world covetously, addicted to comfort and possessions and travel, etc.

But I think that the positive part of a Christian approach to the environment involves more than just the ‘accidental environmentalism’ that comes from not being greedy. In addition to that, we are actually called to delight in and enjoy and value the physical creation. The world we live in is not our ultimate, eternal home, but it is still a good world, and a beautiful world, made by God and precious to him. God cares about this world that he has made, and his plans for the future involve not just a new us but a new heavens and a new earth.

Psalm 104 is full of this sort of delight in God's good creation:

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord my God, you are very great!

You are clothed with splendor and majesty,

2 covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.


...

10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;

they flow between the hills;

11 they give drink to every beast of the field;

the wild donkeys quench their thirst.

12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
they sing among the branches.

13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;

the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.

...

27 These all look to you,
to give them their food in due season.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;

when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;

when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,

and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;

may the Lord rejoice in his works...


God enjoys his creation, and we should enjoy his creation. If we don’t, we dishonour God. As Christians, we enjoy the creation because it points us to the creator. So the psalm ends:
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,

for I rejoice in the Lord.

There's a wonderful illustration by CS Lewis, that describes this:
I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences. (C.S.Lewis, Meditation in a Toolshed', God in the Dock, p.212)

As Christians, we don't just look at the beam (the creation), we look along the beam (to the Creator). But that doesn’t mean that we ought to ignore the beauty of the beam itself. The beauty and the brightness of the beam of light are a testimony to the brilliance of the sun that it shines out from. The beauty of the creation is a testimony to the glory and the wisdom of God the creator.

It's good for us to honour God by spending time enjoying the good gift of what he's created.

So here's some 'homework'! List 10 things you've noticed recently about the details of God's creation. Maybe you could even take a notepad and pen and go for a walk and do it? I'd love to hear what you come up with.



Pics from aussiegal and istockphoto

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Take away chicken and chips

Last week, when we were in the thick of our gastric adventures, we had a couple of kind friends from church drop around with meals for us (or at least for those of us who were able to eat them!).

One of them was an older woman in my Monday night Bible study who bought take away chicken and chips (and made a salad to go with it) then dropped it around for our dinner. It was at the point where I had run out of meals in my freezer and had no energy left to cook a meal, and it was a huge help!

It reminded me that when I wrote this post about cooking meals for others a couple of months ago, that I completely forgot to mention this option. It's a great option but one that I think many of us might baulk at. It seems too easy somehow! But I think it really does make a difference to the person in the midst of loss, sickness or a new baby etc to have the burden of having to even think about dinner taken away. Plus (as with cooking a meal) it still achieves something more than just the practical help that it provides: "it's a gesture of love, it's a sign that your absence was noticed, it's an opportunity for a conversation, it's a reminder that you belong."

Pic by avlxyz on flickr.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Loving God's world - Pt 3 (Idolatry of Greed)

In my last post, I wrote about some of the ways that non-Christian environmentalism can fall over into a kind of environmental idolatry. But that’s not the whole picture. Resisting that sort of idolatry is not the only way that we ought to stand out from the society around us.

Side by side with all this talk in our generation about looking after the environment, we continue as a culture to immerse ourselves ever more deeply in the idolatry of greed. As a society we have an insatiable appetite for comfort and possessions and experiences - an appetite that makes a mockery of our self-righteous pronouncements about caring for the planet.

According to Tanya Ha, a nuclear family living in LA make more claims on the environment that a whole village in Bangladesh does. And before we start pointing fingers at those crazy Americans it's worth remembering that (according to Planet Ark's figures, at any rate) it is we Australians who are the highest greenhouse gas emitters in the world, per person.

Our addiction to overseas travel, for example, is an environmental disaster: according to a recent study, “a return flight from Sydney to London emits the equivalent of nine tonnes of carbon dioxide per passenger... double the amount the world population on average produces each year [per head] through eating, driving and heating and cooling their home.”

The plasma TVs that we’re all rushing out to buy are apparently produced in a process that uses nitrogen trifluoride, a gas that is estimated to be 17,000 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in its contribution to global warming.

And as the planet gets warmer and we get wealthier the demand for air-conditioners goes up and up... and so the cycle goes round and round!

The Bible reminds us that as Christians we should stand out sharply from this sort of greed and consumerism. If we ‘love the world’ acquisitively like this, then the Bible says the love of God is not in us. So John writes in 1 John 2:15-17:
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

And Paul says something very similar in 1 Cor 7:29-31. The world we live in is passing away. As Colin Buchanan sings, “The stuff of this world is gonna be trash.” We Christians ought to be the ones who can see that more clearly than anyone.

Worshipping money, pleasure and comfort is no more Christian than worshipping rocks, trees and rivers. Greediolatry is as pagan as Greeniolatry! If Christians are liberated by the gospel from enslavement to all the toys, waste and accumulation of an unfettered consumer economy, then we should be standing out from our neighbours for the simplicity of our lifestyle.

If we’re rejecting over-consumption and practising godliness with contentment, we’ll actually be making decisions that look quite ‘environmental’. For example, Dave grew up with parents who would have been the last people in the world to call themselves greenies, but they were so careful with petrol and heating and water and packaged food and bought clothes and toys that in many ways they were accidental environmentalists.

I’ve been reading a book called Greeniology recently. It’s full of good ideas for living ‘green’ in everyday ways. It’s surprising how many the book's tips just make sense from a financial, non-materialistic perspective. If you use bicarb soda and vinegar to clean your house, you'll save money on cleaning products; if you turn down your thermostat, you'll reduce your electricity bill; if you buy your clothes second hand at op-shops, you'll slash your clothes budget... You get the idea!

So it's over to you: I'd love to hear some of the practical, creative ideas you've seen or tried out yourself that make for a less wasteful use of resources.



Pic from stockxchng.

40-hour drought

Dave and I have decided to join in with the ABC's 40 hour drought challenge later this week. To take part in the challenge, you have to use only 40 litres of water (per person) over 40 hours. The idea behind it?
40 hour drought is a simple community activity designed to get people to change their behaviour, so they understand what it would be like for people who are forced to use a minimal amount of water every day, but also to reduce their water usage. People measure their actual water consumption and then over a 40 hour period, they try to reduce it.

It starts at 10pm this Wednesday and finishes on Friday morning at 7am. I suspect that it won't be as easy as it sounds. Looking at the chart they've provided, I expect it will be the laundry that sends us over the limit - and we have a front loader! But I think it will be a good chance to calculate how much water we use as a family and increase our awareness of what life is like in the bush at the moment.

If you want to join in too, you can find details and sign up at the ABC's wesbite. And of course, I'll let you know how we go!


Pic by stockxchng.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Poetry Monday

This week's poem by Hopkins is a kind of eulogy for a row of poplar trees - their beauty is remembered and their loss mourned. From the first few words onward, nature - in this case, the trees - is humanized, whilst at the same time (as was the case in God's Grandeur) there seems to be no room for a constructive role for humans as keepers and rulers of the earth: "Where we, even where we mean / To mend her we end her, / When we hew or delve."

As is often the case with Hopkins, there is an elaborate and very deliberate music to the lines, with complicated patterns of alliteration and assonance (and the opposite of assonance, which Hopkins called "vowelling off"). The rhythms contribute too - gentle, meandering lines like "Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun," and "On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank" alternate with heavy, clumsy rhythms like "All felled, felled, are all felled."

The emotion of the poem teeters on the brink of sentimentality, and (some might argue!) falls over the edge in the final lines: "The sweet especial scene, / Rural scene, a rural scene, / Sweet especial rural scene." (Apologies to any hard-core Hopkins fans!). Still, there's lots to love about it!

Binsey Poplars

(Felled 1879)

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering
weed-winding bank.

O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew-
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To touch, her being so slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc unselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.

Gerard Manley Hopkins


Pic from istockphoto.com

Friday, 17 October 2008

Something for the weekend - The Muppet Movie

When I was four years old I went to the movies for the first time. It's one of my earliest memories. My dad took me (my sister had to stay home with mum), I wore a green knitted dress my nanna had knitted for me and we went to see The Muppet Movie. I also remember Dad bought me a little brooch (with Fossey Bear on it) and a choc top. It was all VERY special.

Dave and I watched The Muppet Movie on DVD with the kids last night. I wasn't sure what to expect because I hadn't seen it since I saw it at the movies when I was four! I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, I admit I've got all these pleasant childhood memories associated with it, but I thought it was genuinely funny.

It made me wonder if the kids would have the same impression of The Bee Movie (Jacob's first movie) or Kung Fu Panda (Rebecca's) if they watch them again with their kids one day. Somehow, I think not. The Muppet Movie has stood the test of time. If you don't believe me, I'll let you judge it for yourselves. Here's the opening scene:



And here's another scene/song from the movie called "Moving Right Along":



I rest my case.

Being gladly spent

I've written a post for The Sola Panel, in response to a poem by Gwen Harwood called 'In The Park':
The poet is not a Christian, and when I first read the poem, I was shocked at the blackness of its view of motherhood. I love being a mum, and I believe the Bible when it says that children are a blessing from the Lord. Part of me wants to protest against a view like this and scream out: "It's not like that at all!"

And yet, as I reflect on my experience as a mother, I find myself admitting (somewhat guiltily!) that I do often feel a little like the mother in the poem - 'eaten alive' by the demands of caring for a household of young children. (I write this at the end of a day of catastrophic gastric disturbances amongst the junior members of the family...)

You can read the rest here.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

The Briefing talks family

The latest issue of The Briefing is all about issues to do with family and parenting. I especially enjoyed Lesley Ramsey's article 'Motherhood and Humble Pie' (which was similar to her EQUIP talk on motherhood a couple of years ago). You'll have a buy a copy to read it, but I did notice that some articles on this topic have also been brought out of the archives and can be read for free on their site. Here are my picks:

The First Duty of Fatherhood, by Andrew Lansdown. This is addressed to fathers, but is also helpful for mums to read as well. He addresses the attack on motherhood in our society. I enjoyed his use of Anne Manne's writing, in this article, especially her thoughts about Eva Cox's writing (Eva Cox was a lecturer of mine at uni) and her reasons for choosing children over career.

Teaching Children about God, by Christine Jensen. This was a timely read for me. In this article Christine Jensen looks at some ways we can teach our children the Bible. She suggests material to use, ways to go about this, difficulties families might encounter etc. Very helpful.

Lead Balloon: I want the Best for my Kids - a tongue in cheek piece about what Christian parents should want for their kids (best not to take this one literally!!)

And they've also included an old article by JC Ryle on The Duties of Parents (Pt 1 and 2) which I enjoyed.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Loving God's World - Pt 2 (The Idolatry of Nature Worship)


As I said in my first post in this series, I think the answer to how we should view God's world as Christians can be found in looking at two ways that the Bible teaches us to love the world, and two ways that we are not to love the world (depending on what you mean by 'world' and what you mean by 'love').

In this post, I'm going to look at the first wrong way to love the world, which is the idolatry of nature worship.

According to Paul in Romans 1, the basic sin underlying all sins is idolatry - worshipping the creation rather than the creator:
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

One of the obvious ways that a Christian approach to the environment is going to be different from some versions of non-Christian environmentalism is the radical distinction that we make between Creation and the Creator.

I've noticed that the current discussion of the environment going on within our culture contains within it a number of possibilities for environmental idolatry. If the created world is our highest treasure; if its degradation is our greatest fear; if its preservation is our supreme passion, then it seems to me that the creation not the creator has become our God.

I’ve noticed that the type of environmentalism that Jacob gets taught at the local public school can sometimes fit into this category. For example, a little earlier this year the school celebrated World Environment Day, and it was almost like a church service. The students and teachers lined up to give environmental sermons, and there were songs that were almost like hymns to the environment. They even sang "He’s got the whole world in his hands" - except they took God out and changed the words to “We’ve got the whole world in our hands”.

Now of course, there is half a truth in all that. The way we care for the environment is an act of worship. And God has given into our hands the responsibility of having dominion over the world he has made. But we’re not God - we don’t hold the world in our hands - and the world is not God either.

So here's where I'd like to hear your anecdotes and examples. Can you think of a situation where you’ve had to stand against a version of environmentalism for this reason? Do you have a story to share about a situation where you’ve needed to point out to your children or to a friend or neighbour how worshipping God and caring for the environment is different from worshipping the environment or worshipping ourselves?



Pics from stckxcnhg

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

If the Lord wills

It's been my routine for about a year now to sit down on a Sunday night and plan my week. But this week, I got to Sunday night, and with all the chaos of the previous days I hesitated as I sat down with my planner and pencil. As my pencil hovered over the page I wondered how I could possibly plan this coming week. Would I even BE here (in the house, I mean!) or would I be with Rebecca in hospital? Was there any point in planning meals if we were all going to come down with the same virus and end up sipping lemonade? With all the changes of plans and confusion and uncertainty of the previous few days, I felt paralysed to make any plans!

As I hesitated, my mind went to a part of James 4:
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

I had been happily planning the last 52-odd weeks without so much as a second's thought and every single one of those weeks was not within my control. Sometimes (like this last week) I was more aware of it than usual, but the reality is that only God knows what is going to happen in any given week, and to think otherwise is arrogance.

So does this mean I should throw away my Kikki K planner? No Way! I still think I need to plan my weeks so that I can best serve my family, and if I went back to my 'old system', we would end up with a lot less order and harmony on the average weekday afternoon! But as I sit down on a Sunday night and think ahead (this week and any week) I need to be saying (or at least thinking) "If the Lord wills".



Pic from stockxchng

Monday, 13 October 2008

The "Car park miracle"

Here is a short film played at Desiring God conference based on James 3. It reminded me of this talk by Al Stewart at KYC a few years ago.



HT: Between Two Worlds

Loving God's World - Pt 1

When I was asked by the women at my sister's church to give a talk on the environment my first reaction was to laugh and ask 'why?'. The only thing I've ever written about the environment was a paragraph or two about our worm farm on this blog!

But then she suggested that I do like to think about 'everyday' applications in the Christian life (it's what I claim my blog is all about!) - and this topic had lots of possibilities for that. And as I started to think about it, I realised that she was right, and that 1) I really had not been well thought-through on this topic up until this point, and 2) that I had not been loving God's world as I ought. So I jumped at the opportunity to think about a topic outside my 'comfort zone' and be challenged myself as I thought about it.

We know we live in a world that is a good world, created by God; but we also know it’s not forever, and that it’s not our permanent home. Our permanent home is in the new heavens and new earth that God is going to create. And in the mean time, we live in the midst of a world of humans who are in rebellion against God, and we are meant to stand out as different - shining like stars in the night sky as we hold out the gospel of Jesus. So how should these things affect the way we view the environmental issues of our day - global warming and biodiversity and GM food and so on - and how should they affect the way we live day by day?

I think, in the end, it comes down to two ways that the Bible teaches us to love the world, and two ways that we are not to love the world. (It all depends on what you mean by 'world' and what you mean by 'love'!). In my next two posts, I'll explain how I think we should NOT love the world, and then I'll follow up with two posts on how we should.

I'm looking forward to your thoughts and feedback as I go along!

Pic from Dreamstime.

The Latest *UPDATED*

For those who have been following the Rebecca saga over the last few days, here is a quick update on today's developments. (For those who have missed the story so far you can read it here).

The good news - she hasn't vomited since last night - Praise God! It seems to have just been a very bad case of gastro.

The bad news - I took her to the doctor this morning and the doctor was very concerned at her level of dehydration: if I didn't get a certain amount of fluid into her this afternoon, or if she vomited even one more time over the next 24 hours we would need to take her to hospital.

So, it's still a waiting game, but things seem to be improving - and I'm mindful that Rebecca is in a much better situation than many others throughout the world. Just over the last few days as Rebecca has been sick, we received an email from the husband of a dear friend of mine (she was my bridesmaid). They are in Africa serving as a missionaries, she is pregnant with their 3rd child and has come down with a severe mystery illness which the doctors can't explain. I'm aware that any struggles I've had over the last few days are piddling compared to this! If you could pray for my friend (and Rebecca if you do get a chance over the next 24 hours) that would be wonderful.

*** Updated (8PM, 14/10), She's had a much better day today. No more vomiting and she's got a bit of her 'sparkle' back. She was even able to get out of bed (she was a bit unsteady on her feet!), and had a tiny amount of food (liquids are still the priority, obviously). I think she'll bounce back fairly quickly from now on. Thanks again for your prayers!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Poetry Monday

Because I'm going to be doing a series on 'Loving God's World' in the next few weeks (starting tomorrow!), I thought I would choose a poet for this month who has written a lot of poems about the creation - Gerard Manley Hopkins. He was Victorian poet, who was converted to Roman Catholicism and became a Jesuit priest. His poetry has a very distinctive flavour, with beautiful (and often surprising) imagery, odd and sometimes archaic vocabulary, and a very conscious, striking use of sound-patterns that make his poems almost musical.

Here's a poem about how the created world reflects the glory of the God who made it and whose Spirit continues to 'brood' over it (cf. Gen 1:2, Ps 104:30). There is more than a little Romanticism about his view of 'Nature' in this poem, and the negativity of his portrayal of humans - all our 'trade' and 'toil' (and even our shoes!!) are depicted entirely negatively, and the resurrection imagery of the second stanza is tied to the Spirit rather than the (human) Son. Or am I misreading it? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

God's Grandeur
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Just for the sake of completeness...

I thought I should give you a quick update on our last couple of days. Here's what's been happening:

* Friday night we started Rebecca on antibiotics for tonsillitis - she kept vomiting through the night, off and on.

* First thing Saturday morning, she vomited up stuff that looked like coffee grounds. I couldn't remember what this meant, but had read somewhere this was BAD. Since we were already tossing up whether to take her to hospital (due to dehydration), this just made the decision easier and Dave took her to hospital while I stayed with Jacob and Elsie.

* The doctor at hospital said she had vomited up blood (so I was right that it was a bad sign!). His diagnosis was 1) it was gastro, 2) she was dehydrated and 3) the blood was due to a blood vessel bursting from all the vomiting (Mallory Weiss syndrome).

* Dave spent quite a few hours with her at hospital trying to get her rehydrated. She made some progress, and they sent her home with Zantac to reduce the acid in her tummy to help with the healing of the ruptured blood vessel.

* Once she got home the vomiting seemed to get worse again and she was very listless. We spent a few hours tossing up whether to take her back to hospital and ended up deciding to try to rehydrate her at home.

* I spent the next 4 hours giving her fluid from a syringe (orally) every 3 minutes. By the time we went to bed she seemed like she was picking up a bit (she'd kept vomiting, but she was less dehydrated).

* She's continued to vomit (a little less) over the last 12 hours but seems less dehydrated. But she has also said her throat is hurting and is struggling to swallow - was the first doctor right after all!? Am waiting for an after hours doctor to come and see her this afternoon.

Please pray for her - and for us as we work out how to care for her best! And any advice would be appreciated too!!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Thanksgiving Day

The last couple of days have not turned out the way I planned them. As I hung out another load of washing today (I've lost count of how many), I was reminded of the discipline of talking to yourself, and decided to count the things I'm thankful for. Here's what I came up with:

* Two sunny days in a row to dry out all the washing, complete with rays that kill the germs!

* A little girl who is cheerful even when she has vomited for a day and a half (the most negative she got was to say "I'm a little bit okay").

* A husband who slept on the floor next to her bed all night, comforting her and emptying out her vomit bucket - meaning I could get enough sleep and have the 'reserves' I needed for more of the same today.

* A doctor just up the road who slotted me in to a busy day at the last minute and could make a good, professional diagnosis - and the availability of the medicine that was needed for the treatment (something easy to take for granted).

* Two (reasonably) healthy kids who I got to enjoy time with at home (when normally we probably would have been rushing around doing something else today).

* A mum and sister who I could keep ringing for advice ALL DAY and who never complain!

And I'm looking forward to the fact that there'll be no vomiting if heaven!

Pic by Dalla*

A postscript...

I ended up taking Rebecca to the doctor's this afternoon because she was still vomiting and hadn't been able to keep any fluid down since yesterday morning. The doctor diagnosed it as tonsillitis and now she's on antibiotics (based on a number of convincing factors which I won't go into here). I was pretty surprised, but was reminded of why I am not a doctor. I am not an objective, scientific thinker. I kept saying "but her sister had diarrhoea, so it MUST be gastro" (all you doctors reading this are thinking I'm the type of patient that is your worst nightmare!). No one else has been vomiting in the family, so I guess it's a coincidence that Elsie has had diarrhoea. Only time will tell!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Coming up at 168 hours

School holidays are winding up and as I'm preparing to get back into my routine again, I've also been thinking about my blog. Here's what I have planned for this term:

1. A series called 'Loving God's world', based on a talk I was asked to give last term about Christians and the environment. (Scary I know - I'm hardly an expert on that!! It was good to be stretched though, and I'm looking forward to sharing what I came up with and hearing your thoughts.)

2. Another round of missional motherhood month in November - and I'm going to ask for contributions from you again (more details to follow).

3. As I did last December, I'll do a bit of thinking about Christmas - particularly how to 'do Christmas' with kids. This year, I especially want to think about how to teach kids generosity at Christmas time. And I'll probably talk Advent calendars and general fun stuff as well!

4. A new extended series about what God promises to us in the Bible.

Plus more poetry (other people's, not mine!), photos of the kids and what we're up to and any random thoughts that pop into my head!

Photo from stockxchng.com

A change of plans...

Today I had planned to take the kids to the zoo, then come home and have some friends from school around, before having a couple over for supper tonight. About 10 minutes before we were about to leave for the zoo Rebecca vomited and all plans were changed! Instead of a happy zoo outing, it was me and three kids - one vomiting every half hour, one with diarrhoea (Elsie seems to have skipped the vomiting part) and one VERY disappointed 5 year old.

I thought that the holiday was going to mark the end of all of illnesses for a while (which up till now hadn't included gastro this winter - for the kids). Instead I think we actually picked up a bug while we were away. There is an irony there, but I'm not appreciating it.

I know this is a fairly typical experience when you're a mum and I'm not the first person to spend the day cleaning up vomit. I guess that's why I'm sharing it - because I don't want to just share the happy holiday snaps and cute stories!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Escape from Damascus

Have I mentioned that I love XTB and Table Talk? After reading Acts 9:23-25 a few weeks ago, the kids have been desperate to do our own re-enactment (as suggested in the notes). We finally got around to doing it this week. Here's Saul the teddy bear/apostle making his daring escape, assisted by two enthusiastic disciples:

Unfortunately in our version, the apostle landed head first on the concrete.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

A poetry attempt

As well as spending a lot of time at the beach on my holidays, I also read The Little Red Writing Book, by Mark Tredinnick. It inspired me, and I ended up trying some creative writing in my spare moments. Here is a poem I wrote about another holiday Dave and I had seven and a half years ago. It's my first attempt at poetry since year 9, so be gentle with me!!

I wait to see whether The Little Green Grammar Book will be equally inspiring.

Holiday
April 2001

They walked along the beach, just the two of them;
White sand squeaking underfoot,
The turquoise water as flat as cellophane.
But in her ears, waves were pounding,
And her eyes were dull as lead.

In the night, in blue, shiny shadows,
She lay there, haunted by the ghosts of hopes,
Imagining a tiny, warm body not there,
Feeling the cold emptiness in her arms;
Looking at him across the black gulf of grief
Washing up between them.

Ruth Piper

John Piper writes about his mum.

Colin concert

Tomorrow Dave goes back to work, so for a special end of holiday 'treat', our family went to the Colin Buchanan concert this morning. This makes it two years in a row - maybe this is becoming a tradition?



Monday, 6 October 2008

My links...

Being away from the computer for a week means I have A LOT of blog reading to catch up on. I'm currently working my way through my Google Reader but started with 500 posts so it may take a while. Next step is to cut down on my subscriptions I think! In the meantime, the "from other blogs" links will probably be changed a bit faster than usual over the next couple of days.

Our beach holiday

This afternoon we returned home after a week away at Little Beach, Port Stephens. We had a lovely time. It was probably the most refreshing holiday I've had in a long time. Here are some of the highlights in pictures:

Spending lots of time at the beach, making sandcastles etc

And finding interesting creatures (see the starfish in the foreground?). We also found crabs of various sizes and did a lot of looking at fish, pelicans and seagulls.

Climbing to the top of Tomaree headland (Elsie was determined to do it herself!)

The view from the top

Flying a kite


Going on a dolphin cruise (Rebecca, Jacob and I went - Rebecca enjoyed the first half hour...)

Looking in rock pools


Feeding fish at the beach in between Nelson Bay and Little Beach