05 May 2019

Prayers for the upcoming election

Five things I'm praying in light of the upcoming election:
* That we would be cognizant of the fact that God has given us leaders so that we might live peaceful and quiet lives.
* That we would take voting seriously and elect honourable men and women to these roles.
*  That those who are elected would give honour to the position they have been given.
* That we would give our leaders due respect and pray for them on a regular basis so that they can get on with their job and do it well.
* And that we would go to the polling booth with grateful hearts, thankful for the freedom we have to cast a vote.

22 April 2019

Five things at difficult times

On the day of the Christchurch tragedy I was at school doing a day's relief teaching, which means an eight hour media blackout.  So when I eventually checked my phone it was clear that something terrible had happened in the world that day.  Fortunately I'd been spared the awful vision - it had been well and truly taken down by the time I got near it.  But  Facebook lit up with all manner of opinion and reaction. Of the many comments made online that day, one stood out for me - words from a dear and wise friend - which included the following, shared with permission.

"An horrific crime and tragedy has taken place in Christchurch, NZ. Keep silence, pray, weep, help. Then, reach out to someone who is not like you."

Keep silence.




Reach out.

Everything in this list is deeply good and the order is perfect, but it is the first point that ironically screams YES to me.  We are quick to speak, especially in this age of social media, and in increasingly unguarded fashion.  We are quick to anger.  Quick to level blame.  Quick to draw comparisons.  Quick to offer commentary when we're not in full possession of the facts.  We're apt to say things in the heat of the moment that at best, we regret down the track and at worst, bring the gospel into disrepute.  Keep silence.

And then we can pray.  Instead of talking to the world of social media, to our colleagues around the water cooler or even (perhaps especially) to our families around the dinner table, let's talk first to the One who is sovereign over all things.  Talk to the One whose care and concern is for the national and also the individual. Talk to the One who desires not the death of a sinner but that all would repent and turn to Him.  Talk to the One who understands the mess of emotion we all feel at these times - even the lack of emotion if compassion fatigue has set in.  Ask God to intervene in the situation.  Ask that He would help those afflicted, the families involved, those responding and those making important decisions in the midst of chaos.  Ask that he would help Christians on the ground to be and to do whatever they can, whatever their circumstances.  Ask that He would help the media to report wisely and well.  Ask that our own responses - wherever they might find their home - will be helpful and God honouring.

And weep. Giving rise to those feelings and sitting with the sadness for a while brings humanity to the moment, makes us a little less brash and a little more vulnerable, and maybe provides a moment for God to work in us.

At which point it's time for God to work through us.  It's time to help.  If you are in close quarters is there something you can do?  If you are further away from the epicentre is there something tangible you can offer like a donation of money or goods?   Do you know someone closer in who needs something or who knows what is needed at the source? 

A friend of mine, a quilter, found a group who were making quilts to give to the families affected by the Christchurch event.  She was able to make one, filled with all the love she could muster, to be sent to the source.

Perhaps far, far away from the epicentre you know someone who is impacted ("triggered" seems to be the word at the moment) for reasons known or unknown.  Can you hold their hand for a while?  Even carefully crafted words - like the words on my friend's Facebook post after keeping silence, prayer and weeping - help to encourage, redirect, point in the right direction.

Ring Theory
Don't forget the Ring Theory.  This is the most on point thinking I have encountered on the whole subject of helping.  Comfort in and dump out.  If you're facing into the epicentre you pour in comfort and help.  It isn't helpful to moan and groan to someone closer to the tragedy.  They're already suffering.  If you need to vent or debrief then you turn out from the epicentre and find the support you need with someone further away from the problem.  (Click on the links to read more.  It's life changing.)

And finally reach out to someone who is not like you.  Unless you are right at hand to help in the midst of the tragedy it is easy to feel helpless and hopeless. We want to reach out, to hug or hold a hand, to share what resources we have, to provide something immediate and tangible.  But if we live elsewhere we can't easily do that.  But we could take that energy, that motivation, that desire to help, that beautiful part that sits at the core of our humanity, and channel it where it's needed right where we are.  Don't waste it.  That may mean crossing a socio-economic, ethnic, cultural, religious, educational, age, hygiene or quite some other divide.  And that's a good thing.  Because when we truly hold hands with those different from us who are impoverished by their circumstances we begin to see that we're not all that different after all. 

Today we find our world in the midst of another tragedy - as I write the death toll in the Sri Lankan attacks is nearly 300 with 500 more injured - and we know that there will be more tragedies after this one, many unreported, and that this doesn't even begin to account for crises that occur at an individual level.  But these are good words to remember and to put into practice at times like these.  Keep silence, pray, weep, help and then reach out.

19 April 2019

Notre Dame Cathedral and our homing beacons flickering into life

Notre Dame Cathedral.

Day zero - the fire. 

Day one - the shock, with its epicentre in Paris and reverberating out across the globe, when it was still unclear whether or not this edifice would be saved. Shock felt by architects, historians, curators of precious things and maybe even a few musicians, given the cathedral's beautiful pipe organ.  Felt by tourists with their memories, tourists-to-be with their bucket lists and lovers of all things French.  And most significantly, but unreported and rightly so, the numbing shock of a small section of the population who call the cathedral their home church. 

Photo Credit: ABC News Thursday
18th April. Reuters: Philippe Wojazer
Day two - the curiosity.  What survived?  What didn't?  What does it look like?  What caused the fire?  What happens next?

Day three - the rebuilding. Millions of euros donated and we're moving on and fixing it all up.

It's such a fast moving world.  And it's such a tragedy that the world didn't sit with the emotions of Day One for just a little bit longer. 

I recently finished reading through a large portion of Jeremiah with a friend – the book of the Bible that documents in sad, brilliant detail the besieging of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and ending in the death of many, the destruction of the city including David’s palace and Solomon’s temple and the exiling of small number of faithful Israelites who listened to God's words through Jeremiah and obeyed.  

Since then I have been reading Lamentations and a selection of Psalms written in the early days of the exile.  These writings capture that Day One shock as they sit with the pain of their loss - the loss of their homes and their city, their key and defining state buildings, the life they knew - and the horror of the final months leading to the exile.  And it's clear that those who mourned most deeply mourned for something far deeper than the loss of buildings and livelihoods.  They mourned their loss of God who had come to dwell in Solomon's temple but was no longer there, and the loss of their capacity to meet with Him in the absence of the structure and the structures that enabled worship. 
And so on Notre Dame Day One the themes of Jeremiah and Lamentations were ringing in my ears.  And I think there was something far deeper than just the shock of losing beautiful things and an iconic edifice. 
When we went on our Grand Tour of Europe a couple of years ago I loved visiting the grand cathedrals and old, old churches.  Many of the grand cathedrals were built on ignoble foundations, financed through the sale of indulgences by the powerful to the terrified and the powerless. 
Even many of the tiny churches have their own unorthodox beginnings. We visited a beautiful Norman church in Newton Tracey, a tiny village in Devon.  My husband grew up there and the St Thomas-a-Beckett Church was his family’s home church.  Legend has it that back in the day the knight of the village was one of the four who murdered Thomas-a-Beckett and apparently said knight's mother ordered him to build this very church as penance.  We enjoyed a Sunday service there and had my mother-in-law’s ashes interred in the graveyard of what was her home church.
What I loved about these grand cathedrals and old, old churches was that they were places set aside for prayer and worship, and no matter how steeped in curious and corrupt goings on, there will have been faithful folk worshipping within their walls in every generation.  For centuries.  As one of my sisters said, walls imbued with the prayers and worship of the faithful. 
So I think the Day One shock seems to have struck something deeper in many.  So strange in a country that is known as being post-Christian and with the rest of the western world fast turning its back on the things of God. But I think for one day the homing beacon that lies within our souls, calling us Home, was flickering into life.  The part of us that recognises we're made in God's image and that wants to be in relationship with Him, even if we don't realise it.  There was something deeper happening than merely the grief of losing something physical.  And so many just didn't know what to do with it, having pushed God so far aside.  It is a great shame that in our fast moving lives this discomfort was quickly overtaken by curiosity and then plans with backers to rebuild in under a week.   
But the shock of the Notre Dame fire and the flickering of the homing beacon IS something.  For the Christian we are reminded that our hope is in God through Jesus, not in buildings and beautiful things - as much as we might love them.  And we have been given an opportunity.  Maybe there's still time to share the hope we have with those who, on Day One, felt a deep sadness at this news but didn't quite know what to do with it...that one brief day when they felt the call to Home.  But we'll have to be quick.  The world is moving on.

18 February 2019

The Happiness Project

One day Gretchen Rubin was sitting on a bus musing about happiness.  Questions running around her mind like...

Am I happy?
What makes me happy?
Am I as happy as I could be?
What could I do to be happier?
What is happiness anyway?

And so she set out on a year long project, focussing on a different area of life each month such as  energy levels, marriage, work, parenthood, leisure, friendship and money. She spent a month on each topic - reading widely, critically analysing her own life in that area, choosing one or two resolutions to keep (complete with star charts and working on the basis that it takes twenty one days to form a habit) - to see if and how these things had an impact on her happiness. Along the way she recorded her journey and then pulled it altogether into The Happiness Project.

I was invited to read this book along with other teachers at the school where I do my relief teaching work as part of a push to improve happiness and wellbeing amongst the staff.

Criticisms first.

Firstly, up front and not so much a criticism as statement of fact, this is not a Christian book and from a Christian point of view it's pretty much a giant box of bandaids.  Certainly there are things we can do streamline our lives that will make things better or easier (and therefore probably make us happier) but in any case happiness here and now is not the Christian's ultimate goal.  God graciously gives me many good blessings and there is much happiness in my life but ultimately my joy and contentment (close cousins to happiness) are founded firmly in the Lord, with a clear-eyed focus on what is ahead rather than what is happening right now. 

Secondly, after I had finished reading it I went and read quite a few reviews because I was curious as to how others might have found it.  Some absolutely LOVED this book.  Others were dismissive.  It is after all a #firstworldproblem.
I think it's a book you either love or hate, and my theory is that where you fall will depend pretty much on where you stand with making new year's resolutions.  If you are one of the NYR naysayers then back your way out of the room and run away fast.  This book is not for you. 

As for me, I love the new year.   I love the fresh start. I love ripping the plastic off  my new diary, enjoying for a brief moment the look of all those empty pages, wondering at the prospect of what will fill them and then getting into the planning, preparing and dreaming. I love January because I also celebrate my birthday fairly early up so it's all new - a new year, a new age, a clean slate.  And I think making new year's resolutions is great.  For the record I broke my principal NYR  for 2019 by 14th January...and that's okay.

Right at the end of the book she says,

I'd noticed idly that a lot of people use the term "goal" instead of "resolution," and one day in December, it struck me that this difference was in fact significant.  You hit a goal, you keep a resolution.

Once you hit a goal - I'm going to run a marathon (not really, I'm just using that as an example) - it's done.  But you keep going with a resolution - keep it, break it, run away from it, come back and have another go, hope by the end of the year it you are a little bit further along the track than you were at the beginning.  Goals are finite but there is an ongoingness to resolutions.  And so I persist with my principal resolution for 2019.  It's like the work of growing in godliness.

While I found myself sometimes exhausted reading what Rubin got through month after month as she explored, resolved, read, refined and practiced, all while maintaining house, home, family and a job, I really like the principle she set out of having a new resolution each month.  Twelve new year's days.  Twelve chances to try and tighten things up.  Twelve different areas to focus on.  Or twelve new chances to work on the one area.  All motivated by turning over the calendar to a fresh start at the beginning of each month. 

For all that I've said, good and critical, I really enjoyed this book - it's a great summer holiday start of the year read. Rubin has a very engaging writing style and she move through lots of topics and ideas within each chapter without getting bogged down (except maybe the chapter on decluttering.)  She's read widely and quotes all sorts of interesting, fascinating things along the way.  The depth and breadth of her reading is quite amazing and she's very skilled at dropping lovely little morsels all through her writing.  The chapters (one for each month) operate reasonably discretely so if you aren't interested in a particular month's focus, you can skip it and move on quite successfully.  And of course it is steeped in growing gratitude.

There was one very pleasing morsel that I noticed near the end of the book.  Slightly Foxed.  If you love books and England, you might just want to click on that link.

It's a fun book and I'm expecting to return to it next summer.

14 February 2019

Why you shouldn't stop blogging

This blog is slowly bursting back into life.  Can you put "slowly" and "bursting" next to each other in the one sentence?  Anyway, there are definite signs of life.

It stopped for grief.  The ramping up of care for my elderly mum and mother-in-law, their deaths nine months apart, and the sadness and weariness of the grief that followed left me with little energy but to get through what needed to be done and then lay on the sofa near the north facing window that catches the warm afternoon sun.  Sometimes I just lay there and stared into space and sometimes I watched something gentle on the television, which later turned into a bit of a habit and the watching of five of the six series of Downton Abbey in fairly quick succession...eventually leading to needing to DO SOMETHING alongside watching TV but nothing too taxing = learning to crochet. And wait somewhat impatiently for series six of Downton Abbey to screen in real time.  [Confession: As it screened elsewhere in the world before it reached Australia I shamelessly read synopses of all the episodes on the Internet before it hit our screens!]

Watching DVDs + crocheting blankets = no reading.

And so it stopped for lack of things to say.  I stopped reading, apart from the Bible, and then at some point there was a return to the voracious consumption of novels during school holidays, but nothing meatier than that. I really had nothing much to say.  Eventually though I'd watched enough Downton Abbey, crocheted enough blankets, read enough novels and took a restoring long service leave trip with my family to Europe - and found myself in the world of paid work.

And so it stopped for lack of time to write because between a couple of part time (albeit casual but reasonably regular) jobs, church commitments and house and home (including the new development of complicated but gloriously wonderful teenagers), there was little brain space for thinking creatively let alone time or energy to write anything down. 

But sometime last year I found myself missing the writing process and my mind beginning to observe the world in sentences and paragraphs once again.  My updates on Facebook were getting (ridiculously) longer.  The front page of our Christmas letter was more of a blog post than a family update.  And just how many paragraphs can you add to your photos on Instagram??

As this was unfolding Tim Challies wrote a lovely series on blogging.  Serendipitously, on my birthday he published a post (called "Why you shouldn't stop blogging") that warmly encouraged small time blogging and celebrated, among other things, the opportunity to build relationships and be an encouragement in that space.  Which, apart from the gentle art of writing, is the very thing I love about blogging.

As I haven't been paying such close attention in recent years, it passed my gaze that while we were away on holidays in January my blog quietly turned ten.  I can hardly stage a loud and grand celebration given it lay dormant for a few of those years - and loud and grand isn't my style in any case - but I think a small cupcake with jellytots and sparklers is definitely in order.  (Picture nabbed unashamedly from the Internet here.) 

While I've been away I have forgotten how to do a few things.  I tried to reply to a comment someone left (COMMENTS!!! I haven't even checked for comments in ages and sweetly, there were a few waiting patiently for me) and ended up replying anonymously because I couldn't work out how to comment on my own blog.  Also I am vaguely wondering about crossing over to Wordpress (are you allowed to mention that on Blogger??), taking the best of what I have here with me.  Things to work out, relearn and muse over.  In the meantime I have a small list of books I am looking forward to reading, a few ideas to write about and I'm encouraged by Tim Challies to stop fussing about the big, spectacular, silver bullet, polished posts and to just write. Which is exactly what I did this evening.

09 January 2019

Reading 1 and 2 Peter

From Gospel and Kingdom
by Graeme Goldsworthy
There was a breathtaking moment, having been a Christian for almost ten years, and then I did my first study of a Bible overview.  Prior to that I'd read through the Bible numerous times, been regular at Bible studies and sat under some pretty good preachers.  And then WOW! - I saw how this whole beautiful book held together and wondered where I'd been for the last ten years. 

Since then I have been big on helping others have that same WOW moment which serves, among other things, to keep daily Bible reading rich and exciting.  Come to any Bible study or reading group of mine or even a Sunday School lesson and there won't be too many weeks go past when I don't pull out this road map of the Bible or some other similar timeline and probably a Bible atlas as well, just so that we know where we are geographically, politically and chronologically.  A basic knowledge of this stuff brings the Bible alive.

Last year a couple of my groups wanted to read through Peter's epistles.  Before we tackled the letters we went BIG on context, spending several weeks getting to know Peter by working through as much of his life story as is recorded in the Bible.  Many of Peter's adventures are mentioned across each of the gospels so in choosing passages I endeavoured to choose the rendering that provided the most detail about Peter.  Of course the Bible is Jesus' story, not Peter's, but it was a surprisingly rich journey getting to know Peter the man, which then informed our reading of his letters beautifully.

So without further ado, here are the Peter passages we read before reading his letters.  It's a great reading project.  Maybe a fun summer holiday adventure.  You won't be sorry.  

Luke 5: 1-11   Jesus calls his disciples
Mark 1: 29-34   Jesus heals Peter's mother-in-law
Luke 6: 12-16   Choosing the twelve
Matthew 14: 22-36   Jesus walks on the water
Mark 5: 21-43   Jesus raises the dead girl
John 6: 60-71   You have the words of eternal life
Matthew 16: 13-20   Peter declares Jesus is the Messiah
Mark 8: 31-33   Jesus predicts His death
Luke 9: 28-36   The transfiguration
Matthew 17: 24-27   Jesus pays the temple tax
John 13   Washing the disciples' feet and Jesus predicting Peter's denials
Matthew 26: 36-38   Peter at Gethsemane
John 18: 1-14   Jesus arrested
Matthew 26: 69-75  Peter's denials
Luke 24: 1-10   Peter runs to the tomb
John 21: 1-25   Jesus reinstates Peter

...and then for a BIG Peter finish, read Acts 1-15.  My groups, both having studied Acts in recent times, did the abridged version of...

Acts 1-3  After Jesus' ascension and then onto Pentecost
Acts 10   Cornelius
Acts 12   Peter in prison
Acts 15   Peter and Paul sort themselves out

Good to note also as you venture into his letters that Peter was near the end of his life and ministry when he wrote them.

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body,  because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.                                                            2Peter 1: 12-15

He brings all of his passion, energy, loyalty and faith to bear as he pastors and exhorts those in his sphere to press on in Jesus, and passes the baton to the next generation.  It's really great reading.

04 January 2019

Adaptations from our 2018 Christmas letter - being grateful

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.                                                                           1Thessalonians 5:16-18
Gratitude is something I think about a great deal.  I try to give thanks to God for my day as the night settles in on its fifteen hours of activity. I know that practising daily gratitude is a means of shifting oneself out of a funk through noting what is good and looking outwards.  Any chance I have at school, I set up classes with gratitude journals and I wear a pendant with the word GRATEFUL on it most days, especially when I am working.  A friend of mine – a champion of gratitude – ran a December of Gratitude challenge on social media, recording daily points of gratitude each day.  How many things each day?  The number corresponded with the date (one thing on the first, two things on the second, three things on the third…) which meant that by Christmas Eve there were 300 things to be grateful for right there. 

At one point last year there was a series of celebrity deaths, one after the other.  I was strangely and inexplicably moved when TV chef Anthony Bourdain took his own life in June.  I hardly know why. I’ve only watched a few of his shows and always thought him a cynical and sad sort of soul.  After he died the accolades flew in from all corners of the globe and I found myself wondering  that if he’d known how highly he was regarded and revered, whether he might yet be still cooking, eating and travelling his way around the world.
At the end of the school year I wrote twenty thank you cards for our boys’ high school teachers - quite lengthy messages (because far be it from me to keep it short) - and was specific about what the boys appreciated and what we were grateful for in each teacher.  One of our sons came home and told us that his English teacher said he’d almost wept when he read his card.  Primary school teachers are lavished upon at the end of each year.  High school teachers seem to get nothing yet their work is hard, and we’re so very grateful for the ways they pour into our boys’ lives.
We feel gratitude all the time but we’re not necessarily quick to express it.  Paul, in the Bible, told the Christians in Thessalonica to rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances – upwards to God and outwards to those who love, serve and move us.  Even when life seems tough, challenging or sad, we can always thank God that He has all things in hand and that He will see all things made right in His perfect love, timing, wisdom and way - made sure and secure at the most important moment in history in the events of Easter.  And so at Christmas we give thanks to God for the birth of Immanuel – God with us – whose life, death and resurrection at Easter is the greatest gift we will ever receive.
Christmas is such a good time for this as we write our letters and cards, buy our gifts and catch up with all sorts of people.  And maybe it is a good time to kick start a habit into the new year of not just thinking or feeling grateful but saying it, writing it, texting it, giving it the thumbs up or a smile or a hug – specifically, often, at times unexpected, every time we feel gratitude stirring. Small actions can have a big impact - small brave steps in a big, difficult world. 


29 December 2018

Getting ready for 2019

Tim Challies posted a great article just before Christmas - Ten Suggestions for your Personal Devotions in 2019.   It's a great post - both for the encouragement to actively plan out a Bible reading strategy for the coming year and with it, some very helpful suggestions.

Since September 2017 I have been involved in this Bible Reading Challenge.  It's a nine month challenge, covering the northern hemisphere academic year, and in God's providence I stumbled upon it at the beginning of the challenge, right at a moment when I was really floundering in my personal Bible reading.  It was the perfect kick start. 

There's lots to love about this plan.  There's a women's and men's version - same plan but different graphics.  It gets you through the whole Bible in nine months and the sympathy in the pairings of readings is truly inspiring.  You can print off a plan to tuck in your Bible or it can be read through various Apps.  There's a Facebook group that's very encouraging - as people chip in their observations and ask their questions about different texts - and you can sign up for weekly emails too.  So much to keep you encouraged and it's wonderful to read along, knowing that thousands of others worldwide are reading and praying over the same passage on the same day.  Sundays are kept free and there are catch up days - and what's not to love about a catch up day?

They backed up this plan with a three month plan over the northern hemisphere summer which went through all of the New Testament, which I found a lovely thing to do through our winter.  And then the plan started all over again, with some tweaks, this last September for another nine months. 

For reasons good and not so good I have lost my rhythm with the plan this second time around so Tim Challies' post has come at a good time for me as I prayerfully make my plans for 2019.

So 2019 is looking a bit like this...

1. I am going to use this Five Day Bible Reading Plan - through the Bible in a year, five days of readings per week, loosely chronological.  I haven't used this one before and have been keen to give it a go.  
2.  I'm also going to work through Isaiah with a commentary.  I'm going to set aside an hour a week to do this - one chapter per week during school time and two hours per week in the holidays to catch up the extra chapters.  I'm planning on using Alec Motyer's commentary in the Tyndale series, unless someone has a better suggestion.  Feel free to chip in if you have any thoughts.
3.  I have set my older Sunday School kids a daily challenge - copying out a verse a day into a blank book, covering a different theme each month. January's theme is JOY.  I purchased this program from here.  The benefits for the kids includes getting them all over the Bible and seeing God's constancy through His story.  And it's always a good thing to slow the reading pace right down to writing speed.  (Side benefit: I will have tiny, daily - or as many days as I can manage - calligraphy session.)

"The new year is coming, and I, for one, am beginning to think about how I’m going to do my daily devotions in 2019. I know that for me to be consistent, I need to put some plans in place." - Tim Challies

18 October 2018



It's been two and a bit years since I've put up a post here, with sparse offerings prior to that.  My blog, along with so many of my blog's peers, has been lying dormant, so I'm not sure if there's anyone really out there any more.  But if this post has somehow miraculously found its way to you, HELLOOOOOOOOO. 💜💚💙

Why the return?  Mainly because I have a couple of lists of useful Bible readings I've done with Bible study groups during the year and I'm not great at keeping a record of such things.  I lose (throw away) bits of paper and my filing of things on computers is pretty hopeless, whereas I can locate things on this blog.  So the need to save a couple of documents has spurred me on.

But to get started with, what's been going on these last two or three years?  I've...

...wandered back into the world of paid work - a bit of relief teaching, two or three days per term of training up volunteers to deliver Scripture lessons in government schools and at one stage, I spent the school hours of a day per week in an office.  I've never had an office job before.  Hard as it is some days, I find I like the light and movement of the classroom better.

...got my teaching license reinstated.  That was quite an effort.

...grown a few flowers and vegies (and also weeds everywhere and couch grass rampaging our flowerbeds.)


...read lots of books.  Especially novels.  Lovely.  Much Bible reading by myself and with others and various commentaries for Bible study preparation but not many weighty tomes in the last couple of years. 

...crocheted a few rugs.


...transitioned both our boys into high school.  This is a surprisingly big transition for parents as well as their children but I am happy to say that I'm loving these teenage years.
...read the Bible using this reading plan.  It's refreshingly great to start a reading plan in the middle of September rather than the 1st January.  I'm on the second run through with this one and loving it.  The pairings of readings are absolutely genius.  It's very possibly the best reading plan I've ever used.  So much to say about this one - and about my ongoing delight in reading the whole Bible through every year.  There may be a post in that.
...beaten a well worn track to the orthodontist's office, via the bank.  But let me tell you, six weekly trips to an orthodontist at a location far, far away from home with a teenager are worth their weight in gold and orthodontic paraphernalia for unrushed time in the car to chat.  The hidden blessing of crooked teeth.

...travelled with my family to Europe when my husband took long service leave.  Eight glorious weeks.  Yes,  I know. 

 ...turned 50.  How did that happen??  But guess what?  It's okay.  In fact, it's great.  I'm liking this decade a lot.

...celebrated 20 years of marriage.  Yay us!

...taken to taking photos of the beach and beds of tulips (not my tulips...these are to be found at the Botanical Garden near our house.)

...become a basketball mum again after a hiatus of two or three years.  Learning how to score again. 

...watched quite a lot of movies at the cinema, catering to my inner introvert.

...and mastered a few new recipes and conquered scones, having been scarred at high school with a very low mark for cooking because my scones were crooked. 

And of course there is all the normal and good stuff to be found in the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly cycles of life.  Life is goodly full.  We'll see how this return to blogging thing goes. 

03 April 2016

How is your Bible reading going?

Long time readers of this blog will know that my preferred style of Bible reading is to follow a reading plan and endeavor to read right through the Bible each year.  Of course there are lots of different ways to read the Bible besides the annual read through model.  There's focusing in on a particular book and reading it multiple times over a month or more and really digging deep. Or reading a section slowly and thoroughly with the aid of a commentary.  Maybe following a theme or topic through the Bible. Reading in and around Sunday's sermon passage leading up to or following your time at church.  Small snippets. Large chunks. Random chunks.  Daily reading.  Weekly reading.  Random reading. 

How is your Bible reading going?  I ask because I want to encourage you with all my heart to keep persevering in the good work of growing in your relationship with God through His Word.  Here's why.

During the last three or four days I have heard news of various people in sudden and deep crisis. A couple of them are known to me personally. The others are known through friends and so I ache because my friends ache. Yesterday morning, unable to sleep, I gave in to my restlessness and got up to pray and read the Bible. I thought I would start with my daily reading and then maybe head over to one of Paul's letters or maybe some Psalms...some of those soft places to fall. 

My reading for the day included a passage from Deuteronomy and the stoning of Stephen in Acts. Deuteronomy and the stoning of Stephen would not be your typical "go to" passages in times of trouble. And yet they were such a comfort as I read about God promising through word and demonstration that He would be faithful, loving and sovereign in the lives of His people forever and then the example of a man, so certain of his faith in God that he stood firm through utter horror, spoke truth and prayed not for his own release but that God would forgive those stoning him to death and finally, that tender release from God at the end of his life.  

Comfort and courage.

The more I read the Bible the more I learn about God and about being one of His children - and the more I find comfort and courage in some of the most unexpected places of this big book.  There are certainly many "go to" passages in times of trouble or despair but the more I get to know all of God's Word, the more I see what I know to be true about God - His love, mercy, faithfulness, patience, justice, wisdom, sovereignty, holiness - in every page and so I can receive comfort and courage not just from the "go to" passages but also from simply reading the next bit and being reminded afresh of God and His good promises. 

If your Bible reading has fallen into a bit of a hole, or you never really got started, please let me encourage you to open your Bible and get going again.  Please don't be overwhelmed or think, "I could never get my Bible reading to that point."  I have a long way to go myself but in God's mercy and kindness I have got to this point by simply opening up the Bible on as many days of the year as I can and reading the next bit.  Every year is better than the one before.  And there is much joy in this lifelong project, most especially in the deepening of your relationship with God.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:67-69

12 February 2016

Getting a bit more out of your Bible reading

Have you ever found yourself in certain parts of the Old Testament and wondered to your yourself, "Who actually are those Moabites?"  And while we're thinking about this, who are the Ammonites, the Amorites, the Jebusites, the Edomites - even the Canaanites - and countless other groups of people who never seem to be favourably disposed towards Israel and whose names end in "-ite"? 

There are some passages in Genesis that are hard to read because they contain lengthy lists of long names of people and places that are foreign to the eye and hard to pronounce and maybe, just maybe, we skip over them.  But in doing so we miss out.  As it happens these passages are rich with background information.

For example, imagine if you knew that Ham - he was the son of Noah who looked upon his father's nakedness (a big no no) and then gloated about it (worse and worse) - was the father of Cush, Egypt, Put and (wait for it) Canaan?

And then we find that...

Cush and his descendants pushed into and built up Babylon (one big enemy) and Assyria (big enemy number two) and among other achievements, built the city of Nineveh.  (Remember Jonah??)

Egypt's descendants (there's quite a list of them) include the Kasluhites from whom (wait for it) the Philistines (thinking of Goliath here) came.

And Canaan...well Canaan was the father of Sidon and of the Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites and various others, all of whom gave Israel a hard time during the times of Joshua.  That is, all the little nations that occupied the Promised Land.

All of that lot is just from the family line of Ham, son of Noah.  The son who did not honour his father.

Doesn't just even knowing that change the way you read a whole lot of the Old Testament?

And then there are the Moabites and the Ammonites.  They gave Israel quite a bit of grief.  Well, remember Lot?  After he escaped from Sodom with his wife (who was then turned to pillar of salt...but that's another story) and his two daughters, the three of them lived in the mountains because he was afraid to stay in Zoar.  (Let's not worry about Zoar at this point.  The main point is that they were hidden away in the mountains.)  The girls quickly worked out that there were no prospects for furthering the family line so they (ghastly bit) made their father drunk and took turns to sleep with him and both had a child.  Those children were Moab (father of the Moabites) and Ben-Ammi (father of the Ammonites.)  That changes the way you read about Moab and Ammon.

Edom.  The father of the Edomites was Edom (no surprises there), otherwise known as Esau - the twin brother of Jacob.  Now if you know the story of Jacob and Esau then you won't be surprised that every time the nation of Israel asked the Edomites for a favour the Edomites said no, in fairly strong terms.

I haven't even mentioned the Midianites, the Ishmaelites and a host of others.  But virtually every nation and people group the Israelites encounter as they make their way towards Jesus get a mention in Genesis.  And knowing the backstory of each of these people groups gives depth and understanding to the narrative.

Here are the key passages...

Genesis 9:18 - 29
Genesis 10
Genesis 15:17 - 21
Genesis 19:30 - 38
Genesis 21: 8 - 20
Genesis 25: 1 - 4
Genesis 25: 12 -18
Genesis 36

Take an hour to read over the words of those passages (including all of those hard to pronounce words) and see how many names and places and people groups you recognise.  It probably will take an hour but this is an investment for the future.  And be in awe all over again of our Sovereign and loving God who has planned all things and is in loving control of all things.

02 February 2016

Great games for groups

I'm about to go semi-public on this so let it be know that you first heard it here.

Take one large tarpaulin and set out a grid on it with electricians' tape.  Just like this...

My one worked out to be 10 by 7 squares but it's not imperative to have those dimensions.  It's back and knee breaking work but worth it because then you can play...

Giant Connect Four

The grid.  Two or more sets of disposable plastic plates - each set needs to be a different colour and I have had four sets successfully on the go with large groups.

The basic game:
The teams take turns to put a plate anywhere on the grid.
The aim is to get four plates in a row - horizontal, vertical or diagonal - while blocking the other teams' attempts at doing the same.  Plates can be placed anywhere on the grid.

Make it three in a row with younger children.
The actual game of "Connect Four" is played vertically and coins drop to the lowest level.  With older children pretend that gravity is involved and work from the baseline, building the puzzle up, rather than placing the plates anywhere on the grid.

The Maze Game

The grid.  A small copy of the grid with a trail marked from one side to the other - kept out of view from the children.  A whistle.


(This is a sample trail.  Make the trails as simple or complex as is appropriate for the group.)

The basic game:
The aim of the game is to step, square by square, from one side of the grid to the other.  The children take turns.  If they step into a square and it's on the pathway then there is no sound and they are free to take another step - vertical or horizontal.  If they step off the track the leader blows the whistle and the child is out.  The next child tries to retrace the footsteps and get a bit further along the track.  The winner is the one who gets right across the grid following the path.  The leader can tell them where the starting square is...or not.

Play in teams.  The children still take turns, team by team, but during their turn they will get some assistance from their fellow team members.


These games have been thoroughly tested and loved by Sunday School, Youth Group, after school Kids Club and Holiday Bible Club groups, a school class and a group of adults over the last twelve months.

Yours to use.  You're very welcome.