Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

28 July 2015

The Monday evening Bible reading group

 
Last night the Monday Evening Bible Reading Group came to the end of an adventure we embarked upon last November - reading through all of the Minor Prophets.  This group works on the One to One Bible Reading model, except that it isn't one-to-one.  At present there are seven of us.  The intention is to get together and read the Bible.  There aren't a set of prepared study questions.  We just read between one and five chapters each time we meet and after  each chapter discussions loosely fit around the three questions, "What made you go WOW?", "What made you go WHAT?" and "So what does that have to do with us?"  We don't specifically ask those questions anymore.  That has just become the natural flow of our discussions.

This style of reading models that it isn't necessary to understand every single detail.  The aim is to get enough meaning on this read through to give the courage to read it again some other time and hopefully glean a little more understanding.  It's about building joy in the Word and building in a diligence to read ALL of the Word.

I should add that I did do some preparation before we met, which is not part of the model, but the Minor Prophets make so much more sense with a bit of background knowledge

So the Minor Prophets are done.  In the past we have done Luke followed by Acts.  Last year we did the bookends - Genesis and Revelation.  Both of these are wonderful Bible reading projects.  A couple of other interesting projects would be to read Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi altogether or to take the Chronological Bible Reading Plan and read through the Samuels, Kings and Chronicles with a good number of the Psalms and some of the Wisdom Literature inserted along the way as best placed as we can - to get the more poetic writings sitting in their historical context.  That would be a HUGE project - it's about three months worth on the plan!! - but it would be amazing.

But for now, on Monday evenings, we are heading off in a different direction.  We are set to read through all the epistles from Romans to Jude, which should keep us busy for a few months.

24 July 2015

She did it!

 
The Everyday Gratitude Diary for 2016 is fully funded which means it is going ahead.  Hooray!  And the Pozible funding is still open until the end of July which gives everyone the opportunity (if you were thinking about it but didn't get around to it) to pre-order a diary that includes free shipping and a small donation to The Black Dog Institute.  I haven't met Rebecca but she is fast becoming one of those people who fall into that lovely category of "blogging buddy" who I'd love to meet in the future.  But for now I am grateful to God that lots of people have got behind her on this project which is so worthwhile at so many levels. 
 

23 July 2015

Some help for tackling the book of Ezekiel

I've been toughing my way through Ezekiel recently.  It's a tough book about tough times.  Ezekiel knew some very hard times.  He lived through the siege and sacking of Jerusalem and was carried off into exile by the Babylonians.  (Reading through Jeremiah gives a clear picture of just how horrible it would have been to have lived through that time.)  And Ezekiel - God's messenger to His people in exile - was deeply, deeply aware and heavily burdened by the blackness of sin. 

So many of the pictures and messages recorded in the book of Ezekiel are largely of pain and hardship.  There is clear judgment for God's people who have persisted in their sin and turned their backs on the One who loves them.  There is clear judgment for the nations who have scorned God's people. And then there are the natural consequences of bad decisions.  It is hard reading.

And yet, the words "Sovereign Lord" are mentioned over 200 times throughout the book.  This is what the Sovereign Lord says.  This is what the Sovereign Lord will do.  This is what the Sovereign Lord is doing.  In all the hardship, confusion and grief, God is present and with a purpose.  Natural consequence is fair and God's judgment is righteous.  And that righteousness and purpose is borne out in a second phrase that appears time and time again - "Then they will know that I am the Lord."  And so the book of Ezekiel, in all that is tough, is filled with hope because for all who cry out and turn to the God who loves them, there is the promise of restoration and peace for all eternity.

Ezekiel presents a snapshot of a particular time in the history of God's people.  It's also a timeless message for all people - God's very good creation - through all of history because even though the details are different, the reality is much the same.  But back to the book and how to get into it...there is hope through God's sovereignty, love and righteousness to be found on every page of Ezekiel - and looking for that will assist in the very worthwhile work of persevering through the pages of this book for deep insight into times past, present and future.

21 July 2015

Winter update - 2015

Completely missed: the autumn update.  Autumn was mainly taken up with my mother-in-law's final illness and passing away.  I spent many hours with her particularly in her last month and shed many tears for not one but two mothers when our boys' last grandparent went Home to be with Jesus.   

Thereafter: I felt compelled to do some homely stuff.  So we installed some raised garden beds and I have been growing vegies.

 




Seedlings, good soil and some rain will do the trick.  It's not very hard.  Well, not in winter.  Summer may be a different matter. 

I did hear the good advice of planting out one bed with all the things you are likely to use every three weeks so that the harvest is staggered.  That makes very good sense.  Because in a few weeks, if all continues to go to plan, we will have a colossal beetroot stash.  So once the winter vegies are in I might give that system a go.

While the vegies were busy growing: I pressed on with the crochet project.  The want to crochet came to me at just the right time.  I didn't realise it but I have needed to sit and rest a while and it has been so nice to sit and create something beautiful, and while hands are occupied in this gentle work, to pray.

If you look closely you'll see it's pretty rustic really - and that's just the front.  The back, with all the finishing off...well, let's just say I'm not going to win first prize at the local agricultural show.  (Might enter my beetroots instead!)  But it has been a restoring thing to do.
 
There is a pattern in all of that, believe it or not.  It's on the diagonal.

And one of my sons, bless him, has suggested that I ought not to leave it out on the sofa when it is finished because all the babies and toddlers that come to visit during the week might ruin it.  So he has offered to keep it on his bed.  And I think I might just take him up on his sweet offer.

While crocheting: I often think of Psalm 139:13 which says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb."  As I have made this blanket every inch of wool has passed through my fingers on its way to being crafted into a granny square, which gives me a warm sense of wonder and awe at God's personal love for us.  Amazing.

Reading: well, there's an interesting story.  I read and read and read and read for months on end.  Got to the end of one book and started in on the next one straight away.  I worked my way through an impressive list of titles - all fiction and even during term time (!!) - and then I read "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver and it stopped me in my tracks.  I was so moved by it that I couldn't pick up another book.  For days.  So I picked up a crochet hook in earnest and haven't really read anything else apart from the (real) Bible since then. 

But I am recently emerged from a very busy season (we just had our annual five day Holiday Bible Club and this year I was administrating it as well as running games and craft activities) and am thinking it is time to get reading again.  I have a couple of books by Allan Chapple and a couple by Jerry Bridges that I am keen to read and I have two books about teenagers on the list as well.  So reading it seems is set to recommence.

Fringe update:  "It was already getting annoyingly long and I think I will past the truly annoying stage in five to ten weeks at current rate of growth," said I at the beginning of February.  I'm not one to spend hours gazing at myself in the mirror but oh, it has been a long and awkward six months.  Two weeks ago I figured it had finally grown into something you might dare to call a hairstyle.  So if I ever mention that I'm thinking of cutting in a fringe again you must take me in hand and tell me, "No."  Be firm.

In other news:  I have ventured back into the world of paid work in a small way.  When I made the decision back here to not work it came down to this...

"As a Christian, how do I best use the time now given to me to serve God, my family and my community, bearing in mind my own capacities and circumstances?  It's not a question anyone else can answer for me.  Nor is it one I can answer for anyone else.  But that is the big question."

And I have asked the same question in deciding to put my name down at our local school for some relief teaching.  It came down to a Kingdom decision rather than a bank account one.  So I did a few days here and there and not long after I found myself with a one-day-a-week fixed position until the end of the year in a year 4/5 room. It's lovely being back in the classroom actually.  And middle primary is just the bees knees.

However...I can see that trying to get full registration back is going to be quite an exercise...

Loved: series five of Downtown Abbey.  I waited impatiently for it to come out on DVD and then devoured it almost whole.  I guess it will be a year before the next instalment.  Waiting, waiting... I'm glad they are finishing at series six though.  It is good not to push these things too long or too hard.

Was also waiting impatiently: for all your advice on mobile phones.  But you all just wanted me to work it out on my own, I know.  Well I think one of the statements I made, more than the others, and my slow cooker have helped me come a mind on the issue.  More on that later.

Nearing the end: of the minor prophets with the Monday evening Bible reading group.  Wow!  It has been a wonderful adventure.  If you want to know about God in all of His mighty power, holiness, righteousness, mercy, compassion, love and sovereignty then this is the part of the Bible for you.  Breathtaking.

Also recently: had a ramble through Philippians again.  It has been a while since I was there.  And the desire to memorise this book has been rekindled.  Does anyone want to join in with me?

Very excited: to be following the Everyday Gratitude project.  As I write this, the project has 10 days to go and is close to 80% funded.  I hope it happens.


Fresh back: from a five day holiday by the seaside. 





Nothing nicer than a winter holiday by the sea.  Feeling refreshed, a few goals for the next six months set in place and all ready for the second half of the year.  I hope you are too.
Mx

12 July 2015

Everyday Gratitude

If you have been reading this blog for a while there are a couple of things you may have picked up about me. 

Firstly, I like to keep the comings and goings of daily life in a paper diary.  And the best format for me is A5, a week to a page so that I can see the whole week in one sweep (and as I have mentioned before, if I find I need more diary room for planning out my days than what is offered by a page for a week  I figure I need to reassess my life, not my diary format) and room for a TO DO list.

Secondly, you would know that I am pretty keen on the idea of gratitude.  I've blogged about it plenty over the years and gave the whole of April this year over to practicing the art.  I first discovered the power of gratitude when I was at university, fell into a slump and finally pulled myself out of it after setting myself the task of writing down two things I was grateful for at the end of each day - even if all I could muster was that the sun came up and the sky was blue .  I was amazed at how quickly my mood shifted.

So I have been absolutely delighted to discover someone who has launched a project that combines these two loves of mine. 

 
 
The Everyday Gratitude Diary is a crowdfunded project developed by a lovely person named Rebecca who has also worked out the power of gratitude in every day life.  And she has created a diary for 2016 that seamlessly moves gratitude into the rough and tumble of daily life.  It's a magnificent idea and it's going to be a beautiful diary.  I've pledged my support, and in doing so, will receive a few copies - Christmas gifts for our older godchildren, a gift for a friend or two and one for me.  
 
Read about it here.  You can follow along on Facebook here.  Pledges have to be in by the end of July.  And 5% of profits will be given to the Black Dog Institute.  It doesn't get better than that.
 
Go for it.

08 July 2015

Which century to live in?

My flip phone (aka dinosaur phone and dumb phone) is in the death throes.
Some days I think I should get myself technologically up to date.
Some days I think my flip phone has all I need in a mobile phone.
Some days I think having a smart phone would be fun.
Some days I think I don't want all the stuff a smart phone offers at my fingertips.
Some days I think having the answers at my fingertips would be useful.
Some days I think having a flip phone resonates with living simply.
Some days I think I am disadvantaged not having a smart phone.
Some days I wonder why I am making such a big deal of this.
Most days, these days, I know I'm going to need a make a decision soon because there are not many more days left for my flip phone.

11 May 2015

Keep your head and pray. With hope.

"The end of all things is near.  Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray." 
1 Peter 4:7

I read this verse yesterday.  It reminds me to keep my head, to keep praying and do both with hope and purpose.  Blessed reminders with a couple of busy months on the horizon. 

02 May 2015

Feeling grateful


I came across this quote at the end of March and decided to dedicate April to giving it a go.  I threw the concept up onto Facebook and not too many moments later #gratefulapril was a thing.  So it's been pretty quiet here because there have been daily moments of gratitude happening on Facebook instead.

Over the month I found myself variously grateful for...

The Word of God.
Jesus' death and resurrection.
The gift of prayer and the gift of my prayer triplet.
Long weekends.
Bargains.
Schools, educational opportunities and holidays.
New ministries starting up at church.
Family, friends and neighbours.  Specifically neighbours who intentionally planted their lemon tree right up close to our fence so that we could share their lemons.
The abundance we enjoy.
Music and books.
Art and history.

I wasn't sure about doing the daily thing on Facebook to begin with, because I didn't want it to become a month of zoning in on one thing each day.  The intention was to practice gratitude continuously throughout the day. 

But it ended up being an excellent discipline.  Many days, as I grew in my capacity for thankfulness, it was hard to choose one thing.  That was a good problem to have.  But as with any life in any month, some days were hard.  And on those days it was good to have to dig deep and redeem God's goodness in daily life.

It was such a good exercise that I have decided to keep going.  Not on Facebook though.  The community aspect was very encouraging, at times moving and often lots of fun however I think it would become boring and tedious for others in time and of course it led to considerable time wasting.   So I'm taking away the "Face" and just recording one or two things that I'm grateful for each day in a book.

On the good days I hope this practice will remind me to be grateful for ALL the good things (moreover, to give expression to that gratitude, which is the very thing that gives this quote legs) and on the harder days to be reminded that even so, we have much for which to thank God.



01 April 2015

Grateful April


I don't know who Sue Fitzmaurice is but it doesn't really matter.  I think what she says is right.  I recall when I was at university and for a time the world wasn't looking all that bright.  I decided I would finish the day listing three things I was grateful for, even if two of them were that the sun came up and the sky was blue, every single day.  It took little more than a week to shift me out of my mood.  And as I recall, I was in quite a mood, so that was a fairly quick turn around.

There are lots of ways to express gratitude. 
Write it down.
Say thank you - spoken words, written words, a hug, a gift, a smile.
Return an act of service or pay it forward.
Show respect.
Find contentment, even in the small things.
Shake off discontentment by searching for the good in the moment. 
Praise God.

Will you join me?

12 March 2015

The Radical Disciple by John Stott


Here's a wonderful book you might like to read.  The Radical Disciple is the last book written by John Stott.  At the end of this book he put down his pen and finished his writing ministry.  As such it has a similar feel to Paul's second letter to Timothy - full of wonderful and pastoral words but with the tenderness that comes with a final letter.

In The Radical Disciple Stott chose to wrote about some of the hallmarks you would hope to see in someone who is actively and intentionally seeking to grow in Christlikeness.  He has addressed eight issues that growing Christians ought to be thinking about.  These include:

Non-conformity
Christlikeness
Maturity
Creation-care
Simplicity
Balance
Dependence
and
Death

It's a slightly random list but Stott himself says that this list isn't exhaustive.  The style shifts and changes from chapter to chapter - at times it reads like a short essay (don't be scared by the word "essay" though because it is very accessible writing) while at other times there are personal anecdotes, specially selected quotes from old favourites and extracts from sermons and talks.  In lots of ways it reads like a personal journal - and you get a real sense of what it must have been like to sit with him in his study and talk together about all the good stuff.

This book is a pure delight to read, filled with the words of a mature, wise, well thought through saint - instructive, pastoral and full of encouragement to strive for godliness without engendering guilt. 

The Radical Disciple would be a great birthday present book (I know this to be true because I received a copy of it for my birthday from a dear friend), a valuable volume for a church library and a fascinating read for a book club with so many great and relevant issues up for discussion.  John Stott has left us with an amazing and beautiful gift in this book.

06 March 2015

We always have a choice, all of us.


As she sank to her knees on the grass and sobbed, the memory of a conversation with Frank floated into her awareness. 
"But how?  How can you just get over these things, darling?" she had asked him.  "You've had so much strife but you're always happy.  How do you do it?"
"I choose to," he said.  "I can leave myself to rot in the past, spend my time hating people for what happened, like my father did, or I can forgive and forget."
"But that's not easy."
He smiled that Frank smile.  "Oh, but my treasure, it is so much less exhausting.  You only have to forgive once.  To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.  You have to keep remembering all the bad things...No," his voice became sober, "we always have a choice.  All of us."

From The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, chapter 35.

10 February 2015

For the fans of The Lego Movie

So I was continuing on with At Home by Bill Bryson yesterday, in a chapter on domestic architecture, when I came upon this paragraph...

Palladio's methods were based on rigorous adherence to rules, and were modeled on the precepts of Vitruvius, a Roman architect of the first century BC.  Vitruvius wasn't a particularly distinguished architect.  He was really more of a military engineer.  What made him valuable to history was the accidental fact that his writings survived - the only architectural work from classical antiquity to do so.  A lone copy of Vitruvius' text on architecture was found on a shelf at a monastery in Switzerland in 1415.  Vitruvius laid down exceedingly specific rules regarding proportions, orders, shapes, materials and anything else that could be quantified.  Formulas ruled everything in his world.  The amount of spacing between columns in a row, say, could never be left to instinct or feeling, but was dictated by strict formulas designed to confer an automatic and reliable harmony.  This could be dizzyingly particular.

From At Home by Bill Bryson, page 411 - 412.

No wonder Vitruvius was the master masterbuilder.

07 February 2015

Summer update - 2015


Getting in: on a summer update just in time.  Twenty one days until the change of season.

Had: a lovely summer including two weeks of a house sitting holiday close to the beach.  House sitting holidays are the best.  Ever thankful to our family members and friends who let us live in their houses at odd times in the year.  And while we were at the beach on Australia Day we saw a television team on the shore collecting footage for the evening news so #2 son got himself interviewed and had his five seconds of fame that evening. 

Saw: several movies during January.  Night at the Museum III - very, very good but quite poignant at the end given it was Robin Williams' last film.  Madagascar Penguins - crazy stuff.  Too much going on for me.  Or maybe I was just feeling tired that day.  Paper Planes - a great Australian kids' film.  Loved it.  And the last Hobbit installment - loved it.  Better than part two.  Some very moving moments between the characters.  Great acting. 
Four films...lots of maltesers.  Happy days.

Sent: #1 son off to high school after the holidays.  He is doing well.  It is lovely to see them growing up and thriving and getting all big and independent.  Such a gift and a blessing.

Thankful: to God for His loving faithfulness.  I feel like my prayers have been very small lately (not praying the big prayers at the moment at all) and yet God has answered all of my prayers in all of their smallness in more abundance than I could have ever imagined.  More so, He has answered the prayers I haven't prayed as yet but meant to get to at some stage.  So encouraged.  And ready to pray bigger again.

Feeling good: about a less structured year.  I have two days that are fairly full and three days that may be filled with relief teaching a bit later on in the year when the teachers are so not freshly out of school holidays.  And if not filled by teaching these days will be filled well and appropriately depending on what's on the TO DO list or whether I need to have a quiet one.  Even now I still find myself easily wearied.  Not quite recovered from last year as yet.  God in His kindness has given me some space to rest and also the space to live and respond a little more spontaneously this year.

Loving: the old Bible reading plan.  Behind already. (Could I have been distracted while on holidays just a tiny bit???)  But will catch up again.

Looking forward: to my Bible study/reading groups starting up again this coming week.  One group will be studying John.  Another is reading through the minor prophets in one-to-one Bible reading style.  And the group with lots of kids, distracted mothers and one or two enquiring about the Christian faith is going to have a go at a terrific new Matthias Media study called  You, Me and the Bible which looks like one-to-one Bible reading meets Two Ways to Live

Reading: At Home by Bill Bryson still.  I was trying to think of a word that sums up his writing style and finally it came to me.  Endearing.  That was two pages before I hit the chapter about rats in homes.  Now I am even more certifyably, scream-like-a-girl scared of them!  Rats aside, a brilliant brilliant book. 

Reserved: One Day by David Nicholls at the library.  The summer reading continues it seems.

Growing: my fringe out.  I'm sure you all wanted to know that.  I made that decision on a whim last week.  It was already getting annoyingly long and I think I will past the truly annoying stage in five to ten weeks at current rate of growth.  That's not that long...

Apologising: to landfill.  The great two house clear out of 2014 has seen me launch a pitiful assault on landfill.  More and more I am committed to the decluttering movement - have only what you need and what is beautiful.  Get rid of the extra.  And then don't replace it.  Fortunately I am not much of a shopper and while we are dealing with the volumes of stuff, we are paring down our own possessions as well.  Op shops have done well too but there has been so much that just had to be junked.

Becoming addicted: to Gumtree and another online buying and selling site.  Not that I am buying anything.  Just selling.  And it is going well.  Although I do have table that no-one seems interested in.

No: progress on the Philippians project or the crocheting project.  Did write some short letters to send with our Christmas letter - the ones that finally went out by snail mail.  I well and truly crossed over to the darkest part of the dark side at the end of last year.  No Christmas cards in the post.  Christmas letter written and EMAILED out on New Year's Eve.  Those that needed to be sent out via snail mail posted, I think, on 28th January.  And yet, despite all these things, the earth still seems to be turning.

Off: to watch the end of The Hundred Foot Journey newly out on DVD.  A beautifully filmed, intelligent, feel good movie.  It's gorgeous.  No maltesers.  Ah well.