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 May 2009

The Year of the Garden

Mary, Mary quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?


Just before the beginning of the year I had dinner with a friend currently living and working in England and we designated 2009 The Year of Optimism.

In other quarters however I had already declared 2009 to be The Year of the Garden. We moved into our home here at the beginning of 2008. It is in a really beautiful setting but the actual garden is, well...

"Garden" is probably a bit generous. "Yard" would be better.

I just couldn't get to it last year. So I decided this year would be the year. Rather rashly (or maybe for reasons of accountability/motivation to actually do something about it) I announced far and wide that I would get working on garden this year. (And I REALLY need to do something about it now that I have mentioned it here! Not that I going to be bullied by my own blog!!)

So here is the baseline.

The yard is an "L" shape. This is the base of the "L" - with the washing line in the corner.


Then, standing halfway along the upright of the "L", looking back down to the corner where the washing line is you have the boys' trampoline.


Turn the other way and you get a wonderful paved area, which currently features, among other things, a stack of empty pots that moved with us from our last house.

I need to confess at this point that I am no gardener. We brought empty pots with us because all the plants that had once been in them were dead...and there was no point shifting dead plants to our new home! You will start to get a picture of the challenges that lay ahead.

And then for the grand finale, the empty patch, just crying out for a garden.


Now there are three major challenges for me. One is to overcome my gardening ineptitude. The second is that I will be working on a tight budget. The third and biggest challenge is that there are lots of gum trees all around the perimeter of the yard and although you can't see it, there is one just to the right of this empty patch. And I would be reasonably confident that there are certain things that will not grow under a gum tree.

So that is the baseline. This is The Year of the Garden. And it is only the end of May. I haven't even missed Spring for 2009. Where there is still Spring to come there is hope.

I'll keep you posted...and no doubt I'll be asking for some advice along the way.

Oh, by the way, the United Nations has actually designated2009 the International Year of Astronomy.

22 May 2009

Joy in Job

Yesterday I got up to Job* in my Bible reading plan. In many respects this is a heavy going book of the Bible.

At the very beginning Job is described as, "blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil." God allows Satan to test Job's righteousness. And so Job loses all his vast livestock and his servants, his ten children are killed and he is covered from head to toe in painful sores. That is, Job loses his livelihood, the trappings of his wealth, his family and his health - all things we may be tempted to place our security in, rather than in God. That's just the first two chapters!!

But the rub for me is in the following 35 chapters. Job has three friends who come along and try to comfort and help him. This long section of the book records the conversation between the four of them. There is double edged sword for me in these 35 chapters. At one level (from hazy memory - and I may need to retract the next phrase in a week's time when I have finished reading Job) there is a certain degree of whinging - and if you have read other parts of this blog, you will know the extent of my patience with whinging. And then there is the discomfort of having to read what the three friends had to say in trying to comfort Job - words that were not at all comforting or helpful - and wondering if I have spoken similarly unhelpful words that were of no comfort to friends in need. Wondering that must necessarily lead to apology and repentance.

I almost thought of skipping over Job this time around because I didn't think I was up to it. But Job is the Word of God. So I prayed hard before commencing my reading of this section of God's Word that I would learn from it. And how grateful I am that God gave me good courage to read on and not put Job aside for another time - because look what I found only four verses in...

His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of fasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, 'Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.' This was Job's regular custom.

Oh, that in our family we would have this level of concern for the spiritual welfare of our children. And oh, that our boys would grow up blessed by the fruit of our concern, prayer and actions on behalf of their spiritual welfare, just as Job's children clearly did. This is a breathtaking testimony of what it is to be a godly parent.

If the rest of my time in Job is difficult, it will not matter for I have been given a precious reminder and rich encouragement to focus on the one thing that is most important for our two boys - that they be brought up to be blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning evil.

Thankyou heavenly Father for the book of Job.

* The word "Job" rhymes with "robe."

16 May 2009

Daylight Saving

Today 1.3 million adults in Western Australia will vote YES or NO to daylight saving between the end of October and the end of March each year.

I took R (who is six) and N (who is approaching four) with me to cast my vote - a good chance for them to see what the election process looks like when the ballot paper isn't too difficult to complete - ie. I could vote and supervise at the same time! On the way we discussed the issue.

M: So R, what do you think of daylight saving? Should I vote yes or no?
R: Vote no. I don't like it.
M: Why?
R: Because it is boring.

OK...moving onto the next boy...

M: So N, what do YOU think of daylight saving?
N: (with joy) I love light sabers Mummy.

Don't think we have fully grasped the issues in our household!

10 May 2009

Take Hold and Rejoice!

Recently I did a Bible study on prayer with some friends and the text for the study was dear Philippians 4:4-7. Now, I thought I had pondered and thought over every letter of these verses but something new and wonderful came to light as we studied this passage together.

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 everything,

by prayer and petition,

with thanksgiving,

present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding...

All good up to there.

But I realised that I think I've never taken in what happens after that. Sure I have read it. Probably hundreds of times. But I think my eyes have just run over the top of the next words, happily distracted (the word "reverie" comes to mind) by the prospect of experiencing the peace of God which transcends all understanding. After all, that sounds wonderful.
So if I rejoice in the Lord - because no matter what else is happening in my life I have cause to rejoice in the hope of eternal life with God through Jesus - and then be gentle, living in expectation of the Lord being near and rather than being anxious about the circumstances of my life, pray about them with thanksgiving - thankful that God is sovereign and He hears my prayers - then the peace of God, which transcends all understanding...

What?

What of that peace of God which transcends all understanding?

Well, it isn't given to me to make me feel all warm and comfortable and cosy. Strangely I think this has been my distracted thought while my eyes have read over the next bit with my brain disengaged. But the next bit actually says, when you stop to read it...

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The peace of God actually guards my heart and my mind - that is, my feelings and my thoughts. The peace of God reminds me that I am safe in Jesus, no matter what else may be happening. And if my feelings and my thoughts are under control and even more so, focussed on Jesus, then that should guard my actions - which will hopefully mean responding to any given situation in a way that honours and glorifies God. No wonder God wants us to pray always.

It is important to note in this particular passage that God doesn't take away the circumstance that would otherwise be causing us anxiety. He blesses us with a cool head and a steady heart to persevere. This is echoed beautifully in the first chapter of 2 Thessalonians when Paul prays for the Thessalonians who are clearly being persecuted and are in all sorts of bother. Paul prays not that they would be delivered from their circumstances but that they would be faithful and honour God through them.

Which is not to say that we shouldn't ask God to deliver us from difficult circumstances. Often He will. But at other times God won't because He knows what is best for us. And this is where we need to be observant to His answers to our prayers. Maybe God's answer is to give us a clear head and a steady heart to press on and ultimately to grow in our trust, dependence, knowledge and love of Him.

So, be encouraged. Rejoice in the Lord always.

01 May 2009

Humility


I wish I was sufficiently well versed to know that this hymn comes from the pen of Horatio Bonar (1808 -1889). But as it turns out, I have become familiar with these words because of a Colin Buchanan CD. So thanks Colin and thanks Horatio. This is true humility – completely trusting God's sovereign plan for one's life – and a beautiful encouragement.

Thy way, not mine, O Lord, however dark it be,
Lead me by Thine own hand, choose out the path for me.

Smooth let it be or rough, it will still be the best.
Winding or straight, it leads right onward to thy rest.

I dare not choose my lot. I would not if I might,
Choose Thou for me, My God, so I shall walk aright.

The Kingdom that I seek is Thine, so let the way,
That leads to it be Thine, else I must surely stray.

Take Thou my cup, and it with joy or sorrow fill,
As best to Thee may seem, choose Thou my good and ill.

Choose Thou for me my friends, my sickness or my health,
Choose Thou my cares for me, my poverty or wealth.

Not mine, not mine the choice in things all great or small.
Be Thou my Guide, my Strength, my Wisdom and my All.