Thursday, 20 December 2012

Homeschooling 101

One of the most interesting things in the world to me is people watching. Especially when you tell them you are going to homeschool your children.  It's fascinating, from an anthropoloigcal point of view.  Honestly.  I can't be offended by the reactions, unless someone blatantly says I'm too dumb to teach my children anything, otherwise I just find the reactions interesting.  I guess before I researched homeschooling I thought only highly competent  supernaturally patient, slightly eccentric women chose to homeschool.  And then there is me ... maybe I could pull of eccentric if I had to, my husband calls me an anomaly, which I take as a total compliment, so am guessing I could morph anomaly into eccentric if it had to.  Competent and patient, not really words to describe me.  Yet, here I go, embracing the world of homeschooling.

Why?  Well a number of reasons. Usually when people ask, I tend to answer rather enthusiastically because I have been walking down the road on this and the sign posts along the way have given me clarity as a Mother, so my enthusiasm is hard to contain - I've learn something. However when I get excited about this, my passion seems to come across as something others get defensive about.  Which is 99% my inability to contain myself which make others think I am trying to sell them something or judging their choice to school their children. So now, when people ask I say; "it's the right thing for our family".  Which it is, but it's only a fraction of the whole story.

The whole story is that we as a family felt the need to research this, and it is not something I would have gone near in a shark cage unless I had to think about it.  But when the issues was forced, I started researching and it took all of a day to go from, cold sweats to 'I'm sold, we are doing this'.  I text my husband, exactly that and his reply; "well, that is one text I never thought I would ever receive from you!".

I have a dear friend who homeschools and she is all of the above, competent, patient, a tad eccentric, but also a trained school teacher.  We have another lady at our church who homeschools, and is a bit of a guru on it, she also is highly competent, patient and foreign so that can be her eccentric part, and she too is a school teacher. Often you will hear highly competent, nurturing women with 6 children tell you "If I can homeschool anyone can" - ignore them, listen to me, I am not a teacher, I tick the boxes for dyslexia, and have limited patience. I love my two boys to bits, but they drive me up the wall sometimes.  We have a tiny house with no spare rooms. We are minimalists, we do not hoard so I have no resources or craft things.  We are not wealthy, our life is lived on a tight budget. Listen very carefully ... "If I can homeschool, anyone can".

Another reason I've not looked at homeschooling before is that I thought that you had to learn what they taught at school.  But it seems that I was wrong, children have to learn, reading,  writing, mathmatics. To get by in life these things are incredibly useful. The rest of the curiculum is good things to learn. Due to the curious nature of children, they will learn, even if they don't know it, they will naturally learn.  So why not let them learn about things they are interested in?  I know when I was at school I struggled, I didn't enjoy so much of what I was learning, I loved English, and Geography, but even those were a challenge, I did ok in them. However when I went on to tertiary education I chose a subject I was interested in and for the first time in my life I got A's!  I thought the markers had made a mistake, until I realised how much I was enjoying learning, and it all made perfect sense. I am excited to teach my children things they want to learn.  My eldest son wants to learn about ninja's, why not, I can include geography, Physical education, language and reading in that topic, easy.  They also want to learn about  um, farts, so why not, I guess, if they learn something from it ... as long as they don't repeat their new found knowledge at inappropriate moments, what's the harm?


The other point that sold me, was the time you get to spend with your children.  At this time of year when they are dog tired and as ratty as I'll ever know them, the thought isn't so appealing. However, when they are well rested, I can't wait.  I feel like I have lost touch with a good part of their day when they are at school.  Not only a good part, the good part, I get them back when they are tired, hungry and ratty, they teachers get them fresh, and ready for fun.  When I ask them about their day they are too tired to tell me what they did, what they learnt or who they played with. Homeschooling appeals in the sense that I will know, not only what they learnt, but how they learnt it.  I will discover new things about my children, their learning style, their sense of humour, their hunger to learn and I will get time to work on character things all under the learning umbrella. Together we will discover the world, as a family.


I could go on and on, see, I'm obnoxiously enthusiastic about it.  Don't get defensive, just learn this one thing from the one who would break into a cold sweat at the first suggestion of homeschooling; Never say never.   








Friday, 30 November 2012

A God of Details



I have been a Christian for a number of years now and at times in the past I admit some strange theology has bubbled to the surface in my life.  I’ve come to see it now as ‘pick and mix’ theology because it is based on things I want to excuse in my own life!  (Gasp – you heard right and I’m sure I’m not the only one). One of my big ones is thinking God is just a big picture God. He isn’t interested in the mundane of my life, where I live, what job I work at, who I marry, how many kids I have, how much I spend on toys, what I watch on TV, what I feel on the inside or how I hold onto hurt.

Recently the more I have thought about this, the more I have realised that right there is where something good has spoilt.  You know as well as I do that God is a big picture God, but I was in the habit of reducing Him to being an either/or kind of God.  He can’t be big picture and be interested in the tiny details at the same time can he?  I mean as Christians don’t we spend a lot of our brain’s energy on trying to fathom God? He’s Love and Justice, Peace and Righteousness, Holy and Jealous, over all and yet in all.  Okay, let’s give our brains a breather for today and rather than one or the other, let’s just enjoy all of these things about the character of our God.

A closer look into the character of God soon convinces us that he is interested in us.  We know he loves us, more than that, he is love. We know he’s our Creator because we live in His world.  So why is it we often feel like he’s not really that interested in what we do or who we are?  He wants us in His family, but the rest of what we do, well, he’s not really that bothered, as long as we try hard not to sin!! Right?

He’s bothered alright!  How can I be so sure? Did you know that God measured the earth when he created it?  He is speaking to Job in response to his questions “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earths foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off it’s dimensions?  Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” Job 38:3-5.

In his book “Everything is Spiritual” Rob Bell talks about how precise the earth is:
It is 93 million miles from the sun. 92 million miles or 94 million miles and there would be no life on planet earth. The earth is made up of 21% Oxygen. If it were 22% or 23% there would be no life. The ocean is made up of 3.4% salt which is exactly the same percentage as our blood stream.  If it were 2.4% or 4.4% there would be no life. Hydrogen must convert 0.007 of its mass to helium to sustain life on earth. 0.008 or 0.006 and there is no life on earth. If we had no moon, there would be no life on earth.
 Does that sound precise to you?  Is that attention to detail or what?  Now read what the Bible has to say about God’s attention to detail;

God is giving instruction on building the ark of the covenant “Have them make a chest of acacia wood – two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high.” Exodus 25:10.

God is giving Noah the exact dimensions of the ark to carry the animals “This is how you are to build it; The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks.” Genesis 6:15-16.

Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, to live inside us. How’s that for intimate!! No one has gotten more intimate with you than the Spirit of the Living God. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17.

God is interested in the detail of your life. 
·         He’s interested in your business because he cares if you are unable to pay your bills. 
·         He’s interested in your marriage and he doesn’t just want you to stay married, he wants you to have a marriage filled with love. 
·         He’s interested in your teenagers and he wants to bring you all through the excitement and upheavals that life brings.
·        He’s interested in your mental health and he wants you to depend on Him when the times are dark or when you feel it’s hopeless. 
·         He’s interested in your garden because he delights to bring you joy. 
·         He is interested in your friendships because he wants you to honour Him in them all.

God is our Lord and intimate friend, our daily guide in life. He longs for us to share our life with Him. Every aspect of our lives, not just the big picture stuff either. Our daily walk means, each step, in step with Him.  He delights in each step of our day. He delights in bringing abundance, joy, comfort, love and passion to our living. Allowing Him to intimately pour out His love into our spirits in every situation is life giving.   He’s overwhelmingly interested in the details of your life.  He is the God of every detail! 

Friday, 16 November 2012

On a journey


I'm a Gospel Coalition and Desiring God blog reader.  I'm not sure if that will give you some understanding of where I am on my journey, but I've hit a detour, and I am loving it.

Last year I tried to approach the discussion of 'Baptism of the Holy Spirit', which as my friend tells me, is an old fashioned term ... and is now called the filling of the Holy Spirit.  Whatever the name, the expereince is powerful and the evidence is speaking in other tongues.  I know this is like eating lemons for some folks and a staple diet for others.  Last year my mind was so confused, I shelved any thought of it.  I couldn't cope with the different views all using scripture to convince me.

This year, the journey began again, without me seeking to make the trip. As a family we have a desire to see God perform miracles in Africa. This may seem like a selfish reason to travel to Africa, but I know the motive is pure and the reason is based upon truth.  This idea has become the driving force for our family to actually think deeply about the implications of being spectators of the power and work of the Holy Spirit.  Who wants to be a spectator when you can actually be used by God? Exactly! Not me. I was raised in a conservative church, I did night church at an Assembly of God church during my teenage years, so was exposed to a more lively and Holy Spirit focused church, I was a spectator and sceptic if not a cynic. I have continually shelved any searching into the Biblical truth behind the filling of the Holy Spirit and other tongues.  I know it's not all about speaking in another tongue, but from what I have been reading, this is the evidence of this life changing communing with the Spirit of God in an over flowing kind of way.

After I started my search I realised that I have, for years, thought "Faith makes my life have purpose and it is good, but this can't be it, it can't be all there is to faith in God." Two weeks ago I finally verbalised this to a friend, and they seemed relieved to know someone else was thinking this way too.

What am I missing?  I belong to a fantastic church, the teaching is world class, expository and I love it.  I am getting so much knowledge and truth and it is amazing. However I am lacking the connection between head and heart.  My communing with God has a distinct feel of a student seeking knowledge from a lecturer. Life is not preparation for an exam. I have been approaching it all wrong, I'm never going to be graded on my faith, rewarded, perhaps  but only to return the reward to Him who actually deserves it.

I'm not here to become knowledgeable, I'm here to give glory to God.  I have disconnected my heart from my faith, and I am starting to see that one of the keys to connecting the head and heart is the Holy Spirit and the infilling and over pouring of His presence in my life.

I have just finished reading a fantastic book by John Sherrill (scroll down to last review here), which really gave me some great understanding and desire to not only know God but experience Him too.  The background I have come from did not cherish experience, sadly I think that's not the way to approach relationships.  Don't we enjoy doing things with our friends?  Don't we learn so much about them as we see them in different situations and we can appreciate them so much more because we have got to know them and experience them more.

I want to experience God.  The gospel is taught so well in my church, it's a really good thing, the gospel is pivotal to everything.  Yet to really get the gospel I need the Holy Spirit to touch me, deep within, then I will truly know and experience the gospel.

This may seem like a whole lot of ramblings - in a way it is.  It's like looking out of the window on a journey, things pass by quickly, and we only get a glimpse of the each scene. To write each whole scene would take me forever, and anyway John Sherrill has done a pretty good job of it from his perspective.  I'm still on the journey, so will keep you posted on the view.

Exciting times. Psalm 121.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Praying when you don't feel like it.




I often wonder why it is that when we most need to pray, we don’t.  Maybe we are so troubled we can’t or we forget to or we don’t know how or we don’t feel like it.  I have some good news. Well actually not me, David does in Psalm 5: 1-3 “Listen, Lord, as I pray! Pay attention when I groan.  You are my King and my God.  Answer my cry for help because I pray to you.  Each morning you listen to my prayer, as I bring my requests to you and wait for your reply.” (CEV) Do you get what I get out of these verses?  God understands our groans.  That’s a freeing thing to know. God hears our prayers even if all we can make are noises. He listens and He hears. 

A writer of songs wrote this; “You were worn out from working like slaves, and no-one came to help.  You were in serious trouble, but you prayed to the Lord, and he rescued you.  He brought you out of the deepest darkness and broke your chains.” Psalm 107: 12-14 (CEV).  Scholars often say that if the Bible says something 3 times, you were meant to sit up and listen.  Psalm 107 says “But you prayed to the Lord and he rescued you.”  Not 3 times, but 4!  Are you listening yet?  Verse 6, 13, 19 and 28.  Take a look for yourself.  When we pray, even in moans and groans, or tears, the Lord rescues us.  It’s all there in black and white.  What that rescue looks like and when that happens, well that is up to God.

In a Neta Jackson novel, one of her characters hits the nail on the head for many of us when she says “Stew about it first; pray later, when all else fails”.  I wonder if you are like that? Do you like to worry? It’s something we can control to begin with, then it tends to gets away on us and grows into a monster we can no longer handle!  I’m not making light of worry. It’s a hard thing for us women to work through.  I feel it too. Take a deep breath before you read this next quote because it could be hard to hear; “Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives.” (Francis Chan, Crazy Love).  Ouch, but that’s the truth.

Let’s take a look at Philippians 4:6. You can probably quote it by heart. Go on read it aloud (could be interesting if you’re in public. Do it anyway, whoever is near you may need to hear it more than you, or they’ll just think you’re odd), “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  He said, about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.  Which does not mean, (talking to myself here), anything except what’s going on at my child’s school, or everything, except my relationship with my husband.  Anything and everything, pretty much covers it all. There is no clause for me to choose what I worry about, God covers it all.

Isaiah 53:10 reminds us, “”Though the mountains be shaken and the hills removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (NIV). The Lord, Creator of all, has compassion on you. He promises that His unfailing love will not be shaken.  God says that about you!  Joel 2: 13 says “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”  God loves you, He is compassionate toward you and abounding in love.  Have you ever felt like God is some old mean “Gandalf looking” type, just waiting for you to mess up so He can whack you with his golden sceptre?  No? That must have just been me then?  I say that in past tense, because I am learning that God adores you and me alike and that all He has done to save me is for no other reason than because it pleases Him to do so.  He loves us, He loves you.  You need to believe He is true to His word. 

God wants to hear from you, in good times and in bad.  God is big enough, He is powerful enough and He does love you enough.  You can trust Him on that.  God has given us His Spirit within us to work in and through us.  Romans 8:26 says “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.”  The Holy Spirit understands our groans and our tears.  When you do not know what to pray, know that the Spirit of God knows our heart and wants to commune with you. When words fail you, read aloud your own favourite psalm or verse, make it your prayer.  Pray it over and over and over until it becomes your very own. You can trust that you will be heard, that you will be held and that His love will abound in and through you. Thank you Jesus.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Expectations



This morning I asked my husband to write me a job description.  I did.  Honestly - after 10 years of marriage and 8 years of my current job, which is a stay at home mother, I needed a job description.  His reaction ... "That's a bit formal isn't it?"  I answered with a emphatic "nope, I just want to know what you want me to do, what you expect me to do.  I need a guide."

Now before you think I'm messing with you, I want you to know that when I'm in a good space, my philosophy is about compromise and love.  Our family is 'normal', I am no doormat who desires to be dominated by her husband. I am a woman who wants to work hard for her family to honour God.  It's not actually as complex a subject as what we make out it is. The aim at our address is for submission to be mutual, as well as love and compromise.  Isn't that what refines 'relationship'?

Earlier in the year I spoke about how "unmet, unrealistic expectations lead to resentment and disrespect" .  So my aim was to avoid unmet expectations.  Clearly I wouldn't just spring this on my husband if it weren't for a previous conversation.  After a term of significant time invested in organising church things, my husband needed to remind me that I don't work for church, I work for our family.  He gently reminded me that our commitment to our family was for me to stay home, if I'm busy working for the church on projects then family can, at times, get the dreggs of me.  I knew I was going through a season of projects, but they were good things.  I guess sometimes it's easy to say yes to organising things that are good, and forgetting that our ministry begins at home.

Is this all worthy of a job description?  Well, kind of.  After our discussion I realised that I have never heard from him what he wants me to take care of at home.  I expected him to do the lawns, because my father did that at home.  When he was growing up, his mother did the lawns.  So discussion is needed.  I am excited to know what he writes.  I can't wait to see what roles he gives me.  No doubt challenges await, as do some conversations and compromise.  Yet in a sense giving him the space to say what he expects feels very liberating for me.  He is leading me, and I love it.

I don't know how your household works or doesn't work.  I just wonder if many of us haven't even thought about asking what the other wants. Just wanted to share that in case it got you thinking about your own relationships and what needs to be communicated at your address.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

During pregnancy - God answered my prayers with a 'No'


What's our cat's middle name?  This may seem a bit of a tangent, but to me it seems a great place to start to tell a story. This is a story I have been putting off telling for years.  I love our boys, it's not a given, but it is pretty normal to love your children.  Our eldest is 8 years old, and youngest is soon to be 6. My youngest asked me recently what our cat, Cocoa's, middle name was.  He was writing all our initials out on a piece of paper and of course Cocoa, didn't have a middle initial, it was news to me that she had a surname, but there you go.  

This caused a moment of overwhelming joy for me, looking at these loud, grubby, imaginative, adventurous boys. For many people pregnancy isn't easy.  I've alluded to my story before here.  What I have failed to do was share the story personally.  Make yourself comfortable, this may take a while.

Both of our children were planned, the second was a little more planned than the first.  During both pregnancies I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, my husband suffered as well, it was a long hard road for both of us.  It is never good for a man to feel helpless. Never. The first pregnancy we were not at all prepared for the horror of the months that followed. We were ignorant of what we were facing, having no idea we were facing a debilitating illness, which was caused by the little life inside me.

In case you haven't come across it before, you may be asking 'What is hyperemesis gravidarum (or HG)?' Well for me it was a shocking, emotionally exhausting and physically gruelling part of pregnancy. For a more graphic description of HG click here.  

Before I get into it too much I need to say; I feel very, very aware that for some people even to be pregnant is a gift from God, long hours prayed for and  a gratitude can not be measured.  I am also aware that some would wish to endure HG if only to be pregnant  This is probably the reason I don't like to talk about it too much.  I have some dear friends who have been down the road of infertility treatment, so I've had a glimpse through walking with them of the heartache. However we all have a story to tell and mine doesn't diminish anyone else's. If by telling my story, someone, just one person, is encouraged or pointed in the right direction for support, I will be one happy woman. The other point of telling my story is this; God is good, trustworthy and right all the time, even when we don't agree, 'feel it' or trust him, he is still trustworthy.  He is tender towards our pain and grief.  He doesn't enjoy our pain, he cries with us.

HG is not just morning sickness, it is "generally described as unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids."  That actually doesn't sound that bad when you read it on a page.  But at the time I could not raise my head from my spew-bowl and tell you it truly was bad.  During both pregnancies I was hospitalised   First pregnancy was week 11, I still can't believe that out of ignorance I endured 5 weeks of not being able to eat or drink much at all.  I hate to be graphic, but the best way I can get across how my body was shutting down, is to let you know my only bathroom visit for a 24 hour period was around 4 in the afternoon.  Clearly I was dehydrated, 3+ ketones present (for you medical people out there).  I had no idea, I thought I was just suffering from morning sicknss, and loads of women get that, so I would just have to deal with it.  I started my pregnancy at 57 kgs (126 lbs), I ended up at 50 kgs (110 lbs) at week 12 of the pregnancy.  

Sound fun?  No, and I was not a bad case of HG!  Some women are sick the entire duration of their pregnancy, I was fortunate, I was only sick until week 20.  Some women loose their lives to this illness, some women have to choose their own life over termination. Thank you Lord I was never in this position.  I would not dear to judge because I did not walk in those woman's shoes.  

I did however come out the other side of pregnancy with some psychological debris still embedded. During the many hours of lying in bed not being able to lift my head off the pillow or I would vomit up bile, in a constant state of nausea, I would, at times be crying my eyes out, feeling like I wanted to die. During one of these moments of desperation I prayed "God, please let me miscarry, I just can't do this any more". 

He answered with a no. 

To this very day, I am so grateful, as I look at my boy now, I am glad God says 'no' to us.  Yet part of me still feels guilty for asking him. I know in Gods tenderness he understood the motivation for my request, he knew my heart.  My boy is so handsome, smart, witty, and tender.  It took a lot to get him from conception into this world. God knew I would survive it, and so would my little boy.

My second pregnancy was a challenge in different ways.  I knew what I was in for and it was a big decision to go through it all again. I remember early on in the pregnancy, lying on the floor in our lounge head over a ice-cream container (I purposely opted to use something I didn't like so I wouldn't be put off anything in the future - didn't really like ice-cream - too cold), so there I was head over an ice-cream container, on the floor of the lounge with my husband tenderly rubbing my back.  I said to him "What was I thinking?  What made me think I could do this again?" He kept rubbing my back as I vomited up nothing but bile again, once again he felt helpless.  We made the decision to have another child together but he left it up to me to make the final call since I was the one who would suffer the most. I thought I could do it. 

Thankfully I was able to link in with an amazing website that informed me, and supported me to get help. It was a battle to get my Doctor to take me seriously (don't even get me started), but thankfully a nurse who was taking my bloods asked a few questions and took a urine sample and found out how ill I was, then finally the doctor took notice.  I was hospitalised at week 5 + 5 days.  

I was living in the UK at the time of the second pregnancy and not exactly excited to visit a hospital in the UK with MRSA at epidemic proportions as they were. But I would not go through those weeks of isolation again with no medication to help. I will never forget being in the ER, curtain closed on my cubicle listening (being nosey) to the talk around the ER and having a nurse with a loud voice read my chart and call out to another nurse down the hall "This one's 5 weeks + 5 days, she's got a long way to go"  and thinking, thank you so very much for the reminder!  It was 6 years ago, and I can laugh now, but at the time I wanted to kick her. Funny that, since I now teach my boys to use words not feet or fists. 

I gladly left the hospital rehydrated, with three different types of medicine, and a few stories to tell, ready to face the rest of the pregnancy.  God provided support through family and friends who came to care for my eldest son while I was laid up in bed.  God also blessed me with a husband who loved me in a self sacrificing way, he was my greatest support and I relied on him 100%. At this time of my life my relationship with God was rather temperamental, on my part. I called on him when I needed him, but when life was ok, I didn't need God, so 'forgot' to seek him. Thankfully life is different now, my husband is still my help and support but my Lord and Saviour is my greatest support. Although I still need to remind myself to stay reliant on Him. It's so easy for me to slip into 'capable woman' mode.

So here we are a 2 child family and staying that way, except for a cat called Cocoa ... middle name yet to be decided, here are some suggested options; trash can, plum tree, crack up, sumo wrestler, (caution: it's gets more boyish from here), jelly bottom, smelly boogers, elephant farts, penguin poo, caterpillar vomit, ... all such pretty names for a girl cat. So hard to decide.  One thing was clear when these names were being suggested  laughter was filling the whole house, you know the kind of laughter, the wet your pants giggling that is infectious and uncontrollable. 

That laughter reminds me again that these two boys are worth every moment I endured. 
And that is my pregnancy story.


Sunday, 7 October 2012

What's the Point?




I was reading through Ecclesiastes the other day and I realised that apart from it containing the "A Time for Everything" portion of scripture, I knew nothing about Ecclesiastes.  The main reason for knowing "A Time for Everything" is partly due to the 'Turn Turn Turn' song sung by The Byrds that featured on the Forest Gump soundtrack.  I sound so educated, don’t I!

Ecclesiastes was one of those books I just couldn’t stop reading.  From one chapter to the next I was amazed, jaw droppingly amazed.  At times I found myself laughing. I realise that laughing through some of Ecclesiastes is quite inappropriate  of me, and somewhat simplistic but I need to point out I never have professed to being a theologian! I loved Ecclesiastes. It amused and challenged me with its brutal honesty. 

I used to work in Mental Health, and those who have had the pleasure of working alongside folks that suffer from a mental illness will tell you, you have never worked with a more open, honest bunch of people. They know their weaknesses so they don't pretend - they don't waste their time with masks.  What you see is what you get.  I get the picture that Solomon is having a moment of total personal honesty and it seems like he had an epiphany. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?  He saw his life for what it was. All he had; knowledge, wisdom, wealth and fulfilling of his lusts and desires, it was all worthless, pointless and vanity.  You could sum up the 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes in the same vein, "What's the point of this life?  What?  You’re born, you work hard, you die, you're forgotten, so what's the point?" (my paraphrasing)

“Nothing makes sense! Everything is nonsense.  I have seen it all - nothing makes sense!” (CEV)  or “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (ESV).  Ecclesiastes 1:2 The Hebrew word used in this text is hebel which means; emptiness or vanity, something transitory and unsatisfactory.

Why would Solomon think of his life as empty, unsatisfactory or a waste?  He had built the temple, only dreamed about by his father David and it was magnificent.  What did he discover when he was able to look back upon his life and see it clearly for what it was?

The truth that Solomon learned, is so very important for us to hear in a world where we are feed messages of get, get, get. Work, work, work. Play, play, play.  I encourage you to read through the whole 12 chapters. It won’t take you long. It’s riveting and drama all the way. 

King Solomon lived his life achieving and enjoying. He was blessed by God with wisdom. He had riches; 25 ton of gold a year (2 Chronicles 9:13-28). He had girls, more than a man can handle! In 1 Kings 11.3 we are told he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (I’m guessing remembering anniversaries wasn’t required).  King Solomon had all we strive to attain in our lives:  A nice house, a good job with a great salary, a spouse and family, fantastic clothes, great accessories.  Solomon had the lot, he had worked hard and been blessed and in the end he declares “So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labour under the sun.  For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune.”  2:17-18.

How’s that for full on frankness.  But he doesn’t stop there “All things are wearisome, more than one can say.  The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear it’s fill of hearing..... There is no remembrance of men of old and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.” 1: 8, 11.

Is this a depressed old King at the end of his life, looking back on a life full of opportunity and all that the world calls success, but yet a life riddled with regrets? No this is called Perspective. That’s what this is. Solomon has perspective.  What’s the point?  The point, the only point is “fear God and keep His commands”. Many of us focus on things that will lead us to regrets later in life, or even in a couple of minutes time. I’m feeling this lesson from Solomon hitting home. Perspective is a hard lesson to learn, as we are prone to selfishness and self centeredness. If only we knew the glory of God, we would fear him. To be in awe of God, reverent, humble awe of God, that is the ultimate perspective.

 “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14  It took a whole lifetime of greatness, self-indulgence, wisdom, knowledge, wealth and achievement for Solomon to come to the end and say it was “chasing after the wind”, worthless, pointless, vanity.  If only we could learn the lesson now, before too many regrets are made, before achievement gets put before relationships, before indulgence destroys the conscience, before wealth becomes our idol.  If only … if only we could see that the point is to fear God and keep His commands.

 


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Life and the sovereignty of God

Life, I really am struggling to come up with something philosophical to say about life at the moment.  It's wonderful and dreadful all in one go.  We do live in a constant state of tension between the beauty of it and the decay of it.  

I don't believe in coincidence. The weekend, 29/30th of September,  I was speaking at a women's camp with my sister. The session I had the privilege to lead was a Bible study, Psalm 118.  The over riding point I was hoping to make in this study, is; God is sovereign over all, and we can trust Him because He is good and His love endures forever. And I believe that to my core, especially in the beauty of life.  My preparation started a month ago, a lot can happen in a month.

Two before ago a dear friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, it is a miracle they found it in the first instance and we are so thankful there are treatment options available for her. Within three weeks she went from active, presumed healthy woman to surgery and intense treatment.  Three weeks!  I guess that's a relatively gentle thought, for some life changes instantaneously.  In resent days, a young boy from my children's school was hit by a car on a crossing.  In an instant life can changed.  Where is God in circumstances like these? This leads us to ask questions of God, what kind of a God would allow... What kind of God do we serve?  This question is possibly the easier to answer because he tells us in his Word.

God is good. By good, we often mean behaves well, or doesn't bite, kick or steal, uses manners, doesn't do anything wrong.  But the goodness of God is vastly different.  God is good in nature, in essence, in total being, He is good.  
Spurgen writes, "He is always to be praised whether we are receiving anything from him or not.  Those who only praise God because he does them good should rise to a higher note and give him thanks because he is good. Int he truest sense he alone is good, "there is not good but one, that is God"; therefore in al gratitude the Lord should have the royal portion.  If others seem to be good, he is good. If othes are good in a measure, he is good beyond meausre.  When others behave badly to us, it should only stir up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord because he is good; and when we ourselves are consious that we ar far from being good, we should only the more reverntly bless him that 'he is good'."
In the most difficult circumstances to know that God is good, in essence and nature, he actually is goodness, that's what he is.  This can give us something near tangible to hold tight to, something to lean on, or fall back upon, someone to trust.  
Spurgen concludes, "We must never tolerate an instant's unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questionable, this is absoutely certain, that Jehovah is good; his dispensations may vary, but his nature is always the same, and is always good.  It is not only that he was good, and will be good, but he is good; let his povidence be what it may.  Therefore let us even at this present moment, through the skies be dark with clouds, yet give thanks unto his name."
To know God, to understand his ways are higher, so very much higher than my ways, this is such a comfort. The Bible tells us to expect hardships (Acts 14:22), and this was used as an encouragement to remain true to the faith, for the disciples of Paul and Barnabas.  Expect hardships.  Why?  In her book To Live is Christ, Beth Moore outlines why hardships are inevitable for us; firstly "God wants to give us eternal victory by working His glory in and through them (hardships)."  Secondly "Satan wants to bring us defeat by causing us to struggle and fall. Hardships are inevitable because of the glorious nature of God and the heinous nature of Satan."  

The 'why' and 'who' of circumstances and God is quite a work out for the old grey matter, and I by no means think I have it pegged.  But two things I do know; God is good, and time may tell us why, and if not, we can trust that He knows and his ways are higher so the view is better.


Friday, 14 September 2012

Resources for Parents



My faith family is committed to assist parents to disciple their children to know Jesus and His great love for each one of us. The last sermon series; Our God-Breathed Bible, reminded us of the true value of the Word of God and our church wide memory verse summed it up “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives,  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”.  Seeds Family Worship is a great resource for families who are interested in encouraging their children to continue to memorise the truth of the Bible through the Word of God to music.

For most parents the thought of kids music is enough to invest in ear plugs.  However Seeds Family Worship is not cringe-worthy, the music is well constructed and performed by highly talented musicians, it is not cheesy, it is easy to listen to.  The best bit – it’s pure scripture.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12.

“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, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-7

Once you get a verse into your head it is hard to repeat it without singing it!

Seeds website is rich full of resources to help you learn more about their music and ministry and to give families ideas on how to incorporate Jesus into fun family times. Take some time to visit www.seedsfamilyworship.net to discover their music and more.

See Parenting Resources for more great ideas for parents and Building Strong Families for 4 valuable sermons for parents.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Girl Porn



Now there’s an eye catching title!  So often we can hear the word pornography and think “now that’s a man thing”.  And you’d be right, although not exclusively! From whichever angle you look at it, pornography is a slippery slope that very soon becomes addictive.  Men often make excuses for looking at porn, saying it helps their marriage. Some call it innocent - just a bit of fun. Apparently some even try to convince us that there are interesting stories in some of those magazines!! I can’t argue with them as I’ve never read one and don’t imagine I’ll start now!! However I can see clearly how the Bible talks of a “husband and wife becoming one flesh”. (Mark 10:7-8) Not two becoming one helped by the images of others.  I’m definitely not picking on men because in the statistics that identifies those who view pornography, women do not lag far behind men. But what I want to tackle today is a much more socially acceptable version that us girls tend to fall for.  Now you may laugh when I say this, but before you think I’m blowing things out of all proportion, just hear me out.

Socially acceptable ‘girl porn’, masquerades in the form of best selling romance novels and movies that can so easily leave us with expectations that destroy our relationships.  The ‘heroes and heroines’ in the books or movies do not exist, that is why of course they are called fiction.  Yet once we read or watch something, we think to ourselves “it would be so nice if my husband was that tender, sweet, thoughtful, romantic, generous, or physically attractive”.  Or for those not married, you can have a ‘potential mate’ list full of characteristics that are unrealistic or unreasonable.  Why do we seek perfection in our mate when we are happy to accept a lower standard in ourselves?  How often do we think “I need to be more like the heroine in the book or movie”?  It is our natural bent to be selfish and without a doubt these books and movies feed that bent.

Now, I’m not bagging all books and movies.  However I do think we need to be so careful what we feed our minds and how often we feed them.  I can still remember scenes in books or movies I read or saw over 10 years ago. Things stick in our minds don’t they? We have an uncanny ability to forget where we put our keys a few moments ago, yet we can remember an intimate scene from a movie we saw years ago.  Surely I’m not the only one? 

Proverbs 4:23 remind us of the importance of guarding our hearts:

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life”.  

God in His tenderness towards us gives us guidelines that are very practical and sensitive to our weaknesses. God cares about your relationships. He knows we can easily lose our way through having unrealistic expectations. These can ruin a marriage faster than anything and sadly it’s a trap we often walk into willingly. Unmet, unrealistic expectations lead to resentment and disrespect, and from there the slippery slope becomes a mud slid!!!  I urge you ladies to dig your heels in and stop in your tracks. 

We choose our husbands based on all the information we know about them and we willingly make this choice with the expectation that it will be forever.  No one enters marriage thinking “He will be my first husband’’.    Think back now, to why you decided he was the one.  Or for those yet to be married, look at your list and pick your 3 most important characteristics, the ones you want to live with forever.  When you cut to the chase, would you prefer a man of integrity, who you could depend upon, or a man who gave you flowers regularly? Now I’m not saying “don’t bring flowers”, but think about it. Integrity is the part of character that promotes trust, while flowers are only a gesture.  We need to choose wisely what we feed our minds, so we build our relationships up to honour God. No matter if something is socially acceptable, let’s challenge ourselves, is what we are reading and watching, creating unrealistic expectations?  Porn is not just a guy problem, it’s our problem too. Let us be exclusive in our marriages, spending time investing in real relationships rather than fictional ones.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Wolves in sheep's clothing




Jesus words are very pointed aren’t they, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:3. I think all of us would expect that there would be some sort of opposition from those who don’t know God, but I guess I’ve been stunned a little by the realisation that sadly, I think sometimes we can be in danger from within the family of faith as well.  Surely this isn’t meant to be the case?  We are commanded to “encourage one another and build each other up” 1 Thessalonians 5:11. Rather than encourage, too often we can discourage by simply critiquing each other harshly.

Within a family we could be inclined to think we have permission to give our opinions or critiques as we feel the need, both within our faith family and our blood family for that matter. However at the forefront of our minds should be Jesus words “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2. I looked up the Greek word used here for judge and it means “to pass sentence or give one’s opinion in a private manner” (New Testament Lexical Aid). It’s so easy to judge isn’t it? Is my opinion the standard by which others should measure themselves? Absolutely not and I’m guessing yours isn’t either!

You might feel as if I’m getting in your face a bit. Well you know what, we need to get in each others face on this topic.  We are family and family is there to support and encourage and on the odd occasion pull us up. I’m talking to myself as much as I am to you. When others are serving within the church family, whether up the front or out the back, has there ever been even the odd occasion where you have been inclined to ‘critique’ their work for the Lord? Someone may not make the tea how we like it, or lead worship in the style to which we are accustomed, or dress according to our tastes, or in one way or another, not quite do things the way we are used to. Some of us can be harsh critics. As St Teresa of Avila once said “There is no reason why we should expect everyone else to travel by our own road.” May we have mercy and stop ourselves short of sharing our views with those who serve us. To serve is to give time and effort for others. How very disheartening to be critiqued on that service. When we feel the desire to share our views starting to percolate to the surface, we need to bring it to a halt and instead encourage those who serve and heed the warning that says “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matt 7:2.

I often bang on about how the truth of the bible can change lives, can change people, can change relationships and can change eternity for each one of us.  I know it can do all these things. I know it, but what I don’t know is, if we are willing to let it.  The truth of the Bible draws us to the Creator and Saviour. Once we are justified; made righteous through Jesus Christ, then we are to begin the process of sanctification; becoming Christ-like.  Growing in the knowledge of and obedience to, the love of Jesus, which means stop acting like we once did and learn to choose to follow Jesus’ example.  By that I mean, responding appropriately to such love as we have been given. Jesus wants us to need him each day. To stop critiquing and judging others and thinking that we are better than them. To do this we need Jesus. 

We think too highly of ourselves if we ignorantly climb into the judge’s seat. Who are we to judge? That judgement seat belongs to God alone. I’m guessing you, like me would be looking at the floor, or even wishing it would open up and swallow us, if God ever said, “So you want my job? Well, let’s just see how you would do.” If you ever have the temptation to inform someone their serving isn’t up to scratch, or you think you could do a better job then put your hand up and volunteer. You will soon see that some people make certain jobs look easy, due to their gifting, but that doesn’t make them easy jobs. If you know you couldn’t do a better job, then opinions are better left unsaid, for everyone’s sake. If something is a major issue for you, speak to your Pastor about it, after you have spoken to the Lord about it. Let’s ask Jesus to guide us in becoming lambs who encourage. We have enough wolves outside the faith. We don’t need them in it too.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Intolerant tolerance

This past weeks headlines from a National paper have included "Gay marriage vote could be close".  I've received emails asking me to sign petitions in regard to this.  It is all going off. 

It appears this issue is not just raising it's head along the beachy shores of Aotearoa, New Zealand.  The fast food chain in the USA, Chick-fil-A, is under fire after an published interview with the owner, who stated that his company supports "the biblical definition of the family unit".  I have to say I've not read the entire script of the interview nor the press release.  But as you will be able to imagine, and read for yourself. Some comments at the bottom of these articles are fierce, personal, hateful, intolerant and just plain ugly from many folks. People, many people are drawing lines in the sand and choosing sides.  

One of the blogs I subscribe to is brave enough to join the discussion.  In a post titled Not your mother's kind of tolerance the author points out the seemingly fluid nature of the definition of tolerance.  Tolerance use to be the acceptance of the existence of different views. Now it appears to be the acceptance of the existence of different views, as long as you don't give yours, if its different.

I may be a coward, maybe this is just one battle that I'm not keen to publicly join. But the one thing that has touched me and ever so gently is; where is Jesus in all this debate?

The Women's Pastor at my faith family told us this story this week of a gay man, who had a Christian flatmate (house mate/room mate), who loved him in a truly powerful way, never once approaching the topic of homosexuality, the man only ever spoke to him of Jesus.  That gay man is today, a believer in Jesus Christ because of that witness. I do not know the detail of his life, and quite frankly it is none of my business.

Mahatma Gandhi is famously quoted "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."  Does this quote bring a tear to your eye's?  It should, this is how some people view Christians; followers of Christ.  What Jesus did in love for us, he did for all man, every single one of us, we are all sinful, even if you are saved, you are still sinful. I can get so self-righteous, so proud, feeling like I am ok, nearly even good. Judging others, feeding my Pharisee. That is not reflecting my Saviour. Jesus has given me everything, but most importantly He's given me His record, His perfect record.

 "On the days when you feel as though you'll never get it, you'll never please him, you're such a failure, you must remember the lavish gift: his great heart pumped blood through his veins and then out his wounds so that he could bless you.  This perfect blood streamed down his body and tumbled through space, pooling on the earth beneath his feet. It was trampled on by those who stood below jeering.  It mingled with the dirt he had created, and from it grew your hope.  And then, on the days when you believe you're finally getting it, finally pleasing him, when you think you can look in satisfaction at your goodness, you'll need to look at that blood even more closely.  Take yourself to Calvary and stand there until all your good works seem to you as they really are; vile sludge purified only by his cleansing flow." (Elyse Fitzpatrick, Because He Loves Me)

The gift of Jesus is the greatest gift we can give, yet all too often we give our opinions instead. Now I'm not saying do not stand up for what you believe the Bible says.  This world needs Biblical values,  what I am saying is; remember from what you have been saved and who saved you, Jesus Christ is the life changer, the heart changer. A change of heart is the greatest miracle. Just to make it really clear, it is the Holy Spirit job to convict, not ours. 


As far as debates go, this one on gay marriages is heated, there is no doubt about it. Intolerant tolerance is rampant on both sides of the line. I've not come across teaching in the Bible about tolerance, but the Bible does teach about love. We need to be reminded that no one has ever won anyone over to their way of thinking by finger shaking, shouting and calling names. Let us show the world Jesus by speaking to the world about Him and His love.


Thank you Jesus

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Word of God is Spoken

My faith family is currently teaching a series on the 'Truth that Changes lives, Our God-breathed Bible.' . This has been a powerful series so far and we are only 2 sermons in.  If you are interested there are resources to dig deeper into  the sermon topics attached to the sermons (see above link).


Anyway, were I was going with this is that it is refuelling the fire within me for God's Word. This sermon series coupled with my Children hungry for What's in the bible DVD's has given me a freshness to delve into the depths of God's Word.  


I don't know about you, but my life is full of theme songs. Funky Town by Pseudo Echo, What's up by 4 Non-Blondes, Iris by Goo Goo Dolls. These songs all take me back to a time ... I have a new theme song.


Travis Cottrell wrote a beautiful song with lyrics of truth;


In the beginning was the word 
And the word was God 
The word became flesh 
And dwelled among us 
And we have seen your glory 
Like the rising of the sun 
You have conqued all our darkness 
The battle has been won 


The word of God has spoken 
We are changed forever 
Power of sin is broken we are free 
We are running to salvation 
We have been delivered 
The word of God has spoken we are free 


You're the lamp unto my feet 
You light my path 
You're the only bread of life 
That always satisfies 
you're the sword that cuts us deep 
Exposing all our sin 
You're our healing and forgiveness 
We are born again 


The word of God has spoken 
We are changed forever 
Power of sin is broken we are free 
We are running to salvation 
We have been delivered 
The word of God has spoken we are free 


From age to age 
Your word will stand 
Forever and amen 


From age to age 
Your word will stand 
Forever and amen 


The word of God has spoken 
We are changed forever 
Power of sin is broken we are free 
We are running to salvation 
We have been delivered 
The word of God has spoken we are free 


The word of God has spoken 
We are changed forever 
Power of sin is broken we are free 
We are running to salvation 
We have been delivered 
The word of God has spoken we are free 


From age to age 
The word will stand 
Forever and amen 


From age to age 
The word will stand 
Forever and amen 


We are free 
We are free 


You will stand 


Your word 
Your word 


From age to age 
The word will stand 
Forever and amen


Listen to it here.
I hope you enjoy it. I love good music, but even more than good music, I love God's truth put to music.  I could write every post on amazing new talent discovered in the music scene.  But ... I'd rather write about God's truth's.