Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"The Excellent Wife" is a wonderful source of advice

In light of my post about giving and receiving advice I’d like to once again recommend Martha Peace’s The Excellent Wife as a wonderful resource which is packed full of biblical advice. I would happily recommend this book to any woman preparing for marriage. Martha continually draws her readers to the word of God. Reading The Excellent Wife is one way to become equipped to pass on truly wise advice, when asked. It covers everything from homemaking to submission, speech to bitterness – all with a thorough biblical basis. It is easy to compare Martha’s advice to God’s advice, because she continually refers to the Bible. This means that readers can assess the basis for her comments. I am still working through the study guide, and I find it a great way to learn to love my husband better. Applying the word of God with the help of the Holy Spirit is the only way to effectively address the sins and problems I sometimes encounter as a new wife.

Christmas pictures

I created these angels for our tree after seeing one at a local Christian book store. They are achievable for anyone who is confident with paper craft and is not a perfectionist. The angel I originally saw had a white head but I could only find brown ones, so I figured it would be good to have a multi-racial Christmas tree! Our tree is mainly decorated with angels and stars, as these symbolise aspects of the story of Christ's birth. If you would like to know how to make these angels, I can give instructions in the comments section of this post.

Dave cooked a turkey for Christmas day. Well done, Dave!

We had a lovely time with family.

It was our second Christmas at my parents' home, and our second with my sister's twins.

We also enjoyed relaxing together at home. It was a lovely first Christmas as a married couple.

A new blog plan

This weekend I am a bridesmaid at the wedding of Christina and Peirce. You will be able to tell form the website that it is quite an elaborate affair! I do not anticipate being online again before Monday or Tuesday next week.

When I come back I am going to start on a new discipline with my blogging. I thought of this while praying about my blog last week. I have a little plan to help me keep on track with the goals of my blog, as set out in the welcome message. I have a monthly plan that goes like this . . .

Week 1: Creation Mandate

Week 2: Loving God (the first part of the Great Commandment)

Week 3: Loving others (the second part)

Week 4: The Great Commission (which I see as a sub-set of the Great Commandment)

I hope that this will help me to post more on each of these important areas. I will also continue to post about other things, but I will try to do at least one post on the topic that is allocated for that week.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Apathy is the opposite of love

I once heard a preacher say that “Hate is not the opposite of love. Apathy is.” Since then I’ve often thought about this quote in relation to the problem of abortion. In the church in Australia, apathy is the most common reaction to abortion. This was illustrated when a group I am a part of arranged a launch of the work we have been doing toward a pregnancy crisis centre. Our group hopes to offer support to pregnant women, and to share with them the saving love of Christ. For our "launch" we planned presentations for guests to view, boards with information and prayer points, and even show bags for guests to take home. The secretary sent invitations to 41 churches in the Hobart area. Only five guests attended who were not either committee members or their relatives. Several of these were friends of the committee members.

At this time of year I remember what happened to me six years ago, when I attended an abortion debate at Parliament House. On that day, my heart was touched in relation to this issue. I wrote about this experience in my article Abortion broke into my heart. If God had not caused this to have such an impact upon me, I am sure that I would also be apathetic. Abortion is a very difficult topic to discuss and to try to do anything about. Just last week I was so discouraged with the whole thing, and so disappointed that what I try to do often turns out poorly, that I seriously thought about stopping this work. Shortly after that, God intervened again. I received a call from Bruce Coleman of Choices of Life. I have known Bruce for some years now, through his pro-life work, and our conversation reminded me that God is working with us. He does not give up, and neither can I. God calls Christians to love those who are caught up in this sin, and to love their children. They, too, are our neighbours.

Edit 26/12/07: Apologies for the fact that the links were not working on this post. I hope that the problem is now fixed.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Why grow a veggie garden?

. . . fill the earth and subdue it . . .
Genesis 1:28

The original idea

For a long time now I've been meaning to post about our vegetable garden. We decided to grow a vegetable garden after discussing the potential environmental impact of having a larger than usual family. Obviously we don't have any children yet, but we do hope and pray that God will bless us children. During our engagement we discussed the wasteful nature of modern society, and agreed that we did not want to raise a clan of relentless consumers. The modern household is often solely a place of consumption, rather than a place of production. People come home to consume the pre-packaged meals they purchased at the supermarket or take away, and watch the TV shows and movies that someone has produced for them. We want to turn our household into a place of production.

The spiritual motivation

Our vegetable garden as one way we can fulfill the Creation Mandate to steward the earth. We moved into a home with raised beds that had already been put in place. All we had to do was dig the earth and plant. We are subduing the earth God has given us in our own yard, rather than draining agricultural land. We are making use of what we have been given to grow healthier food which is very convenient to use . . . just walk out the door and pluck a few leaves! God placed Adam and Eve in a garden, and I have a feeling that he always intended people to grow things. You can see this in the way that even city dwellers like to grow a plant or two. There is something in the way that we were created as God's image bearers that makes us wants to cultivate the earth and make it bring forth good things.

And God said, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Genesis 1:29

The results

We have been very pleased with the results of our vegetable garden. So far we have harvested snow peas, beetroot (Dave's favourite), lettuce, carrots, celery, zucchini, coriander, basil, silver beet, and baby spinach. The garden gives us a lot of pleasure, even though it is also hard work. We love to go out and look at how the plants are growing, and it is often the first place we head to in the morning - even before we eat! I busy myself working out how to use all that we grow.

More inspiration

I have gained inspiration from my mother's vegetable garden, which is filled with an abundance of good things. I had to laugh when I went around there yesterday and saw her rows of lettuce, silver beet, beetroot, and other vegetables . . . when there are only two living there now! My mother's vegetable garden allows her to be very generous in giving away food, which is a wonderful thing to be able to do. Mum's garden was the place that started our discussions about growing our own food.

The Girotti family also have an inspirational vegetable patch. It looks amazing! When I saw this, my thought was "I hope our garden looks like that someday".

The garden is a wonderful place to think about Jesus' parables of reaping and sowing. It is also a good place to think of the wonderful prayer "The Deeps" and of "roots of grace spreading far and wide".

A favourite family picture

This picture was taken at my younger brother Aidan's wedding last month. It is fantastic to have all the brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews in the picture, all smiling, at once! Amazing!

Will Zuma be the new South African President?

This morning Dave and I discussed South African politics in the light of the recent election of Jacob Zuma to the African National Congress (ANC) Presidency. The ANC has won every election since the end of apartheid, so he is very likely to be South Africa's next president.

The Australian published a profile about Mr Zuma, noting that he happily admits to being a polygamist. He is also an alleged rapist and has been confronted with charges of corruption.

In "Profile: Zuma charms wives and nation", The Australian notes that Mr Zuma has four official wives and several girlfriends.

He is undoubtedly a master politician, one of the few who can combine township militancy and traditional African values - one day punching the air at an ANC rally, the next dancing in a leopard-skin loincloth at a Zulu village ceremony.

To say the least, my husband is concerned about this situation in South Africa. This morning in our conversations we were reminded that we need to avoid worrying about tomorrow. Concerns about changes that will lead South Africa toward dictatorship may well be unfounded.

Michael Spicer, of Business Leadership in Africa, said: “It is more a question of style than substance. Zuma cannot possibly deliver all he has promised but he represents a desire for change. I don't think economic policy or government would in fact change very much.”

Whether or not Zuma will change the South African political landscape dramatically, one thing is certain. He is not a godly leader. Will you join with us in praying for godly government in South Africa?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Freedom from the bondage of perfectionism

I think as wives and mothers, we have a tendency to fall in to the trap of perfectionism rather easily. It starts with a very good and noble desire to set a godly example for our families, our fellow Christians, and the lost. But, before we know it, we start comparing ourselves to others and feeling we fall woefully short. Jennie Chancey, Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, page 70.

One of my favourite parts of Passionate Housewives Desperate for God: Fresh Vision for the Hopeful Homemaker by Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald is the chapter titled “Too Good to be True: Freedom from the Bondage of Perfectionism”. One of the first pages I flipped to when I opened the book contained Jennie’s description of the way she loads herself with goals, when her husband would rather she did less and relaxed. After only a few months of marriage, I’ve worked out that this is the case for me as well.

“God has created me to be my husband’s helper – not a slave to my own whims or wishes.” Jennie Chancey.

This fact is so important to remember. I am sure that husbands do exist who load their wives down with unrealistic expectations. However, the majority of Christian men would greatly prefer a relaxed, happy wife than one who was constantly trying to perform at her unrealistically high standards!

“God gets all the glory when weak and frail sinners succeed.” Jennie Chancey.

When we are weak, we are reminded of our need for God. He is the only one who can make us holy, or enable us to succeed in any way. Jennie does not advocate laxness or laziness, but she does help readers to have realistic expectations of their own abilities. God does not wait for us to be perfect before he uses us to accomplish great things through our homes.

I particularly need to learn to trust that God can accomplish what he desires in my home despite the limitations of my chronic back pain and even my sin. If I am very sore and need to sit or lie down, instead of trying to do housework and ending up in tears, that is OK. If I become weepy because I let sinful emotions rule, this serves as another reminder of the fact that I need to continually repent and come to Christ. God is perfect and I am not. That is why he sent his son to die on the cross for my sins.

I’ll end with a final encouraging quote:

“But however noble our goals may be, they are utter fully if we do not keep foremost the greatest goal of them all: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30). It isn’t about me. It doesn’t depend on me. I will never be “good enough”, but God will always be gracious enough.”

Thank you, Jennie, for writing a wonderful chapter in a wonderful book!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why is abortion after rape very rare?

In my recent post Why Would a Rape Victim Choose Life I mentioned that pregnancy after rape is rare. The excellent book Who Broke the Baby by Jean Staker Garton gives the reasons why this is the case.
  • Statistical odds against pregnancy resulting from any single sex act. Normally, women are only fertile one day a month, although sperm can live in her body for up to five days.
  • Women subject to emotional trauma will not ovulate, even if under normal circumstances they would do so.
  • Rape studies show a higher percentage of sterility and vasectomies among rapists.
  • Pregnancies that might occur from rape can be prevented with immediate medical treatment given in the five or six intervening hours between the sex act and the union of egg and sperm.

Due to this, abortion after rape would be very rare if it was allowed as an exception to abortion laws.

Why Would a Rape Victim Choose Life?

The social context

When I asked a local political candidate for her position on abortion, she spoke for a lot of people when she said: “I don’t support abortion as a form of birth control, but when a woman has been raped I think there should be a choice.”

Abortions after rape are only a tiny percentage of the total number of abortions, even smaller than the percentage that are related to a potential disability in the baby. Yet they feature disproportionately in public debate.

“The frequent references to it leave the false impression that pregnancy due to rape is common, rather than rare.” Randy Alcorn, Why Prolife, p. 79.

Even though pro-choice advocates support access to abortion for everyone, they often focus upon rape victims. A good question to ask someone who argues for abortion in cases of rape is “If you support abortions for rape victims but not abortion in all cases, will you then work with me to reduce the number of other abortions?”

Would an abortion help a rape victim?

The public debate also assumes that abortion is the best thing for a woman who has been raped. This makes sense if you assume that abortion is a benign event that usually does not leave long term emotional scars. The truth is, however, that many women do experience trauma as a result of their abortion decisions. This is especially the case for those who held pro-life values prior to the difficulties that led them to abort.

“It is hard to imagine a worse therapy for a woman who’s been raped than the guilt and turmoil of having her child killed.” Randy Alcorn, Why Prolife, p. 81.

The assumption that abortion is the best thing for a raped woman to do means that there is often pressure to take this course. As with many other abortions, it is easier for the people who are close to the woman if the problem is “taken away”. One fictional account of what can happen in real life is Francine Rivers’ book The Atonement Child. This riveting book is well worth a read.

The child is not guilty

Like rape, abortion is an act of violence. The woman who has been the victim of a violent act is now encouraged to become an aggressor herself. A child should not be punished for the sins of his or her father. A rape victim should not be encouraged to continue the spiral of violence.

“Having and holding an innocent child can do much more good for a victimized woman than the knowledge that an innocent child died in a fruitless attempt to reduce her trauma.” Randy Alcorn, Why Prolife, p. 80.

This blog post was created in answer to one of the questions I have received.

St. Nicholas

Faith has posted about some of her traditions. You can read about her family traditions in relation to St. Nicholas, the man behind the tradition of Santa Claus, in her second traditions post.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Biblical, balanced teaching on submission

The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace contains a lot of teaching about biblical submission. I have been completing the study guide, which is a great way to think more about the teachings in the book.

Here are five ways a submissive wife honours God’s word . . .

  1. Obeying God is more important to her than having her own way
  2. She reverently fears the Lord
  3. She lets God’s word direct her life
  4. Her life shows an example of the church’s submission to Christ
  5. She is submissive whether she feels like it or not.

The Excellent Wife is extraordinarily complete and balanced in its treatment of submission. As well as emphasising the importance of submission, it also addresses difficult cases. In cases where a husband is sinning against his wife, the wife is not to simply “put up with it” in the name of submission. Rather, she is to make use of the protections God offers her. These include giving a biblical reproof, asking the church for assistance, and contacting the police.

“Letting her husband bear the consequences of his sinful behaviour at the hand of either church or governmental authorities is an act of loving obedience to God since God himself has appointed these authorities for her protection”.
Martha Peace, page 173

More mishaps . . .

I’ve been thinking that it may be time to turn my blogging attentions to “homemaking successes” rather than mishaps. After all, homemaking is not all about injuries and failures! However, before I draw this series to a close I must share a few last incidents of note.

Today’s mishaps

This morning when I went into the laundry I discovered that my trousers, which I’d been soaking to remove a stain, had mysteriously gained several new stains that were worse than the first one. Mum came over this afternoon and informed me that I had soaked them for too long, failed to submerge the whole article in the water, and used an inferior stain remover. So I sent them home with her in the hope of a resurrection.

This morning I was baking cookies for Dave. I wanted to change the trays around in the oven. I placed one on the stovetop while I went to move the other one to the lower shelf. The tray on the stovetop must not have been placed correctly, and it came sliding down on top of me. All the cookies slid off the tray and mysteriously disappeared into the crack between the oven floor and the bottom of the door. They door must have acted as a cookie slippery dip. I asked Dave to clean up the mess. I can’t face my own mistakes sometimes. Thankfully, there was still one tray of cookies left to reward him with.

Mum and Dave seemed to think that both of these incidents were very funny. I disagreed.

Hanging pictures

The house we are renting has very few picture hooks. Since I figure that it is well within a homemaker’s abilities to hand a few pictures, I went ahead and purchased the necessary materials, and set about enthusiastically putting holes in walls. In one notable incident, a picture’s hook came out. As the picture fell from the wall its frame broke and it made a large scratch. This white gash in the dark blue paint now forms a constant reminder that hanging pictures is not as easy as it looks.

Jutting rubbish bins

I really can’t leave the topic of homemaking mishaps before I mention the important subject of rubbish bins with metal pedals. Every homemaker should know that placing them in certain locations can be hazardous. Before I moved mine to a safer place, I sustained cuts to the inside of my little toe on a number of occasions. This caused days of pain and complaints. Please, for your own sake, never place these bins in thoroughfares.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Giving and receiving advice

The discussions surrounding my honeymoon lovin’ posts made me think about the topic of advice. Women tend to think that their experience is an appropriate measure of what other women’s experience will be. They then give advice based upon this. This is what I did. My friend Christine Jolly also did so on her blog, when she advised women to go to the doctor. Since experience is not a necessarily a reliable guide to what others should or shouldn’t do, we need to give experience based advice with plenty of disclaimers. Even though I did not need to go to the doctor or read books, some women may benefit from these things. Even though some women benefit from going to the doctor, others are fine without doing so.

What kind of advice can we give wholeheartedly, then? God’s advice applies to everyone, regardless of circumstances. The best thing we can do is to point people to the Bible. This is true with regard to problems that can arise on honeymoons, as it is in other areas of life. Many of the problems women shared with me arose partly from a lack of biblical understanding. They had false ideas about what was sinful. A thorough understanding of God’s word would have created a healthy anticipation of God’s plan, rather than serious fear or inhibitions. Therefore, I can wholeheartedly advise any woman to consider the Bible’s teaching on sexuality in the months prior to marriage.

The Bible is also the first place to turn when we are given advice. Often we receive snippets of advice in the course of conversation. The person may not intend to “advise” us, they’re just sharing experience or ideas and giving recommendations on the basis of that. Sometimes this advice is excellent, with a wonderful biblical basis. At other times it is based only on human ideas or experiences. One piece of advice Dave and I received from several godly people was “wait a while before having babies”! We had already decided not to deliberately wait. Yet we took these comments seriously.

Clarity was given when we thought about whether or not the advice was biblically based. We quickly realised that no one had given us any biblical reasons for waiting. We’d been told that it was easier not to have babies, it gave you freedom to travel, you could “get to know each other”, and you could establish yourselves financially. These comments came from a well-meaning desire to help us avoid hardship, but they were not based upon any biblical ideas. Since we’d tried hard to develop a biblical perspective on child bearing, we felt free to continue to plan according to this rather than according to human experiences or ideas. We didn’t need to fear.

On the Internet there are many people giving their “two cents worth” about a host of topics. Some want to warn us away from evangelical feminists, others from advocates of biblical patriarchy. Women share their experiences and opinions in regard to everything from submission to motherhood, end times theology to university education. As we read these opinions, it is always worth asking the question “where does this idea come from”. Does it have its origin in the Bible, or is it a product of human opinion and experience? We can learn a lot from the experiences of others, but ultimately we will answer to God.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Decorating the tree

Dave loves decorating Christmas trees! He has many fond memories of growing up years when the whole family would join in the fun.

This was a pleasant break in the midst of the hard slog of PhD completion and wondering about the future. We are currently wondering how to manage a move to Melbourne for a couple of months in the new year, which is necessary due to Dave's PhD.

A bit of light fun in the midst of lots of work . . . and a fun memory of our first tree as a married couple!