Monday, December 22, 2008

Don't Waste Your Life

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper is a heartfelt call to live out the Christian life with passion. John Piper does not advocate a “good” life, or an “ok” life, but a life devoted to enjoying God and making others happy in Him.

Don't Wate Your Life is full of the biblical themes that should define our lives: the Creation Mandate, the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission. Piper shows the way that all are essential to the furtherance of God’s Kingdom. He achieves a refreshing and essential integration of them in his call for devotion to Jesus Christ.

An entire chapter is devoted to “secular” work and its worth in the Kingdom of God. This chapter provides fresh perspective on what it means to be creative human beings who aim to exalt and enjoy God through daily work. I am going to dip back into this in order to apply it better to my approach to work at home.

John Piper draws all things into the centre of loving and enjoying God. He calls for us to love the cross, the gospel, and the beauty of God Himself. Piper shows the way love for God leads to love for others. This is expressed beautifully in part of a long prayer that makes up the final chapter:

“There is a quiet kind of joy, O Lord, that Jesus did both save us from our sin and show us how to love. His life, as you have said, was both a purchase and a path. He died for us, and now calls us to die with him. He took our poverty upon himself that we, in him, might have the riches of his heaven, and he calls us now to use our riches for the poor.”

This path of love that Jesus showed us leads us directly into the midst of the Great Commission. If we love people, we will want them and to be happy in Christ. If we love God, we will want every life and culture and nation in this world to glorify Him. Piper devotes much space to a call to take risks for the sake of the gospel, and to explaining the worth of frontier mission.

So often we can spend our lives on the “ok” things. The things we may be free to do, but which God has never said should be priorities in our lives. Piper critiques many of these things, including our culture’s entertainment obsession. In recent months, I’ve been reconsidering many of the things I do. Even “good” things can keep us from opportunities to obey Christ and show that we treasure the same things he does.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

See you in December!

I'll blog next time in the Christmas week.

One of the many reasons I have decided to stop blogging weekly is that there are so many great blogs out there covering some of the same main themes that I focus on here.

Check out Passionate Homemaking where Lindsay has written about Mission minded home schooling, lots of other mission-related posts, and lots of posts about caring for God's world. This blog seems fantastic.

Jasmine has written about The Environment, giving a Christian perspective on why we care for the earth.

Humble and gentle toward all

God spoke to my heart through Titus 3: 1 - 7 this week:

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures . . . But when the kindness of the love of God our Saviour toward men appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us . . .
It seems that the apostle Paul is not only speaking of our duties to rulers who are not Christian, but also to all people. This includes people like Richard Dawkins who make a living out of attacking the very idea of God. This includes political leaders we believe advocate evil. It includes our neighbours, and our family members.

Too often, Christians can become scoffers. They scoff at those who disagree, and even make things up about them. Paul's advice in these situations is clear: stop it!

  • Remember who you once were
  • Remember what God has done for you
  • Humbly hold out that hope to others
It is that simple. God doesn't need Christians to be rude, pushy, or gossips. He needs them to obey.

More Love to Thee

Sharon James' biography of Elizabeth Prentiss is a worthwhile read if you would like to learn from the life of a woman who was always striving to love God more. Elizabeth Prentiss suffered many hardships, including the deaths of children. In the midst of these events, she strove to give more of herself over to God. This biography would be of particular value to women, as Elizabeth is an example of a dedicated wife, mother, homemaker, Bible study leader and hostess. However, men would also benefit from exploring with Elizabeth how to love God with increasing fervour.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The end of an enjoyable chapter

Today marks the end of a chapter of my life that I look back on with gratitude and enjoyment. Today I handed in my last assignment for the Wesley Institute Diploma of Education. I highly recommend this course to anyone considering teaching. The thorough biblical basis to each unit, coverage of many helpful teaching resources, practical assignments, and substantial amount of classroom experience make it a winner. It hasn't always been easy, and sometimes I may have looked like the picture above, but it has been good!

When I began this course at the beginning of 2007, I did not know that I would be married by the end of that year and a mother to an unborn child by the end of the next! I began it knowing that I might be a wife and a mother, or a classroom teacher, or I might have to try and combine both. In any of these scenarios, the Diploma would be of use. Unlike former study, I had a clear interest and vocation in mind. I don't know if I'll ever work in the profession this course qualifies me for, classroom Primary Teaching. I do know that I've gained valuable experience, good memories, and lots of knowledge for (God willing) home schooling.

Now when people ask me what I do with my days, I'll have to say (with a smile) "I'm a housewife". Yep, I've gone back about 100 years and believe that being a wife and running a home well is a job in itself. Being a truly productive housewife requires planning, dedication, prioritisation, research and creativity. I'm one of the most blessed women I know, 'cause it is my job.

Birthday cakes and baby bumps

On Saturday it was the twins' 2nd birthday. It was fun to decorate cakes for the little ones. One of my nephews was being serious type. He looked at his engine cake without a smile . . .

and made some unsuccessful attempts to blow out the candles.

This one, on the other hand, grinned as we sang happy birthday and successfully extinguished both candles! Right after, he decided it was time to eat the lion's ear.

I can't tell you what a joy it is to be in the kitchen again making yummy things for people to enjoy. One of the main ways I show love to people is to feed them, and it was hard when I could hardly prepare any food due to all-day-sickness. For a few weeks there, even opening the fridge door could send me rushing to the toilet bowl. Something went wrong with my nose! Reading recipes, something I usually enjoy, became nausea inducing. I'm happy to say that all is back to normal now, and I'm loving my birthday present . . .

This wonderful book contains just about everything you could hope to know about food and cooking! What a blessing it is to be able to look up a particular food that we have in the garden, or that comes to mind, and find ideas for how to prepare it. It does not have any pictures, but that does not worry me.

Since it is the last week of the month, and I've promised baby bump updates, here is a picture taken two days ago at 16 weeks and 5 days of pregnancy.

That may not look like a bump to you, but my tummy sure looks different to us!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A quieter blog

I love my blog. I like its theme, I like expressing thoughts in writing, and I like interacting with readers. Despite this, I’ve decided to cut back on blogging. My decision does not reflect a desire to put my mind on a shelf somewhere, and become one of those mythical faceless housewives without opinions or even rational thought. In an attempt to prove this, I recently attended a public lecture titled “Climate Change: Complexities, uncertainties, urgency, and equity”. Huh!? I am also going to attempt to answer some questions about democracy, which I neglected to notice all week - sorry! It is also not because I have no ideas about what to write anymore. That has never been a problem for me! I’ve made this decision for a few reasons that God has been revealing to me over recent months.

My main role in daily life is to be a helper to my husband. “Does this help my husband” is the question that helps me to sift the important from the less important. When I ask Dave what he’d like me to do, he never says “I’d love it if you’d blog about ____”. He is more likely to say “Please make another animal patch for the baby’s quilt”. He is far more excited about me learning to bottle food, and being willing to wash cloth nappies, than he is about me writing about stewardship and dominion. Don’t get me wrong. Dave loves my mind, and my writing. He loves it that I have reasons for what I believe, and that I am interested in current events. He just isn’t all that passionate about blogs.

I’ve also had a niggling feeling that perhaps I ought not to have so much to say. Those warnings in Proverbs about sin accompanying many words come to mind. There is nothing like marriage to show up how much one has to learn. Except, perhaps, the additional blessing of becoming a mother to a tiny child. Many people have told me I write well. Perhaps in twenty years my writing will be worth listening to. In the mean time, I want to spend more of my time listening to those whom history has sifted and deemed worthy. I want to soak myself in biographies and old hymns, in puritan prayers and Bible passages memorized and repeated countless times.

There are many things in life I long for almost desperately. I long for my life to count for something in eternity . . . for our children to love Jesus more than we do . . . for our home to be a place of beauty, of productivity, of joy, of prayer, of passion . . . to give, not to want . . . to have a gentle and quiet spirit . . . to be unworried about the sins and opinions of others . . . to love people I find difficult . . . to love the church . . . to respond rightly to the problems in Dave’s first country . . . even, oddly enough, to learn Zulu. I’ve come to question how much keeping up a blog, and spending 1 - 6 hours a week on it, contributes to those things. So you’ll still find me here at “A Deeper Love”, but only in the last week of every month, and maybe with fewer words to say.

We owe the future the past

. . . What we owe the future
is not a new start, for we can only begin
with what has happened. We owe the future
the past, the long knowledge
that is the potency of time to come.
Wendell Berry

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Post-election thoughts

I've appreciated a few of the blog posts I've read following the US election.

In A Four-Year-Old and the Presidency Steven Nichols comments on the changes in the US over the last 40 years. I am personally grateful that the US has come so far in the area of racism. I also agree with Nichols that it is not good for us to only see one colour. Voddie Baucham, a black man himself, also comments on related topics in his post Its Not All Bad

Ligon Duncan's thoughts on Praying for Obama are excellent, particularly his call for those with the greatest differences with the President-Elect to cultivate a genuine love for him. The points in this post are a challenge to me, as I pray too infrequently for Australia's leaders and don't include some of the points that are suggested! Duncan's link to Al Mohler is also well worth reading. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blog posts on the US election I like

I've shared some of my concerns about Evangelical responses to the US election. Now I want to share some blog posts that have seemed sweet and refreshing in comparison. This is not because I agree with all the conclusions of these authors. Rather, it is because they have not dismissed the implications of the Bible for how we make decisions about candidates and voting. They have explored the ways the Bible may apply.

John Piper wrote Why a Woman Shouldn't Run for Vice President but Wise People May Still Vote for Her.

Jasmine Baucham tackled the argument that It's not A Religious Issue.

Jennie Chancey wrote Of Salt Losing Its Savor, and ended with an inspiring call to gospel living.

The Botkin sisters wrote of why We believe Sarah Palin’s example poses a more serious threat to Christian womanhood than more liberal feminist icons such as Hillary Clinton.

If you have come across blog posts you believe are an honest attempt to apply the Bible to the issues brought up in the election campaign, and which you enjoyed, please share them in the comments section.

Looking for Christ's work in people

I've shared a couple of times that I often struggle to love other Christians. This year has been really hard, in multiple relationships and a variety of situations. I've been confronted with my own sin as seldom before. This sin may be invisible to most people, even those I'm sinning against, but I know what happens in my heart. The sinful emotions that steal my joy in Christ have become familiar enemies. All too often I have failed to heed these verses:

Phillipians 2: 3 " . . . in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself."

Proverbs 11: 12 "He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor".

At some point, I relalised this had to end. But how? How could I stop thinking these things? I have not yet had total victory, but one thing has been a great help. This is to take the time to look for signs of grace in other Christians, as recommended in C.J. Mahaney's book Humility: true Greatness. I took the time to write these down and look for as many as possible. This is a practice I recommend.

I did not restrict my writing to people who I was struggling to love, but also included some whom I find it easy to admire and enjoy. The idea is based on this verse:

1 Corinthians 1:4 "I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus"

The idea is to look for signs of this grace at work. We know it is there, but sometimes we fail to acknowledge its evidence! One way to observe it is to look for the fruits of the spirit and the way people are using their gifts to serve. I did this with my Mum, who is a great blessing to me (and is not one of the people I particularly struggle to love!). I'll share the points here to give you an idea of what you could do:

Love for God, the Bible, and her family. Enduring love that forgets wrongs. Forgiving love. Humble love. Hopeful love.

Joy in her salvation, answered prayer, and godly fellowship.

Patience with her husband, her children, projects she undertakes, and her with people at school.

Goodness in visiting Aunty Val, filling her mind with good things and avoiding evil, and helping Janelle.

Gentleness toward all.

Self-control in keeping house, gardening, rising early, keeping her emotions in check, holding her tongue, and preparing for teaching.

Long-suffering in the face of her health struggles.

Kindness in speech, offers of help, prayers and gifts.

As I have gone through this process with a number of Christians, it has always been abundantly clear that God is at work in their lives! This has given me a renewed and healthier perspective on those people I struggle to love.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hello, I am not a fundamentalist, I am a human being

When I wrote my post There is a standard for your vote, I expected disagreement. It is not a shock that some people don't like it that I honestly believe that many on both sides of politics have been ignoring parts of the Bible, and that it is possible to sin in casting your vote. However, upon reading this article that was recommended as an antidote to my error, I must admit that I am somewhat shaken. If any of my readers honestly believe that fellow Christians can be put into boxy categories like "fundamentalist" and "Mainstream evangelical", we are asking different questions and will arrive at different answers. I have an idea that the fundo box has a picture on it, which looks something like this . . .

My continual attempt on this blog and in the whole of life is to ask one question: "What does the Bible say about this matter?" and after that "How does that apply to how we live as Christians, and particularly to how I live?". My assumption in doing so is that the Bible does speak to all areas of life and that we can understand it. Any advice I receive from Christians, and any opinion that is given, is filtered based on the questions "Is this the conclusion the Bible would lead us toward, if we were using that as our main reference point?" and "Does this person have a biblical reason for what they're saying?".

Asking these questions often puts me in conflict with ideas that are being pedalled on both sides of the political spectrum. It also doesn't help with trying to fit nicely into a Christian box, even the one with the fundo picture on it. There have been many times when I've had to repent of immense anger and anxiety about the actions and ideas of Christian "conservatives". Yet the questions above are the only ones I know how to ask. They are the basis on which I attempt to fear God, not man. They are the basis on which I offer any conclusions about the Christian life, and upon which I consider changing any position I have taken. They form the shape of my very self. Sorry, I don't have any other questions or answers to offer.

Monday, November 10, 2008

There is a standard for your vote

During the US election campaign, I have often thought about the willingness of evangelicals to explain away the implications of some parts of Scripture. This can be evident on both sides of politics. Modern evangelicals have both an obsession with the importance of the Bible, and a curious disregard for it. Apparently reading the Bible is essential to spiritual life. On the other hand, evangelicals are prone to arguing that the Bible does not speak to particular areas. They usually do this through explaining away or ignoring the parts of the Bible that do apply. This has been evident Christian responses to this election campain.

Some go as far as arguing that Christianity does not have implications for whether you vote Democrat or Republican. Why? Being a Christian is about the gospel. This statement implies that the gospel comes to us in some kind of nebulous vacuum. It comes contextless, and devoid of any compelling claim upon our decisions. It is odd, then, that God chose to accompany the gospel with a Bible. Jesus came to us in the context a wealth of literature that gives us a very good idea of what his will is when it comes to rulers and laws. It may be that neither Democrats nor Republicans fit the bill, but we have been given standards we can use to evaluate both. Yes, you are still a Christian if you sinfully support wicked rulers. You are a Christian who needs to repent, and who can rely on the endless grace of God given in the gospel.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Learning to Fear God

I have recently been seeking to address my tendency toward a lack of love, and toward being excessively concerned about what others are doing. Dave and I are trying to become far more concerned about our own sins than the sins others may be commiting! I have realised that one of the roots of my lack of love is a lack of the fear of God. In John 6:44 Jesus says: "How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?". We should follow Christ, not our Christian neighbours. We seek the approval of the Almighty, not the affirmation of Christian leaders.

The actions (or lack of actions) of other Christians worry me because I depend too much upon them to affirm my own choices and beliefs. Ultimately though, what others do or think should not effect how I perceive my own Christian life. What matters is what God thinks, and what God would have us do. Even the Internet can, for me, become another way to seek to affirm myself through finding someone who agrees with me. What matters, though, is whether God agrees. If I am convinced that the fear of God requires me to heed a certain part of the Bible that others appear to disregard, that is all the motivation I should need.

It has been a real help to realise that it is the fear of God that leads me to seek to . . .

  • Treasure Jesus and the gospel
  • Participate in church life
  • Pray
  • Resist the temptation to speak ill of others
  • Fill our home with good, positive, and lovely things, sounds and experiences
  • Care about the poor and the persecuted church
  • Faithfully care for our home
  • Be hospitable
  • Forgive
  • Welcome children into our home and family
  • Study the Bible
  • Reach out to our neighbours
  • Do what I've promised or commited to do
  • Steward our money and be generous
  • Use my time wisely
Focusing on fearing God, rather than on what others are doing, has already been a great help to me. For example, yesterday I got up late after being awake from 5 - 6am when Dave left to travel. I was tempted to compare myself to others, thinking about how my neighbour gets up early to go to work. Then I asked that simple question: am I fearing God. The answer was "yes", because I'd stayed in bed in an effort to have the energy to enjoy homegroup that night. This has been a real struggle for me recently! When we're fearing God, finding someone else "like us" who affirms the way we are is suddenly less important. What matters is how we believe our actions reflect (or do not reflect) obedience to God's priorities for our lives.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

John Newton's childhood tales

I have been reading John Newton, a biography by Jonathan Aitken. It is amazing to read of the many biblical passages and sections of catechisms that John's mother taught him before he was six years old.

I guess parents these days don't need to worry about inflicting such unnecessary work upon their offspring, because we have - wait for it - VeggieTales.

All sarcasm is intended.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Our new garden

Dave has built us a wonderful new garden. He did it all on his own, using a lot of materials and soil we already had. In this picture we are with Tim & Shellyanne.

So far we have planted some flowers, carrots, lettuce, spinach, beetroot, radish, spring onion, various types of beans and tomatoes, corn, patty pan squash, zucchini, gem squash, and sunflowers. We are growing mainly from seed this year, so it takes a bit longer to get started! It is rewarding though, to see the plants poking through the soil.


One point in my TV post could do with clarification. I mentioned that I am horrified when I read about some types of sin. Please let me make it clear that I am horrified primarily because of what I believe these things do to people's lives. It is not like "ewwww, I can't believe anyone would do that, how can they be so bad". Rather, I am grieved that many people will base their lives upon what is glamourised and promoted as normal. They will miss out on the beauty of a godly marriage, amongst other things. The consequences of that, especially considered on a nation wide level, are truly horrifying. Surely this is a motive for evangelism? Jesus brings to people not only Himself and salvation from sin. He also brings the opportunity and the mandate to change your behaviour and beliefs to those that reflect His beauty. Beliefs and behaviour are the essence of culture, and I believe Jesus wants us to create new cultures in our homes and families.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

TV and the Great Commission

I've recently been listening to some of the Matthias Media "EQUIP Women" 2004 conference CDs. Wendy Potts made many good points in her talk "Making the most of opportunities". The CD inspired me to trust God and look for opportunities to connect with people who don't know Him. As CDs on evangelism go, it was good and worth recommending.

One thing, however, was of concern to me. In a section of the talk about finding things to work on in your life, Wendy said "I need to work on watching more junk TV". She went on to explain that watching TV shows like Sex and the City might provide opportunities for spiritual conversation. As I thought more about this (with our TV stowed safely in the cupboard), two things came to mind.

Firstly, are we supposed to enjoy watching these shows? If we don't enjoy them, how can we connect with others on the basis of these things? I find it impossible to enjoy TV shows that make comedy out of vile things. Since marriage, sexual immorality has become increasingly horrifying. When I read facts about it in the context of someone's life (such as in a newspaper or biography) I feel a kind of horrified sadness. How can something so wonderful and pure be turned into something so impure and destructive? Should this not grieve us?

Secondly, the purpose of evangelism is to bring disciples into the church. The Great Commission commands us to disciple the nations in all God has commanded. Numerous times, God commands us to flee and to hate what is evil. I don't suppose TV shows are excluded. While Wendy may be able to watch these things without sin, there would be many immature Christians in her audience. It is easy for new Christians to be crippled when they continue with viewing habits that legitimise sin. They often have a desperate need to be renewed in their minds, and portraying junk TV as a positive part of life is surely unhelpful.

I recognise, as I write these things, that many godly people I love watch a whole lot of junk TV and have a many justifications for it. I clearly disagree with the what-you-watch-doesn't-matter folks, and am grieved to hear of what others enjoy. I've tried to be careful not to rant in this post, however, and hope I've conveyed love for my brothers and sisters who disagree. I can't comment on TV better than John Piper does in Don't Waste Your Life:

TV still reigns as the great life-waster. The main problem with TV is not how much smut is available, though that is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you're watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV dinimishes. Your mind was made to know and love God.
The Great Commission is about teaching people to know and love God. I really don't see how Sex and the City will help.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Get Married!

I highly recommend Kara's two posts about Candice Watters' new book Get Married: What Women Can Do To Help It Happen. This book appears to avoid some of the pitfalls of Getting Serious About Getting Married and to encourage a more contented attitude of trust in God. I cannot do justice in a few words to the themes Kara explores in her posts. All I will say is that they are well worth reading! Check out part one and part 2 of her review. I would like to read this book in order to better help young women who desire to be married.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Visionary Daughters on friendship

In the context of recent posts on courtship, I found a few posts by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin relevant. These posts deal with the topic of friendships between men and women.

In their first article at Visionary Daughters, the sisters share their thoughts on treating one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Standards and rules of decorum should be regarded. The trouble is, they don’t ultimately fix the problems. Only treating the attitudes of our hearts – cultivating agape love, wisdom, thoughtfulness, and the perception and intuition to discern the need of the moment – will help us act like the sisters in Christ we should be.

Try to act like a sister, not a prospect. Don’t be obsessed with your own eligibility, or theirs either, for that matter. Selfless, honest interaction with young men has the potential to edify, stimulate, educate, inspire and encourage both parties.
In a subsequent post, they answer a 14-year-old's question about whether friendships between boys and girls should be different from those between girls.

The danger here isn’t just boy-girl relationships. It’s fool-fool relationships. There is this danger in friendships between girls, too. Yet age shouldn’t really be the basis of “discrimination” either, any more than gender. The issue is spiritual maturity.
Finally, they address the topic of whether guys and girls can be "just friends" without emotional entanglement.

Few of us have ever seen friendships between young men and women conducted in an entirely pure and honorable way.

We believe the problem is not with friendship, but with sin. Sadly, sin and selfishness are what drive most the relationships of today’s youth.
In my opinion, each of these posts presents a lot of wisdom. They are worth reading in full.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

There really is a baby in there

Yesterday I went to the doctor at the public hospital and she did a very quick scan to measure the baby. Sure enough, there really is a small Drew present with us :). He/she waves and kicks. I'm not that excited about fetal development, having learnt so much about it through pro-life involvement. It is not new and exciting to me anymore! However, it is exciting to see my own baby on the screen. 28 weeks to go, God willing.

I haven't written much about my pregnancy. There are a couple of reasons for this.

1) I've been trying not to whine about being sick/tired.

2) I'm also trying not to turn this into another Mummy blog, much as I love some of them. This may be a short lived and futile aim, but you'll note that the title of my blog is still "A Deeper Love" and not "Pregnant Mum Muses" or something like that. I want motherhood to be a minor theme of this blog, not a totally dominating one!

For those who are curious though:

  • I have finally started looking at maternity clothes for no good reason. I am just as thin as ever. I even got Dave to come and look at some with me :)
  • I've developed a horror of my home being filled with cutsie and pointless toys. Is it possible to prevent this??
  • Today I went through boxes full of my sister's baby clothes and more, and brought three boxes home with me. It is fantastic to have so much given to me, and means we will have to buy much less than many new parents.\
  • I keep wondering what colour scheme the "spare room", which we hope will soon be shared with baby, should have. Does pale gold and deep red sound good to anyone else?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From White Australia to Woomera

Have you ever wondered about the composition of Australian society in comparison to that of other countries?

Do you think we are one of the most multicultural societies on earth?

Have you felt unduly swayed by newspaper reports, and wanted to understand immigration more deeply?

Do you fear a "Muslim invasion"? Or perhaps an Asian invasion, or some other variation?

If so, this book may be for you. A rational, detailed and often dry 220 pages of analysis from an expert in the field, it will leave you with more information and (hopefully) fewer prejudices. Thanks to the White Australia policy, that existed until the 1970s, Australia became one of the most British societies outside the UK. This continues even to the present day, with 3/4 of the population speaking only English and describing themselves as Christian. James Jupp provides analysis of White Australia, the movement to multiculturalism, the policies of various governments, the need for immigration, and much more.

Amongst the most helpful aspects of this book are the author's definitions of racism and xenophobia. James Jupp writes "By 'racist', I mean a fairly complex position which argues that clearly identifiable races not only exist but are hierarchically graded." Racism is an ideology that views all members of a race as superior or inferior to members of another race. "By 'xenophobic', I mean a simpler psychological reaction to people who originate in a different homeland and who are believed to be physically or culturally different." Jupp argues that this is an almost universal reaction, but must be controlled in a civilised society. Xenophobia can include fear of another religion or language.

This is a secular book, but it has aroused all kinds of religious questions in me. What does responsible dominion, as taught in the Creation Mandate, mean for a country's immigration policy? What is a loving response to refugees? Should Christians advocate that all people "fit into" society and adopt Australian values? Should we support the evaluation of people primarily on the basis of their potential economic contribution to society? How can we, who know that fear and worry are expressions of lack of trust in God, fear Muslim people coming to Australia? Should we not rather view their prescence as an opportunity? I don't have the answers to these and many other questions. However, they need to be asked if Christians are to develop a loving and biblically based response to immigration.

Creation Ministries Event

For those who live near Hobart, this event may be of interest:

Friday 24 October 2008 at 8pm

"Design, Deluge & Dilemma


The Most-asked Questions - Answered!

Dr Jonathan Sarfati, Writer/Co-editor for Creation magazine

Kingborough Life Church
5 Mertonvale Cct, Kingston

Especially if you have never attended a creation event, it will be worthwhile to check out the biblical message presented.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cultural story-telling

I have argued previously that the Creation Mandate is a cultural mandate. What we call "education" (and the Bible terms discipleship or teaching) is the way we transfer that cultural mandate to others and equip them to continue its advancement.

Fernhout explains it this way, as quoted in the notes of my Wesley Institute Diploma of Education Biblical Studies course:

"If education is, at bottom, a process of cultural story-telling . . . then the educational engagement of Christians should be imbued with, penetrated by the biblical story and its life-world. Each new generation of Christians needs to be steeped in that story so that their lives can tell the same story as the biblical story . . . Christians are to live in the biblical story as the community whose story it is, and from that indwelling they try to understand and cope with events int heir time in order to carry the story forward."

It is vital to understand the world through the biblical text, and to do this students must both know the text and how to apply it. Significantly, much of what we call "education" today does not disciple students to apply the biblical story. In fact, it disciples students through the lens of alternate stories. It should not be a surprise when students grow up to live those stories, or try to combine them with the biblical story.

Friday, October 17, 2008

You're looking at Dr David Drew

In August Dave submitted his PhD thesis titled "Describing and predicting temporal growth and wood property variation in plantation eucalypts". People immediately began to congratulate him, but he was reticent to accept their commendations. Why? The thesis had been submitted for assessment, which allowed for the possibility that it would be rejected.

Well, now the suspense is over.

In the words of one examiner:

"The project described in the thesis was a very ambitious one. The known range of environmental variables influencing xylem development is enormous, and it is clear that there may well be others which are not yet recognised or understood. The difficulties involved in developing a model taking account of these variables would deter many people from even attempting to do it. However, I was most impressed by the logical and reasoned way in which the candidate has approached the problem, and by the level of success achieved."

"This report is relatively short because I have found little to fault in the thesis. It represents a lot of hard, painstaking work. The candidate demonstrates his clear understanding of the scientific problems involved and a comprehensive grasp of the techniques he has used. He has demonstrated the ability to analyse critically his observations and to set them in the context of the relevant literature. In thirty years of examining I have seldom encountered such a well-written, carefully prepared and readable thesis."
Since others may not be as interested in this as I am, I'll spare you quotes from the other examiner! We are thrilled with this result. After watching the huge amount of hard work Dave did, including many evenings and Saturdays, I have some idea of what it has cost. What a blessing that the work has been rewarded. Thank you God!

Officially, Dave is not a "Dr" until his formal graduation ceremony. I'm not going to worry about that little detail though. Some of you may remember that Anne of Green Gables later became Mrs. Dr. Blythe. Her domestic help, Susan, often called her "Mrs. Dr. Dear". As far as I'm concerned, I could now take on the title Mrs. Dr. Drew - if I wanted to, that is!

Principles for Courtship

You’ve finally found someone you think might be Mr (or Mrs) Right. What is your courtship supposed to look like? Google courtship and you’ll find a multitude of opinions. Ultimately though, the Bible is our guide. Call it dating, going out, or whatever you like. The point is that as Christians we need to seek God about the way we do things. Here are some principles I believe are relevant and applicable to couples in all kinds of situations . . .

1. Make sure you're both ready to consider marriage. Dating or courtship should only be entered into if both people are considering marriage, and are ready for it. Readiness can be defined as a willingness and ability to take on the responsibilities of marriage. Courtship is a time to seriously consider a lifelong commitment. If this is not the intention, you may be toying with the emotions and future of a sister or brother in Christ.

2. Seek out godly counsel. Listen to others, especially parents. My father is not a Christian and did not take an active role in setting standards for my relationship with Dave. However, I still asked him for his thoughts about Dave. I have heard many stories of people who ignored their parents’ warnings and came to grief. Unless parents’ views stem from selfishness or unbiblical ideas, they should be treated with the utmost gravity. If parents are not available to give counsel, seek out the advice of pastors and others. Dave and I asked the advice of friends and pastors as well as parents.

3. Honesty is essential in a courtship if both people are to get to know each other. There should be no pretence, and if possible it is good to see each other in a variety of situations.

4. Set clear standards with regard to physical contact. Dave and I are enormously grateful for our decision not to even kiss before marriage. You might not make that call, but other clear boundaries will be necessary if purity is to be maintained (unless you are unnaturally self controlled)!

5. Decide on a time frame. If you’ve decided on what you’re looking for, and you have godly counsel, it shouldn’t take years to decide whether or not to marry. If there is still uncertainty after the time frame you decided on, take a break to consider what God wants. Don’t tie someone up for years with no long-term commitment, especially if you’re not 22. It is not smart or loving.

6. Don't expect things to be perfect. Some people seem to think that if they can only hit on the right method of courtship, it will all be beautiful. They think that they'll be able to avoid hurts. However, our sin and frailties always make relationships risky.

Personally, Dave and I found courtship difficult at times. It was hard to define what our relationship was, and hard to keep saying “if” about our future. Conservative Christian ideas about courtship often focus on ideas such as “emotional purity” and withholding your heart prior to engagement. I found myself feeling guilty for loving Dave. In the end I realised that while remaining emotionally detached might be a good idea, it would require support and help from parents and friends who agreed with this viewpoint. In the points I’ve listed above, I’ve deliberately avoided recommendations that rely upon being part of a distinctive community or family.

How picky is too picky?

Earlier this month I wrote about how convictions should impinge upon courtship decision making. The hard part is knowing which things really matter. Back in 2006, I wrote:

As well as personal convictions that are so strong they are faily non-negotiable, most of us have preferences about what we'd like. Some people love going on long hikes, and really want someone to do that with. If so, someone like me with a serious back problem is not going to be ideal for them. I have some preferences related to children. I'd like to have at least four kids (biological or adopted), and I'd like to adopt at least one child from another country. However, these preferences are not on the same level as convictions. The events of life itself could dictate that preferences do not occur, even if both the husband and the wife are in agreement.

Looking back on this, I realise that some things I'd considered preferences are actually convictions. If I am really honest (rather than trying really hard not to be too picky) I would have struggled enormously with marrying someone who would "prefer" to deliberately have few children. Why? I am actually convicted that this type of preference does not sufficiently take into account the Bible's teaching about children and sexuality.

I don't have any easy answer for how to discern between convictions and preferences. However, a useful guide may be to honestly assess whether or not you believe the Bible speaks to a particular area. If you do, your view is probably a conviction rather than a preference. Hair colour, on the other hand, can be firmly placed in the preference category! Remember also that every person is a work in progress. The person you are considering courting may not be as convicted as you are in a particular area. However, you may grow together. Dave and I have both changed as we've responded one another's viewpoints and experiences.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mr and Mrs Drew

On the weekend we were privileged to have the opportunity to attend Dave's brother Christopher's wedding in Brisbane, Australia.

Miss Kerry-Lee Du Plessis is about to become Mrs Drew! The Du Plessis family moved to Brisbane from South Africa in the 1990s. Kerry's uncle and grandfather performed the marriage service. The reception was held at Kerry's parents' home.

The new Mr and Mrs Drew!

Christopher and Kerry-Lee met when Christopher came to Australia for our wedding, and stopped over in Brisbane on the way to and from Hobart. We had not met any of the Du Plessis family prior to this weekend. They are a warm and close family, and welcomed us into the family with great kindness and hospitality.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Liberated to serve

Soon after coming back from South Africa (and the day before finding out I was pregnant) I wrote this in my journal:

"I felt convicted toward the end of our trip. I realised I'd been in too much of a hurry. I'd wanted everything at once. God's given me a wonderful husband and home. Yet I long for more, as though all good gifts should arrive at once. God is not in a hurry, and I think he wants me to enjoy the journey! I need to set aside some dreams, hopes, and even inner conflicts right now, heeding the voice of the only one who really makes any difference in this world, who commands me to find rest in his care. Our situation of childlessness has been teaching me that in any circumstance our hope should be to serve and glorify our creator. There are no circumstances that exclude Christians from doing those things. Christians can serve and glorify God in Afghanistan, South Africa, America, and Australia, in childlessness, small families, and large ones, large homes & tiny flats, marriage & singleness, riches & poverty, old age and childhood under godly governments and evil ones."

I am sure that God had taught me this lesson before. Yet he used particular sets of circumstances to remind me again, even more powerfully than before. This lesson has been a help to me in recent times of sickness. I should not be wishing to hurry past this season, but rather should take comfort and strength from the fact that I can serve and glorify God right now. I've felt quite liberated as I've realised that circumstances and location really don't matter. We can respond rightly to God, and serve Him, no matter what is going on in our lives.

Praising the Lord in the Morning

Before we went to South Africa, I listened to a Nancy Campbell message about what our homes should be like. As women we have a lot of power over the atmosphere and activities of our homes! God has many purposes for our homes. One of those purposes is that our homes should be places of praise and joy.

This was a challenge to me. Joy is one area where I know my home can be lacking. I generally manage to keep it relatively clean and neat, and make it a welcoming place. I used to cook meals regularly, and I even have a garden. These were all ideas that Nancy encouraged. But I'm not sure my home is a place of joy and continual praise.

While we were in South Africa, I decided that when we arrived home I would begin each day by getting up and singing to the Lord. Whether it be with a CD or from memory or with my hymn folder, I wanted to start the day this way and set the atmosphere and the focus for it. I wanted to begin creating this atmosphere for any children God gave us, because I want them to be praising people.

On the many days when I have done this it has been a wonderful way to start the day. I am reminded of God's character, of the things He has done, and of all the blessings that we have as a result. I hope that this also helps the rest of the day to be one of focus upon Him.

Here is one of my favourite hymns, which seems to sum up the journey of my life so far and of everyday life with Jesus:

I heard the voice of Jesus say come unto me and rest
Lay down thou weary one lay down, thy head upon my breast.
I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad.
I found in Him my resting place and He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say behold I feely give,
The living water thirsty one, toop down, and drink, and live.
I came to Jesus and I drank of that life giving stream,
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, I am this dark world's light.
Look unto me, thy dawn shall rise, and all thy days be bright.
I came to Jesus and I found in Him my star, my sun.
And in that light of life I'll walk till trav'ling days are done.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Co-labourers in taking dominion

This post is a continuation of the courtship series I began two months ago.

There is more to looking for Mr (or Mrs) Right than considering the traits of a godly man or woman, and paying particular attention to humility. Although I believe these are the first things it is important to consider, there are others that are also relevant. Husbands and wives are called to be co-labourers in taking dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26 - 28). This is the Creation Mandate, and it is part of what it means to glorify God on the earth. This charge includes creating culture, and the hard work of child rearing. Married couples are to work together in their homes and in society, to do these and other things.

What does this mean in practice for those thinking about marriage? For me, one thing it means is that you must look for a life partner whom you can be in agreement with on matters that are important to you. How can you work together if you are opposed? Most of us have some personal theological or practical convictions that are strong, and impinge on how we choose to live. These will vary from person to person. I made clear decisions about these before courting Dave, and decided which of them were no compromise zones. Here is what I wrote about this before Dave and I were an item:

I see a belief that the Genesis account is literal history as foundational to my faith. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty is also important to me. I would not consider marrying someone who did not share these beliefs. I also have strong beliefs against hormonal birth control, due to my research on this matter . . . Therefore, I would not want to marry someone who wanted me to use this type of birth control. I could list a few other things, but I’m sure you get the gist! If I knew, for example, that a person was a theistic evolutionist I would not even considering going out with them. It would not matter how much I personally liked them.
I wondered if I would ever meet someone who actually believed Genesis was history and who would really let me choose not to take the Pill. It turns out that God gave me a man who sees Genesis as foundational to the Christian faith and has even led our local Creation Ministries International support group meeting a couple of times! My husband will not only "permit" me to ditch the idea of hormonal birth control, he's also just as excited as me about welcoming children into our home. Wow! Can you imagine? I still shake my head and wonder if it is possible at times!

I share this in the hope that it will encourage you, too, to hope and to wait for the person whom you can really labour with in the Lord. I'm not advocating pickiness ("oh, I just have to have a man who pulls out my chair for me"). Form your no-compromise list with much prayer and consideration of whether these things are truly important. If you really feel passionate about something, and feel it is integral to who you are as a person and to your faith, you should ask God for someone who also shares that conviction. You will be able to work better together, and you will be happier for it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Shackled Continent







Somehow incomplete

If you, like me, have an Africa-obsession then this book is for you. It will make you wonder if there is any hope for a continent of people so good at tolerating poor (and sometimes appalling leadership), so divided, and so intent upon blaming the West (or, as Robert Guest puts it, "Whitey") for African problems. It will remind you of what Europe once was, and help you believe that Africa could someday improve. After finishing it you may, like me, want to retreat into an entirely different world. For me that is Anne of Green Gables (approximately the 11th reading), where the only murders are those Anne imagines.

Despite the excellent information and analysis Shackled Continent provides, it remains somehow incomplete. Why? Having tasted something of the reality of Africa, I feel like you can't transfer that through a book about wars and really bad roads and angry leaders and poor, sick people. My experience is very limited. South Africa has very good roads and no wars. Some people even argue that it is not "Africa" because of the many differences between it and other countries on the continent. Still, I didn't find beauty and joy in this book and I was looking for it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Why is it that these days I spend a lot more time lying on my bed, as though I didn't have anything better to do?

Why have my menu plans and shopping lists, kept up for a year, been shoved to the back of the cupboard?

Why don't I cook anything but frozen food and plain veggies any more?

Why did I pick up two menus from local take-aways this morning?

I know, this might be all too hard to guess . . .

So let me make it easy.

Why am I no longer planning to give the most adorable shooshoos, ideal for either a boy or a girl and purchased in South Africa, to either Mike and Christine or Peirce and Christina (sorry guys - promise to get something else).

If you're still having trouble, just ask yourself (?) . . . why have I received these gifts?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Evangelism as a homemaker

Thanks to Crystal, I came across this helpful article The Stay at Home Mom and Evangelism.
Those of us who are at home a lot may feel like we can't have regular contact with those who don't know Christ. In reality, though, there are many opportunities.

Sandra highlights a couple of ideas that I have experienced the value of:

Community clubs or organisations

Sandra is a member of a book club, which is excellent because the intention is to discuss ideas. However, most clubs offer some opportunities to share your life and values. Women love to talk, after all. If you are a scrapbooker or a quilter, and you regularly go along to a meeting where other enjoy the same thing, you will talk as you play and learn. I experienced this recently when I did a quilting class as I was able to share my faith a little. If it was a regular, ongoing, club there would be even more opportunties.


You may remember that a while ago I took cookies to a neighbour. We have now had contact with this neighbour on a couple of other occasions. She dropped over one evening when I was about to leave for church, and I was able to mention a little about our faith.

What about you? Have you had similar opportunities? Do you have other ideas?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The benefits of the church

As we've recently moved churches to one closer to home that we feel more aligned with the vision of, I've been thinking about the many blessings we experienced in our old church.

Encouragement in the word
Serving others
Getting to know people different from ourselves

There are so many benefits to being part of the church. When you are not part of the church, you do not have continual reminders of the right way to live. You less likely to have people around you who are committed to the ideal of caring about those who are suffering. You do not have the same regular opportunities to serve others in ways that may be uncomfortable.

The blessings I've listed above are common to most Bible-believing churches. I believe that one of the key blessings non-Christians miss out on in this life is being part of a church community. They are less likely, as a result, to have networks of people who care (even imperfectly) about them. When they are old, they will likely be lonelier and have less contact with a variety of age groups. One of the things I love at our new church is that they pray for church members during the service, including those who are unable to be at church due to age or ill health. When you are a part of the church, you are remembered.

I know the church is imperfect, often frustrating, and even hurtful at times. Yet it is also one of the great benefits God gives Christians. One of our key motivations for evangelism should be to bring people into the community of the church. We live in lonely, socially-dislocated communities, where people receive all kinds of ungodly advice on how to live. The benefits of being part of a loving, godly community would be enormous for those who are presently without positive social networks. What an incentive to fulfill the Great Commission, spread the blessings of church life to as many as possible.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Why Palin doesn't transfrom McCain

I know, I know. I'm meant to be minding my own business. I promise I've stopped worrying.

I just had to link to this article because Alan Keyes says it so well. Palin's powers as VP are such that she will not suddenly transform McCain into the evangelical's version of a knight in shining armour.

But won't Vice President Palin be able to prevent President McCain from making decisions that conflict with Christian conscience? I can think of no example of a morally principled, but unequally yoked, running mate who achieved this result once in office. The American republics are based upon Constitutional principles inconsistent with a divided executive. Therefore, lieutenant governors and vice presidents have no reliable say over the chief executive's decisions and actions. This would be especially true of someone like Gov. Palin, who will enter office with no strong national constituency of her own beyond the possible influence of those supposed moral leaders whose unprincipled support for McCain has already placed them at his mercy.

Loving the church you are leaving

This month Dave and I moved churches. Last Sunday we were fare welled at our former congregation, Crossroads, and said a few words. We were grateful for this opportunity to tell many people we know and love that we will no longer be attending this congregation. Instead, we will be regularly attending a morning service just five minutes from our home, and also hope to become involved in a small group there.

I have known for a while that we would almost certainly be leaving, but our decision came as a surprise to many who spoke to us after the service. In many ways this is a good thing. It means we had not been going around complaining to everyone! It is also probably a result of our efforts to remain involved and serving until the end of our time there. In fact, Dave preached in late July! We told the elders beforehand that we would be leaving, but they still wanted him to preach.

As we have gone through this process of moving, I have thought a lot about what it means to be loving in leaving a church. I regret the few times when I have shared the details behind our decision. Why? This could give others fuel for discontentment or gossip, and it adds nothing to either their lives or ours. I'm happy for us to state that we feel we'll be more passionate about the vision at our new church, but saying any more may be unhelpful.

Instead, it may be better to simply say what I did at Crossroads on Sunday: "I am thankful for the love and care many people in this church have shown to me over many years. I am also grateful for the teaching I have received. My theology has improved a great deal, and I'm sure this will bring lifelong benefits". This also is true, and it is a truth I'd rather share.

What about you? What are your experiences in moving churches? How do you think we can be loving in the process of leaving?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Friends in South Africa

We had some great times with friends in South Africa, but not many photos to show for it!

Clive gave us a wonderful welcome and was a very gracious host while we stayed at his home near Durban on and off for two weeks. He even gave us strawberries and cream on the night we arrived, and French toast the next morning! He's breaking the bachelor stereotype (maybe we'll attribute that to his girlfriend, Jo, who often dropped by). Also pictured is our friend Sue. We attended homegroup at Sue's place one night, and had a great time.

We stayed at Dave's friend Pete's place for one night. Pete is a sugar cane farmer and we went out with him to watch the burning of the cane. Quite a sight! The hospitality Pete and his wife Sandy showed us was amazing, as we stayed in the "rose suite" complete with notes and soap on the pillow!

Clive opened his home to lots of Dave's other friends while we were there. I appreciated the opportunity to get to know Rowena and Elise (pictured), as well as other friends. What a blessing it is to arrive in an far away place and see familiar and much loved faces. Thank you God for friends!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Caring for orphans

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. James 1:27.

When we were in South Africa, Dave and I were blessed to be able to visit iZulu Orphan Projects. We spent over an hour there, and learnt a lot. We have become increasingly convicted that God wants us to care for orphans, especially since there are so many in Dave's country of origin.

Here are some of the reasons why we were impressed this project, and feel confident that it is worth supporting . . .
  • Chadd and Kate Bain live amongst the people they are working with. Chadd lived there as a child as well, and speaks fluent Zulu. They have given up their whole lives to serve needy local people. Chadd's testimony of the way God turned him from trying to get away from South Africa to England and convicted him of his responsibilities to the poor is wonderful!
  • The initiatives they have come up with include plans to help the people become more self-sufficient, rather than dependent on them.
  • The project is very well organised, with a number and information written down for each of the 550 orphans who live within a few kilometres of them.
  • Most importantly, this is not just a charity. Kate and Chadd are actively spreading the gospel. They are members of the Gideons and distribute Bibles in Zulu. They also encourage everyone to come to a church service on their property once a month.
My only concern with iZulu Orphan Projects is that Chadd and Kate Bain may be taking on too much! They have the support of a local church, but may need more practical assistance. This is a 24/7 work, with people contacting them at all hours. We're praying they'll get enough rest and support!

I have spent most of my life so far ignoring my responsibility to care for orphans. If you are like me, why not consider supporting this project? I was shocked to hear just how many orphans there are, and the needs they have. In some cases, one young woman is caring for all her dead siblings children. In other cases, a HIV positive grandma may be caring for many children - some of whom may also be sick with HIV.

While I believe that we can question how much attention Christians should pay to relative poverty, which is calculated on the basis of how people compare to others rather than whether or not their basic needs are met, there are some things the Bible makes clear. If we want to live out pure religion, we must care about orphans and widows.

The link to iZulu Orphan Projects is not working for some reason! You can type in the address and it will work:

Here are a couple more links, which may work!

A charity site gives an overview and contact details for iZulu Orphan Projects.
You can also read the iZulu Orphan Projects blog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Bible and relative poverty

Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor
Will also cry himself and not be heard.
Proverbs 21:13

God expects us to heed poverty. The big question is, does that include relative poverty. Should Australians be paying just as much attention, and directing just as much concern, toward the inequities at home as they do to the absolute poverty (lack of basic needs) abroad? Should they care just as much about large numbers of Australians who live in "relative poverty" as they do about the needs of the fewer who are homeless on our streets?

I believe the Bible gives some answers . . .

For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 1 Timothy 6: 7 - 8.

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2: 15 - 17.

Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need. Ephesians 4:28.

It seems that even from these few passages we can come to a few conclusions:

1. God cares about basic human needs.

2. God commands that Christians fulfill these needs through work and through giving.

3. Beyond basic human needs, we are to be content.

Of course, which needs are should be defined as basic could be an item of contention. It is easy to argue that they go beyond food and clothing. Anyone who has run inside from a gale here in Tasmania can vouch that housing should also make the list! I also think that human beings have social and psychological needs that the Bible also commands us to care about, which are separate from material poverty.

Based on what I understand of Biblical teaching, I think it could even be dangerous and confusing to label inequity poverty. Christians are free to seek to relieve inequity - but I don't think they are mandated to do so, or that this is what the Bible speaks of when it issues warnings against ignoring poverty.

What do you think?

The poor in Australia

Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor
Will also cry himself and not be heard.
Proverbs 21:13

This chilling warning was one of many verses I wrote out to take with me to South Africa. I wanted to have a collection of truths from God's word handy that would apply to the situations we would be in during our time there. This verse had spoken to me some weeks before as I was thinking about our choice not to live in South Africa right now: in making this choice, we must not ignore the poor there.

As I've mentioned this to some people, they've asked the obvious question "aren't there poor people in Australia?". My short answer would be "nothing like in South Africa", the longer one that there were segments of poverty. I am not unaware of what some indigenous communities in Australia look like, and I am not unaware that some people do live on the streets.

Since returning to Australia, I've been reminded that many of my fellow citizens are deeply concerned about poverty here. This has caused me to ask myself a few of questions. Am I missing something? Am I ignoring real and present poverty? Am I shutting my ears to the cry of the poor?

As I've thought this through, I've realised that many Australians are deeply concerned about relative poverty. This is the phenomenon of some people living on low incomes, and not having the same advantages as others. Many Australians are passionate about the principle of equality.

The Parliamentary Library describes the difference between absolute and relative poverty in this way:
"It should be noted that estimates of poverty are generally estimates of relative poverty. They estimate how many families have low incomes relative to other families. The alternative, absolute poverty, would be measured by estimating the numbers of families who cannot provide the basic necessities such as housing, food or clothing."
What is your opinion of relative poverty? Do you believe it is something that should concern us as Christians?

God and people

It dawned on me last week that I do have a blogging plan :). Holidays have a way of pushing these things out of my brain. So this week I'll attempt to return to the plan. It is week three of the month, so this week I'll be focusing on loving people. I've decided to split loving God and loving people into two separate categories, as the "Great Commandment" topic category is getting very fat!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Our Anniversary

Here are a few pics of our wonderful first anniversary night away. It was very romantic! We went to Giant's Castle in the Drakensberg (Dragons Mountain). My Afrikaans improved a little while we were away, as we talked about these kinds of place names!

We walked up one of the peaks for a tour of some San rock art. Facinating!

Dave is doing one of his favourite things: drinking water fresh from a stream!

Time with Dave's parents

One of the main reasons we went to South Africa was to visit with Dave's parents.

We took the top layer of our wedding cake over (which had been frozen all year). Dave's parents were not at our wedding so it was a blessing to be able to share some cake with them!

Cutting the cake for the second time! This was a couple of days before our first anniversary.

Here we are out to dinner together.

We enjoyed a number of meals with Will and Di during our time in South Africa. On this occasion I ordered pizza with banana on it!

Thanks for welcoming us, Dad and Mum!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Minding my own business

When I first read about Mrs Palin, the Republican Vice Presidential pick, I said "what does conservative mean anymore?". If conservative can mean a woman with a four month old running for a full time plus job then it can mean anything.

Less than a week later, I'm more amazed than ever. You see, a whole lot of pastor/theologian types whom I thought held entirely different ideas about family arrangements are trying as hard as they can to step around (or even justify) Palin's choices in order to fully endorse her.

Frankly, one either believes that God has called Christian women to fulfill their home and family responsibilities before pursuing other things or one doesn't. It is not like VP is a part time job that one can do after all else has been done. It is, rather, a job that would dominate any person's life.

I can understand, say, Right to Life wholeheartedly endorsing Palin. She is, after all, excellent according to their criterion and sphere of responsibility. However, a minister of the gospel is responsible to uphold the word of God consistently and apply it without prejudice to current events. What has been stated pre-Palin should still apply, surely?

As I've been contemplating these things, I've realised that I'd be better off minding my own business. It may be interesting to watch middle aged pastors attempt delicate double backflips over principles they've previously stood for, but it is hardly edifiying.

I'm not an American citizen, I'm not voting in these elections, and I'm not reliant on "conservative" pastors to form my views on women's roles. There are, after all, numerous Biblical passages I can turn to for unchanging principles that don't do backflips. So I'm going to try to stop following this controversy, and turn my mind to other things.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Addo Elephant Park

After our time in Stellenbosch, Dave and I drove to Knysna where we stayed the night and went to church. We are so glad we took the time to attend church. One of our passions for this trip was to fellowship with other Christians. Dave was able to assist some refugees whom he was sitting next to and the pastor even had a Tasmanian friend!

That day we drove to Addo and set up home for the night in this cute rondawel.

Dave treated me to my first ever SA style braii (BBQ). You'll note that the equipment used is quite different to that in Australia. It was delicious!

The next day we saw an amazing number of elephants! I was most delighted with several sightings of babies, some of whom suckled from their mummies.

At one point a lone male elephant advanced deliberately toward our car in what appeared to be a semi-threatening manner. We decided that reverse was the best option.

Cape Town

It was a privilege to visit Cape Town. Our time in the Cape provinces was really an indulgence - a bit like a "second honeymoon" as we did not have any family or necessary business there. We did have a few friends to catch up with, but apart from that it was just us!

We arrived from Singapore early in the morning, and climbed Table Mountain that day. We also visited this lovely beach, near to where Dave's parents and grandparents once lived. Dave pointed out landmarks from Table Mountain and as we drove.

We stayed in Stellenbosch and made a day trip into Cape Town. We visited the castle in Cape Town. This was fun! Here is Dave on the roof.

Kirstenbosch gardens was also a hit with us. Beautiful! It is the only Botanical Gardens that is a world heritage site.

The Rhodes Memorial was nearby, but it is a little neglected looking. Maybe fewer people feel proud of Rhodes these days?