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.