Monday, May 31, 2010

what I'm reading: exhausted motherhood from The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness

My mum recently looked after my 3 year old nephew and 6 year old niece for 2 weeks while their parents were away. She loved having them stay, but she was also reminded of how tiring the care of young children can be.

"It's so busy!"
"It's only 9:00 in the morning, and I feel like I've done half a day's hard work!"
"It's hard to find 5 minutes to myself!"
"The shower has become my refuge!"
"I'm glad I was young when I had children!"
"I've forgotten what silence sounds like!"
"I don't know how you do it!"

Music to my ears!

Her words reminded me that, however much we love and enjoy our children - as she does her grandchildren, raising young kids is hard work. It's exhausting. It's relentless. It's noisy and chaotic.

It's not just me! That's how it is, and it's okay.

Tim Chester says,

Parents of young children live life in a blur for a few years. ... One mother of three said to me: 'I found it so helpful to realize that this was the way my life was.' That's biblical realism and it's liberating. She didn't have to strive to live the perfect life portrayed in the glossy magazines. I remember when our younger child was about five. I felt strange, but couldn't figure out why. After a few days I finally twigged what it was: I didn't feel tired. For eight or so years, while our daughters were young, we had broken nights interspersed by energy-sapping days of childcare. Mind-numbing tiredness had become so normal that not feeling tired was weird. That's the way it is. Get used to it. And don't worry about it. ... This is the life God has given you - and he is always wise and always good.

Tim Chester The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness 79, 159

image is from sosij at flickr

Friday, May 28, 2010

where in the world are we?

The other day Thomas (6) was trying to explain to Andrew (3) our place in space. He got out a globe, and explained where we lived.

"Our house is in Melbourne. Melbourne is in Victoria. Victoria is in Australia. Australia is in the world."

"Do we live in Melbourne?", asked Andy.

"In one sense we do, in one sense we don't", said Tommy, rather confusingly.

"Is that Queensland?!", asked Andy with great excitement, pointing out our window.

"No!", laughed Tommy.

"Is God as big as the sea?"

"No!", laughed Tommy.

"Is God as big as the world?"

"No!", laughed Tommy.

"Is God infinity?"

It seems we're back where we started, teaching another child about the hugeness of God.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tim Keller Praying your tears

I'd like to tell you about two great talks I listened to recently: Praying our Tears and Praying our Fears by Tim Keller. They're both free online, and are part of a series on the Psalms about responding to our feelings. Today I'll tell you about the one on tears; next time, the one on fears.

I love the Psalms! It seems that every emotion I've ever felt is expressed there, ready to be prayed to God. Sometimes I feel like getting older is just working through the Psalms, one emotion at a time!

There's no better guide to what to do with our feelings before God than the Psalms. I like Tim Keller's way of putting it: that the Psalms teach us a gospel third way of responding to our emotions.

1. Many Christians are uncomfortable with feelings, so we deny and suppress them.
2. The world tells us that we need to acknowledge, express and follow our feelings, so we vent and dump them.
3. The Psalms give us a gospel third way of responding to our emotions: to pray our feelings.

But what about suffering? How do we pray our tears? How do we use them to soften, rather than harden our hearts? Here's what Keller says. I've included a few quotes: they're wonderful, so take the time to read them. I know they'll live on in my heart and mind for a long time.

1. Expect tears
I'm often surprised when I suffer. Isn't God good? Isn't he supposed to protect me? What have I done to deserve this?! But I should expect to suffer more as I become more like Jesus. If I don't expect tears, I'll always be crying about two things instead of one. "You're weeping about the thing that made you weep, and you're weeping about the weeping .... You're going to sink under that. Once thing at a time is all we can take."

2. Invest your tears
"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy" (Ps 126:5-6). If a farmer leaves his seed in the shed, or dumps it all in one spot, there will be no harvest: he must sow his seed. We shouldn't deny or dump our tears, but see them as an opportunity for growth. Tears give way to joy (Ps 30:5) but they also produce joy (2 Cor 4:17). So how do we plant our tears?

3. Pray your tears
When we pour our tears into prayer, it transforms both the tears and the weeper. We should plant our tears in three things.

a. A realisation of God's grace.
We need to know before we start crying that it's safe to pour out our hearts to God. That's why the Bible includes disturbing psalms like Psalm 39, which ends "get away from me, God!" Derek Kidner says,

The very presence of such prayers in the Scripture is a witness to God's understanding. He knows how we speak when we are desperate. ... Psalm 39 shows where your deepest feelings - your anger, your tears - belong. ... Ultimately where your tears belong is not managed or packaged or manicured in some little confessional prayer. They belong in pre-reflective outbursts from the depths of your being in the very presence of God. ... "I want you to speak and feel in my presence. It's safe. I understand what it's like to be desperate. ... I'm a God of grace. I understand."

b. A vision of the cross.
God understands our desperation because Jesus experienced desolation. Jesus cried, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" and found heaven empty, so that when we cry "Turn your face away!" God won't abandon us (Ps 39:13, Matt 27:46).

When I look to the cross, I can suffer without guilt, for I know God isn't punishing me because Jesus was punished instead of me. I can suffer without impatience, for I can trust that God's purposes are good even when I don't understand, just like people didn't understand the cross. I can suffer without self-pity:

Weeping is fine. Weeping and grief is fine. Weeping and disappointment is fine ... but weeping in self-pity will make you a small little person, someone who can't forgive, someone who is always feeling ill-used, someone who gets incredibly touchy and incredibly over-sensitive. ... Look at the cross and say, "... My sufferings are nothing compared to yours. If you suffered for me I can be patient with this suffering for you."

c. An assurance of his glory.
All sorrow ends in joy (Ps 126:6). The final psalms are all psalms of joy. But how does a prayer of tears become a prayer of joy? Eugene Peterson says,

What the psalms are teaching us is that all true prayer pursued far enough will become praise. Any prayer, no matter how desperate its origin, no matter how angry and fearful the experience it traverses, will become praise. It does not always get there quickly. It does not always get there easily. In fact, the trip can take a lifetime! But the end is always praise. This is not to say that other kinds of prayer are inferior to praise, but that all prayer pursued far enough becomes praise. Don't rush it. Don't try to push it. It may take years, it may take decades before certain prayers arrive at the hallelujahs of Psalm 150. Not every prayer is capped off with praise. In fact most prayers, if the psalms are a true guide, are not. But prayer is always reaching toward praise, and if pursued far enough, will arrive there.

Sometimes we're afraid to weep because we think we'll never stop weeping. But if we know that sorrow ends in joy - that sorrow produces joy - we can dare to weep. Tim Keller asks, are you happy enough to be a weeper? - to get involved in the lives of others even when it's painful? If so, there will be a harvest of joy for them and you.

He prays, "Father, make us happy enough to weep." Amen.

images are from Chapendra, IRRI Images and Jacopo Cossater from flickr

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

women of the Bible (2) Sarah - girl crushes and a petulant princess

Have you ever had a ‘girl crush’? You know, that admiring, platonic devotion women sometimes feel for other women. (The male version is, of course, the ‘boy crush’—most often expressed in adulation for preachers and thinkers like Don ‘The Don’ Carson or John Piper.) Perhaps you adore Elisabeth Elliot, that beloved missionary. Perhaps you revere Susannah Wesley—she of the apron and the many children. Perhaps you idolize one of those regal, older women—someone you know who radiates calmness, wisdom and humility.

Sarah, wife of Abraham, seems like an ideal candidate for a girl crush. Her very name means ‘princess’. Her beauty was legendary (Gen 12:11). Many women (I'm one of them!) have been inspired by the Bible's call to imitate her persevering faith and trusting submission (Heb 11:8-12, 1 Pet 3:1-7).

So when my Bible study group came to Sarah's story, I think we were all expecting something pretty special. But we were unimpressed.

Sarah is conniving, bossy and mean. She laughs sceptically at God's promises (Gen 18:10-15). Hoping to get a son through her maidservant Hagar, she leads her husband into polygamy, then blames him and treats Hagar with cruelty (Gen 16:1-6, 21:8-20). She's like a spoiled prima donna, throwing tantrums when things don't go her way.

You can understand her bitterness: she was 65 when she left a secure life in cosmopolitan Ur to became a nomad in answer to God's call to her husband (Gen 12:4-5). She was barren in an age when childlessness meant not just grief, but disgrace and destitution (Gen 16:1-2, 17:17, 18:12). The future of her family—the future of a promised nation—depended on her womb's fruitfulness. No wonder her faith wavered at times.

There are a few glimpses of light: she followed her husband faithfully on his wanderings; she submitted willingly to Abraham even when his doubtful leadership left her at the mercy of powerful princes (twice!—Gen 12:10-20, 20:1-17). When Isaac was born, her mocking laughter turned to joyous faith: “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me” (Gen 21:6).

The humbler members of our group were glad to find in Sarah a sinner just like us. The perfectionists like me were disappointed by her imperfections. But in the end, we were all encouraged by the story of this wayward heroine, for Sarah's faults shine the spotlight away from herself and onto God—

  • God, who brings about his purposes through sinners like us
  • God, whose timing is perfect, even when it feels like our hopes will never be realized (Gen 17:17-22)
  • God, who is unchanging and faithful through all our doubts and petulant disobedience
  • God, who is gracious and compassionate to the destitute (Gen 16:1-16 21:8-21)
  • God, whose own joy shines through the naming of Isaac, which means ‘laughter’ (Gen 17:19, 21:6-7)
  • God, who prizes even our faltering faith and obedience (Heb 11:8-12, 1 Pet 3:1-7)
  • God, who uses weak, sinful humans like Sarah to show that he is the hero of his own story.
I drove home from our study minus a girl crush, but with the addition of a heart singing praise to the God who was faithful to Sarah and who will be faithful to me. In the end, Sarah's story is not really about a woman at all; it's a story about God—his goodness, faithfulness and grace to people just like us.

This post first appeared in Sola Panel late last week.

first image is by artist Marc Chagall

Monday, May 24, 2010

what I'm reading: busyness and identity from The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness

These words transformed my view of myself in relation to work, and inspired last week's post on busyness and identity.

Tim Chester says that when we work to find our identity, we can never be busy enough, because "the project of the self is never complete". But when we find our identity in Jesus, we can look to the cross and hear him proclaim, "It is finished!".

Today people find identity through work itself. We answer the question, 'What do you do?' with a job title. ... 'We don't want to rest ... because our identities are rooted in activity and accomplishment.' ... We're busy, busy, busy because we're trying to serve a god who cannot be placated. ...

The value of work is measured by the sense of self-fulfilment it brings. Work is judged not by the service it renders to others, but by the service it renders to me, the worker. ...

We have made work an idol ... offering salvation (identity and fulfilment) .... 'There is no resting-point: the project of the self is never complete, and is always riddled with anxiety and insecurities.' ... Busyness is a sign of virtue and value. Busyness is next to godliness. ... Overwork is a sign of status. ...

Jesus offers rest from the burden of self-justification. We are accepted by God. This is how we find meaning and value. At the most fundamental level, Tim Chester is a justified sinner. I'm not fundamentally a writer, or preacher, or even a husband and father. I am a sinner saved by grace and all I contribute to the identity is the sin bit. ... This is who I am. And it's a gift. I don't need to earn it. ...

Jesus has sat down (Hebrews 10:11-12). He has done all that is required. So we can sit down as well. ... Our often strained and frenetic forms of Christian life are witness to how much we need to affirm again with Jesus, ... "It is finished!"

From Tim Chester The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness 90-96; the quotes within the text are from Robert Banks and Beverly Shepherd; emphases mine.

image is from stock.xchng

Friday, May 21, 2010

mother's day

Okay, so it's a little late, but here's how my kids celebrated mother's day:

with some gifts and helium balloons :),

a big bunch of "flowers",

and a hug.

Oh, and some bacon and eggs which they almost managed to cook themselves!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

does complementarianism oppress women?

My friend Fiona McLean wrote this letter in response to an article in The Melbourne Anglican. It's great to see a Melbourne woman so thoughtfully defending complementarianism against common misconceptions. Thanks, Fiona!

I write in response to the article 'Hostility to women clergy on the increase', (TMA April). I am amazed that Dr Giles links the teaching of male headship to the abortion of female foetuses in China and India, and the trafficking of women and girls into prostitution. Is he suggesting that such tragedies are perpetuated or condoned by conservative Christians?

I am frustrated that the complementarian view is so frequently caricatured as one where men/husbands are encouraged to dominate and oppress women, and where women are seen as inferior. Egalitarians (such as Dr Giles) seem unable to realise that complementarians (such as myself) also believe in the equality and value of men and women before God; and that a complementarian position is not one in which husbands are encouraged to dominate or abuse their wives, but to serve them and love them - indeed, as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5: 25)!

It is true that men (and women) have abused their power and authority in the past, and even today; but the biblical response to abuse of authority is not to deny it but to exercise it rightly and compassionately. One of God's great blessings to us is good authority, rightly exercised - the leadership of wise politicians; parents who are committed to loving and teaching and training their children; ministers who boldly and graciously proclaim God's word; husbands who love and care for their wives in proactive, thoughtful ways.

Submission (to the right authority) is a good thing. It is, in fact, a concept that is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian, as all believers are to submit to God's good authority (e.g. James 4:7). Similarly, church members must submit to church leaders (e.g. Hebrews 13: 17; Romans 16: 16; 1 Peter 5: 5); good citizens are commanded to submit to the government (e.g. Romans 13: 1); and wives are to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5: 22; Colossians 3:18). The Bible's teaching about submission is repugnant to a culture obsessed with autonomy, independence, individuality and self-fulfilment - but as Christians, we are called to be shaped by God's values, not the world's.

Reprinted with permission from the author from The Melbourne Anglican.

image is from sqmk5 at flickr

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

busyness, burnout and the grace of God (4) identity

January 2008. It's our summer holidays. I'm writing in my journal, reflecting on the year ahead. A kind friend has told me I should develop my "gift for writing". I ask myself, "Do I want to be a writer?" I tell myself that it's not worth pursuing if it's not my passion, my calling. Gift. Passion. Calling. Writer. I'm starting to think of myself with capital letters.

I get too busy when ... I get my identity from what I do.

What I was thinking. "I need to develop the gifts God has given me. I need to follow my passions. I need to realize my potential. I want to be ..."

What I'm learning.
I'm not a _____er, I'm a child of God who _____s.
You could fill the gaps with anything (writer, doctor, teacher, mother ...) and it would still be true. The world tells me that I am what I do, and I believe the lie. But Jesus says "do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (Lk 10:20). My significance doesn't come from what I do, or even what God does through me. My significance comes from the fact that I'm a child of God.

My life is not about me and my glory: it's about God and his glory.
I have a dream. At times it seems selfless: it's about encouraging women, teaching them from God's word, helping them to grow. At times, the spotlight slips sideways onto me: there I am, respected, admired and beloved. I can take a good dream and twist it so easily. If I seek glory or respect through work or ministry, I'll be driven to over-work to achieve it. But life isn't about my renown: it's about making God's name known.

My passions are not the same as God's purposes.*
My friends will tell you that I love the word "passion". Often, the things I'm passionate about are good things. But when the focus is on me, my gifts, my passions, I've got a problem! What if I can't use my gifts because of a season of life, an illness, or because my they're not needed? I don't have to discover my gifts. I don't have to realise my dreams. Life isn't about me pursuing my passions: it's about glorifying God, and I can do that whatever I do.

Work is about serving others not finding myself.
If you're a stay-at-home mum, you know what it's like to be asked, "What do you do?" If you're like me, your heart sinks into the ground and you wonder what on earth you can say! The world tells me that work defines my identity. It tells me that I'm nothing if I'm not using my degree, using my skills, and pursuing a career, preferably one which fulfils and energises me. But God tells me to use all my energies to love and serve others. I find myself in him, not in my work.

God wants faithfulness, not success.
It's right to work hard to build God's kingdom, but success isn't in my hands. What matters is my faithfulness to the work God has given me to do. I plant and water, but it's God who makes things grow (1 Cor 3:5-15). I don't need to race around, working harder and harder, to build a successful ministry or massage my career. I can be faithful to God in the situation he's put me in, serve the people he's given me to love, and trust him to help them grow in his own timing and his own way.

I can rest, because Jesus has finished his work.
I don't need to do some great thing to give my life meaning: Jesus has done it all. I don't need to prove myself through what I do: I am justified in God's eyes because Jesus died for me. I can rest, because Jesus finished the work that God gave him to do: the work of making us right with God (Matt 11:28-30, Heb 4:9-10). It's right to work hard in response to God's salvation, but I don't have to work harder than I can in order to prove myself or give my life meaning. Jesus has done it all.

* I was struck by this while listening to Allison Street's talk God's Princesses.

images are from Kat.B.Photography, ninavizz and Search Engine People Blog at flickr

Monday, May 17, 2010

what I'm listening to: passion and purpose from God's Princesses

If I asked your friends which words you over-use, what would they say? One of my friends would tell you that I often say I feel "passionate" about projects or causes. She dislikes people talking about their "passions", and I'm starting to think she's right.

Here's how the logic works for me. I feel passionate about teaching, writing and encouraging women. These are all good things. My passions are probably a guide to the gifts God has given me. So I should make time for my passions, even if it means I'm crazily over-busy and my family and health suffer.

I didn't see the emptiness and self-centredness of this attitude until I listened to Allison Street's talk God's Princesses from EQUIP women 2009. I suggest you get hold of the CD and listen to the whole talk. It's pure gold! Here's the bit that most deeply impacted me.

In God Chicks Holly Wagner urges us that God's princess must find her purpose in life. She quotes from Oprah Winfrey,

Have the courage to follow your passion, and if you don’t know what it is, realise that one reason for your existence on earth is to find it. Your life’s work is to find your life’s work, and then exercise the discipline, tenacity and hard work to pursue it. Do what you love, give it back in the form of service, and you will do more than succeed: you will triumph.

Holly gives women ... questions to ask yourself about how you would like people to remember you. ...

It appears here that passion has been confused for purpose. Your passion may be looking after orphans, feeding the homeless, caring for young mums or women who’ve escaped domestic violence – all great causes to be involved in – but that is not your purpose in life. The Bible is very clear that our purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy him in that (1 Cor 10:31, Phil 1:9-11, Rev 5). ...

Let me give you an example. ... If I seek out my purpose (read passion) in life and I decide it’s caring for orphans, then if that’s my purpose - if that’s what I believe I was put on this earth to do - then that must be my highest priority at the expense of all other things, even my family. That is what will direct my life.

If, however, my purpose in life is to bring glory to God, then that must be the priority over all things. Whether I’m working with orphans for a season, whether I’m at home caring for my children for a season, or whatever I’m doing, I’ll be doing it for the glory of God.

And that gives us a wonderful freedom. It doesn’t matter what situation you’re in. ... Whether you’re in a high-paying or a low-paying job, whether you’re full-time at home, whether you’re rich or poor, whether you’re sick or healthy, whether you’re married or you’re single: whatever your circumstances, you can be seeking to bring glory to God ... You don’t need to go out and seek your purpose, you can live your purpose right now whatever situation you’re in.


image is from ulterior epicure at flickr

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tom and Barry

Thomas recently brought his class mascot Barry home to play. The idea is that you look after Barry for an afternoon, then write a page about his adventures in the class book.

I was a bit intimidated when I saw all the exciting things Barry did with the other children from Thomas's class (mother competitiveness rears its head again). But Tommy's big sister Lizzy took over - bless her! - and gave Barry a memorable afternoon at our house:

playing with our toys,

going on the swing,

jumping on the trampoline,

climbing a tree,

going for a ride,

eating an icypole,

drawing sheep (what else?!),

reading Tommy's reader, which also happened to be about sheep,

eating dinner (grass) with Thomas (rice),

getting tucked into bed,

and (of course!) writing it all up in the class book.

I think Barry enjoyed his stay. :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

talking with kids about theology

Here's a helpful comment on yesterday's post by Peter Sholl about talking with our kids about theology.

I think we are often given to answering kid’s ‘deep’ questions with a brush off ‘don’t worry about that - you wouldn’t understand’. Often I wonder if that is code for ‘I’m not so sure, I can’t explain it and I don’t want to take the time to bother - who wants an ice cream?!’

I enjoy these sorts of questions from kids because they force me to think carefully and explain a difficult concept simply, without being simplistic - which is often difficult. (I often find preparing kids talks and Sunday school materials more difficult than an ‘adult sermon’ because ‘simple’ can often lead to ‘wrong’)

I also think it is a good habit to get into to start answering these sorts of questions from early on, rather than ‘waiting until you are older’ - because that sends the message that growing in maturity and understanding is something that happens when you are a ‘grown up’ - buts its a habit we need to start and encourage for all ages.
This comment appeared on Sola Panel last night.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

talking about predestination with children

It's the question that every Christian parent knows is coming sooner or later. I'm driving when six-year-old Thomas pipes up from the back seat. We're alone, which doesn't happen often in a family of six, so it's a precious time for us. Deep thoughts are clearly running through his head: “Mummy, why do some people believe in Jesus and not others?”

It's a question my older son and daughter have never thought to ask. But Thomas is a theologian in miniature, and he's been puzzling over complex doctrinal issues since he was three: “Mummy, why can't I see God?”; “If I wave my hand like this, am I touching God?”; “How long is forever?”; and now, “Why do some people believe in Jesus and not others?”

There's a moment of silence while I consider what to say. I could play it down. I could talk about the human factors—our choices, our backgrounds, our opportunities. I could even do some fancy theological footwork and talk about how God's choice and ours fit together. But I decide to start from first causes: “We believe in Jesus because God chooses us.”

That's not the end of it, of course. It never is with this child! We throw around ideas about total depravity (“Some people are just really bad, aren't they Mummy?” “No, honey, we all do bad things every day. We all need God to forgive us.”) and unconditional election (“God doesn't choose us because we're better than anyone else, but because he loves us.”).

As we talk, I think of my own parents. I thank God that during my childhood, they didn't avoid the hard questions. They talked about the Trinity. They talked about hell. And they talked about predestination.

I remember grappling with the implications of predestination when I was about nine years old. I stared at the countries scattered across the double page of an atlas, wondered about all the people who didn't believe in Jesus, and felt scared and overwhelmed. It could have been the stuff of nightmares, but it was actually the stuff of theological formation.

It put big thoughts in my young mind. It gave me a firm foundation for when I was at university, facing doubts and hard questions like the gleeful public challenge of a philosophy lecturer: “If God made the world good, then where did the snake come from?” It developed my theological muscle, readying it for the tough issues of adulthood. Above all, it taught me to think great thoughts about our great God.

So when I answer my son's question, I tell him how it is. But I also give him the good news. I share the beautiful side of predestination—the wonderful, startling, incredible reality of God's grace given to the undeserving: “Did you know that God decided to love you before he even made the world? Isn't that amazing? Isn't that fantastic?!”

I look at my son and smile to see his smile.

This article appeared at Sola Panel today.

images are from assbach at flickr and from stock.xchng

Monday, May 10, 2010

what I'm reading: slow down from The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness

Here's another Tim Chester quote that I love. It's about slowing down and making time to say hello to lamposts - that is, time for joy and relationships.

'Slow down, you move too fast, you've got to make the morning last,' sang Paul Simon. So many things can be a pleasure if you take your time.

Consider a visit to the shops. We're so conditioned to rush that every stage is fraught with tension. We drive as fast as we can, get impatient at traffic lights, take every opportunity to overtake. We're disappointed if we can't park near the entrance, and once inside we're frustrated by slow trolleys and slow trolley drivers. We get cross about long checkout queues and slow checkout assistants. The whole experience is a strain. And what have we gained? A couple of minutes at the most - plus an ulcer. Most of the time, if you exceed the speed limit you only end up waiting longer at the next set of traffic lights.

But what if you take your time, laugh at other frenetic drivers busy going nowhere, give way to irate trolley drivers, talk to other customers? Or what if you walk to your local shops, chat to shop staff, admire other people's gardens, listen out for birdsong, take a detour through the park? You may lose a few minutes from your schedule, but you will gain half an hour of pleasure. You know it makes sense! But we don't do it because deep in our hearts we are wired for speed. We are driven people.

Tim Chester The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness 79

image is from flo_thackray at flickr

Friday, May 7, 2010

my eggplant, my friend

The other day I bought an eggplant with a nose (as you do). It needed eyes and a mouth, so we gave it those as well.

My eggplant, my friend.

Alas, poor Yorrick!

As you can see, Ben and I got a little Shakespearean on that last one.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

why I won't be giving Twilight to my daughter to read

I enjoyed reading the Twilight books (in an escapist, slightly sickening, I've-had-enough-of-this-obsessive-love-affair-and-what-does-he-see-in-her-anyway kind of way).

But I'd rather put dynamite in the hands of a gang of teenage boys than give Twilight to my 11 year old daughter to read.

On dress-up day at my kids' primary school, among all the 6-year-olds dressed as Spiderman or the Little Mermaid (itself a little disturbing if you've seen these films!), there's always an 11-year-old girl in full Twilight regalia: New Moon T-shirt, whitened face, short skirt.

My kids recently brought home a set of Scholastic Book Club pamphlets from school. Did you get them as a child? I remember poring over the pages and choosing that one perfect picture book! But these days there are less innocent items for sale. Here's some books recommended for 10 and 11 year olds:

  • Heart-2-Heart. Hollywood’s coolest teens reveal their heartbreaks and heartaches!
  • Kristen Stewart / Guys of Twilight Pack. Relive the dream with the stars of Twilight!
  • Fallen by Lauren Kate. Some angels are destined to fall… Lucinda is drawn like a moth to a flame when she meets Daniel at her new boarding school. A page-turner for Twilight fans.
"Drawn like a moth to a flame": that sums up why I won't be giving Twilight to my daughter. Not so much because of the vampires, blood-letting and mayhem, but for these reasons:

  • Romantic love is not more important than my daughter's life. Doomed teen love affairs have been popular since Romeo and Juliet. But no teen crush, however intense, is worth my daughter losing her good sense, happiness, sanity, or self-respect, let alone her life!
  • Romantic love is not more important than my daughter's soul. Still more sinister is the suggestion that a love-affair can be of such significance that it's worth losing one's soul! I don't want my daughter giving up her faith or purity for a love-affair.
  • Purity is not just about sex. The love-affair in Twilight is famously unconsummated until marriage. But every touch, caress, and kiss causes Bella to become so breathless that she's near fainting. The emotional intimacy is even more disturbing than the physical intimacy. Edward and Bella have the kind of intense, exclusive, emotionally fraught, unhealthy, obsessive relationship that you'd pray for your teenager to be spared.
  • Long term sexual faithfulness bears little resemblance to Twilight. I don't want my daughter reading statements like "their bodies did interesting things together" - I quote from innacurate memory. But even more, I don't want to feed the teen girl's dream of a time when they will have sex all night, every night, and enjoy their lover's attentive devotion all day. Hardly a realistic view of love, marriage or sex.

Twilight has some redeeming features. Edward does what all men should do: he protects Bella's life, well-being and purity (at least when she lets him!). In fact, he's a much better role-model for boys than she is for girls. Bella does what no woman should do: she woos, tempts, and pushes his boundaries as far as she can. I'm not sure that many teen boys who are not immortal 100-year-old non-violent vampires would display such self-control in the face of this kind of temptation!

My friend, who works with young women at uni, just finished the first two Twilight books. As she says, you have to wonder what long-term impact these books will have on girls and their relationships. Which is why I think Twilight should come with a warning: "May be dangerous for pre-teen and teen girls".

second two images are from Angie22Art at flickr

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

more on time and eternity

Here's a helpful response from a reader to last week's post about time:

Just a quick note on your point #8 concerning time and eternity. Yes, we all should come to the humbling realization that much of what we do is so time-bound that it will surely crumble with the end of our lives. But the promise concerning the steadfast love of the Lord which is from everlasting to everlasting to those who keep his covenant is surely significant. I hear that saying that eternity is embedded into the lives of God's covenant people, and so, to introduce Paul into this perspective, "your labor is not in vain in the Lord."

Another way of looking at it. If you're into The Trellis and the Vine (safe bet?) all trellis work is destined for the dust bin. But all vine work (even the least of it) will last for eternity.
An excellent point! Here's how I put it in my post: "As I serve Jesus faithfully, even if no-one ever sees, I'm doing work that will last and playing my part in God's bigger story." The faithful work we do for God and his people lasts into eternity, thanks be to God!

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor 15:58 cf 3:10-15)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

when rest helps marriage

I am my husband's refuge - after God! - and he is mine.

In the evening, once the kids are reading or sleeping in bed, we shut the bedroom door (of course, it gets opened a dozen times by kids asking vitally important questions like "Can I brush my teeth now?", but that's another story).

We watch a DVD, we chat and cuddle, and sometimes we read a book together and pray. It's a precious time for us to communicate and enjoy each other, and to find help and strength to face the day.

But there are days when I come to our time grumpy, exhausted, moody, glum and irritable, with words like these running through my head: "I'm tired! No, I'm exhausted! I've been working hard all day! I did the cleaning. I did the shopping. The kids demanded my attention every minute of the day, and now you want my attention! The living room's untidy! The dishes aren't finished! I'm TIRED!". Sound familiar?

I was walking and praying when a solution came to me. To protect my time with my husband in the evening, it's important to set aside time for rest during the day. I may need to put down the vacuum cleaner and go the park with my son, or sit and read him a story, or get some exercise, or drink a cup of tea and read a book. I may need to stop being a Martha and read God's word and pray, seeking my rest in him.

Maybe then I'll come to the evening less tired and grumpy, and more ready to give myself to my husband. It's in my hands to bless or destroy our time together. And if I start getting ready now, maybe I'll be a blessing to my husband, and he to me, tonight.

image is from Chealion at flickr

Monday, May 3, 2010

what I'm reading: on nostalgia from Places we love

I'm a nostalgic person, a collector of memories.

I deliberately fix scenes in my mind - a child's face, a favourite view - so I can recall them at will. When we leave a place we've stayed on holidays, I look back through watering eyes until I can't see it anymore. I even feel nostalgic about things which haven't happened yet, like the year my children all go to school.

If worry is the art of living in the future, nostalgia is the art of living in the past. Neither equips us for serving God in the present. Living in the future fills me with anxiety and fear; but living in the past fills me with regret for the mistakes I've made, longing for the things I've lost, and discontent because the present can never live up to my idealised memories.

Which is why I love this quote about not lingering over things which are past. It's from Ivan V. Lalic's poem Places we love, which I found at the head of a chapter in Cornelia Funke's Inkdeath.

When you go, space closes over like water behind you,
Do not look back: there is nothing outside you,
Space is only time visible in a different way,
Places we love we can never leave.

image is from uhhhlaine at flickr