Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas ... and goodbye for now

Hi everyone! Just letting you know that I probably won't be writing much for a month or so. Summer is here and it's time for a break with my family.

May God help you to rejoice in his gift of Jesus this Christmas. Here's a quote from JI Packer to help you do just that:
It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. ‘The Word became flesh’ (Jn. 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation. JI Packer
image is by mufan96 at flickr

Thursday, December 20, 2012

a son for sacrifice

It’s nearly Christmas. My children read stories about lambs and donkeys visiting a baby, but the story I’m up to my Bible reading plan shows the season in a different light…

How strange Genesis 22 has always seemed to me. Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son? What kind of Father asks another father to kill his child? Did Sarah know what was going to happen as her husband and son left that day? What psychological scars did Isaac carry into adulthood? (A very modern question, I know.)

What did it cost Abraham to take each step on that three-day journey? Did he stare at the knife as he cut branches for the fire, thinking about what else it would soon cut? What thoughts ran through his mind as he reassured Isaac that God would supply the sacrifice, knowing he had supplied it in the boy who walked by his side?

I picture them trudging up the mountain. They’re at the top, and the wind whines in their ears. Isaac watches his father lay stones for an altar, place branches on the top. Perhaps Abraham lays the last branches slowly, one by one, making time for a reprieve, a last-minute escape clause. It doesn’t come. The sky is steely, silent.

I don’t know how a father binds his son. I don’t know how he lays him on an altar. I don’t know how heavy the knife feels in his hand. I don’t know how faith brings itself to such a pass.

Does the boy close his eyes against the sight of the knife? Does he turn his head away? Does he fight the bonds? Does he cry, or moan, or whimper?

We’re told that Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead (Heb 11:19). He’s no longer the man who lied about his wife, who slept with a maidservant, who laughed at the impossibility of a child (Gen 12:10-20; 16:1-4; 17:17). By this time he knows something of the God who keeps his promises against all odds.

I don’t know if knowing this makes it any easier.

The sky booms. Words echo. He knows this voice. He has heard it before:
“Abraham, Abraham!”

“Here I am.”

“Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22:11-12)
There’s a rustling noise, a “Bleat!” from a bush. Startled, Abraham looks behind him. Was it there before? How did he miss it? A ram in a thicket, caught by the horns, struggling as if it already knows its role in this drama.

The knife cuts, but instead of flesh, it cuts through rope. Isaac rubs sore arms. Abraham seizes the ram, binds its legs, throws it on the altar, slices its throat. They watch blood run down the sides of the altar, smell flesh burning, and tremble to think of the blood that came so close to flowing. A father receives his son back from death (Heb 11:19).

No small family drama, this. No psychological tragedy. No theatre played out for the amusement of the gods.

What was lying there was a boy, yes. A man’s only son, his one hope for family and future. But what lay on the altar that day was also the son of the promise, the seed of a great nation, the hope of world-wide blessing. For from this boy would come a son, and from him a son, and from him a son, and yet more sons, until the One and Only Son came into the world. God made visible. Salvation clothed in flesh. Hope in human form.

What God asks of Abraham, he gives himself. Once again, a father offers up his only son. But this time there is no reprieve, no last-minute escape clause. The sky is unbroken by a voice. Instead, darkness gathers, and the full weight of a father’s anger descends. A cross instead of an altar. Nails instead of a knife. A Lamb instead of a ram. Blood thick on the ground. A voice whispering, “Father?”. A life given so that others may live.

Three days later, the Father receives his Son back from death.

And suddenly the story of Abraham and Isaac doesn’t seem so strange, but inevitable, a line drawing for the future to fill in.

1. Yes, he did have another son, Ishmael, but Isaac was his only legitimate son by marriage, the son of God's promise, his "only son" according to Genesis 22:12.

This post first appeared at The Briefing.

image is by Rembrandt: The sacrifice of Isaac (detail)

Monday, December 17, 2012

online meanderings: books to read

I keep meaning to post something about my favourite reads for the year, but haven't had time yet. So I've collected a few book recommendations for you instead.

Heading Home by Naomi Reed (reviewed here by Macca). I just finished this, and I loved it.

Tony Reinke's top 12 Christian books of 2012 - There's something here for everyone.

An Atheist Philosopher’s Book of the Year (by a Christian) and a Christian Theologian’s Book of the Year (by an Unbeliever) - Fascinating. Justin Taylor.

Biblical counselling book recommendations - A bunch of books on a number of issues: anxiety, addictions, depression, etc etc etc...

Four great picture books that will help you talk to your kids about God - Macca.

Holding on to hope by Nancie Guthrie. Sounds like a wonderful book for those who are suffering. Reviewed by Macca.

If you read only one book on culture, read this one - Tim Keller.

Fearfully and wonderfully made by Megan Best. On my To Buy list.

Making the most of the Bible by John Chapman. Macca.

Oh, and for the record, my favourite read of the year was Tony Reinke's Lit!.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

online meanderings

Sorry I haven't been writing much recently. Blame it on pre-Christmas busyness - why is it that teeth and cars always need to be fixed in the lead-up to Christmas? - and in the meantime enjoy these posts by people more organised than me.

Gospel reminders anyone can do - Many years ago I developed a test of all ministry principles and practices. It’s called the “Does it work for a single parent mother of 3 young kids?” test. Mark Lauterbach.

Why you're still here - When life is painful and you wonder why God doesn't just take you home. Joe Thorn.

Don't just see me as someone who's suffered - Wise advice about how to treat those who have suffered - and what we can learn from them. RC Sproul.

Custom-make your own conference - I love this idea. I wouldn't mind getting together with some of the women doing Titus 2 things around Australia! Macca.

More gospel centred than thou - "God knew exactly what he was doing when he put indicatives AND imperatives in Scripture, when he used words like 'fight,' and 'strive,' and 'put to death' in the New Testament. He knew what 'therefore” meant too."  Mark Lauterbach.

How many gifts are enough? - Brilliant ideas for limiting Christmas spending and serving others at Christmas. Wish I'd read this when we first had kids. Shawn Mazelin.
Our Christmas gifts shouldn’t just travel on a two-way street so givers and receivers can delight in one another; they should travel on a one-way street so that the needy may be helped, being imparted to those who may not be able to give in return. Miroslav Volf

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

what I'm reading: the problem with busyness

Ouch! This sounds a little too familiar:
We all have our besetting sins and predictable issues. Mine has been busyness. When it comes time for me to share everyone expects to hear how I have too much to do and don’t know what to cut out of my life.
(If it sounds familiar to you, you'll appreciate these great posts from Kevin DeYoung: Three dangers of being crazy busy: part 1, part 2 and part 3.)

It's already time to start planning for next year. Which is why I'm posting here - in full - this quote from Zack Eswine, which I discovered Justin Taylor's blog. It's a reminder to me - and to you.
First, we can only be at one place at one time, which means that Jesus will teach most of us to live a local life.
We will resist and want to act like we are omnipresent. But he will patiently teach us that as human beings we cannot be, and this admission will glorify God.

Others will likewise resist Jesus and want you to be omnipresent. They will use his name to praise or critique you accordingly, but they too will have to learn that only Jesus can be with them wherever they are at all times. This fact is actually good news for them and for us...

Second, we cannot do everything that needs to be done, which means that Jesus will teach us to live with the things that we can neither control nor fix.

We will want to resist Jesus and act as if we are omnipotent, but we will harm others and ourselves when we try.

Others will also resist Jesus. Using his name, they will praise or critique us according to their desire that we fix everything for them and that we do it immediately. But they will have to learn too that only Jesus can fix everything and that there are some things Jesus leaves unfixed for his glory...

Third, we are unable to know everyone or everything, which means that Jesus will teach us to live with ignorance, our own and others’. In other words, we are not omniscient.

Jesus will require us to stop pretending that we are.

Others will resist Jesus and in his name praise us or critique us on the basis of their estimation of what we should know. They will have to learn that only Jesus knows everything they need; his invitation to faith and to trust in his knowing is a good one....

Ask yourself this question: Which are you more tempted to pretend that you are: an everywhere-for-all, a fix-it-all, or a know-it-all? What do you feel you will lose if you stop pretending in these ways and entrust yourself to Jesus?...

Jesus invites everywhere-for-alls, fix-it-alls, and know-it-alls to the cross, the empty tomb, and the throne of his grace for their time of need.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

online meanderings for pastors and teachers

Three liberating limitations in ministry - A wonderful little post, worth reading every word. Zack Eswine.

A 3-part plan for pastoral ministry - 1. Study God’s word. 2. Do it. 3. Teach it to his people. "A failure in any one of those three areas will prove disastrous over the long haul." Michael McKinley.

Disarm your hearers - Anticipate logical, emotional and practical resistance. Good advice for Bible teachers. David Murray.

4 reasons men don't read books and how pastors can help. Tony Reinke.

3 common areas of neglect in a pastor's life - I'm not a pastor, but I found this convicting. Brian Croft.

10 questions about preaching answered by Tim Chester. There are lots of good insights in this interview.

6 tips on how to deliver a conference paper - Not that I'm ever likely to. But I like this. Fred Sanders with Justin Taylor.
"Always repeat the first sentence of a new point three times,” said Dave. “But all that repeating will make my talk too long,” I replied. “Exactly,” said Dave. “Unless you take out all the stuff that shouldn’t be there, you’re delivering good essays instead of good sermons.” Dave Richie

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

mothers reflect on the love of God

I loved these beautiful reflections on the love of God from mothers.

Sharon Hodde Miller
The amazing thing about my love for my son is how purely illogical it is. My love was instant and unconditional even though I had no history on which to base it. I loved my son before I really knew him. I loved my son before he could ever do anything to earn my love. In fact, I loved my son in spite of the many ways he inconveniences me. I love him in spite of the physical pain I endured on his account. I love him in spite of the sacrifices he requires me to make every day. I love him even though he is unable to reciprocate my love.
My son has done nothing to deserve my love. He is loved simply because he is my son. And each night as I cradle him in my arms and wonder at how much I love him, I can’t help but think about God’s same love for us.
Motherly love is, in a sense, illogical. But it is that character of motherly love that mirrors the love of God.    
Hayley Satrom
God’s attention to His children is stronger than that of a mother to her infant child. As a new mother, I can tell you that that might be the highest level of attention imaginable!...
I give her what she needs, not always what she wants, and my intention is never to harm her but to help her. How much more, then, can we be confident that God will tend to us in the way that is best for our good and His glory’s sake too. 
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you! ~Isaiah 49:15 

online meanderings

The beauty of faithful suffering - "Soft peach fuzz graces the top of her head. She is the most beautiful woman I know..." Melissa Kruger.

5 signs you glorify self - Paul Tripp.

10 common mistakes we make in difficult relationships - Brief and good. Lina Abujamra.

How to keep going through pain - Disciplines help, even when they feel empty. Sinclair Ferguson.

Journey with cancer - Macca reflects on what he's learned this year. I felt like I was learning alongside him as I read.

Bake biscuits can be a response to God's grace - An interesting response to all the "grace means we don't have to feel bad as mums" posts. Rachel Jankovic.

Teens actually want and need limits on their behaviour. - "In early adolescence, it's fair to say at any given moment, 'I can look at your computer; I can look at your phone.' " William West.

Are we playing God? - Modern medicine: how should we regard it as Christians? A helpful article. Megan Best.
Of all I love about God—and there is a lot I could list!—this is very near the top, that he chooses such unlikely people to benefit from his gifts and his grace. He lifts up those who know they are unworthy and brings down those who consider themselves most worthy. He passes over so many of the brilliant and rich and powerful, and instead bestows his grace on the lost and the least.  Challies

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

why I read my children stories

I stood under my favourite oak trees today and stared upwards, heavy dark branches reaching with improbable lightness into the blue of the sky. For a moment I was far from here, in the Enchanted Wood or Narnia or Middle Earth.*

It was a windy morning. I closed my eyes and listened to the "Wisha-wisha-wisha" of the leaves and almost, for a second, convinced myself that when I opened them I'd see or hear ... Something. A white glimmer as Moonface peered around a branch. A faun stepping between the trunks, umbrella raised and arms full of parcels. A lantern's glow and the far-off singing of the Elves.

I opened my eyes and smiled. Nothing. And yet, everything: the touch of enchantment lingering in the air, the hint of another world, the leaves repeating words on the edge of hearing. I know what they whisper - they speak of the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-6) - and a childhood filled with story helped me to hear it.

That's the beauty of stories. They hold the promise that there is something deeper. A wardrobe is not just a wardrobe, but the door to another place. Trees are not just trees, but the outliers of a land we belong to but have never seen. The sound of wind in the trees is not just an accident of air currents moving against the ear drums, but the signature of the King who rules this country.

That's why I give my children stories. I want their imaginations to grow tough and strong. I want them to long for another place. I want them to sense the beauty of hope and sacrifice. I want them to taste the flavour of God in this world. I want them to aspire to the love that risks all for a friend, the courage to confront dragons, and the perseverance to see this hard journey through to the end.

My children don’t just read the stories I read as a child. This is a new age and it has new stories – ones that I enjoy discovering with my children. But as long as I can read them the good old stories, as long as their own stories speak to them of courage and love and sacrifice, and as long as they know the One True Story, I am glad. I hope that one day, like me, they'll be grateful for a mother who gave them stories.

* Enid Blyton's The Magic Faraway Tree series, CS Lewis' Narnia, and JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, for those of you who didn't grow up with stories.

This post first appeared at The Briefing.

illustration is by Pauline Baynes

Monday, December 3, 2012

online meanderings for parents

Collected over a few weeks, these aren't necessarily up-to-date - but they're good.

Raising a family of missional disciples - I love this idea, and there are some good suggestions here. Zachary Veron.

Children's Bible reading plan - David Murray posts these weekly. Brief, simple, clear: they're a useful resource.

A wise mum understands the impact of her words - This is very helpful - and convicting. Sarah Condie.

"It's not fair!" - When and why a parent needs to be an impartial judge. Jonathon Holt.

How to give kids a healthy view of sex and purity (besides "the talk"). I especially like the first of these. Brad Hambrick.

From Virtue to Vanity (and Values) - How the goals of adolescent girls have changed (and some good advice for the rest of us). Annabel Nixey.

Tips on how to prepare teenagers for situations where others may misuse alcohol - A useful set of conversation starters. Helen Splarn.
The measure of productivity, as a parent, is not necessarily in how many items I can cross of my "To Do" list, important as those items may be. As a parent, the measure of ultimate fruitfulness is often when I seek the grace to grind the pace to a halt, and rather than rushing through the moment to complete a specific task, instead pause, looking into the eyes and hearts of my little people. Elisha Galotti

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Christmas is coming ... aaargh!

Haven't put up our tree yet.

Haven't got out our advent calendar yet.

Three days behind on our Christmas reading and counting.

Good thing celebrating Jesus' birth doesn't depend on my organisational skills!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

a plea to writers

A timely word for writers from Shona Murray:
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the plethora of wonderful Christian books out there? You know you long to learn more about the Lord, but your brain gets frazzled as you check out this book, that book and the next one. Not only that, but you perhaps feel guilty, because some of these long and learned volumes of great godly men just seem out of reach as you try to get the odd nugget here and there for your soul at the end of a weary day.

I do! I would define my problem in two ways:

1. I am a creature of my generation

More and more, I long for simplicity of thought and expression...I long to grasp the point, without having to meander my way through flowery word gardens.

I know there are gems in the old books, rich gems, but by the time I get around the flowery long sentences, I am weary.

You see, my generation and those younger even more so live in the age of sound bites, bullet points and the simplest of English.

2. I cannot see the wood for the trees.

In a world full of stuff and clutter, I long for less clutter and that goes for writing style. Sometimes I...have read a book on a great subject of spiritual importance, but by the end of the chapter, there have been so many “heads” and “subheads” that I wonder if I still have my own head. I can’t remember what I read several pages back. Again, I spotted some great gems, but now they are gone, as if fallen into a bag with a hole at the bottom...

A plea

In a day of much spiritual shallowness, there is a crying need for Christian books which have the spiritual weight of the past and reverence the Word of God, but in contemporary language...

Here is a plea to the many talented Reformed Christian authors out there.

Do you want to reach this generation? Do you want them to not just buy books, but read them?...

Give us the great spiritual gems of the past, but in contemporary English that our generation can understand. Many lives will be changed.

Christ Himself was the greatest example of how to communicate these truths simply.

"And the common people heard Him gladly..." Mark 12:3
Read the rest here.

online meanderings

God is invisible - Ed Welch brings glorious meaning to a well-known truth, and teaches us how to meditate on truths about God.

Strangers in the world - An old creed brimming with wisdom about how to live "in the world, but not of it". Justin Taylor.

How to help the hurting - Words of deep wisdom about suffering. I'm reading Job, and this is in direct contrast to his so-called comforters! Nancie Guthrie.

In defence of young marriage -  Wise thoughts from my friend Maddison, who is both young and getting married soon. Brought tears to my eyes.

What understanding a person's culture can't tell you - I have found this so true as I get to know women from other cultures: every individual is (2) unique (2) part of a common humanity. Tim Chester.

Childlessness - "That’s how childlessness hits me, in surprise attacks." A beautiful post by a childless woman.  Erin Straza.

A plea to writers (and some simple commentaries) - If you write, read this. If you read, read this. A plea for simple, clear writing - and some simple, clear books. Shona.

Book review: Heading home - by Naomi Reed. I read this, then bought 2 copies: 1 for me, 1 for a friend.

Book review: Fearfully and wonderfully made by Megan Best. On my To Buy list.
Sometimes we see people struggling and we want them to come so quickly to resolution, to figure everything out. The truth is, as we minister to others, we do want them to come to resolution, we do want them to come to some peace, figuring things out. But sometimes I think we are in a much bigger hurry than God is Himself. What a gift it is to others to be willing to sit—not forever, but at least for a while. To just go, “Wow, this is hard isn’t it?” 
Don’t think tears are the problem. Tears are a gift that God gives us to help wash away the deep pain that we feel and experience from living life in the brokenness of this world. There are some things worth crying about. There are some people worth crying about. Nancie Guthrie

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Ben, migraines, and thankfulness

It's been a tough year for my 12-year-old son Ben. He suffers from migraines, and missed most of term 2 of school. During term 3 he was better than he's been for years thanks to his new medication, for which we thank God! But early this term he was sick again for a month, due to a nasty virus that stirred up his headaches. I wrote this at the end of that month.

When I think of my son this year, the words that spring to mind are "patient endurance".

I love how Ben keeps persevering and trusting in God even when he's sick. I love the way he thinks hard about his attitudes and how they affect how he's feeling. I love how he works at getting well (sleep routines, relaxation exercises, new ways of thinking, headache diaries, exercise...)

I love Ben's loyal friends and his hunger for learning, that mean he keeps up at school, even though we grieve over all he misses out on. I love that he still loves hearing God's word, even though it's often difficult for him to be at church. I love the way he soldiers through the days, and how his teachers come up to me and say, "He tries so hard!".

I love Ben's loud enthusiasm when he's well, even though it can be a little trying (as he says, he has to make the most of it!). I love the way his eyes light up when he's playing complicated games with his sister. I love his "imaginations": inventing languages, designing elaborate constructions on Minecraft, writing a novel about another world.

I love the long conversations we have on the way home from (yet another) doctor's appointment. I love our precious half-hours on the couch, when he fills me in on what he's been thinking about. I love our games and our cuddles and our love for all the same books.

I love his patience and quiet persistence. I love his compassion and helpfulness. I love his love for Jesus.

I love my Ben.

P.S. Ben has recovered from his virus and has been well for several weeks now, except for a couple of one-day migraines. Thank God with us, that well is our new normal.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

online meanderings

No little person - A beautiful memory of Francis Shaeffer.

My heart is heavy - The book of Job in the life of a cancer sufferer. Beautiful - and sad. Macca.

How do we pray through pain? - When our prayers for relief aren't granted? Carolyn Mahaney.

The chief of sinners - A poem about Paul by John Piper. I enjoyed this greatly.

The idolatry of regret - "My middle years have ushered in a new kind of idol -- the idol of looking back. I see all the mistakes I made and roads not taken." Staci Eastin.

Signs of an abusive relationship and what the Bible says about abuse in marriage. Mary Kassian.

From scroll to screen ... to scrolling - What we gain and lose with a new way of reading. Fascinating! Lev Grossman.
Sometimes old and simple truths affect us in new ways. In fact, this seems to be an essential feature of spiritual growth. The passage that was ho-hum last week now plumbs the depths of our souls. We are always re-discovering simple spiritual realities as the Spirit brings new light and depth to old truths. Ed Welch

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

how to grapple with issues in our lives

An excellent model:

1. observe our circumstances
2. analyse and consider what we’re going through
3. reflect on Scripture
4. change our attitudes and actions
5. talk to God about it.

Macca. Read the rest here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

the joy of service (2)

In a recent post, The joy of service, I wrote about the need to serve practically when all you want to do is teach. Karen asked a great question: “Does it work the other way, Jean–when you’re good at (and often prefer) to stuff envelopes, stack chairs and wash dishes, but the thought of leading Bible study fills you with extreme terror?” 

Here’s The joy of service re-written (with apologies) for such a person. Because, yes, I have friends who lead Bible studies even though it terrifies them. And, yes, it works both ways.

I’m no up-the-front servant. My love is given to behind-the-scenes ministries: cooking a meal for a friend, stacking chairs, organising events. If I’m honest, I also love the safety of this kind of ministry. There: I’ve said it.

The word-y roles, the out-there roles, the people-can-see-me roles: they don’t come naturally to me. Sitting next to a stranger at church, reading the Bible during the service, welcoming newcomers, leading a small group, walking into a room full of people: I try to avoid these things. I have to fight down my terror as I do them. I don’t like this about myself, but it’s true.

I know this isn’t good enough. I know that to stuff envelopes and avoid people is as far from our Lord’s example as hell from heaven. And so picture, if you will, a recent morning at our church. The usual leaders aren’t there, so I sit with people I don’t know. When we split into small groups to pray after the sermon, I find myself leading the prayers.

Then there’s this moment. This crystal-clear, earth-touches-heaven, joy-filled moment. As I say a stumbling prayer for one of the members of the group, it’s as if I’m speaking Christ’s words on his behalf. If it was Paul’s privilege to suffer with him, it’s mine to serve with him.1 Looking at this group of strangers, awkward with unspoken fears, I touch the tiniest edge of what it meant for him to serve.

The One with the right to a universe of worship gave up his own interests, his right to equality with God, and made himself nothing. The King of heaven and earth got off a chair, tied a towel around his waist, and knelt to wash his follower’s feet. God’s own Son was stripped naked and hung on a cross, abandoned between earth and heaven, bleeding out his life for his bride.2

Leading a group in prayer is just a baby-step as I follow in his footsteps. But if so much joy can be found in such a simple task, I wonder what else we miss out on when we refuse to serve.

1. Romans 8:17; Colossians 1:24; John 13:14-17
2. Philippians 2:1-11; John 13:1-17; Mark 10:35-45

This post first appeared at The Briefing.

image is by HidingHeart at flickr

questions about women's ministry (3) what it looks like in practice

Simone has been asking some questions about women's ministry. Here's my answer to her third question (an extension of the last one).

If you think Titus 2:3-5 gives us a model and a curriculum for women's ministry, are you following the curriculum? 

Yes, in the women’s ministry at our church I make a deliberate effort to follow the "curriculum" (we're slowly working through the Titus 2 qualities, both 2:3 and 2:4-5) but very slowly, very flexibly and with plenty of additions, to make our teaching and training relevant to women in all kinds of situations.

I could have chosen another passage, but I started with Titus 2:3-5 because ours is a new ministry and I wanted to begin by inspiring the group with a model of older women teaching younger women.

I deliberately began with the topic of “reverence for God” (Titus 2:3) rather than marriage or motherhood, because I wanted to concentrate on the heart of godly womanhood, to avoid the legalistic emphasis on certain models of womanhood that can sometimes characterise women's ministry.

And yes, I spoke on the topic of marriage (Titus 2:4-5 - we have lots of women heading towards marriage in our group) but I made sure that I emphasised the "greater marriage" to Christ and the "greater gift" of singleness, and addressed my applications to all kinds of different life situations.

We’ve also had a session training women in evangelism; and next month, we’ll be discussing work and outreach at work, since we have lots of young women in this life situation. So you can see we cover the topics in Titus 2:3-5 in a way that's relevant to all, but lots more besides.

I should add that I don't see Titus 2:3-5 as a necessary or prescribed curriculum, just a good starting point. I could have chosen something else. For example, I love the list for widows in 1 Timothy 5:9-10, and I wish we were more familiar with this passage instead of jumping straight to Titus 2, as it seems to me to be a little broader in its application to different seasons and situations (I'll probably move there next). Or I could have picked Proverbs 31:10-31. Or I could have ignored the "women's passages" and gone with Colossians 3:1-4:6 or something else entirely.

But I do think Titus 2:3-5 is a useful set of topics to cover, especially with young women. And I do think the qualities on the list aren't just situation-specific, as they spring up all over the Bible, often (but not always) with reference to women (e.g. 1 Tim 2:11-15, 3:115:9-10). More about that next time!

Please add your thoughts to the comments.

image is by Andrew Kirkley at flickr

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

questions about women's ministry (2) Titus 2: model or curriculum?

Simone has been asking some questions about women's ministry. Here's my answer to her second question.

Do you think Titus 2 gives us a model and a curriculum for women's ministry, or just a model, or something else or maybe neither?

Yes, Titus 2:3-5 gives us a model. As Simone says, "The model is that of older women teaching younger women." I wouldn't see this as culture-specific. And obviously the ministry of women to women isn’t limited to older to younger!

Yes, it gives us the beginnings of a curriculum (and one for older women as well as younger women – Titus 2:3 not just 2:4-5) but by no means a complete curriculum.

It's a curriculum no doubt shaped by context – not just the Cretan context, but the wider context of a culture in which marriage was more normative for women (and men) than it is in our culture. But it’s not limited to context: if you trace the Bible's teaching on womanhood, you'll find a similar emphasis on marriage and motherhood as key spheres in which most women serve God at some stage during their lives (Gen 2-3, Prov 31:10-31, 1 Tim 2:11-15, 5:9-16 etc). So yes, older women should cover these topics in their teaching of younger women – especially if these women are married and/or have children – but not to the exclusion of other life situations and seasons.

Other topics mentioned in Titus 2:3-5, like purity and how we use our speech, are relevant to all women (including older singles). And other parts of the Bible, both those addressed to women and those addressed to all Christians, expand the curriculum: 1 Tim 5:9-10 adds ministry/service outside the family; Prov 31:10-31 adds paid work and helping the poor; 1 Cor 7 addresses singleness; 1 Tim 2:11-15 talks about women’s relationships within the church; Col 4:2-6 adds evangelism; and so on and so on.

Most importantly, any and all of these topics need to be grounded in the gospel, as they are in Titus 2:11-15. We have to be careful not to limit godly womanhood to a certain season or situation in life, and we have to emphasis the gospel, not a certain set of “qualities of biblical womanhood”. The heart, foundation and motivation of any curriculum is the gospel and the character of God.

Please add your thoughts to the comments.

image is by Pingu at flickr

online meanderings

When God looks like your earthly father - If you find it hard to call God "Father", read this, and fight to take back the name. Ed Welch.

Give thanks - This is a fantastic post on thankfulness: a complete theology in a few paragraphs, and very helpful and challenging too! David Mathis.

Don't sanitize the Psalms - Do we express the range of emotions found in the Psalms? Steve Cornell.

Leading in finances - Do you give enough money away? How would you know? This is a fantastic article that challenges us right where it hurts. Phil Cogan.

Joy in hard places - "The safest thing we can do is sacrifice our safety and possessions for the sake of Christ." Marshall Segal with Zane Pratt.

Pray for those you counsel - The wonder of prayer, and how it folds us into others' lives. Eliza Jane Huie.

Don't mess with her, man - No excuse for abuse: it's good to see The Gospel Coalition writing about this. Matt Smethurst HT Sandy.

On being offended - When people make comments on your kids, parenting, pregnancy, or anything else - how do you respond? Deb.

The conversation continues over at Simone's blog. You'll find me in the comments. Add your thoughts!
For months the routine of caring for my wife was my sanity. For the months after she was gone, the habits of caring for my daughter were my sanity. Now they are both gone. And I have lessons to learn. RC Sproul Jr
We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defence. We pray when nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.  Oswald Chambers

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

stop reading and start reflecting, or you'll rattle

If you're even the slightest bit into children's literature, here's a great read: E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler.

My friend Jenny introduced me to this book a few years ago. It won a Newberry Medal in 1968, so it's been around for a while. It's about two children who run away and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as you do.

All that's by way of preamble. What I really want to share today is a wonderful quote from this book that my friend Andrew posted on his Facebook profile:
I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside of you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It's hollow.
Here's a similar statement from Challies:
There is something in my nature, I think, that wants to glance instead of linger. I get restless quickly, I look for a moment and then move on to other things. I have come to see that it is often better to linger, that certain things can only be seen and grasped by that long and dedicated study.
So true! So very true! Sometimes I have to stop reading a thousand blog posts and just slow down A book. Slowly.

Sometimes I have to stop reading and just slow down and...think. Pray. Ponder.

Or I start to rattle.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

online meanderings

Religion is crap - Macca explains why.

The advantage of living in a society where people don't know their Bibles - "There is something exquisitely innocent about not realizing you shouldn’t call Jesus stupid." Virginia Stem Owens.

Lessons in darkness - A wonderful post about a boy with leukaemia and his parents' struggle with God. Naomi Millar.

Living with disability: 13 reasons for hope - A summary of Krista Horning's unforgettable testimony.

When you feel in a rut with reading the Bible, try something new! Excellent advice from Karen.

4 models of womanhood - Tim Chester comes up with a "quadrant" for women. Brave, but we did ask! I enjoyed this.

"He's just not a spiritual leader" and other Christian dating myths. I found this intriguing. Marlena Graves.

Family feuds and tensions over the holidays - Some helpful guidelines for dealing with family tensions. Tim Lane and Russell Moore with Justin Taylor.

The books you come back to,  Write in your books and Can a person be judged by their bookshelf? - Three great posts about reading by Joel Miller.
How stealthily God works in the soul, one day and one trial at a time. He softens your edges so slowly and subtly that you can fail to notice how far you have come. Colleen Carroll Campbell
I can be tempted in my thoughts but I do not have to sin. I can take my thoughts captive and put on righteousness in the secret places of my soul. And when He saved me He left nothing uncovered and unclothed with Christ’s righteousness. He saves to the uttermost—to the depths of our soul and the darkest places. Trillia Newbell

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

questions about women's ministry (1) is it necessary?

Simone has been asking some questions about women's ministry, in response to this post by Jenny about our narrow definitions of "godly womanhood". I've been thinking about this a lot, as I now have shared responsibility for the women's ministry at our church. I thought I might post my answers, beginning with Simone's first question:

Is it possible for a woman to be ministered to entirely in mixed settings and to thrive in her faith? Is it okay for her not to attend the formal women's ministries that are available to her?

Yes; and yes, it's okay, or the Bible would command her to attend. (Although you'd hope it's not fear - or an ineptly run program - keeping her away!)

A formal women's ministry is not necessary (although it can be helpful!) or the Bible would command it.

An informal women's ministry - that is, women encouraging one another in their faith, and older women teaching, training and setting an example to younger women: well, Titus 2:3-5 makes it pretty clear that Paul gives the responsibility of teaching and training younger women to older women (rather than to male overseers like Titus); and in any mixed group of Christians you'd hope that mutual encouragement between women was happening naturally and organically.

So, no, it's not necessary for it to be formal; but, yes, there should be some ministry of "women to women" in any healthy church.

This will include "women's issues" (hence the lists in Titus 2:3-5) - in fact, I'd think both informal and formal women's ministry would rightly include issues particularly relevant to women - but hopefully not just "women's issues", not an "exclusive" version of them (e.g. for mums only), and certainly not an unbiblically legalistic version of them (e.g. patchwork and particular sleep routines).

In Titus 2 it's the gospel that drives all our behaviour, teaching and training, whatever group we belong to. So gospel, gospel, and more gospel: that's what I'd hope to see in women's teaching and women's encouragement.

If women's ministry doesn't major on the gospel and the Bible, but instead on some legalistic version of what womanhood looks like, or just on the mums and married amongst us, no wonder if many women feel discouraged and alienated by it.

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let’s have women encouraging women with the gospel and God’s word, whether formally or informally doesn’t really matter.

Please add your thoughts to the comments.

image is by jhall at flickr

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

so many things make me sad

Do you often feel sad? Is the glass half empty for you? Are you introspective and reflective? Do you tend to self-pity?

David Powlison has just written a wonderful series of posts called "So many things make me sad". He concludes,
There is an unspeakable sorrow at the heart of the world. All the Bible writers know that. All the great saints know that. All the great novelists and poets have known it. All honest men and women have known it. Only the self-deluded, who pursue their schemes for earthly joy, who expend their lives in climbing ladders to nowhere, fail to recognize the obvious. In the end, all is loss. And, whether the effects are subtle or grotesque, a madness of evil blinds the human heart (Ecclesiastes 9:3).

There is one more thing that needs to be said, and said again. We are surprised by joy, as C. S. Lewis put it. Life wins, gladness wins, hope wins. Death dies, sin disappears, all tears are wiped away...
The mercies of God in Jesus Christ give certainty that sadness does not get last say. The past grace of our Father's purposes and the self-sacrificing love of Jesus provide the indestructible foundation on which to build your life. The present help of Christ through his Holy Spirit works with you so you increasingly find the balance point between joy and sorrow. And the future hope of Christ promises that joy will sweep away all sorrows.
If you want to read the series, follow these links:

Part 1: So many things make me sad.
Part 2: Is it right to feel grief for what is grievous?
Part 3: Does my temperament make me sad?
Part 4: How precisely can I sort out my emotions?
Part 5: Is there a normative internal experience?

image is by Chapendra at flickr

Monday, November 19, 2012

what I'm reading: the Bible, chronologically

I did it! I finally did it! I finished my 1-year Bible reading plan in, oh, just under 2 years.

When I had babies, I stuck to Matthias Media's Daily Reading Bible Notes, but now I figure I've got the energy for more.

I'm following in a grand family tradition. Here are 2 things I remember about my darling Nana:
  1. she loved us tickling the soles of her feet
  2. she read the Bible through every year.
So it's a family kind of thing.

This time, I'm using a chronological Bible reading plan. I can't tell you how it's going yet, as I'm only 5 readings in. But I'm excited, especially about seeing how the Psalms fit into the Bible story.

Already I've gone a little off course. Instead of meandering off Genesis and into Job, I ignored the reading chart and jumped straight into the story of Abraham ... oops! So I took a U-turn and I'm now knee-deep in Job, which I loved reading last year.

Next time, I want to try this thematic Bible reading plan. And then I want to write a review of the plans I've used. All in good time.

Can I encourage you to try one of these plans or this one? You can start any time of the year - I did! - and go as slowly as you like - I did!

Meredith, who reminds me of my Nana (the Bible bit, not the feet bit), gives some great hints and tips to help you here.

Why wait till after Christmas when you can start now?

What about you? How are you reading the Bible at the moment? Tell us here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

do you love life?

The other day Thomas (9) asked me, "Mum, do you want to live? Do you love life?"

I answered, "Yes, and can you guess one reason why?"


"It's because you're in it!"

(Smiles and hugs and motherly things like that.)

"And, Thomas, can you guess some other reasons why I love life?"

I'm expecting him to say, "Daddy and Lizzy and Ben and Andy".

But Thomas says, as if there could be only one answer,

"The Royal Melbourne Show!"

Friday, November 16, 2012

online meanderings

The day my dad chopped down an idol - A wonderful story. Beverly Chao Berrus. 

Why is it so hard to rejoice when God blesses others? - "It should be the most natural thing for us to rejoice when God blesses others because he’s crowned us spiritual billionaires." Mark Altrogge.

A new(ish) blog about the challenges of being a church planter's wife - Woo hoo! Belinda writes well and has great stuff to say.

The contrarian's guide to leadership - 10 pointers to being a good leader. I see so many of these in the good leaders I know, including my husband. Steven Sample via Macca.

Parenting advice and why you should take it with a grain of salt - If you need a laugh today, and some encouragement from a very real mum, then read this. Love it! Deb.

4 models of manhood - I like this! I wonder what the woman's version would look like? Tim Chester.

Learning to love your kids unconditionally - "This is one of the hardest jobs I have ever been asked to do. I think it would be easier to go bungee jumping and sky diving than to love my children in the same manner God loves me."  Sarah Condie.

Addiction - 5 mindsets of addiction, and 5 attitudes to "put on" instead. Mark Shaw.
The Lord has a way of modulating the key in which life plays. Many psalms are in the “minor key” emotionally. But it is a sorrow that continually reckons with God: his lovingkindness, his watchful care, his forgiveness. Psalms take us by the hand. We learn how to honestly face trouble, how to give voice to deep internal struggles, and how this can often segue into a “major key” sense of confidence, safety, and even (on occasion) exultant joy. David Powlison
Psalms ultimately demonstrate the thoughts, experience, emotions, and voice of Jesus. He is the only completely sane human being, and he is a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief. He is also a man of joy, and an intimate friend of gladness. David Powlison

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

online meanderings

The key to resolving conflict - Forgiveness, and how it's possible. Dave MacDonald.

The poor are always with you - "Christians must love the poor, because God has a heart for the poor. Caring for the poor is not the gospel, but the gospel teaches us to do it. It’s not strategic. It’s just right." Con Campbell.

Confessing sin to your boyfriend or girlfriend before you get engaged - Read this if you're considering marriage. Deepak Reju.

God's guidance and the mundane world of motherhood - "Many times I felt a strong desire to do something big for God. Something risky and exciting, and yes, often more glamorous than the everyday things I was already doing. I don't recall ever feeling 'led' to do the laundry or dust the furniture." Staci Eastman.

A talk to listen to (for perfectionists) - "Perfectionists tend to spend more time talking to themselves than talking to Jesus."

A series to follow (for Eeyores) - Do you see the sadness in life? Are you given to self-pity? David Powlison.

A book to read (for everyone) - "Making the most of the Bible" by John Chapman. Macca.

A book not to read - and one to read (for women) - Mary Kassian reviews "A year of biblical womanhood" and quotes from her own "True Woman 101".
Here are some sweeping generalisations that I've experienced in my time as a mum. Homeschooling (more Christian). Working mother (less Christian). Daily family devotionals (more Christian). Strict sleep routines (more Christian). Child watches television (less Christian). Immaculate house (more Christian). Lunches from school canteen (less Christian). Perhaps you've had experiences of this in your own context. And each context has its own subtleties. But as Paul has reminded the Galatians, there isn't a more or less way of being a Christian. You either trust in Jesus or you don't. It's free. It's simple. Jenny

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

book recommendation: Married for God

I love Christopher Ash's Married for God. I've read lots of books on marriage this year, and this one's unique.

Marriage books that emphasise the relationship are a dime a dozen. Some are excellent, like Timothy Keller's The Meaning of Marriage. Others are just so much psychopop.

I found it refreshing to read Married for God, which says that marriage is not, ultimately, about the people in it, about their needs or their love or their relationship.

Marriage is about serving in partnership in God's world.

Adam didn't just need a "companion", a solution to loneliness. He needed a "helper", because the task God gave him was too big to do alone: to rule and fill God's world. So God made Eve to serve beside him in loving companionship.

It's important that married couples have a strong, intimate relationship, but this isn't just for their own sake: it's because their love overflows to others and invites them in.

Marriage doesn't ultimately look inwards. Relationally-obsessed marriages become stunted, introspective and self-destructive. Marriage looks outwards, as together husband and wife work in God's world and make Jesus known.

Married for God is written with a scholar's clarity and a writer's grace. The main point is occasionally overstated, yet it transformed my perspective on marriage in all kinds of helpful ways.

So if you haven't read Married for God, it's time to pick up this little book. It might just change the way you think about marriage.

Here's a little taste:
Our marriage need a passionate heart of intimacy that overflows in blessings to others…As a couple delighting in one another you can forge a new social unit whose heart is faithful love; and then out of that heart of faithful love can overflow generous love to others…Think about how, in partnership with one another, helping one another, your love can provide a centre of stable security; so that this safe home will become a refuge into which others can be welcomed. Think…how…your private intimacy can be at the heart of a relationship which overflows in love to others. (73-76)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

online meanderings for parents

Changing the maybe culture in our church - What attitudes should we have as we take our kids to church, Sunday School, youth group? Useful advice! Jon Thorpe.

Do you love your child too much? -  You excuse your child's bad behaviour. You can't bear it when they are angry with your discipline. You try to shield them from mistakes. You struggle to let them go. Kim Shay.

A wise mum remembers grace - A beautiful post about motherhood and grace. Sarah Condie.

"We always do prays together." - The impact of a father who prays with his kids. Gina Black.

Should you let your kids go on sleepovers? - Susie, Deb and I discuss the issue in the post and comments here. Add your thoughts!

10 scientific tips for raising happy kids - I want to read this, so I'm bookmarking it. Looks like excellent secular advice.

7 things a pastor's kid needs from a father - Excellent! Barnabas Piper.

Kik the habit - Helpful guidelines about children and teens using Intagram and Kik on their iPods or smartphones. Susie.

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

online meanderings

How to write a good sympathy card - So very helpful! Paul Tautges.

The 4 Cs of biblical friendship - Constancy, Carefulness, Candour, Counsel. Johathon Holmes.

Why small groups in churches need to be stopped...not quite literally. This is helpful. Macca.

5 questions husbands should ask their wives and 5 questions wives should not ask their husbands (and 5 questions they should). Made me giggle, anyway.

Don' be a Hezekiah - Train up the next generation of gospel workers. Here's why - and how. Mike Bullmore.

What would I do if I was falsely accused of sexual immorality? - Thoughtful, helpful advice (with a small question mark over necessarily assuming no. 2). David Murray.

Book review: The heart of the matter - CCEF brings out a series of devotions, and Wendy reads and recommends it. Love these guys, and this sounds great!
Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to, and delights in, God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition. Jeremy Burroughs
We go to Bible college not to study the Word, but to begin to learn to have the Word study us. We go to pursue not advanced degrees but the fruit of the Spirit. We go to lose our reputations, not to gain them. We go not to be thought wise, but to learn what fools we are. RC Sproul Jr

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

my son wrote this blog post

Hey mum! I know how to do exclamation marks. I learnt it at school!


(Andy wrote this.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

the joy of service

I’m no behind-the-scenes servant. My love is given to wordy ministries: the nervous plunge when I teach a group of women, the energy that sparkles in a small group, the light in a friend’s eyes when God’s truth sinks in. If I’m honest, I also love the recognition that comes with this kind of ministry. There: I’ve said it.

The humble roles, the practical roles, the self-effacing roles: they don’t come naturally to me. Setting up for a meeting, cooking for an event, serving food, running crèche, stuffing envelopes: these mundane tasks aren’t on my bucket list. I have to fight my inner whinger as I do them. I don’t like this about myself, but it’s true.

I know this isn’t good enough. I know that to teach the Bible and refuse to stack chairs is as far from our Lord’s example as hell from heaven. And so picture, if you will, a recent dinner at our church. My friend who usually organises our meals isn’t there, so my husband and I set out casseroles and collect plates and scrub them clean.

Then there’s this moment. This crystal-clear, earth-touches-heaven, joy-filled moment. As I wash the dishes, it’s as if Christ’s hands are mine and mine his. If it was Paul’s privilege to suffer with him, it’s mine to serve with him.1 Hands plunged into soapy water, the grit and grease of food scraps on my fingers, I touch the tiniest edge of what it meant for him to serve.

The One with the right to a universe of worship gave up his own interests, his right to equality with God, and made himself nothing. The King of heaven and earth got off a chair, tied a towel around his waist, and knelt to wash his follower’s feet. God’s own Son was stripped naked and hung on a cross, abandoned between earth and heaven, bleeding out his life for his bride.2

Washing dishes is just a baby-step as I follow in his footsteps. But if so much joy can be found in such a simple task, I wonder what else we miss out on when we refuse to serve.

1. Romans 8:17; Colossians 1:24; John 13:14-17
2. Philippians 2:1-11; John 13:1-17; Mark 10:35-45

This post first appeared at The Briefing.

image is by UggBoy at flickr

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

online meanderings for when it's hard to read the Bible

2 questions to ask when you read the Bible - What does it mean? What does it mean for me? A helpful little guide. Jonathon Parnell.

How to read all of the Bible - A great series introducing the Bible by Meredith. The flow chart she uses is the best ever!

A guide to the books you always get bogged down in - The ever-excellent Nancie Guthrie has just written "The Lamb of God: Seeing Jesus in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy". Sounds good. Courtney Reissig.

"I'm not much of a reader" is no excuse for not reading the Bible by Jared Wilson:
"Imagine I showed you a tent across the yard. You can see a glow emanating from its zippered door. “Inside that tent,” I said, “is God himself. He has something to say to you. You just have to go inside the tent, and the God of the Universe will reveal the mystery of the ages to you.” And then imagine you were to say, “I’m not much of a walker. I prefer sitting to walking.”

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

online meanderings

My least favourite words: "I am disappointed in you" - "There are no doghouses in the Kingdom of God." If you hate disappointing people, or feel like you've disappointed God, you'll love this post. Ed Welch.

Lifting up our shamefaced heads - "Earlier this week I had a thought that surprised me for its vileness...It showed the corruption of my heart, a rot in my core." Reflections on sin and grace from Rebecca Stark.

The spiritual discipline that no one wants and everyone needs - Suffering. Never mentioned in books on the so-called "spiritual disciplines", you'll find it in Jerry Bridges' best book, The Discipline of Grace. Read along with Challies.

Don't be nice, be holy - I needed to read this. Challies.

A year of ridiculous Bible interpretation - Justin Taylor with a good guide to reviews of "A year of biblical womanhood", including Kathy Keller's.
It was not the nails that held Jesus to the cross. It was my sin that held Him there. It was not the nails that held Him, but His love for the Father and His love for us. It was death by love. No one took Jesus’ life from Him. He did not lose it, He gave it. Challies

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

a very talk-y weekend

I went away on the weekend to a women's conference* and had an exhausting, encouraging, very talk-y time.

I set some kind of record on Friday, talking for 8 hours without a pause with my dear friend Emma in Sydney. Then she drove me to the conference and I talked for what felt like 2 solid days (okay, so there was some sleeping) with lots of women from around Australia.

What's unique about women's conferences?
  • No one ever stops talking
  • everyone is so busy talking that all the seminars run overtime
  • there are no men sticking their heads in the door saying, "It's time for you to finish now!"
  • everyone is late for all the meals (because no one ever stops talking)
  • everyone leaves all the meals late (because no one ever stops talking)
  • no one ever stops talking.
I love talking but I am an introvert. So I arrived at the conference tired (after 6 weeks writing 2 seminars and an article and caring for a sick son) and left even more tired (after all that talking). It was worth it! As Jenny said, it was wonderful, enriching talking.

Memorable moments:
  • hugging / meeting / catching up with 3 of my bloggy friends: JaneJenny and Wendy
  • making some very dear friends who I can't wait to catch up with next year**
  • making lots of other friends that I can't wait to get to know better next year**
  • grieving about all the hard things we've gone through, and being encouraged by my friend Cathy to keep setting my hope on heaven
  • hearing about God's work all over Australia, illustrating Wendy's lovely words from Philippians 1 about our partnership in the gospel
  • seeing a bunch of women giving some great talks and seminars
  • leading a seminar with 20 women about helping our husbands (yep, it went well, thanks to God and your prayers)***
  • stepping into the airport arrival lounge to shouts of "Mummy!" and a kiss from my hubby.
Most memorable moment:
  • talking and praying with Bronwyn, who is dying of cancer, unless God has other ideas. I am so grateful to God for her joy in Christ, her bubbly warmth, and the privilege of being encouraged by her wisdom and godly example.
Less memorable moments:
  • that uncomfortable feeling when people know who you are and you don't yet know them (but what a joy to get to know them too!)
  • realising that I have a lot more to learn about packing
  • tiredness. Did I mention that already?
Ringing in my eyes are Jen's (or is that God's?) wonderful words from our final talk on Philippians 3:
  • stand firm in Christ
  • press on in knowing Jesus (don't tread water!)
  • keep your eyes on the glorious day when we'll know Christ perfectly and (finally!) be perfected in him.
I pray that we can all do this during this coming year.**

If you were there, what did you enjoy about the conference? Tell us here.

* The conference was for wives in AFES, an organisation that shares Jesus with university students across Australia.
** Yes, Tracey, I want to have a conference every year. And they all said "A-men".
*** Oh, and I have LOTS of ideas for future seminars. Bring it on!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

how I feel about teaching the Bible

I seem to be doing more quoting than writing at the moment. Why? Because I'm neck-deep in seminar preparation. Why? Because I love teaching the Bible. Well, kind of...  Right now I can't wait to be on the other side of it.

Lisa puts my feelings into words (and I'm just 2 weeks shy of her 44 years old!):
A couple of weeks ago my friend remarked on her observation of my joy in teaching. "Don't you just love it?" she asked, answering her own question, "I can tell you do." I answered in the affirmative--because I do love it and need it and crave it and enjoy it--but I had to admit that as much as I love it I also sometimes dread it, particularly on a Tuesday morning about an hour out from the start of class when I find myself wavering between excited anticipation, grateful humility, and full blown panic coupled with a slight touch of nausea.

I remember when I used to teach with the zeal of the confident (and dare I say the ignorant?). I was so sure of myself...How I loved the Lord and the Word! I still do, yes, even more so, but my fervour is now tempered by fear.

It's true: even at the ripe old age of 44 the fight against insecurity wages on....

I'm insecure, yes, indeed, and part of that insecurity is borne of a self-focus that convinces me I can't and shouldn't. Funny thing is, those same fears rightly channelled prompt an even greater fear: the fear of the Lord. How small I am before Him and how silly my pretensions to teach His Word in and of my own skill and winsomeness!

Who am I, indeed? More than an ordinary, introverted mum I am a sinner, not merely inadequate to the task but wholly and completely unworthy on my own merit. To teach the Word of God is a fearsome thing and the more I study the Bible, the more I know of the holiness and righteousness of the Lord, the more I see my own sin and inadequacy, the more I shudder before the responsibility of teaching.

I shudder, it's true, but then I step up to the podium and I open my mouth and I know yet again the Lord's grace and faithfulness.

Read the rest here.