Saturday, August 31, 2013

Found

My friend Jean is awesome.  And she likes to make lots and lots of lists of links.  That's one of the many reasons why she's awesome.  The downside is she gets me hooked on lots and lots of blogs.  So she's awesome but I may soon need to start a 12-step program if my blog list gets much longer.

Jean recently linked to a newish blog called LRM.  I like.  But what I most wanted to share from there is a post called 'Lost and Found'.  Go read it.  It's about a brother, loss and remembrance.  I found it really moving.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Kevin's song

Trust problem, Kev?  You could try singing this one.  Might help.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

God and our kids

If you want to stir things up, make a statement about parenting. If you really want some controversy in your life, make a statement about Christian parenting. Here’s hoping this post doesn’t call down a hornet’s nest upon me because I do want to say something about Christian parenting.

One thing I’ve been chewing over lately, is whether you can parent in such a way as to guarantee the outcome. The key word there is guarantee. I think the answer is no, for reasons I’ll point out in a minute. The spark for this thinking was a blog post I read a while ago on Femina. Now, the Femina writers come out of the Federal Vision theology movement so I’m not fully on board with all of their views but a lot of their stuff on motherhood is really very, very helpful. However, it was this blog post – July 9: Simple, but not easy – that got me scratching my head. I’ve read the article several times now and thus I hope I’m not misrepresenting the views of its author but it seems to suggest that God promises believers that their children will be believers also. Here’s the section I’m talking about:
The point is that God makes promises to His people regarding their children. Believe them! I can see it with my own eyes now, so it isn’t my faith that is seeing it. But my faith has been enlarged as a result of seeing His faithfulness to me and to my children and to my grandchildren.
and
We serve a God of great glory and goodness. He loves our children. He loves to see our children brought up faithfully to love and serve Him. He loves to promise us our children. And He loves it when we believe Him. I guess it is simple. But it’s not easy.
So does God promise our children will also be faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus? Well, I am a minister’s daughter so I’ve known a good few Christian families in my time and I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, that not all kids raised in good Christian families will go on to love and serve the Lord. I don’t think anyone’s fainting from surprise as a result of that revelation. So, if that’s the case, we are left with only three logical options:

A. God does promise believers their children will believe, but he also breaks his promises quite a bit.

B. God does promise that, but only some Christians parent well enough to earn the benefits of those promises.

C. God doesn’t promise that all children of believers will be believers. Some people have read stuff into the Bible that they shouldn’t have.

Greater minds than I have agonized over this issue and I certainly don’t claim great theological knowledge but for what it’s worth, let me tell you what I think is going on.

Firstly, I don’t think it’s Option A. If it is, I want out. God is not God if he doesn’t deliver on what he says he will. And I guess that’s why some Christian folk, who have firmly believed that God makes iron-clad promises about parenting, have walked away when their families have fallen apart despite all their efforts. I do think God keeps his promises – always, every time – so let’s cross this one off the list.

Let’s turn then to Option B. Whether people would be willing to admit it or not, I think many, many Christians believe in Option B. Which would explain why sometimes there can be a lot of smugness exhibited by families whose kids do present the model Christian image and conversely explains the judgmental whispers about families whose kids turn away from the faith and the accompanying pain and shame for the parents of those kids.

In the case of the Option B family, God’s call of salvation is dependent on whether the parents are doing a good enough job of raising their kids according to the Scriptures. The parents are saved by faith but the kids are going to be saved by faith and good parenting! I don’t think that fits with what the Bible says about salvation. The Bible does command parents to raise their children well, to teach them the truths of Scripture and so on. But this does not bring about salvation. Salvation is entirely God’s own gracious work and it is not dependent on the work of man.

Option B also gets wobbly when you introduce some real-life examples. Let’s say Mary and Scott spent 20 years raising little Jeannie, Freddie and Sammie to love Jesus. While Jean and Fred, now young adults, are still believers and faithfully raising their own family in the church, Sam has decided he wants none of it and has totally renounced his commitment to Christ. What’s happen there in the Option B scenario? How do we get an outcome that’s different for one kid who has been raised in the same home, with the same parents, as the other two? Were Mary and Scott only two-thirds faithful to God’s instructions? Did God weigh it up and say, “Well, you haven’t done too badly but not quite what I’d hoped. I’m grading you a C+”?

There are plenty of Christian families in which the situation has played out just this way. I know from my own first-hand observation that the parents did an outstanding job of sharing the gospel with their kids and raising them to know the Bible. And yet, not every child from that home continued in the faith. And when we come to look at the examples of Biblical families we see just that very thing happening all over the place in the history of the Bible! Godly parents did not always manage to raise godly offspring. Likewise, ungodly parents did not prevent their children from growing up to seek God.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not for a moment saying that how we parent doesn’t matter. It matters a great deal and we ought to seek to glorify God in doing it. But I don’t think our theology, our Biblical history or our real life experience hold up the idea that God gives a guarantee that “good” parents will get godly kids or that there is some set of illusive parenting ninja skills that will guarantee you pass the heavenly parenting test so that all your kids will trust in Jesus.

So I think the answer is Option C. God’s word does tell us (and Proverbs is where we find a lot of this) that certain behaviour is likely to lead in predictable directions. God’s word commands us to raise our kids in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. But a promise of success is not given for the simple reason that success is not in our hands to deliver.

I think an illustration of all of this might help make the point clearer. When a farmer sows his seed, he usually does a lot of things to try to help that crop along. Maybe he’s ploughed up the ground and prepared the soil. He probably fertilizes it, waters it and keeps the weeds from growing. He’s takes care to plant at the right time in the season and he’s heavily invested in seeing this crop grow well. Now, in the normal course of things, that farmer can expect to see a good crop. Certainly, he is going to expect more than if he’d just wandered out to a patch of ground one day, thrown a bag of seed around, left it be for a couple of months and hoped for the best. So all that work is important and the farmer knows he should do that if he wants the best for his crop.

But he can’t make that crop grow. He can stand beside his rows and sing or shout or plead and it will have no effect on the outcome whatsoever. He is totally reliant on God’s grace in providing that crop, despite all his work. And most times, he’ll see a good harvest. But sometimes a great calamity will strike a crop. The day before the farmer plans to harvest, a hail storm will pound his produce into the mud. A plague of locusts will come over the horizon and eat every stalk. Or whatever. And despite his work, there is no crop. It is not because he hasn’t farmed well any more than he could claim the credit when the hail did not fall on his crop the year before. It is God who calls the shots at the end of the day. And sometimes, God does not do the things we expect. God is sovereign and he alone writes the story of our lives. He does not give parents the ability to write their children’s days for them. You plant, you sow, and you commit them to God. And you rejoice in his mercy if they come to faith and you pray till you reach glory if they haven’t.


So that’s my two-cents’ worth on the matter. Here’s a helpful link if you’d like to chew on the ideas a bit further: ‘Broken homes in the Bible’ by Richard Pratt Jr. And if you’ve got two-cents you’d like to add, join in with a comment by all means.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Friday, August 23, 2013

Inspector Singh Investigates

Inspector Singh Investigates: a Most Peculiar Malaysian MurderInspector Singh Investigates: A Bali Conspiracy Most FoulInspector Singh Investigates: The Singapore School of VillainyInspector Singh Investigates: A Curious Indian Cadaver
My weekend reading at present is the Inspector Singh mysteries.  The novels are your classic whodunnits with an idiosyncratic investigator whose unorthodox manner irritates his superiors but always gets results.  The main character is a blot on the otherwise organized and spotless image of the Singaporean police force.  His speciality is murder.  The series uses various locations in Asian as backdrops - Singapore, Malaysia, Bali, India, Cambodia and China.  As well as providing a murder mystery that must be solved, the author uses each novel to explore the cultural diversity and flavour of each different setting.  The plots are carried along by the human interest in the story rather than by tension or suspense so those looking for a gripping and grisly crime novel should look elsewhere.  But if you enjoy your crime fiction not-too-spicy then this might work for you.  I'm up the third in the series and I think the plots have gotten better as the series has progressed.  Think 'south-east-Asia meets No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' and you're on the right track.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dog dramas

I had to buy more flea and tick stuff for Honey today.  I also needed to get her weighed so she came with me to the vet.

However, although it should have been a quick dash in and out, there was a nasty surprise about to be uncovered. In the course of randomly chatting with the vet nurse, we discovered Honey's desexing operation has not been entirely successful!  She can't have any more puppies but she can go on heat.  Agh!  It looks likely that they are going to have to operate again to try to fix the situation.  She was desexed about a month before we got her from the rescue organization.  We are going to try to contact the original vet that did the first operation but I doubt there will be any compensation for the cost of the second operation.

Poor Honey!  Two major operations in less than six months.  What a headache for all concerned.  I really don't want to play nurse to a recovering doggy but I'm probably going to have to.  I see the head vet tomorrow for a proper consultation.  In the meantime, Honey is outside in the cold (because I don't want her in the house while she's on heat) wondering what she did wrong.

**UPDATE** We saw the head vet today and for the moment we are going to leave Honey as she is.  We can change our mind at a later point if we want to - there's no hurry.  To try to fix the situation would require a bigger operation than her first one and really it would be about making things more convenient for us rather than any health benefits to Honey.  So I went out today and bought her a pair of dog undies (!!!) so she can come back inside.  She's such an easy-going dog that she hasn't even protested about having to wear clothing.  That's the current plan; we'll see how we go.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mine Kafon

It's a super-sized version of the home-made toys he played with as a child in Afghanistan.  But Massoud Hassani's "Mine Kafon" is designed to safely detonate the landmines that still litter his country.  It's still in the design and testing stage but looks like it has the makings of an ingenious solution to a deadly problem.


Mine Kafon | Callum Cooper from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Life expectancy

It probably wasn't a great idea for me to go and check out my life-expectancy. I'm a glass-half-empty kind of girl already. But I did it and now I'm a little deflated. It was less than I thought!  Admittedly, there's a wide range of variables for each individual. But still, I thought people my age were living longer than that on average. 

Anyway, at the risk of getting depressed over how short it all is, hop over to Google and check out the life expectancy for someone born in your year. This link will take you to graph and by moving your mouse over the graph, you can pinpoint your year of birth. Then you can change countries by changing the country in the search field at the top of the page. That will add a little perspective back.
"All flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever."
1 Peter 1:24,25

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The 'Door to Hell'

The 'Door to Hell' is a fire that burns in barren wilderness of the Turkmenistan desert.  A sink hole was created when a drilling rig collapsed. Dangerous methane gas was released and it was decided that the best course of action was to set it on fire to rid the area of the gas.  But the gas reserve was far larger than they estimated and, over forty years later, it is still burning.  Read in more detail here.

courtesy John Bradley

Image by John Bradley, accessed at sometimes-interesting.com on 13/08/13.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Our royal gum tree

We planted this tree - a Silver Princess - on the weekend of William and Kate's wedding.  It was not designed to be a tribute to the Royal Family but the timing and the name just happened to fit rather well.

But here's the cool bit.  A couple of weeks ago, it blossomed for the very first time!  Talk about timing.  How neat is that?



Monday, August 12, 2013

Random thoughts

I watched all of the televised political debate last night.  There's an hour and a quarter of my life I won't be getting back.  No one said anything remarkable.  I think the worm showed that everyone had already made up their mind and nothing either side said seemed to count for much.  At least our campaigns don't go on for as long as they do in the US.  How do they live through so much politics?  I guess I could stand it though if it involve Josh and Donna and the gang.  Sob.  I miss West Wing.  No, I haven't been able to move on yet.  I think I might need a 12 step program of some sort.

I did my back this morning and now I'm moving like a 90-year old.  With the help of ibuprofen I got through my double-period class and then came home.  My husband decided to come home early and rescue me which proved to be a smart move because I don't think I could have safely driven the car to school by this afternoon.  Sigh.  Do you want to know how I did my back?  Sitting in a chair and then getting up.  I must be getting old.  I've never had back issues before.  Hopefully I'll be good by the morning because this week is chockers and I don't have time for a dodgy back.

And in case you're wondering, I am still using my no-shampoo routine for my hair.  And it's going well.  I think the ends are getting a bit dry.  I might have to find some kind of treatment for that.  But, most importantly, my scalp is totally better and no longer driving me nuts.  Because {my scalp} is worth it.

I hope to be back with some more regular blogging soon. It's just all been crazy-crazy around here for lots of reasons but there's breathing space on the horizon so here's hoping it eventuates.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I am still here

Just busy.  So busy.  Visitors last weekend, more hospitality to organize for this Saturday and a complication at work that is taking up all my brain space.  As Arnie says, 'I'll be back'.  He just says it so much better than me.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The forgiveness debate goes on

Hop over to Jean’s blog to read her take on the forgiveness debate. Click through to the comments there to read the response from the author of “Unpacking Forgiveness”.
 
Here’s my current thinking:
 
  • A lot of it depends on how you define ‘forgiveness’. For example, do you include those times when you simply overlook a wrong? Not every “wrong” is something that I need to confront the other person with – sometimes I ought to just let it go. In the family context particularly, there are going to be lots of stupid, hurtful things said that my children will never seek forgiveness for that I’m going to forgive them for anyway. That’s not to say I won’t discipline them or point out that their words/actions were wrong. But we all know they won’t always come around to my way of thinking and I will need to forgive and move on especially when they are still young children. 

  • A lot depends on what wrong you are talking about forgiving. Forgiving someone for breaking a simple confidence is a lot different to forgiving someone who has murdered a member of your family. And so when the discussion gets going and one party is thinking about minor faults, and the other is thinking about serious abuse, you get a skewed discussion.

  • The other thing that needs clear defining is what it means to ask for or seek forgiveness. Does the person, for example, need to totally agree with you on what was wrong in order to ask forgiveness? Say Fred and Bob had a disagreement in a meeting and everyone has gotten hot under the collar. Fred believes that Bob purposely blocked his motion in order to be difficult and get his own way. Bob can see that Fred is distressed but believes that he blocked the motion for the right reasons and not for personal gain. Can Bob ask forgiveness for upsetting Fred and seek to restore the relationship without having to agree with Fred that his blocking of the motion was self-motivated? If not, where does that leave them? Fred cannot forgive Bob, because Bob has not asked for forgiveness for selfishly blocking the motion. They can talk it over for a month of Sundays but will never see eye-to-eye on that point. However, Bob doesn’t want animosity between them so Bob wishes to be reconciled to Fred. Does Fred have a responsibility to forgive even though Bob has not asked to be forgiven for the actual thing Fred is cross about?

  •  Both sides of the debate, appeal to the way God forgives us. The forgiveness-is-a-social-contract side say that God only forgives those who repent and so repentance is a key part of forgiveness. The just-forgive side say that God is the one who initiates forgiveness, even before we seek it, and calls us to do the same. I get what is being said on both sides but I think a really, really important point to note is that we are not in the same position as God. God is sinless and just. He does not need to ask anyone’s forgiveness. He is the one who is wronged against. His forgiveness is awesome because he could choose not to forgive anyone and still be totally just. Justice would be on his side. So when he forgives, it is utterly gracious. We, obviously, are not in anything like that position and so the analogy has serious limitations. We both sin against God and each other. We need to ask for God’s forgiveness and we need to ask forgiveness of one another. That puts us in a different position when someone sins against us. We are a guilty but forgiven person who is seeking to forgive someone rather than a never-guilty person volunteering to forgive someone. And I think that means we have a greater duty to forgive others when we reflect on how we have been so freely forgiven. And I’ve been forgiven by God for things I haven’t specifically asked God to forgive me for because I’m such a sinner I don’t even recognize half the mess I’m in.

  • Justice and forgiveness are two different things. And they are not mutually exclusive. I agree that sometimes the push to “forgive and move on” has stupid consequences. Take a hypothetical (but sadly common) scenario in which an older brother is allowed to move back home after it has been uncovered that he has been sexually abusing his younger sister. The desire to “put it all behind them” is so strong that the parents want everyone to forgive and forget about it as quickly as possible. The danger and injustice of it all stinks. It would seem obvious that the situation calls for some ongoing boundaries between the two siblings. You can forgive but still require someone to face just consequences. Sweeping the abuse under the carpet is in effect creating a new wrong.

  • And so, one might argue, that a possible reason why forgiveness and consequences should be viewed as separate is this: some wrongs are of such magnitude that consequences must be enacted or further wrongs will occur. For example, a man murders someone’s brother. After a long and difficult process, the victim’s brother forgives the murderer. Should he then be released from all consequences? No. Because further wrongs would then occur. The removal of consequences in that kind of situation would belittle the victim and deny the magnitude of what was done; this is a form of injustice that is a wrong in itself. Other potential murderers would perhaps be encouraged to believe they could get away with it. The murderer himself, if he has not repented, could commit further crimes. The murderer would also be denied the opportunity to feel the consequences of his wrong and possibly then come to repentance. The wider society, seeing the law as a protector of their freedoms and security, would be wronged by seeing the law failing to prosecute those who had broken the laws and endangered others. And so consequences must follow to avoid these further harms, even if the murderer has been forgiven by some or all of the parties involved. The potential individual forgiveness between the parties involved, does not change the greater duty of those in authority to uphold the rights of victims (both current and potential future victims) to have their wrongs addressed.
 
I am certainly still chewing this over and so I would love it if you would join in the discussion by leaving a comment.

Friday, August 2, 2013

English Bible versions and Star Wars

This is very funny if you have experienced a range of English translations of the Bible.

HT in all honesty

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Change

I don't like change.  I don't even like it when I have to buy new sneakers.  Why can't my Adidas from 1998, shoes which know my feet perfectly, just keep going?  Why?

So at work this week, I've been trying to avoid facing change.  Two of my favourite colleagues have announced that they will retire at the end of the year.  It's going to take the rest of the year for me to pull myself together about the whole thing.  Every time I try to think about it, I get teary.  Seriously.  And I'm not a touchy-feely-crying-in-public kind of gal.  But this undoes me every time.  I'm almost considering skipping the end of year luncheon because I can't bear the thought of the farewell speeches.

I will miss these two colleagues so much.  They have been a part of all of my working life.  Thick and thin.  It's not just work to me.  It's a second home.  A place I feel I belong.  And so they are like a second family.  I cannot imagine coming to the first day of work next year and not seeing them there.

Which made it all the harder when one of them took staff devotions on Wednesday and talked about change and facing the future.  I was doing okay until he said, "And on the morning I wake up on that first staff day back next year and you all head off..." And he paused then and we all hung in the air for a moment.  And I cried (inside, because I don't do outside crying with people around) and I wanted to whisper, "No, no, no."  I don't want them to go.  I don't want any of it to change.  And yet it will. 

And it will keep on changing and changing and changing.

Then he spoke about the future.  And how we need not worry as long as we are putting our feet inside Jesus' footsteps and following him.  And it's true.  God's plans will not end and there is more to come.  When change overwhelms me a bit, I try to hold on to this idea: 'this is God's gracious provision for you today'.  Whatever comes, it is God who chooses my steps and my days.  It is all of it - the happy and the sad, the greetings and the partings - part of His gracious provision for me.

Still, I'm crying now.  Just typing it!