Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday's lighter note

One of my students came into my class looking quite upset, so I asked her what was wrong. "My driver education teacher yelled at me!" she said, on the verge of tears.
"What did he say?" I asked.
"Stay on the road, Janet! Stay on the road!"

- Cynthia Beavers (Readers Digest)

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Devotional thought : Luke 2:34-35

"Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ' … And a sword will pierce your own soul too.'" Luke 2:34-35

Midst the excitement of that first Christmas with angels appearing and shepherds praising God, we find a prophesy of future pain. "A sword will pierce your own soul." Yet this had not stopped the angel telling Mary, "You have found favour with God" nor from the angels telling the shepherds, "I bring you good news of great joy."

It would seem that although God is beyond time and able to see past, present and future events simultaneously, He is also able to focus on a moment in our time and celebrate its significance. It is something we need to do to especially at Christmas. There is much suffering and difficulty not only in our world but in our own community. Yet Christmas is a time to rejoice and celebrate Jesus' coming into the world.

Rejoicing people are generous people. Their joy enables them to give and bless others. God, in sending Jesus, has given us the "indescribable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15) which tells us that God, overflowing with joy, has given us a gift beyond description. God did not send Jesus because He was under an obligation to send a Saviour. Or that He was under pressure to solve the sin problem. God is Sovereign and free to do as He pleases. In choosing to shower us with such a blessing it shows us that God's heart is full of love and joy.

In the parable of the prodigal son it is recorded that the father said to his eldest son, "But we had to celebrate and be glad." Christmas is such a time when we have to celebrate and be glad.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all who pass by here.

God made the trip from heaven to earth because He thought you were worth it.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday's lighter note

When I select rockmelons, I always squeeze, smell and tap. Once I noticed a young man observing me in action. When I finally selected my melon, he said to me, "Excuse me, do you have a second choice?"

- Irene Green (Reader's Digest)

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Unromantic JAG


I watched the final episode of JAG last night (I don't know why it took soooo long to get to Australia). I used to watch JAG every week when my daughter lived at home but then it got longer and longer between series and I lost interest. Nevertheless at one time I really enjoyed the show so I wanted to see the final episode. Unfortunately I found it to be disappointingly unromantic!

Harm eventually proposes to Mac but then neither of them willingly sacrifices their new job opportunity in order to be with the other. Don't the JAG writers know that romantic love is about sacrifice? Now if Harm and Mac had had a big argument because both of them wanted to give up their new jobs in order to be with the other, that would have been romantic and then it would have been okay to finish the show with a toss of the coin. But as it was, who cares?

It reminds me that the gospel is the greatest, most romantic love story of all because the Bridegroom sacrificed His life for His bride.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Book review : He Has Made Me Glad



Ben Patterson brings out many good insights in his book, He Has Made Me Glad (InterVarsity Press, 2005). Our joy is dependant on the amount of gratitude we feel towards God. Far too often we take God for granted and overlook the enormity of what He had done for us. Patterson writes to correct this thinking and fills his book with Scriptures, his life experiences and stories that confirm his ideas. I particularly like the way he describes God as, "The Happy God". It is not an image we are overly familiar with yet there is much Scripture that verifies this thought.

Still it is easy to know why we should be grateful yet more difficult to put it into practice. I would have like more practical suggestions to make thankfulness an integral part of my daily life.

Nevertheless I did enjoy Patterson's book and the reminder it was to remember with thanks what God has done in the past and to look ahead joyfully to what God is planning in the future. I felt challenged to make a habit of being more thankful and therefore more joyful.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Devotional thought : Matthew 2:1-5

Sometimes I read articles and think, "Wow!" I've never thought of that. This was one of those occasions.

"Only a Rumor" by Soren Kierkegaard.

"… Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.' When King Herod heard this he was disturbed … When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 'In Bethlehem in Judea' they replied." Matthew 2:1-5

Although the scribes could explain where the Messiah should be born, they remained quite unperturbed in Jerusalem. They did not accompany the Wise Men to seek him. Similarly we may know the whole of Christianity, yet make no movement. The power that moved heaven and earth leaves us completely unmoved.

What a difference! The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it moved them to make that long journey. The scribes were much better informed, much better versed. They sat and studied the Scriptures like so many dons, but it did not make them move. Who had the more truth? The three kings who followed a rumor, or the scribes who remained sitting with all their knowledge?

What a vexation it must have been for the kings, that the scribes who gave them the news they wanted remained quiet in Jerusalem! We are being mocked, the kings might have thought. For indeed what an atrocious self-contradiction that the scribes should have the knowledge and yet remain still. This is as bad as if a person knows all about Christ and his teachings, and his own life expresses the opposite. We are tempted to suppose that such a person wishes to fool us, unless we admit that he is only fooling himself.

Reprinted from http://www.plough.com/ebooks/pdfs/Provocations.pdf. Copyright 2002 by the Bruderhof Foundation, Inc. Used with permission.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday's lighter note

A colleague had recently moved to a house and was still redecorating, much to the chagrin of his teenage daughter. When told she would be getting new wallpapaer, wardrobe and curtains, but would have to wait for the carpet to be laid, she retorted, "Does that mean I will have to walk around on bare floorboards?"

"No dear," her mother said, "You can walk on your clothes like you usually do."

- David Gipson (Readers Digest)

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Book review : Inside my heart



Inside my heart : choosing to live with passion and purpose by Robin McGraw (Nelson Books, 2006)

Robin McGraw is the wife of Dr Phil, the well known television personality. The book is largely autobiographic though not a chronological account of her life. Robin uses her life experiences to explain her outlook on life. I found her approach to life to be quite confrontational. She seems very sure of herself and her opinions and is more than happy to tell you exactly what's on her mind. This can be a good quality as she encourages woman to be more assertive and challenges them to make choices that will help them to grow into the person they were meant to be. Yet it can also be a bit overpowering and intimidating. Robin doesn't allow for different personalities and her way of handling struggles and difficulties would not necessarily work well for all women. Her faith in God seems genuinely yet she rarely mentions asking God for wisdom or guidance in her decision making.

Still her book makes for interesting reading. I enjoyed reading her life stories and the different twists and turns that her life has taken.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Devotional thought : Philemon 15

I read this verse in Philemon the other day and began thinking that maybe it had larger ramifications than it seemed.

"Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good – no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother." Philemon 15-16

In this verse Paul is referring to Onesimus who had been Philemon's slave. (He had run away to Rome, met Paul and subsequently became a Christian.)

One of the age old theological questions is why did God allow sin to enter His perfect world? In allowing sin to enter the world it separated people from God. Yet in God's economy of time, only "for a little while," because God had a plan to restore the relationship. Not only to restore it but to make it better. No longer slaves but brothers. "I no longer call you slaves, for a master doesn't confide in his slaves; now you are My friends, proved by the fact that I have told you everything the Father told Me." (John 15:15 LB)

In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve knew God's holiness and justice. But 'perfect' justice meant that Adam and Eve lived under a death threat. One bad choice, with no second chances, meant instant spiritual death and eventually physical death. Perhaps there was also something slave-like about Adam and Eve's relationship with God. God could not confide in Adam and Eve the way He wanted because Adam and Eve could not have known the depths of God's compassion, mercy and grace while they lived in this state of perfection.

God wants relationships with His people like that of dear brothers and not like that of slaves and He will go to extraordinary lengthens to achieve it. Even allowing sin and suffering to disappoint our expectations of Him.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday's lighter note

"My husband and I were watching a romantic scene on TV showing a man and woman reminiscing about the day of the week they first met, had their first kiss and he proposed. 'What day is today?' my husband suddenly asked.

Thinking he was remembering our special days, I said, 'Why do you ask?'

'I was just wondering,' he replied, 'if tonight is garbage night.'"

- Jacqueline Shaw (Reader's Digest)

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Good Year


After seeing the movie, A Good Year, (which has only just been released in Australia) I wanted to read the book of the same name by Peter Mayle (Random House, 2004). There were some nice touches in the movie and I wanted to know if they were in the book. I was disappointed to discover they were not.

I must be one of those rare people that often prefers the film over the book which is surprising since I'm such a book lover. However the truth is I read mostly non-fiction and find the descriptive passages in fiction books quite boring. So I have to say I preferred the film version of A Good Year to the book it is based on.

The book begins with the rather large coincidence that Max Skinner loses his job the same day he receives a letter in the mail telling him he has inherited his Uncle Henry's property in the south of France. The film is much more realistic in that he is visiting the property when he receives news he has been suspended from his job.

In the film there are a lot of flashbacks to Max Skinner's (played by Russell Crowe) childhood. These give a great insight into Uncle Henry's character and also to some of the influences that shaped Max's life. Unfortunately these were completely absence in the book.

In both the book and the film Max has to make the decision of whether to return to London or live on his uncle's property. Again I think this is handled better in the film because it creates tension between two viable options. In the book it is really a non decision because he has no job to return to.

I also enjoyed the humour and romantic touches that had been added to the film.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Devotional thought : 1 Peter 1:8

Do you think that we sometimes hold onto a wrong concept of God in order to justifiy our behaviour?

"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy." 1 Peter 1:8

In the latest edition of Every Day With Jesus Selwyn Hughes writes on the theme "Surprised by God." One of the surprises he discusses is when people become Christians they are surprised to be filled with joy. Hughes then looks at the reasons for their surprise. One of his most interesting conclusions was this: "To hold on to the concept of God as a killjoy makes it easier to justify our unwillingness to surrender to His claims."

As I have grown in my Christian walk I have noticed a certain comfort in holding onto wrong concepts of God. For example, if we enjoy our work, it is easy to see God as a slave driver. If we like to push the boundaries of God's standards for our behaviour, it is easy to see God as indolent Santa Claus figure. If we can't cope with the mysteriousness of God, it is easy to invent our own reasons for God's ways rather than embrace the unknown.

Jamie Buckingham wrote a book called, "The Truth Will Set You Free, but First It Will Make You Miserable." Letting go of our wrong concepts may make us feel miserable, or at least uncomfortable, but in the end it is truth that will set us free. God will not conform to our misconceptions of Him. We need to grow in our understanding and see God as He is truly portrayed in his Word. When we acknowledge God as He is, full of compassion and grace with our best interests at heart, it then becomes a little easier to surrender to His claims.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday's lighter note

I was listening to the cricket today when one of the commentators was talking about how he had met a regular listener to the cricket. Apparently on meeting him she said, "You are so much taller than you sound."

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Book review : Blink


Blink : the power of thinking without thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (Penguin, 2005) greatly challenged by belief that you need lots of information to make a correct decision. I discovered that sometimes you don't.

Blink relates many stories where a spontaneous decision is made in the blink of an eye, and it has turned out to be a very effective decision. Gladwell explains, using much research, that our brains are constantly picking up information that our conscious mind is largely unaware of. This information can be used to make a decision without going through the normal channels of gaining knowledge.

However towards the end of the book Gladwell relates times when our preconceived ideas and other factors can interfere with this process and the results can be devastating. He relates several stores where innocent people have been shot by police who genuinely believed they were acting in self-defense. This was a sobering note to bring out as the book was drawing to a close and I wondered if it could have been included earlier in the book.

Overall though I found the book to be fascinating with lots of interesting stories and theories to be considered.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Devotional thought : Revelation 1:5-6

"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." Revelation 1:5-6

While I was on holidays I read, "He has made me glad" by Ben Patterson. This sentence from the book particularly impacted me, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him."

It is a challenging thought that we glorify God when we are satisfied with Him. The truth is sometimes we are not satisfied with God. Sometimes we are disappointed with aspects of our appearance – perhaps we think our nose, mouth, feet or whatever is too big or too small; or maybe we think our personality is too loud or too quiet; or maybe we wish we were smarter. What we are actually suggesting is that we are not satisfied with how God made us.

Sometimes we are not satisfied with our life – perhaps if we had gone to a different school, lived in a different town or married someone else our life would be better. Again we are expressing dissatisfaction with God who holds all of our life in His hands.

When I wrote this Americans were celebrating Thanksgiving. I read a thought by an American girl who was simply expressing gratitude for supermarkets full of food with such variety, such quantity, such quality. Yet as wonderful as supermarkets are, we have Christ, who loves us and frees us from sin. He has made us to be His people.

Let's focus on all that God has done for us then we will glorify God by being satisfied in Him.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Friday's lighter note

"Receptionist to doctor: 'The patient is in the middle of a magazine article and will see you soon doctor.'" - Earl Engleman in Medical Economics (Readers Digest)

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Lighthouse Church Wollongong





Last Sunday morning I was in Wollongong and attended Lighthouse Church. I was surprised when the pastor said he had just returned from the US as I had been there recently myself. He went on to explain that international students have been attending their church for some years. Apparently Wollongong University has about 4,000 international students a year and many of these are from the US. Subsequently some of these students have found themselves at the church and often made commitments or recommitments to Christ whilst at the church. The pastor had been to visit some of these students and also to publicize a program they now run at their church where international students are encouraged to part take in an internship with the church.

One rather amusing thing he said (tongue in cheek) "… and I told them if they come to Australia to do our program and fall in love they have to stay here. We are not having any more of our young people move to America to get married!"

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Blog Break

I'm out of town for a few days ...

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Friday's lighter note ...

"We were dining at the home of friends one evening and our hostess passed a bowl of broccoli to my husband.'No thanks, I've already had some,' he said, then added, 'I was eight or nine years old at the time.'" - P.S.F. (Reader's Digest)

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Devotional thought : 2 Samuel 12:13-14

"Then David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.' And Nathan said to David, 'The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.'" 2 Samuel 12:13-14 NKJ

Often we think that sin only disrupts our relationship with the Lord and with the other people involved. While this is so, we don't often think about what effect our sin has on "the enemies of the Lord".

This thought is repeated elsewhere in the Bible. Paul addressing the Jews in Romans 2:24 says, "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." (see also Ezekiel 36:22)

Our actions are more far reaching than we realize. When we sin we give God's enemies, whether these enemies are spiritual foes or physical people, the opportunity to despise God. As Christians need to understand that we live in a "gold fish bowl" where people are watching to see if our faith makes any difference to our actions. People who have no respect for God will feel vindicated when they see one of God's people fall into obvious sin. Others will question the value of being committed to God when they feel that they live a better moral life than those that call themselves Christians.

In spite of his failings David did not sit around bemoaning his lack of self-control or objecting to the death of an innocent child. He admitted his sin, repented and received God's forgiveness. After he realized the child was dead (v.20), he accepted God's decision and moved on with his life.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday's lighter note ...

I like to read the funny stories in Reader's Digest. This one was sent in by a Lynn Smith: "Before retiring from my 30 year marketing career at IBM, I attended a seminar where a young salesman presented the latest PC. Impressed with the presentation, I remarked, 'When I joined the company, we intended to make the computer as easy to use as the telephone. It looks like we made it.'
'We have,' the speaker replied. 'We've made the telephone a lot more complicated.'"

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Secret Message of Jesus


Brian McLaren writes about Jesus' message from the perspective of its original hearers and then explains what that means for us in the 21st century. I particularly enjoy the way he writes about the four political groups that were around in Jesus' day and how their ideas are still present today. The Zealots believed in armed revolt. The Herodians just wanted a peaceful life so cooperated with the Romans. The Essenes were pacifist who left the corrupt religious and political systems and created an alternative society in the desert. The Pharisees believed God would liberate them from the Romans if the Jews became purer and more righteous. Jesus' message disappointed all four groups and continues to do so today. His message is like yeast in bread dough or a seed growing in the dark. They expand silently and effectively without a showy display.

I did find it a little odd that McLaren writes as if he is presenting new material about Jesus whereas I personally found that he was simply adding further insights to things I already knew. Nevertheless these insights were valuable and beneficial.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Devotional thought : Hosea 1:2

Incidentally this is also an excerpt from my book.

"When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord." Hosea 1:2

God's love is so much more than the water down version we have grown accustom to calling love. Dan Allender writes: "We've come to view love and forgiveness as little more than acting pleasantly, yielding to the will of others, and ignoring offences. But this definition doesn't begin to approach the radically disruptive nature of genuine love as modelled by Jesus Christ."

The world would have us believe that Christian love is merely feeling emotionally warm, or being pleasant to people when we would rather not or overlooking another's shortcomings. But God's love is not nearly so passive. God takes the initiative to pursue the people He made even when they show very little interest in Him.

Such was the case in Hosea's time. The story of Hosea is a shocking tale of love, betrayal and forgiveness. Hosea marries and is later reconciled to an adulteress prostitute. What a graphic picture, outrageous that God would ask Hosea to do such a thing yet it is a picture of what God does for us. When the significance of this sinks in to our hearts we are overwhelmed by a God who loves like that. A God who knows our lack of commitment to Him. A God who knows we yearn for something or anything, other than Himself. A God who has been hurt by our attitude that says, "my relationship with You, God, is not enough to satisfy me." But a God who continues to love and pursue us anyway.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

On a lighter note ...

"I never leaf through a copy of National Geographic without realizing how lucky we are to live in a society where it is traditional to wear clothes."
- Erma Bombeck

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Disappointment with God



Surprisingly perhaps, considering Philip Yancey popularity and the fact that I am an avid reader, I haven't read a lot of Yancey's books. I often find him hard to relate to because he has a very different Christian background to me. However recently I read and enjoyed "Disappointment with God".

The book looks at three questions people often ask about God. Is God unfair? Is He silent? Is He hidden? Yancey gives us an overview of the Bible as he looks at these questions. He starts with the Israelites in desert, moves on to the prophets, then to Jesus' times and finally to the New Testament letters. He shared many fascinating insights as he look at these issues in a fresh way.

Half way through the book, just when I felt Yancey was coming to a conclusion, he starts on a new tact. He looks more fully at how time impacts human existence and more closely at the book of Job. It was slightly disconcerting to find myself on a new train of thought and I wondered if maybe if he should have written two books. Nevertheless Yancey shares so many helpful thoughts that it is well worth the read.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Devotional thought : John 7:37-38

"On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.'" John 7:37-38

At the writer's conference I attended recently there were many workshops that provided factual information and helpful tips. But there were also general sessions which provided inspiration and motivation. At one of these sessions the speaker (Tracey Klehn) was talking about a trip she made to Paris some time ago. She had always wanted to see Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and had the opportunity when her husband needed to go to France for some work commitments.

Surprisingly the thing that now stands out in her mind about visiting Notre Dame is not the cathedral itself but rather a boy who was there with his father feeding the birds. The boy stood with his arms reaching up and his palms facing heaven. His father placed seed in his hands and the birds came and ate. God spoke to her about her dependence upon Him. Figuratively it is as we reach out our hands towards heaven in worship, surrender and prayer that God is able to put "seed" in our hands to feed those readers that God brings to us.

Of course this doesn’t only apply to writers, it applies to anyone who God has given a gift to, and isn't that everyone? As we use our gift whether it's writing, speaking, helping, serving, it is as we come to God "thirsty" and "drink" from Him that He is able to cause "streams of living water to flow" and provide spiritual water for those we minister to.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

What is my book about?

While I was at the conference I was often asked what I was writing. When I said a book the next question, of course, was what is it about? My response often began, "Well, it is a non-fiction Christian living book. It's about God …" (!) Even after many different attempts to answer this question I am still struggling to find a concise way of explaining what it is about.

As part of my book proposal I need to think about "the competition" that is, other books on the market that discuss the same topic. So after reading numerous book summaries I decided that Philip Yancey's book, "Disappointment with God" was the most similar and I am currently reading it. Already though I've decided that my book is quite different. Yancey looks directly at three questions, Is God unfair? Is He silent? Is He hidden? I only look at these topics indirectly. My book looks more directly at our struggle with God's Sovereignty. At the moment the best way I can describe it is to say it is about the frustration Jonah feels in Jonah chapter 4. I wrote a post about this.

Interestingly Yancey also mentions Jonah and quotes Robert Frost summary of the book of Jonah who says, "After Jonah, you could never trust God not to be merciful again." I was always find sentences with double negatives somewhat confusing but this one works quite well. It is more powerful and more accurate than saying, you can always trust God to be merciful (Ananias, Sapphira, Uzzah, Nadab and Abihu may not have considered God to be merciful.). Still it all gets back to God's Sovereignty. God has the right to be merciful to whoever He chooses regardless of whether I think the person is worthy of mercy or not.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Travelling so far

Why would I travel so far to attend Glorieta Christian Writer's Conference?

Firstly Australia is a big country with a small population (20 million). We only have 8 major cities and some of those aren't very major when you compare them to US cities. Therefore we cannot support a large publishing industry. As an example of how Australia having a small population impacts things consider this. Australia also cannot support a big TV industry. This was very noticeable when Steve Irwin died. I do not have pay TV. Most of my friends do not have pay TV because it is not worth the expense for the few extra channels you get. Here, near Melbourne, we have 5 free to air channels which is all we watch. Steve Irwin has done a few customs adverts but his show "Crocodile Hunter" is on pay TV and I've never seen it, most of my friends have never seen it. This is why when he died the reaction in America was far greater than in Australia.

Secondly Australia does not have a strong Christian heritage like America does. In a previous post I mentioned that I went to Terry Whalin's comprehensive class at the conference. I also bought his book, Book Proposals That Sell. In his chapter, "How do you follow the trends in publishing" he writes "Trend #2: The Distinction Between Religious Publishers and General Market Publishers Continues To Blur". This trend is not happening in Australia at this time. They say that trends in America take 10 years to hit Australia but I'm thinking this one may take even longer than that. I was in Borders in one of the airports while I was in the US there were two bays full of Christian books which I found amazing. I also saw Christian books and music in Target! In Australia very rarely can you buy a Christian book anywhere apart from a Christian bookshop and lots of towns don't have Christian bookshops. I live an hour away from my nearest one.

When an Australian Christian author has a new book published the first thing I do is check out who the publisher is. What I've found is that if it is a well-known pastor/speaker the book will have been published in the US or UK or both. If it is an unknown person it will be either self-published or vanity published. (Though I did find one recently that was published in Italy! Apparently the author speaks in the UK and Europe.) Some of our church denominations and para-church organizations have publishing departments which they use to produce their own Bible study material, children's material etc. They will publish a book if it is by someone well-known in their denomination. (I'm not well-known!) One denomination I know produces calendars each year to raise their finances some they can publish other resources.

Thirdly in Christian circles in Australia it is not unusual to hear about pastors attending conferences in the US or UK. Often these pastors are from one of the larger churches and their church is helping finance the trip. While I was in the US I heard about some members of a church music team that attended the Hillsong conference in Australia. So travelling half way across the world to attend a conference is not that unusual though I must say I haven't heard of anyone else doing it to attend a writer's conference! When I told my Australian friends what I was doing the common response was, "Oh really", registering slight surprise.

Fourthly (for all the reasons already mentioned) there just aren't these types of conferences in Australia.

And finally the main reason I went to the conference was that I felt God wanted me to go.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Glorieta Christian Writer's Conference part 2

The second part of the conference is the appointments and some people go just for these. On the first night the faculty is introduced. It is made up of editors, agents, authors and professional writers. On the next three days you have the opportunity of making a 15 minute appointment with any of the faculty. You can make one appointment in advance (and if you would like to see a popular editor this is a good idea). These appointments are scheduled throughout the day so while you are in a workshop people are coming and going. These appointments serve several purposes. You can pitch a book proposal or even just an idea to an editor. You can ask an editor a more general question eg. What sort of material is your publishing house specifically looking for at this time? You can ask a professional writer about their experience of getting published or for their advice. The faculty went out of their way to be helpful and encouraging. If you miss out on an appointment with a particular editor often you could meet them informally in the meal lines or in a hallway. These people were very generous with their time.

There are other appointments. I pre-arranged to have a paid critique of my book proposal and was given a half hour time slot with an editor. I found this very helpful and I was able to go back to her later in the conference with some new ideas. The attendees were also very friendly and there was no sense of competition but rather mutual encouragement. So the whole experience was enjoyable and very informative.

The question I was asked most often at the conference was, "You didn't come all the way from Australia just to come to this conference, did you?" My response was, "Yes, I did." And in my next post I'll explain why.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Glorieta Christian Writer's Conference

Before attending the conference I searched on blogger for anyone who had been to this conference but found little information therefore I'm writing a detailed report. There are two parts to the conference. Firstly the workshop sessions and secondly the appointments.

The workshops run from 8:15 am and finish at 9:30 pm (sometimes later if you want to stay and ask questions). There are breaks betweens sessions of half an hour and longer for lunch and dinner. I found though that if I wanted to go back to my room before or after meal times. It was a five minute walk there and then a five minute walk to the dinning hall. It was also a five minute walk from the dinning room to where the sessions were held. The grounds at the conference are huge and at 7500 ft above sea level it is quite tiring just walking. I say this to explain the conference is very full-on. Of course you are free to attend as many or as few workshops as you wish. I wanted to go to everything since I'd come so far but it was just not physically possible so most days I skipped the last session. All the workshops I went to were excellent. The presenters were all very competent and very experienced in their fields. I also bought CD's of some of the workshops I couldn't get to. I have listened to a couple and they are very good too. You have the option of attending one comprehensive class which is a continuing class over the four days. I went to Terry Whalin's class on "Truth is stronger than fiction" – which was about publishing non-fiction. Terry was a mountain of information and even more he was very genuine and spoke from his heart. The first and last sessions of the day were general sessions and I heard some great speakers including Florence Littauer.

So far I've only told you about half the conference. The second part is the appointments but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Photos of my trip



Montezuma Castle near Camp Verde.It’s not a castle but preserved cliff dwellings carved into the cliffs, built in the 1300s.



This is the chapel building where the conference meetings were held at Glorieta.



I took this photo because I knew my sons would think it very amusing!

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Home!

It's so good to be home! Will spend the rest of today catching up and hope to post tomorrow.

An interesting piece of trivia that I did find out is that the highest mountain in Australia is Mount Kosciusko which is 7310 feet above sea level and Gloreita where the conference was held is 7500 feet above sea level. No wonder I was puffing when I was walking around!

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Phoenix (again)

The conference finished yesterday and I am now back in Phoenix. This afternoon I am flying back Melbourne. I'm really looking forward to getting home. I feel like I have been away for months. The conference was excellent but I will post about it when I get home.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Glorieta

I've arrived at Glorieta and the conference starts in about an hour. I had a very enjoyable weekend in Phoenix and visited Sedona, Jerome, Camp Verde and Wickenham which were all very interesting. I was curious about 'mega' churches which I have heard about and I was able to attend one on the Sunday morning. (In Australia we don't have very many really big churches). On Monday I saw the Grand Canyon which was very impressive.

I'm finding that when I met people I need to talk more slowly as apparently my Australian accent makes me slightly difficult to understand!

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Phoenix

I arrived in Phoenix this afternoon. It was quite warm but not humid so it was pleasant. The flight was mostly smooth but long. I did manage to read about half of "The Secret Message of Jesus" by Brian McLaren. He has made some good points so far. It will be interesting to see what conclusions he comes too.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Devotional thought : Jonah 4:1-2

This will probably be my last post from Australia but I hope I can post while I am in the US. I checked the weather forcast and it is going to 32C (90F) in Phoenix and 26C (80F) in Albuquerque. Yesterday in Melbourne it was 17C (63F)!

Anyway I've been thinking about Jonah and this is what I wrote:

"But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, 'O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.'" Jonah 4:1-2

Jonah was angry. Why? Because God was too merciful, too gracious and too loving! Actually Jonah understood God's character very well. He fled to Tarshish because he did not want God to show mercy to the people of Nineveh.

To be fair Jonah had good reasons for not wanting Nineveh to repent. These people were Israel's enemies and Jonah wanted God to wipe them out. History would later prove Jonah's fears well founded. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria which many years later attack Israel and took it into captivity.

The book of Jonah ends abruptly with Jonah "angry enough to die"(v.9). There is no indication he ever came to grips with God's divine purposes. For God's ways are not our ways. He will not necessarily wipe out those things which want to take us captive. God will not run the world according to our agendas or necessarily answer our prayers to our satisfaction. How do we respond to a God we cannot control?

We can be like Jonah and stay openly angry with God. We can hide our disappointment with God under more attractive guises. Or we can acknowledge that God is Sovereign and has the right to do whatever He chooses. He is the Potter we are the clay.

Surprisingly it was the pagan sailors who understood God's Sovereignty and said, "For you, O Lord, have done as you pleased" Jonah 1:14.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

My latest readings

I haven't read as many books lately as I have been busy preparing for my trip. I did skim through, "Publicize Your Book! : an insider's guide to getting your book the attention it deserves" by Jacqueline Deval (Berkley, 2003), which is one of many books recommended by conference speakers. From my brief perusal it seems to contain some good ideas for marketing books.

I've continued reading the devotional "Every Day With Jesus" by Selwyn Hughes and I found his comments for tomorrow very interesting. "Be careful that you throw yourself only into those things that God wants you to be involved in. Don't take up everything that comes along. I (Selwyn) was struck by this verse in Deuteronomy: 'Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. Offer them only at the place the Lord will choose' (Deuteronomy 12:13) … Get guidance from God, know your call and continue in it."

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Do you fear God for nothing?

After reading, "Furious Pursuit" and pondering the "Larger Story", I found myself thinking about the first couple of chapters of Job. Here's what I wrote:

"The Lord said to Satan, 'Where have you come from?' Satan answered the Lord, 'From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.'" Job 1:7

I find the first two chapters of Job very intriguing. The idea of God and Satan having a conversation seems somewhat bizarre and surely God knew where Satan had been anyway.

When we think about this conversation along with Ephesians 3:10, "His (God's) intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms", we begin to realize that there is a lot more going on in the heavenly realms than we know. God wants to display His manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. It seems there has always been a whole drama being played out in the heavenlies that is hidden from us. It is certainly not about us, yet somehow we are an immensely important part of it.

Satan challenges God with the question, "Does Job fear God for nothing?" (Job 1:9) Satan is suggesting Job only honours the Lord for the blessing and protection God provides. So God allows Satan to test Job. Ultimately Job continues to trust God despite his many questions and complaints and God rewards Job with double his previous blessings.

Amongst other things, I think the story of Job tells us that the question, "does Job fear God for nothing" is deeply significant. The question now falls to us. Do I only honour God for what I get out of it, blessings, protection and eternal life? Or do I honour God for no other reason than He is God?

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Furious Pursuit



I found this book by Tim King and Frank Martin (WaterBrook Press, 2006) to be very encouraging and uplifting. For some time I have understood God's furious pursuit. On reflection I'm not sure how and when I learnt this truth. I remember reading Francis Thompson's poem, "The Hound of Heaven" some years ago. Thompson describes God as the "Hound of Heaven", the God who desires, pursues and actively seeks us out. He describes how he fled from God, "down the nights and down the days" ... "down the arches of the years" and ... "down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind." Then he describes God pursuing him with these words, "But with unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy". The image it presents of God's pursuit of us is very powerful.

Getting back to "Furious Pursuit". It was good have the truth of God's unfailing love reinforced. I particularly enjoyed to authors' understanding of Jesus washing the disciples' feet. God's love is truly amazing.

It was also good to be reminded that life is not about us. In the busyness of life with many responsibilities clamouring for our attention it is easy to forget this. "Furious Pursuit" reminds us there is a far "Larger Story" going on and God allows us to play an important part in it.

A good read.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Laughing at the days to come

"The One enthroned in heaven laughs" Psalm 2:4.

In the sporting arena no one laughs at their opponent. From time to time a team or an individual may take an opponent too lightly. In which case they may be taken by surprise and lose the match but serious sports people don't laugh at an opponent.

But God is never taken by surprise. Consequently He can laugh at those who would oppose Him. "The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for He knows their day is coming" Psalm 37:13. God "knows their day is coming." He knows what will happen in the future. God has the devil on a limited time frame. The devil can do nothing that God doesn't allow. Therefore God can laugh at the wicked's feeble attempts to thwart God's purposes.

Of course, our perspective is so small in comparison. When we look at the world, we don’t see God's ultimate control. Often we see evil apparently winning. We wonder why God doesn't intervene and prevent hardship and suffering. At such times we need to trust in God's character and rely on His goodness, believing that one day at the end of time He will be able to say to us, "Look I can explain everything."

In the meantime if we remind ourselves of God all-powerfulness, we can be like the Proverbs 31 woman of whom it is said: "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come" Proverbs 31:25. She can laugh at the days to come because she knows God is in control.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

From little things big things grow

Today at church I was up front explaining what a blog was! How bizarre is that!

The reason this came about was because the church recently appointed someone to oversee the Bible study groups, with the idea of starting more groups. He was approached by someone who could not physically attend a group but wanted to be involved. So conversations began about running a "real time" group via the internet. It soon became clear that finding a regular "time" was going to be impossible because of people's work commitments. The next option was to run a Bible study blog and I was asked to set it up. We are going to be running a study on the blog using a study book so while we are waiting for the books to be distributed we are running a discussion topic as a trial run. The person overseeing the groups was suppose to get up this morning at church to speak/promote the idea but guess what? He was sick! So since I had set it up and knew about blogs I was asked to speak … all because a little over a year ago Trav suggested I get a blog. I had no idea where it was going to lead.

I find this very amazing!

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Friday, September 15, 2006

It seemed good ...

"It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us … " Acts 15:28

Recently our Bible study group discussed this verse. In other places in Acts when the disciples needed guidance they often received visions and direct instructions from the Lord (Acts 9:10; 10:9-16; 16:9). But here all we have is "it seemed good". There is no indication they expected or sought a vision. Sometimes we would like God's guidance to be demonstrative, like a vision or a specific "word" yet sometimes we find all we have is "it seems good".

Yet God had not left them or us without direction. In this case both Peter and Paul reported how God had been working in the lives of the Gentiles (15:6-12). James quoted from the Old Testament in reference to the Gentiles (15:17). The decision they came to was not just a "feeling" but it was based on the way God had already been leading them.

In my own life I have found when seeking God's direction it is a good idea to look back and see how God has already been working in my life. What area has God been encouraging me in? What Bible verses have stood out to me lately? What songs have spoken to me? I find that God rarely does things spontaneously usually He has prepared my heart well in advance.

The time then comes to make a decision. To step out in faith, believing that God is guiding and to trust Him with the outcome. Generally we can expect to have a sense of peace about such a decision because it fits so well with what He has already told us. Nevertheless it can still be daunting so it is good to remember that God is always with us to see us through.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Two Weeks Notice (2002)

The last of my favourite films. After this I'm going back to books! (By the way if you buy this movie on DVD one of the deleted scenes is where they get married. I don't know why they deleted this scene because it is rather amusing, unless it is because of her wedding dress which is completely awful!)

Lucy Kelson, (Sandra Bullock), has been brought up to believe that she can change the world. She is a lawyer trying to preserve historic sites when she meets George Wade (Hugh Grant). George is the "face" of the Wade Corporation. A company whose business involves tearing down historic structures to develop new buildings. Lucy goes to work for the Wade Corporation on the premise that she will be able to make a real difference and save historic sites. Yet in the end it is Lucy that says, "I can change".

So often we think it is the other person who needs to change when in reality we are the one who needs to change.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Glorieta Christian Writer's Conference

I have decided to attend the Glorieta Christian Writer's Conference. Considering that I live near Melbourne (AUS) and the Conference is near Albuquerque (USA) this is quite a monumental decision!

It has been on my mind for quite some time that I would like to attend a Christian writer's conference but there are limited opportunities to attend this sort of conference in Australia. I have also been feeling for some time that I need to take my writing more seriously than I did a couple of years ago.

Fortunately I have friends here who have lived in the US and they have been very helpful and encouraging. The conference starts on 11th October and finishes on 15th October. I am coming a few days early, seemed a shame to go all that way and not do something of the tourist thing so I'm planning to see the Grand Canyon. I booked my ticket last week and my passport arrived on Friday so it's all happening!

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Are you surprised?

"Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord?" 2 Samuel 7:18-19

I love this prayer of David as he responses to Nathan's report from God. David is amazed that God would bless him like this.

David never forgot where he came from. He had not been in line to become king, he had not even been the eldest son, yet God had taken him from looking after sheep to being king of His people. David knew this had happen only because God guided him, strengthen him and kept him safe from Saul. David also understood the Lord is Sovereign. Three times in this short passage he uses this term. Sovereign means ruler, that is, the One in charge.

I recently read this quote, "True gratitude registers surprise that God could be so good to us." David's response is one of surprise – "is this your usual way of dealing with man?"

Are we surprised?

Have we considered where we have come from? Do we understand who God is and what He has done for us? "Once you were not a people, but now you are people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Peter 2:10). God has made many promises to us. He has guided, strengthened and protected us. He has spoken to us about a future home with Him. We deserve none of this yet God has chosen to lavish us with His many blessings.

God is immeasurably good to us. We ought to be surprised.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Kate & Leopold (2001)

While not a fan of movies that use the idea of time travel, I think this movie does it rather well. Leopold, Hugh Jackman, is transported from the 19th century to the 21th century and we are given a look of 21th century life through the eyes of someone who views life from a different time frame. Leopold's perspective is very different to that of someone say, visiting from another country or culture because coming from another time frame means that 200 years ago life was once like he understands it to be.

The major theme of the movie is that we are too busy to savour the moment. Paul tells Timothy that God "richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" 1 Timothy 6:17. As Leopold rightly points out: "Life is not solely comprised of tasks, but tastes." We need to take some time and enjoy those things that God has provided for our enjoyment.

I also like the difficulties Leopold has with the toaster. I've always have problems with toasters!

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Monday, September 04, 2006

In the grip of grace

Max Lucado is the author of this book called In the grip of grace(Thomas Nelson, 1996). There are two stories in this book that really stand out for me. Firstly the account of the baseball strike in 1995 where the owners, determined to start the season, threw open the opportunity to almost anyone who knew how to play. He writes about how happy these guys were to be playing and how afterwards they went around thanking everyone. Then he draws a spiritual parallel.

"They were just happy to be on the team. Shouldn't we be, as well? Aren't we a lot like these players? If the first four chapters of Romans tell us anything, they tell us we are living a life we don't deserve. We aren't good enough to get picked, but look at us, suited up and ready to play! We aren't skilful enough to make the community softball league, but our names are on the greatest roster of history! Do we deserve to be here? No. But would we trade the privilege? Not for the world. God's grace has placed us on a dream team beyond imagination."

The second story that impacted me was in the chapter called, Life Aboard the Fellow-ship. He compares the various Christian groups to life on a ship. Not a cruise ship, a battleship. Aboard the ship "each of us has a different task. Some, concerned with those who are drowning, are snatching people from the water. Others are occupied with the enemy, so they man the cannons of prayer and worship. Still others devote themselves to the crew, feeding and training the crew members." And so he goes on making spiritual parallels between life aboard a ship and the different emphasis we place on the different aspects of our faith. His point is that we need to accept one another despite our differences and keep the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3).

Max Lucado is easy to read and conveys his points well. A good read.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Rhetorical questions

"After three days they found him (Jesus at 12 years) in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions." Luke 2:46

This liking of asking questions seems to be a pattern of Jesus ministry. Here is a small selection of questions that Jesus asked from Luke. It is interesting to note that many of the questions are rhetorical, designed to make people think about deeper issues.

Why do you call me, Lord, and do not do what I say? 6:46 Where is your faith? 8:25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 9:25 Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 11:11 How it is that you don't know how to interpret this present time? 12:56 Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not? 14:3 Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 17:17 Why do you call me good? 18:19 Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? 22:48

It is also interesting to note that Jesus never felt obligated to answer a question. Sometimes he simply answered with a question. For example the elders asked him, "Tell us by what authority you are doing these things … who gave you this authority? (Jesus) I will also ask you a question. Tell me, John's baptism – was it from heaven, or from men? 20:2-4. In addition Jesus often told a story like the Good Samaritan to answer a question.

If we are to follow the example that Jesus left us we also need to learn to use questions effectively. Not necessarily giving people the answers but whetting their appetite and encouraging them to delve deeper.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Runaway Bride (1999)

Good humour is said to be a slight exaggeration of the truth. In this movie the idea of one girl continually jolting guys at the altar is a bit of a stretch. Nevertheless it serves to underline the main point of the movie, which is, it is not good to bend yourself out of shape pretending to be exactly what your partner wants you to be. Julia Roberts plays Maggie Carpenter a girl who is very astute and picking up what a guy is looking for in a girl and then she falls into playing out that role. She plays the role so well that she doesn't even know her own mind on even simple issues like, how she likes her eggs cooked. Richard Gere plays a newspaper reporter who falls in love with the real Maggie but he wants her to be herself which is rather tricky for Maggie since she doesn't actually know who she really is anymore.

And this reminds me that God loves the real me. He doesn't love the person I pretend to be, He loves the real me. Even when I don't know who that is.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

You've Got Mail (1998)

This movie is about my two favourite things books and computers! The scene I enjoy the most occurs shortly after Tom Hank's character, Joe Fox discovers that the girl, Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) who he anonymous writes to every evening on the internet is the same girl who is obnoxious to him during the day in the workforce. In this scene, Joe Fox is at home, he has just read the latest email from Kathleen, and he decides not to continue the relationship and shuts the computer. Next he is looking at the computer, pacing around the house, getting himself a drink, opening the computer, in a state of great indecision. After much hesitancy Joe decides to continue pursuing a relationship with her. It reminds me that God decides to continue to pursue His relationship with me even when I am obnoxious, hard to please and even when I ignore Him.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Rejoicing with those that rejoice

"What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?" Esther 6:6

In Australia each year people are honoured for their public service, contribution to society or for outstanding deeds. As parents we might buy a special treat for a child whose behaviour has been exemplary. Likewise spiritually sometimes God chooses to honour his children. "How great is your goodness which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men …" Psalm 31:19

What is our response when we see God pour out His blessing or a particular person or a church other than ours? Are we angry like the elder brother who said, "Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends"? Luke 15:29. God is God; He can bless anyone He wants with whatever sort of blessing He chooses. Still we can become better candidates for God’s blessings.

In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) Jesus teaches us that there are eight attitudes we can adopt to be "blessed". But sometimes it is even simpler we just need to become like little children who accept gifts without reservation, without thought of reciprocating and with eager anticipation. It has been said that God wants to bless us more than we want to be blessed. Receiving from God makes us feel vulnerable.

"We are told to rejoice with those that rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" Romans 12:15. Surprisingly it is often easier to mourn with those that mourn than to rejoice with those God has chosen to honour.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

And never stop dancing

This book by Gordon Livingston (Hodder, 2006) is sub-titled is: thirty more true things you need to know now; and follows the same format and style as his previous book, Too soon old too late smart . It covers some of the same ground but he does give further insights into his ideas.

He gives much space to his disillusionment with organized religion. He is very critical of the extremes positions some people take in the expression of their beliefs and the way some use their beliefs to try to control other people’s behaviour. He seems to think that Christianity is about believing doctrine and following a set of rules. Regrettably he doesn’t understand that Christianity is actually about a relationship. He believes the world would be a better place if people would comply to his commandment, “Thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself”, though really he needs to add, “Or thy non-religion to thyself.”

He writes about other things such as step-parenting, loneliness, insomnia, relationships, anxiety, depression and other issues that have presented themselves in his consulting rooms. His experience as a psychiatrist is the basis for much of his writing, though he also includes much of his personal story. As a parent he has been twice bereaved, one son committed suicide and another died of leukaemia. He has also been twice married. So he speaks from a place of experiencing much pain.

Much like his last book it is interesting to read his conclusions about life and his thoughts on what makes for happiness and fulfilment.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Too soon old too late smart

This book by Gordon Livingston (Hodder, 2005) is sub-titled: thirty true things you need to know now. It is a collection of random thoughts and insights gathered by Livingston over his many years as a psychiatrist. Many of these thoughts run into each other and the chapter divisions sometimes seem like they were added later.

He writes much about finding a marriage partner, believing that we need to think through this process a lot more carefully than we currently do. The quality he feels we most need to cultivate in ourselves and look for in others is kindness, a willingness to give of ourselves to another.

He defines love like this: "We love someone when the importance of his or her needs and desires rises to the level of our own. In the best of cases, of course, our concern for the welfare of another exceeds, or becomes indistinguishable from, what we want for ourselves. An operational question I use to help people determine if they really love someone is, 'Would you take a bullet for this person?'"

His point being if we cannot even contemplate this act, how can we pretend we love them? This 'bullet' question also illustrates another important point that he makes which is – love is demonstrated behaviourally. If someone's actions repeatedly don't line up with their words, then believe their actions not their words. The example he uses here is when girls say to him, "He does inconsiderate things, but I know he loves me." He counters this by saying is it possible to intentionally hurt someone we love?

The book covers many other topics ranging from ageing, illness, the therapeutic benefits of laughter, forgiveness, freedom of choice and makes for interesting reading. I wouldn't agree with all of his conclusions but it is certainly enlightening to read his perceptions.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

What part do we want to play?

"In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work." 2 Timothy 2:20-21

What part do we want to play in God's house? Do we want to be an instrument for noble purposes or ignoble purposes? The choice is plainly ours. Do we want to cleanse ourselves to be instruments for noble purposes? Or do we want to take out the garbage?

The CEV puts v. 20 like this: "In a large house some dishes are made of gold or silver, while others are made of wood or clay. Some of these are special, and others are not. That's also how it is with people."

In our homes we have expensive dishes that we only use on special occasions. When they are not being used these dishes are often put on display because they are a delight to look at yet they are always ready for "any good work". Then we have other dishes that we use every day. These dishes are not highly valued or even noticed. They get chipped and cracked without a thought.

Of course in God's economy all the "dishes" are important, useful and needed. Still we are told that some choose to "cleanse themselves" and become more "special" so God is able to use them in ways that He is not able to use others.

God wants to use us and He will but it is our choice as to whether God will use us for "noble purposes or ignoble" purposes.

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Catching up

While I was without my computer, I read three books : Too soon old too late smart, plus the sequel, And never stop dancing by Gordon Livingston. I also read Max Lucado's In the grip of grace. I want to post about these, plus I wrote a couple of devotional thoughts and I do want to finish posting about my favourite films. So I've got a bit of catching up to do.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

On uploading my book proposal

I have uploaded my book proposal to the Christian Manuscript Submission Services website. This website allows publishers to view book proposals without being inundated with unsolicited manuscripts. Clicking the link that said, "submit to publishers" was quite scary.

I figure that are one of three things that may happened with my book now:

1. Absolutely nothing! I'm sure there are many good books (and even more not so good books) that have never made it into print and mine might be another.

2. A rewrite. A publisher may like my idea but not the way I written it. That's ok. I can handle a re-write. Of course, a rewrite doesn't guarantee publication.

3. I may become a published author. This is the scary bit. Though I'm not sure why. I'm unlikely to become rich and famous writing general books about Christian living. I guess becoming published would change my life in some way and it is the unknown that is the scary bit.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

On getting my computer fixed

My computer is fixed at last.

I have previously mentioned that I am writing a book (12 Dec '05 and 30 Jan '06). Since then, the book has been through several re-writes and received input from several friends. Early in July I realized that I would be ready to upload the proposal to the Christian Manuscript Submission website on about the 1st or 2nd August. My computer broke down on 31st July. Interesting …

The problem was the power pack needed replacing. So the computer repair shop ordered a new one because my computer needed a smaller than normal power pack. They were sent the wrong one and reordered. This took two weeks. Yesterday my husband was talking to a friend who knows stuff about computers and he said, "Why don't they put the computer in a bigger case and use a normal power pack?"

This morning at 10am the computer repair shop rang me and said they were unable to get the smaller power pack. Then he said, "Probably should have thought of this before …but we could put the computer in a bigger case …" My computer was fixed by 3pm. Everything they needed to fix it was in the shop when I first took it in.

So what am I to conclude? I think there are two options here. Option 1. The devil is able to delay and frustrated me but not able to thwart God's plans or Option 2. I need to find a new computer repair shop.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Radical Gratitude

The title of this book by Ellen Vaughn (Zondervan, 2005) aroused my interest because I would like to be a more grateful person. But I must admit to feeling disappointed with it. It contains much good teaching but I found it quite dull. A couple of times I even forgot I was reading it and picked up other things to read instead. Many of the stories she relates are very dramatic, unique sort of events. For example she told about a family that was affected by the Washington sniper attacks that happened a few years ago. This family was able to rely on their faith in God and come out of it still believing that God is good. On a personal level I found this quite an interesting story because even in Australia there was wide spread media coverage of these attacks. But on a spiritual level I think that when we are in a crisis God allows us to feel His Presence in more powerful ways. For me it is in the every day mundane nature of life where it is hard to be grateful. Some of her other stories I found quite dated and although it is interesting to hear about Christians from years ago I would rather know what God is doing in the lives of His people now.

The one story I did enjoy was just a simple happening when they bought a bird feeder for the garden. They bought a “Yankee Flipper”. In Australia we don’t have squirrels so we don’t have to worry about squirrels pinching seed intend for birds. But I gather the Yankee Flipper is designed to allow birds to land on the perch and feed but when a squirrel tries to do the same his extra weight triggers the motor which caused the perch to spin. Apparently the Yankee Flipper provided much entertainment as the squirrels persisted in trying to obtain the seed even though their efforts only succeeded in sending them flying round the backyard. (I actually suspect this sort of device would be ban in Australia on the basis of cruelty to wildlife!) Anyway the point of the story was the much quoted saying – the definition of insanity is to continue with the same behaviour and expect different results and often we are like the squirrels. I guess I just prefer simple down to earth stories about every day things, in fact, the type that Jesus told.

Dramatic stories are motivating. I mean if someone is able to go through all that (whatever the ‘that’ may be) and still be grateful then I have nothing to complain about. Nevertheless I personally find these stories hard to relate to.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Songs can be gifts

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” John 21:17

Gary Chapman has written a series of books about what he calls the five love languages. The thought being that we all have our preferred way of expressing and receiving love. Loosely put these are: using words, physical touch, giving gifts, spending time with the loved one, and doing something practical for them.

When we were young we used words like, “I wuv love” and hugs (physical touch) but as we mature we learn to express and receive love in other ways as well. Likewise we mature spiritually in the ways we express love to God. We no longer just use words. We spend time with God, we give gifts to God and we become involved in practical areas of service. (Physical touch is somewhat difficult!)

A song is a gift to God. Of course it may not be our preferred way of expressing love. Neither maybe is buying flowers or watching football with our spouse. Yet we do these things because of what it means to the other person.

Throughout the Bible there are numerous references to songs and singing. The book of Psalms is a book of songs. The Lord has blessed today’s church with many talented musicians and song writers and thereby given us many songs we can use as a means of expressing our love for Him.

Let’s use the songs we sing as gifts of love for Him.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Book Meme

I volunteered to be tagged to do this book meme. (For the purposes of this exercise I have decided to leave the Bible out, since it answers just about every question.)

1. One book that changed your life:

Victory Over the Darkness by Neil Anderson. After reading this book I began reading others of his. Neil Anderson's teaching on our identity in Christ changed my life.

2. One book that you've read more than once:

Difficult to answer as there are quite a few books I've read more than once. The most well worn book on my bookshelf is The Enneagram. The first time I read this book I was having a difficult relationship with someone. This book totally changed the way I related to them and it helped immensely. Consequently I probably went a bit overboard and tried to analysis everyone I knew thereby reading the book several times. Also the last 10% of the book gets very complicated and I was very keen to understand it so I kept re reading it. In retrospect I think the last 10% is probably not worth worrying about.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:

The first thing that came to mind was to take the longest book in my house. On investigation this proved to be Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Bible. Having dipped into this on a couple of occasions and found that he was so busy being concise he didn't really say anything I decided against it. Then I thought I could take a puzzle book as I quite like puzzles. The ones I usually buy have 67 puzzles in them (don't you think 67 is an odd number of puzzles to put in a book??). Then I thought if I finished the puzzles, but I was still on the desert island that would be awful. So I decided to take a long novel. I don't normally read a lot of fiction but some years ago I read and enjoyed Leon Uris' Exodus and since it has about 700 pages it should keep me going for a while.

4. One book that made you laugh:

When Two or Three are Gathered … Someone Spills the Milk by Tom Mullen. Even funnier if you are the parent of several small children.

5. One book that made you cry:

Requiem for a Wren by Neville Shute. At the start of the book you find out that the main character is going to die. Yet I was crying so much I could barely read the last pages where she does actually die. At the time I think I related to her but now I don't think I would.

6. One book that you wish had been written:

Jesus : the first 30 years by Mary (Jesus' mother).

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

Beyond the Labyrinth by Gillian Rubinstein which won the Australian Children's Book of the Year for Older Readers. It is one of the most depressing books I've ever read. It is aimed at young teenagers and offers them no hope. I was appalled and I obviously haven't got over yet since that was in 1989! (John Marsden's Letters from Inside comes a close second for very similar reasons.)

8. One book you're currently reading:

Radical gratitude by Ellen Vaughn. I would like to become a more grateful person.

9. One book you've been meaning to read:

About twelve years ago someone recommended I read, John Stott's Issues Facing Christians Today so I bought it but never got around to reading it. Seems a little late now as I don't suppose the issues are still relevant.

10. Now tag 5 people:

I don't like to tag people without asking so I will let you know on this one.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Life is an adventure

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

Sometimes we read this verse and think that God's plans are like a street plan or an architect's building plan which are very rigid. Yet our lives often seem like a series of unconnected hotchpotch events that bares no resemblance to a plan and we begin to think we must have somehow missed God.

However in Psalm 32:8-9 God tells us, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go … Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you." Here we see that God's plans are not set in concrete. We do have understanding and God expects us to use it. We are not mere pawns that God moves around on a chess board.

We need to see our lives as an adventure story rather than a building plan. An adventure where anything could happen; an adventure that fills us with an expectation of what God might do; an adventure where we may need to take risks; an adventure where we may have to live with ambiguity and insecurity; an adventure where we don't always know how things are going to turn out. Yet an adventure where God is always in control, instructing us and teaching us as He seeks to guide us in His purposes.

One of the songs we are currently singing in our Sunday School program has as the chorus: "On our adventure anything could happen so it sure is good to know God is everywhere". It sure is.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Film Review: Keeping Mum (2005)

I find it slightly worrying when Hollywood keeps on telling us how to grow the church. "Keeping Mum" is just another example of how much Hollywood knows not only about the church but also about the Bible. There are some jokes in this film that the average cinema going person will not understand because they won't know the Bible well enough. I don't want to give the impression that this is a Christian film which it certainly is not as the language, especially in the first twenty minutes, clearly shows. But as long as you don't take the film too seriously (people being murdered etc.), it is riotously funny. Rowan Atkinson delivers a great sermon on God's mysterious ways which concludes with him saying, "God is mysterious – live with it!" and the problem of the flower roster is eventually solved. Well at least temporarily!

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

If I worship Thee for Thyself alone ...

" So Ish-Bosheth (Saul's son) gave orders and had her (Michal) taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim." 2 Samuel 3:13

Perhaps Michal had reason to despise David after all (2 Samuel 6:16). Once Michal had been in love with David (1 Samuel 18:20) and Saul, Michal's father sought to take advantage of it. Saul was deeply jealous of David but he told David he could become his son-in-law if he killed a hundred Philistines. Though Saul was rather hoping that David would be killed in the conflict. When he wasn't Saul had no choice but to give Michal to David as his wife.

When Saul's jealousy turned to murderous intent towards David, Michal helped David to escape from her father. Then in David's absence Saul gave Michal in marriage to Paltiel, since Saul had never wanted David as a son-in-law.

Some time later, after Saul's death, David demanded that Michal be given back to him. But it seems more of a political move to again have an alliance with Saul's house, beside which David already had six other wives (2 Samuel 3:2-5). So Michal is forcibly taken from her husband.

Maybe Michal preferred being the wife of an ordinary person like Paltiel who obviously loved her with a great passion then to have the privilege of being one of King David's many wives. Since it seems that David only wanted Michal for her name and her connections whereas Paltiel wanted Michal because of love.

Do we want God so we can be part of His family and share His inheritance or do we want God because of love?

"Oh my God,
If I worship thee in desire for heaven, exclude me from heaven;
If I worship thee for fear of hell, burn me in hell.
But if I worship thee for thyself alone, then withhold not from me thine eternal beauty." Rabia c.800

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Book Reviews

I have now completed the task of writing book reviews for all of the books I've listed in my profile. As some of the books are now quite old I back dated some of the posts but you can get there my scrolling down and clicking on the link in the book review section. Since I read a lot of books it is difficult to decide which ones are just good books and which ones rate as my "favourites". I think the ones that qualify as being "favourites" are ones that I have read more than once and/or I just can't bear to part with. (And yes, I do give away my old books.)

My next blogging project will be to post about my favourite films. I don't go to see 'serious' films yet it is surprising that even in comedies there are some ideas worth blogging about.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Holy Wild

Another Mark Buchanan book that I really enjoyed was: The Holy Wild (Multnomah, 2005). Again this book has many stories. Some of the stories are about things that have happened to him, others are about people he knows. He also uses illustrations, often from movies which make the book enjoyable and easy to read.

Each chapter is mostly complete in itself so you can pick and choose what chapters you would like to read and in what order. My favourite story is the one he begins the book with about a female snake in their basement. They manage to remove her but not before she had laid eggs. Consequently Mark and his family kept finding baby snakes and they were never quite sure if they found them all. After this they never felt comfortable about sleeping in the basement, I mean, supposing there was still a baby snake, grown into an adult snake, lurking somewhere in the dark … So even on the hottest nights, they could never retreat to the coolness of the basement because they never quite trusted the bed. Of course, the bed had not changed it was still as sturdy and reliable as before. But now they were never quite sure whether they were safe from snakes. Mark goes on to say that often this is how we feel about God we are never quite sure if we can really trust Him, can we really put the full weight of our belief in Him? In a nutshell the book is about this issue, trusting in the character of God, rather than God's actions or inactions.

I also really enjoyed the way Mark tells the story of the Good Samaritan and manages to bring out aspects of the story that I had never seen before which is quite amazing considering the number of times I've read it.

Finally in another story Mark relates the tale of a women whose husband left her for another women after many years of apparently happy married life. She said this, "In the first year or so after he left, there were many things I thought of doing – selfish, sinful things. But you know what kept me from doing them? Thinking that one day I will stand before God in heaven and to explain to God why living for Him, by His strength wasn't enough."

A good read.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Your God is too safe

It occurred to me that some of my favourite books (in my profile) haven't actually got their own post. So I thought I would start to rectify this by writing about one of my very favourite books, Your God is too safe by Mark Buchanan (Multnomah, 2002).

The title is a bit of a reminder of the J.B. Phillips book, "Your God is too small" where Phillips was expounding the idea that our view or perception of God was way too small. In this book Buchanan is saying our perception of God has become way too comfortable. We concentrate on all the comforting aspects of God's character and forget the aspects that we find confronting.

Mark begins the book by explaining how after he had been a Christian for a few years he got bored with Christianity. He was going through the outward routines of Christianity but there was no joy or life in it. The first part of the book looks at the things that cause this to happen.

The second part of the book looks at what the Christian life should be like when we live it like God intended. How to develop the practice of knowing that we are constantly in God's presence. How spiritual disciplines shouldn't make us weary but rather make us more alive and more joyful.

I really enjoy Mark Buchanan's books especially the way he uses stories to bring new insights to old truths.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Devotional Thought : John 5:39-40

"You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." John 5:39-40.

I have recently read Don Miller's "Blue Like Jazz". I found his remarks about witnessing quite challenging but encouraging. "I hoped that love would work like a magnet, pulling people from the mire and toward healing. I knew this was the way God loved me. God had never withheld love to teach me a lesson … I could treat everybody as though they were my best friend … I loved the fact that it wasn't my responsibility to change somebody, that it was God's, that my part was just to communicate love and approval."

And isn't that what Jesus did? He communicated love and approval. Tax collectors and prostitutes readily saw it. The crowds too but not the Pharisees. Jesus was wanting to draw the Pharisees towards love and healing too but they would not come to Him. He reasoned with them, pleaded with them and shouted at them but it made no difference to most of them.

It never ceases to amazes me that God allows us so much freedom to choose. He allows people to reject His love and compassion even though it breaks His heart to do so.

Today our responsibility is to communicate love and approval and let God do the changing. People may not respond but that is their choice and God allows them to make it.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Truth telling in the Bible

Further to my last post I was asked about my tough questions in relation to the Bible. Well, I have thought of another tough question – truth telling.

Most Christians are keen on telling the truth and I'm certainly not against it. But it is interesting to read some of the Biblical accounts. For example Rahab was "considered righteous for what she did" James 2:25 when she deliberately deceived the king's messengers. Tamar was held in high esteem for deceiving Judah (see Lost Women of the Bible). Even Jesus Himself when asked about Jairus' daughter said she was asleep when she was actually dead (Mark 5:39). I know that we spiritualize this and say that from God's perspective she was asleep but the people who heard Jesus understood Him to mean physical sleep. I was leading a Bible study some years ago and asked the group amongst other things, if Jesus lied. (Even then I wanted to ask the tough questions!) For some reason which I can't remember, I asked people to work in pairs and write down their answers. One group which I overheard said, "we'll just write 'no'; we don't have to give a reason". I didn't mind them answering 'no' but why weren't they prepared to discuss the tough question? What is the Biblical position on truth telling?

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Blue Like Jazz

Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller (Thomas Nelson, 2003) is a collection of remarkably honest autobiographical jottings about life and faith. It is always refreshing to read someone who is honest, who doesn't pretend to have all the answers but is prepared to let God be God in their life and see what happens as a result. I think I enjoyed his chapter on church the most. It is subtitled – how I go without getting angry. He eventually found a church community that he could love and though it is not perfect he is happy there. He has a formula for how to go to church without getting angry: Pray that God will show you a church filled with people who share your interests and values. Go to the church God shows you and don't hold grudges against other churches.

There were many quotes I could have included but I chose this one because he expresses something that I have often felt but didn't feel safe to put into words. I don't have any hippie friends but I have come across the "little unwritten social ethics"; though for me they weren't as obvious as "don't cuss and don't support the Democrats" but certainly "don't ask tough questions about the Bible".

Quote: (Miller wrote this prior to attending the church he now goes to) "I was even more amazed when I realized I preferred, in fact, the company of the hippies to the company of Christians. It isn't that I didn't love my Christian friends or that they didn't love me, it was just that there was something different about my hippie friends; something, I don't know, more real, more true. I realize that is a provocative statement, but I only felt I could be myself around them, and I could not be myself with my Christian friends. My Christian communities had always had little unwritten social ethics like don’t cuss and don't support Democrats and don't ask tough questions about the Bible." Pg. 210

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

I will become even more undignified ...

David said Michal, "… I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified that this …" 2 Samuel 6:21-22.

Michal was trying to "rain on David's parade", by making discouraging remarks about David's enthusiasm. She said to him, "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!" But I love David's response. He is not put off nor does he accept her perception of the situation. David has made up his mind to celebrate before the Lord and now promises to celebrate with even more vigor and zest in the future.

David had good reason to celebrate. His reign as king of Israel had just begun and his first act was to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem, after an absence of about 20 years. The Ark symbolized God's Presence and it served as the meeting-place between God and His people. David wanted this meeting-place to be easily accessible because he knew he needed God's help to be the shepherd of God's people that he was called to be (Psalm 78:70-72). Bringing the Ark to Jerusalem had entailed many difficulties and even loss of life. Now it was finally entering the city and David's joy knew no bounds.

Today we may find people trying to "rain on our parade", trying to dampen our enthusiasm and telling us not to be so full-on for God. Even suggesting we will "get over it" but lets us be like David and do the opposite, promising to celebrate with greater enthusiasm than ever before.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Sacred Diary

The sacred diary of Adrian Plass aged 37¾ by Adrian Plass. (HarperCollins, 1987.)

For a very long time I just didn't get Adrian Plass. Other members of my family would be almost rolling around the floor laughing, while I just shook my head in disbelief. Obviously there was something here I was just not getting. So I made my second attempt to read "the sacred diary" determined this time to finish even if I thought it was completely ridiculous. I mean it is only 156 pages how hard can it be? I waded through about the first 100 pages when suddenly Plass said something quite insightful, in the guise of something that happened to him. I was shocked. I was looking for humor, not insight. As I read on I began to find more insight and at last humor. I wondered if the insightfulness was there in the first 100 pages. Maybe I was so locked into my preconceived ideas that I missed it or maybe Plass needed 100 pages to build a framework for his insights. I don't know, but it gave me a new understanding of the book.

It seems to me that Plass believes most Christians to be completely shallow, self-absorbed and unthinking in their beliefs about God. In order to make his point, Plass describes himself as if he too is like this, which is why I initially had so much trouble with the book thinking – surely no one could be so egocentric. Mind you my daughter's response, when I pressed her to tell why she found the book amusing was always, "I know people like that". Scary thought that.

Plass knows getting people to laugh at themselves is often a more effective way of changing their behaviour than confrontation.

Here is a little story from the book:
Thursday May 22nd
Strange moment at work today. Glander came across to me and said sneeringly, "You know that loony mate of yours who was at the party – Thynn, his name is?
"Yes?" I said, surprised.
"Well," said Glander, "a friend of mine told me that, not so very long ago, he saw Mr. 'Christian' Thynn, very much the worse for wear, being peeled off the pavement outside the Plough and Bottle, by a couple of the lads in Blue. I thought as he's such a good friend of yours and supposed to be one of Jesus' little sunbeams, perhaps you ought to know about it." …
I said, "I did know about that, Everett. Leonard's one of my best friends, so I hear about most of what happens to him. He's got a problem with drink. I've got a problem with getting things twisted up and making mistakes. All of us in the church have got problems. We're not very good people. But God keeps on forgiving us. Does anyone forgive you for what you do, Everett?
Can't believe I said all that! Expected Glander to laugh his head off, but he just frowned and grunted and went back to his desk. Came up to me at the end of the day and almost apologized!

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Monday, June 26, 2006

The compassionate and gracious God

"And he (the Lord) passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin …'" Exodus 34:5-7.

Here we have God's description of Himself and the first thing He says is that He is compassionate. From there He wants us to know He is gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love … I wonder if these were the first thing you learnt about God?

The dictionary definition of compassion is: "Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it." (yourDictionary.com)

Bruce Marchiano, the actor who played Jesus in the Matthew video describes compassion like this: "I understood what the word "compassion" means when it comes to Jesus Christ. I understood that it isn't just feeling sorry for people; it's a heartbreak so intense, so deep it's like your gut is getting ripped open. It is a heartbreak that screams in utter agony for the needless, pointless pain of people – people who need only turn to Him."

This isn't just a general description of how God feels about people. It is a description of how God feels about you and me right now. He feels whatever we are going through and He seeks to relieve our pain. Yet often our pain seems more comfortable than the cost of allowing God into the deep recess of our hearts to do His healing work. We get used to emotional pain. We learn to live with it.

We need to turn our thoughts to God, focus on His compassion and graciousness and allow Him access to our hearts. Then we will find peace and healing for our souls.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

In the footsteps of Jesus

I've been wanting to read, In the footsteps of Jesus by Bruce Marchiano (Harvest House, 1997) for quite a while and just recently I bought a copy.

Bruce Marchiano was the actor who played Jesus in "The Gospel according to Matthew" which is a word for word account of the book of Matthew. This book is the story of that experience. It was a daunting experience – trying to capture what Jesus was really like on film and knowing that your version of 'Jesus' could influence people's perception of Him. Consequently it caused Bruce to pray like He had never prayed before. He learnt so much about Jesus during the three months of filming and the seven weeks of preparation that it was a life-changing experience. He tells the story in a moving and impacting way. He makes Jesus personal.

In the book Bruce answers a number of questions that he found he was often asked including: How did you get the role? What does it feel like to play Jesus? Why another Jesus movie? What makes Matthew different? What's the most significant thing you learned through the whole adventure?

The thought that stands out to me the most was how Bruce decided to play Matthew 23 where Jesus calls the Pharisees, hypocrites, brood of vipers, white washed tombs etc. As he was praying about this scene and also an earlier one in Matthew 11 he felt that Jesus' anger was born of love – anger born of a broken heart. Jesus loved the Pharisees but their behaviour broke His heart.

I was wondering what Bruce was doing now since the film was made in 1993 and this book published in 1997. I discovered that he has a web site and that he is working on producing "The Gospel according to John" and there is even a blog!

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