Thursday, August 30, 2007

Book Review : Paper Dolls

Diyanne Podhaczky has written and published Paper Dolls, an autobiographical account of her abusive childhood and her eventual healing through God's power and grace. These books are very difficult to write and often difficult to read. On the one hand you don't want to go into the horrific details of the abuse and on the other you don't want to whitewash the facts. Diyanne has managed a good balance in this regard.

One of the other difficulties is that it is easier to outline the physical aspects of the abuse but rather more difficult to explain God's healing. Diyanne's explains God's healing in terms of wholeness, acceptance, peace and freedom but without concrete examples you wonder what difference this has made in her daily life. The same is true of counseling. How do you explain the changes in perspective and in thought patterns when really all you have done is talk? Physical healing is easier to document. Emotional and physiological healings are harder to record and verify. Nevertheless Diyanne's exuberant testimony to God's work in her life provides evidence of a deep emotional healing.

Diyanne's story is not an easy one to read but one that will encourage others in similar situations.

P.S. It is clear that God has also done an amazing work in her husband, Michael's life and maybe one day he too will tell his story.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Synchroblog : How do you pray?

This is my contribution to the synchroblog proposed by Erin from Decompressing Faith If you would like to read other blogger's contributions on this subject go to Erin's post for a list of links.

If I were to describe prayer in my life in one word it would be "messy" which is somewhat of an embarrassment since in nearly every other area of my life I am organized and I do like to be organized. I like having a routine and I like having things structured. So why can't I organize my prayer life? I think there are two reasons.

Firstly every time I manage to maintain any kind of structure, that is a list of people/situations to pray for it is not long before I start feeling like a Pharisee – proud and self-righteous – for being such a "good" Christian. This is not a good outcome! so I stop praying (at least in any organized way).

Secondly praying is scary. John Powell had this to say in his book, Happiness is an inside job, "At first none of us wants to admit it, but we are all afraid of getting too close to God. A thousand questions and doubts flood into us at the very thought of being close to God. What will God say to me? What will God ask of me? Where will God lead me? The unknown is always a little frightening. And in this case, the stakes are high. My whole life is involved …" I think this is why I find it difficult to sit still when I'm praying. (Maybe I think God will find it harder to 'hit' a moving target! as illogical as that is.)

More confessions: I like to pray as soon as I wake up but often fall back to sleep. My church has a prayer room and sometimes I would go there on the way home from work but I'd often fall asleep there too.

On the up side I do pray (or just talk to God) as I go about my day and I often think about God, more so when I am at home then when I am at work. I try to maintain an attitude of "looking to God". Sometimes I use the Lord's prayer or Jabez's prayer or one of Paul's prayers (eg Colossians 1:9-12) as a sort of framework. I have also determined not to feel guilty about my disorganized prayer life as I don't think this is what God would want and guilt only makes me pray less not more.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Updating web site

I launched my web site about six weeks ago and have received some positive feed back. I also received some constructive suggestions for improvements which I have been working on. The suggestions fell into two main areas: content needing to be more focused and less white space which included eliminating the need to scroll to find links.

I have been working on these suggestions and hopefully you'll notice some improvements next time you visit, let me know. White space is a tricky issue as it varies depending on your screen's resolution but hopefully I have found a good balance. I have also moved some links for my older devotions and book reviews from my blog to my website.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Devotional Thought : Nehemiah 5:15

But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. Nehemiah 5:15

The Pharisees created detailed lists of acceptable behaviour for those who wanted to follow God. Jesus was not impressed. He said to them, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." Matthew 23:15

Nehemiah had a simple standard of behaviour, "out of reverence for God". No long winded lists, no legalistic attitude but a sincere reverence for God. He wanted to please God in the way he lived, out of a sense of gratitude not obligation. We may have different ideas about what constitutes "reverence for God" and these ideas may vary from culture to culture but what God is looking for is our heart attitude. Are we seeking to please him? It does not concern God so much what we do as to why we do it.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding" Psalm 111:10. The "fear of the Lord" is not a fear of what God will do to us if we disobey but rather it is the "reverence" that Nehemiah talks about. God does not want us obeying him in order to earn "brownie points" or to avoid punishment. However he does want us to obey him out of respect for his omniscience, believing that he indeed does know what is best for us.

Our attitude should be one of living in a way that is pleasing to him, remembering his precepts are for our benefit.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Book Review : The Colour of Courage

The Colour of Courage : two years by packhorse along Australia's National Trail by Sharon Muir Watson (Muir Publications, 1999) is the story of a once in a lifetime trip, beginning at Cooktown in northern Queensland on 12th May 1989 and ending at Healesville just north of Melbourne on 3rd March 1991. Sharon Muir Watson and Ken Roberts were the first people to undertake to travel the entire Bicentennial National Trail as it was so named in 1988 when the trail received a grant from the government. It was promoted as a recreational trail for horse riders, bushwalkers and cyclists. The trail is over 5000 kilometers in length. It winds its way along the Great Dividing Range down the east coast of Australia.

The book highlights many of the difficulties these two riders had, firstly in navigating the trail in its infancy with incomplete maps and secondly due to Sharon and Ken's inexperience in traveling long distances on horseback. Nevertheless it becomes an amazing adventure as their endurance levels are pushed to the limit and their survival skills severely tested. The book contains a lot of information for future riders but much of this was lost on me as I know so little about horses. I had hoped for a little romance in the book since Sharon and Ken only met a week before they began the ride and they are still together today!

Overall though it is a fascinating tale of a great journey.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

I'm back

... and if you are curious about my son's wedding click here

It was a good day, the sun shone and everything went off smoothly.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Devotional Thought : Revelation 21:10-11

And he … showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. Revelation 21:10-11

Recently I read this statement, "The story of mankind starts in a garden but ends in a celestial city. He is not just saved but is promised a state of glory." (The Gumtree Pulpit by Geoffrey Johnstone, 2007)

Do we realize the extravagance of God's grace? Grace so extravagant the forgiven person is better off than before they sinned. God not only forgives us but he restores us. He heals us of those things that cause us to sin and we are changed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Heaven is described in terms of a city. God isn't taking us back to the garden but rather to a "city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:10). A city with foundations speaks of permanence, of security, and of community. We are gaining more than we lost. The garden was a graceless state – one wrong decision and Adam and Eve were out of there. Heaven, however, is a permanent destination.

Nevertheless the garden plays an important part in the purposes of God. In order for us to know the depths of God's love and grace it was first necessary for us to know the magnitude of God's holiness and therefore the severity of his justice. God was then able to respond the way he always wanted to with love and grace. There was no way we could appreciate God's amazing love and grace until we knew the devastation of sin and the cost to God of reconciliation.

Be staggered afresh today by the overwhelming grace of God.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Personality quizzes

I really don't have the time to be doing these quizzes but I do enjoy them!

Click to view my Personality Profile page

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Social Capital

I've been rather busy of late. I have a son getting married on Saturday and a few other things happening in my life at the moment so things might be a bit quiet around here for a week or two.

I have had a couple of interesting discussions recently about "social capital". It was not a phrase I was familiar with but I gather it refers to the value of things like community, connectedness with family and friends, belonging to a group, relationships and celebration. In Australia we tend to value things in turns of their monetary value whereas social capital is about these very valuable things money cannot buy.

I read recently about an Australian girl who visited a community of people who were very poor in terms of money but very rich in terms of social capital. She came away wondering, who is really poor? And I wonder the same thing.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Devotional Thought : 1 John 4:16

This thought is not mine. It has been around on emails and internet sites in various formats. Nevertheless I thought it worthwhile to post here. I don't know the original source or even if the story is true (if anyone knows, please let me know).

God is love. 1 John 4:16

One day, a professor of a university decided to defy his pupils. He asked, "Did God create everything that exists?"
A student answered bravely, "Yes, He did."
"Everything?" asked the teacher.
"Yes, everything."
"In this case, God also created evil, correct? Because evil exists." said the teacher.
To that, the student had no answer and remained in silence. The teacher was delighted at the opportunity to prove one more time that faith was only a myth. Suddenly, another student raised his hand and asked, "May I ask you a question, professor?"
"Of course."
"Does cold exist?"
"Of course", answered the professor. "Did you never feel cold?"
"Actually, sir, cold does not exist. According to studies in Physics, cold is the total and complete absence of heat. An object can only be studied if it has and transmits energy and it is the heat of an object that transmits its energy. Without heat, the objects are inert, incapable to react. But cold does not exist. We created the term cold to explain the lack of heat."
"And darkness?" continues the student.
"It exists", replied the professor.
"Again, you’re wrong sir, darkness is the total absence of light. You can study light and brightness, but not darkness. The prism of Nichols shows the variety of different colours in which the light can be decomposed according to the longitude of the waves. Darkness is the term we created to explain the total absence of light."
And finally, the student asked, "And evil, sir, does evil exist? God did not create evil. Evil is the absence of God in people’s hearts, it is the absence of love, humanity and faith. Love and faith are like heat and light. They exist. Their absence leads to evil."

Now it was the professor’s turn to remain silent.

The name of the student was, Albert Einstein.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Amazing Grace

This movie is still being released in various parts of Australia so if you planning to see it and haven't done so yet you may want to give this post a miss.

I enjoyed this movie very much. It is an inspiring story and the movie makers have done a good job capturing Wilberforce's fight for the abolition of slavery.

One of the difficulties of turning a true story into a movie is the chronology. Do you start at the beginning and proceed according to the natural timing of events or do you start somewhere else and employ flashbacks? Amazing Grace does make use of flashbacks which I found a little disconcerting but overall worked reasonably well.

During the film I was reminded of something I read by Brian McLaren. He was speaking about the way Jesus was able to surprise his opponents. The Pharisee often tried to corner Jesus with difficult questions or situations and Jesus was always able to respond in a way they did not expect. We see this in the way he handled the women caught in adultery, paying taxes to Caesar and questions about marriage at the resurrection. McLaren's point was, that as Christians, we should be looking to do the same thing whereas often we respond with the standard 'fight' or 'flight' response of the world.

In this movie after years of campaigning the slave trade is dealt a death blow when through Wilberforce's initiative a bill is passed in parliament that required ships to display their own country's flag. Through this seemingly innocuous piece of legislation the owners of the slave ships were deprived of protection and the slave trade began to crumble. Two years later Wilberforce was able to have his bill for abolition of slavery passed.

Often as Christians we tend to take things head on (fight) or ignore a situation because it is too hard to change (flight) whereas if we seek God for solutions he may show us other options where we can confound our opponents without using violence or ignoring problems.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Book Review : God's Unfolding Purpose

It always surprises me when I re-read a book many years later and discover that it doesn't say what I think it says! Does anyone else have this experience?

Nevertheless God's unfolding purpose : a guide to the study of the Bible by Suzanne de Dietrich (Westminster Press, 1957) presents a good overview of the Bible. It is not a long book (287 pages) so is not an in depth exploratory of the Bible but rather provides an outline of the main themes. From Genesis through to Revelation we see God had a purpose to have a people for his own, a people of faith not of works and not of law. Initially this was to be the Israelites but now it is the church. The book looks at the exodus, settling in the promised land, the exile and the return to their homeland as the major events of the Old Testament. The significance of these events in terms of God's purpose is explained. Moving onto the New Testament the incarnation, the birth and continuance of the church become the major themes, ending with the final triumph in Revelation.

The book is well set out with every chapter begins with a summary and it moves along in a logical manner. The book contains many Biblical references so it can be used for a more extensive study.

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