Monday, 29 September 2014

A celebration of a life still lived

Over the weekend I flew back home to attend my Grandpa’s 80th birthday party.  It was a very quick visit.  I flew in on Saturday afternoon and out again Sunday night.  My parents generously paid for the flights because they thought Grandpa would really appreciate it.  When we turned up at my uncle’s place where the party was being held Grandpa did seem particularly touched and surprised to see me.  It seemed like he was a little overwhelmed a few times throughout the afternoon, touched by who had come and what they said about him.

Grandpa’s oldest child, my aunty, organised a time for people to share stories about Grandpa. 

The thing that stuck with me the most was how much Grandpa loves Grandma.  It is noticeable.  People had stories about it.  He does things for Grandma as soon as she mentions it.  He still counts himself lucky to have her. 

My aunty said that she and her siblings, Grandpa’s children, had much to live up to in this area.  But not just his children, I thought.  His grandchildren too.  What a great example of selfless love my Grandpa is. 

The Bible says that marriage is a picture, a reflection, a model of Jesus’ love for his bride, the church.  And we all know what that love looks like.  That love laid down Jesus’ life for the sake of the church, of those who follow Jesus.  God calls husbands and wives to love each other sacrificially like this.  What a great example of selfless love my saviour Jesus is. 

I’ve seen some of this in my Grandpa and I’ve been reinspired by him to love my husband like that too.  Thank you Grandpa for your life well lived.  Thank you for the example of your love still lived.  Happy Birthday. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Thankful Thursday on Friday

So again I’m late with the Thankful Thursday, whoops.  I’ve been sick with a cold this week, since Saturday, and had a bit of a dizzy relapse yesterday afternoon so writing this blog post really wasn’t on my mind.  But here we are, better late than never. 

Here are the things I’m thankful for this week:

A gifted DVD player
We happened to mention to our friends J & E while we were in Brisbane that we didn’t have a DVD player and they offered us his old Play Station 2.  We had been wanting to get a PS2 for a while because we have some Guitar Hero instruments that only fit a PS2.  Well that’s why J wanted a PS2, I just wanted something to play DVDs because I was tired of using my old and slow laptop.  I was so thankful for this on Saturday while I was sick.  I think I spent most of the day lying on the couch working my way through a season of ‘Alias’. 

The Mark Drama
J rehearsed Thursday night, Friday night and all day Saturday to be part of the Mark Drama.  It’s basically a retelling of the gospel of Mark.  The actors memorise the structure of Mark and a few key links (a lot in Jesus’ case), and improvise the rest.  It was performed in a church hall set up as a theatre in the round.  The actors walked through the aisles as part of the performance, and the space in the middle was very small and intimate for the audience.  I loved the way seeing the gospel of Mark performed made the story come alive for me.  I’m thankful for the time the actors put into preparing for it and the great opportunity it is for sharing the gospel.  If you ever get a chance to see it I highly recommend it. 

The freedom to be stay home sick
I don’t mean that now I’m an adult I can decided if I’m too sick to go out rather than my parent’s deciding, though this is of course true.  I have the freedom to say home sick because I know that there are people at college who will notice that I’m missing.  There are people who will share their notes with me.  There are people who will pray for my recovery.  I am so thankful for the love of my Christian brothers and sisters at college.  I’m so thankful for the friends I have there.  I am so thankful for the beautiful way Christians care for each other.  And I’m thankful that God has made me part of his family to make this all possible. 

Reluctant stacking

Today I stacked chairs and I was annoyed.  But something else struck me at almost the same moment as I allowed myself to think these annoyed thoughts. 

We got to college a little early this morning.  The streets are quieter in school holidays so the drive from home to college doesn’t take as long as it normally does.  I heard the Friday chapel band practicing in our largest lecture theatre already and realised there must have been no 8am first year class today.  J told me there was none rostered this term. 

It’s the first years’ job to set up the lecture theatre for chapel.  We did it last year.  But when I went upstairs ten minutes before chapel was supposed to start the room had only just started to transform.  There were only about 6 people moving the tables and chairs, and it was definitely not enough people to get it done on time. 

I started to slide tables over each other, to stack chairs, and get a bit annoyed at first year.  It looked like there were only two first years helping out.  Why hadn’t they organised for some of them to be there to help out?  We organised this ourselves last year when we had no 8am lecture.  This isn’t the job for other years to do.  I shouldn’t have to be here, but there weren’t enough people as it was, so I had to help. 

I told these annoyed thoughts off almost immediately.  Why should I think that I’m done setting up for chapel just because I’m not in first year any more?  I shouldn’t resent service of others.  Doing this job is loving my fellow students and serving them.  But I love rules and allocated tasks so it’s hard for met to let others ignore them.  But in my annoyance I had traded the joy of serving others for anger at doing “someone else’s job”. 

I shouldn’t think myself above this job.  Christians are called to a life of service, and this was just one small way of serving others.  So I kept going, now with a better attitude.  Or at least without the anger. 

Ten minutes after I started I looked around and I realised how many people had come into the room to help out.  So many.  Many more than we needed to get it done.  And I realised it didn’t matter what year they were in.  I was filled with love for my fellow students.  People who are willing to help out even if it wasn’t their job.  And now I’m ashamed of my grudging service doing a not-my-job. 

Today was a reminder for me of my sinful selfishness.  My shameful self–centred nature.  And it was a reminder to serve, even when it means doing something that’s not my job.  In a way that’s the greater service, isn’t it? 

And how can I not serve when I have already been served by Jesus, who gave more than I could ever give to save my life?  I worship a Servant Lord who calls me to serve also.  I’m still learning to serve, but I trust that God is changing my heart in a way that I couldn’t.  A servant heart after my Servant Lord Jesus. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Thankful Thursday

There are lots of things for me to be thankful for this week that I almost don’t know where to begin. 

Someone is reading the Bible
On Friday night we had a community dinner at our church.  We have these every few months and we invite people from the community around the church to come.  Mostly this is kids club and playgroup families.  In the course of dinner I heard that a dad of one of the kids club kids, a Hindu man, had been reading the Bible.  This is wonderful.  Not only does it mean that this man is willing to learn about Christianity, it also means that God is working in his heart through the word.  After all, the word of God is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and it will accomplish his purposes (Isaiah 55:11).  And his purpose is that everyone would come to a knowledge of the truth, the truth about him, and be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). 

I had my birthday this week and was touched by the love and generosity of my friends.  I received unexpected gifts, lots of “happy birthday”s and had a cafe date organised for a celebration.  I also received a package in the mail from my family.  It was filled with lots of little packages of joy.  J has been very busy this week and very apologetic about not being able to do anything special for my birthday but he’s been so lovely that I don’t mind at all. 

A visit from an old friend
Today a friend who I used to work with contact me yesterday because she was in my city.  I haven’t seen her for two years but it was wonderful to catch up with her, even though it was brief.  We had fun when we worked together and it was lovely to hear her laughter again.  I showed her around college and we caught up on what each of our lives is like now. 

A call from my sister
I got a call from my sister today because she was upset about something.  She called during a lecture so I had to call her back when it got to lunch time.  We didn’t talk for very long but the thing I’m thankful for is that when she was upset she wanted to talk to me.  We’ve never been particularly emotionally close, so this was special to me.  Thanks sister for relying on me. 

What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, 15 September 2014

Our visit to Bridgebane

Today was our first day of term four at college, and while it is good to be back part of me isn’t quite ready for it.  Holidays are never long enough when you’re looking at the end of them.  So I thought I’d relive a bit of our holidays by writing about it and showing some photos. 

We went to Brisbane for four nights to see our friends who recently got married (in Adelaide) and who now live in Brisbane.  We were very thankful to be able to stay with them in their spare room, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to afford to go. 

We left our house via a dash through the rain to our neighbour’s car.  The friends in our community are very generous with lifts to the airport.  I took this photo anticipating a contrast in the weather between here and Brisbane.  But I forget to take any pictures of the weather in Brisbane, and there wasn’t a lot of different during our first few days there!

After we arrived and settled in we went for a walk to Southbank, a section of parkland I suppose you could call it, by catching a free ferry across the river.  Southbank is a very pretty area.  I loved the winding pathway with overhead flowering vines, the community herb and vegetable garden, and the ‘city beach’ was amusing. 

We had a day trip to the Glasshouse mountains and had lunch in a little town there.  I was pleased that we did the thing you’re apparently supposed to do in this town: buy fudge!  From this place of all places.  It made me think of my sister.  She used to say ‘fatty-boombah’, which I image one would become with too much of this fudge.  It was delicious. 

On Monday night I filled in on my friend’s church netball team because they had a few injured players.  It was indoor with nets, which was fun.  I’d never played with nets before.  It made the court feel smaller but the game moved much faster.  I’m that dark blurry WA in the picture because I run so fast… 

One morning we walked up a mountain (big hill that’s called a mountain? it was only 2km) that gave us a great view of the whole city.  Our home city has a mountain like this so this was a familiar activity.  Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of this. 

J decided that the city should be called Bridgebane because of the sheer number of bridges over the river.  The river cuts right through the middle of the city so it’s no wonder.  This picture kind of gives you an idea of what the city is like.

We also had fun on the free ferries, seeing some river-side ‘art’, a visit to the Museum, catching up with our old Greek lecturer and the former student minister at our church. 

The view from our friend's balcony!

We loved spending time with our friends, catching up on each others’ lives and exploring the city they are making their home in.  Thanks for welcoming us friends, and sharing so much with us.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Why you don’t have to believe your intuitions are the Holy Spirit

Or, How the Spirit shapes our hearts

This second chapter of ‘Good News for Anxious Christians’ is closely tied with the first chapter and addressed the question of what’s really happening when we listen to our hearts.

Cary’s basic argument in this chapter is as follows:

We sometimes have a gut feeling or intuition that we cannot explain.  Because we can’t explain it we often attribute this feeling to something from the Holy Spirit.  But sometimes our intuitions turn out to be wrong so therefore they can’t be the Holy Spirit. 

The fact is that everyone has intuitions, all the time.  Christians (who have the Holy Spirit inside them) and non-Christians (who don’t have the Holy Spirit inside them) alike.  Cary suggests that instead of thinking of our intuitions as the Holy Spirit, they are more like skilled perceptions.  Our intuitions are shaped by the set of skills that we have, such as a musician hearing a piece of music as sad.  These skilled perceptions often run faster than our ability to explain them.  But this inability is more about our lack of the necessary vocabulary needed to explain the intuitive feeling, rather than a sign that it is from God. 

But intuition isn’t completely separate from reason either.  It is not a process of reasoning, but the end result (even if you cannot explain the reasoning that got you to that point).  Because of this our intuitions are worth testing and arguing over because they won’t always be right. 

But just like in the first chapter, just because intuitions are our own voices rather than God’s voice doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t listen to them or take them seriously.  The Holy Spirit does work in our hearts, even though the heart and all the voices in them are our own. 

Cary then goes on to talk about a specific habit of the heart, just like the skills talked about earlier.  This he calls virtue, and it shapes our hearts, how we act, feel, perceive and think, just like other skills.  The fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 are a list of virtues.  And like all habits of the heart they can result in intuitions.  But unlike skills that can lead to someone becoming a better musician or sports player, virtues are about becoming a better person.  This is why the Holy Spirit gets involved in them. 

This doesn’t mean that only Christians can have virtues but the Spirit does work in Christians to help them to become kinder, more patient etc. than they were before.  This shaping of the heart enables us and gives us the freedom to do new things.  The boundaries which shape a virtue are essential to the integrity of a good heart.  These boundaries aren’t restrictions to a person’s freedom but the source of new possibilities.  Just like the boundaries imposed by skills (like moving your fingers in the correct way on a violin) gives the freedom to play well and to play more complex pieces.  Spiritual and moral disciplines work in the same way. 

One of the freedoms of a virtuous heart is a new set of intuitions.  Christian virtues are all about following and becoming like Christ.  The Holy Spirit helps this happen in us, he sanctifies us.  So the intuitions of a sanctified heart are definitely worth listening to.  But we don’t have to pretend that they are the voice of God. 

Our heart won’t get sanctified by listening for the Spirit, but by listening to the word of God. 

This chapter has encouraged me to be more aware of the Spirit’s work, in me and in other Christians.  It has also increased my desire to have my heart shaped by Christian virtues by the work of the Holy Spirit.  And it has also encouraged me to test my intuitions and search for the vocabulary to explain them. 

Next up is ‘Why you don’t have to “Let God take control” (or how obedience is for responsible adults)’. 

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Thankful Thursday

This week is college holidays so it’s been different than recent weeks.  Here’s what I’m thankful for this week:

Safe flights
We flew to Brisbane and back this week to see some friends.  Both times when we landed I thanked God for the safe flight.  I don’t always do this, but I was recently reminded in one of my Doctrine lectures to be more aware of God’s providence in all things.  But I am also a bit of a worrier and in what other form of transportation are you as reminded of the things that could go wrong than on a plane flight?  I particularly get a little nervous when they go through the safety procedures.  On the way home we were sitting in front of the exit row and got to hear the special instructions the people seated there were given about pulling open the exit hatch for emergency evacuation.  That makes for extra nerves!  I’ve been in the exit row once, seated right next to the door, and I was travelling alone.  I prayed then that nothing would go wrong so I wouldn’t have to lift the 15kg door and throw it out of the aircraft.  But, as I said, everything was fine so I thanked God for keeping us all safe. 

The generosity of friends
We flew to Brisbane to spend some time with friends from home who live there now.  We stayed with them in their place in the city and really enjoyed spending time with them.  They picked us up from the airport, fed us, showed us around and shared their life with us.  More to come later about our holiday there.  Suffice to say, J and I are both thankful for our friendship with this couple, and their generosity towards us this week. 

A new look
As you can already see I’ve created a new look for my blog.  I’ve been wanting to do this for a while.  Though I don’t feel like this current look is particularly inspired it feels less kitschy than the old look so I’m happy with it for now.  What do you think of it?  I’m thankful for some time today to fiddle with these details.

What are you thankful for this week?

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Thankful Thursday

Here are some things that I’m thankful for this week:

A baking day
On Saturday I decided to do some baking because I hadn’t done any in a long time.  I made some brownies and some ANZAC slice.  I think I’ve avoided baking because I didn’t want to be tempted to eat all of the end result.  But I plan to freeze some of this to pull out in an emergency.  I realised that I’ve missed baking so Saturday was fun. 

Enjoyable nights because I finished my assignment
I submitted my last assignment on Tuesday of this week and I was really excited about the nights for the rest of the week.  Wednesday night was Bible study end of term social where we also finished off the Bible study that we had been preparing and writing this term.  I’ve loved talking about the Bible and our faith with these wonderful ladies.  Tonight we had dinner with another family in our college community.  I love this couple and their cute kid, even though we haven’t known each other for very long.  I’ve loved helping out with dinner, playing with their kid and chatting and laughing together.  I love the way that we can share our lives together in this community.  I’m also looking forward to tomorrow: the second years in our community are having an end of term party, which we do every term.  It’s always been a great way to debrief and relax, and spend a bit more time with the other wives and kids. 

Phone call from home
My sister was at my parent’s place for dinner tonight so they decided to give me a call.  It was lovely hearing their voices and listening in on the banter.  Thanks for thinking of me and just chatting.

What are you thankful for this week?