Thursday, September 30, 2010

We're Going on a Summer Holiday

We're off on holidays tomorrow!  This has been a difficult week for both of us, and I've had so much running through my head, I really cannot wait for this break!

Our itinerary is as follows:
  • Go to our church camp in Jurien tomorrow afternoon.
  • On Sunday, pack up and drive to Greenough (just south of Geraldton).  Here we'll be staying at the bed and breakfast my uncle used to own (which ironically is now owned by his ex-partner from years ago).  We'll be visiting my uncle, auntie and step-cousin (who live just up the road from the B&B) while we're there.
  • On Monday we head to Carnarvon and stay at a caravan park for one night.
  • Drive to Exmouth on Tuesday where we'll be staying for five nights with my cousin, Leah, her husband and kids at the caravan park they own.
  • On Sunday (10th October) we head to Tom Price for three nights where we'll be staying with our friends, Joel and Sam, who got married six days after us.
  • On Wednesday 13th October, we head home via the inland route.
Duncan is especially looking forward to a break.  It's a bit hard living at work sometimes.

But if you thought you'd be getting rid of me over the next two weeks, you're sadly mistaken. ;)  I have two words to say...scheduled posting.  Yes, I have a whole heap of posts coming your way so please do comment.

If nothing'll know it hasn't worked.

Up north here we come!

Image is from

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

From Head to Hand: Nothing New Under the Sun

Being a writer, or really a creative person of any kind, can be stressful.  There are many critics out there who would love nothing better to sink their claws into your work and tear it to shreds.  What is the main thing critics look for in an artistic piece?  Originality.

I hear many creative people agonise over their work.  Is it original enough?  Or is it the same old plot, rehashed for the fifty millioneth time?  In fact, I've heard that Hollywood really only has about 5-10 movie plots which they work from, but slightly adapt each time.  That's why so many of the movies churned out are dull and predictable.  At times, I agonise over my own novel.  I worry that many potential readers will think it's one of those feel-good, sporting stories, and cast it aside in disgust.  I worry that it's not original enough.

This may sound very strange, but when I'm feeling that way, my comfort is Ecclesiastes 1:9-10: What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"?  It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.  I know this is probably taking the verses out of context, but it really encourages me as a writer who sometimes gently panics about the originality of my work and what others will think.  My work is NOT new.  I CANNOT be entirely original.  No-one's work is.  We all gain inspiration from those around us and those who have gone before us.  That's how it is meant to be.  As I read other books, I am learning how to improve in the craft of writing.  I gain inspiration from other authors to put towards my own work.  That doesn't mean I blatantly rip off others' ideas, but it does mean my book is a complicated, mish-mash of inspiration from movies, books, my own life, and the lives of others.  My book will never be original, but it is unique.  My book may remind some readers of other books they have read, but there is still no other book quite like mine.

So, if you're a creative-type, worrying about the originality of your work, be encouraged by Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 today.  Don't try to succeed in a fruitless quest.  I'm sorry if that is strange advice and doesn't sound very encouraging; I have just found it incredibly liberating.  Your work will never be entirely original; it will always be a delightful hybrid of inspiration, but take heart in that there is no other work out there that tells a story the same as yours.

Monday, September 27, 2010

There's No People Like Show People

Another year, another show up here in Dalwallinu.

This year we had our friends, Sarah and Reba, staying with us for the weekend so they were more than happy to tag along.  Reba is American and is in Perth for the next two years working towards a PhD.  Duncan and I met her for the first time a few months back because she is attending our old church, so we have many mutual friends.  It was a real delight to have her with us for the weekend because she is so enthusiastic about experiencing Australian life, whereas coming to the show with us would probably be considered too boring for a lot of other city people.

This year I was a bit less organised when it came to entering competitions.  I put this somewhat rushed effort together for the Funky Decorated Bra competition and after winning the funky hat and t-shirt competitions over the past two years, I thought I had a good chance.  Not so this year.

And here are two pieces of my beaded jewellery.  The necklace got a 1st prize which was nice (and $2 prize money).

I also entered five photos (I think Duncan took some of them actually).

This one got 2nd prize in the 'Farm activity' category.  Brad reckoned he should get the grand prize of $1 because he's driving the header in this photo.

This one got 2nd prize in the 'Open' category.

It was an excellent day despite the fact I had the flu (which later turned into a chest infection) and I felt like death warmed up.  Now I'm thinking, what the heck am I going to do with a watermelon bra?  Maybe some weirdo will buy it on ebay....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Year of Gilmore Girls

Earlier this year, Duncan and I finished watching the seventh and final season of Gilmore Girls.  It had take us just over a year to get through all seven seasons after borrowing the DVDs from two friends.

I rarely watch American shows, but this is one I highly recommend to you all.  Set in the fictional US town of Stars Hollow, Gilmore Girls is based around the lives of thirty-something single mother, Lorelai Gilmore, and her super-achieving teenage daughter, Rory.  The show follows their ups and downs, loves won and loves lost, the quirky characters in the town they live in, Rory's journey through high school and college, and Lorelai's prickly relationship with her wealthy and elitist parents, Emily and Richard.

We have a number of male friends who particularly enjoy the show, and not because of the good-looking female leads.  The fast-paced, witty dialogue often had Duncan (and I) in stitches.  The writing is ingenious.

I'm trying to think of just why Gilmore Girls appealed to me so much.  Maybe it's because I want the super-close relationship with my mother that Lorelai and Rory have.  Maybe it's because I can understand Lorelai's frustration of having parents who want you to be something you're not.  Maybe it's because I want to live in a community as fun and close-knit as Stars Hollow.  At times I found myself envying Rory because she's so smart and boys notice her.

A friend of ours reckoned the final episode was a let down, but I really disagree.  Without giving too much away, I thought it was realistic, without being schmaltzy, and uplifting at the same time.

I really, really recommend you watch this show.

If you've watched it, please share your thoughts.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Me, Myself and an Online Sermon

When I told first told Christians who I had fellowshipped with in Perth that I was moving to the country, the overall response was not very positive.  I got the doubtful looks, someone even told me that I would be 'wasted' out there in 'woop woop'.  I was told that there are no good churches in the country.  Then came the comment I will never forget, "Oh well, at least you can listen to online sermons."

I was floored!  At least you can listen to online sermons.  What kind of a comment is that?  And how could they say there are no good churches in the country when they don't want to venture past the comforts of the metropolitan area to see for themselves.  That was when I began to realise the deep degree of theological snobbery in many city churches.

Since leaving Perth, I find it hard to return and ask friends, "So how's church?" or "Which church are you going to now?" if I've lost touch with them a bit.  More often than not, I'm greeted with a long list of things that are wrong with their particular church (which, in many cases, is my old church) - the sermons don't 'reach me' (whatever that's supposed to mean), there are too many marrieds, kids etc and I don't fit in, I don't like the music, I don't like the direction the church is heading (which is not about false teaching, but usually they resent the fact the church wants people to move out of their comfort zones and be active in the community).  I could go on, but I'm sure you get the picture. 

Then there are the drifters, the ones who say they're looking for a new church, but weeks have turned into months and they're not really going anywhere.  I want to be careful here because I know some people have been badly burnt by churches and have good reasons for leaving.  But I think some people are simply on the lookout for the perfect church and become disillusioned when the impossible evades them.  I know because I've been there.

I wonder if I surveyed many Christians I know and asked them what their reasons for going to church are, what answers I would get.  I strongly suspect, "To get good teaching," would be at the top of the list, and that is why a number of people are disgruntled with their churches; they are on the weekly lookout for a 'super sermon' that speaks into their soul in a most amazing way.  As the pastor at my old church pointed out once, hearing God's word is a lot like eating.  We need to keep eating meals regularly to survive, but we don't remember every meal we've ever had.  Not all meals were spectacular, although we do particularly remember the spectacular ones.  But each meal was sustaining and growing us, and it is much the same with hearing the Bible taught each week. 

Don't get me wrong, I believe the faithful teaching of Scripture to God's people, whether it be in a sermon or small group format, is vitally important.  But it isn't the ONLY important thing about church.  If you start to think it is, then that's when you can get some of the skewed reactions about online sermons that I received.  If you're only going to church to be taught, to get something out of it for yourself, then you may as well stay at home and listen to an online sermon.  But as Hebrews 10:24-25 says church is about much more than a take, take, take mentality.  An online sermon may help you learn from God's word, but that will count for naught if you don't put it into practice.  And God in His wisdom knows that often happens in the company of other believers.  As we meet with those who differ with us on issues we cherish, as we observe different traditions in practice, our rough edges are sawn off as we are transformed into Jesus' likeness.  Community with other believers can be painful, but it is what we need.

I learnt a painful lesson a few months after moving here.  I learnt that if I only go to church for what I can get out of it, I will tire of church pretty quickly.  For many weeks, Duncan had to practically drag me along on a Sunday morning.  There was so much about my new church I couldn't get used to or didn't fit my ideals.  I was spending nearly as many weekends in Perth as I was up here at times.  But when God taught me I needed an attitude change, that's when things started to turn around.  I started to realise that I go to church to encourage others, to GIVE.  And as I tried to commit to spending as many weekends as possible at home,  I realised that was the only way I was going to get to know people and love them accordingly.  It's not rocket science, but it was pretty radical to me at the time.

My church doesn't have all of the opportunities and speakers that city churches have ready access to.  We haven't had a permanent pastor for three and a half years.  We rely heavily on lay preachers.  I still don't 'get' some of the traditions.  In fact, some of them downright irk me.  But in my church there are people who have faithfully walked with the Lord for many years, who offer encouragement, who are committed to meeting together and drive long distances to make that happen, and who show amazing hospitality.  Therefore, I find it very hard to listen when my city friends want to complain incessantly about their churches.  The city is spoilt with choice which I don't think is necessarily a good thing.  Living in the country has taught me a lot about faithfulness and commitment as I've had the choice taken away.

I still listen to online sermons on my days off.  They are an incredible blessing.  But when I think of sitting alone on a Sunday morning and listening to one while everyone is fellowshipping and worshipping the Lord Jesus together, I know where I'd much rather be.

Do not give up meeting together.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bible Verse of the Day

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:24-25

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Funny

Ok, I know I have nothing really to laugh about with my own team not able to sink any lower on the ladder, but I've heard some lovely Dockers' jokes in the past week and couldn't wait to share. ;)  As you might be able to guess, I've been a vocal Hawthorn and Geelong supporter over the past fortnight.

My boss, who's a Dorks' fan, told me the second one, and even he admits it's very funny.

I'm sure Mark will love these...not! ;) Hehehe.

I met a fairy today who granted me one wish.
"I want to live forever," I said.
"Sorry," said the fairy, "I'm not allowed to grant wishes like that."
"Fine," I said, "I want to die after Freo win a premiership."
"You crafty little .......!" said the fairy.

What's the only ship that has never sailed into Fremantle?
A premiership.

What's the difference between the Dockers and a pyromaniac?
A pyromaniac wouldn't waste 24 matches.

The Dockers have set up a hotline for any of their fans who may be depressed.  The number is 1800 101010
That's 1800 One Nothing One Nothing One Nothing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hayley's Surprise Baby Shower

Duncan's boss and his wife are due to have their first child on the 26th September.  A few months back a group of us girls from church got together to scheme and plot a surprise baby shower for Hayley.

I put this book together for Hayley and Brad.  It contains advice from other mums and encouragement from those (like me) who are childless.

Hayley was so surprised when she rocked up at the venue to see everyone waiting to greet her on the verge.

I tried to get Hayley to re-enact her 'surprised' face, but she kept laughing.

Some of the guests in the decorated lounge room.

Ooh presents!

Hayley's mother-in-law, Rosemary, helping her with her many gifts.

More baby things.

This one was from the 'organising committee'.  We each put something in to make a hamper for Hayley, that was just for her...not baby stuff.

We had to guess whether the baby will be a boy or a girl along with the weight, date of birth and a name.  My guess is GIRL.  I picked Louisa for the name.  Goodness knows why; maybe it's because I think they're more likely to go for a normal name rather than something offbeat.  Or maybe I just had The Sound of Music on my brain. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Can You Have Too Many Friends?

Yes, I think you can have too many friends.

But you can never have too many acquaintances.

You see, acquaintances are happy just to keep the friendship at surface level.  Catch-ups with acquaintances are often in a group situation, revolve around some kind of fun activity, and generally die when you or they move away.  The acquaintance meets the companionship need, but not the deep, emotional connection need.  I wrote about this in my post, The Inner Circle back in 2008.

But true friendship revolves around more than entertainment (although it certainly does include having fun together).  True friendship assumes an emotional connection, support, and openness.  Such friendships require trust, time and support.  True friendship involves getting your hands dirty in sharing each other's ups and downs.  Therefore, such relationships can involve much more time than acquaintance-level friendships.  On top of other life responsibilities, there is only so much we can give.

Having said that, problems can arise when there are differing expectations between friends.

That's a topic for another post.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Quote of the Day

In my rather scathing post, Friday Focus: Mourning With The Mourning, I mentioned two friends of mine who are grieving.  I was talking to the first friend on the phone a few weeks ago, and she said the following quote, in relation to those who have avoided her during her grief.  A true friend will be there during both the ups AND downs.

If you're not going to share in my sorrow, then I don't want you to share in my joy.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

5 Thoughts on the Ben Cousins Documentary

For those of you living overseas, under a rock, or just personally despise the square box known as television, the two-part documentary, Such is Life: The Troubled Times of Ben Cousins screened two weeks ago.  I, along with over two million other Australians, watched both parts.

If you live in Australia, it's hard NOT to know who Ben Cousins is, but for the benefits of international readers and those who do not follow the AFL, I will explain.  Ben Cousins is a Australian Rules footballer, who recently retired after a fourteen-year career in the Australian Football League (AFL).  He played for the team I barrack for, the West Coast Eagles, from 1996-2007 and finished his career with Richmond from 2009-10.  In 2008, he was infamously deregistered as an AFL player for bringing the game into disrepute.  The reason?  Ben is a drug addict who has admitted to using recreational drugs such as cocaine, ice, speed and ecstasy regularly since his late teens (basically since his AFL career began), but successfully managed to evade the AFL's strict drug-testing regime.

The documentary was Ben's idea, and he originally intended it to simply document his journey and recovery after being deregistered.  It turned into a much bigger project and was shot over a period of two years.

Here are five of my thoughts after seeing the documentary:

1.  I still find it really hard to see drug addiction solely as an illness which the 'experts' keep claiming it to be.  Like I said in my previous post, Ben made that initial choice to take drugs.  Certainly his addiction has imprisoned and mastered him, but I don't like the way the term 'illness' is used as if to diminish personal responsibility.  It was stated repeatedly that Ben's personality type (very driven) made him prone to drug addiction.  There is probably some truth in that.  It's hard to have compassion when you've been personally affected by another person's addiction.  Imagine if you discovered someone was taking pictures of your child and using them for porn, but denied responsibility because their porn addiction was an illness!  Would your first reaction be sympathy then?  They also kept stating that drug addiction is a health problem and not a criminal one.  It's not a criminal one in Ben's case where, being a filthy rich footballer, he can afford to spend $10,000 on drugs over five days, as he admitted in the documentary.  But for the average addict, it becomes a criminal problem when they have to steal to feed their habit.  Far be it for me to disagree with the 'experts', but they are seeing things purely from a medical and psychological point of view, and not a spiritual one.

2.  I think Ben has a way to go before he takes responsibility for some of the things he has done.  He admitted seeing the enormous toll his addiction has taken on his family, but he still seemed to have the attitude that he is an island and that his actions don't affect anyone else.  He also seems to misunderstand the difference between forgiveness and trust, and this was shown particularly in the way he reacted to the AFL when they demanded a hair sample for testing prior to his return to football.  He can't expect everyone to believe him simply because he says he has kicked his habit.  Trust takes a long time to rebuild. 

3.  I appreciated his honesty, but the way Ben kept smiling irritated me.  I realise it's probably his personality type, in that he doesn't like crying publicly or showing a lot of emotion, and that's totally his right.  But I think a lot of people would have interpreted his continual cheeky grin as a sign that he doesn't really care or has come to terms with his addiction.  I know a few people like Ben.  They'll be talking about something serious or even quite horrible, and be smiling or chuckling the whole time.  I especially get angry when I'm trying to tell THEM something serious and they smirk or laugh.  It just annoys me.

4.  I think much good can be gained from this documentary.  Many are saying that he is just trying to make money, but he seems genuine in that he wants to help others learn from his experience, and that if his story can help keep one person from drugs, then it was worth it.  I think all teenagers and young adults should watch it.  It's no good burying our heads in the sand and pretending drugs don't exist.  I've been offered drugs during my life.  You probably have too.  Kudos to Ben for making the documentary, and I take my hat off to Bryan Cousins, Ben's father.  He is an amazingly strong man who obviously loves his son.

5.  I was quite worried when I heard that he was retiring from football.  Ben admits in the documentary that he needs a strict routine and to keep busy to keep fighting the temptation, and quotes, "Idle hands are the devil's tool."  I hope he manages to find purpose and direction for his life and wish him well in everything.  More than anything, I pray he comes to Christ.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Pendulum: The Sinful Nature and Personal Responsibility

I've been thinking a lot about this issue over the past week or so, particularly since I watched the Ben Cousins documentary (and I plan to do a post on that next).  After watching the two-part documentary, I started thinking about sin and addiction, and I remembered a sermon on addictions from my old church which I had downloaded early in the year.  It is available here if you're interested.

This is one issue where I sit squarely in the middle.  One of the most helpful points in the sermon was that addiction is a manifestation of sin, however harsh that may sound.  Addictions are part of the reality of our struggle with sin.  Paul says in Romans 7:17-24: As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Paul is not excusing his sin, but pointing out the reality of life as a Christian.  We have the Spirit and the sinful nature warring within us (Galatians 5:17) so we do what we know is wrong and do not do what is right.  In this sense, we have something in common with every addict, even if we do not share the same addiction - we all struggle with sin.  Nobody can stop sinning by willpower or having a foolproof recovery plan.  Paul points out our need for a rescuer in verse 25.  Our situation is hopeless without Jesus.

Yet, while we cannot simply stop sinning for good in this life, nor can we behave like victims, deny personal responsibility and use our addictions and desires as an excuse to hurt people.  This was one of the most helpful points in the sermon.  An addiction might ended up mastering and controlling us, but we made that initial choice to go down that path - to try that drug, to go to that porn site or whatever it is we're doing.  Even though some desires are really powerful, we cannot assume a victim mentality.  We can be out of control, but we also made choices based on our pleasures and desires.  In fact, it is suggested in that sermon that many addictions stem from idolatry - the idol of comfort, of easing pain, of pleasure, of power, image.  Idols promise so much, but turn into ugly masters which enslave us.  It's not wrong to want to stop the pain, for example, but when that becomes our primary aim and causes us to make choices contradictory to following Jesus, then it is sin.

I've heard the issue of sin and responsibility debated in relation to predestination.  How can God choose NOT to predestine and reveal Himself to some people, yet make it impossible for them to stop sinning, and so punish them for their sin?  They can't stop sinning, and God didn't choose them, so God must be unjust.  No, we still make that choice to rebel against our creator.

Can we stop sinning of our own accord?  No.
Are we responsible for our own sin?  Yes.

More of my thoughts on the Ben Cousins documentary next...

Friday, September 03, 2010

Friday Focus - Unexpected Blessings

A few weeks ago I was getting a bit stressed.  I had heaps of assessments for TAFE due soon and I had gotten behind in my schedule.  Although TAFE is nowhere near as stressful as uni, I didn't want to fail the whole semester because I missed deadlines.  I could say it was because of Nan being sick, friends coming to visit, or other commitments, but in reality, it was due to my own poor planning.

So, after thinking I was going to have to pull a few all-nighters (which I have never done) just to get everything finished, I got sick.  It started off as the flu - cough, fevers, body aches and pains, stuffed head and general not-with-it-ness which I thought I had conquered with cold and flu tablets.  But the cough remained and it got progressively worse until I couldn't go for more than two minutes without hacking and wheezing.  By last Thursday I was coughing so much I was struggling to breathe and thought I was going to choke to death (panicking of course only made the cough worse).  By this stage I also had two incredibly red and bloodshot eyes which kept oozing gunk.  For two consecutive mornings, I woke up unable to open my eyes properly.  The gunk had dried, forcing them shut, and I had to stagger to the bathroom, prise them open and clean them.  At the doctor's, he diagnosed me with a chest infection and a contagious eye infection, gave me a bag of drugs and told me to stay home for a few days.

Normally being sick would have been the worst thing that could have happened, but I was still well enough to sit at a computer and work.  I got more done over the last weekend than I have over the past couple of months.  Being sick was an incredible and unexpected blessing from God.  I honestly believe God allowed me to be sick to help me get my assignments done.  He brought good out of my own disorganisation.  What kind of God is this?

As I was marvelling at God's kindness, a thought struck me.  Would I be so thankful if God had allowed me to get gastro instead of a chest infection?  What if I had spent days with my head in the toilet and unable to work at all?  Would I still thank Him then?  The honest answer: probably not.

I was reading Meredith's post about how we are quick to say, "God is good to us," when He answers our prayers the way we want Him to, but we often fail to acknowledge God's goodness ALL of the time - even during testing times.  That was a challenge to me, but I still think don't want to get too politically correct (or biblically correct in this case) and fail to thank God for specific blessings.

In this case, I was blessed with hindsight in that I was able to see how God had used my sickness for good.  But God ALWAYS uses things for the good of those who love Him.  I have to trust that and walk by faith and not by sight.  So if I get gastro (which is going around unfortunately), God is not a meanie; He is using that for my good, which I may not know this side of heaven.  Having said that....God, please DON'T let me get gastro...PLEASE.

To join in Friday Focus and share what God has been teaching you lately, click here.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Bible Verse of the Day

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Message for the Eagles

Callum Wilson.

Play him!

The forward line looks so much better when he's there.  Less reliance on LeCras and Kennedy which is a good thing.

I like Lynch....he's a cult figure.....but sadly I think he's had his day.

When Duncan and I watched the Eagles cause the mother of all upsets against the Western Bulldogs in Melbourne last year, Wilson was playing.  He played most of the games in the latter part of 2009, and surprise, surprise, that's when the Eagles started improving.

I know he's been injured for part of 2010, but he was also listed as an emergency for weeks before he finally got a few games.

You want a full forward?  He's da man!

P.S.  I think even I would do a better job as your skills coach!

Picture is from