Thursday, March 29, 2012

I'm the Voice

Have you ever read a blog of someone you haven't met in person and wondered what their voice sounds like? Or have you ever spoken on the phone to someone you haven't met and, from their voice, built up a mental picture of what you assume they must look like?  I have and I was very surprised when I met them in person because they looked or sounded nothing like what I expected.

I often wonder what some bloggers would sound like if I met them face to face. Have you ever wondered what my voice sounds like? Well, here it is. This was me reading 2 Samuel 14 in church in September last year. I was quite shocked when I first heard it as my 'recorded voice' sounds nothing like what it sounds like to my own ears.

So, was it what you expected? :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Opshopathon II

There have only been two of them, but this is one of my favourite events of the year.  A group of opshopping fanatics visiting as many opshops as humanly possible in one day.  The first was in December 2010.  Last year it was postponed due to busyness and rescheduled for March, but this time it was tinged with sadness.  Amanda was moving away in a few weeks and part of the reason for the Opshopathon was to give her a good send-off doing something fun.

So on Saturday 3rd March, five excited ladies hit the opshops in Willetton, O'Connor and South Lake...eight in total.

Some people don't get what's so exciting about opshopping.  I tell them, "It's the thrill of the treasure hunt."

Here's what I came home with:

C is for cookie.  This top will be for PJs.

Judy Blume was one of my favourite authors as a kid.  I want to collect all of her books.

Hahaha.  I love this sign!  Duncan thinks it's rude, but, for me, it reminds me not to fall into the trap of people-pleasing.

Amanda has photos on her blog here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Quote of the Day

Our friends Amanda and Michael and their two girls left Perth on Sunday for their new home interstate.  We will miss them, but are happy that they have the God-given courage to follow Him wherever He leads them to do His work. 

I guess I'm becoming more used to goodbyes since I left Perth nearly four years ago.  I've become used to fleeting catch-ups once or twice a year, and seeing people's faces more on Facebook than I do in person.  Since I moved away myself, it seems wrong and selfish to tell a friend, "Don't go because I'll miss you," when they need to do what's best for them.

I love this quote.  When those important to you move on, it does leave a void.  But I would rather them go than to stay to make others happy.  And, God-willing, should we move again, I would like others to say, "Go well."

I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged, that's all.  Their feathers are just too bright...and when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice...but still, the place you live is that much more drab and empty that they're gone.  I guess I just miss my friend.
- Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding (Morgan Freeman) in The Shawshank Redemption

Monday, March 26, 2012

Another Excellent Esperance Expedition

Duncan and I had a week-long camping holiday in Esperance in February.  Alas, it was not hardcore camping (we stayed at a caravan park), but it was therefore much more pleasant than having smelly, hairy armpits all week.

We enjoyed swimming, snorkelling, walks on the beach, coffees, two trips to the cinema, visiting one of the local churches, meals with friends who live down was just nice.  We enjoyed the company of two friends from church who stayed next to us in their caravan.  I read most of Gone with the Wind that week since I've decided to challenge myself to read several literary classics this year.  Last time we came to Esperance it was school holidays and the caravan park was packed.  Because of the large numbers of guests, the ladies' bathroom was nearly always covered in sand and dirty footprints.  This year I pretty much had the bathroom to myself a lot of the time I needed to use it.  I think I only saw another lady in there a few times.

The downside was that some lowlife piece of scum stole my bathers from the caravan park clothesline.  The sneaky wretch waited until dark and pinched them during the night.  I was livid and that's an understatement.  I still can't believe someone stole them.  They weren't new and for all the thief knew, I could have diseases or something.  No-one else's clothes on the line were touched.  So I made a trip to the surf shop that morning.

The other downside was that we had another stinker of a day.  During our last visit just over two years ago, we had 45C while camping in our tent.  This time, Duncan had an iphone and saw in advance that it was going to be 42C for the last full day we would be there.  We packed up our tent on the morning of the hot day and exchanged our powered site for an airconditioned cabin (paying $50 extra).  I stayed in the cabin all day while Duncan and our friends went bike riding in the dunes and jetskiiing an hour's east of Esperance.  They're mad....mad, I tell you.  There must be something about Esperance that it likes turning on these random hot days when we come to visit.  The guy in the surf shop was talking about THAT hot day two years ago, and we were like, "Ummm, yeah we were here then, too."

Now...some photos. :)
Ahhh...Twilight Beach

Such a handsome fellow

It's me!

Ewww.  Yuck!  We didn't go here for dinner!

I just wanted a 'feet in the sand and water' shot

These people were going to jump off the rock!  Fools!

We took the beast out along the beach to the gateway to Cape Le Grand National Park

Neil and Duncan

Duncan's attempt at a leaping shot
Take 2
Do you think Toyota will offer me a job? :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

5 Most Versatile Actors/Actresses

They play many different types of characters and I believe these people are the characters they play.  Meryl Streep is the queen of versatility.

1.  Meryl Streep

Image from

2.  Johnny Depp

Image from

3.  Tom Hanks

Image from

4.  Toni Collette

Image from

5.  Cate Blanchett

Image from

Who do you think are the most versatile actors and actresses?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Golden Oldies

I've never found it difficult to think of big ideas.  I can always fix things in my head.  It's putting plans into action that I often find impossible.

At the start of the year, I mentioned in 5 Hopes For 2012 that I'd really like to meet with and serve the elderly in some way.  This has plagued my thoughts since my Nan passed away 14 months ago.  A close friend of mine works in a nursing home - the same nursing home my Nan lived in during the final month of her life - and sometimes the stories she tells me break my heart.  Old people with no family or friends to visit them.  Old people who DO have family nearby, but who can never be bothered visiting.  She told me about one lady who was supposed to be picked up and taken out for lunch by her family on Christmas Day, but the family never showed up and she was left waiting for ages.  Finally she resigned herself to the fact that they weren't coming and went inside to have lunch with the staff and other residents.  When the staff phoned her family, they just said, "Oh yeah, sorry we can't come now," (this family never came to visit usually anyway).  At least my Nan had stacks of visitors.  Some of these old people have no-one except the nursing home staff who are determined that they see out their final days with dignity.

I'm wondering whether I could go and visit the residents in the nursing home in town.  Just to have a cuppa and a chat.  Maybe play Scrabble or cards or something.  I don't know.  To be honest, I'm worried that it's just another one of my ideas that will fade away without coming to fruition.  I'm too scared to go alone and there's no-one I know nearby who seems interested in the elderly.  I keep hearing about kids, kids  Kids are our future.  Young people are the leaders of tomorrow.  We need to be putting our time and energy into them because they're the ones who are most likely to become Christians...blah, blah, blah.  I'm just not interested in doing kids' ministry.  Yes, it's very important and I'm glad that there are people who are doing it.  But I'm not that person.  My passion is for those at the other end of life.  But I appear to be alone in that.

Sometimes I even wonder why I care so much about old people.  It's not that I want a surrogate Nana.  I miss mine, but no-one will ever replace her.  Let's face it...old people can be downright cantankerous and difficult.  Statistics show they are the hardest demographic to reach with the gospel.  Either it's because they are too pigheaded to listen to anyone younger than they are, or they've been 'churched' sometime in their life and think they don't need religion (when they've never actually met Jesus properly).  They can be rude, patronising and stuck in their ways.  I'm constantly astounded by old people in churches who sit in the same seat every week (even though there are other empty, comfortable and convenient seats available) and growl at visitors who dare to sit in THEIR seat.  Why bother?  I met young Christians at uni who had that view.  We need to be concentrating on uni students because that sort of ministry is STRATEGIC.  I met one person who said the elderly were too difficult to convert.  Umm isn't it GOD'S work, not ours?

Despite the obstacles, I still feel very strongly about putting effort into people who are at the END of their lives.  I know all sorts of tragedies can take the lives of young people, but the likelihood is that older people will probably die first.  Therefore, shouldn't their need to hear about Jesus be urgent?  Do we believe in a God of statistics or a God of miracles?  A God who can turn the most ardent opponent into a passionate follower.

Time is short and my Nan's death really hit home that fact.  I tried to tell her the gospel while she lay in hospital.  Despite having a church background, for years she had been a cynic and a critic.  Yet, I could see her soften in those final months.  I don't want any old person to die without REALLY hearing about Jesus.

So, what do I do?  I'm still praying and waiting.  Waiting for opportunities.  Waiting for someone to come along and share this passion.  Waiting to see if there will be a call for volunteers at the local nursing home, or whether I should just step out boldly and see what happens.  But one thing has become very clear to me.  The body of Christ is a body.  We need all of the parts.  The wisdom of the old is just as vital as the spiritedness of the young.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bible Verse of the Day

The glory of young men is their strength, grey hair the splendour of the old.
Proverbs 20:29

Monday, March 19, 2012

I Am Carried by Geoff Bullock

I love this song.  It reminds me of God's compassionate love for His people and my neverending need to rely on Him day by day.  When I am overwhelmed by my own sin, this song reminds me that Christ has paid the price and is creating me anew.

Day by day and hour by hour,
Your love for me from heaven flows.
Like streams of water in the desert,
Living waters flow.
You walk beside me, gently guiding,
Leading me through every storm.
Everlasting, never changing,
Grace and love divine.

Mercy's healing, grace relieving,
Every spot and every stain.
Forgiven freely, no more guilty,
Love has conquered shame.
The broken mended, night has ended,
Leading me through every storm.
For I am carried in the arms of
Grace and love divine.

I am carried in the arms of grace and love divine,
I am held by hands of healing, washed by water pure.
Lifiting up my heavy heart, held in grace-scarred hands.
I am carried in the arms of grace and love divine.

Never worthy, never earning,
All my works now left behind.
Ever onwards, ever upwards,
You've called me on to rise.
Above my darkness, all my failure,
Every fear and every pain.
Always carried, always covered by
Grace and love divine.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Another Day in Woop Woop

Sometimes when I'm talking to my city friends I realise that, unless they move to the country, there will always be parts of my life that they cannot relate to.  Things that they take for granted every day are things that are a struggle for us country folk.

Like what happened to me on Tuesday....

I work two part-time jobs as an administration officer (in other words: office chick).  One of these jobs, although the pay is not great, is at least a steady source of income.  I work Mondays and Wednesdays at this job in an office in town.  The other job is on a 'now and then' basis and I am paid casual rates.  I'm usually only needed when they have meetings (every few months).  They had scheduled one of these meetings for Tuesday afternoon.  Since the meeting didn't start until 1:30pm, I decided to go to ladies' tennis in the morning and then go home a bit early so I could get ready for the meeting.

The tennis club is in the middle of nowhere and about 15 minutes drive from my house.  On my way home, a light came on on the dashboard and an alarm went off indicating that I had water in the diesel and it needed to be drained.  We'd had the same problem two days before when Duncan had to pull over and drain the water out on our way home from church.  The culprit was one of those dodgy 24 hour unmanned service stations which had recently opened in town.  We later discovered that other people had water in their fuel after getting it from there.  I pulled over and got out my trusty little car manual, but despite there being a diagram on how to drain the water, I couldn't make sense of it.  I'm just not good with stuff like that.

So there I was, stuck on a gravel road out in woop woop. I didn't have my mobile with me (since it doesn't work out here anyway).  I couldn't get anyone on the 2-way radio.  I waited for a little bit and nobody came along that road.  I felt like the only decent option was to walk so I took out my backpack, left the tennis racquet and the morning tea, locked the 4WD and set off on foot, praying someone would come along.  I felt like Mi Taylor in National Velvet tramping along the road with my backpack....except I wasn't whistling since I was far from cheerful at this stage.

What I didn't realise was just how far I had to walk in order to find a house.  There were just paddocks along the road with no driveway in sight.  Even if you do find a driveway in the country, it can be a kilometre long with no guarantee there will actually be a house or anyone around at the end of it.  I walked and walked, busting to pee, but not daring to stop since there wasn't much scrub by the roadside, and if someone did come along, it would be very embarrassing. 

Ok, too much information!

Eventually...after at least 5km.... I reached a house.  I knew this family from tennis so I trudged up the driveway, hoping they were home or at least that the house was unlocked so I could use their phone.  The lady was very surprised to see me arrive while she was sitting at the table eating her lunch.  She got me a drink (since I was sooo thirsty by this stage) and let me call Duncan on her phone.  Despite the dodgy reception, I managed the get the message to him and he said (just before the reception cut out) that he'd send one of his workmates to pick me up.  By this stage, I knew I'd never get to work on time so I rang my boss to let him know.  He wasn't answering his phone after three attempts to ring him so I left a message and just hoped he'd got it. 

Finally, one of the farmhands came to pick me up and he took me to where I'd left the 4WD, saying "Far out, you walked a long way."  He is also a mechanic so he showed me how to drain the water and told me to bring the beast to the farm workshop.  I drove home, had a shower and some late lunch, and then went to the workshop.

So that was my day.  I missed out on half a day's pay which I'm not happy about.  We've also made a complaint (as have other people) about that dodgy new petrol station.  But, in hindsight, I can see that I have much to be grateful about:
  • It happened during the day.  It would be so creepy if it had happened at night!  Hopefully Duncan would have sent out a search party eventually haha.  I'm going to make sure there's always a torch in the car.
  • It happened on a 26C day.  Praise the Lord it didn't happen the day before when it was 38C.
  • Since I had been playing tennis, I was wearing appropriate clothing for a long walk.  I was glad to have comfortable shoes, a hat and sunscreen.  That would have sucked if I'd broken down wearing a ballgown and high heels.
  • My arthritis has been pretty good lately and I didn't injure myself at tennis.  Walking 5km with a bad back or a sprained ankle would be VERY difficult.
  • I had some water with me.  Not much, but enough.
If you break down in the city, you call the RAC, catch a bus, or call a friend.

If you break down in the country, you get fit very quickly.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The End of an Era

My old church in Perth had its final service on Sunday.

It was my first church.  I was a brand new Christian when I first went there in October 2001.  Despite a period in 2005 where I was fed up with a few people there and wanted to leave, many great friendships were formed and memories made there.  Duncan and I first met there nearly nine years ago.  Understandably I am quite sad.

Duncan and I had been in Perth the Sunday before when the congregation unanimously voted to stop meeting together.  It was an open meeting so, even though I am no longer a member, I could have sat in on it.  But we chose not to.  I think I would have cried if I had.

I'm still looking back to a few years ago and struggling to think of what went wrong.  Despite what people may be thinking, it was not a bitter end.  Yes, there had been problems, but relationships had been restored and everything was very positive in the final months.  In the end it was a case of people wanting the same thing (people to hear the gospel), but disagreeing on how to do it.  Although I don't know all the ins and outs (and heard many different stories from different people), in the end, I think it is better that relationships are maintained and people go in the directions they feel God is leading them in, rather than there being disunity.  Praise God that everything ended very well.  There was no 'split'.  Some people will probably keep meeting together in small groups, but others will be looking for new church homes across Perth.

Although that church only had a 12 year span, if all the people who had become Christians or gone on to become more established in their faith gathered in one room, there would have been hundreds of people.  Hundreds of lives touched by Jesus through the ministry of that church.  That is something to really rejoice about.

The people who left their evangelical Anglican church in Perth's western suburbs 12 years ago to plant a non-denominational university church did not do it in vain.  It may not have been what they hoped it would be, but the gospel will not be stopped.  God does not rely on a particular denomination or congregation as He builds His kingdom.  He is building HIS church.  His universal church.  Our plans are not His plans.  Our ways are not His ways.

God was glorified in that place for 12 years.  He will continue to be glorified by His people and His gospel will continue to go out to all who will hear.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bible Verse of the Day

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58

Saturday, March 10, 2012

5 Things Margaret Thatcher Taught Me About Leadership

While Duncan and I were in Esperance, we went to the local cinema a couple of times.  The first movie we saw was The Iron Lady.  It certainly was a well-deserved Oscar for Meryl Streep.  She was virtually unrecognisable as former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

I was a little kid in the 80s so I didn't really know much about her, and can only go on what the movie portrays.  But there were several things this movie taught me about any vocation:

1.  Sometimes the most unlikely people make the best leaders.
2.  Often leadership involves doing the best thing for the people as a whole, not individuals.
3.  Leaders (good or bad) will always experience some sort of opposition - either from their own people or outside.
4.  Leadership often involves taking a stand...and sticking to it.
5.  That stand may well be the leader's defining moment...both as a leader and a person.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Church Camp 2012

We thoroughly enjoyed our church camp, west of Albany, again this year, despite missing the first half of it due to Duncan being sick.

The Saturday night entertainment had a 1970s theme.  The couple who organised it did an amazing job decorating the hall so that it looked like ten pin bowling lanes created by strips of lights.  There were two big screens set up so that we could all play ten pin bowling on the Wii, plus there were disco balls, popcorn and a drink fountain. 

Duncan after a not so successful attempt.

I had totally forgotten to bring a 70s style outfit for the night (Duncan was relieved he got out of wearing a costume haha) .  Fortunately one of the ladies had brought along the dress she wore to her 21st birthday party in 1970 to see if someone else could fit into it.  Perfect!

It has a HOOD! :)

I like this banner!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Trellis and the Vine

I'll say it first....this is one of the best Christian books I've read in a while (and I've read many good ones).

Using the metaphor of a vine (discipling and building each other up in Christ) and a trellis (the structures such as administration, programs and rosters which enable discipleship to happen), the book seeks to demonstrate how often in churches, the trellis trumps the vine.  We pour our energies into events without often evaluating whether people are growing in their faith.  The Trellis and the Vine is not anti-events and programs.  It just seeks to take an honest look at what the role of the church is and whether the events the church runs are helpful in this mission.  If the mission of the church is to take the gospel to the world and disciple and build up those who are believers, then a really hard look needs to be taken at whether some church activities are a help or a hindrance (or a distraction).

Here are two stories which really sum up what the book is all about:
Take Sarah, for example, an elite sportswoman converted as an adult through sports ministry.  Sarah was well-followed up and established in her faith, and her church provided a strong and edifying environment.  What's more, Sarah had a passion for Christ and for evangelism, and had a large network of non-Christian friends, teammates and acquaintances with whom to share the gospel.  However, instead of training and encouraging Sarah to pursue this evangelistic ministry, the church strongly urged her to become a member of the church management committee, because there was a gap and a need, and Sarah was enthusiastic and willing to help.  The church was gap-filling, not building ministry around the gifts and opportunities of people. (pages 20-21)

A more positive example was Dave, a young man who suffered from schizophrenia.  Dave was a very intelligent and able person who loved the Lord, but his illness meant that nearly every common avenue for ministry was closed to him.  He didn't have the mental stability or strength to lead Bible studies or follow up new Christians or contribute to other church events and programs.  However, in his lucid and rational periods, Dave had enormous potential for evangelism and ministry among his many friends and contacts who also suffered from mental or emotional disorders.  His pastor trained and encouraged Dave in this ministry, and had other Christian friends support him, back him up, and help him with follow-up.  It was a marvellous instance of seeing the ministry potential of a unique person, and helping and equipping him to make disciples. (page 21)

'Training' is a word that dominates the book.  At first, this made me suspicious that it was going to be raving about new training programs and guilt-tripping people into signing up for them.  I'm kind of a bit over people wanting to train and push me into ministries that I lack both the ability and the confidence for.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this is not what the authors meant by 'training'.  Training involves much more than teaching a course on how to lead a Bible study (although it could involve that).  Training involves two or more people discipling one another in Christian character (in the power of the Holy Spirit, of course).  It involves reading the Scriptures together, praying together, challenging each other in our daily walk and the life decisions we make.  It doesn't matter how competent someone is in doing something out the front during church if they aren't concerned with their spiritual growth.  Therefore, the book very much promotes one-to-one discipleship.

One of the most radical areas the book covers is seeing the pastor as a trainer.  Many pastors are already burnt-out with overflowing diaries and more people to meet with that is humanly possible.  In other words...the pastor is expected to do everything.  What The Trellis and the Vine suggests is for the pastor to take a step back and choose a small group of people to meet with (either one-to-one or in a small group), and for the pastor to train those people to train others in how to meet with and disciple another Christian.  Often in churches, the pastor finds himself meeting with those who appear to be the most needy (non-Christians, new Christians, those in a crisis etc).  Instead, they should choose people who are mature, godly Christians who can then meet with new Christians or those who are struggling, creating a flow-on effect.  It is very much about working with the people you have at your disposal and getting them to use their gifts accordingly, rather than squashing them into ministries which aren't a good fit for them.  The result will, God-willing, be church members starting their own ministries which looks like a wild vine, weaving everywhere, unable to be kept track of.  Scary, but exciting.

While reading this book, I was a bit worried that they were making one-to-one discipleship and training a new kind of measuring stick and that Christians who weren't involved would be made to feel guilty and useless.  But to the authors' credit, they realise that this could be a trap and see to point back to the gospel of grace rather than any particular ministry model.  There are quite a few plugs to Matthias Media products and they do heavily promote the Outreach - Follow-Up - Growth - Training model a bit too much.  But on the whole, this is a brilliant book which calls the church back to its core mission.  It is very readable and honest.  It makes no promises of 'success', but reminds us that only God can provide the growth.  There is a very helpful section at the back for pastors who wish to try some of things in the book, but have further questions.

If you're a this book!
If you're an elder or in Christian leadership of any this book!

It is available from the Matthias Media Australian store here.
There is also a US store here.

Monday, March 05, 2012

5 Tips For Moving House

Amanda and Allie are in the midst of moving.  Here's the advice I'd give to myself should we ever move again.  However, moving is stressful (I haven't attempted an interstate or overseas move yet) and there's no real way to make it easy.

1.  Use good quality packing boxes - even if it means you have to pay for them.  Don't use the ones that supermarkets throw out.  They tend to break easily.

2.  Buy rolls and rolls of packing tape...more than you think you'll need.  It's better than running out and having to go to the shop for more.  Use a packing tape dispenser so that you don't have to bother with scissors.

3.  Start getting ready as soon as you find out you're definitely moving.  Go through your stuff and put aside stuff to be thrown out or sold.  List things on ebay, Gumtree or have a garage sale.  It's better than packing a whole lot of junk you don't need.  Pack as many things as you can live without before you move (i.e. if you're moving in summer, pack most of your winter clothes).  Being organised sure beats hastily throwing things into boxes at the end.  Post the moving date on Facebook and ask your friends to help.  (Of course if you only have 10 days to pack and get out, many of these tips may not be possible).

4.  Be really specific when labelling your boxes.  Don't just write 'Kitchen Stuff' - particularly if there's kitchen stuff in more than one box.  Write exactly what's in there - plates, saucepans, tongs etc. Chances are when you get to your new place, you'll need one specific thing and be ripping tape off a number of boxes (or not being able to because you can't find the scissors) trying to find it.  I've been there!  It's really annoying.

5.  Wrap breakables in linen rather than newspaper.  Not only will it save space, you won't have to wash all of your crockery and glasses later to get rid of the newspaper print and smell.

I'd love to hear your tips for moving house...

Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday Funny

This was a very amusing conversation I had with a friend's almost three-year-old daughter a few weeks ago:

The little girl mumbled something at me and I couldn't understand what she was saying.
Me: Pardon?
Little Girl: Did you do a pop?
Me (trying not to laugh): No.
Little Girl:  But you say pardon after you do a pop.
Me: Oh rightio.  But you also say it when you can't hear what someone is saying.
Little Girl does a loud burp and then looks at me.
Little Girl: That was a burp.  It's like a pop, but it was in my mouth.

I was really fighting to hold back the laughter by then.  She is hilarious!