Monday, April 30, 2012

One Year of the Gypsy Dog

Our little Gypsy turned one recently and I can't really call her 'little dog' anymore.  Since the first lot of photos I posted just after she joined our family, she has got a lot bigger and a lot fluffier (she seems to take after her grandfather who is a pure bred Border Collie).  While Maya was the ideal 'first dog'...placid, loyal and mostly obedient....Gypsy has been more of a handful.  So now we've said, "No more puppies!"

Gypsy has had to learn that there is only room for one type of dog on this obedient dog.  Maya learnt sitting on command after one 'lesson', but Gypsy is always so excited, it took her quite some time to learn that she won't get a bone unless she sits first.  And I have to say it quite loudly and authoritatively, "SIT!"  Duncan calls her 'The Woof' because of her unfortunate tendency to bark at night.

During the first year of her life, Gypsy has had a number of adventures including being bowled over by a ram, nearly run over on numerous occasions, going to the beach for the first time, and being sterilised.  She has enjoyed many play fights with 'Auntie Maya' and lots of visits from other dogs, but her favourite creature in the whole world is no doubt...Miss Ebony Puss!  Whenever Ebony ventures outside, Gypsy is right there to welcome and sniff this strange animal.  She will watch the cat for hours, absolutely enthralled as if she is in the presence of a deity.  Ebony is not so thrilled.

Gypsy is slowly finding her feet as a sheep dog.  She is definitely 'into everything', but I love her to bits.  I admire her spirit and attitude to life.  She reminds me that life is meant to be plunged into head first and enjoyed.  She is a loving dog who will lick you to death.  She is a good friend.
Working girl!

Bath time!  4 months old 
August 2011

An out-of-focus Gypsy with her friend the (sadly) late, Meg 
November 2011
7 months
November 2011

Gypsy annoying poor Ebony again
December 2011

Oh there you are, Puss!

Making a hasty getaway
Come on, Puss, why don't you want to play?
Do you think I'm safe here?
Resting after her surgery to ensure there will be no more Gypsies. 
March 2012
As excitable as ever despite just being under anaesthetic.
Gypsy's first trip to the beach in Dunsborough.  It's a big world out there when you're a little dog.
Easter 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Pendulum: War and ANZAC Day

Yesterday was ANZAC Day here in Australia.  It is one of my country's most special holidays.  For some who consider themselves non-religious, ANZAC Day is the day they would consider holy and sacred.

I've been doing some thinking about how I, as a Christian, feel about ANZAC Day and war.  Once again, I'm caught in the middle.  For me, ANZAC Day is a day of thankfulness, remembrance and national pride.  But I do not glorify war.

Last year, Duncan and I watched Gallipoli (a movie I have watched many times since childhood) and I found myself crying for the first time.  I was struck by the absolute horrors of war, the waste of young men's lives.  If war can be avoided, then it should be.  I just finished reading Solomon's Song by Bryce Courtenay last week which describes the Gallipoli campaign during World War I in all its drawn-out and bloody detail.  When one of the main characters, Ben, receives a medal after surviving Gallipoli, he says this to his superior:
"Your Lordship, there is nothing good about this war, except that good men are dying because of the arrogance and stupidity of the old men who lead them." (page 594)

Yes, when it comes to war it angers me that pompous leaders sit back and smoke cigars while soldiers and civilians lose their lives over something they did not start.

But I do not consider myself a pacifist.  War is sometimes a necessary evil in this fallen world.  If one country attacks another then it is right for the country being attacked to defend itself.  When it comes to living at peace with one another, we can only do we what we can.  We cannot control others' actions.  This applies to all relationships - both individually and at a national level.

Last week, my mum said, "Why do we always have to get involved in other countries' affairs?"  I agree, partly.  But then if everyone had that attitude, gross injustices would be done and conflicts not worked through.  Matthew 18:15-19 would never happen.  Sometimes we need to intervene.  But when we should and when we shouldn't, I really don't know.

War is just another reality of life after the Fall.  We live in a world that has rejected God and war is one of the symptoms of it.

Yesterday I remembered the thousands of Australian men and women who lost their lives in wars.  I am thankful for the peace and freedom we enjoy in this country.  I am thankful for their courage.  I honestly don't know how some of them manage to live their lives, despite the horrors they have seen.  They have seen things I've only seen in nightmares.  I pray for them and their families.

Lest we forget.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bible Verse of the Day

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18

Monday, April 23, 2012

Operation World

This really is a must-have resource for all Christians.  In the past few months it has really helped my haphazard prayer life.

Operation World is an alphabetical index of all the countries in the world.  It includes basic facts about each country such as their population, type of government etc as well as answers to prayer and challenges to prayer.  This has helped me become more informed about approximately how many followers of Jesus there are in each nation and where prayer is needed the most.

Duncan and I have the old 2001 print edition which looks like this:

But there is now an updated 2010 version:

Or you can visit the website.

Use these to uphold Christians around the world in prayer.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Funny

During these serious and troubled times, people of all faiths should remember these four great religious truths:

1. Muslims do not recognise Jews as God's Chosen People.
2. Jews do not recognise Jesus as the Messiah.
3. Protestants do not recognise the Pope as the leader of the Christian world.
4. Baptists do not recognise each other at the liquor store.

A Sunday school teacher was telling her class the story of the Good Samaritan.  She asked the class, "If you saw a person lying on the roadside, all wounded and bleeding, what would you do?"
A thoughtful little girl broke the hushed silence, "I think I'd throw up."

A Sunday school teacher asked, "Johnny, do you think Noah did a lot of fishing when he was on the Ark?" "No," replied Johnny. "How could he, with just two worms!"

The preacher's five-year-old daughter noticed that her father always paused and bowed his head for a moment before starting his sermon. One day, she asked him why.
"Well, Honey," he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his messages. "I'm asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon."
"How come He doesn't answer it?" she asked.

Little Johnny and his family were having Sunday dinner at his grandmother's house. Everyone was seated around the table as the food was being served. When little Johnny received his plate, he started eating right away.
"Johnny! Please wait until we say our prayer," said his mother.
"I don't need to," the boy replied.
"Of course you do," his mother insisted. "We always say a prayer before eating at our house."
"That's at our house," Johnny explained. "But this is Grandma's house and she knows how to cook.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Turning Japanese?

Back in my uni days, there certainly seemed to be a vibe among Christian Union students that becoming an overseas missionary was the ultimate way to make your life count for Jesus.  I don't doubt that the passion many of the students had was sincere.  Some of these students have gone on to Bible college and/or paid ministry roles.  But at the time, as a brand new hot-off-the-press Christian, I remember feeling on the outer because I didn't want to go overseas or even consider doing MTS.  I was still figuring out how to tell my non-Christian friends and family about the biggest change that had occurred in my life.  I didn't really know what this following Jesus thing was all about.  After speaking to a very wise lady about my 'not wanting to be a missionary' guilt, she said to me, "I'm so glad you're not going because you know you'd be going for the wrong reason.  Maybe at this point in your faith, God just wants you to learn as much about Him as you can."  While mixed motives dominate a lot of our decision-making, she was right.  I would be going to follow the crowd.  I've always disliked pressure to do something just because everyone else is doing it.

Over the years, I've watched the few churches I've been a part of support those who have gone to live overseas and serve Christ cross-culturally.  I've prayed for and financially supported some of these people.  But there was always an element of separation.  They were doing something I felt I could never do.  They were so much braver and gifted than I could ever be. 

I heard a missionary use the phrase, "I'll go down the well if you hold the rope."  They wished to emphasise that missions are always a partnership between those who give and those who go.  That inspired me to want to be a better rope-holder.  How could I REALLY support these people instead of really not thinking about them for much of the time?  This change started to occur when I moved to the country.  I started to experience loneliness and isolation.  I felt like an alien in the community and sometimes even in the church.  I felt like a lot of people back in Perth who had promised to visit and keep in touch had forgotten us.  Then I heard that a lot of missionaries feel the same way and I felt convicted.  They had left everything behind to serve Jesus and perhaps some of those who had promised to hold the rope had left them dangling.  I had neglected to pray for them.  No, my experience is not like being a missionary.  I have family and friends only a few hours away rather than half a world away.  I speak the same language as those who live around me (mostly hmmm).  But last year I had an epiphany.  I've been wanting to leave the farming life so much because I missed my friends.  However, maybe instead of wanting to run towards comfort, I should be asking God what He wants me to learn from this.  Is He using our time here to prepare us for something?  Then late last year, I started to seriously ask the question...could I go overseas?  I'd thought of myself as a rope-holder....but could I go down the well?

The main dilemma associated with such questions is that 'me' is now 'we'.  It has certainly led to some interesting discussions between Duncan and I.  One thing has confused me greatly though.  When it comes to big life decisions, what happens if both of us want different things?  Does God give one spouse a passion for something, but not the other?

If I did go anywhere, I always thought it would be Africa or Europe.  I really didn't ever consider visiting Asia, but after doing some ministry among Chinese students five years ago, I started to reconsider.  I became more interested in Asian cultures.  I felt the weight of the reality that billions of Asians did not know Jesus.  Then at the end of last year...seemingly out of nowhere...God laid Japan on my heart.

It sounds silly, but suddenly all things Japanese started popping up around me.  Maybe it was because my church supports a couple who are missionaries in Japan.  Or maybe it was because I started reading Wendy's blog On the Edge of Ordinary about life as a missionary in Japan.  Perhaps it is because a friend of ours is a high school Japanese teacher and went on a trip there last year (some other friends of ours also went skiing in Japan).  Or maybe it was lots of little (and quite ridiculous) things like Duncan wearing a t-shirt with 'Osaka' written on it, or the fact that I re-watched series 1 of Heroes last year and think the Japanese characters, Hiro and Ando, are hilarious.  Maybe it was when I started reading more about it, the more I felt that in some ways it sounded a bit like Australia - small percentage of Christians, secular, people just focused on working and making money etc.  Whatever it is, it seems like Japan has suddenly been thrust into my face and I can't stop thinking about it.

One thing I'm very excited about is that Duncan and I have taken on the role of 'missions convenors' at our church.  Besides reading out missionaries' prayer letters and encouraging the congregation to pray for them, we are planning to write regularly to missionaries on behalf of the church.  It won't necessarily be anything spiritual (and definitely not if they're in a 'closed' country), but we just want to let them know they haven't been forgotten.  I know I appreciate it when friends in Perth just drop me a line and let me know the little things that happen during their makes me feel like I'm there.  Another thing we hope to do is make Powerpoint presentations of the main points of prayer for the different countries where the missionaries we support are.  This would include the fast facts about the country - i.e. how many Christians there are and what the greatest needs of that country are.  I've been using Operation World to help me pray.

I've seen mission talks done well and done very, very badly.  The bad one was by an old lady who was an ex-overseas missionary.  Her talk was basically one big guilt-trip and she said something like, "It's not IF you go's WHEN."  It was a horrible talk and was right when I was struggling with thinking God didn't love me because I wasn't a very good evangelist and didn't want to go overseas so it was NOT what I needed to hear!  A really good one was at a camp where the speaker said, "No, you shouldn't all go because some of God's people need to remain here to reach out to Aussies.  But some of you should go, and if you've been thinking about it, then explore that.  Maybe out of all the people in this room 50% should go...."  It was done so well, and actually made me WANT to be involved in missions rather than feeling I HAD to.  Such a difference.  I'm conscious in wanting to encourage our local congregation to take a real interest in overseas missions...not beat them over the head.  After all, I'm not overseas so I'd look like the biggest hypocrite otherwise.

Where will all of this go?  I really don't know.  All I know is that my time in the country has taught me that the isolation missionaries must feel is much greater.  If I can play a part in encouraging them by holding the rope, then I want to do it.  I guess reading Don't Waste Your Life gave me a real shake.  There is not always a lot of encouragement in churches to forsake all for Christ's sake.  It's so easy just to think we need investment properties, insurance and bigger salaries as if we can somehow build empires here on earth and be 'safe'.  Maybe Duncan and I will stay...but maybe we will go one day.  Sometimes it can be scary to ask God that question...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Don't Waste Your Life

This is the second John Piper book I read. For some reason I left it to hibernate in my bookshelf for seven and half years after receiving it as a 21st birthday present. Perhaps it was the title which proved all-too confronting at first (although the couple who gave it to me assured me that they often give this book as a gift, and not because they particularly thought I was wasting my life).

It was this very challenging quote from the book posted by Karen last year which finally prompted me to bump this book up my reading list.

Oh, how many lives are wasted by people who believe that the Christian life means simply avoiding badness and providing for the family. So there is no adultery, no stealing, no killing, no embezzlement, no fraud – just lots of hard work during the day, and lots of TV and PG-13 videos in the evening (during quality family time), and lots of fun stuff on the weekend – woven around church (mostly). This is life for millions of people. Wasted life. We were created for more, much more…..

No-one will ever want to say to the Lord of the universe five minutes after death, I spent every night playing games and watching clean TV with my family because I loved them so much. I think the Lord will say, “That did not make me look like a treasure in your town. You should have done something besides provide for yourself and your family.”
(pages 119-120)

I had a bit of an adrenaline rush as I opened the first page. I like challenging books that aren’t afraid to pack a punch. But I was also worried that it would send me on a guilt-trip for not being an overseas missionary.

The point of the book is to encourage all Christians to make their lives count for Jesus Christ. It doesn’t say all Christians need to go and be martyred overseas, yet it doesn’t NOT say that either. Piper calls us to live our lives passionately for Jesus and his gospel (one of his ‘themes’ in all of his books seems to be to ‘make others glad in God’), and to displace leisure and pleasure as our number 1 pursuits. There is a chapter called Making Much of Christ From 8-5 for Christians in the secular workforce.  It encourages us to use our money to help those who can’t provide for their own needs, build relationships with colleagues with the purpose of spreading the gospel, and work so as not to be a burden on others. This chapter is then followed by one about missions – a passionate plea from Piper to his fellow believers to at least consider overseas mission where the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. It sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. Whether we are on the frontline or serving in the home effort, we are still soldiers.

Is the book harsh?  Well, harsh, but honest and fair, I think.  You can’t help but feel his deep passion for the things of God as he writes. I know it would be very easy for Christians to give this book a miss…but don’t. This is what Jesus calls us to – a life lived for Him.  The thought terrifies, yet thrills me.  Have a read.  Don’t be content for a comfortable, middle-class existence like the majority of the Western world.  God will give you courage.  Let Piper’s prayer be your prayer - Let none say in the end, “I’ve wasted it!”

Friday, April 13, 2012

Quote of the Day

Marriage is not about sameness, but about oneness.
- Mike Mason

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fruit, Flowers, Linen or Silk

Today Duncan and I have been married for four years!

Photo by Justine Stevens
It sounds cliched to say that time flies, but it truly does.  It feels like we have been married for only one or two years.

I'm begininng to realise that this blog is a great record of our married life.  We have changed houses, towns, churches and jobs during that time.  We have acquired numerous animals.  We have both grown and changed as people.

The traditional gifts are fruit/flowers or linen/silk (depending on which website you visit).  We haven't always given anniversary gifts, but this year I will say I have been a bit spoilt.

The past four years haven't always been easy.  There have certainly been challenges, but I am always thankful to have Duncan at my side as we walk through them together with our God.

I must say that this was not what I had planned for our anniversary....

I've had an irritated eye for the past few weeks, and after eye drops failed to help, I finally saw the doctor about it today.  He had to numb my eye and remove a piece of dirt from it.  But I had to wear a patch and put up with a blurred vision for a little while.  Sexy!  I feel like a pirate.  Arrrgh!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I Cannot Tell by William Y Fullerton

God has graciously revealed Himself to us in the pages of Scripture....

....but He hasn't revealed everything
I do not know everything there is to know about God, but I can trust Him.  Rather than concentrating on the mysteries, we need to trust the truths.

I cannot tell...but this I know.

This song reminds me that we have a trustworthy God.

I cannot tell how He whom angels worship,
Should stoop to love the peoples of the earth,
Or why as shepherd He should seek the wanderer,
With His mysterious promise of new birth.

But this I know, that He was born of Mary,
When Bethlehem's manger was His only home,
And that He lived at Nazareth and laboured,
And so the Saviour, Saviour of the world is come.

I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
As with His peace, He graced this place of tears,

And how his heart upon the cross was broken,
The crown of pain to three and thirty years.

But this I know, He heals the brokenhearted,
And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,
And lifts the burden from the heavy-laden,
For yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world is here.

I cannot tell how He will win the nations,
How He will claim His earthly heritage.
How satisfy the needs and aspirations,
Of east and west, of sinner and of sage.

But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,
And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,
And some glad day, His sun shall shine in splendour,
When He the Saviour, Saviour of the world is known.

I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
When, at His bidding, every storm is stilled,
Or who can say how great the jubilation,
When every heart with perfect love is filled.

But this I know, the skies shall thrill with rapture,
And myriad, myriad human voices sing,
And earth to heaven, and heaven to earth, will answer:
"At last the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is King!"

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Pendulum: The Great (Or Not So Great) Debate

When it comes to debates, I'm torn in two minds.

For most of my life I've swung between being highly argumentative and doing anything to avoid a fight.  I wish I could get some balance.

So, are debates helpful or a hindrance...particularly when it comes to faith issues?

Sometimes it is good to have faith-related debates.  Whether it is between two Christians, or a Christian and a non-Christian, it is good to hear others' points of view and be stretched and challenged.  To be frank, some Christians have been raised in a bubble and need to be exposed to others who don't share their faith.  They need to know why they believe what they do and not just because it's what their parents or church taught them.  Sometimes hearing different points of view can make you realise you were wrong all along, or it can strengthen you in your views.  Both of these outcomes can be beneficial in the right context.

I think we should definitely ask questions.  We should not be content knowing little, but there reaches a point where we need to realise that we cannot know what God knows.  We are finite, limited beings.  We cannot understand everything there is to know about God.  He has revealed to us what we need to know, but then He asks us to trust Him.  The Bible shows how trustworthy He has been throughout history, and so He is completely worthy of our trust.  But some people don't want to trust.  They are proud of themselves for questioning everything rather than actually seeking answers.  They are like children answering every explanation with, "Why?".

There are times when debates are not helpful.  I know of Christians who have been so rattled by meeting a very argumentative person of differing beliefs that their own faith has been badly shaken.  Nobody should want to hold on to a faith that has no reason or merit, but sometimes all sorts of seeds of doubts can be sown in new believers and it can be devastating.  The Bible tells Christians not to be yoked to false teachers.  Therefore, walking away can be a wiser option.

One thing I'm slowly learning is that the motivation behind the argument is super important.  Is the person actually interested in your point of view, or are they just picking a fight (i.e. they already know what your point of view is and just want to have a go at you about it)?  I think that's one of the reasons I seek to stay out of a lot of debates these days.  I'm just worn out by the thought of a debate that goes on and on, gets nasty, and achieves nothing.  Some people get their energy by's like caffeine to them.  I just can't be bothered anymore.  It's easier to just ask them at the beginning, "Are you really interested in my point of view, or are you just wanting an argument?"  Often they will be quite taken aback by this upfront question and retreat, saving you a lot of hassle.  I'm getting better at realising who the argumentative people on Facebook are and avoiding their 'baits'.  I refuse to get sucked in and I don't think that Facebook is a very good place for debates anyway.  I would rather speak to someone privately or in a small group - not with several hundred potential 'lurkers' looking on having a good old scoff at people getting stuck into it.

Some statements require a response.  False teaching in the church needs to be confronted.  But a lot of other subjects are just not worth debating.  I need God's wisdom to know when to step in so I don't become too argumentative or too passive.  I know I'm unlikely to change my mind about some things and so are there's no point.  All you can do is pray or agree to disagree...and move on.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Bible Verse of the Day

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
John 3:16-17

Thursday, April 05, 2012

How Deep the Father's Love For Us by Stuart Townend

I'm trying to reflect on what Easter is really about.  It's so easy to just look forward to having a four-day holiday in Dunsborough or eating chocolate.  I'm trying to quieten my thoughts and remember what the Lord has done...the price He paid to set me (and many others) free.  Ashamed I hear my mocking voice calling our among the scoffers....but yet He loves me.  What kind of love is this?

How deep the Father's love for us.
How vast beyond all measure.
That He should give His only Son,
To make a wretch His treasure.

How great the pain of searing loss.
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders.
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held Him there,
Until it was accomplished.
His dying breath has brought me life.
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom,
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer.
But this I know with all my heart,
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Random Gumtree Behaviour

I've been using Gumtree a fair bit lately.  I've known about it and what it does for quite a few years, but I've never really needed it.  Mostly I've used ebay or the online Quokka for buying and selling, but I've been impressed with friends' testimonies about how quickly they've got rid of stuff, found bargains, or acquired new housemates via Gumtree.

A couple of weeks ago I was on the hunt for a secondhand TV cabinet.  Since I had an appointment in Perth, I thought it would be the perfect time to buy one.  After being slightly overwhelmed by just how many people were selling TV cabinets in Perth, I narrowed the options down to a short list of cabinets that were NOT in far-flung suburbs. Then I started emailing and texting to find out the dimensions, and if they were still available.

What really surprised me was that out of all the people I contacted, only two got back to me.  A few text messages later, I agreed to meet up with a lady who lives in City Beach.  So I was surprised and a little annoyed that after being in morning traffic for 45 minutes, I knocked on the lady's door only to be told by her teenage daughter that she wasn't home, and that her mum hadn't told her I was coming.  Finally the lady showed up, huffing and puffing, saying she was so sorry, but she'd just been for a walk.  She was a very nice lady with a very nice TV cabinet so I agreed to take it, paid her, she helped me lift it into the back of the 4WD, and I was off.  Now I may have a few screws loose or something, but after arranging to meet someone at a certain time, why would you then decide to go for a walk?

Fast forward a week and I'm back in Perth...this time for a friend's baby shower.  I'd been trawling Gumtree for tub chairs and this time I rang the bloke who had one listed that I liked.  Finally he got back to me, but by then it was too late and I had to go home...minus my chair.

Ok, I know people selling things are not available 24/7 to take queries and it can be quite creepy inviting strangers over to your house to see your goods.  I tried to be considerate with other people's schedules even though I was only going to be in Perth for a limited time.  But if you're selling something, then why wouldn't you get back to potential buyers?  Why are they listing things online if they aren't going to respond to messages?  Surely you have to make yourself a bit more available and contactable if you want to make a sale.  They can't be that serious about selling their stuff then. 

Why invite someone over and then go out for a walk?  That's just weird!

I don't get it.  Please explain...

Monday, April 02, 2012

So It Begins....

The Eagles are off to a flyer in 2012.

Photo is from
After the dismal 2010 season, I had a dream.  A dream as in I was asleep and dreaming - not a wish.  I dreamed the Eagles were going to win the premiership in 2012.  It was one of the most pleasant and vivid dreams I have ever had.  Coming off a wooden spoon, it seemed ridiculous that they could go from cellar dwellers to premiers in just two years, but last year's rise from 16th to 4th showed that anything can happen.

Dreams are funny to recall and laugh about, but other than that, I'm not one to read too much into them.  Still, September will reveal all.

I have my fixtures reaaady with Eagles' games highlighted. :)