Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blast From The Birthday Party Past

I'm 29 today.

I decided recently that I'm not doing anything for this birthday.  As I'm one year away from the BIG 30, I think I'll save all of my party planning efforts for that.  Plus it's a busy time on the farm.  Plus I really can't be bothered.

So, I thought I'd reminisce about parties gone by:

1st birthday (1984)

3rd birthday (1986).  No, that's not my goon haha.

4th birthday (1987)

6th birthday (1989)

7th birthday (1990)

8th birthday (1991).  I'm all for Hungry Jack's birthdays (let someone else deal with the mess!)

9th birthday (1992)

10th birthday (1993)

11th birthday (1994)

13th birthday (1996)

14th birthday (1997)

16th birthday (1999)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Book Spine Poetry: God's Priorities For Today's Woman

Meredith has tagged me in a book spine poetry meme.  You can see her example here.

Here's my attempt.  Poetry is definitely not one of the my strengths, but I thought I'd give it a go.  The top book is the title.

God's Priorities For Today's Woman

Little women,
When people are big and God is small,
Share Jesus without fear.
When I don't desire God,
Walk on.
Hope for each day,
Fresh wind, fresh fire.
Don't waste your life,
Just do something,

Would you like to have a go?  It really doesn't take long at all.  Here are the rules:
  • Create a book spine poem.
  • Take a picture.
  • Post it on your blog.
  • Link back to this post.
  • Tag another blogger, or two, or ten.
I tag Iris, Amanda and Ronnica...and anyone else out there who'd like to have a go (although if this is not your thing, I completely understand).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Funny


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Written Communication Etiquette

We all know that the written word can easily be misinterpreted.

Or do we?

I've lost count of the number of times I've read an email or Facebook message and thought, Are they serious?  Or are they just mucking around?  I work in admin.  Reading and replying to emails is a big part of my job, yet it never ceases to amaze me how blunt some people can be.  Especially when I get emails like this:

Do this.

When these are the kinds of electronic messages I get from strangers, I'll be darned if I want to get them from people I call my friends.

Doesn't this look much better:

Hi Sarah,
Could you please do this.

It only took a few extra words, a few extra keystrokes on the writer's behalf, but it changed the tone of the whole message.  While receiving the first kind of message immediately gets my back up, the second makes me want to do what I'm being asked a lot more.

It's the same with text messages.  I ask someone if they want me to get something for them and they reply:


I think Yes pls would be a much better response, you rude person!

While there will always be many issues concerning written communication (you can't see the person's facial expression etc), that doesn't take the onus off the writer for making sure their tone and intent is as clear as possible.  Here are some tips:

1.  Thou shalt not use caps lock. 
You might think you're making a joke, but if I get a message like this - SARAH, YOU FOOL!!!!!!!!!  - I will think you're angry.  Caps lock looks like you're shouting.

2.  Thou shalt go easy on the exclamation marks
One...two at the very most...should be enough to make your point.

3.  Thou shalt use emoticons, acronyms and abbreviations to show you mean well.
This is an issue I have with baby boomers on Facebook (this really deserves a whole post of its own).  I've noticed many people over 60 don't have much of a clue when it comes to these, and, therefore, most of my 'run-ins' on Facebook have occurred with people in this generation.  Consider the message above:
I've had some people write similar messages to me, thinking it was a huge joke, and I've ended up quite cross and embarrassed by them.  If you're really joking, consider writing it like this:
Sarah, you fool. ;)
The wink (and lack of caps lock and exclamation marks) makes all the difference to the tone.  If I get a message like that from someone, I will assume they are mucking around.  I've come to the conclusion that you can never have too many smileys, winks or LOLs.  Some friends probably think I took way too many happy pills before I typed my message to them, but it's better to receive a message littered with smileys than one with none at all.

Side note: Adding LOL to the end of a sentence does not mean you can be a complete knob to someone and get away with it.  It's like those people who say, "You're offence."  I don't think so, buddy!

4.  Thou shalt add a friendly preamble
Even if your purpose for writing is to get something from the person, it's polite to greet them before getting straight to the point.  Say 'Hello and how are you?' and maybe add a brief comment about the weather.  It's better than getting an email saying blah blah blah, do this.

Aim to make your written word,
Just as you would want it heard.
Go the lengths to make it nice.
Winks and smileys will suffice.

While some will misinterpret you,
You have to think it through.
Be careful with the way you write.
Make sure you don't start a fight.

What do you think is good written communication etiquette?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Our good friends, Sarah and Craig, welcomed their first child on the 16th April - a boy called Wesley.

We are so happy for them!  Their faith in God is an encouragement to me, and it is so beautiful seeing them with their little man.

Here is the very delighted and thankful new mum and her new son who was 2.5 weeks old at the time.

Friday, May 18, 2012

One To One Bible Reading

As soon as I read and reviewed The Trellis and the Vine, I knew the next book I wanted to get my hands on was One To One Bible Reading by David Helm.  Since The Trellis and the Vine is about ministry getting back to basics (Christians discipling one another through prayer and Bible reading), it seemed logical to read a book that would help me know just how to do it.

I'm no stranger to one-to-one.  I've found it so much more helpful than small groups at times as you really get to know the Word and the person you're meeting with at the same time.  In my early days as a Christian, I benefited enormously from having mature Christian women meet with me over the Bible.  If they are reading, then I say a huge thank you!  Now that I'm not in a small group, I know that meeting with another Christian woman one-to-one would be a wise use of my time with eternal significance.  I'm still thinking through things and praying for God to direct me to the right person (whether they be a non-Christian, new Christian or established Christian).  One thing that has hindered me in getting started is: How do I go about asking someone? (I feel quite nervous just at the thought of it).

This is why One To One Bible Reading was such an encouragement to me.  It addresses that very question and I loved the fact that the first step Helm suggests you should do is pray.  Too often Christians advise each other to 'just do it' (stealing Nike's slogan for a minute) rather than asking our Father for His wisdom first.  Start by praying that God will lead you to someone to whom He is already looking to reveal more of Himself (page 23).  Of course, after you've prayed, you will have to bite the bullet and actually ask someone.  There's no easy way around it, but Helm does encourage us to consider that although we may be scared of asking someone, that doesn't mean it is a scary thing for them to consider.  The people who invited me to meet with them one-to-one may have been nervous about asking me, I don't know, but I was delighted they asked.

Another thing I really liked about this book is its flexibility.  It doesn't give a 'right way' to do one-to-one, but offers a lot of suggestions.  Some of these include the advantages and disadvantages of preparing a study and reading the passage before the meeting compared with just turning up and 'winging it' (like just reading together with no set plan or questions other than asking each other, "Did anything stand out?" etc).  The choice is yours.

He also suggests that one-to-one does not have to be an open-ended commitment.  It seems silly now, but this was a revelation to me at the time.  You could meet with someone for six weeks or a few months and then meet with someone else.  One thing he does recommend though is arranging a time for the next meeting after you've had your current one.

Part II: Frameworks and Ideas contains everything you need in regards of sample questions and passages to read depending on who you're meeting with (i.e. if you're meeting with a non-Christian, you may want to look at Mark's gospel, or if you're meeting with someone who is suffering, you may want to read Job or some Psalms).  It looks at two well-known Bible reading methods - COMA (Context Observation Meaning Application) which I've used, and the Swedish method which was new to me.  I skimmed over this section a bit, but I expect I will examine it more closely when I actually start meeting with someone.

It's rare to find a book with so much encouragement and helpful information contained in just 103 pages.  It has given me much more confidence in pursuing meeting one-to-one with another Christian.  I highly recommend this book for every established Christian.

It is available from the Matthias Media Australian store here.

There is also a US store here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Small Groups: When To Leave

This is going to be a tricky post to write.  Much of what I say here is what I'm wrestling with at the moment, so I'm not claiming any authority on this issue.

I've been a part of two types of small groups during my life - those that have an end date and those that are indefinite.  The first type is obviously much easier to leave.  If you are unhappy in your group, but not sure how to leave well, then it can just be a matter of hanging on until the end of the year or whenever the group has agreed to stop meeting.

The group that keeps on meeting together year after year is obviously much harder to leave.  This will require a deliberate action of leaving on your behalf.  Unless it's something obvious (like you're moving away), it can be hard to explain to the rest of the group why you're leaving.  Even if they know you've been unhappy or they've been treating you badly, there can be a sense of indignation from group members.

I've mentioned before in this series why small groups have been so beneficial to me in my Christian walk.  But like anything good they can be distorted and corrupted by sin.  There is the potential for Christians to be built up and (sadly) torn down by their small groups.

When mulling over whether to leave your small group, you need to ask the question, "Why should a Christian small group exist?"  I believe the purpose of small groups are:

To build each other up to love Christ and each other more through the study of Scripture, prayer, and being involved in each another's lives.

The reason I joined groups before I was a Christian and shortly after I became one was primarily to understand God's Word more so I would know how to follow Him in this world.  As my Christian walk progressed, my reason for being a part of groups changed slightly.  It was still to learn from the Scriptures, but I was now in a stage where I wasn't just a learner; I could also be a teacher.  God was molding and making me into the person He wanted me to be, and so I wanted to meet with others who were in the middle of this sanctification process - to spur each other on to love and good deeds.  For me, small groups were a way to get to know people much better than I could in a church context of 50-100 people.  After all, how can you love, care and pray for someone if you know nothing about them?

Having said all this, the next bit is the difficult bit.  If you have an idea of what small groups should be for, then how do you deal with meeting with fellow fallen, but also redeemed people?  When things get tough, do you quit or stick it out?

Here are some of the reasons I've been wrestling with as I've gone through the process of actively leaving a small group:

If there is not actually any spiritual learning going on
When I join a small group, I'm wanting much more than social chit chat.  I can get plenty of shallow-level conversations at church and other places.  I think Christian small groups should be deeper than that.  Some groups call themselves 'Bible study groups' yet there is no actual Bible study taking place.  One group I'm a part of do not even bring Bibles to the group and, if they do, they don't open them.  I don't mean that I want to study the Bible like an academic textbook either.  I want to really look at the Scriptures with others, discuss, wrestle and pray about what we've been learning and what it means for our lives today.  I don't want to watch DVDs of sermons and then have everyone discuss the weather.  That's lazy.  And I don't want to be in a group which thinks we need to rely on 'experts' to teach us.  I'm not saying the group necessarily needs to write their own studies, but we need to stop seeing the Bible as a book that is beyond our understanding.  Everyone I've been in a group with can read and is able to understand.  In this situation, I think all you can do is encourage the group to study the Bible and offer to lead some studies.  If they don't want to do this and people aren't being encouraged/challenged in their faith, then it's probably time to leave.

When there is a negative 'group culture'
I've had some shocking experiences in small groups.  Mostly these have been in all-women groups where I've been belittled by other group members.  Looking back, I don't think I handled it very well.  I should have confronted some people privately, but often it was the majority of the group who were being unkind.  In typical fashion, I thought of witty comebacks hours afterwards when I'd already gone home crying.  That's why I'm very against groups full of women of the same age or in the same stage of life where I've felt like the odd bod. (I also better add that I have had the privilege of being part of a couple of fantastic women's groups as well.)

A negative group culture can also mean where there is blatant sin going on and everybody is discussing it like it's one big joke.  Statements like: "I drove 120km/hr to get here and didn't see any cops." (everyone in the group chortles) or "My friend bought this sermon series and I burnt some illegal copies of it." (everyone chortles again).  This can be so discouraging when the very people who are meant to encourage each other to 'swim against the tide' (God's way rather than the world's way) are being anything but encouraging, and accuse you of being judgemental if you dare speak up.

A decision to leave a small group should not be taken lightly.  These people are your brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are all sinners and live in a fallen world.  No group will ever be perfect and if you leave a group after the slightest of problems, then you'll never find a group to commit to.  I'm also dead set against joining a church or group and only thinking of what you can get out of it.  Therefore, make every effort to at least try to discuss the issues you're having with someone in the group - either with the group leader or the person in the group who hurt you (I find this so, so hard!).  If they are unresponsive, then at least you can say you tried.

But there comes a time when you have to look after your own spiritual health.  If you're coming home from your small group every week feeling belittled, downcast and discouraged in your walk with Christ, that's not good.  When that's the case and you've tried to address the problem, it's probably time to move on.  Your departure may be the kick up the pants the group needs.

Some people will probably disagree with my reflections and that's fine.  I'd love to hear from anyone who felt they should leave their small group and how they went about it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Leading Better Bible Studies

I've mentioned this book before, but it really deserves to be reviewed in more detail.

This was an invaluable resource to me at uni (and afterwards) while I was learning to lead Bible studies for the first time.  It teaches you how to write studies from scratch yourself.  Even though there are some really good study guides out there, this book will give you the confidence that you can read and understand the Bible yourself, and then teach it to others.  The Bible is not a mystical kind of book that needs to be explained by gurus.

The authors, Karen Morris and Rod Morris, have extensive experience in adult education.  Quite a few chapters are dedicated to explaining different learning styles (i.e. visual, auditory, kinaesthetic).  I personally found Chapter 3: Learning from the Bible in groups to be the most helpful as it shows you how to apply the different learning styles to particular Bible passages.  Some people find the question and answer method of Bible study quite boring so this chapter shows you how to use flow charts, diagrams, compare and contrast lists, role plays and drawings to assist people to learn effectively.

The book is quite a nice balance between teaching the mechanics of how to prepare a Bible study with the practicalities of leading a group and the issues Christian leaders need to wrestle with such as godly character and how to resolve conflict.  There is also a chapter called Developing group life which shows you how to make sure your group is more than an academic exercise, but people who love each other dearly and seek to spur each other on in living for Christ.

If you're a Bible study leader, this is a must-have book.  If you've ever considered leading a Bible study, but not sure if you're cut out for it, it may well give you some confidence to pursue this.

Friday, May 11, 2012

It Was a Jolly Night With Mary

I went to see Mary Poppins on stage in Perth last Friday night.  My friend Emma (who I used to live with back in the day) invited me and booked the tickets a few months ago.  It was so nice to have a night out with a good friend.

If you live in Perth and haven't seen the show, then I highly recommend it.  The set is spectacular and Mary actually flies! :)  Having said that, it really is a show for the ladies (Duncan scoffs at musicals..."No-one just starts singing and dancing in the's not normal!")

The funniest thing was that it had been raining all that day in Perth and was still raining when Emma and I arrived.  We watched heaps of people make their way across the carpark with umbrellas.  How appropriate!

Show's about to start!  Better put my camera away.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Pendulum: Christians and the Environment

With climate change and the carbon tax still featuring prominently in Australian politics, it seems that many people I've spoken to seem to fit into one of two camps when it comes to election time:

The Environment Religion
We need to be spending our time saving the planet by reducing waste, taxing companies which pollute, having environmentally-friendly homes, recycling...and even having less children.

The Environment Doesn't Matter
If I want to get in my car and drive 10 seconds down the road instead of walking, I'll do it.  If I want to litter, I'll do it.  Recycling is too hard and I don't want to be bothered.  Bring on disposable plates, utensils, nappies...  God is going to create a new earth anyway.  Who are you to tell me how to live?

When it comes to following Jesus, I think there is a third way.  It's the way that recognises that making God's name known should be our number one priority, and that our main focus should be people...not animals, not the earth.  Yet, this way also recognises that God appointed people to rule over creation on His behalf, and that rule involves not abusing what He has made, but caring for it as we have been commanded to do.  Just because our world is marred by the effects of sin does not excuse God's people from this command.  The creation is still 'very good'.  Yes, God will make a new heavens and a new earth, but that does not free us from our obligation to care for this one.

I also believe that we are to enjoy this creation.  We are to delight in what God has made and thank Him for it.  We are to feast on the abundance of good things He has provided us with.  We are to worship the Creator and delight in beautiful beaches, forests and gorges.  The trouble is that the world gets this confused.  Many people make 'saving the planet' their religion and forget about the God who created it.

The other extreme is frugality.  Years ago there was a segment on Today Tonight called 'Perth's Biggest Scrooge'.  This featured people who reused their teabags and Glad Wrap, but the winner was a guy who refused to let his wife have a hot bath!  I'm not sure if these people were being frugal to save money or to save the environment, but I don't think this is the right way to live.  You can be wise in the way you use the resources at your disposal without being a stinge.

Personally I think many Christians could learn a lot from their non-Christian friends who try to live more sustainably.  I remember not long after I became a Christian, I got a lift with some Christian friends.  I was eating in their car and asked them if they had a rubbish bag.  Suddenly the window next to me came down and the driver turned around and smiled at me, indicating I should toss my rubbish onto the road.!  I've met Christians who don't recycle because they think it's too hard or they don't read the instructions for what goes in the recycling bin and end up chucking in a pizza box with old pizza still inside it.  Yuck!  Come on guys.  It's not that difficult.  Each city/shire will indicate which items are recyclable and which aren't.  I don't know why some people ooh and aah like I'm some kind of saint when they find out we recycle.  It's such a basic thing that everyone can do.

Caring for the environment is not a religion.  Christians should be focused on telling the gospel to all who will hear so God's name will be praised throughout the earth.  But caring for what He has made is something we should do to bring glory to Him.

Amanda wrote an excellent post three years ago called Environmentalism or Frugal Living (or a Bit of Both).  Check it out.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Get On Your Soapbox #21

It's over four months since Christmas and those cute, cuddly kittens and puppies won't be so little anymore.

When I hear about people who change their pets like they change their underwear, it really gets my goat!

Someone tells me they have a new pet bird.  A little while later I ask them how their bird is going and I get an answer like this:

"Oh we don't have the bird anymore.  It didn't do anything interesting.  The kids were bored with it.  I was bored with it.  So we gave it away/opened its cage and let it fly away..."


"Oh yeah....the bird.  We forgot to feed it/fill up its water container and it died.  Oops!"

When I ask them how the dog is, I get an answer like this:

"I think we'll have to give the dog away.  The kids are bored with it.  Nobody takes it for walks."

But gets worse...

I had a conversation with someone who said she was sick of her kids not taking care of their pets.  Since she didn't want to do it, she said she was contemplating just letting the animals starve to show the kids they need to take some responsibility.

Rightio, so the innocent animals have to starve/dehydrate/drown in their own poo just to teach your kids a lesson?

Then there was the time someone I know put her cat outside on a 40+C day in Perth with no water for it.  When I asked her if she was going to put some water out for the cat, she replied, "Oh it'll find water somewhere."

Rightio.  Your cat will just miraculously manage to find water in suburbia on a stinking hot day?  That person then got annoyed at me because I filled up a container of water and left it outside for the cat.

I was talking to a friend on the phone the other day and she said, "If I see one more post on Facebook from someone giving away kittens because they can't be stuffed getting their cat sterilised, I'm going to really cut sick at them!"

A pet is a commitment.  Cats and dogs can live until they're 20 (or more).  That's a long time.  Way longer than when the kids get bored or go back to school.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Is A Shared Past Enough?

As I've left school and become an adult, I've found enduring friendships to be a real blessing.

I have a friend who I've known since kindergarten.  We went to the same school all the way through to Year 12.  In fact, she just called me this afternoon for a chat.

I have five friends from high school who I keep in touch with regularly  Four of them were my bridesmaids.  They are very dear friends to me.

But not all of my childhood friendships have survived time and distance.  Statistics show that a friendship lasts for an average of seven years.  Some friends were such a part of my life during school days, but now I only see their faces on Facebook.  When I read their statuses and see their photos, I can't help thinking how different our lives are now.  I doubt that we could ever go back to what we had.

Some people say that sharing your childhoods is not enough of a reason to remain friends as an adult.  I think that's true.  It's not enough on its own.  You still need to have something in common as you move towards the future.  As fun as it can be to reminisce about the past, a friendship cannot be based solely on that.

Even though we've all changed, I still feel there is something there.  I doubt we would make the effort to see each other in person, but there still seems to be an enduring bond - especially with some of the girls I went to primary school with.  This really hit home when my Nan became sick and passed away.  I sent a private message to some ladies who I'd become friends with as an adult, and some of them did not reply, even when I let them know of her death.  But some of my primary school friends sent me messages and commented on my status as soon as they read it.  They said they were so sorry for my loss.  Even though many years had passed, they still remembered meeting her at my house when they used to come over to play.

This made me question what friendship truly is about.  I may not see some of these girls in person (although I would love a primary school reunion), but they still remain part of my life.  They were there during some of the most humiliating moments of my childhood.  Some of them have kids now and I send them comments, encouraging them as mothers when they feel like they've just had enough.  Likewise, they encourage me with my book and wish me well when I'm sick.  They are not Christians, yet they have often showed me greater love than some Christians - even from behind a computer screen.

Is a shared past enough?  No, I don't think so.  Not on its own.  But I've come to see that a shared childhood creates a unique bond.

Do you keep in touch with school friends?  Tell me stories...

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Quote of the Day

One of the greatest things about being a teenager is the sharing, the closeness, and the great times you have with your friends.
- Unknown

Having fun with my friend, Christina, at my 16th birthday (1999)
Still having fun together 13 years later

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Acts 2:46 Garage Sale

Two years ago, I had the Acts 2:46 Stall.

Ten days ago, I had the Acts 2:46 Garage Sale.

I've had the desire to sell my unwanted household items to raise money for ministry and charity for the past few years.  I'd been hoping and praying that the garage sale would generate lots of money for our chosen charity.

I won't beat around the was a complete and utter flop!  Despite having the garage sale at my parents' house in Albany so it would be central, advertising in the local papers and on Facebook, I made just over $50 in four hours.  Oh we had quite a few people come....but they weren't interested in buying.  I think many people go to garage sales looking for specific things and, if they can't find them, then they don't bother browsing for anything else.  It did seem that everything was against us that day.  There were heaps of other garage sales on at the same time, plus it started raining so heavily, we had to shut the garage roller door for a while to stop streams of water coming in.  The persistent wind and rain made my roadside signs wet and even blew some off the bins I'd stuck them to.

Since there was such a lot of stuff left over and there was no way we wanted to take it home again, Duncan and I gave it all to an old lady who fundraises for the local hospice by having a monster garage sale once a year.  She was so grateful.  My Nan had spent some time in the hospice so it was good to help them out.

Despite the stall and now the garage sale failing, I still really want to keep doing this.  Duncan hates garage sales and even joked to a friend of his that I'd sell the shirt off his back if I had the chance. Haha!

I will not give up!

Some of the junk before it left our house

All set up ready

That's me in the background trying to make a hasty escape before Dunc took the photo