Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Forgiving Hitler

I don't know what goes through one's mind when they see a title like this.  Can anyone forgive Hitler?

Carrying on with the topic of forgiveness, I thought I would review this book as well.  I first read it eight or nine years ago during a women's book club which used to exist at my old church in Perth.  It's one of those stories that really sticks with you because it is someone's personal story.  Written by Kel Richards, this is the story of Kathy Diosy, a Jewish woman who lived in Budapest, Hungary prior to and during World War 2.  After her life was destroyed by the Nazis and her father died in a concentration camp, she makes her way to Australia with her mother.  After her teenage daughter was invited to church by a friend, Kathy is confronted with the gospel.  She later puts her faith in Jesus Christ and makes peace with her past after her anger had long burned against the Nazis.

It is a pretty riveting and powerful story.  It's not a complete biography - it mainly focuses on her experiences during the war and life in Australia.  Although the parts during the war are pretty gripping reading, I personally would have liked to have had more focus placed on her conversion and life as a Christian.

One of the ladies in the book club remarked that she wasn't sure whether Kathy really had forgiven Hitler.  I think that's something between Kathy and God, and not something anyone else can comment on.  After reading Unpacking Forgiveness, I'm not sure whether Forgiving Hitler is the right title for this book (but I don't have any other suggestions either).  I don't know if any person can offer Hitler forgiveness since he is dead (and was likely unrepentant).  I know what Kathy means...she has come to terms with the gross injustices done to her and others, and has left it in God's hands.  I'm just not sure about the title.

One of the best things about this book is that it is someone's personal experience of evil which should shake us all up a bit about the reality of living in this world.  Many of us have been untouched by such injustice and could never understand what Kathy has gone through.  It is a stark reminder that issues such as injustice and forgiveness are not a walk in the park, and should not be just glossed over or swept under the carpet.  This book names and identifies evil for what it is.

But the greatest thing about this book is that it points us all back to our need for a Saviour.  No matter who we are or what we've done (or how 'good' we think we are), all of us have fallen short of God's standard.  We have sinned against God and against each other.  We all deserve judgement.  We all need God's forgiveness.

The back of the book says, It's a journey to discover who needs to forgive whom.

This book is available from the Matthias Media Australian store here.

There is also a US store here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Unpacking Forgiveness

This is a book I read a while ago now, and have been meaning to review every since.  After watching Revenge, I felt now would be an appropriate time.

Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns is one of the most brilliant, thought-provoking, challenging and helpful books I have read during my 10 years as a Christian.  It is a book I recommend every Christian should read, although it will no doubt anger some.

For a long time I've been concerned with how some Christians define and view forgiveness.  It has been a topic I've been wrestling with for five years, and although I have a lot ot learn on the issue, I feel very uncomfortable with how forgiveness is being modelled among Christians.  Here's what I have observed:

An emphasis on telling hurt people, "You need to forgive," but an unwillingness to tell a perpetrator, "You need to repent."

The idea of forgiveness as something internal...like a feeling.   I hear a lot of people say, "Oh Bob hurt me, but then I just forgave him in my heart."

A lack of people willing to help those who have been hurt do the Matthew 18 thing.  It's hard enough to confront someone who hurt you without hearing fellow Christians say, "I'm not getting involved.  I don't want to take sides."

An emphasis on curing bitterness as the main purpose of forgiveness.

Finally, a Christian book that addresses these issues properly!

Brauns is very concerned about the rise of what he calls 'therapeutic forgiveness' in the church.  In Chapter 4: More Than A Feeling he criticises a book called Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve which was written by Lewis Smedes in the eighties.  This book describes forgiveness as ceasing to feel anger or resentment over an offense or perceived offence.  Brauns believes 'forgiveness without repentance' cheapens forgiveness, misunderstands God's forgiveness, and refuses to identify and name evil.

Brauns attempts to really unpack what forgiveness is...and what it's not.  He defines forgiveness as:
A commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated. (page 56)
He addresses a question I have (and probably many others have): Do I need to forgive someone who is unrepentant?  He starts with looking at God's forgiveness offered in Jesus. 

God's forgiveness is conditional.  Only those who repent and believe are saved.
So God offers the present of forgiveness to all people.  Does this mean that all people are forgiven?
The answer to that question is emphatically no.  Like any present, the gift of forgiveness must be opened.  We receive the gift of forgiveness by turning in faith to Christ. (page 51)

We need to start with God's forgiveness of us so we know how to forgive others.  Brauns argues that we forgive as God forgave us.  How should Christians do this?  We should start by having a disposition of grace towards those who offend us (page 55).  But God does not forgive the unrepentant as this would go against His justice and holiness.  We should have a 'spirit of forgiveness' and actively try and repair the relationship, but Brauns insists all efforts should be made to bring the perpetrator towards repentance (Luke 17:3-4).

We are commanded to forgive, no doubt about it.  If someone asks for forgiveness many, MANY times, then we are to keep forgiving.  When we forgive, we are making a commitment to no longer hold that person's sin against them, just as God no longer holds our sin against us.  But the book argues that goal of forgiveness is reconciliation.  It is an active thing between two parties...not something someone does in the quietness of their heart without making any sort of attempt to approach the other person.

Now I know that full reconciliation may not always be possible.  Trust may be lost.  For example, a parent might forgive a pedophile who tried to harm their children, but that doesn't mean they have to let them near their children again.  As mentioned earlier, forgiveness does not automatically eliminate all consequences of sin.  This is not a punishment from God, but how God disciplines, trains and teaches His children (punishment and discipline are NOT the same).  Sometimes you may not be able to confront the person.  Maybe you don't know how to contact them.  Maybe they are dead.  Maybe the offence is minor and can be overlooked.  Sometimes you just have try to let go and let God deal with it.

One thing the book (and my own experience) has taught me was that therapeutic forgiveness does not bring peace and an end to bitterness.  While the main goal of forgiveness is not inner peace for myself, I feel more at peace when I know I've done my best to approach the person and sort it out.  However they respond, I can know that God has it in control, that He sees all, and that He is the one who will avenge.  Despite feelings of anger and hurt, He enables me to pray for that person, and to treat them graciously.  The command to love our enemies and do good to those who mistreat us, and the enabling of the Holy Spirit in us to carry out these commands is the cure for bitterness.

The church as a whole really needs to stop sticking their heads in the sand, and start helping people forgive and reconcile as properly as possible.  We are called to be peacemakers, however tiring and seemingly petty some people's grievances may be.  We need to take sin seriously and call people to repent as well as to forgive.

If you only read one other book this year...read this one!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Quote of the Day

Forgiving costs us our sense of justice.  We all have this innate sense deep within our souls, but it has been perverted by our selfish, sinful natures.  We want to see 'justice' done, but the justice we envision satisfies our own interests.  We must realise that justice has been done.  God is the only rightful administrator of justice in all of creation, and His justice has been satisfied.  In order to forgive our brother, we must be satisfied with God's justice and forego the satisfaction of our own.
- Jerry Bridges

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Season 1 of Revenge finished last night.

For those who haven't watched the show, it's about a young woman whose father was framed, convicted (and later murdered) for a heinous crime he didn't commit back when she was a girl.  Years later, she returns to the Hamptons under a new name to exact revenge on the people who were behind it all.

The series had me hooked, yet left a bitter taste in my mouth at the same time.  Duncan remarked that he's so glad we're not part of society's elite where kisses are bestowed, but everyone secretly plots to destroy one another.

I can understand why Amanda/Emily would want revenge.  I've never been grievously wronged as she had and had my whole life destroyed.   I would be sorely tempted to take matters into my own hands as she does.  But it disturbed me when one of the main characters says vengeance is justified if the person deserved it, and if they didn't, then you just have to forgive yourself.  Watching this show made me more determined to trust in God and leave things in His hands, even if my sinful nature is screaming for me to take revenge.

Did anyone else watch it?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Diary of an Incubator: FAQs

Five years ago, I started the series Diary of a Wedding Planning Machine to record the highs and lows of engagement and wedding planning.

Now that I'm pregnant, I'm starting a new series....Diary of an Incubator.

Doesn't that sound exciting! ;)

One similar thing about getting engaged and being pregnant is that you get asked a lot of questions.  Mostly this is fine; people are just curious.  But five minutes after we got engaged, I was being asked about our wedding plans.  Where were going to hold the ceremony and reception?  How many people were we going to invite?  Ummm we got engaged five minutes ago!  Let us enjoy the moment.  Patience, people, patience.

So, I've decided to answer a list of common pregnancy-related questions...onces I've already been asked, and ones I'm anticipating in the near future.

Where are you having the baby?
You can't have babies in the hospital near where we live so we're going to have the baby in Perth.  Country women get asked to go away two weeks before their due date, so I'll be heading to Perth in early January to do the 'countdown' (in case the baby comes early).  That means I'll need to stay with someone for at least a fortnight.  Hmmm I'll be seeking out someone with airconditioning.

Public or private?
Private for the first.  We're very grateful to be able to go private.  I doubt we'll be able to afford it if (God willing) there's a second.  But finding an obstetrician was hard.  It's like some women book before they're even pregnant!

Are you having a boy or a girl?
Don't know and we won't be finding out.  We like surprises.  We thought we might be having twins since Duncan's mum is a twin and there are numerous other sets of twins in both families.  But, no, the ultrasound revealed there is only one (Duncan is very relieved).  The ultrasound revealed it IS a baby...not a monkey...or a dog...although the baby did look a bit like an alien.

Are you excited/nervous/*insert some other emotion here*?
Yes, all of the above.

Have you had any morning sickness?
Yes, although I haven't thrown up, thank goodness (I HATE vomiting...it's a phobia of mine).  I just feel nauseous on and off most days.  It's at its worst just before I go to bed (it should be called night sickness).  Having the flu made the sickness a lot worse.

How are you going with the low starch diet?
I'm not.  I'm off the diet.  I'll write a post about pregnancy and arthritis later.

Have you had any strange cravings?
Nope, nothing weird like icecream and gerkins.  I've just been craving dry, salty things like chips, pies, toast and vegemite etc.  I liked all of these things in my pre-diet days, and now I can have them, I'm making up for lost time.

Do you have a bump?
Yes, it's starting.

No doubt there will be more questions to add to the list as the months go by...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I Did It...Eventually

Back in 2009, I mentioned that I had started studying towards Certificate 2 in Business at TAFE.  This was part of my aim to find administration work after I quickly learned there are no opportunities for librarians in small country towns.

The plan had always been to do it slowly...three units per semester (towards a total of 12) and one semester per year.  Coupled with numerous stuff ups with my enrolment (they sent me no books on one occasion, and double the number of books on another, then they nearly made me repeat a unit because of a problem their end), it's a miracle I completed it.

To some people, it may have seemed ridiculous that I was taking so long to do a very basic course.  Just cram as many units into the year as possible, a friend suggested.  No, I did it slowly because I was studying externally and determined not to get stressed over it.

It took three and a bit years....but I did it!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


We had the privilege of meeting our friends Emma and Peter's new baby son, Jethro, a few weeks ago.  He was born on the 21st June.

He is a seriously cute little dude!

Big sister Eleanor was more interested in poking him in the face while he was sleeping.

Here is the little fella at eight days new.

Which camera do I look at?

Practising for January

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Killer Flu

I've been sick quite a few times over the past two years, but this is definitely the worst I've felt.  Day 8 of the flu!  Friday and Saturday were shocking.  My whole body hurt.  I was shivering violently, then sweating profusely, couldn't eat, couldn't breathe properly, kept coughing, and felt lethargic.  Duncan took me to the hospital on Saturday afternoon to see if there was anything they could do.   But unfortunately pregnancy rules out taking the usual drugs that give some relief.

Now the symptoms are finally starting to ease.  I can actually get out of bed and eat a little bit (and type a blog post).  However, returning to work still seems like a long way off.  In many ways, the recovery is as bad as the flu itself.  Getting back on my feet will take a while.  My immune system is so low at the moment.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


I really don't understand people who constantly complain about being bored.

How can anyone be bored when there is so much to do?  How can any Christian complain about being bored when there is an abundance of good works out there to do?

Our culture is so focused on entertainment that we have forgotten how to entertain ourselves.  Why can't people just learn to make their own fun?  Why do they constantly need other people to organise things for them?  It really annoys me how people complain there are not enough fun activities on, then when someone organises something, they don't come!  If we stopped focusing on ourselves, there would be no time to be bored.

I'm a big fan of what I call 'redeeming the time'.  I know some people's situations are certainly less than ideal (unemployment, sickness etc).  It's tempting to just wish they were over.  But guess what?  We are just going to complain about the next situation we find ourselves in.  If we complain about unemployment, we're just going to complain about having to go to work when we do get a job.  It's human nature.  So, let's redeem the time.  Right now, I have the flu.  Having all-day pregnancy sickness and the flu at once is not fun.  I haven't been able to work all this week, and I have two events I'm supposed to be organising for a fortnight's time.  I can't do much around the house (I'm very glad I don't have kids to look after).  But I need to ask myself how I can make the best use of my time?  Rather than complain about being bored, what opportunities do I have to do things that I wouldn't normally get to do...like read the Bible more, watch movies, get stuck into that bookcase of books I haven't read yet.  Although I need to spend a lot of time resting, I can use this time for good.  If I'm using it for good, then I can never be bored.

So, text or email a friend, create something, finish a project you never got a chance to do.  If you're well and complaining there's nothing to do on the weekends, how about you be the one to take some initiative and organise something?  Join a community group.  Do random acts of kindness.  Stop expecting everyone to drop everything and entertain you.

I often get asked if I get bored on the farm.  My answer: not at all.  I've always been the type of person who can exist quite happily with my own company if I need to.  Sure, some personalities find this easier than others, but it's a skill everyone should learn.

Still bored?

I don't get it.  Please explain...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Quirky Birthday Presents

Amanda and family sent me this bracelet all the way from Sydney.  Hahaha how true!

My friend Rianna sent me this very cool tea towel.  She thought it would remind me of the many afternoons I spent playing Scrabble with my Nan.

Thanks guys!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Our Family is Expanding

And so am I.

Yes, you read correctly.  It's not another furry or feathered friend this time.

This little one is cooking in my oven and should be ready around the 18th January. :)

Friday, July 06, 2012

Friday Funny


I hope this doesn't cause offence.

Scroll on down...

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Bible Reading and Self Feeding

I've always been haphazard with personal Bible reading.  For a long time after I became a Christian, I rarely read the Bible on my own.  I almost completely relied on other people - church, Bible study, one-to-one - for my consumption of Scripture.  This wasn't because I hated reading the Bible; I just didn't think I needed to spend time sitting around reading it on my own.  I didn't get why so many Christians had 'morning devotions' or 'quiet times'.  It sounded all a bit too legalistic for me.

Emma, my dear housemate at the time, noticed that this was an area I struggled in, so she bought me a devotional book for a Christmas present in 2004.  I really enjoyed the book, but I still couldn't develop a consistent Bible reading habit.  They say it takes 21 consecutive days to establish a habit.  I never got close to 21 days.  By this stage, it was mainly due to my own laziness (busyness can only ever be so much of an excuse).

I've tried devotional books and reading plans, but they aren't really for me.  I found having set readings on set days to be quite unhelpful.  I would get stressed if I missed a day and get in a panic trying to catch up.  Eventually it would be all too hard and I'd throw in the towel.  Some of the devotionals were just way too light on for Scripture.  There would be a verse taken out of context, and the rest of the page would be the author's thoughts which often weren't even about the verse.  I know plans and devotional guides really help some people with self-discipline and structure, but that's not the way I learn best.  I think I need a mixture of discipline and freedom.  That is, I need a set time per day, but I need freedom to decide what I read.

Over the past few years, I've been challenging myself to read more of the Old Testament.  I started with 1 and 2 Samuel, then 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Jonah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.  Now I've decided that I need some New Testament for a bit of variety so I've been reading Hebrews.  I think that reading OT, NT and then doing a topical study is the way to go.  Often I try and get hold of a commentary or study guide to supplement my reading.

As far as times go, I've tried early in the morning before I get up (I fell asleep in bed again), and at night before I go to sleep (often I've been too tired to really concentrate).  Lately I've been reading the Bible while having breakfast and this seems to work well.  If it's a work day or I have to be somewhere early, I only read a chapter of the Bible.  If I don't have to be anywhere in the morning, I read a chapter of the Bible, and then do either a chapter of a study guide or read a chapter of a commentary.  Sometimes I pray for a country using Operation World or I write in my journal.  Other days, either prayer is very rushed, or it doesn't really happen (just being honest here).

I'm always wary in writing about Bible reading as I'm aware it can create a lot of guilt.  A friend of mine reckons that if you feel you HAVE to do anything, then it's legalism, and therefore we shouldn't do it.  I agree partly in that we shouldn't be reading the Bible to try and win brownie points with God, or so we can feel superior to others.  But we also need to acknowledge that self-discipline is a good thing, and that we are sinful people who often use any excuse NOT to delve into God's Word (I know I do).  Sure, there are different seasons of life, and spending time with God might be easier in one season than another.  At the moment, reading the Bible at breakfast is working reasonably well for me (I'm wary about saying that as it sounds like pride and it could all fall in a heap again), but it might not work so well in a different season.  Yet, we also need to stop making excuses and need wisdom to realise when a season has ended (unless we're retired and spend all our time at home, we're ALL busy in different ways).  We're always going to have mixed motives in whatever we do.  I pray that I will read the Scriptures because I want to love and honour Jesus more, and not for any other reason.

Since I read yesterday's verse in Hebrews, I've been thinking a fair about Christian maturity.  When someone says, "He/she is a mature Christian," what do they mean?  How do you become a mature Christian?  As I've reflected on this, I think a lot of it is due to God's Word.  We need God at work in us by His Spirit, yet we also need to co-operate with Him.  We need to WANT to mature in our faith, and not be infants.  I was having a conversation with someone recently and they asked how long someone else I know had been a Christian.  I said that they'd been a Christian for a lot longer than I had, but the person responded by saying that that doesn't necessarily mean they are more mature.  I'm beginning to see that my friend was right, that time as a believer doesn't always equal maturity.  I'm not saying that someone who sits around and reads the Bible all day is necessarily more mature and godly either, but we need to WANT to grow and take some responsibility in this.  If God has revealed Himself in the Scriptures, then that is the logical place to know more about Him.

This has been a big kick up the bum for me.  We can encourage one another, but no-one else can take responsibility for this.  I have been blessed by ready access to the Scriptures, churches, conferences, books, sermons....Christians in China would love to be in my position.  I can't rely on my church, other Christians, or even my husband in this.  There will be times in my life where I may not be able to get to church, but doesn't mean I stop seeking God.  I hear a lot of Christian wives (younger than me) say it is the husband's responsibility to lead his wife spiritually.  Yes, I agree with that, but that doesn't mean that I become this kind of dumb woman who turns off her brain and just drinks in whatever Duncan says without being wise and discerning.  Duncan is not God, God is God, and my ultimate allegiance is to Him before my husband.

I'm no champion when it comes to Bible reading.  Satan will do whatever he can to distract us from this.  He doesn't want us to love and trust Jesus more in the way we live.  I still find Bible reading hard, but when I do it, I wonder why I thought it was so difficult.  Let me encourage you in this - have a desire to grow in the Lord by reading His Word, but remember Romans 5:8 during the difficult days.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Bible Verse of the Day

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:13-14