Friday, July 26, 2013

Small Groups: The Small Small Group

It can be hard when you want to join a Bible study group and they aren't on on the nights that you're available.  The answer?  Create your own.

Right now I can't do night Bible studies and the women's group that met on Wednesday mornings has folded.  So I got together with two of the other ladies from the farm and we formed our own small small group.

I love our group.  We try to meet each Friday morning, but unfortunately I can count the number of times we've got together on one hand.  Sickness (either ourselves or the kids), annual leave, and visitors have made it difficult but we've created a private Facebook group to keep in touch and share what we've been learning from the studies when we aren't able to meet.

We're doing a series on 'hope' and looking at Job.  With the year I've had, one of the other ladies thought it looked great and she was right.  When we do manage to meet it's a great morning of encouragement, morning tea, study and prayer.  We are joined by a total of five children and it's often chaos.  There's no-one to babysit or do a crèche out here.  There are frequent interruptions - babies needing to be breastfed, toddlers needing discipline....but it's lovely.  In the midst of the mess and noise God has always taught us something.  I always leave feeling encouraged and refreshed.

The advantages of our small small group is that there are only three of us so we can be flexible with the times and locations.  We already know each other so there's no awkwardness, and we can be honest with each other about personal things.

The downside is that if two people aren't available the group doesn't happen (which has happened quite a bit).

If you can't join an established Bible study, consider starting your own small small group.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Just Eat Something

This is my new motto when it comes to reading the Bible:

Just eat something.

In my current stage of life, reading the Bible at breakfast time doesn't work anymore.  I often feel like I'm floundering when it comes to daily quiet times.  Currently I'm finding Cathy's practice of 'Morning Tea and Bible Time' works reasonably well as I can sit down for a bit while Rory has his morning nap.  Still, my Bible reading is sporadic at best.

I feel like I can strongly relate to yesterday's quote at the moment.  Have you ever been so busy you've been racing around all day, then sat down and realised you've skipped a few meals in your busyness?  You've started to feel faint and wondered why?  I have.  I was trying to do too much on an empty tank.  It's like that with Bible reading.  I find I can go for a while and not realised I've been neglecting reading God's Word and speaking with Him.  Then I wonder why I feel so dry.

I loved Meredith's advice when it comes to Bible reading: five minutes is better than nothing.  That's what I'm aiming for.  Sure, I'd love to have long quiet times and do lots of heavy theological reading, but it isn't the stage of life for it at the moment.  My head feels elsewhere most days.

If you're struggling with Bible reading, just eat something.  Start with a nibble and work up to a bigger bite.  Not because God won't love you if you don't read His word, but because if you don't read it ever, you'll starve.

Don't listen to people who place yokes on other believers' backs by insisting you HAVE to have a quiet time in the morning.  Just eat something.  Sometime.  Somewhere.

Thank you, Meredith.  I found your post so liberating.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Quote of the Day

Not hearing the word of God is like missing the rain: one day you may not notice that it did not rain, but over time, you cannot live.  We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3b).
- Phillip D. Jensen in his book By God's Word: Volume 1, page 104

Monday, July 22, 2013

Congratulations/Happy Birthday/Bon Voyage

My good friend Heidi celebrated her engagement to her partner Michael, her birthday, and we all said farewell to the newly engaged couple as they left Perth to travel overseas before their wedding next year....all in one party!

Yes, not a 30th this time.

They're thinking about getting married in either France or Italy.  I'd better start saving my pennies!

As I get older I'm realising that it's not always about the frequency of catch ups with good's the quality.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Funny


Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
The structure of the wall was incorrect
So he won a grand with Claims Direct

It's raining, it's pouring
Of course, it's global warming

Mary had a little lamb
Her father shot it dead
So now it goes to school with her
Between two chunks of bread

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Don't Rush Your Recovery

If you're depressed or suffering from another kind of illness, please don't rush your recovery.

Oh there will be pressure to.  People who were great supports in the beginning will develop compassion fatigue.  They'll become impatient for you to get well.  They'll assume because you're taking steps forward that you're completely well.  I think I've come to terms with the fact that my recovery will take a while, but when I feel rushed by other people I start to become impatient with myself.  Then I end up sliding backwards.

Please don't rush your recovery.

The word 'no' has become my new best friend.  No, I will not go on the roster for that thing at church.  No, I will not join that group.  No, I will not go out today.  I need to be actively involved in my recovery and I need to go out of the house, but I'm already doing that.  I try to pace myself.  But I will NOT be rushed by other people and the timeline they've set out for me.

Sometimes I feel like I'm more loved by some people for what I do than for who I am.

There is great pressure on Christians to do lots of things otherwise risk being labelled lazy.  Taking time out to recover well is not lazy, it's wise.  Yes, there is always a chance you will descend into laziness and use your illness as an excuse, but you will know when you're ready to crank things up a bit.  You'll just know.

Don't rush your recovery. That is all.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Quote of the Day

Deb has asked a good question over at her blog, This Fleeting Moment:

Can there be forgiveness without repentance?

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will remember I reviewed one of my favourite Christian books, Unpacking Forgiveness last year.  It deals with this very issue.

Then, lo and behold, I was reading a devotional book called By God's Word: Volume 1 on the weekend and this leaped out at me.  How timely:

Reconciliation is a wonderful thing.  Reconciliation is peacemaking - bringing an end to conflict, and renewing friendship between alienated parties.  There is nothing to be said against reconciliation.

Yet reconciliation is a difficult thing.  It involves the execution of justice, the presence of real repentance and the genuine offering of forgiveness.  Often in our desire for reconciliation we seek to take the shortcut of forgiveness without justice or repentance.

On minor issues, the omission of justice and repentance do not matter.  It is important not to turn the proverbial molehill into a mountain: if somebody steps on your toe in a crowded bus, it does not require justice, repentance, or even an apology for you to ignore the offence.  When people take offence over slight and unimportant issues, they are in the wrong.  They have lost perspective and forgotten their own sinfulness.  They have forgotten the kindness of God in forgiving them......

....However, on major issues, the omission of justice and repentance matters.  We cannot just step over the offence and ignore its consequences.  To ignore injustice is to be unjust.  The damage that has been done has to be paid for by somebody.  There is no reason why the victim should be the person who pays; the guilty should pay....

....God is the great reconciler.  Christ is the "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).  But God's peacemaking was not wrought through cheap and easy apologies that ignored the reality of sin, the requirements of justice or the need for changed hearts.  His reconciliation came by the death of His own Son - the Word who "became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).
- Phillip D. Jensen in his book, By God's Word: Volume 1, pages 146-48

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Season For Short Hair

After having little fingers grab and pull my hair out for the past couple of months, plus going through a major postnatal moult, I finally decided to chop all of my hair off.

I like long hair but now is not the season for it.

I'm loving being short-haired Sarah for now.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Yet Another 30th

The 30ths just keep rolling on.  I'm not complaining though, especially as I now look forward to getting out of the house!

The latest 30th was for our friend Shayela from the farm (her husband works with Duncan).  She had a dinner at a restaurant in Rockingham so it was central for friends and family travelling from all different directions.  It was a little crazy with all the kids; Duncan and I took turns trying to rock Rory to sleep in his pram while the other ate dinner.  Alas, it was all too exciting for the little man and he finally cracked it from overtiredness before falling asleep in Duncan's arms.


I love my boy!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Why We Love The Church

Another book from the guys who wrote Why We're Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be).

A conversation I had last year gave me added desire to read this book.  It wasn't the first conversation I'd had with a Christian who'd decided they didn't need to go to church.  It saddened me.  Don't get me wrong, I do get where they're coming from.  I too have felt disillusioned with the church in the past, but seven years earlier I had learnt a powerful lesson that while my church might be imperfect, so am I.  Yet, despite the church being a collective of broken, odd and dysfunctional people, God is making it into something beautiful.  The church is Christ's bride.

The person I was chatting to said they were disgruntled about 'judgemental Christians' in the church.  I understand that.  We're always going to encounter people with differing opinions who don't express themselves very eloquently.  What disturbed me was this person had decided to stop being a part of a church and rely on random spiritual encounters - rather than going to a church service or home church, Bible study, whatever...they were relying on God to send other Christians their way to offer them a word of encouragement etc.  I tried to gently tell them that while God may well bless and encourage them through bumping into Christians randomly, He also wants us to not give up meeting together and that usually requires some planning.

Last year I also read that well-known Christian Guy Sebastian was feeling disillusioned with the church.  He said that while he still 'believes in God', he is moving away towards a view based more on life, discovery and research.  I fear that his comments and influence may lead more young people to give up on the church.

Does going to church make you a Christian?

Should Christians go to church?
Yes...if you can get to a church, you should be meeting with other Christians.  We weren't designed to go it alone.  It's hard enough to be a Christian, let alone trying to do it on our own.

'Church' is a body of Christians meeting together.  That could be in a recognised church building, a community centre, a café, a park, a home...whatever.  But there is nothing in the Bible that supports a 'churchless faith'.

In this great book, DeYoung and Kluck go in to bat for the organised church.  They realise that the church gets a bad rap from both Christians and non-Christians alike and that instead of focusing on its warts, we need to see the church as God sees it - a beautiful bride that will be presented to Jesus when He returns.  Why We Love The Church covers some of the same ground as Why We're Not Emergent in that they rebut arguments that the church is failing in the areas of social justice, or that services are too organised and need to be more 'Spirit-led'.  They take turns in writing chapters again, but while it worked well with Why We're Not Emergent, this time the order of the chapters feels a bit more all over the place and some of the chapter titles are a bit too quirky (they made me wonder what on earth that chapter was going to be about).

But it's a great book.

Some of the criticisms of the organised church (and their comebacks) are:
  • The church is not growing.  Young people are not staying on after high school.  The church is not making an impact in the community.  The church doesn't care about social justice.  The church has lost sight of its mission.
    Church membership may not be growing, but the population has also increased so it looks less in percentage.  It's tempting to 'fix' the church because it isn't growing.  It's easy to assume that churches should be growing and that there's something wrong with churches who aren't.  But Jesus said that the gate is narrow that leads to life.  There is no biblical teaching to indicate church size is a measure of success.  Yes, there are churches who are closed, small and proud of it, but that doesn't mean all mega churches should be deemed 'successful'.  To say the church is not involved in the community denies the small acts of service that faithful Christians do in their communities year after year.
  • The church is hypocritical, anti-gay, anti-women, judgemental, legalistic, oppressive.  It has an image problem.  It has hurt me personally.  Sunday services are a drag.
    Sometimes it feels like we're the odd bods in our churches (e.g. everyone homeschools when our kids go to a public school).  The 'meet and greet' or 'turn to the person next to you' thing that many churches do on a Sunday is corny.  Some people have been hurt by bad churches, but sometimes they're also part of the problem.
  • We need to get back to first century 'church'.  Church has turned into services, sermons, pastors, buildings when it should be about kingdom-building, sharing possessions and meeting in homes.
    Why is a service considered more 'Spirit-led' if it was organised on Sunday morning instead of Tuesday night (or not organised at all)?  Letting anyone get up and say something during church sounds great in theory, but not everyone will get up and say something that is God-centred, true and brief.  The early church met in homes because their faith was illegal, not because it was cool.
I've just paraphrased snippets of the book.  There's a lot more.

DeYoung and Kluck aren't wanting to sweep all criticism of the church under the carpet.  They acknowledge that churches and church leaders have caused great hurt.  The church does need to change in some areas.

But it's easy to take a swing at something with a bat and not do anything to help bring about change.  There is still so much that's beautiful about the church.  It's so imperfect, yet God is at work in His people.  I don't know where I'd be if it wasn't for the love, care and biblical encouragement from the people at our local church this year.

Would you like someone taking potshots at your wife?  No, that's how Jesus feels when His bride is lambasted by those inside or outside the church.

This book made me fall in love with my church again.  It's ideal for disgruntled Christians considering walking away from church, or for new Christians who are asking, "Do I really HAVE to go to church?"

Monday, July 08, 2013

Quote of the Day

Our jobs are often mundane.  Our devotional times often seem like a waste.  Church services are often forgettable.  That's life.  We drive to the same places, go through the same routines with our co-workers, buy the same groceries at the store, and mow the same yard every spring and summer.  Church is often the same too - same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people.  But in the smallness and sameness, God works - like the smallest seed in the garden growing to unbelievable heights, like beloved Tychicus, that faithful minister, delivering the mail and apostolic greetings (Eph. 6:21).  Life is usually ordinary, just like following Jesus most days.  Daily discipleship is not a new revolution each morning or an agent of global transformation every evening; it's a long obedience in the same direction.
- Kevin DeYoung in his book Why We Love The Church (pages 224-25)

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Prompted To Write: The Best Advice Ever

This is an entry for Meredith's bi-monthly writing challenge, Prompted To Write.  Follow the link if you'd like to join in.

My all people.

Do less.

Slow down.


Commit to a very small number of things.  A VERY small number.  Then pour yourself out for those things.  Even if you consider yourself to have a large life plate, it is far better to do a few things and do them well rather than commit to lots of things and give a half-baked effort at each.  The worst thing I've found about spreading myself too thin is that I start to hate and resent the things I'd said 'yes' to.  I breathe a sigh of relief when a group or event I'd committed to is cancelled.  I start to wish I'd get sick just to get some respite from my 'overcommittedness'.

I like Meredith's post about keeping a lazy diary because we WILL get sick at some stage in the year.  That's not being morbid, that's just being realistic.

As for those things that you should say 'yes' to...well, you'll know what are the right things.  If you're a Christian, ask God for wisdom, stand back and look at the big picture and then evaluate your life and what's important.

I'm not advocating laziness, far from it, but we tend to live as if we're indispensable to God, that He can't run His world without us helping Him.  Bollocks!

I was a chronic 'yes' person.  I'd like to think of myself as a recovering 'yes' person.  The only person I need to please is my Heavenly Father and He is already pleased because He looks at me and sees Jesus' perfect righteousness.

This year I'm a 'no' person.  Not to everything, but circumstances have forced my hand.  I truly believe God's love for me is not based on how much I serve at church or how many old ladies I help across the street.  I like doing those things, but sometimes I just can't.  Getting out of bed is a big enough achievement.  I recently said 'no' to a night Bible study.  Out here night Bible studies mean dragging Rory out and driving half an hour or more on a gravel road in the dark with kangaroos lurking when I already feel like my eyelids are weighed down with coins I'm so tired.  I meet with two other women from the farm for Bible study and prayer on Friday mornings instead.  We all have young children so we need flexibility and mornings work best.

When did you last stop to smell the roses?  I should take my advice and go out into my garden to smell my own.

Some lighthearted advice:

Those of you who watched Thank God You're Here may remember Frank Woodley's performance as the Shaolin Temple Master of the Way.  It's classic.  His advice?

A man should never hold his nose when he sneezes or if you do this, my children, your eyes pop out of your head.  And it's hard to get them back in because you can't see.

Don't try to eat a'll hurt.

Don't ever try to throw a feather at someone in anger for they will just look at you and go, "Well, what are you doing?"

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Letting Go Of Parenting Ideals

Being a new mum, I inevitably end up meeting other new mums who have very firm ideas on how they will parent their children.  The 'I wills'  and 'I won'ts' often start while their baby is still in utero.

I will have a drug-free birth.

I will go back to work after six weeks OR I won't go back to work until my children are in school/uni/left home.

I won't put them in daycare.

I won't let them watch TV.

I will only feed them organic foods OR I won't let them eat McDonald's/Easter eggs/anything with sugar.

I will keep up my church involvement.

I will do devotions with them at the breakfast table at 6am every day.

I will breastfeed for at least a year OR I'll never give them formula.

I won't use a dummy.

I will only use cloth nappies.

I won't ever smack or use time out for discipline.

The list goes on...

Let me clarify...these aren't bad things.  It's good to have hopes and ideas on how we want to parent.  We need to make some plans and decisions.

But in less than six months I've learnt that sometimes real life gets in the way of carefully made plans.  I gave birth to a person - not a doll or a robot.  He's a cutie, but he's a sinner.  I'm a sinner.  His arrival has made that very, very clear.

Parents get sick.  Children get sick.  Mothers want to breastfeed but have no milk.  Babies don't feed well.  Parents find it all too hard and need respite.

You never really know how you'll react to a situation until you're in it.

A good friend uses the saying, "Do what you have to do."  Sometimes we can't follow through on our good intentions.  I didn't expect to have a caesarean or postnatal depression.  That has drastically changed how I do things.  I quit doing the missions convenor role at church for now.  I say 'no' to night Bible study groups.  I say 'no' to lots of things actually.  I only use disposable nappies.  We pay cleaners once a fortnight.  The dummy is a sanity-saver.  I put Rory in daycare one day a week.  I thought I was quite 'open' to options before I had Rory, but I definitely am now.

I never thought I'd use daycare until Rory was a toddler, but it has been a real blessing.  It's like my Sabbath from babycare.  I get time out and Rory loves watching the older kids play.  Win, win all round.  I must admit I do look forward to daycare day every week.  I've started playing tennis again and I chill out with some TV shows or a good book.  I have to be organised with expressing milk, but it's so worth it.  I get quite cross when I hear older women bagging out daycare centres, or young mums declaring they'd never use them.  Never say never.  You don't know what might happen down the track.

I've learnt that I might not be the sort of mum I thought I'd be, but there are many ways to be a good one.