Thursday, 25 December 2008

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Kids' Singing in the Congregation #3

At the end of March next year I will be co-presenting a workshop at the CCOWA Perth Children's Ministry Convention. The topic for the 2009 conference is "Music with Meaning" and my workshop is titled "Integrating children's music and church music".

I am posting my workshop draft in dribs and drabs over up-coming "Tuneful Tuesdays" and whoever wants to comment and help me improve the draft before it becomes the final version will be welcome and appreciated for their efforts. (See here for previous Tuneful Tuesday posts.)
I. Helping children participate in music with the entire congregation

2. Choosing songs with Kids in the Congregation in mind

Songs which have a simple rhythm and a tempo that is upbeat but not too fast for children to sing along to, and which are easy to clap along to, or can involve other movement are both easier and more enjoyable to sing for children and adults.

A) A catchy tune will help everyone in the congregation remember the words, especially the children.

> Hymns and songs with multiple verses sung to the same tune are easier for children to learn and sing along with than songs which have multiple elements such as verses, chorus, bridge and musical interlude.

> Tunes should be in major keys (C, G, D) rather than minor keys.

> Tunes should have a strong, simple rhythm (4 4) and not be syncopated.

B) It is great to occasionally include a song typically considered a “Children’s Song” within the congregational singing time. This shows the children that music they might well consider to be “theirs” is part of the musical repertoire of the wider congregation, just as the children themselves belong to the wider congregation. It can help the children to understand that they belong in the wider congregation, and it can also help the adults to realise that the children belong there as well.

> Children’s Songs used with the whole congregation, which may be appropriate, could include something from the popular EMU Music kids’ CDs or by Colin Buchanan. Some of these, while written with children in mind, have lyrics that are great for teaching and reviewing basic doctrines or for hearing the words of Scripture aloud.

> Traditional Children’s Songs (the Christian music equivalent to nursery rhymes), such as Jesus Loves Me and Trust and Obey are also great if used sparingly. These in particular can also be appreciated by the elderly members of the congregation who will often recall them with fond memories of when they used to sing them as children.

C) Children will benefit from being involved with the music as well as with the singing.

> Children can join in with some musical accompaniment to some songs if they are given suitable instruments as they enter for church, such as maracas, tapping sticks or tambourines. This can go a bit crazy, particularly if there are too many instruments handed out or if the instruments are overly noisy ones.

> An alternative is to have one or more of the Musicians play “children’s instruments” in a position where they are visible and audible to the congregation. This will present the children with sounds they are familiar with from home, kindergarten and school situations, and help them to recognise that the music belongs to them, as well as to the adult members of the congregation.
Next Tuneful Tuesday: II. Making congregational music understandable and meaningful

[Image courtesy of CCOWA.]

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Humpty Dumpty

I woke up a few days ago to find Abigail sitting at the desk in the study, wanting "to put Humpty together again". Fortunately, having just sorted out a billion toys the night before, I had a fair idea what she wanted.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

What to play when the toys are packed away?

Samuel singing into an electric cord microphone, with packing boxes in the background. Apparently the removalist who packed the books in the study expressed incredulousness at packing 17 boxes of books just from the study alone. Obviously never moved a theology student and his bibliophile wife before!Abigail and Samuel decided that, since everything else was packed, they might as well pack themselves as well!Last day of moving today!

Make-Your-Own Bible Story Books

We had the Make-Your-Own Bible Story Books coil bound last Friday. They were too large to have spiral bound! When I put all the pages together, I realised we had done a lot of Circle Time in the past year. They are huge!Each of these pages represents a story read or told to the children while they coloured, with a few memory verse colouring pages and one or two copywork pages as well. Some of the pages have the kids' oral narrations of the story typed and pasted to the pages as well. I collated the stories in presumed chronological order, rather than biblical order, because that will help the children to understand which event happened when in relation to the other events.

Here's Joshua colouring one of his pages:
(There are still a few uncoloured pages in the middle at the end of the Old Testament to keep them busy over the moving period.)

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Thanks to our Moving Crew

Having a well earned lunch break in the yard of the new house, at a table and chairs they had just moved:L-R Ros, Rohan, Bruce, Gerard, Jeff

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Moving starts today

Yesterday, Jeff and Joshua finished pulling apart the cubby house that Jeff built for the kids, and they painted. He has promised them a new, better one at the next house.We will be moving to the new house today, tomorrow and the next day.

And Jeff has let me know that we might not get a phone connection (or internet connection!) for two weeks, because of all the public holidays coming up. We are going camping with my parents and brothers and the kids' cousins between Christmas and New Year's as well. I have a few posts scheduled to go up over the next fortnight.

So this is my last opportunity to write that I wish all the readers of this blog a very blessed Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I hope your New Year is one of blessing and challenge, as by God's grace, you grow in sanctification so that you may be blameless on the day He comes in glory.

I'll be back next year! God bless.

Kids' Singing in the Congregation #2

At the end of March next year I will be co-presenting a workshop at the CCOWA Perth Children's Ministry Convention. The topic for the 2009 conference is "Music with Meaning" and my workshop is titled "Integrating children's music and church music".

I am posting my workshop draft in dribs and drabs over up-coming "Tuneful Tuesdays" and whoever wants to comment and help me improve the draft before it becomes the final version will be welcome and appreciated for their efforts. (See here for previous Tuneful Tuesday posts.)
I. Helping children participate in music with the entire congregation

1. Children can participate in singing when they know, or at least are familiar with, the tune and words of songs.

A) Tune: Children generally sing with a higher range of notes than adults. They are capable of learning to sing to the tune just as easily, if not easier, than adults. Just as with adults, they will need to be given prompts as to when the words begin within the tune.

> It is helpful for children to hear the tune before it is sung. A short musical prelude to the singing can help them (and the rest of us) to sing along with the tune rather than along with what they think the tune might become. This is especially important with songs which are unfamiliar to the congregation.

> It is helpful to have a Song Leader or Singer whose voice will be audible to the congregation above the volume of their own singing and for at least one of such persons to be female, as women have a voice range more comparable to a child’s than men do. On the other hand, a lot of music for church use is written in a key that is too high for most of the adult congregation, so this needs to be balanced. The Song Leader must be able to sing well and comfortably in the key that is used, so that children can sing higher if they need to but everyone in the congregation has a suitable example to follow.

> It is helpful to have a Song Leader or Singer who will stand in a position where they are visible and for them to give obvious cues as to when the singing will begin and end (at the beginning of the song and at the beginning and end of each verse, after a musical interlude, etc). Examples might include raising and lowering the microphone to/from their mouth.

B) Words: Young children are good at memorising repeated words, so even if they cannot read well, they can learn the words to songs quickly, especially the words of a chorus which is repeated a few times in the song.

> It is of great help to children for there to be songs that are repeated in the congregational setting. For example, a congregation might only sing songs from a limited repertoire when the whole congregation are together, with the Play List being changed every quarter. Congregations may also have a “Song of the Month” which is sung every Sunday for a month so that they children (and adults!) can learn it thoroughly.

> If such a Play List is used by the church, it would be of great help for a Song List to be provided to parents for use with their children at home. According with the rules of copyright, a Church Song Book with words and simple tune line for the song list may be photocopied for those parents who wish to sing these songs together with their children during the week, as part of family worship times and to help the whole family learn the words. Parents who feel unsure of their own singing ability can be encouraged to purchase individual songs online so that a CD of Church Songs may be made for use in the car or at home to reinforce knowledge of songs.

> Likewise, the words and tune line of the Song of the Month could be included in the weekly bulletin handed out to people as they enter for church. This can be especially helpful for non-readers and beginning readers. I have found my children can learn one verse or more in a week; it took my four year old daughter two weeks to learn Amazing Grace and my five and four year olds learnt the verses of In Christ Alone easily one week at a time.

> The people in charge of the congregation’s Play List should always be on the look out for good new songs, which are based soundly in Scripture. However, no more than one new song should be sung while the children are present with the congregation, to avoid confusing them too much.

> New songs can be sung as a demonstration just by the Song Leader / Singer without the congregation joining them, the first time they are used in the congregational setting. (Songs which have not been sung at least once in the past 6-12 months should be considered “new” again.) For some churches, during the offering or while Holy Communion are taken can be suitable opportunities for this to occur. Alternatively, the Musicians could play the tune of upcoming new songs immediately prior to the service beginning. Another good time to introduce new songs to the congregation is at a time when the children are not present. This has the added benefit of ensuring at least some of those singing in the congregation the first time the children join in to sing it already know the words as well as the tune.

> When a song is introduced, if it has a chorus, it can help if the Song Leader recites the words of the chorus once to the congregation to give children advance warning of words they might be able to join in with, even if they can’t read or can’t read fast enough to read and sing in tempo.

> Children who are too young to sing along with the words or do not know them should be encouraged by the Song Leader and the adults sitting near them to hum or “la la la” along with the tune, or in the parts of the tune where they are unfamiliar with the words.
Next Tuneful Tuesday: I.2. Choosing songs with Kids in the Congregation in mind

[Image courtesy of CCOWA.]

Monday, 15 December 2008

A Call to Spiritual Reformation ch5a

As I mentioned, I have decided to do a series of posts on the book by Don Carson, "A Call to Spiritual Reformation", which I am reading slowly but steadily at the moment. You might like to join me in reading it, or simply learn from my comments.
Chapter Five: A Passion for People - 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 (First Half)

This chapter is based upon an examination of 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13.

Carson points to the concern of Paul for the Thessalonians that is shown in this letter. Paul's concern drives him to pray for their spiritual welfare, and also to pray that he might be able to come back to them to teach them more adequately.

Firstly, Paul's prayer springs from the passion he has for the good of the people.

1. "Paul's prayer arises out of his intense longing to be with the Thessalonians."
Paul does not have a merely professional interest in the church he began when he spent a brief time in Thessalonica. Rather, he has a profound desire to be with them so that he might nurture their faith. Paul is not content to minister at a distance, only through his letters or emissaries he sends (although he has used these when unable to come himself), rather he earnestly seeks to be with them in person so that he might serve them directly. Are you content to serve the church only in the background, afraid to take on a more active, personal role? Do you have an opportunity to meet with a specific individual to read the Bible together, pray together, hold each other accountable and support each other with a closer, deeper fellowship than you have with most of those in your local church?

2. "Paul's prayer arises out of passionate affection that seeks the good of others - not their praise, gratitude, acceptance, and still less some sense of professional self-fulfillment."
Carson has some strong words here in condemnation of those who, unlike Paul, see their ministry to the people of God as something they do to feel satisfied, comfortable, or appreciated. "The question is, How can I be most useful?, not, How can I feel most useful?" [italics mine]. Which of these is the way you think when you are considering how you might serve in your local congregation? In contrast, Paul desires to build them up, strengthening them in their faith so that they will be able to withstand trials and persecutions. "Paul has a pastor's heart."

3. "Paul's prayer springs from unaffected delight at reports of the Thessalonians' faith, love, perseverance, and strength."
Too often, Carson notes, we pray about situations and for people because things appear to be going badly. Yet Paul finds an opportunity to rejoice in the good report he has heard from Timothy about the Thessalonians' faith. Paul is encouraged by the positive things he has heard, because he genuinely cares for the Thessalonians and desires the best for them. The lesson that Carson draws from this is that, "if we are to improve our praying, we must strengthen our loving. As we grow in disciplined, self-sacrificing love, so we will grow in intercessory prayer." Who do you love whom you will pray for today?
Next time: A Passion for People - 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 (Second Half)

[Cover image from koorong.]

Saturday, 13 December 2008

We got THE house!!

Bond and first fortnight's rent paid this morning.

Moving on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday... we have a lot of stuff.

Thursday, 11 December 2008


My brother Daryl, who works at Kalgoorlie as a mining engineer, sent me this photo, taken today at the Argo mine:Now I couldn't understand this image immediately, when he described it as a "waterfall", and neither could Jeff. So I'll explain it. The walls of the mine are normally black, like the rocks at the right of the photo. The soil around Kalgoorlie is red desert sand. So what colour is water that has rushed over this red sand? It's reddish brown. Thus the gigantic brown flow pouring into the pit in the centre of the image is a massive waterfall, as are the other streams of brown to the left of the photo.

Just to give you a sense of proportion, the black cylinder at the bottom of the pit (LHS) is a tank which is about the height of a house I think. The entire pit down to the entrance of the actual mine is 105m (almost 115 yards) deep.

Isn't that amazing?

Don't you love it when God...

Don't you love it when God confirms major decisions, which have been made with much prayer seeking His wisdom?

As I've written about ad nauseum this past few weeks, Jeff applied for, was offered, accepted and then on Tuesday evening signed a contract for, the job as Pastor of BCC. All this has taken place very quickly, but not without a lot of prayer as we earnestly sought God's will for Jeff's future work in ministering to God's people.

To be honest, there weren't many other options immediately apparent when Jeff found out that the UC wouldn't accept his application. Most of the positions were either in places where we couldn't see ourselves going (eg the remote North West of this state) or in types of ministry which Jeffrey did not feel would make a good fit for him (such as being a Youth Pastor).

The only other possibly suitable position we heard of was only being discussed as hearsay, wasn't known about by others in that denomination when we asked, and had never been formally advertised. Jeff didn't feel the denomination would be the right fit for his personality either, although we have a lot of respect for several pastors we know from it, and no questions about their doctrine.

Then this morning, less than 48 hours after Jeff signed the contract with BCC, what should pop into his email box? Information about an official job vacancy for the job we had heard rumours about.

Now some people, I am sure, would read the ad and start to second guess themselves, wondering whether they had made the right decision. But from our perspective, coming so soon after Jeff signed the contract, it is a wonderful confirmation that Jeff did indeed make the right choice to become the Pastor at BCC. This other job could have been advertised a month earlier, I am sure, and then Jeff may have felt more pressure to apply to a position in a denomination which he does not feel comfortable for him. As it is, he never felt that pressure because the job was not officially available. But now the ad is out there for the person who God does want to fill this other job, to see it and respond.

So I am thankful for this email. It really is kinda neat when you see God's hand so obviously at work in your own circumstances.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Circle Time before Christmas

For the past year we have been sharing Bible stories with our children in our Family Circle Time. We started at Christmas 2007 with the beginning of the gospels, worked our way through the NT narrative, and then turned to the OT narrative. The plan was to work our way through quickly enough (not covering everything) to be at the end of the OT ready to begin with the nativity narrative again at Christmas 2008, which is fast approaching.

Next year we will be adding in a consistent Circle Time on Saturdays as well as the week days when there is not BSF class, I think. As the kids get older and are familiar with more stories we will probably go slower through the Bible. Or perhaps we will take our children through the Bible at a slower rate individually, reading chapter by chapter through with them one-to-one so they can be trained in the skills of individual Bible study. We'll see as they get older I guess.

You might have noticed, or perhaps not, that we've been so slack with Family Circle Time lately that I haven't even been including it in the last two so-called Weekly Reports that I've done, covering the past month. But... I talked to Jeff about how I do want to cover the major events of the second half of the OT, even if only very very briefly this year before Christmas. So this week and next we are giving the kids multiple Bible story colouring sheets in Circle Time (if they only do one, that's okay, but there are enough for them to go back to at other times of the day as well) and we're covering the following schedule - and believe me, it has become very much just a "highlights" tour:

Monday 8/12: finish Samuel
Tuesday 9/12: Saul
Wednesday 10/12: David (during Saul's reign)
Thursday 11/12: David (during his own reign)
Friday 12/12: Solomon
[Skip planned coverage of Elijah, Elisha and the northern kingdom]
Saturday 13/12: Some of the other kings of Judah (Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah & Josiah) and the prophet Isaiah
Monday 15/12: Daniel
Tuesday 16/12: Esther
Wednesday 17/12: Nehemiah & Ezra

Next year I hope we can be more consistent in our Circle Time at the end of the year and get through some of these stories in a whole lot more detail.

Then we'll head in to our pre-Christmas Circle Times. Last year we began with Isaiah's prophecy of the virgin who would give birth to a son, to be called "Immanuel", which means "God [is] with us". Our memory verse before Christmas was Isaiah 9:6. Then we read about Zechariah and Elizabeth's pregnancy and the birth of their son John, who was born while Mary was pregnant with Jesus. The focus was on the miraculous nature of these births, and that they were part of God's plan which He was bringing to fruition and openly proclaiming as the work of His own hands.

This year, our focus is again going to be on Jesus' birth as a fulfilment of prophecy. However, having studied through Matthew with BSF this year, I am excited to be focussing on Jesus as the promised King: of Israel... and the entire universe. Also on the idea that Jesus came to make a way for the people's faithful allegiance to be in the One True God, rather than in men or pagan idols.

So this is our Christmas 2008 Circle Time schedule:

Thursday 18/12: Genesis 49, especially vv 9-12 "The Sceptre will not depart from Judah..."
Friday 19/12: 2 Samuel 7 especially vv11b=16 "the LORD himself will establish a house for you... I will be his father, and he will be my son."
Saturday 20/12: Micah 5 especially vv2-5a "But you, Bethlehem... out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel... He will stand and shepherd his flock..."
Monday 22/12: Luke 1:26-38, 46-55 Birth of Jesus foretold to Mary (and Mary's Song)
Tuesday 23/12: Matt 1:18-25 Birth of Jesus foretold to Joseph
Wednesday 24/12: Luke 2:1-5 Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem
Thursday 25/12: Luke 2:6-7 and Matt 1:25 The Birth of Jesus Christ!
Friday 26/12: Luke 2:8-20 Angels visit Shepherds, and Shepherds visit Jesus
Saturday 27/12: Luke 2:21-38 Infant Jesus presented at the Temple
Monday 29/12: Matt 2:1-12 The Wise Men visit Jesus as a young child in Bethlehem
Tuesday 30/12: Matt 2:13-18 Jesus' family escapes from Bethlehem to Egypt
Wednesday 31/12: Matt 2:19-23 and Luke 2:39-40 Jesus' family returns from Egypt to Nazareth

So there you have it! If I can get the last week's pages organised this afternoon, I will get the kids' Make-Your-Own Bible story books bound tomorrow or Friday. Their Circle Time folders are absolutely bursting! They can colour the last few pages after it's already bound and that's one less thing to organise before our move and Christmas.

Just another update

Two of the Elders from BCC came around to our house last night and, after taking us through Jeff's contract for two hours, Jeff and the elders signed it. So he is now officially employed by BCC as their Pastor, to begin Sunday 1st February, 2009. Wow! I am so looking forward to this new adventure! That Sunday we will just join the congregation at the service, and then on the 8th Jeff will have his "Commendation" ceremony where we are formally introduced to the congregation at the service before their monthly Fellowship Lunch. Jeff will preach for the first time a fortnight later. It seems like the Elders have really thought through how they want to introduce Jeff to the congregation so I am really pleased about that - it shows they will be great guides for him as he adjusts to this new job and works out how he can best fit with the congregation to serve them. The Elders will be announcing Jeff's appointment to the position this Sunday, so I need to get a family photo ready before then. I think I will take a leaf out of Kellie's blog and Photoshop something that will also be suitable for Christmas/New Year cards.

On Monday, Jeff rang the agent for the house in the block behind the church twice and was able to obtain about 40 photos via email even though we couldn't immediately schedule an inspection because it's still tenanted. After poring over these for hours (well, that was me, not Jeff), Jeff put in an application for the house yesterday morning. We have found out that about $60 of the rent is to pay a gardener, so we have asked if we can have the rent reduced and take care of that ourselves. Apparently there was a bad tenant previously who did not care for the garden hence they have decided on the need for a professional, but we have offered to pay an extra garden-specific bond to cover the eventuality that we should not keep it to the same standard as when we move in (if we move in!). Jeff made the point to the agent that he has a back injury that is covered by compensation that provides a gardener if he is physically unable to take care of the garden, so it would make more sense for that to pay for the gardener if we really can't take care of it. I am really hoping that we will be able to rent this property and at a reduced price. It has a bore, so keeping the lawns green won't be a problem with water restrictions. When we met with the elders last night, they were very enthusiastic about the possibility of us moving so near to the church. And it has floor boards in every room other than the play room at the back of the house which has what looks like quite sturdy carpet. Not a hair of shag pile in sight! Wherever we end up moving, I'll post pictures as soon as we get the essentials unpacked.

Now I just have to make a To Do List for the move. Lotsa lotsa stuff to do!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Kids' Singing in the Congregation #1

At the end of March next year I will be co-presenting a workshop at the CCOWA Perth Children's Ministry Convention. The topic for the 2009 conference is "Music with Meaning" and it is aimed at those involved in Music or Children's Ministry with their church, school or beach mission. (The 2010 conference will be aimed at parents.) My workshop is titled "Integrating children's music and church music" and I am writing it at the moment, working with another lady who is experienced in the music side of things to supplement my knowledge of and experience with children.

Having noticed that I don't seem to post too much of anything on Tuesdays for some unknown reason, I have decided to post my workshop draft in dribs and drabs over the up-coming "Tuneful Tuesdays" and whoever wants to comment and help me improve the draft before it becomes the final version will be welcome and appreciated for their efforts. So here is the introduction...
Matthew 21:15-16
15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant.
16 "Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him.
"Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read,
" 'From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise'?"

This workshop is about making music with the entire congregation:
I) easier for children to participate in with an attitude that honours God; and
II) more understandable and meaningful for children as they participate in worship and are edified.

I. Helping children participate in music with the entire congregation

When children join in with congregational singing, they are joining in with the body of the church in a powerful way. Singing songs with well-chosen lyrics helps the congregation verbally express their thoughts and feelings about God and to God. When children sing along in the presence of adults who are also singing Christian songs, they to learn how to express their own emotions about and towards God in a manner that honours God: in praise, thanksgiving, repentance and yearning. When children are able to sing along with the wider congregation, they learn from experience that they belong to the church as important members along with the adults; they are not merely part of some separate group who happened to come to the church building together.

II. Making congregational music understandable and meaningful

When children join in with congregational singing, they are exposed to words and phrases that enable them to both clarify and express theological thoughts in a clear acknowledgement of Biblical truth. In their use of specifically Christian words, which may not be familiar to them from their Children's Ministry or family's discipleship, they are being given entrance to one part of the Christian Life, that of using words to relate and respond to God Himself. When well understood, these words can later be used by the child in the context of spoken prayer and discussion, and need not be restricted to their use in song. Of course, this is only true insofar as the words are either explained or used in the lyrics in a way that enables their meaning to be grasped by the children as they sing them.
Next Tuneful Tuesday: Helping children in the congregation sing along with a tune

[Image courtesy of CCOWA.]

Friday, 5 December 2008

Next up: Moving house!

Now that we know where Jeff will be working next year, we need to organise to move house. At the moment we rent a house about a 30 min drive from the church. That would be close enough if we were just joining the congregation, but as the Pastor Jeff will need to be a lot closer. We are hoping to find a suitable house to rent either in the suburb or in one of the adjoining suburbs.

We have a few things we will be looking for in a new house: four bedrooms, or three plus study as that's what the fourth will be. The second and third bedrooms need to be big enough for twin single beds, not just one single bed. Many bedrooms in Perth seem to have room for two beds but do not really when you take into account the way cupboard doors open and where windows are etc. Also we need either a double lock up garage or a secure workshop/shed for Jeff's carpentry tools. At the moment all of his wood working stuff takes up the same amount of space as our car in the other half of our garage. We want a fenced back yard or front yard suitable for the kids to run and play in. And I must, must, must have tiles or floor boards or lino or anything other than shag-pile carpeting in the dining room! The carpeting in our dining room in this present house has been a bane of my life for the past almost three years. We also need enough wall space for all our book cases. I don't want stairs as we've had them in our last two homes and people just fall down them too much, even when it's only two steps down into a sunken lounge like in our present home. And... we'd like some other things, but really these are the most obvious and important things. I guess it would be great if we were able to have a space for the kids just to be play in, away from the main "hospitality areas" like dining and lounge, that I knew didn't have to have every single toy put away before people to visit. And I guess from that perspective of hospitality it would be great if it had space for more cars to park than just in the garage.

[Wow, just re-reading through this list makes me feel pretty worldly and materialistic.
God, please keep me to Your priorities!]

Last night we looked at a few online rental info sites and found a few properties which look like they might be suitable. One is actually pretty much over the back fence from the church and across one street. Not immediately next to the church so people just wander across without thinking, but close enough to be within easy walking distance. Here's some of what the rental site has to say it their blurb:

Immaculate partly renovated 4xbed, 1xbath, sep lnge, dining, formal dining/office, lge family, dble gge & lge workshop/shed. 2xreverse-cycle air con units, all bedrms with ceiling fans. Very roomy, lots of parking, neat bore-retic gdns. Gardening and lawnmowing included. Available mid Dec...

It sounds (and looks) ideal. As Mrs T thought as well when she went looking online on our behalf this morning. So we have sent an email off to the agent and are waiting to hear back.

There are a few other houses in the neighbouring suburbs but nothing that stands out as well-suited as this one.

We'll be praying about this over the next few days and weeks. I'm not all that worried about it because we have up to two months to move; we could even move after Jeff began work if this was absolutely necessary, but obviously this would not be ideal. When we moved to Perth we had two weeks to find a place to live in, have our rental application approved, and move in before Jeff began his Greek intensive at college. And it all got done! And we have been able to stay in this place for the whole three years of college and the rent has remained manageable all that time. I can remember God's kindness and provision to us then and be reassured that He is still watching over us in the same way today. Not that I think He's some sort of magical fairy godmother or anything like that, but I do know He will work all things out for the best for the people whom He has called by His name.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

A "Real" Job for Jeffrey

Hooray | Hooray | Hooray

Jeff was offered the job as full-time Pastor at BCC this evening
(and of course said yes)!

Hooray | Hooray | Hooray

Thank you for your prayers - and Thanks be to God for this wonderful opportunity to serve Him!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Jobs for Daddies and Mummies

First of all, marry each other.

The daddies pick flowers from the garden for the mummies when they have their wedding.

Guard each other and feed each other.

Mummies born babies and mummies milk babies - they give them milk from their boobies.

Mummies swing kiddies (on the swing) and daddies do that too.

Worshipping God (adults and kiddies do this and babies can stay at home with mummies or uncles or aunties or whoever).

Cutting trees down with mummies and daddies and kids and babies stay at home and go to bed. Babies go to child care then.

Finished. That's all. Good-bye.

[According to Anna.]

Nikki Nikki Tembo

A while ago I posted Joshua's narration of the picture book Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel, which my children enjoyed as part of our studies of Asia.

This morning I found an online recording of an earlier, longer version of the same story. This Chinese fable is by H. Cramer adapted by Paul Wing and told by Paul Wing on the record around 1964 (or possibly 1950). In this one, the boy, whose name is slightly different to the Mosel version, and who is also called Long-Name-No-Can-Say, is stuck in the well because he is too fat, having been spoiled by his over-indulgent parents. He must get slimmer before he can get out of the well.

You can listen here: Joshua and Anna loved it, but be warned that it's not very PC in it's use of stereotypical accents and other elements.

HT: Kadyellebee

Monday, 1 December 2008

A few more bits of good news

Since Samuel did his first wee in the potty, he has done one or two in the right place each day. This Sunday, we were delighted (I think my shouts of joy might well have startled the neighbours) to find he had done a poo in the potty as well. Hooray! It might indeed be smooth sailing for toilet training my last one... but I'm not counting any chickens yet!

Secondly, thanks for your prayers; we think the interview went very well on Sunday afternoon. It may have helped that I was in somewhat of an elated mood from the aforementioned potty incident, but that's neither here nor there. The questions were really good ones, not just light fluff. Stuff like (to Jeff) "Since you have been a member of both the Baptist denomination (tending towards Calvinism) and the Uniting denomination (tending towards Arminianism from it's roots in Methodism) where do you stand on the Calvinist-Arminian spectrum?" And to me, "What do you think about infant baptism versus adult or believer baptism?" We were also asked to identify each other's gifts and our own weaknesses, which would be a valuable question to ask at any time. It was quite rewarding to reflect later upon how close our marriage is that questions like this could be answered without hesitation. The best part of the interview was being told at the end that we will probably know whether Jeff will be offered the position by the end of this week. This is a lot quicker than we were expecting, because the selection committee has the power to make the offer, without having to take it to a meeting of the congregation first, as would happen in a Baptist church.

And finally, I've been trying intermittently to lose weight since I finished feeding Samuel a year ago. Having been pregnant or feeding or both continuously since mid-2002, my body was run down and suffering from my lack of self-control in the matter of diet. With the help of my doctor and a renewed sense of the importance of reaching a healthy weight, I have lost 5kg (11pds) in the last five weeks and about 9cm off my waistline and am feeling very proud of myself. I am determined to keep my efforts up - and the scales down!

It's good to be reminded to thank God for His smaller, everyday mercies, as well as the biggies like salvation. So thank You, God, for these three blessings.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

The miracle of re-birth... and of romance

Thoughts of Anna's birth have led me to reflect upon my own birth: my second one, whereby I was reborn by the Holy Spirit and became a new creation in Christ.

A while back, Amy asked me to share my testimony. And then our advance warning of questions to be asked for Jeff's interview came in and they are going to ask for my testimony tomorrow as well. So I thought I would use the quiet tonight (I'm over at the T family's house babysitting their five lovely children) to share some of my testimony with this blog's readers. Jeff warned me I'll only have about two or three minutes at the interview, but I hope you might have a few more moments than that, my dear reader(s??). I'll warn you now, this may well be my longest post ever.

My mother is a Christian, but my father is not. Rather, he is an outspoken atheist. He wasn't always quite so outspoken, however, and I do have one memory of him attending a Christmas Eve carols service at Mudamuckla church (a tiny building, it would seat perhaps only 30 people). He spent most of the service seeing how artistic he could be with the dripping wax from his candle. I wonder if perhaps after that Mum thought he needn't bother with the pretence of worshipping with us, even at those annual Christian celebrations of Christmas and Easter. I certainly don't remember him coming to church with us ever after that, until he came to each of my children's infant dedication/thanksgiving services, having been specifically invited.

However, my mother was and is a Christian and I often admired (and still do) her perseverance in her faith in the face of antagonism. I remember watching her place money in the offering plate each Sunday and wondering at her determination to give to the church of God despite Dad's seeming to let us go there on sufferance. My mother's quiet faith and perseverance in it spoke volumes to me as a teenager and I still reflect upon it today, mostly with gratefulness that, unlike her, I am married to a man who loves God.

Dad was content to allow Mum to bring myself and my two brothers up "in the church", although they did choose a family sport which took us away from services every second week during the winter. I attended Sunday School classes and, in high school, I went to a weekly Bible Study. I was enthusiastic about being a Christian, but sadly I thought Christianity was something you did, rather than something you were. This caused no end of strife in my later teen years and early adulthood!

I am not sure what led me to this erroneous conclusion. I did attend preparation for baptism/confirmation classes in high school, but somehow the things I was taught there did not sink in, despite me deciding to be baptised and confirmed into the church when the classes ended. I remember having a very lop-sided view of the Holy Spirit as a result, partly, of having listened to a very emotion-rousing speech at a youth event on the need to "have the gift of tongues" as evidence of one's salvation. I think the lesson I learnt from that was that the Holy Spirit's role in the life of a Christian was merely something to do with helping them pray in an unusual way. I don't remember being told that the Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus to his disciples as the counsellor, who would show them what to say and do in their lives after He ascended to heaven. Which was unfortunate, really, because I could have worked out the prayer stuff on my own (or with a few good examples, anyway) but it was the counsel part which I really needed in my own life.

I struggled deeply with the idea that I had to live up to a standard of behaviour in order to be a Christian. By about half way through university, I remember very clearly thinking one day that I couldn't live up to this standard on my own so I wasn't going to bother even "trying" to be a Christian any more. There was a guy involved, but he was just the catalyst for my decision, not the root cause. The problem was that I was a sinner - and I thought I had to be a saint all on my own, without any reference to what Jesus Christ had done for me, or what the Holy Spirit would do for me if I only had faith in Jesus' work on my behalf.

My behaviour spiralled down from there, but I won't go into that. Since I no longer had the desire to live up to God's standard, I didn't worry too much when I couldn't. And so I took many small steps which eventually took me a long way from the moral foundations I had once held dear.

At times I went to church with my Mum, then when I went off to Adelaide to do my Grad Dip I went on rare occasions with my brothers, and once or twice with a boyfriend. In my second semester of teaching I was working in a small country town and for some reason I decided to check out the local church and was welcomed. I even went so far as to join a Bible Study small group for a while, but my heart wasn't in it and I struggled to know what the point was. Upon reflection, I suspect much of my motive was a need to connect with someone who didn't know my boyfriend whom I had split up from after moving to the country to be nearer where he was. At the end of that year I decided to move back to my parent's place in Darwin and got work at a private high school there. I had emotional wounds to lick in private but my spiritual wounds would only grow deeper.

Despite living for a while with my parents again, I didn't go to church with Mum. I moved out with friends after a while. I put a lot of effort into my work (most of my teaching time was with ESL Aboriginal kids who had come to the school as boarders from remote rural communities). I also spent a lot of time reading pagan books looking for a religion which would allow me to worship the god I wanted to worship, not the One in the Bible, who I had earlier rejected. I bought a goddess charm which I wore on a necklace and, while I didn't delve deeply into Wicca, I gradually came to look upon myself as a neo-pagan. Of course, I wasn't "neo" anything: I was a pagan just the same as those who worshipped the Ashtoreths back in the time of the Israelites! But I didn't think of it from that perspective, of course. I thought of it as a sort of feminist revival of a religion which suited who I was and wanted to be. There was a small voice inside which whispered "this is not going to please the One True God very much, is it?" but I managed to ignore it most of the time.

And then I met Jeffrey one Saturday as I wandered through the local shopping centre with a friend. I still shudder at some of the things I said in that first conversation, but for some reason he was fascinated by me and rang me later in the week to ask for a date. I remember thinking, after hanging up the phone, "That was odd... why on earth is he interested in me?" (Jason, a mutual friend who had given him my phone number, later let slip that Jeff had spent quite a while mooning over "that wonderful girl" to Jason before finally acquiring the number and ringing it. I still wonder how he wasn't turned off in shock at my antics.)

Jeff and I spent most of the next month arguing. Mostly about religion and our conflicting beliefs. However, he did tell me he loved me only two weeks after we met, and I told him not long after that. Seven weeks after we met Jeff asked me to marry him and I said yes, although I was quite put out that he chose to ask while I was barefoot in the kitchen cooking dinner. The champagne he had in the fridge almost made up for the burnt stir fry.

Despite our engagement, the arguments continued. Jeff thought of himself as a Christian, and I thought of myself as a pagan. I tried to argue with him that god was really a multi-faceted being and he was just choosing to worship the facet called "God" by Christians and I was worshipping a "goddess" facet, but he wouldn't have a bar of it. He told me it was all a load of rubbish. For the first time I ran up against someone who knew that post-modern pretensions that "it can be true for you, even if it's not true for me" didn't hold any water in the arena of religious belief. And Jeff, who had been on the territory debating team in senior high school, was no slouch when it came to arguing his point forcefully. Still, I loved the adrenalin of the arguments almost as much as I hated the frustration of knowing I was losing most, if not all, of them.

I stubbornly held to my own beliefs, but as a good post-modern I couldn't do anything to attack Jeffrey's. After all, he was entitled to believe whatever he wanted, wasn't he? So at some point before we got engaged, we came to what I now look back on as a naive and foolish, if not downright stupid, agreement. I agreed to support Jeff in his "Christian" beliefs and also allow any children from our union to be brought up to think that Christianity was true, so long as they were also taught that other people believed something else was true. Jeffrey pretty much only conceded not to harass me about my pagan beliefs anymore. It wasn't much of a truce but it helped me to feel comfortable with the idea of marrying Jeffrey, because I remembered from my childhood in the church (and my own family) that Christians shouldn't marry non-Christians. I still can't believe I was that naive.

Anyway, Jeff and I moved in together a while after that, because he had been living in a house provided by his employer the ICRC. He had been planning to move to Africa to work for them there two months after we met, but decided living in a war zone wouldn't be good for a new marriage. So when he quit his job we found a flat together and I embarked on what I looked at as "helping Jeffrey to be a better Christian, the Christian he really should be if he wants to keep calling himself by that title". You see, I didn't think Jeff really had too much of an understanding about what Christianity was all about. He never went to church, he was willing to marry me (and I knew he shouldn't do that because I wasn't a Christian) and he didn't even complain too much when I went and got a tattoo (and I knew the OT said something or other prohibiting permanently marking your body - how could he not know that rule, even if he was willing to flout the marrying one?). You can see from this that my view of Christianity was still completely one of living by the rules. I don't think I'd ever heard the word "grace" at this stage. I certainly didn't know what it meant.

Part of my plan was to get Jeff to attend church. So I told him to pick one, because he should be going. He picked Darwin Baptist, because that's where he had gone as a kid growing up in Darwin. I was happy that he didn't want to go to the church I'd gone to with my Mum years ago, because I worried that people would look down on "that poor heathen girl" - me. Because I knew that the best way to get him off to church on any given Sunday was to go with him myself. So there I found myself at DBC one Sunday, patiently standing and sitting with the rest of the congregation (but refusing to sing the songs or pray the prayers, because I didn't want to pretend to be something I wasn't), while I waited for Jeff to find out what this whole Christianity thing was all about. I found myself there a whole lot of Sundays actually, and even found myself singing along a little bit, just to the tunes which were really catchy, darn 'em.

We got married somewhere in here, seven months after we met. And we were still arguing about religion, but the arguments had spilled over into other things as well. Pretty much everything which we disagreed about seemed to have the root of the problem come from our differing views about God, however. I didn't realise until later how much Jeff's heart ached as it finally dawned on him that the woman he loved was not going to be in heaven with him when we both died.

Then one Sunday they announced at church that an Alpha course was about to be run. I nudged Jeff and told him, "You need to go to that. Then you'll really find out what Christianity is all about. You have to know what you say you believe. Put your name down!" Again, the easiest way to get him to go to the Alpha course was to go along with him. I look back with a smile at this time because I honestly thought I was being a good post-modern pagan encouraging my husband in his own religious beliefs, with no thought that God might actually use this course to teach me what Christianity was all about as well!

So we went along to the Alpha course together. Some weeks Jeff wanted to be slack and not go, and it was me (the "pagan"!) who got him there on time. And each week on the way home we would have huge arguments over what had been said in the video. Huge arguments, even for us! We'd still be arguing for an hour or more after we got home and then we'd go to bed to lie in stony silence. I don't know about Jeff, but I was always lying there trying to think of a better argument, and I just couldn't. I still can't believe that I persisted with dragging Jeff along to that blasted - blessed - Alpha course each week. Because if I hadn't become a Christian, we sure would have ended up divorced, those arguments were that bitter.

Around about the third or fourth week of the Alpha course, there is an explanation of the fact that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sin of the people of the world. It completely rocked my world. Beaten down by so many arguments with Jeff, I remember walking out onto the balcony of the flat where the course was held and praying my first prayer to God in years.

"God," I said with resignation in my heart, "Your Son has already died for my sins. It happened a long time ago now and there's nothing I can say that will undo it. So I might as well take advantage of it. I'll be a Christian if You want me to be one. But You know I can't be a good Christian on my own. If You want me to change, You'd better make me. Because I can't do it on my own, and I know I do need to change. So You do it. Take my life, and make of it what You will."

I didn't really think, even in that moment, that He could change me. (It took two weeks before I would even admit to Jeff that I had become a Christian!) And I sure had no idea what I was letting myself in for when I told Him that He could do whatever He wanted with me. (I mean, here I am, only seven-and-a-half years later, about to become a Pastor's Wife!!!) But He was faithful. He still is. He led us to a Bible study where I heard about Justice, and Wrath, and Grace, and Mercy, and Election, and Love. And I slowly began to learn that God will never be what I want Him to be. He is Who He is, and I have to accept that and worship Him in Truth. I began to learn that Christians do not live lives which accord with God's moral standard because that earns them their salvation. Instead, Christians are moved by the Holy Spirit, which is placed within them at the moment they place their faith in Jesus Christ, to live lives which increasingly reflect the glory of the One who died for them. I learnt the difference between justification and sanctification. And at last I began to see how it all applied to me. And little by little, I placed more and more trust in God. And little by little, and sometimes even in big jumps, He was at work in me, sanctifying me and making me more like His Son, Jesus Christ. Giving me the desire and strength to live the life I had never thought possible as a teen.

After we moved to Perth I heard an explanation of God's plan of salvation and how it is revealed in the Bible which, for the first time, helped to put every word in the Bible into place for me. I enrolled in BSF, which I had gone to for a short time in Darwin, and learnt more about God's Sovereignty, and His provision for my righteousness. And I heard a whole lot of solid, Biblically-based teaching about the Holy Spirit and His role in the life of a believer. I learnt that a Christian is truthfully described as a believer, not a do-er. But also, that faith without works is dead, and "good works" are one evidence that faith is indeed present in the life of a Christian.

I learnt to hold precious those special words of Ephesians 2:8-10:

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Thank You Jesus for dying for my sins. Thank You my Father in Heaven for calling me to be one of Your children. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for residing in my heart as a testimony to the hope I have in Christ Jesus, and for the way You move me to obey God's will. Thank You God, for loving me so much You saved me and made me a Christian in truth, rather than just one in name. Amen.

PS And just in case you're wondering, Jeff and I argue a whole lot less now: praise the LORD for His mercies!

Friday, 28 November 2008

There is no frigate like a book

I love this poem by Emily Dickson which Ali posted last Friday. Do check out her post, she has found a lovely apropos illustration as well.

A Book
by Emily Dickinson

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

Memories of birth

WARNING: some of this is a bit explicit in the terminology used, but not, I hope, offensive.
I have included two photos; neither shows private body parts, but there is blood, so don't scroll down if you're squeamish.

A few days ago I got out Anna's scrapbook & photo album to show a newly pregnant mum some records from my pregnancy and the birth. Anna grabbed it afterward and of course she was fascinated by the (quite graphic) birth photos after she managed to open the discreet cover pages. She asked to see some more and, since she'd already seen them, I wanted to look at them with her properly and talk to her about them, but there just wasn't time right then.

So yesterday, with a rainy morning making it nice to stay indoors, we all sat down at the table and looked through not only Anna's album but also Abigail's and then Joshua's. Sam doesn't have one - he only has this blog and the many many photos saved on the computer - and looking through them with the kids I felt a yearning to be regularly scrapbooking again.

We started with Anna's birth. She was born very quickly, almost immediately after I arrived at the labour ward, and I was attended by two midwives and no doctor. But having said that, one of the midwives actually took photos of the whole event while the other coached my mother in the fine art of delivering her granddaughter! Jeff was there as well, rubbing my back and whispering encouragement. We have photos of Anna crowning and then of her head emerging with a little fist beside it in "thinker's presentation". We presume she was interrupted sucking her fist because she was born with suck marks on both her hands; the scars have only recently faded away, four years later.

As I talked about these photos with the children, I explained what was happening in each one, but I tried to focus on the people rather than the gore. I talked about how special it was for Grandma to be able to cradle Anna's head in her hands as she was born. I talked about how thankful I was for Jeffrey rubbing my back to soothe me. I talked about how excited I had been to meet her finally, and how while she was being born, I remember calling to her through tears of joy, "Come on little Anna! It's all right my little Anna Christina, we love you!" Even though I did not know until she was born and given to me that my "Baby X" was indeed the girl I thought she must be. I talked about how much we all loved her, from the first moment.

Then we have photos of Anna screaming up at me as she lay between my arms (I gave birth kneeling on the floor); she had an APGAR score of 10/10.There is a photo of Anna feeding at my breast minutes after that, with the placenta (delivered naturally, which was quite unusual for the hospital) complete on the bed.

I pointed out the cord to the children explained to the children how it had taken blood with food for Anna from my body to her stomach within me. Anna in particular was fascinated by this, and of course we had to examine her belly button to see where the cord had gone.

And finally there was this amazing and tender photo of Anna staring straight up at Jeffrey's face as he holds his little baby girl in his arms.I remember saying to Jeff at that moment, feeling like it had been a very easy birth, "Next time we have a baby..."

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Pray for us, if you will

Jeff has been asked to attend an interview for the Pastor's position at BCC on Sunday afternoon.

And they've asked for me to come along as well, which fills me with some trepidation, but also relief. If he were interviewing to be, say, a sewage engineer (as he has been previously), prospective employers would not dream of asking his wife to attend the interview as well. However, pastoral ministry to a local church is not like sewage engineering. (... Well, not in some ways!) It is important for the church to consider Jeff's wife as well as Jeff.

Paul wrote to Timothy with quite specific selection criteria for certain official positions within the early church in Ephesus. The titles used in the original Greek are translated "overseer" (or "bishop") and "deacon" in my version. Whatever the fine print of the job requirements for these positions, compared to the position of "Pastor" which Jeff is presently applying for, Paul had some things to say which it would be wise for Jeff and I, as well as the elders and congregation of BCC, to consider.

1 Timothy 3
1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer [bishop], he desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer [bishop] must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.

8 Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

11 In the same way, their wives [deaconesses] are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

12 A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16 Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:
He [God] appeared in a body [in the flesh],
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.

Obviously there are criteria other than those relating to our marriage here, which must also be considered when assessing Jeff's suitability for pastoral ministry. All but one of the criteria Paul lists here are character traits, behaviours that provide evidence that the person concerned is living a life of faith. They have put off the old, corrupted self and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:222-23). They are continuing to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in them to will and act according to His good purpose (Phil 2:12b-13).

The only criterion which is directly related to the skills (or gifts) required to carry out the tasks involved in this pastoral ministry (for "overseers") is: "able to teach". Jeff has had many people, over the years, acknowledge privately and publicly that he is indeed gifted with the ability to teach from the word of God. He suspects that the pastoral search committee will ask him to preach one Sunday at BCC before they make any final decision, as well.

So please pray for us as we attend the panel interview together on Sunday afternoon. It is an awesome responsibility to work full time in the edification (building up) of the church of God in a local congregation. A "noble task" indeed.

Abigail doing her "lessons"

As I mentioned in my last Weekly Report, Abigail has started asking to do "lessons" with Joshua and Anna. Her first lessons have been in tracing her own name, once per lesson. This afternoon we were doing school late, so she was able to join us after her nap. I managed a few photos of her efforts.I am glad Abigail's first experiences of "homeschool lessons" have left such a big grin on her face!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A Call to Spiritual Reformation ch4

As I mentioned, I have decided to post weekly comments (actually, they seem to be happening fortnightly) on the book by Don Carson, "A Call to Spiritual Reformation", which I am reading slowly but steadily at the moment. You might like to join me in reading it, or simply learn from my comments.
Chapter Four: Praying for Others

This chapter does not focus on any one of Paul's letters, as did chapters 2 and 3. Instead, Carson considers the breadth of Paul's prayers in all his letters and identifies the overwhelmingly common factor that Paul is often and insistently praying for other believers. "One of the remarkable characteristics of Paul's prayers is the large proportion of space devoted to praying for others."

Carson opens the chapter with a discussion of the reality of the church being made up of believers who have not yet attained perfect sanctification and glory: yep, that's me and you! Carson relates this to the essential role of the church in serving the church, God's people. He argues that Jesus identified two clear commands for the life of a believer and ranked them first (love God) and second (love your neighbour). Thus addressing humanitatian concerns is not the essence of the Christian Life, however, it is the mark or evidence of a Christian Life. "Our allegiance to God and his gospel will be demonstrated in our service to his people, to those who will become his people, to those made in his image." In what practical ways do you show love for others around you, especially your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Of course, love of others is manifested in our prayers as well as in our actions. Prayer must include both praise to God, expressions of repentance for sin, and prayers for oneself. However, Carson observes of Paul's prayers that they "are outstanding for the large part intercession for others and thanksgiving for others play in them." Do you pray frequently, diligently and persistently for your fellow Christians? Do you thank God for them and for the evidences of His grace in their lives? Carson then directs the reader to examine the breadth of Paul's prayers for themselves. Are your prayers for others Biblical in their foundations?

Carson's instructions: "Do not skim them. Take time to read them slowly, thinking them through, vocalising them quietly if it will help you to slow down. ... Listen... to the content and thrust of Paul's praying." I am including the list of references here. At the end of the chapter, Carson suggests to the reader, "As a spiritual discipline, slowly read through the prayers of Paul every day for one month. Record in what ways this discipline influences your own praying." You could do this by reading one or two prayers each day (there are just over 40 in the list); by reading the whole collection each day; or by reading all the prayers in one particular letter each day for a few days in a row. As you read each of the following prayers, I suggest you ask yourself, Who could I pray this for or about?

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Rom 1:8-10
Rom 10:1
Rom 12:12
Rom 15:5-6
Rom 15:13
Rom 15:30-33

To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ - their Lord and ours; together with all the saints throughout Achaia:
1 Cor 1:4-9
1 Cor 16:23
2 Cor 1:3-7
2 Cor 2:14-16
2 Cor 9:12-15
2 Cor 12:7-9a
2 Cor 13:7-9

To the churches in Galatia:
Gal 6:18

To the saints [in Ephesus], the faithful in Christ Jesus:
Eph 1:3ff
Eph 1:15-23
Eph 3:14-21
Eph 6:19-20

To the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
Phil 1:3-6
Phil 1:9-11
Phil 4:6-7
Phil 4:23

To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse:
Col 1:3-14
Col 4:2-4

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the/our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
1 Thess 1:2-3
1 Thess 2:13-16
1 Thess 3:9-13
1 Thess 5:23-24
1 Thess 5:28
2 Thess 1:3ff
2 Thess 1:11-12
2 Thess 2:16-17
2 Thess 3:2-5
2 Thess 3:16

To Timothy my true son in the faith; my dear son:
1 Tim 1:12
1 Tim 2:1ff
2 Tim 1:3-7
2 Tim 1:16-18
2 Tim 4:22

To Titus, my true son in our common faith:
Titus 3:15b

To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home:
Philem 4-7
Philem 25

Will you commit to following Paul's prayers over the coming weeks?

At the end of this recitation of Paul's prayers, Carson gives a warning that our prayers will be hindered if we do not forgive others. "If you are serious about reforming your prayer life, you must begin with your heart. Unconfessed sin, nurtured sin, will always be a barrier between God and those he has made in his image. ... If we harbour bitterness and resentment, praying is little more than wasted time and effort." Who and what do you need to forgive, just as in Christ, God forgave you?
Next time: A Passion for People - 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

[Cover image from koorong.]

Weekly Reports 2008:40-43

Well, more like a monthly report! I've been too busy for a weekly report of late but here's what we've been up to in the past four weeks.

Before I start...
Here's a gratuitous image of Sam.Just because I can.
I opened up the garage roller door one day last week and he promptly took off down the driveway in our kiddy car. When I asked him where he was going, he replied with quite clear diction, "Going to shops". He went the entire length of our street in the right direction before I stopped him and brought him back (I went with him of course). Just for reference, that tiny pink dot on the path in the background is Abigail, about where our house is.

Literacy - Joshua
Joshua has really taken off in the past few weeks with his reading. He has finished Are You My Mother? from the Beginner Books series and also read There's a Wocket in My Pocket, The Cat in the Hat, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back and is three-quarters of the way through One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. I am impressed because with the high level of repetition in these books he has moved from decoding almost every word to reading almost all of the words fluently in one smooth stream. A bit of it is the ability to guess, helped by the rhyme and pattern in the stories, so it is great to see him putting together other cues about what upcoming words will be as well. I had hesitated in using these books because they use such controlled vocabularies, but right at this point in Joshua's reading journey I think they are perfect, because he can decode every word if he needs to, and if he does have to do it, that provides reinforcement of the phonics rules he has been learning in our workbook. I can hardly believe that he has come this far from struggling through reading one sentence each day at the beginning of this year, such as "She has a zip on her red bag." Joshua has only four phonograms and a number of review pages to go in his Phonics workbook. He is a few pages ahead of Anna, because he very rarely has an afternoon nap, and if he does, then she is almost certainly also too tired for school as well. If they nap, they miss out on school for the day since we do our academics during the quieter hours while Abigail and Samuel also nap.

Literacy - Anna
Anna struggled through the fourth, fifth and sixth Ladybird Phonics books. It wasn't so much that she couldn't read the words (she was fine at that level), but more that she wasn't interested in the stories, which were oriented more to boys than girls, IMO. Which is ironic given that Joshua also found the books hard to deal with because he was too distracted by the pictures to concentrate on the words. I think I will skip these books with Abigail and Samuel. She has also read all the way through Green Eggs and Ham, with a lot less whinging than Joshua when he read it, which wasn't too long ago! She'll read one or two more Beginner Books before the official end of our term in just under four weeks, and then I think I will have her read the fifth box of Bob Books over the Christmas Holidays. Possibly. She is doing very well, and her handwriting is quite neat in the Phonics workbook. Anna naps about one afternoon out of the four or five we do academics, but she generally catches up the workbook task within the next few days. Reading gets skipped that day.

Literacy - Abigail
Abigail has started to ask for school lessons as well, but she is too young to give up her afternoon nap. (I have a hard and fast rule that all children in our household must have an afternoon nap until their fourth birthday.) So when she does wake up early from her nap, I have been getting her to trace her name on the megasketcher board. She loves this simple task, and is happy for this to be all of her "lessons" for the moment. She was even able to trace her own name on Jeff's congratulations card that we made for him last week. (The others each wrote their own name as well, without tracing, except Sam, of course.)I have begun letting her have her pre-nap cuddles on the couch as well, so she can listen in to at least the first chapter each day of our on-going Read Aloud book, immediately after lunch.

In the past four weeks we finished The Phoenix and the Carpet and also The Story of the Amulet by Edith Nesbit and loved the last book of the Five Children and It trilogy best. It would be a great book to read to tantalise children with a taste of history to begin academic study in this area. The kids also got their first taste of the myth of Atlantis from this book, which we followed up by reading a picture book retelling of the Atlantis tale, which I borrowed from Mrs T.
Taking a break from Nesbit, we turned to Mary Norton's Borrowers series and read The Borrowers with delight. Today we were able to obtain The Complete Borrowers from the library, so we have now begun on the second borrowers title, The Borrowers Afield.

Joshua and Anna continued to steam through subtraction.
We spent a few days reviewing telling the time, with Anna learning to tell the time to the hour and Joshua learning to tell the time to the half hour. Then last weekend, they both learnt quarter to and quarter past, although that was a quick lesson and will need a fair bit of review. Joshua knew how to tell time to the hour from Play School and Anna picked it up without too much difficulty as well. I'd like them to be comfortable with telling the time to the quarter hour before next year, so I will have to remember to ask them to work out the time whenever they ask me what it is!
We skipped the lesson on Days of the Week as they all know this well, even Abigail, since I made a "Today is" chart for our dining room wall.We often talk about what yesterday was and then I get them to work out what day today is and tomorrow will be. Even Abigail is becoming proficient at this process.
They completed Lesson 13 on counting by tens to 100, which both can now do comfortably. I have also been having Joshua practice counting by tens to 200 and further, and I think he has got it. They already knew how to count by hundreds to one thousand.

We have completed what I wanted to cover with Science this year, and so our Science lessons have morphed into "Agriculture" lessons: backyard gardening with Dad. They have planted a wide range of vegetable and even fruit seeds (watermelons) and have also planted some flower seeds as well. Sprouts are starting to show up and Samuel has now been rebuked and corrected enough times to remember to stay out of the vegie patch, which is protected by a make-shift fence.
Joshua has been thoroughly enjoying Boys' Brigade nights and Karate lessons. Here he is, showing off some of what he has learnt:Anna is looking forward to being old enough for Girls' Brigade next year.

[Book cover image from Amazon.]

Monday, 24 November 2008

End of Year dinner for TTC

For the third year running Jeff organised the end of year dinner for students and staff of his Theological College. Well, he did have help. And for the first time he left the premises before the dishes were all done, and without helping with them either. To put this comment into perspective, the dinner at the end of Jeff's first year of college was held on the Saturday evening after Samuel was born. He was born around 10:30am on the Friday, after an all night labour. And yes, we (Sam and I) were both at the dinner as well. Jeff still helped with the dishes rather than take our three weary bodies to bed an hour earlier: that's the kind of guy I am married to. Helpful and kind.

So anyway, on Saturday Jeff's mum & step-dad came up from Albany to look after the kids for us and we got all dressed up in our duds.Now, before you laugh too hard, I'll let you know that the theme of the night was

Op Shop Chic:
if you don't already buy second-hand,
you will once you're in ministry.

I bought my dress for $6 that afternoon. Jeff bought his suit and tie for possibly even less that morning. So that's why we're such stunners! Courtesy forbids me from posting some of the other pictures I took of guests all dressed up, given that I took all the entrance photos for the night. Just believe me when I say that some people found some very interesting items.

It was a great evening. Jeff was MC but did get to be with me for more of the evening than might be imagined. I enjoyed the chance to catch up with N, who has recently left the TTC staff to work elsewhere, and M, wife of one of the first year students who did a Trinity@Night course with me earlier in the year.

I hope we'll be able to keep in contact with many of the wonderful people we've got to know through College. It'll be exciting to see where the LORD takes them, as well as where He takes us.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Two pieces of good news

Jeff's brother A and his wife K just rang to say they're expecting a baby at the beginning of June next year!! (Hooray for another cousin!)

And... (drum roll, please) this evening Samuel did his first wee on the potty. (Round of applause, please.)

So, our extended family now has one more baby to love and one child who is showing more and more that he is no longer a baby. Joy all round.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Excitement at Moore River

On Friday, the first day of Jeff's freedom from slavery to Theological College :-) we went to Moore River, less than an hour north of where we live, for a fun day at the beach. Moore River reaches the sea at the township of Guilderton, where another student was staying at his uncle's house. G invited us to join him for a day and we took him up on it.

We arrived mid-morning and after a chat, took the kids down to the beach. The river is not flowing at the moment, now it's summer. They have just sealed the mouth of the river with a sand bank so the end of the river, where many families take their kids to swim, does not get too salty. The kids loved it!Jeff played with the kids for a while but Sam was not too keen on the water, so I took some more photos while Jeff and the other guys walked a little way up the beach.I turned around to take a few photos of Jeff with Sam:And then, mere moments later, disaster struck! (Well, almost struck - God was definitely looking out for us.)

Having taken my eyes off the kidilets swimming, I didn't notice when Abigail got into water a bit too deep. Thankfully, Joshua did. Although he cannot swim well (it's been three summers since we owned a house with a pool), he was able to doggy paddle out to where she was and grab her. Unfortunately, she began to pull him under. His cry for "HELP!" was the first thing any of us adults noticed.

Jeff was up to his chest in the water with Abigail under one arm and Joshua under the other before I even realised there were two of them in trouble and not just one. I am so terribly thankful for his quick reaction! Not to mention Joshua's quick thinking attempt at rescue and call for help: in that moment he truly was our Rescue Man. [For more on Rescue Man, see here and here.]

Abigail was frightened but unhurt, so we moved to the beach and took her (holding both hands) a little way into the surf until she was able to get over her immediate reaction that all water was dangerous. After she settled a little we let her sit with towel around her while the rest of the kids dug in the sand and the adults took it in turns to go into the surf and have a little fun. Then we went back to G's uncle's place for a shower and lunch... Abigail was completely fine and Joshua was none the worse for the adventure, either.

Next time we visit the beach, I'll remember that just because I'm taking photos, I don't have an excuse to take my eyes off those in the water.