Saturday, 24 October 2009

Reading Update #2

Reading Aloud

Having finished reading Anne of Green Gables to the children, we are enjoying a selection of quality children's picture books from the local public library and our home library at the moment. One of our current favourites is Tom's Clockwork Dragon, by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Mark Oliver, from Oxford University Press.

This book gives an unusual rendering of the standard knight-errant-slays-dragon tale of yore. For a start, the knight errant is a young toymaker's apprentice who is fired in the second page of the book for spending all his time making clockwork toys rather than painting the master toymaker's toy puppets, as he has been asked... and the traditional damsel-in-distress character is instead the daughter of an armour-maker who has some interesting skills of her own.

Tom's Clockwork Dragon does suffer from a lack of strong and good adult characters and completely absent parents, as in many children's books nowadays. It also has one or two slightly awkward hiccups in its generally poetical prose. However, the kids have loved its inventive plot and asked me to read it many times since we borrowed it from the public library nearly four weeks ago.

One thing I have enjoyed is a particular plot twist reminiscent of the biblical story of David and Goliath from 1 Samuel 17. See if you can pick the connection (click on the image to see it larger):"The King nearly fell off his throne laughing when Tom turned up at the palace. 'The advert was for a brave knight not a foolish boy,' he said, wiping his eyes. 'But since all the real knights have been eaten by the dragon, I suppose you might as well try. But you need to be properly dressed,' he added. 'Go and ask the armourer to knock up a suit in your size.'"

Does it remind you of David approaching King Saul with his offer to fight the giant, Goliath?

David received the same response from his king as Tom does in this story: "You'll need some armour." Neither David nor Tom end up wearing armour when they approach their foes. Tom finds that the "armoury was empty except for a young girl, named Lizzie." She does not furnish him with armour, but instead gives him the spark for an idea of how the dragon might be defeated.

By way of contrast, 1 Samuel 17:38-40 tells us, "Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.
"I cannot go in these," he said to Saul, "because I am not used to them." So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine."

In the end, it is Tom's wits and Lizzie's skills at her father's forge that enable them to defeat the dragon Flamethrottle. In the biblical story, it wasn't David's wits that enabled him to defeat Goliath. Nor was it his courage or even his fine aim and years of experience killing bears and lions with his sling shot, as most people would probably remember from their Sunday School lessons. Rather, it was David's true King, the LORD God Almighty, who delivered David from the hand of Goliath the Philistine. 1 Samuel 17:45-51 says,

"David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands."
As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.
So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine's sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword."

David did pick up the stones. He did throw them with his sling shot. It was those stones that knocked Goliath unconscious long enough for David to cut off his head with Goliath's own sword. But it was not by David's own power and strength David did this. Nor was it for David's own glory that he did it. The battle was won by the LORD. The battle was won for the glory and honour of the name of the LORD God Almighty, so that Goliath could no longer "defy the armies of the living God" (as David described it in 1 Samuel 17:26).

The best thing about this is that David knew all along that it would be the LORD who would save him from Goliath. While Tom spent much of the story frightened of Flamethrottle, even while he was volunteering to fight him, David was confident of success from the outset. David knew that the LORD had delivered him from bears and lions before, when he worked as a shepherd guarding his father's sheep. When he faced Goliath on the battlefield, David was already proclaiming praises to the glory of the living God, who had sovereign control over the battle's outcome.

Which all makes for a much better ending than "The King was pleased to be rid of the real dragon and delighted when Tom and Lizzie presented him with the clockwork dragon as well. It made a wonderful royal carriage for parades." Tom went on to make toy-sized clockwork dragons. But David went on to become a royal servant of of the One True God. I know which one I would rather be! And, wonder of wonders, through Jesus Christ, that is exactly what I am.

Peter wrote of Christians (1 Peter 2:9), "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." Now that is a real Happily Ever After!

Reading Update #1


We have skipped ahead through the Endeavour Reading Program a bit because I have (finally!) realised that Anna doesn't need to read every single book in a level, and because I have noticed she is much happier and eager to read if she is reading certain books - the ones with fairy tale style stories. Hence she has now begun reading Once Upon a Time, which is reader ER#6a. Level 6 is designed for the end term (in a three term year) of second grade. Here is a sample of what she is now reading:While Anna was struggling to read a paragraph at a time from ER#5, Sparky the Space Chimp, this evening she read 15 pages from the level above that. She read the entire story of "The Three Billy Goats Gruff", and it was at her own instigation. What a development!

Anna has also been reading some of Joshua's take-home readers from school, which are from Level F of the Reading A-Z Program. Level F is designed for mid-first grade, and they both can read an entire reader in one go, with few problem words. For example, Joshua and Anna both read Mother's Day one afternoon last week.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Cooking Cowboy-Style with Joshua

Joshua helped me cook dinner tonight. We made a Cowboy Bean Bake. As we ate the meal together, the name made for an interesting conversation about how cowboys would only be able to carry certain foods with them while they worked at rounding up cattle, travelling on horseback. We couldn't work out how the tomatoes wouldn't get squished in saddlebags. Hmm. Maybe that is why the recipe calls for crushed or chopped tomatoes.Joshua and Samuel were eager to dig in:Abigail wasn't too sure at first, but she did ask for seconds later:Anna couldn't take her eyes off the meal:And Jeff gave it the thumbs up as well:
Our recipe was adjusted from The Children's Step-by-Step Cook Book. We (mostly) doubled the original recipe and there still weren't any leftovers!
1 tbsp Olive Oil
2 large onions
450g (16 oz) short back bacon
2 Chorizo sausages
800g (2 lb) can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
400g (1 lb) can Red Kidney beans
400g (1 lb) can Borlotti beans

1. Peel the onion and slice it finely. Cut the bacon into small cubes. Cut the sausages into chunky slices.
2. Heat the oil in a deep frypan. Cook the onions, bacon and sausages together until the onions are golden and soft.
3. Tip the beans into a colander and drain them well. If they had salt or sugar added to them in the can, then give them a rinse.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes, brown sugar and mustard to the frypan and stir. Heat the sauce until it is beginning to bubble.
5. Turn the heat down and let the sauce simmer for about one quarter of an hour. Stir it now and then to make sure nothing is sticking.
6. Add the drained beans to the sauce and give everything a good stir. Cook for a few more minutes until the beans are hot, then serve in bowls. Enjoy!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Home Haircuts

Jeff gave Samuel a rather short "Summer Haircut" while I drove Joshua to school on Monday. Here is Sam with his Summer Buzz:And then today Jeff cut Joshua's hair as well. This time, since Joshua was protesting that he still wanted to be able to use a comb, I suggested that Jeff work out some sort of bowl cut (I know that's not a very cool description, sorry Josh!) like Joshua's friend L and his brothers have. Jeff managed admirably, and I think Josh looks really cute (again, sorry Josh!):This is just a bonus photo of Abigail, since she was there when I photographed the boys. I know I am biased, but truly, Abigail is adorably sweet.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

A Visit from Mr Frog

We have been talking about frogs a lot lately. For those who asked, Joshua's presentation of his Frog Report at the school assembly went well, although he did pick his nose throughout the entire song that the class performed after giving their reports. Sigh!

Also to those who asked for more details, yes, the Jesus Christ Frog is a real frog. That's its colloquial name, of course. Steve Parish's Amazing Facts About Australian Frogs & Reptiles, page 13, says:

"The tiny Rockhole Frog of the Kimberley and Arnhem Land, sometimes called the "Jesus Christ" Frog, skitters across water without breaking the surface film. It moves fast, weighs little and skips across the water at a low angle, like a skimming stone."

This evening we returned home from dinner with some friends from church to find a frog at our doorstep!We have been listening attentively to the Frog Chorus from the canal next-door each evening, and mostly hear Western Banjo Frogs. The Banjo Frog call is an easily recognisable "Plonk!" or, as Anna described it in her frog report, "Bop!"Yesterday was the first time I have heard a Motorbike Frog, although we hear them a lot at the farm in Albany, and we have caught and raised Motorbike Frog tadpoles. The Motorbike Frog call is also quite distinctive. It sounds like a small motorbike revving up to change gears.
Close up, it was clear to see that our visitor was a Motorbike Frog. The kids were all very excited to see a large frog up close, since we have mostly been observing tadpoles lately. We should start to see some of our tadpoles growing legs now that the weather is warming up. (We have a smaller aquarium with them here at home as well as the one at Joshua's school.)Mr Frog was even so kind as to pose rather nicely against a concave corner of our brick wall. Well, unless you interpret his movements to indicate that he was trying to avoid being trampled upon by four young children. Sensible frog!
Anna's report on Frogs is below. She dictated it on Monday and then we spent much of Tuesday morning listening to frog calls online. Abigail and Samuel were just as keen as Anna to listen to cluster around the computer desk and listen intently while I clicked through photos on the ALCOA Frog Watch site for the Swan Coastal Plain.
The Story of Frogs
By Anna
Frogs catch small, teeny-tiny fish with their sticky tongues. Some frogs eat other frogs. Snakes eat frogs.
Frogs use their teeth for holding food in place in their mouths. They can use their front feet to push food into their mouths.
Frogs can breathe and drink through their skin.
Rocket Frogs have long legs that are very strong. They can hop very fast and far.
Some frogs live in the ground in burrows. Other frogs live in trees and are called Tree Frogs.
Tree Frogs sleep in the day and wake up in the night. At night they make their noises, calling for other frogs.
Long-footed Frogs make a noise that sounds like the moo from a cow.
Banjo Frogs go “Bop!” There are Banjo Frogs living near our house, in the water in the creek.
Frogs lay eggs in water. The eggs hatch into tadpoles. The tadpoles grow back legs, then front legs, then their tail goes away and they become frogs.

Backyard Cricket

The beautiful weather that has delighted us ever since the fourth term began has called us out into the back yard frequently. This morning I hung out the washing while Joshua and Anna played a little cricket before Joshua had to leave for school. It was lovely to see how eager Joshua was to play with his sister.Anna seems to prefer to bat left-handed, although she is right-handed in everything else.Despite a lack of practice over the winter months, I saw a noticeable improvement in their skills over their attempts at the beginning of the year. There was also a vast improvement in their ability to share ... they even took turns at batting!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Cooking Cookies with Anna

This afternoon, while the younger two napped after a busy morning, Anna and I made chocolate chip cookies. Actually, we made a half-batch of choc chip cookies, and a half-batch of M&M cookies. They were delicious, but even better was the special Mother-Daughter time in the kitchen.Of course the best bit about cooking together is licking the spoon afterwards!The finished product:Our recipe is based upon one from The Children's Step-by-step Cook Book by Angela Wilkes, published by Dorling Kindersley. (Kind thanks to Granny who bought this book for our kids.)

115g (4 oz) softened butter
70g (2 1/2 oz) caster sugar
70g (2 1/2 oz) soft brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract (or essence if you can't find extract)
140g (5 oz) plain flour (we use plain wholemeal flour)
70g (2 1/2 oz) oat bran
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
175g (6 oz) dark chocolate chips (or M&M Baking Bits)

1. Set the oven to 190C. Beat the butter with both lots of sugar in a mixing bowl until creamy.
2. Break the egg into a cup, then pour into the bowl and beat it into the mixture until smooth. Then add the vanilla extract and mix it in.
3. Add the flour, oat bran and bicarbonate of soda to the mixture, and stir everything together well.
4. Now add the chocolate chips (or M&M Baking Bits) and stir them in until they are evenly spread through the cookie mixture.
5. Place baking paper on metal baking trays and butter the paper. Spoon small mounds of the cookie mixture on to the trays, leaving quite big spaces between the mounds.
6. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until they are an even golden brown colour, then use the baking paper to slide them on to a wire rack to cool, although these cookies are also delicious eaten still warm from the oven.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Admitting You're Wrong: Of Frogs and Fellow-Workers

Last term, Joshua did a research project on frogs. In his final poster he wrote (among other things), "Frogs eat through their skin."

He was wrong. Frogs eat with their mouths. But despite his teacher telling him that he was wrong, and me telling him that he was wrong, and him not knowing where he had found that bit of information, Joshua stuck to his guns.

Tomorrow, Joshua has the opportunity to present his Frog Project at the class assembly. But his teacher, not wanting to reinforce this erroneous idea and spread Joshua's confusion throughout the school, told him he could not read it out unless he either

(1) changed it to say "Frogs breathe through their skin." (This fact is correct, agreed upon by both Joshua's teacher, myself, and Joshua, as well as numerous non-fiction books on frogs.) OR

(2) proved that frogs do eat through their skin, by finding a non-fiction source for the information. OR

(3) Agreed not to include the sentence in the absence of evidence.

Joshua's teacher let me know what was on the line, and this afternoon Joshua (and the rest of the kids) spent ages sitting snuggled on the couch with me, reading about frogs in some books from our home library. We started with the Family Guide to Nature from Reader's Digest. (Hearty thanks to my Mum & Dad, who handed that book down to us from their bookshelf a few years back!) From page 203, I read,

"Tadpoles breathe with gills, which some aquatic salamanders retain even as adults. But while mature frogs and toads have lungs, they get most of the air they need through their moist skin. ... The tadpoles of frogs and toads are vegetariansd, though larval salamanders feed on tiny aquatic animals. But as adults all amphibians are meat eaters."

At this point, I asked Joshua if he thought it was possible to eat meat through one's skin. He admitted that it seemed unlikely. I read on:

"Most species have long, [extendable] tongues that dart out with lightning speed to snap up any small creatures moving nearby. Larger prey is grasped with the forelegs."

I wasn't expecting anything from Joshua at this stage, but he burst out with a somewhat quizzical "I was wrong!

I am ashamed to say that I am never that quick to admit my flaws and faults.

I studied today in my Women's Gathering (Acts 15:36-40) about Paul being unwilling to work with John Mark because he had "deserted" Paul and Barnabas when they left Cyprus (on their first missionary journey out from Antioch). Paul chose Silas as his co-worker for a second missionary trip, but Barnabas was willing to give John Mark a second opportunity, and took him to Cyprus again.

We talked about how John Mark would have probably known about the reason for Paul and Barnabas deciding to separate. I wonder what he felt about Paul's rejection? Although the passage records Paul's description of the event as a desertion, Luke had earlier used milder language. Acts 13:13 records merely that, "From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem." The Bible does not record whether Paul was right to refuse to have John Mark come along. It gives no record of the success - or otherwise - of Barnabas's second trip to Cyprus with John Mark. Given that John Mark had been "with them as their helper" (Acts 13:5) on Cyprus before, he was Barnabas's cousin (Colossians 4:10), and Barnabas hailed from Cyprus (Acts 4:36), it seems likely that Barnabas and Saul may have been well suited as companions for a second trip to Cyprus.

Nowhere does the Bible record Paul apologising to John Mark (or Barnabas) for his rejection of John Mark. Nowhere does the Bible tell of John Mark saying sorry to Paul for leaving him in the lurch when they left Cyprus the first time. But the Bible does show us that they were later reunited and John Mark was again welcomed by Paul in his ministry.

In Paul's letter to the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse, he passed on John Mark's greetings, letting them know that John Mark might visit them, and if he did, to welcome him. Colosse was in Psidia, not too far west of the places where Paul and Barnabas had travelled to share the gospel after John Mark left them. It seems that Paul no longer feared John Mark would be unwilling to travel in those parts. At the same time, Paul wrote to Philemon and the church that met in their home in Colosse, describing John Mark as a "fellow-worker".

In Paul's last letter, 2 Timothy, he wrote asking that Timothy would bring John Mark to him (2 Timothy 4:11). Paul wrote that John Mark was "helpful to me in my ministry". So it seems that John Mark had gone full circle in Paul's esteem. At first he was a helper, then he was a deserter not suitable as a co-worker, then he was a fellow-worker who was to be welcomed by the churches, and once again he was helpful to Paul in his ministry.

It seems somewhere in there someone must have admitted they were wrong. Maybe Barnabas's second opportunity for John Mark to work with him on Cyprus showed that he was indeed a good helper. Maybe Paul apologised for misjudging John Mark; maybe John Mark apologised for leaving Paul. Maybe they both apologised and were forgiven. What we do know is that they overcame their differences and were able to work fruitfully together again. A little recognition of fault goes a long way.

I started this anecdote with Joshua's Frog Project. Well, we didn't stop reading about frogs when we found out they eat through their mouths and breathe through their skin. And I'm very pleased that we didn't! Because half an hour later, in Steve Parish's Amazing Facts About Australian Frogs & Reptiles, on page 12, I read aloud:

"Frogs do not drink through their mouths. Apart from a small amount of moisture from their food, they obtain nearly all their water requirements by taking in liquid through the skin on their undersides. The water passes into spaces called lymph sacs, then into the bloodstream."

So Joshua is content to amend his report to read, "Frog's don't eat through their skin. Frogs drink through their skin."And tomorrow he will read this startling fact out at his school assembly.

[The font used in the typing above is Sassoon Primary Infant. We bought it with some of our tax return money. Isn't it marvellous?]

Learning Division

Joshua has begun learning division in school this week. On Tuesday Jeff talked about it with Joshua and explained in a way that made it easier for him to understand. Yesterday Joshua came home and wrote out some division questions for Jeff to complete. Then he asked me for some division sums for him to do! I only gave him sets of three or four at a time, and he kept coming back to me asking for more.He was very excited each time he got them all correct.

"I want you to give me more sums so I can be wise," Joshua told me.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Anne of Green Gables

We are finally finished reading Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. It only took us six months!

Joshua said the first time we read from the novel, "She talks a lot!" Throughout the book, we found that Anne, and the other characters, had much of interest to say. It was a beautiful book for gently and humorously teaching many practical and moral lessons. It also provided fodder for a variety of discussions. It was easy to speak of the folly of doing what your friends "dare" you to do, when we remembered together what had happened to poor Anne in the incident where "Anne Comes to Grief In an Affair of Honour", requiring seven weeks of recovery in bed.

Here's a selection of my favourite quotes from the book:

"You'd find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair," Anne said reproachfully. "People who haven't red hair don't know what trouble is." ...

"It gives you a lovely, comfortable feeling to apologize and be forgiven, doesn't it? " ...

"Saying one's prayers isn't exactly the same thing as praying." ...

"But I'd rather look ridiculous when everybody else does than plain and sensible all by myself," persisted Anne mournfully." ...

"Oh, Marilla," exclaimed Anne... "Five minutes ago I was so miserable I was wishing I'd never been born and now I wouldn't change places with an angel!" ...

"Marilla, I do not think she is a well-bred woman. There is nothing more to do except to pray and I haven't much hope that that'll do much good because, Marilla, I do not believe that God Himself can do very much with such an obstinate person as Mrs Barry." ...

"Ten minutes isn't very long to say an eternal farewell in," said Anne tearfully." ...

"I'll try to be a model pupil," agreed Anne dolefully. "There won't be much fun in it, I expect. Mr Phillips said Minnie Andrews was a model pupil and there isn't a spark of imagination or life in her." ...

The rivalry between them was soon apparent; it was entirely good-natured on Gilbert's side; but it is much to be feared that the same thing cannot be said of Anne, who had certainly an unpraiseworthy tenacity for holding grudges. ...

Mr Phillips might not be a very good teacher; but a pupil so inflexibly determined on learning as Anne was could hardly escape making progress under any kind of a teacher. ... In geometry Anne met her Waterloo.
"It's perfectly awful stuff, Marilla," she groaned. ... "There is no scope for imagination in it at all." ...

"I'm so glad Mrs Hammond had three pairs of twins after all. If she hadn't I mightn't have known what to do for Minnie May. I'm real sorry I was ever cross with Mrs Hammond for having twins." ...

"I assure you, Marilla, that I feel like praying to-night and I'm going to think out a special brand-new prayer in honour of the occasion." ...

"Mrs Lynde says that sound doctrine in the man and good housekeeping in the woman make an ideal combination for a minister's family."

"I'm afraid concerts spoil people for everyday life. I suppose that is why Marilla disapproves of them. Marilla is such a sensible woman. It must be a great deal better to be sensible; but still, I don't believe I'd really want to be a sensible person, because they are so unromantic. Mrs Lynde says there is no danger of my ever being one, but you can never tell. I feel just now that I may grow up to be sensible yet. But perhaps that is only because I'm tired." ...

"Just think, Diana, I'm thirteen years old today," remarked Anne in an awed voice. "...In two more years I'll be really grown up. It's a great comfort to think that I'll be able to use big words then without being laughed at." ...

"Mrs Allan says we should never make uncharitable speeches; but they do slip out so often before you think, don't they? I simply can't talk about Josie Pye without making an uncharitable speech, so I never mention her at all. You may have noticed that."...

"Diana, even ministers are human and have their besetting sins like everybody else." ...

"I've found out what an alabaster brow is. That is one of the advantages of being thirteen. You know so much more than you did when you were only twelve." ...

"I thought nothing could be as bad as red hair. But now I know it's ten times worse to have green hair." ...

"It makes you feel very virtuous when you forgive people, doesn't it?" ...

"I mean to devote all my energies to being good after this and I shall never try to be beautiful again. Of course it's better to be good. I know it is, but it's sometimes so hard to believe a thing even when you know it."

"I'm just dazzled inside," said Anne. I want to say a hundred things, and I can't find words to say them in. ... I'm not vain, but I'm thankful."

"We are rich," said Anne staunchly. "Why, we have sixteen years to our credit, and we're happy as queens, and we've all got imaginations, more or less. Look at that sea, girls - all silver and shallow and vision of things not seen. We couldn't enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds. You wouldn't change into any of those women if you could. Would you want to be that white-lace girl and wear a sour look all your life, as if you'd been born turning up your nose at the world? Or the pink lady, kind and nice as she is, so stout and short that you'd really no figure at all? Or even Mrs Evans, with that sad, sad look in her eyes? She must have been dreadfully unhappy some time to have such a look. ... I don't want to be anyone but myself, even if I go uncomforted by diamonds all my life," declared Anne. "I'm quite content to be Anne of Green Gables, with my string of pearl beads. I know Matthew gave me as much love with them as ever went with Madame the Pink Lady's jewels."

"Oh, it's delightful to have ambitions. I'm so glad to have such a lot. And there never seems to be an end to them - that's the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting."

As Marilla said to Matthew:
"That child is hard to understand in some respects. But I believe she'll turn out all right yet. And there's one thing certain, no house will ever be dull that she's in."

Towards the end of the novel, there is the following intimate exchange between Anne and her adoptive father, Matthew. It illustrates the love of a family beautifully.
"You've been working too hard to-day, Matthew," she said reproachfully. "Why won't you take things easier?"
"Well now, I can't seem to," said Matthew, as he opened the yard gate to let the cows through. "It's only that I'm getting old, Anne, and keep forgetting it. Well, well, I've always worked pretty hard and I'd rather drop in harness."
"If I'd been thr boy you sent for," said Anne wistfully, "I'd be able to help you so much now and spare you in a hundred ways. I could find it in my heart to wish I had been, just for that."
"Well now, I'd rather have you than a dozen boys, Anne," said Matthew patting her hand. "Just mind you that - rather than a dozen boys."

Joshua's love note to Samuel

Dear Sam I like you with your monkey mask on.

Friday, 9 October 2009

"I not Sammy..."

"I Spider Boy!"

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Leadership and God's sovereignty

Amy quoted John Adams on her blog yesterday: "No man has yet produced any revelation from heaven in his favor, any divine communication to govern his fellow men." I think he was wrong!

Surely Moses is one person of whom it could be said that there was "divine communication" in favour of him leading his fellow men. Exodus 3 recounts Moses' calling by God for a particular task in leading people, in particular Exod 3:10: "So now go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt." By anyone's standard leading 600,000 men plus women and children and hangers-on out of one nation (on foot!) into another demands a particular position of governmental power.

Later, the Israelites asked that Moses would meet with God apart from them and be an intermediary between them and God (Exodus 20:19). This position of intermediary was definitely in line with God's promises to Moses, for example in Exod 19:9: "The LORD said to Moses, "I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you."..." I think it would be reasonable to say that God not only appointed Moses as leader of the Israelites, He also took steps to ensure that His divine appointment would be recognised, acknowledged and adhered to.

Then when Moses' (and then also Aaron's) leadership was challenged, as recorded in Numbers 12 and Numbers 16 & 17, God made it clear in no uncertain terms that His choice of leader - His choice alone - was to hold governmental and/or priestly power over the people.

There were other people who were God-ordained leaders of nations. The first two kings of Israel, Saul and David, were divinely appointed. 1 Samuel 8 records how the Israelite people demanded that God would give them a king, and God agreed to their demands (see 1 Samuel 8:19-22 especially). 1 Samuel 9:17 records, "When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, "This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people."" Samuel annointed Saul at God's direct instruction (1 Samuel 10). It was only later (1 Samuel 11:12-15) that the people of Israel had an opportunity to ratify God's sovereign choice of their leader.

Then, because of Saul's wicked presumption in offering sacrifices to the LORD, a task not in his God-given job description, God took away His favour from upon Saul. God chose David to be king, and Samuel anointed David following God's precise instructions. It was many years later that David came into his kingship officially, but from the time of his anointing, David was the chosen king of Israel in God's eyes, if not in those of Saul or the people. (See 1 Samuel 13, 15, 16:1-13 and following chapters.)

It is clear from all these passages that God does indeed appoint and anoint particular people for government leadership positions, or at least He has done so in the past. So I do not agree with Adams. (I find it particularly ironic that John Adam's wife was named Abigail, so I would have hoped that they would be familiar with the story of King David, if not the others.) Adams was one of the US presidents, right? Please forgive my lack of knowledge of US history.

Not knowing the context of this journal entry, it is hard to know whether Adams was presuming that God no longer acts (in these post-cross "last days") to choose national leaders in the way that He did in the past, or if Adams believed God never did, or only did with Israel. Perhaps you can hazard a more educated guess.) Even if I presume Adams held the first belief, I think this is a wrong stance. Paul wrote of a gift of leadership that is bestowed by God's grace in Romans 12, in particular where he wrote, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is ... leadership, let him govern diligently..." (from Romans 12:6-8). By God's grace, some people are specially gifted for governance. And God does not gift people for a task if He does not expect them to carry out that task. So by gifting certain people for governance, He is showing His divine favour for their leadership, in my opinion.

Furthermore, Paul wrote on the subject of general (non-Christian) governance in Romans 13:1-7. In the first verse, he wrote, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.". Paul's opinion on the matter could not be clearer. All human authorities, whether godly or ungodly in their administration of their duties, are established by God.

Perhaps, as in the case of Saul's oft-times despotic rule, we may see that God is visiting judgement upon us by His choice of leader over our nation(s). Then again, we shouldn't be too quick to assume that God is giving us what we deserve. It is certain that God plans to use our trials under ungodly leaders (and even under the most God-fearing leaders) to bring us to maturity in Christ. As Paul had written earlier in his letter to the Romans, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." In my view, the important thing is not so much who God appoints for leadership over the nations, but how we, as Christians, respond to their leadership.

Of utmost importance is our response to God's supreme choice of leader for us: our King and Saviour, Jesus Christ, God's Son. In Ephesians 1:9-10 & 22-23, Paul wrote, "And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment - to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. ... And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." Jesus Christ is the God-appointed leader over all Christians throughout time, and one day God will reveal that He is also sovereign over all that exists, whether they have recognised Christ's authority in the past or not.

Paul wrote of Jesus in Colossians 1:15-20, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness well in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." Jesus is the Lord and King over all things because it was through Him that all things were created. But Jesus' lordship is not dependent solely on something that happened long ago. Jesus is Lord because God has made Him Lord, dwelling fully in Jesus Christ, revealing his invisible nature through the visible man, Jesus, who once walked the earth and was killed on a cross, but who was brought back to life by God's choice and power, and now reigns in heaven at the right hand of God the Father. All praise be to God, the LORD, who is King and Lord of all! Do you recognise Jesus Christ as having authority over you, because He is your King, Lord, Boss and Master?

Friday, 2 October 2009

Let's Play "Spot the Zoo Creatures"

What are Anna, Abi, Josh and Sam looking at here?That's right, it's an elephant, aka Elephas maximus!

Can you see what the kids were spying out here?It was a mother and no-longer-baby giraffe, aka Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi. If you look carefully in the bottom right-hand corner of this picture, you'll see that there were zebras (Equus quagga boehmi) in the enclosure as well.

We had a great morning at the zoo today. The kids were all very well behaved (until we got in the car to drive home) and I was amazed at how easy it was to take four kids ages 6, 5, 4 and almost-3 through the Perth Zoo without any other adults along. It was a special treat to have Joshua with us for our Family Day Out, since it is school holidays at the moment.

I asked them all to choose one animal or exhibit to visit. We saw Abigail's choice the saltwater crocodile Crocodylus porosus; Samuel's choice the elephant; Anna's choice the Rainforest Retreat; and Joshua's choice the Nocturnal House. Then we stopped quickly at my choice, the giraffes, on the way out.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Uncle Andrew and Cousin Jonathan in the News

Swine Flu immunisations are rolling out in Australia. Jeff's brother Andrew (a Health Inspector in South Australia), together with his wife Kim & young son Jonathan, were in the news last night getting their jabs. Incidentally, Joshua and I spent much of last night back at what I am starting to feel is "our" hospital. Around 9pm Joshua had another asthma attack, his third since he got sick six weeks ago with what was probably (but not confirmed) swine flu, which seems to "bring on" asthma in those kids who have a predisposition.

Joshua's last asthma attack was only ten days ago. He is getting better at recognising the signs and asking for his puffer, and I am getting better at understanding the symptoms and acting appropriately as well.

I am thankful for 24hr chemists - Joshua's reliever puffer ran out 8 puffs into the first set of 12, and I had to call Jeff home from Bible study and dash out to get Joshua's prescrip filled again before we could see if the medicine would work quickly enough. The second set of 12 didn't work quickly enough, so it was back to the Emergency Dept again. The doctors and nurses are starting to seem like familiar friends.

The triage nurse measured his O2 levels at 95%, the lowest I have seen them since he had his first asthma attack. (Normally they should be 100%.) So it was a relief that this time, Joshua was able to go home three hours later without having taken steroids. In the doctors words, "he's had enough steroids over the last month...". It was wonderful to see Joshua's reliever medication finally take effect, even if that did mean he had taken so much he vomitted twice (a side effect).

The doctors are saying it looks like we can expect Joshua to have an attack every time he gets a snotty nose from a cold, which makes me very glad that Winter is over, Spring is here and the skies are getting bluer every day.

(Did I mention last night was our 9th wedding anniversary? I'm glad we have our anniversary date night scheduled for tonight, not last night!)

[Photo courtesy ABC News.]