Friday, November 30, 2007

Advent Calendars

This evening I have been making advent calendars for my children. They should actually have them in time to open the first door tomorrow morning.

Seeing as I have been doing it every year for the last few years it is not too heavy a task. They each choose a Christmas card which I scan in for the picture and the rest of the template is the same as last year!

And my noble husband cuts all the doors so that they open.

Outside it is raining and sounds like hail too. Two kids at a party. Two at home. One off to be a leader on a Scripture Union camp tomorrow. One has a cricket match. The rest of us want to play tennis. But the weather isn't too good!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Who am I?

I did this Enneagram personality test. 50 questions and it categorises you neatly. So I came up with a score of 17 as a Type 4 Hypersensitivity. Doesn't sound too good does it? Then on 16 were three types - 1: Perfectionism, 2: Helpfulness and 7: Adventurousness. There are nine types altogether, but the others ranked much lower. The explanations for my types are
Hypersensitivity: I must avoid painful feelings to be happy

Perfectionism: I must be perfect and good to be happy.

Helpfulness: I must be helpful and caring to be happy.

Adventurousness: I must be high and entertained to be happy.

The bottom three I can really cope with. I know that's me and I'm ok with that. The top one catches me. Isn't that normal to not like painful feelings? Am I hypersensitive? I'm starting to realise I'm a big-time 'people-pleaser'. I think it fits. I don't want that label and I think I can change it!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Something Healing

JenLemen Jen Lemen interests me. Here is part of the post I've linked.

Just when our paths are about to cross, the older man turns to me and say in all seriousness, “I’m telling you–there is no love left in this world.”
“No, no, no!” I said. “That can’t be true. Please don’t say that.”
“Do you know that moment,” the younger guy says, explaining, “when you are at the bottom of everything and you have a little hope left, but you’re not sure if it’s going to last? You’re not sure if there’s really anything there at all?” I nod.
“That–” he says, pointing to the man’s heart “is exactly where my friend’s at right now.”

You really need to read the whole post. She is such a positive lady with such a positive outlook. And she brings healing to brokenness. But I don't know what the source of her spirituality is. I don't think she would like to call it God.

But she just draws out the need that people have for emotional healing. For love. Acceptance. Hope. She challenges me to look more deeply for that which Jesus offers, because he does offer more than world - doesn't he?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wacky Hair

I've tried to promise myself that I would put more work and rework into my blog postings. Because I know that sometimes I am just not communicating what I want to say. But self-discipline is not my strongest point.
My kids almost revel in the fact that they are 'different' to others. Especially my youngest. He was telling me yesterday what made them all different. Ending with, 'as for me, I'm just totally weird'.
I've learnt that the right response isn't 'you're not weird'. He knows he's different and it's part of his identity. Though he probably isn't as weird as he thinks! (This picture of him was for Wacky Hair Day at Cubs - it's not 'normal' for him.)
We have a tv, but we only watch cricket - even though there is no rule about it. We all read pretty widely. We're intense. We're passionately Christian. I've never had to 'force' the kids to go to Sunday School or church. Oh, God has been good to us. Only I'm not sure what sort of a witness we 'different' people are.
I've been rebelling against being different. I want to fit in better. But the last little while I've given in. People are going to think I'm a bit odd. I can't really get away from that. And it takes off a lot of pressure to say, 'I'm me. Take it or leave it'. But there is still the longing to know what it's like to be more like others. To experience genuine community.
But to be honest, as long as I feel part of the 'uncool', I am motivated to care about the other 'uncools' out there. Maybe too much acceptance and safety would make me complacent. But God gives me little pockets of acceptance. It is enough.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What matters?

Wessel posted this thought on his blog. 'I can say, Let God matter. But, in reality, what matters is not God but my thought that "God should matter."... ' It's a quote from Emil Brunner and I must admit I don't really, really understand what it all means. But it made me think.

Then we were doing Amos at Bible Study. The very rich and the very poor. Nobody recognising God. Like us. We look for solutions to economic disparity (especially here in South Africa), we don't look for God.

But when we do look for God we say 'ok, let's give it over to God'. Then we think 'What would God do?' and then we go and do it. It's not God that matters, but our thoughts about God. Why don't we really let God do it? So often we play a game of believing in God, but he is just a set of ideals that we aspire to.

But God encourages that. Sometimes his voice is so clear and compelling that I know to obey. At others he seems so distant that I might as well spend Sunday mornings reading the newspaper. But I know that at those times he expects me to use my common sense and my understanding of him. I don't give up on him because he's not shouting to me. I ask myself, 'what would God do or want me to do?' and I do it.

So God matters and my thought that God matters also matters! But I must never get so involved in my own thoughts that I forget that there is a real God who may actually be wanting to do something far more wonderful than I can achieve on my own.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I've been reading Romans in my 'quiet times'. It can take me forever to get through a book, because I'll often read the same passage two or three days in a row. I read this morning Rom 15:21 Paul quotes, 'Those who were not told about him will see and those who have not heard will understand'.
But a while back I read Rom 10:14 Paul arguing, 'How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?'
Seems to me Paul is a bit inconsistent.
But the apparent contradictions in the Bible are what gives it its depth and mystery and the sense of God being somewhat bigger than we are. I like the paradoxes.
But I also like the mystery in 'Jabberwocky' and 'The Hunting of the Snark'. However, these I label 'nonsense'.
It is the realness of God that sets them apart. The Holy Spirit breathing life into the Bible. And I suppose that as I wrestle with contradictions and paradoxes in Scripture I realise that there is consistency. Amazing, actually, for the size of the book and the mixture of human authors. But it's not cut and dried. God is looking for people to engage with him. Cool.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

How do we love?

John Bailie wrote this on our church blog. "It would be easy to say that people don’t understand what it means to love. But I'm not sure that’s the real issue. I think people love as much as they can. Some love with depth, others with strength, others with imagination, other with determination and so on…"
Somehow that appeals to me and intrigues me. I suppose it's obvious that who we are affects how we love, but somehow he has put it so well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Clean Vines

Our minister was leading devotions at our internal staff meeting on Tuesday and read from John 15. He got as far as verse 3 and stopped because he said he didn't understand it. And we discussed it. Bit of an impromptu devotion, but interesting. The passage is the vine and the branches and verse 3 is 'You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.' That comes after a verse about pruning and before a verse about 'remaining in me'. What has being clean got to do with it? our minister asked. And why already clean?
First, the NIV text note tells us that the Greek for clean is the same as that for prune. Which makes it more complicated - I think. I would have to guess that 'word' is logos in the Greek - my reference books being a few kilometres away from where I am.
So they are made clean (ok to be with God) by the message Jesus has spoken (the explanation of his saving work which had yet to be completed). Now their task is to remain in the vine and avoid the pruners shears. And God will keep them clean (pruned). Grace precedes our faith and obedience. But interesting that if this is right, the disciples are already justified before Jesus died and rose again. The period of Jesus' life sits on an interesting edge between the Old and New Testaments. A line that divides, but zoomed in has width.
Now I wonder if anyone understands what I am going on about!

Sunday, November 11, 2007


One of the things I am thinking about is the concept of dualism. That word has come to imply and mean more than I usually think of theologically. What I am thinking about is the theology that sees the world as a battleground for a war between a good power and a bad power. A good god and a bad god. That's what I was taught when I was growing up and it certainly makes sense in many ways. But I've found myself going into difficult situations and saying, 'I hope God isn't going to give me too hard a time.' And then I catch myself and say, 'God isn't the enemy'. I've wondered why I seem sometimes to confuse the work of God and the work of Satan/evil/whatever. But having taken a step into trusting my own feelings and thinking that maybe those challenges are brought on by God I begin to see things in a new light.
I probably put myself at a disadvantage in many ways by insisting on a pretty strict intellectual consistency. Many people are happy to say in one breath, 'God is totally in control' and in the next, 'we have free will.' They don't easily go together - without a whole lot of buts.
I tend to paint things very much in black and white and things can become so clear when I realise that there are more colours! Yes, God does cause suffering. But not all suffering (speaking on a kind of close to earth level, not ultimate responsibility theologically!). He can cause me to grow by allowing people who are close to me, and Christians, to cause me pain - I've not been able to understand how Satan could use Christians to hurt me. But he doesn't send the drunken driver to kill a child. That is part of the fallen world - and where we play our part in the battle between good and evil which does exist.
So sometimes it is God and sometimes it is Satan. If it is from God, grow and learn. If it is from Satan defend, fight, learn. And discern.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Authentic Blogging

I really want to blog and I really want to write. But the last ten days have been so introspective I don't feel that I have anything to say. After all the inside of my life is much like any other life. But it is my life and I need to discover it.

I am competitive, even if I try to control it. It's in me. What else? My life feels plotted and planned for the next however many months and I must just walk following my nose. But I must seek to live in that. I look for God's leading, but there is no way to turn and no sense of his voice. I must look for my challenges inside of myself. To be more content. To build better relationships with those I already know. To be more sensitive, yet not destroyed by criticism. I should probably study next year, to provide a stretch . . . but I don't know.

This sounds despairing and discouraged and perhaps I am. But really I am expressing in my blog that which I cannot express elsewhere. This morning I spent about twenty minutes playing someone else's guitar in the church all by myself and singing the songs planned for Sunday morning. I felt great afterwards and no doubt caused the office folk to look at me sideways as I crossed the quadrangle singing 'Jesus I decide to live a life that shouts your fame'. And that joy is just as real as the frustration and inadequacy I also feel!

God is good. I know he has a purpose for me and I will trust him.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


This is quite complicated. If you're not up to it, please skip it and read something else! It relates to a post on ...daylight by Stephen Murray. What determines one's theological position, actually? You see I would call myself an evangelical - in a kind of old-fashioned sense. I'm not with a lot of people called evangelicals in the USA. I believe in salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and by his grace. I believe in the Bible as the inspired word of God, although I'm not always actually sure how to interpret it. I believe in some sort of selective judgement process. In fact, I'm with Stephen on most of the issues he lists in his post. The one where we differ we could have a good discussion about.

But now, I am a woman in leadership in the church and with the intention of becoming an ordained minister. Some evangelicals would say that I will head for hell, because that is not right. And we're basing our beliefs on the same Bible - different hermeneutic. But if God does not want me to lead why do I feel such a strong sense of call? Why does my community affirm me in that call? This is now subjective. But my experience must inform my hermeneutic. I think. Perhaps God is testing me. I should live in a state of unfulfillment that is obedient to a traditional understanding of scripture. But I'm not going that way.

So now, here come someone of the homosexual persuasion. He or she also feels called to ordained ministry. Why is his or her subjective call less valid than mine? (My peg in the ground at the moment says that I believe God is looking for families led by one parent of each sex. So at the moment I do deny that validity! Subject to change . . .)

Now I become offensive, perhaps. Along comes a pathological person who steals children permanently on life support at a hospital and kills them (make it worse, eats them). He or she also feels called to ordained ministry. Why is his or her subjective call less valid than mine? (We all agree it can't be right!)

I have no doubt that with careful effort the Bible can be made to support any of these positions.

But now, take the starting point, the evangelical position that says women may not lead. Why don't these people hold that women should wear hats to church? And not braid their hair or wear jewellery? (I know there are people like that.) I don't want to become ridiculous, but there is plenty in the New Testament that could be interpreted in such a way if context is ignored. Our hermeneutic is so important.

And where we start is so important. We like to stay where we are. Perhaps we will move one step away from conservative or one step towards. But at the end of the day I am where I am because it is where I started!

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Why do images like this appeal to me? I sometimes wonder what there is inside of me. I once saw some graffiti that said 'The Damned Shall Rule'. I had that on my mind for a long time afterwards - because something about it called to me.

My spider has a home. My desk at church got upgraded from small blue plastic table to adult size modern laminated wood. It's much nicer, but I find myself struggling with conforming and acting 'normal'. Perhaps I shall reinvent myself. In fact I can feel it happening . . .

I wonder where God is going to take me?

I wonder if he'll get rid of the bleak part of me?