Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

31 December 2013

The last week of the year

25th December - a full, busy, glorious day.  It started early and finished late. 

26th December - an empty, quiet, glorious day.  It started late and finished early.  Most of the interim was spent on the sofa interrupted only by needing to get up for another cup of tea.  Also by, "Are we going to eat anything today?" at about 11:30am when most of the new Lego sets were dealt with.

(Note to self: MUST make the boys clean their rooms before Christmas day next year.  Too hard to absorb new things into old, messy bedrooms on Boxing Day.  Consequently, stuff strewn all over the place.  No matter, the sofa is clear.)

Came the full circle with Jane Austen.  I got her complete works last Christmas and read them all, as you know, through the year.  This year I got The Jane Austen Book Club for Christmas - my Boxing Day read.  A bit disappointing - less about the novels and more about the tangled lives of the book club members.  But there was a great appendix with various quotes from Jane Austen's contemporaries through to modern day commentators with their thoughts on Jane (may I call her by her first name?) and her writing.  Some good and some not so good.

Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.
Mark Twain.  Not a fan, it seems. 

I imagined being a famous writer would be like being like Jane Austen. Being able to sit at home in the parsonage and your books would be very famous and occasionally you would correspond with the Prince of Wales' secretary.
J K Rowling.  A fellow introvert.

27th December - the mind involuntarily turns to 2014 and starts making resolutions.  Not by my planning.  It just happens and I can't seem to stop it.  The mind is amazing.  Head filling not with plans so much as personal goals.  No actual planning for the year ahead.  Still needing long stretches of time on the sofa, including an afternoon nap.

28th December - liking the personal goals that are forming in my mind.  Beginning to worry that I have no energy or inclination to make actual plans for the year ahead.  Have I crashed?  Another afternoon nap on the sofa.

29th December - Sunday - a great time at church.  Greatly encouraged by the saints.  Small thoughts of the year ahead begin to form and fill me with joy.  Plans, not just personal goals.  Even so, loving the idea of trading one dramatic resolution for 10,000 little ones.  This is so right.

30th December - suddenly it feels like summer holidays with the commencement of two weeks of swimming lessons for the boys.  We fall into the pattern of going to the pool in the morning and hanging at home in the afternoon.  Fall asleep on the sofa in the afternoon.  Again.  But wake up in time to make this...


...a Christmas pudding ice cream cake thing-o, in time for dinner with dear friends.  Christmas lingers a little longer.

31st December - swimming lessons this morning again. 

Been mucking around on the computer this afternoon.  Three status updates on my Facebook page (too many for one afternoon), two more for a Facebook group I'm in, answered four messages and am about to publish my second blog post for the afternoon as well.  Beginning to feel like I should have had a nap on the sofa.  The kids are watching Despicable Me so I could lay on the sofa and watch it with them and see if I make it to the end of the movie.  For all this posting and blogging, no sight of a post documenting plans and goals for the year ahead.  But enjoying reading others as they begin to appear.  I quite like this time of year in blogosphere. 

Maybe I will get to mine tomorrow. Or the day after.  Or some other time after that.  Definitely sliding into the summer holidays. 


Bible reading for the year ahead


How did your Bible reading go in 2013? I know of five dear ones who have been having a tilt at using a reading plan to get through the Bible in a year this year and I have been praying for each of you.  Whether you made it to the end or not, my prayer now is that it has been a wonderful journey no matter how far you got and that you are spurred on to press on.

Probably you already have 2014 sorted, but if not...

If you started in on a plan but stumbled and fell, here are three wonderful options...

1. Start again.
2. Pick up from where you left off.  This has the advantage that you will not be tied to calendar dates and that might take the legalism out of the exercise if that is a danger for you.  And it gives you the space to slow down or speed up as time, need and want allows.
3. Choose a new plan and start afresh.

If you are looking for a new plan or a first time plan here is THE place to go.  My three favourites are...

The Daily Reading Bible Plan - which takes you through the Psalms and New Testament twice and the rest of the Old Testament once.  Three readings a day.

The Chronological Bible Reading Plan - affectionately known as the CBRP, which takes you through the Bible in Chronological order - three to four chapters a day.

Every Day in the Word - four short  readings that take you through the Psalms twice in the year and Proverbs, the rest of the Old Testament (from front to back) and the New Testament once.

Each of these takes me about ten to fifteen minutes per day if I don't stop to linger.

If taking on the whole Bible seems too much, then I would suggest using either the first or third plan and just reading the New Testament and maybe the Psalms readings each day.  The Daily Reading Plan will take you through those readings twice in the year.  Everyday in the Year will take you through the New Testament once and the Psalms twice.  This would be a great start to forming a life long, life giving habit.

Please let me know if you are going to use a reading plan.  I would love to pray for you. And please pray for me too.  Don't think for a minute that I have this all sown up.  I love reading the Bible. Yes, yes, yes.  But that doesn't mean it isn't a battle at times. 

Oh, and how did I go in2013?  I used the Every Day in the Word plan this year and kept pretty well on track until September or October, which is a bit of a record for me.  I spent the last part of the year falling behind and catching up again, finishing yesterday. 

This year I am back to the Daily Reading Bible Plan.  I have been encouraging (some would say nagging) friends at church to read along with me this year and I think a few are going to join in.  It will be great to spur one another on in this.  And next year (yes...I already know what I am doing in 2015, God willing) I hope to do the same plan but starting at the beginning of the year in the middle of the plan - at the beginning of the New Testament and Psalms and in the middle of the Old Testament - because it will be time again to give the poor old Prophets the fresh end of the year and my attention.  They were a little short changed this year...

Happy reading.  Happy New Year.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,  and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 
Colossians 1:9-12

25 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. 
Let earth receive her King.
 

24 December 2013

Quietly getting ready


 

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given.
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.

23 December 2013

Greetings in the digital age - the Christmas edition

The Christmas cards are done.  Late this year.  And that was after I had culled the list.  The overseas ones were sent ten days out from Christmas.  The interstate ones went out with a week to spare.  The ones in and out of my own city were dropped in the post box yesterday.  On the 22nd December.  With a muttered apology to the poor postal workers who have to sort and maybe even deliver my mail this close to Christmas.  I'm appalled at myself.

There was considerable inertia to get the Christmas mail done this year.  Deb found the same.  On her post I put it down the to the recent full moon.  But the real reason for me was West Wing.  I am at the business end of the boxed set.  It's been a big six or eight months. And one evening early in December I was so tired after a busy day that I couldn't think of Christmas mail so I put on an episode.  That may or may not have led to one or two episodes more.  That certainly led to a late night.  So that by the next night I was so tired from my late night that there was nothing for it but to collapse on the sofa and watch West Wing...

Nothing like the pressure of a deadline (and that awful episode where Arnold Vinick's hand is broken from too many hand shakes) to break a bad habit and get you moving.  And I do like to write the annual Christmas letter.  If nothing else, in the absence of keeping a journal, it serves as my own little reminder of our year.  I've kept every one I've written since that year I dared to cross to the dark side of the photocopied Christmas letter.  That would be 1995.

I've said (ad nauseum, some might say) that we don't write letters anymore because we have email.  But then we don't actually correspond by email either.  And email has been overtaken by the shorter, sharper and snappier Facebook...and possibly by other means electronic that I don't even know about. 

I reflected here about the change in how we tackle greetings in the digital age when someone has passed away.  And it would seem that in one short year lots has changed about how we send Christmas greetings too. 

Last year we received lots of Christmas cards and as for previous years, many photocopied Christmas letters that I would place in a special box on the coffee table to read and enjoy during quiet moments.  And last year there were quite a few letters that arrived electronically, most of which I printed out to put in the box as well.

This year we have received lots of cards.  Most of them are from people who live within a five kilometre radius of our home.  Most of them hand delivered.  We attend a church with people who delight in swapping cards with one another so the last couple of Sundays have been fun.  There were quite a few received from friends at the end of the school year as well.  Then a few cards have come in the mail.   But the letters.  As of today the count is two in post and two attached to emails. 

That said, Facebook is becoming a fun place to hang about, so please don't hear me complaining about a lack of Christmas mail.  It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas in that electronic neck of the woods.  And I get it.  The inertia was enormous this year.  I find myself wondering if this year is it.  There will always be a collection of souls who will receive a card from us, for any number of reasons.  But I am wondering whether next year I go essentially electronic.  My letter writing self would consider this to be crossing over to the really dark bit of the dark side of Christmas greetings.  But things have moved along really quickly in the digital world this year - a lot of it good  - and I feel I am moving along with it.  I guess another year will tell.

Or maybe it really was just the full moon, after all.

12 December 2013

Longing and waiting

I look one way and I see my kids counting down the days to Christmas.  The Advent calendar is a constant reminder.  There's daily excitement.  What will today's pocket hold?  But really, they long with eager anticipation for THE day.  The day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Great joy.

I look the other way and I see my friend whose mum is dying.  I am anxious with every beep of my phone that heralds the next text message.  Will this be the one?  They long for her to be out of pain and to be at Home with Jesus.  And yet they long for a few more days.  It's so, so hard.  I watch from the sidelines and I long for the time when Jesus will come again and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

I look back many years now and remember when my own dad was dying over Christmas.  I remember praying that he would live.  And then praying that he would die, to bring an end to his suffering.  And then as he lay there neither improving or declining, I remember praying that I would learn to wait in patience for God's perfect timing.  And perfect it was, as a few days before he went Home to be with Jesus he gave us the small but sure indication that this was indeed where he was heading.  God's perfect timing was perfect comfort.

I look one way, the other, then back and now forward.  It makes the shape of the cross.  Christ.  Christmas.  Longing with the excited anticipation of a child.  Longing with a heavy heart that is, even so, sustained by the sure hope of a new creation.  Learning to wait patiently and to trust that Jesus will come again in God's perfect timing, when all who love Him have been found.

Longing and waiting.  Advent.

Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14

05 December 2013

How's your Advent?

During the last week I have had an enormous amount of traffic to a post I wrote in 2009 - the one about how you can use the Jesus Storybook Bible as an Advent calendar.  Over 2000 visitors to that one post.  In a week.  (Hello visitors!)  That is quite a lot more than the usual ten dear ones (hello you guys) who drop by occasionally.

Anyway, in case you missed it...if you go HERE you will find all the hard work for getting the Jesus Storybook Bible up and running as an Advent calendar done and ready to print off for free.  It's probably too late for this year but go and print off a copy ready for another year - or to give away.  This is an amazing resource.

In other news, I have just about finished all the Christmas shopping I am going to do this year.  Good news.   However the Christmas letter writing muse seems to have upped and left the house.  And given it's 5th December...that's bad news. 

01 December 2013

Summer update

Giving up: on monthly status reports.  I read a few of them all at once a while ago and you know, they are a bit repetitive.   So I'm having a go at the quarterly approach at the beginning of each new season instead.

Reading: the last month of my Bible reading plan for the year and also Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus edited by Nancy Guthrie.  I read Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus in 2010 and LOVED it.  I didn't read much of it in 2011 because I kept giving my copy away to someone, buying a new one and giving that one away and so on, all the way to Christmas.  I'm not sure what happened in 2012, but I didn't read it.  This year is the year.

Recently discovered:  that I like beetroot dip.  And carrot cake.  Not together though.

Eating: carrot cake.

Have had: the perfect diary to keep track of life for the last two years.

Panicked: when the place that sets up each November to sell calendars and diaries for the year ahead didn't have the perfect diary.  There was one there but it has an intolerable cover and intolerable pictures scattered through it.  Couldn't overlook the artwork for the sake of a perfect system.  It does after all have to be my constant companion for a whole year.

Went to: extraordinary lengths  to get a perfect diary for next year.  That is, after a quick a look around at a few shops, ordered one off the Internet.  What is the perfect diary, you ask?  It is an A5 diary with a week to the page on the left and a lined page on the right for notes and the weekly TO DO list.  Perfection.  And the one I chose is cornflower blue.  Very happy.

Bought: a new CD last month.  Third Day's Christmas Offerings.  I couldn't get enough of their rendition of O Holy Night last Christmas.  Loving it. 

Resources for Advent:  Besides the above mentioned...

For smalls, The Jesus Storybook Bible which acts like an Advent calendar.

For adults and for bigger kids who can manage a grown up version of the Bible, there are a great set of Jesse tree readings (bit like an Advent calendar in tree form) in the appendix of Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent and Barbara Hughes.  I've seen a few versions of Jesse tree readings and some of them have REALLY LONG readings.  The Hughes' set is very short-concentration-span friendly.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss is a fun reminder against greed.  I borrow it from the library most years.  I've never got around to buying one.  Maybe that though is part of the message of the book.

If you are looking for an excellent Christmas tract, the Christmas WordWatch published by Matthias Media is the one for you.  Say the good people at Matthias Media,
"In this 'mini-dictionary', word guru Kel Richards puts us straight on the origin and meaning of some common Christmas words and traditions, and tells us things about Christmas we may never have known. As he does so, Kel cleverly communicates important Gospel truths in a gentle way." 
I'm giving a copy of this to each of my upper primary Scripture kids at the end of the school year.

Making a big effort: to be joyful.  Last year as the notes kept coming home from school with more and more things to do to mark the end of the year, I found myself rolling my eyes a bit.  I later remembered that a) I don't let my kids roll their eyes at me and b) I don't ever recall my parents rolling their eyes at all the things they had to take us to at the end of the year...or any other part of the year for that matter.  So practicing joy and enthusiasm...and it does have a flow on effect. We are all having a happier time of it this year. 

Inspired: by Deb's Christmas tree to finish this update with a Christmas tree quiz.  Please join in by answering in the comments section.

1. When do you put up your Christmas tree?
2.  Colour co-ordinated or mix-and-match?
3.  If you have kids, do you decorate the tree yourself, let the kids decorate it or let the kids decorate it and then fix it up when they go to bed?
4.  When do the presents go under the tree?  As they are wrapped/received or not until Christmas Eve?