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

22 January 2014

Eternal life

...it is with awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.  There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.  But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

CS Lewis, from his sermon "The Weight of Glory"

We talked about this in Bible study last year.  That it isn't just Christians who have eternal life.  Every human will live for all eternity.  The issue is where and how that eternity will be spent.  This is a sobering thought for all and helps me to think about how to best spend my days.

Two books about grief - and a third waiting in the wings

Over the last two or three years I have read and reflected on the subjects of suffering, death and grief quite a lot.  And it's been helpful.  But with all that energy, enthusiasm and optimism that comes with the beginning of a fresh new year I had thought that maybe this year I should shift my gaze to life and living.  You know, eating hot cross buns eight days into the year and other crazy stuff like that.  Yet, twenty days in and I had read two books on grief and been reminded of a third - Timothy Keller's Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering published last year - to acquire and read. 

The first two, predictably, were A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken and A Grief Observed by CS Lewis.  Both are beautifully written, personal accounts of grief following the deaths of their respective wives.  Without giving names to them, they write their way through what we know as the stages of grief - stages that don't pass in orderly fashion but that swirl around and around, being revisited time and time again - painfully, frustratingly and sometimes even comfortingly. 

These are wonderful books, but they're not books I'd give to someone in the raw stages of early grief.  As CS Lewis himself, a man of reading and writing and books and letters, said,

And no one ever told me about the laziness of grief.  Except at my job - where the machine seems to run on much as usual - I loathe the slightest effort.  Not only writing but even reading a letter is too much.

(A Grief Observed - Part One)

What I found especially helpful was reading about that time in grief that Vanauken calls "the second death" - and which CS Lewis described in his book in depth.  It's that moment in grief when it stops being so very raw.  When there aren't tears every day.  When maybe it's harder to bring a clear picture of the one lost so readily to mind or recall the exact tone of their voice.  It is the second death - and it feels all disloyal and like a betrayal.  And yet, it is getting through this step that leads to peace and acceptance.

Great books to read for their sheer beauty, to keep learning about grief and how to respond to it in a godly way and perhaps to share with someone who has reached that point of frustration in their grief and needs to give words to what is happening, see that it will pass - which is OK - and be assured that they will emerge from it all, albeit as a changed (hopefully stronger, richer) person from the one who stepped into the process.

20 January 2014

The Philippians project - the why and the how

Rachael, this is for you, because I have made a minor adjustment to my plan of attack.

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So, I mentioned here that I plan to try to memorise the whole of Philippians this year.  There are lots of excellent reasons to memorise Scripture.  Just google the subject to find list after list of good reasons why - and they make for helpful and encouraging reading, I might add.  For me, one of the biggies is that if, down the track, I lose my marbles, the one thing I want to stick is Jesus. 
 
But why Philippians in particular?  Because it has always been a soft place to fall.  It is the place where I have always found deep comfort and deep encouragement.  Right from the beginning.  The more I read the Bible, the longer the list of favourite bits grows.  But Philippians is home for me.  And I have decided that I want all of it at the ready, in my head and heart and readily accessible.
 
So how do I plan to do this?  To start with, I have headed back to my favourite John Piper sermon where he recites the whole of Philippians in the first fifteen minutes.   I have started listening just to the first fifteen minutes whenever I can.  This is somewhat ironic given that I am way down the end of the visual learner spectrum.  (Don't bother giving me verbal instructions on how to get to your house...just tell the page number in the directory.)  Also, Piper is operating from the ESV whereas I am an NIV '84 girl.  But I think listening to it multiple times will be helpful, even so, for the size of this task.  In any case, the way Piper emphasises certain phrases has unlocked the meaning in particular spots which has been a great blessing. 
 
Secondly, my current Bible reading plan has me reading a portion from the Old Testament, New Testament and a Psalm.  In the last couple of days I have decided to tack on a chapter of Philippians every day as well - getting through it once every four days.
 
Down the track I will photocopy Philippians and leave it in my bag, to work on specific sections when I have a few minutes here and there to dedicate to the task.
 
That's the plan.  I'll see how it goes.

12 January 2014

The year of...

Every year the United Nations declares it to "the International Year of ___ (fill in the blank)."  A year to raise awareness and celebrate particular causes.

This year it's the International Year of Small Island Developing States and the International Year of Family Farming AND the International Year of Crystallography.

Since starting this blog, I've given each year a designation as well. 

2009 was the Year of Optimism and the Year of the Garden.
2010 was the Year of the Roast.
2011 was the Year of Five New Things.
2012 was the Year of Praying for my Friends.
And 2013...well, 2013 didn't get a name.  Maybe it was the Year of the Strawberry Meringue Stack.

Plans for 2014 are still forming and settling into place.  Some of the goals for the year include:-
1.  The Daily Bible Reading plan.
2.  Memorising the whole of Philippians.  (Yes!  You read it first here.)
3.  Learning how to use a slow cooker.  Once the weather cools down I will be calling for your best slow cooker recipes.  Get them ready.

And there's a handful of plans and ideas brewing, not yet Internet ready.  So there is to be no naming of the year as yet.  That will perhaps come later.

That said, twelve days into the year, I find I have five books other than the Bible on the go at the moment.  Two on the go is abnormal for me.  I'm not quite sure what's going on here.  Short concentration span?  And not two days after Deb's post on hot cross buns I found myself at a friend's house eating one.  With real butter.  It was delicious.  I'd barely dusted off the fruit mince pie crumbs.

So maybe it will be the Year of Outrageousness...in my own mild mannered way.  Time will tell.

05 January 2014

Things I like # 1

# 1 - A trampoline spring tool

Back in the day when Kevin Rudd was handing out stimulus package money, we spent some of ours on a trampoline.  The frame and springs are originals but we have replaced the mat, spring protector and barrier net each a couple of times.  Yesterday I replaced the mat that had done us two excellent years' service.  When I ordered the new mat I took the liberty of ordering one of these too...


...a trampoline spring tool.  This handy little tool enabled me to put the new mat on in ten minutes without giving myself a hernia as opposed to the last time when it took more than half an hour and was, shall we say, a tad exhausting.  I may not have many more trampoline mats to replace in my lifetime as a mother of boys who are not so small anymore.  But even if I only use it one or two more times, it was a worthwhile purchase.  Don't change a trampoline mat without a trampoline spring tool.  You can borrow mine if you need one.