Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

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musings on Psalm 139

March 29, 2011

Psalm 139 – 13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. (NKJV)

Please excuse me for asking what will no doubt come across as a stupid question to my theologically inclined friends, but here goes. Psalm 139 says, to me, that God made each individual with a specificity and attention to detail. However, can this not also be a potentially negative thing*? Or is it an inherently uplifting and positive scripture?

It seems too easy to perhaps draw out what will probably sound incredibly shallow**: if God created me to be like this, why? Why this… broken ugly hideous visage? The faults? The imperfections? Okay, I know the whole thing about how we live in a broken fallen world that was once very good, since damaged, one day to be restored. But, is that it? Is that all there is to it? To the question of one’s fundamental worth?

Anyway, just wondering. I don’t know if anyone has any thoughts on it but any comments would be welcome. I have a working feminist position on the issue (initially sparked by reading Wolf’s The Beauty Myth) but I have largely been disappointed with Christian approaches to the concept of beauty.

For the record, I do not want to impose any particular mould (“iron maiden” as Wolf described) upon other women; I disagree with externalised, cultural definitions of beauty as being far too narrow to encompass the breadth of human female variety. Problem is, I find it very easy to take it out on myself.

 

*not to imply that the only valid positions are necessarily positive

** but I am confident I’m not the only one who thinks these things

 

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Christmas Time Devotionals

November 23, 2010

Christmas Themed Devotional Readings: https://darthmaulmakesmesmile.wordpress.com/tag/Christmas-2008/

In 2008 I wrote a series of 28 Christmas-themed devotionals, beginning with https://darthmaulmakesmesmile.wordpress.com/2008/11/24/christmas01/.

At the time, I wrote:

I thought I’d take some time out to share a few thoughts on Christmas in the month to come, as a sort-of non-denominational pre-Christmas Advent devotional and musings column. I hope that it brings you some light, inspiration and excitement as we remind ourselves of the true meaning of the festive occasion.

I believe it is still relevant and hope you will consider reading it as part of your spiritual journey during December.

The devotionals incorporate Bible scriptures and links to further readings on related topics of faith.

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Dressing For The Inner Me

September 28, 2010

Here’s a brief excerpt from comments I made during a facebook conversation today. It happened on my current profile photo. The conversation amused me so much that I thought I should share it:

(On the topic of what clothes to wear to church) “I should just turn up one day dressed as the inner me…which will presumably be barefoot, wearing spiritual wanderer pilgrim style clothes crossed with sci-fi sensibilities with my hair down to my waist carrying the Bible printed on a papyrus scroll or something…”

I can just imagine turning up to church looking like that. I think it would very quickly divide people – there’d be those who encourage the whole free spirit attitude; the rest who desperately want to be all-embracing but would feel somewhat uncomfortable. As I also mentioned in the conversation, the current dress trend among fellow 20-something year old members of our church seems to be skinny jeans, tight bicep-revealing shirts (for the guys) and loose shirts with lots of necklaces for the girls. Then there’s me – flared or boot cut jeans, skate shoes and novelty t-shirts. That’s my safe mode of dressing. Believe me when I say that if my budget could handle it I would be dressing more like some pseudo-Goth-Jedi Knight(ess)-greenie-forest dweller-spiritual wanderer. Funny that what I perceive as more “natural” (or just more me) is potentially more expensive! And let’s face it, jeans and t-shirt isn’t a particularly confronting.

And, in random news, recently I’ve been taking a lot more interest in lingerie and clothes. What’s happening to me!?

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Beauty

September 27, 2010

If I can’t be beautiful, can I at least have the capacity to create something beautiful?

All right, I know, that comment alone goes against everything I believe philosophically, rationally, sociologically, historically, spiritually and scripturally about the true definition of beauty… but sometimes, looking at beautiful photographs of beautiful women in my general forays into art/photography land leaves me feeling a little bit crushed and hollowed out. Why can’t I look like that?

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Sometimes I feel a bit redundant

September 27, 2010

Yeah, what the heading said.

So, I’m in this weird state of mind where I look at what the people in my husband’s family do (career wise, spiritually, educationally, etcetera) and I wonder what on Earth I’m doing there. I don’t belong there. Everything that I have considered unique about me, or specific to my self identity, has already been taken up by other people there. Strange that it should bother me so much, but here we are!

I used to be an obsessive musician. Granted, I was never a virtuoso, but many people remarked on my innate gift for music. I was even the inaugural music captain at my high school (13 years ago, that was!). Then I moved to the suburbs, joined a brilliant mega-church, and discovered that good musicians are a dime-a-dozen. So, I gave up my music. Oh, I occasionally strum the guitar and I can help my kids with their own piano studies, but I feel like a part of me has died a very painful death in giving up music. Listening to the Karnivool album ‘Sound Awake’ this afternoon, I had to admit that putting my beloved 5-string bass guitar in its case and stuffing it away behind the chest-of-drawers in my bedroom was a terrible, terrible thing. I really should dust the poor neglected guitars off and play, even if just for my own sanity.

Perhaps I’m just in a low point in my life. I look at the high-flying, high-achieving 20-somethings around me and compare myself to them. I’m in my late 20s and what do I have to show for it? A still as-yet-incomplete uni course on the go, no job, no music. I struggle with the things I love, art and writing. I just have to keep reminding myself that other Australian women my age often aren’t married with children like I am, and it feels good thinking that my youngest will be finishing high school when I’m 40 years old!

In all the self-loathing and moaning and carrying on, I have neglected my Bible study. So, in order to combat this, today I spent an hour scouring a Bible study website to begin a word study on the “elements”: earth, wind, fire, and water. Talk about a massive topic! It should keep me occupied for some time.

Hopefully, as I pour myself into God and into the bigger picture, I will begin to regain my confidence and strength. I hope that one day I can create something beautiful and worthwhile.

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Article: “An Equal-Opportunity Destroyer”

September 22, 2010

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/september/24.71.html

Extract:

“If you’ve heard the word porn in church recently, in a small group or from the pulpit, chances are you hardly blinked. Thanks to ministries like Promise Keepers and Operation Integrity, the research of sex addiction expert Patrick Carnes and neuroscientist William Struthers, and individuals courageous enough to admit they have a problem, American churches have squarely faced porn’s destructive and tragic effects. We know porn is highly addictive, and we have more tools than ever to break its stranglehold. Praise God.” Read More.

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Captivating

September 14, 2010

Today I picked up an “old friend” of a book – John Eldredge and Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating (2005). I simply can’t recommend it enough. It is one of the (sadly) very few Christian women’s books that I have read, and re-read, and been transformed by.

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More apologetics!

September 13, 2010

Useful resource for introductory Christian apologetics from CMI.

I have read both the books in this set and do recommend them to fellow Christ followers who want to learn more about how to defend their faith and explain it to the people around them. (I know I post a lot of links to this particular Christian ministry; I do not work for them, I simply appreciate the impact they’ve had on my own faith journey!)

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Christian Apologetics Article on “BioLogos”

September 7, 2010

Another apologetics link – in this case, on the topic of BioLogos, one of the various alternative perspectives out there that tries to fit the Bible into science (in this case, it appears to be a form of “theistic evolution“).

http://creation.com/biologos-evolutionary-syncretism

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Apologetics Links: Genesis 1 & 2 – contradictory?

September 6, 2010

A frequently asked apologetics question (and, admittedly, one that never really crossed my mind even in my most skeptical anti-Bible beliefs) is the perceived contradiction between the first two chapters of Genesis. My simplest preferred answer to this is that Genesis 2 is merely a fleshing out of the details of Genesis 1:24-31.

All links accessed 6 September 2010.

http://creation.com/genesis-contradictions

http://www.gotquestions.org/two-Creation-accounts.html

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2010/09/03/feedback-genesis-1-and-2#

http://www.tektonics.org/jedp/creationtwo.html

http://creation.com/whats-in-a-name

http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-ordercreation.html

Read Genesis Chapter 1 at Bible Study Tools (New King James Version)

Read Genesis Chapter 2 at Bible Study Tools (New King James Version)

*This post is not dealing with the issue of whether or not Genesis should be taken literally, just whether or not the first two chapters of the Bible contradict each other. Further information on the issue of historicity of Genesis can be found at the websites linked above, and clarifying questions should be directed to those websites.

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Article by Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

September 4, 2010

Hipster Faith | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

Good article that I just read.

My questions of late have dealt with a lot of this stuff. Yes, I appreciate the sentiments expressed by what this article calls ‘hipster Christians,’ but as someone who travelled in the opposite direction: from outsider to following Christ: I am troubled by what I see as merely fashionable rebellion.

Do we need to be any of this? Do we need to be worldly tattooed conservative semi-rebels who pretend we’re cool because we swear in church and wear tight jeans? Do we need to be ultra-conservative somber perfect politically right-wing killjoys? Do we need to go hear shock jock preachers who purport to hold the real answers for a postmodern world and be manipulated into thinking that we are somehow less narrow minded and less judgemental and more like Jesus now?

Why can’t we just be ourselves and let Jesus shape us as He has intended?

Church and Christianity in general have been a source of significant disappointment for me in recent months. If it weren’t for the shining example of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, not to mention my love of the Bible and the close friends in whom I see Christ’s hands and feet, and the intelligent individuals with whom I’ve discussed theology and apologetics, it would be very difficult for me to remain in church.

I have so much more to say on this topic but haven’t yet worked out a way to articulate it, so I’ll leave it at that. This university essay won’t write itself. I will try to return to this issue after higher priority work is out of the way; though I suspect that it is an issue that won’t leave me in the first place.

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10 Blogging Commandments?

September 3, 2010

Thought this constituted some good advice. What is it with angry “religious” blogs, anyway? (Speaking as a committed Christian who sees no need for vitriolic attacks on people with different opinions and perspectives – there’s room enough on the Internet for everyone, right?)

http://www.geeksaresexy.net/2008/10/03/church-leaders-draw-up-ten-blogging-commandments/

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Thinking aloud: reclaiming identity and beauty

September 2, 2010

Is it possible to become simultaneously less judgemental yet more shallow?

I ask the question because I realise, as I look around the shopping centre, that these days I am far less likely to judge other people based on their outwards appearance; yet more likely to spend an effort on my own appearance.

Is paying attention to personal grooming actually shallow, anyway?

As I hit my late 20s, I reflexively observe that I am starting to claim and reclaim aspects of my personal identity that were not a high priority for me in my teens.

I am a mother, and I claim that as part of my identity. I also stand firm in my belief that to be a mother is not equivalent to losing all sense of self-esteem, nor is it an excuse to pay less attention to my outwards appearance. I have often thought this in my just-over 8 years of parenthood (9 years, if you count pregnancy as parenthood). It was once again highlighted for me recently when I noticed that at least a few mums (moms, for the North American readers!) spend a lot of money and effort on clothes for their children, but dress themselves extremely casually (not that I particularly care if a mum wants to dress in trackie dacks and ugg boots, but be assured, that’s not for me!).

I have Anglo-Celtic heritage – more Celtic than Anglo – with a bit of French somewhere in the background. I claim that as a significant aspect of my ethno-cultural identity, as an  Anglo-Celtic Australian. It is a package deal: don’t pick on me for my super pale white skin, and don’t pick on my many immediate family members with their red hair – it’s nothing but poorly disguised racism. I would never dare to attack someone because they’re “not tanned enough”, and thus I make a stand. I don’t wear fake tan, either. It looks stupid on me. I don’t sunbathe – certainly not with the high skin cancer statistics: two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70, according to the SunSmart website (article dated March 2010, accessed 2 September 2010).

However, I digress. I have spent far too long worrying about people not liking me for who I am. I am learning to accept myself and others, at the same time I am learning to spend more effort on “looking good”. My question is, then, are these things mutually exclusive?

On the topic of looking good, I recently read a great book: The Science of Sexy: Dress to fit your unique figure with the style system that works for every shape and size by Bradley Bayou (2006 edition) [Amazon]. I highly recommend it for women like myself who want to do the best they can with the figure they’ve got. I found it light-hearted, practical and realistic, and am now in the process of trying  to implement its advice in my wardrobe and accessories.

The short story is that it dawns upon me that life is far too short to be wasted on picking on other people for their clothing style, haircut, and body shape. Yes, I know that this is elementary Christianity*, and elementary feminism, all rolled into one, but to have a deep down illumination and revelation of this is another matter altogether. It’s one thing to have head knowledge, it’s another thing to live it from the heart. And it’s yet another thing to live in such a way that offers freedom to others. Life also seems far too short to spend living half-hearted – and for me, reclaiming my feminine identity is part of this process of living life to the full.

*It saddens me that very few Christian women authors appear willing to take a stance against the cultural-structural images of womanhood. Most of the Christian women’s texts on beauty that I have read centre more on the theme of “God loves you even if everyone else thinks you’re ugly,” rather than what I believe is the sociologically far more appropriate “Culturally designed notions of beauty are historically, ethnically, socially positioned beliefs that are not foundational to  Biblical interpretations of beauty.”

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Christian Apologetics Resources

September 1, 2010

1 Peter 3:15-16 reads:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as LORD. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

(New International Version, http://www.biblestudytools.com/1-peter/3.html)

Knowing the impact that Christians who follow this instruction have had in my own life, I have sought to follow it as closely as possible. To be able to “give an answer” when I can. Perhaps my reputation for doing this spread  a little amongst my fellow churchgoers, because I have found more and more recently that I get asked a lot of questions. Admittedly, my response often resorts to a line that I taught to members of the Bible study groups I used to lead: “I am not sure I can answer your question, but if you really want an answer, I will try to find one.”

Usually, when trying to answer people’s genuine questions*, or at least set them in a helpful direction, I generally refer them to one of several websites. In light of a recent increase in the number of questions I’ve been asked, here follows a list of the websites I have found most useful in helping fellow believers consider possible answers to their faith dilemmas.

* Genuine questions from genuine open-minded seekers, as in, not questions for the sake of being irritating!

I list these with the clear understanding that no apologetics ministry is infallible, and that all statements of faith must be measured against the Word of God (the Bible). I am also a  firm believer in academic freedom-of-thought, where all views deserve a reasonable voice in discourse.

If you have any suggested apologetics links, feel free to list them in the comments boxes. Be aware that more than one or two links will probably result in your comments being filtered for moderation / spam!

Creation Ministries International (Australia)

Creation: Frequently Asked Questions (Australia)

Creation Magazine (Australia)

Leadership U

Master Books

Every Student

Alien Intrusion (Australia)

Christian Answers

Josh McDowell

Institute for Creation Research

Probe Ministries

Archaeological Diggings Magazine

Ancient Days

Tekton Apologetics Ministry

Messiah Comes

Koorong Books – Academic (Australia)

Biblical Hermeneutics (Australia)

Kevin Conner E-Store (Australia)

RZIM

There are many, many books available on apologetics topics. Some books that I have read and found helpful are:

More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell

The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

In Six Days edited by John F. Ashton

The Creation Answers Book by Don Batten et. al.

Jesus Among Other  Gods by Ravi Zacharias

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And, on the topic of the election…

July 30, 2010

I just inadvertently came across some interesting, hateful, anti-Christian material regarding the Australian election. I don’t normally read this stuff, and believe everyone’s entitled to their opinion… Yet, I do wonder where the logic lies in the argument that Christians should not be  given a voice in politics.

We (as in, my family) pay our taxes, work hard, care about social issues (particularly social justice), and  yet it would appear that some fellow Aussies can’t think of anything better to say than “Oh, those right-wing conservatives are daring to influence politics.”

Despite stereotypes that have presumably been forced on the Australian conscience by the over-influence of American culture in our media, to be Christian is not the equivalent of being a fundamentalist right-wing, gun-toting nutcase who forces Bibles on the unwilling masses and herds them into church buildings like mindless cattle. I distance myself from any such caricature.

I am green conscious, vegetarian, anti-hunting, anti-whaling, and I care about issues such as the rising violence in Australian cities, the suffering of the homeless, the breakdown of family relationships, hospital waiting lists, road congestion, public transport, the quality of life for Indigenous Australians, the treatment of refugees, the unfair lack of services for rural Australians, the shocking statistics on child abuse, the need for high educational standards across all types of schools, the freedom of choice for parents to raise their children in their chosen cultural context, the fight on shameful racist violence… How are these the concerns of some redneck yokel?

I certainly can’t answer for all Christians and won’t deny that some of them hold different views to the PC accepted “norm” but then, so what? Isn’t that what we get when for living in a democracy? Everyone gets a say, and a vote. Including Christians, and representatives of other religious belief systems. It’s not just the non-religious who should get a say in the running of this nation.

Is it a surprise that some Christian citizens take the matter of politics seriously? I don’t think so. Some of us are trying to be good citizens, and it’s not in the name of some conspiracy theory hate-filled attack on minority groups. I can’t believe that it even feels necessary to point out these things.

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Australian Election: Resources for Christian Voters

July 30, 2010

Here’s a few links (all accessed 30 July 2010) on the upcoming Australian Federal election. Some Christian ministries have spent a lot of time and effort in trying to “demystify” the different positions of some of the political parties and it is well worth looking at their materials. As far as I can tell, none of these ministries promotes one particular party over the other, seeking to provide a straightforward comparison of the parties’ positions on issues that may be meaningful to Christian voters.

http://www.christianvalues.org.au/check_list.html

http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2010/07/29/christians-and-the-election/

http://australianchristianlobby.org.au/make-it-count/

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Books: A Profound Weakness: Christians & Kitsch

July 23, 2010

A Profound Weakness: Christians & Kitsch (2005, B. Spackman, UK: Piquant)

I’ve been reading this excellent book on and off for a few months. Each time, I am once again amazed by its intelligent exploration of Christianity and the arts (and kitsch). It’s very challenging, too, and there’s a good chance that a lot of Christian readers might even feel insulted or uncomfortable by the text. Not that feeling bad is a problem: sometimes the truth hurts! It has taken me so long to read, simply because it is so big, so deep, that I can only absorb it in small doses. However, it addresses several important issues of Christianity, and I highly recommend it.

It is for anyone who has ever stopped to ask about the meanings (both overt and hidden) behind Christmas card imagery, Jesus statues, graveyards, motherhood and Mary, Christian t-shirts, Bible verse embroidery, multimedia presentations in church, church buildings, What Would Jesus Do? bracelets, icons, relics and several other similar areas. The insights regarding Christian art, particularly in the pressure upon artists to deliberately incorporate deliberate Gospel messages in their work, is especially important. I have enjoyed the process of being confronted by this powerful illustrated text.

I just wonder how I can get all the Jesus bumper sticker types at my church to read it! (Before you ask, I do not have any Christian bumper stickers on my car. My theory is that, unless I’m a brilliant and consistently courteous, careful driver, I probably shouldn’t be turning people off Jesus by inadvertently irritating them. What is it with the crooked parking, lane-cutting, unexplained sudden braking driving habits of people with ‘Fear God’ bumper stickers*, anyway?!)

(Links accessed 23 July 2010.)

More information:

http://www.amazon.com/Profound-Weakness-Christians-Kitsch/dp/1903689139/

http://orders.koorong.com/search/product/view.jhtml?code=1903689139

http://word.com.au/details.aspx?ProductID=546404

http://piquanteditions.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=10

*generalisation for humourous purposes only

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Thoughts on Australian politics

July 20, 2010

At the risk of inadvertently turning this into a political blog, I want to highlight the important issue of chaplains in Australian schools.

In recent times, chaplains have been made available in many schools to help students work through their issues. I have, as a parent, even employed the services of my children’s school chaplains when one of my kids was struggling with some issues. The chaplains responded quickly and provided excellent standards of counselling and assistance for my child, who subsequently saw a great improvement in social relationships with other children at school.

Some politicians (particularly the left wing, though some of those have supported chaplaincy) have suggested that the widespread religious education programmes in Australian public (Government-operated) schools and chaplaincy should be replaced in favour of non-religious “ethics” classes and psychologists.

While I understand the arguments in favour of this position, I personally believe that the holistic care of a chaplain (not just mental and emotional but also spiritual) and the opportunity for children to learn about the spiritual/ religious foundations of many Australians’ lifestyles are important and significant.

For fellow Australians who are interested in learning more about what chaplaincy is about, and who want to see it continued after the next election, please look at these websites:

National School Chaplaincy Association (with information on contacting your local representative in support of chaplaincy)

Access Ministries – chaplains and religious education teachers

Here are some articles on how chaplains and religious ministers have helped in the aftermath of the Black Saturday crisis, in early 2009 when bushfires claimed the lives of hundreds of Victorians.

“Parishes, chaplains step up to help fire victims”

“A Chaplain’s Story”

“The Firefighters”

National Research Findings on Chaplaincy in Australian Schools (Link to a PDF)

“Responding to the Bush Fire Tragedy”

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Article: Churches Adopt Adoption

July 8, 2010

I just read this article in Christianity Today, “Churches Adopt Adoption“. It’s such an exciting thought that people are seeking positive change to impact the lives children. How heartbreaking, then, was the thought of an adoptive mother putting her 8 year old boy on a plane because she, quote, “I no longer wish to parent this child.” As the mother of an 8 year old, I can’t even imagine what hardship a mother would have gone through to feel that the only solution would be to send her little boy on a plane back to his home country. However, at the risk of saying too much on a topic I don’t know enough about, I’ll just leave it at that.

Here’s the link: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/july/11.23.html?start=1

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Godly Eros

July 3, 2010

I just read this fascinating article and wanted to share the link.

Quote: “This is a tragedy. If Christians are going to grasp the truth about sex and marriage, and effectively combat our culture’s profound sexual confusions, we must not abandon eroticism to the pimps and pornographers. We must instead become eroticism’s strongest advocates.”

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=17-07-018-v

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