Posts Tagged ‘musings’

h1

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

 

h1

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.

h1

Blogging…

September 27, 2010

Howdy all, faithful readers and new visitors,

I haven’t been drawing much recently – thanks to an overload of uni work and the unpleasantness that is cold and flu season.

However, I hope to get some new work up here in the coming month.

In the meantime, I’ve been pondering the many various social networking media. I am connected to WordPress, Blogger, Yahoo, Lomography, Blurb, Flickr, RedBubble, YouTube, MySpace and Facebook, to name a few. Perhaps surprisingly, I have resisted the urge to join Twitter.

One thing I like about blogging is that it requires more effort than some of the other similar forms of expression. It requires full and complete sentences. Regular involvement. Thought and consideration.

It also feeds into my other social networking sites, anyway.

In the absence of my artistic efforts, I am likely to start posting more “status update” style items on my blog. All this pent up creativity has to come out somewhere!

h1

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.

h1

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.”

h1

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

h1

Thoughts for the day, 23 August: weddings, semi colons and pirates

August 23, 2010

I’ve been thoroughly immersed in homework and trying to maintain a house lately (all those fun motherly things that arise when the family is ill). So much has happened recently that I think my brain has been overloaded.

Things that I’ve been thinking about include:

  • Why isn’t the semi colon key on my PC work as well as normal? It feels a little gritty (just thought of this one right now).
  • Why do I find weddings so emotionally distressing? Don’t get me wrong, on a philosophical, moral and religious sense, I am for weddings. From a sociological sense, I am for traditional rituals as important and significant means of signifying life stages and transformations, marking the movement of time and age. (It probably, dare I admit it, comes down to plain jealousy. I feel so darn insecure when I attend other people’s weddings. It makes me feel like my own wedding was a failure.* I think of all the little details I wish I had paid attention to. Okay, okay – it was heading on for 9 years ago now. Time to get over it, right?)
  • I am studying environmentalism, vegetarianism, food and nutrition sociology and animal rights at the moment. I have lost count of the times I’ve said (as I read the material before me), “I am soooo glad I don’t eat meat.” Purely on the gross-out level. That alone is enough!
  • How will I best go about marking International Talk Like a Pirate Day? [19 September.]
  • I love postgraduate student benefits at uni – like the right to borrow more books. Woo hoo! I have only just reached the conclusion that it is entirely feasible for me to visit one of the nearby campuses of my uni (my home campus is almost 2 hours away) to borrow books. Goody!
  • Spring is in the air. Birds are singing and fruit trees are starting to blossom. Everything smells like wattle flowers. (Sneeze!)

=

*My marriage, on the other hand, is not a failure. It’s more like a success-against-difficult-odds testimony. As the marriage is clearly more important than the wedding itself, I guess I should celebrate this.

h1

Identity Semi-Crisis

February 18, 2010

*Facebook readers are invited to view the original post. Simply go to https://darthmaulmakesmesmile.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/identity-semi-crisis/.*

Maybe it’s just the cold and flu medicine speaking, but I am having one of those weird pondering and musing weeks. Well, I guess it’s not that weird and unusual for me. It’s something akin to an identity crisis, I suppose.

Here’s my life in a series of confusing something-or-others. Paradoxes?

Warning: gross generalisations to follow. And I’m not attacking any one individual or person. Actually, I’m not attacking anyone, full stop. Please read it in the semi-amused observational curious questioning tone in which I have pondered it!

  • I’m in my late 20s, married with two school aged children. Few other late-20 something woman I know in my friendship circles have children as old as mine. In fact, few of them are in relationships, and those that are don’t necessarily have children. Those that do have children have newborns. The fellow mums of my children’s classmates seem to average in their mid-30s to mid-40s. I am not trying to be ageist, so please don’t take it that way. It just occurs to me that I don’t really fit in anywhere in my peer circles. As far as school mums go, I’m the little kid Gen Y who likes abrasive rock music and comical t-shirts and jeans and knows how to use computers. As far as my fellow 20-somethings go, I’m the socially malfunctioning old housewife who can’t afford an iPhone and who can’t go out on most nights because my kids go to bed early and my husband works late. (Being a mum is tiring work!)
  • As far as the 20-something mums go, most of them don’t appear interested in what I have to offer them as a fellow mother who is slightly ahead of them on the journey of parenthood. They seem to have a preference for asking their single, unmarried, non-parent peer friends for input than a mum with school aged kids who’s been-there, done that. Perhaps parenting styles and methods have changed a lot in the last eight years. Let’s face it, my hippy-esque preference for carrying the baby, raising the kids vegetarian, feeding babies on demand, and breastfeeding for almost two years doesn’t mesh well with the controlled feeding, timed, early introduction of solids, everything by-the-clock inflexible routines promoted in inexplicably popular parenting books.
  • I’m a country town girl living (rather miserably) in the suburbs.
  • I’m an ex-Catholic, ex-New Age, born again Spirit filled follower of Jesus. To the Catholics in my life, I probably come across as a bit over-enthusiastic about the whole Jesus thing. To the New Ager friends, well, they’re pretty open minded but understandably skeptical about Jesus followers. To the born againers, I’m potentially dangerous. (Insert LOL here.)
  • I find I feel closest to God when I am out in the peace and solitude of rural and bushland Australia, where I can listen to the birds, feel the wind in the trees, smell flowers, touch the earth, watch the clouds rolling across the sky. Somehow I have ended up in a non-denominational Pentecostal mega-church of several thousand believers. For many of them, they feel closest to God in the community of believers. The loud, musically oriented community of believers! (It is a brilliant Christian community and I love it.)
  • I am an outdoorsy person who has myriad allergies to plant pollens, animals and pollution. Sigh!
  • I am a quiet person who gets a kick out of public speaking.
  • I’m the token born-again Christian in an extended family of Catholics,  lapsed Catholics, New Agers and Atheists.
  • I am an artsy, writing-loving person who doesn’t seem to have heaps of talent in either area.
  • I want to be cool but I’m a nerd.
  • I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian who grew up in beef and dairy-farming country.
  • I detest blind ritualism but I choose to celebrate the old Catholic feasts on which I was raised: Easter, Advent, Christmas, and Lent.
  • I’m pretty sure God has been speaking to me about my need to spend this year in a recovery and restoration mode: taking time out to pray, to study the Bible, to not exhaust myself in church activities, to focus on my children and my university studies. So it sometimes confuses me when other Christian women suggest that I am not involved enough in church and Christian activities. Is not following God’s word to me for this season greater than going along with the crowd?

All this has left me feeling like I really don’t fit in anywhere. I’m not trying to complain. This isn’t a whinge fest. It just makes me wonder what I’m meant to be when I don’t really fit in with what the people around me are doing! I guess I’ve never particularly liked being the same as everyone else, anyway. Life is more interesting when it’s diverse.

h1

Slavery

November 21, 2009

At church this evening, they spent some time exploring the issue of modern day slavery. I guess it’s one of those things that sits in the back of my mind. It’s a surprise that slavery is still a very real, very common practise. Surely, in this day and age, we would think ourselves enlightened enough to completely abolish such evils. So, when I learnt that slavery is most certainly extant across most of the world, it was really quite troubling.

Not having the knowledge nor expertise to formulate a commentary, I simply list here a couple of links that might prove useful for the reader who wants to learn more.

http://www.worldvision.com.au/ourwork/Solutions/DontTradeLives.aspx

http://www.fairtrade.com.au/

http://www.myspace.com/lc2lc

http://www.joyfulheart.com/misc/newton.htm

http://www.melbourne.anglican.com.au/main.php?pg=news&news_id=18665&s=1470

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/abolition/slavery_business_gallery_05.shtml

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/wilberforce_william.shtml

(All links accessed 21 November 2009.)

h1

Following Jesus – 5 – Dehydrated Broccoli

October 12, 2009

Genesis 2:16 “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden…” NIV

Genesis 9:3-4 “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything… But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.” NIV

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” NIV

Food… ah food. What an incredibly divisive thing it can sometimes become. No doubt there will be a touch of hmm… irony? Probably not the correct term… but I write as a long-term vegetarian, so if I complain about people making a big deal out of food, it may well seem hypocritical. Sorry if it comes across that way, because that’s not my intention!

Here’s a quote from a book I read recently when researching for a university assignment: “The world now features more overweight than underweight people… This absurd situation is led by the US, where over half its citizens are clinically overweight. It possesses more people on diets than ever before, yet ever-more overweight people, too. Obesity-related illnesses and deaths, often brought on in major measure by gorging on oversized fast foods and drinks, are a major drag on the nation’s economy. In certain countries, fatty foods could eventually cause as many additional premature deaths as from AIDS. The UK has proposed a “fat tax” targeting obesity-related foods such as burgers.”

(From: Myers, N. and Kent, J. (2005). The New Gaia Atlas of Planet Management. London: Gaia. P. 67.)

That was published in 2005; the last I heard it was we Australians who top the list for fattest nation on the planet. Not a proud title, to be sure. I can’t find a straightforward statistic on that, unfortunately.

So, here we are: fat, diseased, obsessing over diets. What does this have to do with being a Christian, you may well ask? As the above Scriptures say, God is the ultimate creator and source of food. The Bible shows that, in the beginning, humans were given “green plants” to eat. As history progressed, and God interacted and intervened with His creation, food was often a part of His instructions – animals as food, but without consuming blood in Genesis 9; Leviticus detailing a lot of rules regarding food; and the New Testament exhorting us to not worry about what we eat, because it’s not the main part of life. God does not ask us to separate the physical and spiritual realms (which is, I believe, an aspect of Gnosticism). He created our bodies, with all their fascinating functions and purposes.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” NIV

However, it is certainly a significant issue. What made me think of it was when I caught a clip on a tv show recently, where the presenters were hailing the ‘newly discovered’ health benefits of broccoli. Then the presenters debated – and I hope it was a joke, but it probably wasn’t – how to get children to eat this magical new form of cancer-preventing, life changing broccoli. The solution was to dehydrate, powder and turn into tablet form a kind of broccoli that children will actually eat. Like I say, I hope it was a sad joke – but the way people around me talk, in their day to day lives about food – one would think that vegetables can only be consumed in tablet form.

Now, perhaps my family is a bit odd. We are vegetarians, after all. But my young children eat broccoli without a fuss. They also eat myriad other vegetables and fruits. We certainly don’t need to give them vegetables in tablet form. They eat all sorts of things – last night (as I write) it was fresh olives, avocado, mixed vegetable patties, and a slice of wholegrain bread. No powdered vegetable tablets. No ice cream or milkshakes or other junk. Just a mixed platter of mostly fresh foods.

Sometimes I wonder if our attitudes to food reflect the way we view the rest of our life. I am sympathetic to the philosophy that food is becoming bland and homogenised and too sped up. Where is the time to enjoy the variety, the flavours, the time spent with family and friends over a good meal?

Instead, we seem to be looking for a quick fix, an easy way out. Stuff down that fatty hamburger and soft drink and appease the guilt with a powdered broccoli pill. We look for cures for terrible diseases that may well be prevented through lifestyle changes. We consume more than we need while millions are dying from starvation throughout the planet. It’s not a surprise that “gluttony” is considered one of the seven deadly sins. It encompasses the concept of complete lack of self-control combined with a withholding of possessions from the needy.

Now, I offer no simple solutions to this. I am not a nutritionist nor a social scientist (not yet!). But I do offer a couple of ideas based on what seems to be working for my family:

a vegetarian or (in the case of some family members) mostly vegetarian lifestyle

eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables

eating plenty of grains – not just wheat, but rice, polenta, rye and many more

including legumes / beans in our daily food intake

sitting down together at the dining table for all meals

trying to allow the time to prepare meals

being aware of seasonal produce

buying local, where possible

not telling our children that we don’t expect them to like broccoli!

ensuring we have a deliberate source of  B12

not leaping on fad diets that promise ‘instant’ weight loss

walking or exercising regularly

switching off the tv

menu planning in advance – and trying something new

incorporating many different styles of cooking – we aren’t interested in tofu substitutes for meals normally consumed by white, middle class Australians, we are looking to try often natural vegetarian meals derived from a variety of cultures.

These aren’t just health options; they are also, we hope, beneficial for the environment – which encompasses the dimension of seeking to help our fellow humans by not destroying the world just to get a fast food hamburger. It also inspires compassion towards God’s creatures. Hmm. That’ll do for now. I’m hungry…

h1

Following Jesus

September 12, 2009

As I write, it helps me negotiate, in a sense, my understanding and beliefs. It’s a way of personally reasoning through my thoughts and ideas. Recently it’s been an intersting exercise engaging in online discussion about life, the universe and everything on Facebook.Com with friends and family from my local Church community.

It occured to me that I haven’t actually written a whole lot about my Christian faith on my blog. So, while I do intend to keep the key purpose of this blog as a means of sharing my art folio, I really do want to include a bit more specifically on the topic of life, the universe and everything – from the perspective of being a follower of Jesus.

I don’t intend to address controversies, denominational debates, or any huge issues here. I would like to stick to the topic of just what it means to follow Jesus. I have provided plenty of links* elsewhere on this blog to sites that do deal with the more ‘controversial’ issues of Christianity. Readers are encouraged to visit those sites to learn about possible Christian responses to various issues and concerns.

I hope to keep it simple – to keep the focus on Jesus and the Bible and how I seek to apply His Word to my day-to-day life. Hopefully it will serve as an encouragement to my readers who are also believers; and that, for those of you who do not share my faith, it mght spark your interest in learning more about who Jesus is and what He teaches us today.

For those of you who are reading and wondering what my ‘qualifications’ are, I have been a volunteer leader for about four years in my local Pentecostal-style non-denominational Christian church. I spent one year involved in, and eventually leading a hospitality team that looked after new visitors to a youth programme for high school students. I spent almost three years running a small home group for senior high school girls. The last year has been involved in co-leading a small group for young adults aged 18-25 years, most of whom are newlyweds. For a convenient summary statement of faith to which I ascribe, see http://www.citylifechurch.com/info/statementoffaith.aspx, or read The Foundations of Christian Doctrine (1980) by Kevin J. Conner

* See the Links Page or the Weblinks Category for more links.

Following Jesus

 

h1

357. Neighbourhood

June 11, 2009

20081102-artfolioflokot-4

Watercolour pastel on paper, 2007-ish.

I like looking out the back door at night, when the only sign of life is the glow of lights in nearby streets.

h1

The Wonderful Variety of the Body of Christ

June 7, 2009

1 Corinthians 12:4-27 (TNIV)

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body–whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

 Lately I’ve noticed that a lot of Christians around me, for whatever reason, have really, really strong opinions about what a real Christian is or is not. Now, I’m not going to pretend that my views are somehow greater or stronger or better reasoned than theirs, but a few thoughts have come to my mind. It’s all part of this … well, not liberal… not postmodernist… but something like that Christianity. It tends to be cynical, apologetics-oriented, and critical. And those aren’t necessarily bad things. In fact, I’m a lot like that. I like answers, lots of answers. I hate hypocrisy and don’t get it when people try to think that Jesus supports their guns, beers, violence and racism religion. (Have they even read their Bibles?) But sometimes it goes a step further than that.

To generalise (and not quoting anyone specific, here), here are some of the sorts of statements one might hear / read (some exaggerated, some not):

“Jesus didn’t say, ‘Let’s all go into politics and lobby the Government on Christian morals.’”

“The Bible says more about the poor than anything else. Unless you roll up your sleeves and serve the poor, you won’t go to Heaven.”

“All Christians should be concerned with the pro-life cause. Millions of babies have been murdered in the name of convenience, and all to support a billion dollar industry.”

“Christians should stop thinking so much about abortion and do something about the millions of children dying from starvation.”

“Christians all need to stop being so greedy and start thinking about the environment. We are called to be good stewards of God’s green Earth.”

 “Christians need to be wary of getting caught up in the environment. That stuff is the domain of hippies, pagans and idolaters.”

 “Christians shouldn’t worry about animal welfare. Let’s worry about people instead.”

“Jesus was a vegetarian, wasn’t He?”

 “Christians shouldn’t take their Bibles so seriously that all they do is study the Word. Some Christians actually believe the Bible – but instead of worrying about believing it, shouldn’t we just be trying to imitate Jesus?”

“Not enough Christians believe the Bible. If we actually believed God’s Word we might be compelled to imitate Christ, as He has commanded us.”

The list could go on and on. A world of opinionated believers, all of whom have an individual calling and gifting and uniqueness. All involved in different styles and traditions of Christian church and community. All having different careers.

I love the above Scripture in 1 Corinthians 12, because it reminds us that we all have a role to play. And for each of us, our roles might seem like the most important thing. And anyone else who doesn’t hold it as a priority might be, in our mind, not a ‘true’ follower of Christ.

 I have encountered missionary-types who find it unthinkable that I have no particular inkling to travel overseas. I have vague ideas of one day seeing Europe, but even this has more to do with my own search for my ancient ancestors’ heritage. I am very happily Australian. My belief that my “own backyard,” that is, my local community, has more than enough needy people, that I don’t need to travel overseas to find the needy, doesn’t sound like a good explanation to a lot of internationally-minded people. So, who is right or wrong? Maybe we can both be right, as long of us is following our unique callings in life.

The work of travelling missionaries is spectacularly important. I have met some amazing, wonderful, inspiring people who have taken on huge risks. They have travelled through jungles to meet with impoverished people living in garbage dumps and gathering scrap metal to try and make a living; they go and work in developing nations communities to institute positive social change, such as human rights action, distributing life saving medicines and helping people in construction work; they go to remote communities and teach sustainable farming methods. It is brilliant and admirable. Yet, not all of us feel called to go there. We can certainly support the work – through prayer, financial assistance and being a friend to missionaries. However, to be able to send financial aid, for example, requires holding down a job of some description, doesn’t it. In all practicality, of course. Yes God works through prayer, but He also works through the practical.

Then there are people who devote their lives to studying and teaching the Word of God. They seek out fresh revelation and teach people to apply the Word to their daily lives. They use their minds to study and learn the most amazing book in existence. They help the rest of us to understand and develop our theology, and to appreciate the wonder of God. Does that mean, therefore, that all of us, are called to be theologians? No, of course not – but that doesn’t mean theology is not an important task.

There are people I know who are called to work in the ‘real’ world. They are not meant to be cloistered in the employment of a local Church. ( They don’t feel the inkling to attend Bible College – and, among my peers, it seems that 2 out of every 3 is a Bible College student!)  No, they carry the hope of the Gospel and (hopefully) Godly, ethical business practises, and a generous spirit, to their workplaces. Whether that’s as a cleaner, business person, academic, professional, sportsperson – everywhere they are, they are to be the light of the world.

So, why then, do we spend so much time attacking each other? Why is it so terrible that so-and-so is actually called to serve God in business (for a convenient example)? Yes, it is possible. It’s not a prosperity Gospel thing. It’s a definite possibility that there are some individuals who may just be called to work in business, and earn money to serve the needs of the Church. They would be abusing this calling if they were rolling in cash and ignoring the needy and buying up on gold chains and goodness knows what. But there are some good business men and women out there who love God and love His people and support the Church through their financial savvy.

Why is it that some people would change the Gospel of salvation by grace alone (Ephesians 2) to a Gospel of works – no matter how noble those works may be? Yes, we are to do good works (also found in Ephesians 2, not to mention the wonderful and challenging book of James), but not as a way of earning God’s love – it is in order to express that love and joy and purpose that we find in His glorious grace.

I would love to see Churches as communities where each individual is recognised as having unique giftings and callings. Let’s celebrate the diversity, as all the different parts of Christ’s body work together – instead of complaining that each other has the wrong priorities. Whether someone is called to serve God as a secular business employee; housewife and mother; servant to the poor and needy; theologian; pro-life activist; anti-euthanasia activist; environmentalist; scientist; school teacher; animal welfare advocate; anti-slavery activist; cross cultural peacemaker; Government lobbyist; prayerful and devout disciple; preacher and prophet; musician or artist; medical doctor; academic; social activist; a kind friend to gays, hippies, New Agers and all the other unfortunately ostracised human beings out there; a political activist or a politician;… the list goes on…

… Let’s celebrate our differences and uniqueness and work together for a common cause: God’s Kingdom! A kingdom where love, hope and joy reign; where we look on the heart and not on the external.

One of the things I love about my local Church community is the sheer diversity. A lot of different ethnicities are represented: I couldn’t even begin to list them all, but we are  united by our common belief in and love for Jesus. Different types of people attend. We get a huge mixture of visitors, too. A lot of visitors from different denominations. Our Church is not aligned with a particular denomination, which means we get a massive variety in styles of Christian that attend. Personally, I find myself drawn to the company of the “fringe” types, I must add: the Goths and hippies who love Jesus; the metal heads and the comic book geeks; those amazing friends of mine who brave the wilds and seek to share God’s love with the poor in distant countries; and the adept students of the Bible. Oh, but in each person there is so wonderfully unique. Some brilliantly talented creative people. Some who engage in effective ministry through skills like cooking and domestic service. Those who have a brilliant gift for making others feel welcome. I hope that the variety continues to grow.

Links (accessed 7 June 2009)

The Book of James in the Bible  (New International Version)

Ephesians, Chapter 2 (Today’s New International Version)

1 Corinthians 12 with Bible study tools (Today’s New International Version)

h1

Keeping the Children Busy

May 17, 2009

A few snapshots from the April / Easter school holidays. I thought there might be something in this – “baby’s first SLR camera,” perhaps.

20090405entertainingchildren120090405entertainingchildren2

Grandparents take note: invest in a Nintendo Wii and be amazed at how often the grandchildren visit.

20090405entertainingchildren3It’s my theory that every 4 year old is ready to learn how to operate a Digital SLR.

We’ll start her on the Nikon D40 before she graduates to the D90.

20090405entertainingchildren4

20090405entertainingchildren5

This photo entertained me. For some reason certain members of my husband’s family decided to strain the sausages out of the goo mix,

which resulted in a gruesome looking series of photos.

20090405entertainingchildren6

Go to a playground, hand a DSLR to a little kid, and enjoy the surprises that await when looking at the photos afterwards. Life is different when viewed from closer to the ground.

h1

By Request?

April 21, 2009

I’m interested in hearing from regular readers (and there must be a few of you because in just over a year I’ve had 30,500 hits on this site). I would like to know if there are any topics on which you would particularly like me to write a blog post. I think it’s a symptom of the fact that I am doing half my usual university study load this semester, and would like to take advantage of the extra time to perhaps write a few short blog posts on up to 5 requested topics.

Please use the comments box to add your (genuine) suggestions. If you are reading this on facebook.com, please follow the provided link to the WordPress Blog and add your comments there.

Suggested topics might include:

– Australian culture.

– Thoroughbred horse pedigrees (maybe there’s a particular horse you’re interested in and want to know a bit about its family). Australian horses preferred.

– Christianity and Apologetics. Have you got any questions about a particular area of apologetics? I may be able to dig up some information for you (as an interested layperson).

– Art! This is primarily an art blog, so I should probably write on art at least once in a while!

– Maybe you have some suggested ideas for my RedBubble Online Store and Gallery, where I sell some of my art designs as t-shirts and art prints.

– Vegetarianism. Do you have any questions about vegetarianism?

– Environmentalism issues.

– Books! I read a lot of books… so I might have some suggested reading ideas for you.

I really hope my readers can help me with this! Be creative.  🙂

h1

Happy New Year + Random Blog Stuff

January 5, 2009

Hey hey,

well, happy New Year to all my readers! Thanks for hanging around for the last couple of years (first on blogger.com and now, for the past 11 or so months, on wordpress.com).

I thought I’d start this year’s posting efforts with a most exciting* listing of statistics for the Amalgamation (as in, the blog you are reading right now).

*taking a highly subjective definition of “exciting,” I know!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of the regular readers whose thoughtful and friendly comments have contributed here!

Total views: 23,140

Busiest day: 683 — Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Posts: 304

Comments: 314

Categories: 18

Tags: 744

Akismet has protected your site from 1,056 spam comments.

The busiest day on this blog was 4 November 08, with the following appearing in the most searched terms that led people here:

melbourne cup 2008 winner    174
melbourne cup 2008 winners    145
melbourne cup 08 winner    12
winner melbourne cup 2008    12
winner of melbourne cup 2008    8
melbourne cup 2008 placings    7
winners of melbourne cup 2008    6
melbourne cup 08 winners    6
winners melbourne cup 2008    5
viewed melbourne cup winner breeding    3
melbourne cup race 2008 winner    3
horse art    3
face art drawing    2
lovers knot (nz)    2
horse stencil    2
khozaam    2
pencil sketches of stallions    2
scenic – thoroughbred racehorse and stal    2
melbourne cup winner 2008 breeding    2
viewed melbourne cup winner    2
2008 winner of melbourne cup    2
winners of the melbourne cup 2008    2
2008 melbourne cup wikipedia    2
winners of the 2008 melbourne cup    2
horse named viewed nz    2

The busiest month so far has been December 2008, with just over 5,000 views.

The most viewed posts are:
218. Pretty And Girly Giraffe 1,194 views
196. Red Horse 843 views
Melbourne Cup 2008 Winner – Viewed 806 views
The Amalgamation Home 682 views
249. Stallion Sketch 648 views
198. Christmas Inspired – Journey To Bethlehem 563 views
236. Self Portrait In Reflective Christmas Decoration 507 views
213. Chestnut Horse 487 views

Top Searches leading people here:
horse art,  australian birds,  arabian horse,  giraffe,  christmas 2008

Most Active Posts at the moment are:
213. Chestnut Horse 16 views
218. Pretty And Girly Giraffe 14 views
209. Crimson Rosella 9 views
236. Self Portrait In Reflective Christmas Decoration 8 views
215. Saurolophus osborni 8 views

h1

Christmas #28

December 25, 2008

Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas!!

If you have been reading this series on Christmas, you will have hopefully developed a sense of the wonder of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection.

The amazing message of Christmas is the gift of Creator God. Though we have turned our backs on Him, He has freely offered us the gift of freedom from the curse of Death by giving His Son Jesus to die in our place.

I hope that we will all be enriched and encouraged as we meditate on the meaning and wonder of Christmas.

h1

Christmas #27 – Christmas Apologetics And Further Reading

December 24, 2008

This post is mainly on the topic of apologetics. What is apologetics?

Apologetics, understood simply, is the field of theology that investigates the evidence for Christian beliefs. After writing the previous 26 posts in this Christmas series on the topic of the Gospel message, and the meaning of Christmas, I wanted to provide the reader with extra information on where they can learn more.

I have honestly sought to provide links here that will appeal to a broad range of Christians across different denominations. It would be impossible, of course, to provide every possible viewpoint, so I have been selective for time and space constraints. However, I hope that these will provide a useful starting point for those of you who are believers who want to know more about the basis for your faith. I hope that you find it helpful and encouraging.

*Inclusion of a website here does not necessarily imply complete acceptance of opinions put forward by that site. External websites may change without notice. All links given in good faith, accessed 1 October 2008.

Books About Jesus and the Gospel Message

* here I have provided the author’s name and title of the book plus links to online bookstores that sell each book.

Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew. Koorong.

Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace? Koorong.

Charles Swindoll, Jesus. Koorong.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. Koorong.

Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ. Koorong.

Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods. Koorong.

Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Koorong.

Apologetics Websites

Creation Ministries International.

Institute for Creation Research.

Answers In Genesis.

Leadership University.

Probe Ministries.

TrueU.

EveryStudent.

Compass.

Ancient of Days – Archaeology and Biblical Research.

Biblical Geology.

CreationWiki.

Christian Answers Network.

Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

Got Questions – Bible Questions Answered.

The Creation Research Society.

Global Flood.

Evidence of God.

Creation Apologetics.

The Young Earth Creation Club.

Uncommon Descent Intelligent Design Blog.

Werner Gitt.

Lee Strobel.

Josh McDowell.

Dinosaurs In The Bible.

Apologetics Books At Koorong.

Apologetics Books At Master Books.

Apologetics Articles About Christmas

“A Right Christmas”
http://www.icr.org/article/20101/

“Alien invasion or the meaning of Christmas”
http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2007/12/23/alien-invasion-or-the-meaning-of-christmas/

“Calculating Christmas”
http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v

“Christmas and Genesis”
http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/5535

“Christmas Countdown – when does the holiday season really start?”
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/news/2001/dec07.html

“Christmas – what is the true meaning?”
http://www.christiananswers.net/christmas/home.html

“Demonstrating the Christ of Christmas”
http://www.crosswalk.com/news/1177872/

“God of Creation or ‘God’ of Christmas?”
http://www.icr.org/article/700/

“Is Christmas necessary?”
http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/christma.html

“Is the biblical Christmas story true? Is Jesus Christ for real?”
http://www.christiananswers.net/christmas/skeptic.html

“Jason Lisle vs. Hugh Ross debate: annotated transcript”
http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/3414

“Star Witness”
http://www.icr.org/article/254/

“The Drama of the Christmas story”
http://www.leaderu.com/humanities/dramaxmas.html

“The Real Twelve Days of Christmas”
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/news/2004/dec24.html

“The holiday formerly known as Christmas”
http://www.boundless.org/2000/features/a0000373.html

All links accessed 1 October 2008.

h1

Christmas #26 – Why God Sent His Son

December 23, 2008

John 3:16-21 (KJV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

%d bloggers like this: