Monday, June 29, 2015

An old preacher preaches

My dad took the service at my church yesterday.  He's in his 70s now and it was back in his 50s when I last sat regularly under his preaching. There are some changes. He preaches more slowly now, with longer pauses, a habit I suspect comes from 15 years of lecturing to men and women for whom English is a second or third language. It was good to hear him again.

And as I sat there, I did what I always did - measured his words, analysed whether that introduction was too long, did that analogy really work, predicted what he might say next, how he could have said that last sentence better. It's a habit formed by a thousand childhood Sunday post-church recaps over lunch.

And in the middle of that, I took stock. I am middle-aged. Dad is in his 70s. My children sit beside me on the pew.  And still, he preaches on.

No one else in that church, save my mother beside me, would know the true cost. The anxiety. The weariness. The loneliness. The sleepless nights. The joyless days (at times). The misunderstandings. The hopes. The disappointments.  When a man preaches for over 40 years, there are deep cuts and swollen rivers and pains.

And yet, here we are.

When you see a preacher stand before you, you often forget the back-story.  The unlikeliness of it all. The child of an alcoholic father.  Or the man who lived a very different life before he was rescued by the one he serves. Or the proud and stubborn farmer. Or maybe the brilliant executive who turns his back on it all.  Or the bloke who never finished high school and gave his first sermon shaking his whole way through it.

That man who delivers the Bible message has no superhero cloak. He's no braver.  No stronger. No more able.  A preacher preaching in his old age is a symbol of faithfulness.  Not his faithfulness.  He is weak through and through. He is instead a trophy of Christ's faithfulness to the weak, the sick and the undeserving.  He's there not because he's better.  He's there because Christ held him there and in return he clung to Christ.

God is faithful. He is able. That's what the presence of an old preacher says.

So as your preacher preaches, whether young or old, and you measure up the man and his words - 'he's very brash/too reformed/not reformed enough/too simple/too complicate/hard to communicate with/very lazy/too busy/doesn't-agree-with-me-about-the-proper-location-for-the-new-pie-warmer-in-the-church-kitchen' - there is a sense in which he is an oxen yoked to the plough.  He strains and plods, in obedience to the Lord. Pray for him (especially on Mondays which are awful), and for his family that share the struggle, and ask that God surround him with strength and faithfulness and endurance.  Pray that, if God wills, he may stay long enough in harness to be an old preacher preaching.  That he still preaches on. It is a wonderful tribute to mercy and grace.

And, if you know my dad, please don't tell him I called him old.  I'd be in heaps of trouble.

The melodic strain

I have mentioned before my love of recorder early in the morning. Imagine my delight upon discovering the second of my offspring is now also the proud owner of one of these heavenly instruments. The junior music teacher has sent them all home to practise over the holidays. I put on some music to do the dishes this morning and my two darlings appeared by my side trying to see if they can play along by guessing randomly the notes and fingering.

Have mercy.

And if you think the above is just such a *sweet* example of childhood whimsy, please contact me urgently about numerous babysitting opportunities that could be yours!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Conference call

One not-so-good innovation in my husband's work-life the past year has been the weekly (and sometimes more than weekly!) international phone conference.  The kids are in bed.  The night is winding down.  And then, suddenly, it's time for the international phone conference - a "time" which is never quite right for anyone anywhere in the world but is not as bad as it could be for most.

I observe these calls from a distance, tip-toeing around the place and trying not to set off noisy appliances.  Usually, I only hear one side of the conversation because most times my husband wears a head-set.  Anyway, if you (or someone you love) has the joy of phone conferencing in their lives, then this is for you.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Blood donation in Sweden

Blood donors in Sweden get a text when their blood has been used.  Interesting article on various things being tried to raise the level of blood donation.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

25 divided by 5 = 14

One of our maths teachers put me on to this video - good fun to show the kids.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The new ethics

"...but importantly it's about ethical standards in the context of reality." 
Sometimes farce shines a torch on the muck under the bed more effectively than playing it straight.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Elizabeth Elliot

I know all around the internet at the moment are tributes to Elizabeth Elliot.  She was certainly an author who influenced my life - Through the Gates of Splendor, Amy Carmichael's biography and Passion and Purity especially.  What impressed you about her writing was its foundation in an intimate knowledge of God and His word, her personal experience of suffering and God's sustaining grace, and the ability to say things plainly and without compromise and yet with beauty and warmth.  Like many, I felt a little like I'd lost a friend when I heard she had died this week at 88 years of age.

It is very hard to pick out only one quote to mark the occasion so I shall choose three:

One on the nature of womanhood:
“The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman."

A great quote from Amy Carmichael's biography:
“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.”

And finally, the opening lines to her daily radio broadcast:

"You are loved with an everlasting love,’ that's what the Bible says ‘and underneath are the everlasting arms.’ This is your friend, Elisabeth Elliot . . .”

Synchronized swimming boys

Well done, lads. Well done.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

PhD at 102

Ingeborg Rapoport wrote her doctoral thesis on diphtheria in 1937. But as a Jew in Nazi Germany she was prevented from taking her final exams.  Now, the University of Hamburg, have righted that wrong and she's received her award at 102 years of age. Read the details here. Made me smile!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Dangerous fantasies

Last week I heard Melinda Tankard Reist speaking to young people about the assault against girls that is being promoted through today's media and advertising. She was articulate and inspiring. Encouraging to hear was the evidence that we can speak out against the pornification of our media world and have some success - like the removal of the Isuzu competition which was obviously promoting the Bangkok sex industry.

We seem to have been talking about the unrealistic body images for years and years. I remember anorexia being the big issue when I was in high school. At least two of my friends were hospitalized because of it and lots more dabbled in it to varying degrees.  More than 20 years down the track, we're no better off.  Self-regulation in the advertising and fashion industry hasn't done a thing to bring commonsense on to the glossy pages of magazines or the glass windows of the shops down at our local centre.  Take a quick look behind any mannequin and you'll find pins.  These clothes for real people don't fit the bodies on which they are so elegantly draped. The change room mirror brings the 16-year old girl to tears yet again and, no wonder, given that the ideal that's been fostered in her mind has no true relationship with human flesh and bone.

Add to that the interstellar rise of porn that has come about in the digital age. If static Photoshopped concoctions weren't enough, today's teenager will add an avalanche of also-totally-unrealistic moving images to the bank of ideas she has about beauty, love and sex.  Most of them will be pure fantasy - truly dangerous fantasies in most cases.  Because fantasy that lures you into taking it on face-value is destructive. Whenever you find unreality dressed up as truth, you have a weapon of mass destruction.  That can be found in a digitally-enhanced photo shoot, a sexually explicit perfume ad. or a soap opera in which people's dysfunctional relationships have no real consequences.  As MTR said last week: it is no surprise that so many of our girls are struggling; the real miracle is that any of them make it through at all.

As I sat and listened to the reactions of some very saavy teenaged girls to what MTR presented, I was struck by one response in particular.  This girl asked, "But how has this been allowed to happen?  Why can they get away with this?"  Indeed!

Monday, June 8, 2015

On reflection

So I haven't sat down and thought any thoughts in bytes for ages.  But I've purposely sloooooowed way down this weekend and I feel kind of normal enough to be posting online.

Life is good.  Life has been busy.  But until the end of last week, it wasn't crazy busy.  Last week was too much.  I can have extra on my plate in terms of church stuff, or work stuff, or with family.  But should all three collide at once, it's too much.

Last weekend marked the end of one of the busiest months I've ever seen.  Church stuff saw my husband out multiple nights of the week for a couple of weeks (at least - it might have been many weeks but they've all blurred into one now).  Moving my parents into their new house and helping with the setting up kept us busy as well.  Work was super-intense for a few weeks with an application related to our registration.  And then last weekend we flew all five of us interstate for my father-in-law's wedding and to see Steve's 96-year old grandmother.  Lots of being good and waiting and saying polite things is tiring when you are in primary school.  That was the end of the busy.  But come the middle of last week, the kids were drained and I was drained and everything in the universe made me feel cranky.  When I'm Cross All The Time, I know I've overdone it.

So this weekend, I've taken the time to be slow.  And I'm feeling less cross and less like the world is spinning too fast.

Too. Too. Too.  That was the key word for the last month.  Too everything.  But, hey, a lot was done and life gets like that sometimes and now things are settled again.

So, what's happening with the blog?  Well, I still have the dilemma of whether I can continue to post online publicly and whether it will all come back to bite me one day.  Haven't resolved that.  But what I have learnt by not posting much in the last three months is that I miss the habit of reflection.  And I miss reflection that is written down and that has to be produced in a form that is edifying to others. 

Reflection makes me order my thoughts.  That helps me process stuff.  Reflection that is going to be read by others takes it up another notch - it makes me process and edit.  Processing and then editing your thoughts has significant mental health benefits or so I've found at least.

So, I shall be giving myself permission to 'waste' a bit more time on the blog again.
Snapshot from the wedding! :)