Wednesday, 30 September 2009

mangoes...

...have just come into season. 25c each. And soon to ripen on our own tree.

This is the life!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

saying no to ungodliness

How do we do that? How do we say no to the rage boiling inside our veins, to the thoughts about to spew forth from our lips in slander, to the envy searing our eyeballs, to the romantic daydream about that other man?

How do we say no? Is it fear of divine retribution? Is it fear of shame before friends and family? Do we try hard to follow the law?

How do we actually say NO and instead, do what is right?

Titus 2:11-12 says,
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age...
It's the GRACE OF GOD. The grace of God teaches us to say no to ungodliness. It's the grace of God that has appeared to all men. It's the grace of God that brings salvation. It's the grace of God as shown in work of Christ on the cross that brings salvation. That's what teaches us to say no to ungodliness.

But, I still have one more question. How does that work?

How does the grace of God teach us to say no? How does the cross teach us?

What do you think?

Monday, 28 September 2009

mother and daughter time together

Ever since I read about Cathy's weekend away with her daughter Audrey the idea of such a time away with my girls has been floating around in my head.  Nothing's every come of it.  Yet.  But, what a wonderful oppurtunity it would be...

My perspective on Mother and Daughter Time Together has completely changed recently due to this book that came in a parcel of schoolwork for Bethany.  If Mum and Me were Mermaids by Pauline Stewart is a bubbly and imaginative book about a little girl's afternoon at the beach with her Mum.  We enjoyed reading it together, but what really caught my eye was one of the recommendation on the back cover, which went something like,
this book captures every little girl's fantasy of having her Mum all to herself.
This was a revelation for me.  My little girls have this fantasy?

So the idea of a day away with each daughter surfaced again.  And I mentioned it to them.  Would they like to do something like that?  Oh, yeah!  But again, nothing came of it.

On Saturday, Sophie asked when we were going to go away for the weekend together.  Pleased as punch that she seems so keen on the idea, yet wanting to test the waters, I asked,

A weekend away just the two of us?  But don't you get too much time with Mum at school everyday?

S: But I don't mean for school.  I just want to go away and sit and cuddle.
Me: Oh?
S: That's why I don't want to go to that Motel because there we have to cook and wash-up ourselves.  I want to go somewhere where they do all that for you and we can just sit and cuddle.

So now I'm really keen on the idea.  But nothing's come of it.  Yet.  Except some extra cuddles.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

two conversations with Sophie, aged 7

Scene: Breakfast.  Sophie, aged 7, is eating weetbix and cornflakes smothered in yoghurt.

Me: What did the sheep say to the shearer?
S: What shearer?
Me: The one that was there?
S: Where?
Me: (exasperated) In the shearing shed!  But it's a joke, you just say, "What?". 
S: Oh.
Me: What did the sheep say to the shearer?
S: What?
Me: Eucalyptus! (you-c-lipped-us)
S: (laughs hysterically, then pauses) What?


(later on after bible reading)

G: (reading back of illustrated international children's bible NT):
Why is it so hard to read and remember little black words on a white page?  Probably because most of us are visual learners.  We learn better through the use of pictures.  This innovative New Testament uses Bible text that illustrates the ACTUAL Scriptures (not a retelling or paraphrase!), complete with dialog boxes to show who is speaking- just so kids can follow the story and action.  It sets the scene for them.  This not only helps children read the Bible, but also helps them immediately understand what is going on, learn it, and remember it better.  The old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words," now rings truer than ever.
[bit of discussion here, then...]
S: ...if they really believed that, why didn't they use pictures to say it?  Hah!  They're using words to say words aren't important!

(which, I know, is not exactly what they're saying, but for a seven year old, she makes an interesting observation)

Friday, 25 September 2009

The heart of Anger (4)

In chapter six of the Heart of Anger, Lou Priolo shows how to use an Anger Journal to help children identify and correct inappropriate expressions of anger. It is a four-step process that involves;
  1. indentifying the circumstantial provocation of the anger
  2. describing the outward manifestions of the anger
  3. biblically evaluating the exact nature of the anger
  4. developing a bible response to the circumstantial provocation
It sounds a little pompous and self-righteous written like that, but if I give you an example* you might get the picture.  The idea is that a child keeps a journal like this every time they have an outburst of anger.  Self-review and review with parents and/or a counsellor along with rehearsal of the final step should help them respond appropriately in future similar situations.
1. What circumstances led to my becoming angry?
I was shooting baskets in our driveway, when my Dad stuck his head out of the back door and insisted that I come in to begin doing my homework.  He told my friend who was shooting with me to come back tomorrow.

2. What did I say/do when I became angry?
"I don't have any homework and you're always running my friends off.  It's no wonder they all think you and Mom are idiots."  Then I cursed at him under my breath (but loud enough that my friend could hear) and slammed the basketball into the back door (breaking the window) and stomped off to my room sulking and pouting.

3. What is the biblical evaluation of what I said/did whan I became angry?
Lying (I did have homework and my friends don't all think my parents are idiots), profanity, slander, backbiting, hateful.

4. What should I have said/done when I became angry?
Said, "OK Dad" and explained to my friend that I really did have homework but that if I finished early, I'd call him.  Made an appeal "Dad, I have new information, may I make an appeal?" (yes) "My teacher was out sick today and the substitute teacher allowerd us to catch up on some homework so I only have to study for two subject instead of my usual four... so may I stay out and shoot baskets for another 45 minutes?"  I could have appealed to Dad about changing my schedule so I would study when it isn't possible to play basketball.  Appeal to Dad to install a light in the driveway so I can play basketball after dark (if I get my homework done).  How about it Dad?*
This example is clearly from an child much older than mine, however I we have used simple questions like
  • What did you do that was naughty?
  • Can you explain why you did that?  What were you feeling?
  • What could you do instead?
Until now I have always left out references to scripture feeling that a statement like "God says that's called Malice and that's sinful" might make them feel worse and lead on the path of insecurity and self-righteousness.  However, I'm re-thinking this opinion in the face of their response to Proverbs (which I describe here) which says much about words and anger.  And because as they grow they need to know about God's holiness and how great their sin is and how much greater is God's love and forgiveness.  So I'm grateful for his encouragement in this area and I'll keep thinking about it.

I also really appreciate two further points he makes in this chatper.  

The first is the necessity of determining whether a child is sinfully or righteously angry.  Anger is not always sinful.  God can be angry.  So how do we tell?  Priolo provides simple questions we can use to work this out.  And it is simple (not rocket science).  Immensely helpful not just in dealing with children but also in thinking about my own anger.  Often I am angry with the children not because of anything they have done but because I want to do my own thing and not deal with children or the crayon on the wall or the puddle on the floor or the tears...

The second is the reminder that tools such as journalling are helpful, but they are not the thing that provides lasting change in the heart and behaviour of a child.  He says,
It is not possible for a Christian to change in dependence upon his own strength.  He must depend upon the Lord for the grace (the wisdom, power and desire) to live in obedience to the Bible.  This is why you must faithfully proclaim the Gospel to your children.  If they are lost, they must be told about the need to trust Christ's substitutionary death on the cross.  If they are saved, they must be reminded that they cannot obey God apart from reliance upon the Holy Spirit's power.

Parent's must also must guard against viewing the materials in this book as "behaviour modification" or "cognitive therapy techniques."  They are biblically derived solutions to common problems of living and are of limited value apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in your life and the life of your child.**
The next chapter is about the heart, where he moves from dealing with behaviour and looks at what is going on in the heart of the child when they are angry.

* p87
** p88-89

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Peace Like a River

Glen gave me Peace Like a River by Leif Enger for my birthday this year. Like the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, it was a page turner. I don't know about you, but I am a skipper. I skip bits when I get bored, or when I just want to know what happens next. I skip whole pages (in some books this is necessary to find something to worth reading) and even whole chapters (like in the 44 Scotland St books when the chapter is about a character I'm not interested in). However, Peace Like a River was so gripping and so well-written that I couldn't skip even a word and I couldn't stop turning pages.

Peace Like a River is about fathers and sons and brothers and sisters.  It's about love and kinship and justice and law and goodness and innocence and betrayal and guilt.

It's about the Great American West.  It is a great American Western.

It's tragic. It's heroic.  It's a fight.  It's a flight.

It's about miracles.
"Let me say something about that word: miracle.  For too long it's been used to characterise things or events that, though pleasant, are entirely normal.  Peeping chicks at Easter time, spring generally, a clear sunrise after an overcast week- a miracle, people say, as if they've been educated from greeting cards.  I'm sorry, but nope.  Such things are worth our notice every day of the week, but to call them miracles evaporates the strength of the word.

Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature.  It's true: They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in.  Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave- now there's a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time.  When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up.  A miracle contradicts the will of the earth.

My sister, Swede, who often sees to the nub, offered this: People fear miracles because they fear being changed- though ignoring them will change you also.  Swede said another thing, too, and it rang in me like a bell: No miracle happens without a witness.  Someone to declare, Here's what I saw.  Here's how it went.  Make of it what you will."*
And so Reuben Land tells what he saw and how it went.  He testifies about his Father, who is beloved by God and who loves God, who prays like he breathes, and who wrestles with God as he walks with Him through such circumstances as I should hope never to find myself.

And so, if you can get your head around how a novel can possibly be testimony to fact, you'll enjoy it as much as I.


* page 3

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

solar-powered torches

Do you remember those childhood jokes that begin...
"What's the latest Irish invention?"

I thought they were hilarious.
Flyscreens on submarines!
Injector seats in helicoptors!
Solar powered torches!

I can see myself curled up on the floor in stitches with tears running down my cheeks.

What's even more amusing is that now, not only do I own a solar-powered torch, but all the lights in our house are solar powered!!

on feeling guilty (1)

I mentioned here that I want to work out what to do with the guilt I feel about living and working here in Vanuatu yet having easy access to a better health system back home that my friends here can't possibly hope to share.

In the time that I have been in Vanuatu, two of my friends have had babies die in childbirth.  I went home to have Matthew.  Just this year a baby died in the village we visit for field experience from Malaria.  We not only have access to medicines to prevent malaria, but also have on hand different medicine for treatment, should the prevention step fail.

Is this fair?  

In one sense the question is a whole lot bigger than me and my guilt.  It's about wealthy nations and developing nations.  It's about rich and poor.  

For me, it's about living a genuine christian life in the midst of people who struggle to feed and cloth their children and for whom toothpaste is a luxury commodity.  How can I be "all things to all men" when as soon as things are difficult, I get out of here?

To be honest I'm still struggling to answer my questions.    These are the sorts of categories I can think of to help me as I work through them.
  • guilt on a personal level versus guilt on a corporate level
  • sins of 'omission' as well as sins of 'co-mission'
  • the continuting debt of love
  • what 'incarnational' mission is and if it is a helpful way think about or do mission.
It may take a while.  Join in with your ideas!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Intrigued by Melinda Tankard Reist

I haven't read any of Melinda Tankard Reist's books, or heard her speak.  But I am very intrigued by what I have heard and very encouraged by the work (I hear) she is doing.  I'd love to read her books.

Nicole has reviewed Defiant Birth: Women who Resist Medical Eugenics here and Caroline has reviewed Giving Sorrow Words: Women's stories of Grief after abortion (on Nicole's blog) here.

Bron writes here about planning to read Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls and why.  She is hoping to write about it on her blog which should be worth following.  Bron also writes here about hearing Melinda speak at Katoomba Women's Convention on Toxic Culture: the Impact of the Media and Popular Culture on Girls and Young Women.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

good news and bad news

Good News:
The Talua truck has arrived.  What great relief and a wonderful blessing.  No more trips to town like this one.

Bad News: 
No more surgery in Vila General Hospital due to lack of oxygen.  This makes me feel better about returning to Sydney for medical care, but doesn't stop me feeling guilty about it at the same time (but what a selfish response!).  Please keep those people in mind who are needing surgery and pray for them, particulaly those whose lives are at risk.  Pray also that it will not be long before oxygen is in ready supply again.  Pray for pastors in Vila who visit the Hospital that they may speak words of comfort and hope at such a time.

Friday, 18 September 2009

The Heart of Anger (3)

I am still reading the Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo.  I have written about the first two chapters here, and the third and fourth chapters here.  It's not a particularly difficult book to read, in fact it's quite easy.  I've just had a break for a while.

The fifth chapter puts the third and fourth chapters into practise; showing what it might look like to be training a child to communicate respectfully and gently after an initial response of anger using all three forms of communication (words, tone and body language).

He suggests moving a child through these steps;
  1. acknowledging that their reponse was sinful (there is an extensive but apparently not exhaustive list of examples of such found in scripture);
  2. asking for forgiveness;
  3. rehearsing an alternative way to respond ensuring that words, tone and body language is appropriate.
I appreciated the examples he gave of what to say in such times.  It's easy to know that's what I ought to do, but if I don't know a better response there is no way I could teach my children a better way to respond, particularly in a situation where I myself may be struggling to respond in right (and not sinful) ways.

I also appreciated the breadth of those examples for what a child might say in response.  It wasn't just "yes Mum, whatever you say, Mum" but a serious attempt to help a child express what he or she is thinking or feeling. 

He encourages recongnising exactly how the response was sinful and identifying the particular sin.  I think the helpfulness of this would depend on the age of the child and particular situation.  Sometimes a simple "unhelpful" or "unkind" might be enough.  Sometimes some time alone before implementing the steps above might be necessary for both parties to calm down!

I also admire the way he is making a serious attempt to understand what scripture says about how we relate to one another and the effect of our words and our anger on others and use this understanding to guide his method.

I'm going to read the chapter again.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Talua Sunday

Last Sunday was Talua Sunday.  This is the day when the college splits up into teams of two or three and visits churches throughout Santo.  It is an oppurtunity for the community to hear about what has been happening over the past year and about what will be happening in the next year.  It's a great chance for everyone to join together in praying for the work that Talua does and to generously provide for it.  This year, as in the past few years, money collected on Talua Sunday goes towards maintenance; materials required for upkeep and development of the college and for the salary of our handy-man, who does a great job.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Reading Proverbs with Children

Have you ever done this?  We hadn't, and we didn't expect it to be a raving success.  But contrary to our expectations it was.  We haven't been creative about it, just read them (maybe up to ten at a time) and answered the children's questions.  Usually we read another part of the bible and then some proverbs.  Now, after the other reading, there are chants of "Proverbs!  Proverbs!  Proverbs!"

I can't work out why they like them so much.  Some of the proverbs really surprise them, especially the ones about disciplining children (don't be silly, Dad, it doesn't really say that).  But they really like them.

Encouragement comes from strange places sometimes.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

on feeling guilty

Recently I made a trip back to Sydney, Australia for medical reasons.

These sorts of trips always raise mixed feelings for me.  I felt absolutely overjoyed at the prospect of visiting friends and relatives (particularly these ones).  I felt relieved that I might at last be able to get things sorted out and be once again on the road to good health.  At the same time I felt horribly guilty that the oppurtunity was mine and not one my friends here share.

What do I do with this guilt?  Do I pretend it isn't there?  Do I try to sweep it under the carpet and forget about it knowing that I would do the same again (and I would)?  Do I talk myself out of it?  Perhaps it's false guilt?  I haven't actually done anything wrong, have I?

How do I understand it and what do I do about it?

Join me as I think about these things over the next couple of weeks.

(yes, I can hear you laughing... as I hope to think about them...)

Monday, 14 September 2009

on the nature of fowl

The reason we built an enclosure for our chick (instead of just letting it wander around outside) was not to protect it from wild dogs (although these may be a problem) or from cats (of which there are a few) but to protect it from the hens.  These mothers, fiercely protective of their own chicks, would vicously attack it whenever they caught sight of it.

Reflecting on this while threading the coconut fronds through the chicken wire, we thought about how animals usually attack different animals.  We wondered what sort of demented, vicious beast would attack its own kind.

Then we realised.

good news on the chick front

It is still alive.

Actually it seems to be doing quite well.

Apparently it is male, which is not what we'd hoped for as it doesn't look like he'll have a long and happy life providing eggs for his beloved family.  He'll probably just provide Christmas dinner.  Once.

He is getting to large for his coconut and for being inside in a box so we have constructed a little enclosure out of chicken wire next to our verandah.  The holes in the chicken wire are too big (and he can escape) and I spent a couple of hours weaving coconut palm fronds through the bottom third of the wire so he can no longer escape.

The funny thing is that he spends the whole day inside his enclosure, happily protected from the fierce mother hens that otherwise attack him, but come dark we hear persistent chirps from him and on going to investigate find him waiting outside the front door wanting to come in.  So he obviously can get out, but chooses not to.

The Guersney Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Scaffer and Annie Barrows is a delightful book. I practically read it from cover to cover in one sitting; actually in one lying... as I was curled up in bed at the time.

Juliet Ashton is a young, beautiful and clever writer.  During the war (WWII) she wrote a light hearted column to help keep up morale.  Now the war is over and she is looking for something to do.  A letter sent from the new owner of an old book of hers begins a correspondence with some colourful characters from Guernsey, (one of the channel islands that was occupied during the war) and ends up changing her life.

The novel, written in a series of letters, is a moving portrayal of life in another time and place and contrasts the both the dignity and barbarity of man.   I highly recommend it.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

on travelling by plane without the children or check-in luggage

Even better. Easier than travelling by State Rail.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

on travelling by plane without the children

Fantastic. Nothing like the fiascos which have produced this.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

On being an Aunty

On my recent visit to Sydney (which I may write more about another time) I had the unexpected, delightful and long forgotten pleasure of being an Aunty.  Not just being an Aunty, but of spending some wonderful time with my nephews and nieces.  It's not that I don't see them at other times, I do.  But this time, my own children were not there to play with their cousins (and given that these oppurtunities are so rare, they are loathe to forgo them) or to occupy my attention.   So I played with them and I loved it.  We read books, played games, cuddled and chatted.

Even more special was being able to cuddle my new nephews, 

Samuel James Taylor,
born 26th July to my brother Michael and his wife, Katie;


and Jack Emmanuel Ralphs,
born 7th August to my sister Bronnie and her husband, Dave;


and my new "niece",
Elise Laura Mackay,
born 11th July to my wonderful friends, Julie and Fil.


More pictures of Jack and Samuel here.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Recipe Tag: Talua Kari

Nicole* has tagged me for a recipe meme.  I thought it might kick-start my blogging again, so here it goes....  The rules are:
  1. Choose one ingredient from the my recipe and post a recipe using this ingredient on your blog, linking back to the previous blogs that have posted a recipe. 
  2. Then tag four new people, and we will see how it grows.
  3. To keep it exciting please post within a week of receiving the tag.


The humble tomato is my chosen link-ingredient.  What follows is a recipe that I have developed while living here at Talua in the lovely South Pacific.  It uses ingredients all readily available here and is great with fresh coconuts and home-grown tomatoes.  A tin of coconut cream is a good substitute if you don't have fresh ones on hand (!!).  It is a great recipe for entertaining as it can be bulked up easily.  Serve with rice or African yam.

Ingredients
1-2 kilos stewing beef
5 cloves garlic
2-4 onions
1/4 cup curry powder
1-2 tablespoons beef stock powder
2 large tins tomatoes or equivalent volume of fresh tomatoes
2 large coconuts

Method
  1. Brown the beef in small amount of oil with garlic, onions and curry powder.
  2. Add the tomatoes, cover with water and stir in beef stock powder.
  3. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer.  Leave for 2-3 hours, stirring occassionally to ensure it doesn't burn, or until the meat is tender.  Top-up water when needed.
  4. Prepare coconut cream** and add to the curry (or add the tinned coconut cream).  Also add the sweet coconut juice if you have used fresh coconuts.  This makes the curry deliciouly sweet.
  5. Leave to simmer for another half hour or so until it looks lovely and tastes fantastic.
I tag Bron, Erin (when you can manage it), Michelle and Karen and look forward to seeing some more yummy receipes!

* tagged by Ally
** preparing coconut cream from fresh coconuts is quite involved and needs particular equipment; I wouldn't recommend attempting it unless you know how and have the eqipment on hand