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Autumn at my home

To be happy at home is the end of all labour.
Samuel Johnson.



Since this month has seen my blog feature two controversial Ps - politics and the pill - I might as well continue the theme. Patriarchy is one of those words that seem to arouse strong emotions, centrally because feminists have consistently conjured up images of wife beating and other forms of abusive behaviour. Yet as Russell Moore says “We must remember that ‘evangelical’ is also a negative term in many contexts. We must allow the patriarchs and apostles themselves, not the editors of Playboy or Ms. Magazine, to define the grammar of our faith.” Biblical patriarchy is far better for women and for society than the rhetoric of feminism would indicate. It is more about servant leadership than abusive despotism. As Moore says, "a biblical view of male headship and gender roles actually protect against spousal and child abuse because it does not posit male privilege, but instead demands male responsibility."

I do not have time to write a lot about this topic right now. However, I would like to recommend several articles.

The article that reports on Russell Moore's views "Many evangelicals unwittingly live as feminists" is well worth reading for its refutation of common myths, analysis of current Christian trends, and explanation of how this topic is connected to our understanding of God's character.

Albert Mohler has also written a facinating article about The Return of Patriarchy? Fatherhood and the Future of Civilization. Here is an excerpt:

"Will the world soon experience a return of patriarchy? That is the question raised by Phillip Longman in the current issue of Foreign Policy.

The magazine's cover features a rather stunning headline: "Why Men Rule--and Conservatives Will Inherit the Earth." That headline would be surprising in almost any contemporary periodical, but it is especially significant that this article should appear in the pages of Foreign Policy, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The publication of this article is likely to set a good many heads to spinning.

Phillip Longman is Bernard L Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. He is a well-respected author and researcher, whose books have included The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do about It (2004). In his previous works, Longman has projected how falling birthrates throughout advanced societies will lead to financial, political, social, and demographic decline.

In this new article, he presses his argument to the next stage--announcing the return of patriarchy--the concept of male leadership--as essential to a recovery of higher birthrates and reproduction."

Finally, I recommend Nicole Whitacre's report on what Al Mohler had to say on the "Mommy Wars". This article is an excellent response to fanatical feminism, which not only opposes the value of male leadership but also opposes the choice of full time motherhood. It is a perspective I wholeheartedly agree with. Promoting God's truth about male and female roles and relationships is not primarily about writing articles or arguing with people, it is about living God's plan happily.


A mother's prayers

I remember my mother's prayers and they have followed me.
They have clung to me all my life.
Abraham Lincoln

Esther and Mum reading together

Esther and Mum picking tomatoes

Abraham Lincoln's comment about his mother's prayers is also true of my life. There have been many times where my mother's prayers have seemed to surround me, even when she is far away. Times when I have been involved in sin, and I remember how disappointed she would be. Times when I have been troubled, depressed, or lonely away from home. Times when good things happen, and I think they must be answers to my mother's prayers.

As Esther and Mum's other grandchildren grow, her prayers also surround them. I pray all her prayers will be answered, and she will be blessed to see them walk in the truth. Even when Mum is dead, I trust that God will remember and answer her prayers. They will still cling to us.


Favourite Times

Prayer times are my favourite parts of the day at school. First thing in the morning, about 8:30am, there is a staff prayer time. It is an enourmous privilege to work at a school where God's character and word are trusted, where he is praised, and where the many difficulties encountered at school can be brought before him. Prayer times with the children are just as enjoyable. It is encouraging to see their enthusiasm for praying. When I ask who would like to pray, it is common for everyone to put up their hands. Here are some excerpts from the prayers which I have particularly enjoyed.

"Please forgive my sins, and B____'s sins, and J'____'s sins, and E____'s sins [all fellow class members] and even Miss War's sins."

Following a story about the garden of Eden, the fall and Satan's role in it, and the cross, the children seemed deeply impressed with the reality of Satan. A few days later, one prayed:

"Please Lord, take care of everyone, except please Lord don't take care of Satan, or of Satan's group."

Then another prayed:

"Don't take care of Satan's group, and don't let Satan be part of our group."

For about two weeks now, one of the children who is from a pentecostal background has been praying:

"Holy Spirit in my heart, Holy Spirit in my friend's hearts, Holy Spirit in my family's hearts, Holy Spirit all over me."

On Wednesday, she added to this "You give us power, power, power." She said this with great fervour, and rose out of her chair, adding "You can heal people".

I had to put my hand over my mouth to hide the fact that I was trying not to laugh! One of the other children did laugh, and the child who prayed felt hurt. I am so glad I managed to contain myself so that she did not notice me laughing!

To top it off, another child prayed right after her and said:

"Thank you Lord that you come down when we die, and take us up to play with you. You play with us. You love children, I know you love children."

Sometimes the children's prayers remind me that I need to teach more about who God is. I am also conscious of the need to find a way to teach the reality of the Trinity clearly - not to explain the mystery (who can!) but to help them understand that we serve one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I was reminded of this when I told the children Jesus is God, and one said "I thought there was Jesus, and then there was God." I said "No, Jesus is God" and she seemed to accept that.

It is a privilege to share the love of God with these children, and to hear their prayers. I am grateful to have work I believe is valuable. Reading is one of my passions. I see how much it can help people, and find it meaningful to pass on these skills. My work has reminded me of how hard it must have been to gain reading skills, even though I do not remember the process, and makes me all the more grateful for them. My job would feel significant even if it was just about passing on reading skills. It is even more meaningful because I am free to pass on a greater love, and to point the children to One who can fulfill greater needs. It is not only a privilege, it is a reponsibility that I do not take lightly.


Bible Memory Helps Depression

In Loving God With All Your Mind, Elizabeth George shares several specific practices that God used to bring her out of severe depression.

“The first was memorizing Scripture. Having been told – like every Christian – that I should memorize Scripture and not knowing that I had an option, I had dutifully begun to memorize passages from God’s Word. I wrote Bible verses on index cards which I carried with me, taped on mirrors, laid on the breakfast table, and placed on the windowsill over my kitchen sink. I was doing what I knew was right, but I was quite unaware of the great benefits I would reap”.

Elizabeth goes on to share how she meditated upon these Scriptures, and began to obey them. Phillipians 4: 8 became especially life changing. It taught her to focus on God’s word and the truth rather than upon the depressing thoughts that filled her heart.

Elizabeth’s life is an example of how the Holy Spirit often brings alive practices done solely out of “duty” or obedience, turning them into actions that stem from love and joy. The first step to obeying God’s word is to know God’s word. The more it dwells deeply within us, the more the Holy Spirit will use it to change us.


Internet encouragement

Over the past few weeks I have come across several blog posts that I'd like to recommend. Some of them I'd like to write more about, but if I wait until I have time to do that I may never do so!

Firstly, over at Mountain Musings back in February, Tom wrote an excellent post about honouring parents. He has listed many Scriptures. I find Ephesians 6:1-3 especially important. In the New Testament, as well as the Old, we are told that it will be well with us if we honour our parents.

At The Sower's Corner, there is an excellent post on hospitality. I would love to post about this topic myself sometime, as God has spoken to my heart a lot about it in the past couple of years. Karen has read two of the same books that have influenced me.

At Mountain Musings there is also a good post on friendship, and I appreciated the last quote Deb gave:

"A friend is one to whom we may pour out the contents of our hearts, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away." ~Arabian proverb

How we all need that kind of grace!

A post I read today, titled Let's Talk About the Weather, also reminds me to be gracious. As Carmon says: "How often do we draw sweeping conclusions about people based on cursory data points? Noting some niggling inconsistencies, or even eccentricities, in others, isn’t it easy to see their faults and determine the protocol for their personal improvement? Too easy. It’s much harder—and not nearly as fun—to look at the bigger picture, to pray for that person, or even to mind your own business."

This brings to mind something Roy Blount Jr. said about Robert E. Lee in his biography of the leader. Blount is critical of Lee in many respects, yet he notes that Lee was "Forbearing toward others, hard on himself." I hope to have the same attitude Lee had.

Finally, I recommend Scott Brown's post on the importance of expository preaching and the reasons shallow preaching is harmful. I am grateful for the preaching at my church, especially when I visit other churches where expository preaching is not strongly valued.

Now I had best head off to bed. I still have not decided who to vote for, or if the ballot box will get the blank sheet treatment. Travelling through three electorates on my way back home from Launceston today did not help - so many posters of candidates! One of the funnier spectacles of this week was a noted politician standing at a round about wearing a t-shirt with his own name and picture on it, holding a placard about himself, with several people around him also waving placards about him. Ah, what would life be without politics. No wonder I did a whole Bachelor of Arts majoring in this silliness.


Enjoying the North

I have only spent one weekend in Launceston so far, but I made the most of it! I went to two churches, had a great time catching up with friends who live in Launceston, and went sight seeing!

I enjoyed Trevallyn Dam at sunset . . .

I went to City Park on a hot summer day, to look at the Japanese monkeys, beautiful trees and flowers, and monuments. This monument is for those who died in the Boer War. It has "For Throne and Empire" on one side, sentiments that seem nonexistent in 2006!

I visited the museum to see an exhibit of 19th century paintings of Australian homes. While there, I also enjoyed seeing other early Australian paintings. It was encouraging to see portraits of protestant preachers, a Baptist and a Methodist, who were noted for their evangelical zeal.

I saved the best for last! This was so good, I had to post lots of pictures about it! On Monday I visited Woolmers Estate, where the first buildings were built in 1819. Following that, six generations of Thomas Archers inhabited the home. The last Thomas Archer was a bachelor, and when he died he left it to the Archer Historical Foundation.

Inside much of the house we were not allowed to take photos, due to the many valuable paintings contained there. It is basically the same as it was in the 1840s, as the front rooms were used only for entertaining. Later generations did not use the rooms, but kept them as they had been. They are wonderful! The family had their own crest, and a motto in French which is translated as "The end crowns the work". In this family's case, the first Thomas Archer seemed to do nearly all the work (with the help of scores of servants) while subsequent generations enjoyed the proceeds and lived a life of sailing, golfing, and general loafing!

The grounds were amazing. The stables are above. Below are some of the cottages, and a barn.

The grounds of Woolmers are also the location of the National Rose Garden. To stand and overlook the roses, mountains, and buildings on a sunny autumn day is a wonderful experience.

I enjoyed this place more than any other I have visited since I went to Williamsburg in Virginia. Anyone who has heard me rave about Williamsburg will know what a compliment that is!


Better than anything

For wisdom is better than rubies,
And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.
Proverbs 8:11

This morning on the way to work I was thinking about all the things I desire. An Internet connection at home that will actually connect when you ask it to, instead of sending messages to say "Could not connect" over and over again. A good husband. More money to invest, give away, go to the dentist with, or spend on fun things. Kids. Godly government. My own house some day. A long trip to the USA, so I can see it in autumn, winter, and spring! More enrolements here at school. The salvation of my father, and of friends who are no longer close because our hearts are so far apart. A small NKJV Bible to carry everywhere. More patience. A watch. More and more books. Music CDs.

I won't bore you with telling you "all the things" I desire! (And, no the things listed above are not in order of least to greatest!). I am sure you all have your own things that spring to mind when you read this verse. Wisdom from God's Word can help us gain some things we desire (for example, in explaining money management principles or what type of guy would make a good husband). Yet it is not to be valued for its ends. It is to be valued for its own sake. Wisdom is delightful and precious in itself.

It is amazing to think that anything you can set your heart on is nothing compared to wisdom. It is fine to ask God for all the things that are on our hearts, even things that seem small. Yet it is also important to pray for what God says is important: wisdom. To focus our hearts, and spend our time, upon delighting in the incomparable riches of wisdom.



O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself,
It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps
Jeremiah 10:23

I was meditating on this wonderful scripture on the drive to work this morning. I am so grateful to God that he does not leave us to ourselves. If the way of man was in himself, all would be hopeless. What is there in me that could determine my course well? I can seek God, I can apply Biblical principles, and I can obey God's commands. Yet still I bumble and fumble along, hardly seeing what is ahead. God's grace is enourmous in not leaving me to myself. What a comfort it is to know that he directs my steps. Sometimes his plans seem less than what I would have wanted, less than what I had planned in my heart. Yet as they unfold I can accept these departures from my desires. He is directing them and he knows best. It is comforting to know that no matter what my decisions are, he can and does over rule them to bring about his desires. I am directed.


Time to Vote

On Saturday March 18, an election to determine who will govern Tasmania will be held. Where I live, we go and vote in the tiny hall pictured above. It is a short walk from my home.

In Australia voting is compulsory. Richard Herr, my former political science professor, said this is undemocratic. I agree. Forcing individuals to vote forces them to make decisions they may be uninformed about. I only want to vote if I can do so in good conscience, knowing that the candidate I am supporting does represent my values in key areas. Thankfully, the Australian Christian Lobby does find out and provide voters with details of candidate's positions.

Voting for the most “conservative” party is not an answer. In Australia, the conservative party (Liberal) controls both houses of the Federal government. However, a law was recently passed to remove restrictions on the importation of the abortion drug RU486. It is essential to find out what individual candidates believe on matters like abortion, because party lines usually allow a conscience vote.

Most people vote for the party that promises to do more about education, or health, or the environment. There is a strong tendency to blame the government for many things, and ask them to fix them. As the government is handed more and more responsibility, they are also given more authority. A booklet I was required to study to work at the school where I am employed says: “Responsibility and authority are interrelated and must be kept in balance. The weight of responsibility should be equal to authority. For example, when parents turn the responsibility for training their children over to the state, they also turn over a measure of their authority.”

To me, the things people often focus on are far less important than the matters the Bible directly says the government should be involved in. To often, these things are neglected while the government takes on responsibilities and authority that should remain with church and home. I want to do more study on what tasks God has appointed for government, home, and church. At this stage, I believe the Bible tells us that the central task of government should be to reward good and punish evil.

Righteousness exalts a nation,
But sin is a reproach to any people.
Proverbs 14:34

For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
Romans 13:4

As John Adams, second President of the United States, wrote, “Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only lawbook, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! ... What a Utopia; what a Paradise would this region be!”

Something Doug Phillips said on a Jamestown to Jubilee Faith and Freedom tour CD keeps all this in perspective. He said it is 10,000 times more important to honour your parents than to be politically active. He hopes we will all be politically active, but that is no where near the most important thing. The seemingly small things we choose to do each day in relationship to our families and churches have a much greater impact for eternity.

P.S. I was happy to discover last year that while it is compulsory to turn up to a voting booth, it is possible to legally choose not to vote: put your voting sheet in blank.




Completely Pro-life?

When I arrived home from Launceston last night, I had a parcel of pro-life books awaiting me! New South Wales Right to Life allowed me to choose some to order from the USA, as part of my payment for working there in January. I ordered eight copies of Randy Alcorn’s book Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?. I previously only had a PDF download. A friend who read this download asked for several "real" copies. I would also like to have a few on hand, in case someone asks. I have thought of blogging about “the pill” for a few months, but it is one of those topics I don’t enjoy confronting!

In short, medical literature indicates that hormonal birth control has three actions. The first is the one most people are familiar with: suppression of ovulation. The second is changes in cervical mucus, making sperm penetration difficult. The third is changes in the lining of the uterus, which reduces the likelihood of an already conceived human being implanting. These actions are documented in much medical literature, and in the information in pill packets. It is the third action that concerns those us who believe life is valuable from conception.

Rather than write out a lot of information and arguments, I am posting below, in italics and with a few amendments, an email I wrote to someone on this topic.

Thanks also for looking up your book on the pill for me. There seems to be a consensus that the combined pill does those three things, in all the literature I have read and from all the people I’ve asked. The difference comes in interpretation of what that evidence means in terms of whether the combined pill acts as an abortifacient. There is little debate that the mini-pill does.

After talking to you on the phone I re-read Randy Alcorn's book on the combined pill that I have downloaded. He is a protestant pro-life Christian who has done extensive research into its effects (he is not against birth control as such, only against abortifacient varieties). Personally, I think the available evidence strongly indicates that the combined pill acts as an abortifacient. It does so less frequently than the mini-pill, but is still a significant concern. As you wrote, the combined pill is 97% effective. This means three out of every 100 women on this pill become pregnant each year. This happens when all three of the actions have failed. The pill does not always tell the brain not to produce an egg. The question is how many times the first action fails, and it gets to the third action and that works. At a minimum it is likely that this happens at least as many times as pregnancy occurs, and it probably happens more than that.

I hope this helps in explaining where I am coming from in this. I understand that others have evaluated the evidence and come to different conclusions. I have personally really struggled with this information. It is an emotive issue because hormonal birth control is widely used amongst Christians. I’d love to believe that the evidence indicated it did not act as an abortifacient. Right now though, I feel that I need to inform people about the evidence so they can think about it and evaluate it for themselves. I generally only mention it if I am asked though.

I agree that there are ethical issues surrounding all the actions of the pill, and indeed any artificial interference with the natural and healthy processes of our God-given bodies. However, I think that as Bible believing Christians we do need to draw an absolute line somewhere. The most logical place to draw that line is at conception, when an individual human life comes into being.

Some Christians react to information about hormonal birth control with horror at the thought of having more children than they want. This is an unbiblical reaction, because God clearly says that having many children is a blessing. Modern Christians have moved far from this view. Most of them are more certain about the value of preventing children than they are about the value of early life. How sad. This reaction is also uninformed, since birth rates were low before the pill was introduced. You can look up the Australian Bureau of Statistics on the Internet. After the 1800s, more and more people chose to have small families. Hormonal birth control was simply an easier and more effective way to achieve this.

It is difficult to evaluate clearly something we have grown up with and accepted for many years. It helps to have the facts, and to interpret them with a Biblical understanding of children and the purpose of marriage. With the perspective this gives, we can attempt to hold a view that is completely pro-life: even if it interferes with our own desires and plans.

Disclaimer: addressing this topic does not mean I am judging individuals. I believe things like this are private. I try to never ask people whether their children were planned, or whether they intend to have children, let alone whether they use the pill. People who feel judged often at the same time go around telling everyone about their private life. If they don’t want to be judged, maybe they should keep private things private??


Good Reasons to Hesitate

On Friday 24 February, I wrote about how I question my motives for not speaking when truth is at stake. Two of my Bible memory verses give good reasons for hesitating to speak:

The beginning of strife is like releasing water;
Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.
Proverbs 17:14

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world
Philippians 2: 14-15

Some disputes are pointless and fruitless. We are called to avoid those. There is a difference between stating the truth, and pushing the truth so that you end up in an argument.

Sometimes in discussions with Christians I am coming from such a different perspective or knowledge base to those I am trying to communicate with, it feels like fog surrounds us. This is especially so in areas like politics, education, or entertainment. This “fog” can lead to frustration, distress, or anger in my heart. I do not want to discuss issues like this unless I can do so peacefully and without sin.

Another reason I hesitate is that in the past I have held views strongly, and spoken them, later to have the Holy Spirit show me through God’s word that I was wrong. Before I speak strongly, I need to be sure truth not error is being presented.

I also recognise how long it has taken me to come to some of the positions I now hold. I cannot expect others to instantly agree with ideas that used to shock me! Often one small statement is enough to get someone thinking. People progress in ideas and beliefs through small and gradual steps.

Charlotte Mason expresses something of what I am saying:

That which has become the dominant idea of one person’s life, if it be launched suddenly at another, coveys no very great depth of weight of meaning to the second person – he wants to get at it by degrees, to see the steps by which the other has travelled.


Patches of godlight

We (or at least I) shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest. At best our faith and reason will tell us that He is adorable, but we shall not have found Him so, not have ‘tasted and seen’. Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of godlight’ in the woods of experience.

C. S. Lewis.

I often find this to be true. A couple of weeks ago as I walked through our garden with Mum and Esther, God's goodness amazed me. Simple things like the feel of sun on my skin, fresh air, vegetables, trees, and flowers seemed alive with beauty.

As Psalm 65:11 says:

You crown the year with your goodness,
And Your paths drip with abundance.


Make them life, Jesus

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
Proverbs 15:4

What a heart warming image the first line presents. A tongue that is wholesome builds up and causes people to flourish. This passage is an inspiration to seek God, to pray that he will make my words life-giving.

In contrast, the second line presents a tragic image. A broken spirit, a crushed heart, is something we can all identify with. There have been many times when a few words have broken my spirit. They have festered and hurt long after they were spoken. The saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me" is not biblical. Words can hurt more than stones.

This verse is so meaningful to me that when I did a poetry writing unit at university, I tried to write a poem on it. The title was "Make them life, Jesus."My tongue is evil and difficult to control, as James points out. I cannot even control it without God's help.

Here at the school I pray this even more. Teaching is so much about communication, speech. The children are always doing things that are irritating, or need correction. They often struggle with school work, and I need to explain their mistakes whilst encouraging them. If their spirits are broken they will not even want to learn. In the midst of all this, I often pray about my words: "Make them life, Jesus."


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