Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Morning

Wishing all my readers a blessed and happy Christmas.

Rejoice! The Saviour is born.

Listen to the Christmas Story on Audio here:

Friday, December 21, 2012

They won't be expecting that.

A brilliant retelling of the story by Simone over at http://www.greatfun4kidsblog.com/

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Family Prayers and Slow Advent

It was this comment by Tim Chesterton that got me thinking:

“…it's more to do with how you see your family - are they competition for your prayer life, or are they your praying community? So do you take your 20 minutes and sneak off to the least noisy room in the house - or do you start with the assumption 'This is my praying community - I need to find a way of praying that works for us as a family'?
Far too many … spend their time struggling to pray with the non-existent community they wish they were praying with, rather than the actual community God has given them.
It seems to me that celibate/monastic spirituality is based on the assumption that a person will have ready access to solitude and silence at any time. Family life is not that sort of atmosphere, so we need to find a way of discipleship/spirituality that grows naturally out of that environment.

I’m a working Mum.  Finding quiet time to pray without interruption is very challenging.  But Tim’s comment shifted that – rather than finding ways to pray away from my family, to try finding ways to pray with my family.

2012-12-005It was timely that I read this just at the beginning of advent.  A new start for a new season.  I raided the emergency candle stash, found a tin foil plate and some tinsel and quickly created a basic Advent wreath.  Okay, the candles aren’t traditional colours, and the blu-tac is a little bit wobbly, but it works.

After dinner that night, at the beginning of December, I sat the family down and lit the first candle.  We read from the Bible through the Seasons resource, and we prayed together.  The children loved the idea.  It’s now the third week of Advent and we now have three candles lit each evening. 2012-12-18 18.32.01

It’s part of slowing down instead of always being busy. I’ve been reading lots of your blogs out there with all the wonderful crafts and activities you’re doing with your families, and its great.  But this year I’m choosing to do less, and spend more time praying and reflecting.

Can I encourage you to join me in a Slow Advent for this last week before Christmas? “As Slow Food is to Fast Food - so Slow Advent is to most people's "Season of Advent".”

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Practical Prayer

“I’m sorry, I’m not really into prayer.”  This response to my suggestion we become prayer partners honestly surprised me.  I know my friend to have a deep, sincere faith, a thorough knowledge of the Bible, and the kind of insight, wisdom and spiritual discernment I had just assumed came from an active prayer life.
I can’t remember now where on the Internet I read the book review about Kneeling with Giants by Gary Neal Hansen. (I think it might have been here).  But something about the review piqued my interest.  It might have been the way it referred back to the “giants” of Church history, like Benedict, Augustine, Luther, Calvin and others. It might have been because it seemed to offer very practical advice on how to pray not just the why it’s important.
My local library has a service where you can request a book for them to purchase if they don’t already have it in their catalogue, and it gets reserved for you once it/when they buy it.  So I put in my request.
If only this book had been available in 2011!  The most significant symptom of my post-earthquake trauma was that at the time I most wanted to and needed to pray, I found I couldn’t.  There was no lack of faith, God was still there, but I just couldn’t pray.  The turning point in my recovery has been learning to pray again.  The first half of this year I worked really hard on practicing regular daily prayer.  I managed to keep it up until the end of the Easter season, but once winter started to bite, and I slid into my hibernation mode, my daily prayer routine fell back out again. 
It was a couple of months later that I finally got the email that it was ready for me to borrow. By the time I finished reading the introduction I realised I’d need longer than the 4 weeks the library would lend it to me for, so promptly ordered my own copy through www.bookdepository.co.uk. (I love the free worldwide shipping!)
Gary Neal Hansen describes ten different ways of praying, from the teachings of ten of history’s best teachers.  He draws on the writings and teachings as diverse as Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican all the way through to Evangelical and Charismatic.  Then he gives practical guidance on how to actually practice praying in each of these traditions, and discusses objectively the pros and cons of each one.
As the author says in his introduction: “It is a pity that so many Christians do not have ways to pray that they find life giving.  …countless faithful people learn one way to pray – from a book, their pastor or their own imagination – and if it does not seem joyful when they try it, they figure they are just not good at prayer.”
Originally written for a Theological Seminary course, it is also written in a style that as a lay-person I found it approachable and easy to read.  I’ll be honest though – when it comes to putting in the practice, I’m still working on the first three chapters! 
I’d love to be able to work through this with a small group or a prayer partner.  Although the friend at the beginning of this post with was willing, we are both busy Mums with young children, and we just haven’t found a time yet that works for us to meet regularly.  However, I saw a rumour on Facebook that our Church Administrator had ordered a copy, and I have hinted about the small group study material in the appendix.
P.S. Neither Gary Neal Hansen nor Book Depository have sponsored this post.  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My top 20 Christian books + wish-list


I read this post about the top 25 must-read Christian books.  I’ve only read two from that list, although I’ve heard of most of them and read extracts from a few others.

I thought I’d compile my own personal list of the top Christian books that I have actually read, and that have helped inform and shape my faith over the years.

1.  The Bible.  The original list assumed the Bible was an “of course”, but sometimes I find myself in conversation with other believers that leaves me wondering how much of the Bible they’ve actually read through, not just re-reading ones favourite chapters over and again.  Children’s Bible Story books only count if you have a children’s reading level.  There are so many Bible reading plans out there, most take you though the Bible from Genesis to Revelation over 12 months, other work through chronologically.

2012-12-02 15.58.21
When I was a teenager and new to the faith I spent a summer reading my NIV Study Bible for hours at a time.  I still have the same Bible 20-something years later, although I’ve made a couple of different covers for it at different times.  This is it’s current appearance.

2. Mere Christianity by C S Lewis.  My copy is an older edition, but the words are ageless.

3. The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis

4. ‘Till We Have Faces
by C S Lewis
– it wasn’t easy finding a copy of this when I first tried to read it.  I eventually got an old copy through the inter-library loan system.  I have later bought a Selected Works by C S Lewis that included this.

5. The Great Divorce by C S Lewis -  Another one in my Selected Works.  Not what I expected it would be, but I keep coming back to it.  I find it a challenging look at how preciously we hold onto what is eternally superficial – even “Good” stuff and “Religious” stuff can become stumbling blocks.

. Surprised by Joy by C S Lewis – Lewis’ autobiography, but with some profound messages throughout about the meaning of Joy and some of the reasoning for his faith. 

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.  I tried starting a blog series on this a while back but didn’t get very far with it.  I’ve read the book through but I’m still working on putting it into practice.  The only reason this isn’t higher on the list is because of so many C S Lewis books get in the way.

8. Kneeling with Giants
by Gary Neal Hansen
– This would be the newest book on my list but it’s on the way to becoming a much loved classic already.  Published in June 2012.  A journey through praying alongside Church history’s greatest – from Saint Augustine through to the Pentecostal styles.  This is deserving of a more thorough book review so a separate post on this will follow.

9. The Pilgrim’s Progress
by John Bunyan

10-12. The Case for the Creator, The Case for Christ, the Case for Faith etc.. by Lee Strobel.  Lee Strobel was an atheist, and a journalist, and in 1979 began two years of investigating the claims of Christianity with an intention to disprove them. He became a Christian in 1981, and write about the evidence he found that convinced him of the truth of Christianity.

13-14. In His Steps and Jesus is Here by Charles Sheldon.  The first of these was republished a few years ago with the title “What Would Jesus Do” and go a lot of hype and merchandising along with it, then everyone got tired of it and it went away again.  I’d read the book before it was popular, and still believe it to be a classic to return to and be reminded of.

15. Church History In Plain Language Bruce L. Shelley.  I read a borrowed copy of this several years ago, and it’s on my wish-list to own my own copy so I can re-read it.  I believe it’s important to know why we believe what we do and how Christianity has developed over the generations. 

16. Know the Truth by Bruce Milne - Another part of knowing what we believe as Christians and why we believe what we do.  This book is a good lay-persons summary of basic Christian theology, without getting too bogged down in the serious textbooks that are written for theological students.

17. A Prisoner and Yet by Corrie ten Boom
- Not the first book that comes up on a Google search for this author, but the one I happen to own a copy of. (My copy is a plain hardback with no dustcover, but anyway…)  It’s not just a story of how Corrie ten Boom survived Nazi prison camps, but also with important lessons about how faith sustains you in the face of that kind of suffering.

18. Honest to God by Bill Hybels  Being a real and authentic believer is important to me and I think this is the book that probably taught that to me.  Echoes back to “Till We Have Faces” above – the challenge is to remove the masks we wear and be honest before God and each other.

19. Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend
I read this one when I was first married, and while I haven't reread it, I do think the principles covered in this book are still important to me.

20. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.  Actually I’m not convinced about this been in the top 20, but I’m trying to make up to an even number of what I have read without resorting to more works by C.S. Lewis or novels.

Now for the “Want to read” wish-list:

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – I recently read a modern biography on Bonhoeffer which has inspired me to put this on my wish-list, as well as any other works I can find that have been translated to English.  A man who not just wrote about the cost of discipleship, but paid the ultimate price for his beliefs.

2-3. The Everlasting Man
and Orthodoxy  by G. K. Chesterton – an author who influenced C. S. Lewis whom you may have gathered has been a strong influence to me.

The Practice of the Presence of God  by Brother Lawrence I’ve come across references to this book in a number of others I’ve read, and would like to read it for myself instead of just reading about it.

5. Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill – This one joined my wish-list from Lent Madness earlier this year, when Evelyn Underhill was one of the “saints” facing off. I was actually quite disappointed when she lost to Mary Magdalene in round two.

6. Phantastes By George MacDonald.  C. S. Lewis described George MacDonald as an author who “baptized his imagination.”

7-8. Confessions and The City of God By Saint Augustine. A bit like Bonhoeffer, I was inspired to put these on my wish-list after reading a biography I stumbled across at the local library.

I think I’ll be spending a bit more money at www.BookDepository.co.uk in the near future.  If my husband will let me.

What are the top books you’ve read? What’s on your wish-list?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Show Day

The sound of small footsteps intrudes into my consciousness. 

“Mummy, I don’t feel very well.”

The clock says 4:30am.

I dose her up and tuck her into my bed next to me where she wriggles and squirms for the next two hours, finally becoming still just before her little brother comes in for his dawn cuddle.

It’s Show Day.  Where “Country comes to Town” for the Canterbury A&P (Agricultural and Provincial) Show (www.theshow.co.nz), the climax of the biggest week of the year in the Christchurch Calendar “Cup and Show Week” (www.nzcupandshow.co.nz).  It’s a provincial public holiday today, and we had been planning to go and see “the Show.” It’s a “Royal Show” this year thanks to a planned visit by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. 

Oh well, Daddy gets to take the other children and I get to stay home and be Mum.

In other news, my sister introduced me to www.ravelry.com.  I think she’s glad to have another crafter in the family finally.  I’ve found this pattern, and made a prototype for some Christmas Hamper and Stocking Fillers.  A quiet day at home will be a good chance to make her Friends and Relations.

I think I’ll keep Millie for myself though. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What I did this winter…

Even the least observant among you will have noticed I’ve been a bit off-line this winter.  It turned into an unplanned sabbatical.

There’s a primitive part of me that seems designed to hibernate in the winter.  All I want to do is retreat to the warmest part of the cave, in front of the fire, with a cave-cat on my lap and knitting or similar in my hand.

I’m not a particularly proficient knitter.  Not like my sister who comes up with creations like this:

I can knit peggy squares.  I sort of had in mind a blanket or three (If I do one for one child the others will want one too.

So I knitted quite a few squares:

When I was still only a fraction of the way through how many I’d need for the three blankets I got bored with knitting squares. 

I decided to learn to crochet and found a book a the library.  I started with a granny square.

Then I tried some edging – I practiced with some doll’s blankets.

Then I spotted some colourful acrylic yarn at the local wool shop, and thought that with the textures and shapes from the crochet I could make a picture.  I merged ideas from about three different library books, and did lots of unravelling and trying again when I wasn’t happy with how it was working out.

Then I thought I could expand on the “sun”, join the two together and make myself a tote-bag.


I spotted a crocheted coin purse in a shop, and thought “I could make that” so I gave it a go – with much unravelling and re-working.

Then I made a cell-phone cover.

And then I got onto a bit of a roll and made a pencil case and notebook cover.


Yet another library book inspired me with this pattern for a shawl (the first actual pattern I’d attempted, rather than just making it up as I go).

Still got a way to go to match my sister’s “Swirl” but for a beginner who only learned to crochet less than four months ago I’m pretty chuffed with it.

Now it is spring, summer is not far around the corner, and I’m back in my herb garden and basking in the sunshine again.  My “ideas” book has filled up with ideas faster than I can make them, so I’ll be back!

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Winter arrived rather dramatically yesterday, with the first snowfall of the season down to sea level in Christchurch.

Mister Three looked out the window.  “Yay, snow, it’s winter, it’s Christmas, Santa’s coming”.

I phoned the school at 8am.  “Yes, we’re open at this stage.”  So we bundled the children up in coats and hats and scarves and gloves, and drove to school.  As I was helping Miss Six get her coat and gloves off around her cast, we were told, “actually, we’ve just decided we’ll close after all.”  Out side the snow was falling thicker.  We bundled the children back up again and back into the car to drop me off to work.

I asked my boss to drive me home in his 4-wheel drive.

Snow June 2012
View from my office window.  Snow is falling quite thickly.  Pondering how I will get home.

This morning the slush has frozen with the heavy frost overnight.  School will open later in the morning.

Miss Eight’s Snow Creation

We got “over” the novelty of snow in our city last winter.  This year it’s just cold, and not so much fun.  I haven’t been tempted to take lots of photos. (Two were enough).  I spent two hours yesterday afternoon clearing slush off the driveway so we didn’t end up with sheet ice this morning.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Spaces between the branches:
my pencil whispers on the paper,
I draw the shape of the sky.
Each space fits around another,
fragments of a puzzle,
pieces of the view.

I meditate on spaces in my soul,
I consider their shape,
how each fits around another.
The view shows through
of the sky beyond
and the tree is revealed.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

New Zealand Music Month: God Defend New Zealand #NZMusicMonth

May is New Zealand Music Month, so I'm doing my bit by sharing some of my favourite Kiwi music.

For my Grand Finale:  The BEST New Zealand Song of All Time, is in my opinion our National Anthem.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


No I’m not 100 years old, but this is my 100th post.

To celebrate, here’s my most significant posts out of the last 100:

Christchurch Earthquake Take 2 (posted 23 Feb 2011, 118 Pageviews)

The Picture the Earth Drew (posted 21 Jun 2011, currently 263 Pageviews)

Poo flinging monkeys (posted 22 Jun 2011, 112 Pageviews)

2012 - The year of the rebuild (posted 17 Jan 2012, 142 Pageviews)

Goodbye Old Friend (posted 11 Mar 2012, 119 Pageviews)

Thank you to all my readers for your support over the last 100 posts.  I hope you enjoy the next 100.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Outside the Garden

A couple of weekends ago I spent a day on a silent retreat.  It’s the first time I’ve done something like this with a group.  It was an interesting experience sharing a meal with seven other women without anyone speaking.

We came into the garden to meet with God.

There was a cold wind blowing, grey clouds churned overhead.  I found myself a spot huddled under a bush, slightly sheltered from the wind.

The leaves were mostly gone from the trees, which stood starkly against the grey sky.  The lawns were neatly mown, the shrubbery trimmed and shaped.  The garden had been planned and cared for.

Human nature prefers gardens.  Generally, we’re more comfortable when life is planned and orderly.  We were designed this way by our creator.  The last of his creatures, once we were formed we were placed in a garden He had planted for us, and given instructions to tame and tend the earth.

Outside the garden is wilderness, and although we like to look at the wilderness, we’re not as comfortable living out there in chaos.

Yet the same God we meet in the garden is also present in the wilderness.  Before that first garden, when the earth was formless and empty, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters, filling the chaos that was the pre-creation emptiness.

The Spirit of God also fills the times of chaos in our lives, even when we find it hard to meet with him there.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
(Psalm 24:1-2)

(P.S. This post is dedicated to Sonia H.  Get well soon, Sonia.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Day that Changed the World.

Sometimes when you read the same passage again and again, over many years and decades, it starts to become familiar, comfortable.  It’s easy to lose the impact of how amazing, awesome, terrifying and inspirational the original events described would have been.

This clip was used to introduce the scripture passage at our church this morning.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

New Zealand Music Month: The Exponents 'Christchurch' #NZMusicMonth

May is New Zealand Music Month, so I'm doing my bit by sharing some of my favourite Kiwi music.

This one was performed at the Earthquake fundraising concert in October 2010.  Back then, there had only been one earthquake to worry about.  Sadly since February this song has become less popular, since there were so many casualties in Cashel Street, and we don't have a Cathedral any more.  I hope it will come back into its own someday - on the other side of the rebuild perhaps - because it's still a great song.

Monday, May 21, 2012

New Zealand Music Months: Dave Dobbyn - Welcome Home (Official Video) #NZMusicMonth

May is New Zealand Music Month, and I'm doing my bit by sharing some of my favourite New Zealand songs.

Finally, one from this century.  Dave Dobbyn has matured a bit since "Slice of Heaven", but is still up there as one of my favourite local artists.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

NZ Music Month: The Exponents - Why Does Love Do This To Me #NZMusicMonth

May is New Zealand Music Month, so I'm doing my bit by sharing some of my favourite Kiwi music.

Here's a Classic from the 1990's.  Another song every New Zealander knows.

October 2010, a crowd of 100,000 Cantabrians in Hagley Park.  And when Jordan Luck holds his microphone out to the crowd, all 100,000 in the audience can carry the song through.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lying Whispers

Back in January, I was having a conversation with my counsellor about making more of an effort to spend time praying or meditating.

The counsellor said, “You need to make it a discipline, to get up earlier each morning.”

In that instant a thought popped into my head, You don’t want to make this some religious, legalistic burden, now.

Where did that thought come from? It’s not even true – when I do make the effort to pray I don’t feel burdened, I feel lighter and energised.  And since when do I talk to myself in the second person?

“There’s a concept in Christianity",” I said thoughtfully out loud, “called Spiritual Warfare.”

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NIV).

Back when I was a teenager, and first finding my way into faith, “Spiritual Warfare” seemed to be very fashionable in the Pentecostal Church I attended.  It involved lots of loud praying, especially in Tongues, some stamping of feet and waving of fists in the air.  Phrases like “taking authority” and “claiming the blood” were common.

I’ve mellowed a bit in the two decades since then.  But I’ve found the battle is still being fought.  It’s a more subtle, devious kind of battle than what we imagined back when.  The real battle is the insidious lying thoughts that sneak into our minds, and if we’re not careful we take them as our own and agree with them, and end up believing the lie.

Lies like:
You’re unworthy.  Look at all the stuff you’ve done wrong today.
Who do you think you are to write about faith?  When was the last time you really heard from God?
You can’t do it.  You’re not good enough.  You’ll never succeed.

When I face the that thought head on, I can see it for the lie it is.  And the more time I spend immersing myself in Truth, through prayer, and Bible reading, and reflection, the more I seem to spot those lies as soon as they pop up. But how many times does it sneak into my consciousness without me noticing?  And what is it that those lies are trying to discourage me from achieving?

Happy Mother's Day

This is NOT how I had planned to spend Mother's Day.

Update Monday 13 May:
My little bird with the broken wing is now home, and tucked up into bed sound asleep.  She now has two pins holding the bones in her elbow together.
It wasn't the climbing on top of one's playhouse, it wasn't even the falling.  It was the landing that was the problem.

I was going to make some deep and meaningful comment about how this related to Mother's Day and how wonderful mothers are at being there when our children need us the most, but to be honest I'm just exhausted from having spent the last two nights on a narrow stretcher in the children's ward.

Hope all you Mum's out there felt loved and appreciated this weekend.

Friday, May 11, 2012

NZ Music Month: Dave Dobbyn and Herbs - Slice Of Heaven #NZMusicMonth

May is New Zealand Music Month, so I'm doing my bit by sharing some of my favourite Kiwi music.

Another Classic Kiwi number this one - okay, I've been reminiscing.  I'll admit it. But you find me a New Zealander that doesn't know how to hum this tune.

This song was the theme for the animated movie Footrot Flats: A Dog's Tale,  based on the cartoons by Murray Ball.  The movie was released when I was a teenager, but I'd grown up on the daily adventures of Dog, Wal, Jessie, Cooch, Horse the cat, Major the pig-dog, Cecil the ram, Pongo, Rangi, Aunt Dolly and all the other characters.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Something I Do Everyday #photoadayMay

I hug my children.
Sort of linking in with http://www.fatmumslim.com.au/2012/04/may-photo-day-list.html - It’s a sketch not a photo, but that’s okay because I’m not going to do one every day either.