Wednesday, 30 March 2011

the most loving act

God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act.   
(p36 Don't Waste Your Life )

Children Should be Joyful, Noisy and Polite

Chapter 5 is on 'Loving the Kids (Dinnertime, Bedtime and Holidays)' and Ch 6 on Manners. 

The verse to sum up Loving the Kids is Psalm 118:15 ' The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous'. Which is a great summary when you think about it. 

The verse to sum up Manners is 1 Peter 3:8-9. Which is also lovely, placing manners in it's broadest context.... serving others in love. Manners are after all for other people's sake, not for our own. 

Praise Her in the Gates

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

When the Kids are Sick

'When the Kids are Sick' is Chapter 4. This is a subject that is by no means theoretical this week!

Short term or long term care of the sick is an obvious duty of a mum. And Nancy Wilson addresses two ditches: the tendency to over react:
Our children are the Lord's, and they are in His hands from beginning to end. ... He is the lender, and we are the borrowers. When our children are sick, it is a good opportunity for us to exercise our faith. Do we really believe God is in control of all things and will work all things for our good, or do we just say this?
The other tendency is to under react:
A mother who is busy ...  may be tempted to assume that this illness can be treated with lots of Kleenex and some more vitamin C, when she should be far more concerned.
She has some lovely Biblical wisdom on how to approach the following issues:
Mum's missing church because the kids are sick
What sorts of medicine to use ('alternative' through to 'antibiotics')

She briefly addresses having a child with long-term illness. Given this is only a paragraph in a short chapter it still has much encouragement and help for that situation ... though clearly even a whole book would not be enough to help in that specific situation.

But the most lovely thrust I found is this:
When children are ill, it is a wonderful opportunity for teaching. ...
Sickness is a good time to teach them about compassion and mercy, as well as about the frailty of life. Use these times for spiritual profit. (p34)
She combines this with lovely practical ideas about sleeping bags on the sitting room floor and playing Sorry! 
Praise Her in the Gates

Monday, 28 March 2011

Wombs and Warfare

This might not seem like what you want to think about on a Monday morning. Then again it might kick start your week in all kinds of ways! Ch 3 is titled 'Conception, Pregnancy, Childbirth'. 

I have not read or thought a lot about these things beyond going through the births of our two children with Jane. We will have been married 10 years in the summer. Our oldest is 2. And we are grateful. Very. 

I found this chapter clear, compassionate and very sensible. Surprising too. So, this lovely quote kicks us off:
When women are talking babies they are talking shop. (p21)
But quickly the big theme of the chapter is hit on ... that therefore this is an area of great temptation in this way: 
It is only natural that they develop strong opinions about nearly everything having to do with conception, pregnancy, childbirth and child care.... When women have strong opinions about the many issues surrounding the bearing and rearing of children, they can cause division and disputation in the church. This should not be. (p21)
She highlights these texts: 1 Timothy 4:7 & 1 Timothy 1:4 & 2 Timothy 4:4 & 1 Timothy 2:14 & 5:13

This chapter if full of some very good material on conception, family planning, on being unable to conceive, on not being married at all, as well as some gutsy talk about childbirth itself. 
I'll leave it there I think ... except to post the 'warrior woman' poem she quotes by Anne Bradstreet
Before the Birth of One of Her Children 
All things within this fading world hath end,
Adversity doth still our joys attend;
No ties so strong, no friends so dear and sweet,
But with death's parting blow are sure to meet.
The sentence past is most irrevocable,
A common thing, yet oh, inevitable.  
How soon, my Dear, death may my steps attend,
How soon't may be thy lot to lose thy friend, 
We both are ignorant, yet love bids me
These farewell lines to recommend to thee,
That when the knot's untied that made us one, 
I may seem thine, who in effect am none. 
And if I see not half my days that's due, 
What nature would, God grant to yours and you; 
The many faults that well you know I have 
Let be interred in my oblivious grave; 
If any worth or virtue were in me, 
Let that live freshly in thy memory 
And when thou feel'st no grief, as I no harmes, 
Yet love thy dead, who long lay in thine arms, 
And when thy loss shall be repaid with gains 
Look to my little babes, my dear remains. 
And if thou love thyself, or loved'st me, 
These O protect from stepdame's injury. 
And if chance to thine eyes shall bring this verse, 
With some sad sighs honor my absent hearse; 
And kiss this paper for thy dear love's sake,  
Who with salt tears this last farewell did take
Low mortality in childbirth is God’s goodness to us! Of course how we so often treat the unborn is another matter. 

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Mums & Church

This is apt to be a Sunday blog piece as the title of Ch 2 is 'The Church Our Mother'. 

The gist of this chapter is that husbands and Fathers have a masculine paradigm to follow (Eph 3:14-15; Eph 5:25). Wives have a feminine one (Eph 5:24). When taken with Rev 21:2 and Rev 21:9 it is clear that the Church is the model! And this bridal model is also maternal when Gal 4:21-27 is taken into account:
Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. 24 These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written: "Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labour pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband." Galatians 4:21-27
And this cashes out like this:  

1. All the Church’s responsibilities are commanded by God, and the Church is to submit joyfully to Christ; in the same way, a mother’s duties are laid out in Scripture and are delegated to her by her husband. 
When a wife lurches off to what she thinks is her responsibility without her husband’s blessing and delegation, she is out of bounds and unprotected. (p16)
2. The Church is responsible to teach and build up. This is an obvious duty of mothers.
We are not responsible to teach the neighbor’s kids; we are responsible for our own, and that means all of them. We cannot let any ‘slip through the craks’ because they came when our hands were full. (p17)
3. The Church is responsible to feed and nourish the flock.
A mother must see that her children know that they are loved, for they must be nourished by mother’s love. ... A newborn is fed at the mother’s breast and this is a lovely picture of how the Church is to feed us. The milk a baby receives at the breast is not only nourishing physically, it is emotionally nourishing. (p17)
4. The Church disciplines and corrects its own. In fact, discipline is a sign of a family connection (Hebrews 12:6-8). Mothers are responsible to discipline and correct their children.
Correction must be judicial, kind, and loving, even when it is painful, and it must be done promptly and consistently. This is an enormous task, but when it is faithfully carried out, the children are healthy and happy. (p18)
5. Finally the Church is fruitful. So should Mums.  
While evangelism brings more worshippers into the Church, childbearing brings more disciples into the home. 
A mother should be fruitful like the vine in Psalm 128. Children are not to be viewed as a hindrance, an intrusion, an interruption, or a burden. Fruit is not viewed in such a way. Of course fruit requires tending and tending can be hard work. But it is good work.
Women today embrace barrenness as freedom, and yet barrenness is always a curse in Scripture. But fruitfulness includes more than just childbearing; it is descriptive of a lifestyle (2 Peter 1:8). (p19)
But Nancy Wilson wisely helps us ... because this either seems alien to us in it's entirety or emotionally distant at best because of the fact that we live in a time when (generally): 
the Church has abandoned its duties and roles, it may be difficult for us to see our duties as mothers as they are pictured for us in the Church. (p15)
So, today of all days this is food for thought & prayer & hard work & hope in God! 

Praise Her in the Gates

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Making a Home is a Good Work!

With Mother's Day approaching and needing to be a better help to my wife in this task I am challenging myself to read Praise Her in the Gates with the aim of getting a better sense of the Biblical Calling of being a Mum. I hope to share some of the highlights in the course of this week. 
Nancy Wilson starts in Ch 1 with a nicely large perspective:

Any time we take on an important job, it is very helpful if we have a vision for the end result.  (p11)
Though much may not be accomplished in a day (!!) it all adds up day by day … in one of two direction:
The wise woman builds her house,but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1
In a deep sense from beginning to end only God can build the house:
A song of ascents. Of Solomon.
Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labour in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he grants sleep to those he loves.3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth.5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate. Psalm 127
Here is another Psalm rich in home & motherhood imagery: 
A song of ascents.
Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways.
2 You will eat the fruit of your labour;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house;
your sons will be like olive shoots round your table.
4 Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD.
5 May the LORD bless you from Zion all the days of your life;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem,
6 and may you live to see your children's children.
Peace be upon Israel. Psalm 128
So Nancy Wilson comments: 
Blessings for the one who fears God include happiness around the dinner table where the fruit of hard labour is enjoyed. The wife is described as a fruitful vine. And where is she? ‘In the very heart of you house.’ The mother is central to the picture of blessing and prosperity.  … A mother who fulfils her fruitful calling is a means God uses to bring blessing for her entire family, her husband, the church, and the community. (p12-13)

Continuing in the Psalms/Proverbs vein: 
The virtuous wife in Proverbs 31 has succeeded in her duties because ‘her children rise up and call her blessed.’ The fruit of her hands praise her in the gates, her husband and her children testify to her obedience in her calling, and she is commended for this fruitful obedience. (p12)
10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.
 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
 18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
29 "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Proverbs 31:10-31

Hence the title of the book!
She then quotes a key and wonderful verse: 
Has not the LORD made them one?
In flesh and spirit they are his.
And why one?
Because he was seeking godly offspring.So guard yourself in your spirit,
and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. Malachi 2:15
and connects this to the woman of Proverbs 31 who is a satisfied woman: 
It takes diligence, hard work, and faith to raise godly offspring for God, but it is a soul-satisfying work. This biblical view of a God-fearing motherhood is one laden with images of fruit and abounding in spiritual excellence and honour and blessing.  (p13)
So, back to the big picture: 
The mother of young children must have an eye toward the day when all her children, by the grace of God, will be adults who rise up in her presence and bless her. It may be difficult to maintain this long view in the midst of diapers and discipline and schooling and a hundred other things. But the Christian mother must look to see the house finished. (p13)
And to end a New Testament perspective:
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no-one will malign the word of God. Titus 2:3-5
What happens when mothers are fulfilling their God-given calling in the home?
When women devote themselves to their husbands, children, and to building their house, the whole Church is strengthened. This is actually their ‘ministry’ to the Church: being obedient wives who are raising godly children. (p14)

Praise Her in the Gates

Thursday, 24 March 2011

the Next Generation

These look to be three fantastically relevant talks from Children Desiring God's recent conference 'Holding Fast to the Word of Truth'.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A few of our favourite things

In the last week Simeon and I have been able to do a few of our favourite things in and around Tipton: 

  • Go to Sandwell Valley Farm - a firm favourite. All the farmyard animals to enjoy (lambs just born last week!) as well as a nice cafe serving some fine cakes for as little as 80p [their Millionaire Shortbread is especially good]. Entrance between £1 and £1.50 for adults. Children under 5 are free.
  • Visit Forge Farm - Manure £1 a bag (bags and spade provided! Dig your own). A real farm with collie dogs, cows and at least one horse. A peacock too. And a very friendly farmer.
  • Go for a swim at Wednesbury Leisure Centre - £3.80 for a child and an adult to have 45 mins of super splashing as well as a nice warm shower. Change facilities are Dad friendly too. 

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Call My Bluff

At eXcel today we were in 1 Peter 4:1-6, which aside from anything else raised issues of vocab! 
So we devised a 'Call My Bluff' style game to make light of that. Join in if you want ... which definitions are right? 

  1. an Italian cherry, the favourite ingredient in Tuscan fruit cakes. 
  2. Extreme indulgence in excessive drinking and wild sex
  3. the enjoyment of shooting arrows for the first time 

  1. the residue left due to the oxidisation of lemons
  2. a perfume made from lemons
  3. intense or unrestrained sexual urge

  1. a sexual encounter involving many people
  2. a variety of high altitude pansy grown only in China
  3. a disease of the gut common in highland cattle

  1. the celebration held on buying your first car in Greenland
  2. the drinking of alcoholic drinks to excess
  3. an Indian water rat found in the Punjab

  1. the runoff after a tropical storm
  2. a piece of degree level research
  3. wasteful self-indulgence

What fools we are

How wise the wisdom of God:

(1 Corinthians 1:22-24).

Friday, 18 March 2011


In preparation for Sunday I've been digging around to find out about the Church of Christ in Japan. To my shame I knew little. Now I know a little more.

OMF have this website and these videos about their ministry in Japan: 

There is an interesting Seminary in Nagoya
I've found these blog posts helpful in thinking about and responding to the immediate disaster: 

In the course of today it has been lovely to discover 2 Oak Hillers that were part of my 'wallpaper' while at college, yet who I didn't get to know much:  Nathaneal & Anna Ayling (OMF)On their excellent blog is this video: 
Great to see inside a Japanese church. 
And I also also unearthed this: 
Richard was in my Fives team at University, or I was in his, or something. Just lovely to hear him speak of the work of the gospel going on in Japan.
My knowledge is still too thin, but as well as being overwhelmed, I have been heartened by what I have seen and heard even from these few sources. If you have other links or blog posts to point me to, please let me know!  

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Grace of my God

I'd not heard this before ... Grace of my God by Olly Knight.
I like it very much(in the 'listen to at home/on ipod' music category). Sounds like nice day off music to refresh my heart!
And it looks like there is much more where that has come from:

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

A small voice with a large audience!

I'm not usually big on 'cute'. But I stumbled across this today ... huge fun:
It has over 300 000 hits. 
I think if you dig around there are more of her on youtube. Some find this very disturbing (judging from comments). But I find it very wonderful. 

I have hidden your word in my earphones

Meet the Rizers is an album that like the Seeds Family Worship aims to put the words of Scripture to tunes that we can't get out of our heads. 

You can sample and download their tunes here: (Meet The Rizers)

Dads (and Mums too!) read this (below) written by one of the blokes behind The Rizers. 
First he highlights how teaching our children the Scriptures is our responsibility
  • "You shall teach [God's words] to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking in the way, and when you lie down and when you rise" (Deut. 11:19).
  • "...the father makes known to the children your faithfulness" (Is. 38:19).
  • "Make them known to your children and your children's children" (speaking of the things that God has revealed) (Deut. 4:9).
  • "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4).
  • "Which he commanded our fathers to teach their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments" (Psalm 78:5b-7).
But of course: 
There are hundreds of things that can get in the way of taking the time to sit with your kids and spend time learning the Word of God: lack of discipline, lack of experience, lack of a sense of importance, and many more. Sometimes it's getting over the ideal that you might have in your head. There will be chaos, your wife will need you to do something, the dog will need to go out, your son will not think it's cool at all—but those memories of parents who loved them enough to make an effort will leave a lasting impression on your kids' hearts. So Dads, parents—lets do this!
So then he gives 4 tips on how to help your children:
  • Set a Goal. Try one verse a week. This will allow you to dwell on that verse, apply it, and talk about it through the week. Not all the kids will learn at the same pace, so this will also allow some flexibility.
  • Be Consistent. Figure out when, where, and what works for your family. Make it realistic: maybe it's morning, or dinner time, or in the car on the way to and from school—or have them say their verse to you before you leave for work.
  • Choose the Verses. Pick verses that make sense for your whole family to learn. You can even taper the verse to just a section for the younger kids.
  • Make it Fun. SING SONGS! Repetition is key. So whatever way works for your family, have fun doing it and be creative.
Finally he ends with an exhortation & prayer to pray as we embrace this call: 
Psalm 119:11 says "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." The Word of God is "living and active," it's "profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction and training in righteousness," and it "does not return empty." Thank you God for your powerful Word. It's life-changing, life-shaking, and I desire for it to penetrate not only my life, but the life of this amazing family you entrusted to me.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

At the Seaside

I've been 'off line' for a bit and one of the reasons has been our half-term holiday club 'Seaside Rock' which went really well and for which we thank God!
You can taste the salt air here: 
You can find out more here

If you are someone who works with children or are considering doing a Holiday Club then you might be interested in
this (password: followthesun). We have put together some of the resources we used for the Club in the hope that they might be of help to others. This might be especially useful to those looking to do a three day club.