Saturday, December 30, 2006
He Humbled Himself
Throughout Advent, I have been using a devotional called O Come, Emmanuel, which includes hymns, carols, poems and stories inspired by Christmas.

Today's Bible reading is Philippians 2:5-11 and it is accompanied by Christina Rossetti's In the Bleak Midwinter. It has been fascinating to read about the origin of many of these carols and of the lives and faiths of their authors and composers, so another day I hope to share some of what I've learnt about them. However today I want to look a little at this carol.
Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
Rossetti reminds us that Christ's humility was revealed in that he was born in lowly conditions that others would think beneath them. It certainly wasn't a suitable birthplace for a king! On the day that the firstborn of all creation, the one who would sit on the throne over all heaven and earth, was born as man in a great plan ordained before the creation of the world, the heavenly angels would rejoice, but on earth only some local unlearned shepherds would come to worship him. Instead, the world would reject him and ultimately kill him.

He made himself nothing knowing all this, submitting himself to the will of the Father of his own free will, being willing to suffer a painful death and the separation from the Father to make atonement for us. How else can we respond but to give him our hearts?

Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11

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  posted at 15:53  

Friday, December 29, 2006
Not by Bread Alone
Continuing my study of Debbie Maken's Getting Serious about Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness, I have been looking at the fifth chapter, "What We've Been Taught". She opens with a story:
Suppose a young woman showed up at a church starving to death...The last thing we'd say is, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God"...To abuse Scripture in such a way would contradict God's own design as our Creator to satisfy hunger with food...Sadly we often refuse to employ the same logic when it comes to the hunger of singleness.
Any of us who have dealt with singleness and at all struggled with it will not argue that the church often replies with "radically inflated, politically correct, feel-good answers" that fail to get to the bottom of the upset people feel. Often the real issues are ignored as the church teaches that "marriage will just happen if only you'd stop worrying about it", or asks you "Is Jesus not enough?", or suggests you consider "are you called to singleness?" (quickly followed, almost immediately, by "So are you called to the mission field?").

As much as I initially liked the analogy, I have to disagree with it too. The hunger for food and the "hunger of singleness" just are not the same. Without food, we will die. The desire for marriage and a family, while causing people turmoil and upset, will not cause us to die. Life can indeed carry on without it and, until that day, we just need to learn to live with it.

Most of us in this situation do not feel called to a lifetime of celibacy which would makes things much easier. I try (and I stress that I try - I do not set myself up as someone who always gets this right, it being much easier to say than do something) to remember that singleness is the gift for today, and today is all I need to worry about. Maybe tomorrow will be different but, as I wrote a few days ago, we are commanded not to worry about tomorrow.

Leslie Ludy wrote of her sister-in-law, Krissy:
She didn't put her life on hold simply because she hadn't yet met her future husband. She gave herself to serve others, and lived a radiant, peaceful, vibrant life - content with where God had her. One day, someone asked Krissy if she felt she was "called" to singleness. After a moment of thought, Krissy replied, "Today I am."
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 8:3

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Thursday, December 28, 2006
Consider Your Ways: Question 31
In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?

Almost five months after I began (I originally planned to complete it before my birthday in September), I have finally come to the end of the Consider Your Ways series, based on questions from Don Whitney of the Center for Biblical Spirituality. (It's come recommended by the GirlTalk ladies and Justin Taylor, so you know it'll be good.) Through it, I have been forced to think about all areas of my life and how I should be glorifying God though it. There is plenty for me to get stuck into over the next year.

I'll let Mr Whitney have the last word on this for now:
So let's evaluate our lives, make plans and goals, and live this new year with biblical diligence, remembering that, "The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage" (Proverbs 21:5). But in all things let's also remember our dependence on our King who said, "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

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  posted at 06:45  

Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Carnival of Beauty: the Beauty of Solitude
I am honoured and delighted to be able to present to you the final Carnival of Beauty of 2006...

The Beauty of Solitude

Bernadine of Girl Talk Weekly has her Carnival of Beauty debut with Times of Refreshing, discussing the need of solitude in a big family. (She is the youngest of eight children!)

Barbara has some Stray Thoughts on the Beauty of Solitude and shares some of the blessings she has been given through the enforced solitude of her husband working away from home.

Fellow British blogger Susanna invites you to join her at Through a Glass as she sits half way up the stairs and enjoys her Solitude.

Here at A Woman who Fears the Lord, I've shared some of what I learned when for the first time I purposefully tried to practise the spiritual discipline of solitude in Keep Silence Before Him.

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.

Psalm 62:1

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  posted at 06:27  

Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Beauty of Solitude: Keep Silence Before Him
I have been noticing just how much I fill up life with noise and activities. I wake up to the radio and listen to it on my way to work. Work itself is full of bustle and conversations. When I get home, even without realising it, I sing away to myself. Even sometimes when I am outwardly quiet, I find my mind whirling around like a dervish that I don't notice the silence.

I decided to spend some time this year working on the discipline of solitude. Jesus himself spent forty days in solitude as preparation for his ministry (Luke 4:1-15). It was also his own practice to spend time in prayer alone throughout his ministry (Luke 5:16).

Charles Spurgeon said:
I commend solitude to any of you who are seeking salvation, first, that you may study well your case as in the sight of God. Few men truly know themselves as they really are. Most people have seen themselves in a looking-glass, but there is another looking-glass, which gives true reflections, into which few men look. To study one's self in the light of God's Word, and carefully to go over one's condition, examining both the inward and the outward sins, and using all the tests which are given us in the Scriptures, would be a very healthy exercise; but how very few care to go through it!
I have been able to spend some time trying to build on this discipline. I went to a beautiful isolated beach, armed only with my Bible, a flask of tea and some gloves. (It looks beautiful but is still Scotland!) Thankfully, there was no-one else there as I sat and read and prayed.

It was wonderful to really have a conversation with God without all the distractions of everything at home. I really felt Satan trying to attack, to drag me away from fellowship and many things I had said or done in the past were brought up. However, I was able to spend such a wonderful time in prayer though, asking for forgiveness for the many sins in my life. Now when these are dragged up, I am able to say, "I've been forgiven for that. There is no more to be said on the matter."

The feeling of being uncontactable for those few hours was also so refreshing. There was so little to distract me from that small, still voice of God. That memory of the closeness with God is still giving me strength as I live in our busy world and I look forward to purposefully spending more time in solitude in the future.

If you would be interested in developing this discipline in your own spiritual life, I really recommend Silence and Solitude..."For The Purpose Of Godliness" by Don Whitney. You can also read about others' experiences of solitude in this week's Carnival of Beauty.

But the LORD is in his holy temple;
let all the earth keep silence before him

Habakkuk 1:20

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Monday, December 25, 2006
O Come, All Ye Faithful
To all my friends and to my brothers and sisters in Christ, have a very blessed Christmas!

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  posted at 16:45  

Saturday, December 23, 2006
Consider Your Ways: Question 30
What's the most important new item you want to buy this year?

For my spiritual growth, I have decided to buy the Bible on CD to allow me listen to God's word while driving to and from work. A friend has bought Max Maclean's reading of the English Standard Version and really recommended it as a way to know the Bible better.

On a more frivolous note, I have finally invested in a digital camera, especially after being reprimanded by Jonny and Amanda for not owning one! I owned my first camera when I was about 5. It was a blue Fisher Price camera that took 110 film and had a hole at the top where real flash bulbs (which could only be used once) fitted. You'll see in the photo that it even had rubber-covered ends to stop it breaking when dropped. Sadly, I don't know what happened to mine, but I don't think I was a particularly gifted photographer as a child.

I bought my next and last camera the same year I started university. It uses film and has served me well. (My mother likes to tell me, "Your camera always takes good pictures!") However, after three years of saying I wanted to get a digital SLR, I have finally (literally, in the last few days) got round to it! To celebrate, I taken a photo of where my Wise Men have travelled after friends visited a few days ago! I'll be taking a lot more photos in the days to come and, as they are much easier to transfer on to the computer than film photos, I look forward to sharing them.

She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

Proverbs 31:16

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  posted at 10:35  

Friday, December 22, 2006
Consider Your Ways: Question 29
If those who know you best gave you one piece of advice, what would they say? Would they be right? What will you do about it?

I do sometimes I would get overwhelmed with everything I have to do. I've been feeling a bit like that recently. Work is crazily busy and I have to work every second weekend. The way doctors are trained is being changed in August so there is a lot of uncertainty about our job situation for next year - they are expecting 20,000 doctors to be unemployed in the UK! Already many of my friends have moved to Australia and New Zealand because they can't get work here. I'm not entirely sure what my future holds at all so I am trying to see this as an exciting, rather than a terrifying and unsetlling, time!

I shared this with a close friend and sister in Christ. She has only just been introduced to the wonderful writings of Elisabeth Elliot, but she has clearly been paying attention when she pointed this bit out! (She might have also found this at Amy's Humble Musings where she also blogged about this recently.)
I had learned a principle from my mother many years before: Do the next thing. And it is wonderful how simple it is when we just do the next thing.
That's all we need to - just to do the next thing. We are not given our life's plan, probably because it would overwhelm us more, but just asked to live day by day, asking for our daily bread, asking for forgiveness daily, studying the Bible daily, letting tomorrow worry about itself and taking up our crosses daily. I really do believe this; I just need to act like I do!

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.

Proverbs 30:8

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  posted at 08:54  

Thursday, December 21, 2006
Walking in the Air - Scottish Style
This has the potential to be completely lost on anyone not familiar with Irn Bru ("Scotland's other national drink"), Scotland and Scottish landmarks, or Raymond Briggs' The Snowman, but it was just so good that I had to share it with you all!

The landmarks shown are:
Falkirk Wheel
Forth Road and Rail Bridges
Edinburgh (the Castle, Princes Street, Iceskating in Princes Street Gardens, the Mound)
Loch Ness (complete with Monster and Urquhart Castle)
Monarch of the Glen
Glenfinnan Viaduct (as seen in the Harry Potter films)
Eilean Donan Castle
Glasgow (Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, City Chambers, George Square)

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  posted at 08:43  

Wednesday, December 20, 2006
He has Made Everything Beautiful
I reach another one of those major blogging milestones next week: I'm going to be the hostess for the Carnival of Beauty on Wednesday, 27th December when we'll be looking at the Beauty of Solitude.

Perhaps it's an odd one to be thinking about when the holidays are so focussed on family time, or maybe we will all be needing just a little bit of solitude by then!

If you have never taken part before, all you need to do is write a short piece on Solitude on your blog at the beginning of next week. Then please email me with your name and the names of and links to your blog and to that submission.

Sallie, who sponsors this Carnival, has all the details. She writes, "Although the goal is about promoting the beauty of Christ, the piece does not have to be explicitly about Christ. It can be about family matters, home life, children, marriage, creation, friendship, cooking, homemaking, hobbies, etc. Anything that reflects the beauty of Christ and fits the topic."

Hope that gives you something to think about over the next week. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's contributions!

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11a


  posted at 07:25  

Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Beauty of Salvation: May We Shout for Joy!
This week's Carnival of Beauty, hosted by Autumn Rain, celebrates the Beauty of Salvation. I have shared some of my own testimony before, but want to share a story of salvation from my own family that is particularly precious to us at Christmas.

As a family, we never went to church. My mother was so against Christianity that, when she found out that I went to a Scripture Union club at primary school, she forbade to go again! For me, it had been a fun way to spend a lunchtime but nothing else more spiritual.

At secondary school, I discovered a love and talent for singing. I sang in school choirs and school musicals, taking part in competitions against other schools, and singing solos at concerts and carol services. My singing teacher then suggested joining a church choir.

I wasn't going to that church for the teaching, so it didn't matter that the minister didn't believe in the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the inerrancy of the Bible or the truth of the miracles. However I began to read the Bible. I'm not sure when exactly I became a Christian - it was more like a gradual dawning. I was in the middle of it before I had realised that I had started!

Throughout all of this, I was still singing in the choir. On Christmas Eve 1998, I was to sing a solo in the Watchnight Service. My parents had decided that this was all a 'religious' phase that I would soon grow out of but they would come to hear me whenever I was singing a solo.

That evening, we had a blazing argument. I haven't a clue what it was about now, but I'm sure there was crying, shouting and probably door slamming! (I am ashamed to admit this, but offer it to show what God worked from!) They said they would not come to see me sing so I stomped out of the house and went to church myself.

A strange thing happened at home that night. For some reason, my parents, my very anti-religion parents, my atheist parents, decided they would go to church anyway and, late that night, walked up the hill to the local church. They went to the service, then the following Sunday went back and kept on going back.

By God's wonderful providence, the minister there was a Christian and preached the Bible faithfully. That night, he shared the truth of the Christmas story that did not leave Jesus as a helpless babe in a manger but that explained why that baby came and how, through him, people could have their sins forgiven and have eternal life.

My parents heard and believed God's word and became Christians. It has been wonderful to see the transformation in their lives and in my family. It is such a blessing to go home and to be able to talk of God's goodness and to share Christian fellowship. They are both so involved in that church now, with my father even becoming an elder last year. I am so thankful to God for how he has brought them to a living faith and for the outworking of their salvation.

May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!

Psalm 20:5

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Monday, December 18, 2006
Consider Your Ways: Question 28
What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year, and what will you do about it?

There are so many things I don't understand, but I have decided to spend some time focusing on the doctrine of the Trinity this year. I believe in the Trinity and I understand, at some level, the concept of God being three persons in one. I want to really understand it though, as much as it is possible this side of heaven!

This is particularly important as I spend a lot of time talking to Muslim colleagues and friends who have no understanding of this and believe that Christians worship several gods. (I have also discovered that many Muslims think the Trinity is God the Father, Jesus and Mary.)

Part of the difficulty is that the term "Trinity" is never used in the Bible although there are many references throughout both the Old and New Testament to the Trinity. I want to take proper time studying the Bible so that I can understand this doctrine, which is so central to our Christian faith, and hopefully also be in a position to better explain it to others. Friends have recommended Donald Macleod's little book, Shared Life, so I might start there.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Matthew 28:19

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  posted at 09:53  

Friday, December 15, 2006
Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs
I had mentioned in my 100 things that I belong to a denomination that only sings psalms in worship. I know this is very unusual so, after being asked about it, I thought I would share why my church does this and some of the blessings that come from that. This is not meant to start a psalms versus hymns argument (there is enough of that elsewhere on the internet) but instead to share a part of my church tradition by which others might be edified.

The reason behind Exclusive Psalmody (which also includes the singing of other songs in Scripture) comes down to the Puritan concept of "Purity of Worship" and the Regulative Principle, which is stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith as:

But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.
In summary, it means that the only acceptable worship is that which is specifically instituted by God in the Bible and that we can not do better than to sing God's own word in his worship. This is practised in my church by the singing of only psalms and biblical songs and by singing a cappella. This contrasts with the more common Normative Principle, which allows anything that is not specifically prohibited in Scripture as long as there is general agreement in the Church that is good and edifying.

I have found many blessings in singing the psalms. I love singing them, knowing that these are the same words sung for thousands of years by God's people and even by Jesus himself. All human emotions are expressed in the psalms, from anger at God and rage at feeling abandoned by him to rejoicing and praise. Sometimes these are emotions and ideas we find hard to share with each other, never mind in singing to God, yet they are here in God's word, inspired by the Spirit, and are clearly designed by him for singing. Through singing the psalms in church and in my own quiet times, they have been hidden away in my heart so that without me even noticing that I have memorised huge portions of Scripture.

If you are interested in listening, I have found a few links for you to experience psalm singing. (If you are really brave, you could try the Gaelic psalm singing. It divides people like Marmite - you'll either love it or hate it!) Psalm singing has to be sung in 4 part harmony to be heard at its best. Often in church this will happen spontaneously which really does make a joyful song! If your psalmody tastebuds have been awakened, I can recommend Discovery, the DVD of a recent Festival of Psalms - you might even spot someone you know!

Psalm 24:7-10 to the tune St George
Psalm 46:1-5 to Stroudwater
Psalm 65:1-6 to Dunfermline
Psalm 69 to Stornoway (Gaelic)
Psalm 117 to Regents Square
Psalm 103 to Coleshill (Gaelic)
Psalm 104 to Kilmarnock (Gaelic)
Psalm 121 to French

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:16

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  posted at 10:16  

Thursday, December 14, 2006
Wisdom of the Wise: George Herbert
Love bade me welcome:
yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love,
observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me,
sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything.

George Herbert, English poet and pastor (1593-1633)

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  posted at 09:49  

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
100 Things for my 100th Post
It seems to be a tradition in blogland to share 100 secrets about yourself when you write your 100th post! I hope you find this even a little interesting because I have had so much fun writing it! Thank you for coming to visit though - I have really enjoyed my first few months in blogland. When I originally started this, it was to be more accountable as I worked on becoming more like the Proverbs 31 woman. I really feel that I have grown spiritually and have loved the fellowship over the web.

  1. I became a Christian at the age of 17 or 18
  2. I was converted while attending a church where the minister didn't believe the Bible or in the diety of Christ!
  3. I was converted through reading the Bible
  4. I now attend a wonderful Bible-believing church
  5. Time management is a big issue for me - I am inclined to be a Martha
  6. I am a big fan of Flylady
  7. I had my driving license for 3 years before I ever drove again (I walked everywhere)
  8. I love reading and have piles of books throughout the house
  9. I think quotations can be a good way to learn from others' mistakes and experience
  10. My first memory is of losing a Porsche!
  11. I started blogging to be more accountable in my studying and thinking
  12. My first pet was a hamster called Holly
  13. Even though I was a night owl, I have worked on getting up earlier to allow myself some proper quiet time before work
  14. I don't have a pet at the moment
  15. At school and university, I used to work in a restaurant, a pharmacy and a bingo hall
  16. I think a proper understanding of biblical manhood and womanhood has the potential to reform family life and society
  17. I need to use a knife and a fork to chop raw chicken so I don't need to touch it
  18. After reading all the controversy about it, I have been studying Debbie Maken's "Getting Serious about Getting Married"
  19. I have the scary ability to remember conversations word by word
  20. The first book of the Bible I studied when I became a Christian was Philippians
  21. I might be descended from Vikings
  22. I think the smoking ban in Scotland is the best thing the Scottish Parliament has done yet
  23. I need to be more disciplined about my Quiet Time
  24. I am praying that God will work in me so that his desires for me are my desires
  25. I don't have any fillings in my teeth
  26. I love chocolate (just as long as it is Fair Trade)
  27. I passed my driving test on the third attempt
  28. I want my home to be a place of welcome and refuge for people and love having people to stay, just as so many people have allowed me to call their house home during my studies and travel
  29. I have just learned to play the piano with BOTH hands! At the same time!
  30. I love to sing and am a soprano
  31. I am working on developing the disciplines of quietness and solitude in my life
  32. I've sung live on BBC Radio 4
  33. I have never tried drugs or smoking
  34. I believe alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation by Christians
  35. I have started keeping a prayer diary to focus my prayer life
  36. I was really pleased about the Word Cloud for my life but would be worried if anyone could make one of all the things I say and think - which words would be big then?
  37. I can't bear to touch unglazed terracotta
  38. I love to learn new things
  39. I speak English and Spanish, and little bits of Gaelic and Hungarian
  40. I am a hospital physician specialising in diabetes
  41. I am good at Su Doku but hopeless at cryptic crosswords
  42. I am quite nervous about the idea of putting my photo up on the Internet
  43. I have incredibly vivid dreams
  44. I am surprised by the number of complete strangers who have found this blog and by the number who have become friends!
  45. Occasionally I even sleepwalk!
  46. I hope chivalry will come back into society but I worry that the quest for gender sameness means that it never will
  47. My mother instilled a great love (and pedantry) of correct grammar and spelling in me
  48. At school, I once came second in a big debating competition with a speech based on this quote
  49. I've never watched the "Star Wars" films and think there is probably no point starting now
  50. I still don't know what is happening next year - praise God that he is in control!
  51. My watch runs about 5 minutes early to make sure I am on time
  52. My favourite novels are probably Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter
  53. I would love to do jury duty but have never been called
  54. When I was little, I wanted to be a princess
  55. My love languages are 'Physical Touch' and 'Quality Time'
  56. I am thankful every day for all my girlfriends and sisters in Christ
  57. If you Google my full name, I'm the only person who comes up
  58. One of my favourite passages of Scripture is Isaiah 43
  59. I cry pretty easily at sad films and books
  60. I am called to be a steward of the gifts I am given here, but I know that my true treasure is in Heaven
  61. I was a vegetarian for 10 years before someone made me roast beef for dinner and I was too embarrassed to tell them!
  62. I had never heard of Reformation Day before this year
  63. I still only eat red meat occasionally
  64. I believe in the Five Solas
  65. I am allergic to nickel
  66. I am taking part (slowly) in Callapidder Days' Fall into Reading challenge
  67. I can't stand spiders and use the Dyson to get rid of them
  68. I believe, wherever we are and whatever we do, we are all full-time Christian workers
  69. My favourite psalms are 16 and 73
  70. I can become so ungrateful and take so many things for granted, so it has been so good to think of the many good and perfect gifts with which I am blessed
  71. I belong to a denomination that only sings psalms in church
  72. My favourite hymn currently is "In Christ Alone"
  73. My favourite carol is "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"
  74. The most number of people I have ever cooked for on my own is 40
  75. I've known for a while that I would want to give up work once I had had children, but now I am wondering whether my job is compatible with a happy marriage even before children
  76. I haven't quite decided what I think about homeschooling
  77. I'd like to go to Florence and Rome on my next holiday abroad
  78. I know that I am a sinner but also that, by his grace and his sacrifice on the cross, it is Christ alone who saves me
  79. I was in the local newspaper while I was at school - the headline was "Keziah's looking for a good reaction!" (I'd won a chemistry competition!)
  80. I am making more of an effort to buy my food locally to reduce pollution
  81. I would love to go sky-diving even though the thought terrifies me
  82. I hope to spend some time doing medical mission abroad
  83. The only bone I have broken is the little toe of my right bone - little bone, but it hurt!
  84. I am from Scotland, where Andrew is the patron saint
  85. I'm the eldest child
  86. I worry about the rise of secular fundamentalism
  87. I had my portrait drawn by a street artist in Paris but it didn't really look like me!
  88. The most influential people in my life are probably a pastor and his wife from the first evangelical church I went to
  89. I'm going to take some time this year to pray for my pastors and their wives
  90. I can't do anything in the morning until I have had a cup of tea
  91. My nativity scene stays up all year
  92. My daily commute is about 2 hours one way
  93. I don't like secrets (but I am good at keeping them) so just ask if you want to know anything else!


  posted at 18:45  

Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Consider Your Ways: Question 27
What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your commute this year?

I have to leave the house over 2 hours before starting work to make it on time. I work in a different city to where I live, but have not been keen to move there. Partly that's because my contract there is only for a year and thereafter I don't where in the country I will be. The main reason is though that I love my church because of the preaching and my church family there. So it looks like the lengthy commute will continue...!

Sometimes I drive up, which is now getting a little more stressful with the icier mornings and the scary drivers who come right up behind me before overtaking. It does however give me a good opportunity to listen to the news on the radio, although I have worryingly become a big fan of the Archers, BBC Radio 4's gentle agricultural drama aimed at middle class middle-aged and elderly people! I have decided to improve my journey though by listening to the Bible on CD. Friends have recommended it to me and then I found a good article about listening to an Audio Bible from Occupied with the Word. I'll let you know how I get on.

Other days, I take the train. This means getting up earlier, which, with the dark mornings, currently feels like getting up in the middle of night! I like the chance to get a cup of tea on the train (very important for waking up purposes!) and the time to read and pray undisturbed - aside from the fact that if you have a Bible open on your lap, no-one else will sit next to you!

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

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  posted at 06:15  

Monday, December 11, 2006
Consider Your Ways: Question 26
To what need or ministry will you try to give an unprecedented amount this year?

I have been considering this question a lot, knowing the great needs of the many ministries and charities that exist. As we are told by Jesus to "not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing", this will have to be another question that I will answer privately.

I'd like to share a few thoughts from a seminar I attended a few years ago however. We were reminded only Christians will support Christian causes, so we should remember these first in our giving. He also made the point that that we can't take photos of lost souls and that we should be careful of emotionally responding to visual appeals. Of course, this does not preclude giving spontanaouely but that we should not forget the real need of those people to hear the Gospel and to know Christ.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:3-4

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  posted at 08:52  

Friday, December 08, 2006
He will Sustain You
A few weeks ago, I was considering the question: What's one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor (or to another who ministers to you) this year?

A friend later (without knowing about this) sent me this website, Revive Our Hearts, which has lots of different documents like prayer guides, sermon outlines and thematic lists. I was particularly interested to see 31 Days of Praying for your Pastor. It is certainly something I can use to more purposefully and comprehensively pray for him.

I was pleased to see another list beside it though: 31 Days of Praying for Your Pastor's Wife. It is so easy to forget the phenomenal job that these women do; supporting their husband at home and in his work, raising their children - often more on their own due to all the evening and weekend meetings, opening their homes to the whole church, being constantly available to the congregation, sharing their husband with a whole church who constantly make demands on his time and energy along with all the expectations that the congregation will have on the wife's role in the church. It must be a lonely job some of the time, especially when fitting into a new congregation and not wishing to favour people. Ministers' wives (along with their children) are not supposed to have any spiritual crises, and when they do, their husband or father is their pastor.

As I shared on Tuesday, there are ministers' wives in the church whom I greatly admire and who have loved me as a daughter. I know that I would not be where I am now spiritually were it not for her example, love and encouragement. This was a very pertinent reminder to pray for these women in this difficult and wonderful situation.

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you;
he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 55:22

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  posted at 16:27  

Thursday, December 07, 2006
Wisdom of the Wise: Ebenezer Erskine
There is an account come of the arrival of King George II, and a great rejoicing for it in Edinburgh. I see the fires and illuminations of that city reflected on the skies. O, how will the heavens reflect and shine with illuminations, when the King of kings, and Lord of lords, shall erect His tribunal in the clouds, and come in His own glory, and His Father's glory, and in the glory of the holy angels! O, what a heartsome day will that be! When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we appear with Him in glory. We shall then lift up our heads with joy, because it shall be a time of refreshing from, the presence of the Lord.

Ebenezer Erskine, Scottish minister (1680-1754)

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  posted at 07:32  

Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Behold, the Days are Coming!
Lindsey at her Christmas blog, Advent for Evangelicals, has asked us to share the story of our nativity scene and to share some of our Christmas traditions.

My nativity scene stays up all year round. It's from Peru so has a special place in my heart after working there but I also like to have it up all year to remind myself and others who visit that celebrating Jesus is not confined to December!

I have adopted a tradition from one of my American friends that I hope to introduce to my future family. The nativity is complete all year until Advent. At the beginning of Advent, the Baby Jesus is hidden away until Christmas morning as we wait for his birth.

The Wise Men also leave the nativity and go on a journey throughout the house until they arrive on Twelfth Night. (You can see them hiding travelling through one of my bookcases on the right.) My friend and her roommates would hide the Wise Men in turn. Whoever found them next would hide them for another person to find, until the 6th of January when whoever found them would return them to the nativity. Admittedly, this doesn't work quite as well when you live on your own! That said, my friends enjoy hiding them for me whenever they visit.

(Apologies for the terrible quality of the photos! I don't have a digital camera and didn't have time to get proper photos developed, then I couldn't work out how to get camera phone photos from the camera to my computer, so I am afraid I was stuck with using my webcam!)

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'
Jeremiah 33:14-16

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  posted at 06:05  

Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Beauty of Reaching Out: Bearing with One Another
As part of this week's Carnival of Beauty on the Beauty of Reaching Out, I wonder if I can share a little about wonderful friends of mine and their example in reaching out to people.

I was converted through reading the Bible at the age of 17 having had no church background. Sadly, I started attending a church where the minister did not preach the Gospel, did not believe in the deity of Christ and did not believe that the Bible was the inerrant word of God. I was so confused - which bits of the Bible were true and which bits were just stories? Which bits were purely cultural? Some of it was clearly just stories. Wasn't it...?

A friend invited me to her church one evening just for a change. I just remember being so amazed that the preacher seemed to believe the whole Bible and that the service was so focused on God - we prayed to God, sang to God, read God's word, and listened to God's word being explained. I don't think I met them that day - I don't even remember when or where I first met them properly. I would never guessed that that preacher and his wife would become such close friends and probably the most influential people in my life.

I was so confused with really very dodgy theology, but they took the time to listen to me, to pray with me and to explain God's word. No question was too daft for them. They welcomed me into their home and treated me like one of the family to the point that I made my own cups of tea and was present for family arguments!

Joking aside, I don't know if they realise how important that was in itself. I come from a family where healthy conflict resolution is not a strong point! To see them argue, yet still be loving and respectful to each other, is such a good lesson for how I want to act when I disagree with my husband and children. They were humble, gentle and patient with me, even when I had difficulties understanding things, and rejoiced as I came to know the Bible more and more and for the true and living word that it is.

I have learned and grown so much talking to them and watching them. I really hope that I can share their example of love in action to others, reaching out to people on the periphery and demonstrating compassion practically and spiritually. I know that I would not be where I am now spiritually if it wasn't for them. Praise God for his mercy and kindness and for the love of his people.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love
Ephesians 4:1-2

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  posted at 10:07  

Monday, December 04, 2006
Consider Your Ways: Question 25
What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year?

When I turned 25 last year, I made a small list of all the things I wanted to do before I turned 30. Almost at the top of this list was "Be able to play the piano".

So I went and bought an electric keyboard from Ebay, which was a surprisingly painless experience. Only two days after the auction closed, it arrived, ready to be played. I had a few old piano books from family and friends, so I dusted off them off and sat down to play. I can now manage to play tunes with BOTH hands!!! At the SAME time!!! Yes, I know, amazing! I am really enjoying it though, but I do need to practise more. Now I have told you about it, I really will have to keep practising!

I love singing, so can already read music, but I would also like to be able to play some of the wonderful pieces of music out there. I think it would be an investment in the future too, to be able to play for my family and friends when we meet to praise God in song. I should probably confess though that it will also probably have been a childhood diet of Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, and Little House on the Prairie that make me want to be able to play the piano!

Music expresses that which can not be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.
Victor Hugo, French author (1802-1885)


  posted at 06:38  

Saturday, December 02, 2006
O come, O come, Emmanuel!
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times didst gave the Law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.

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  posted at 11:34  

Friday, December 01, 2006
How can a Young Man Keep his Way Pure?
Just a few days after discussing Elton John and his particular brand of 'tolerance', one of the oldest and best universities in the world has followed. The University of Edinburgh has banned the Christian Union from teaching a course on Biblical relationships and purity to its own members on university property, all in the name of 'free speech' and 'tolerance'. The press release from UCCF (the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship) gives more details.

Pure is a six week course aimed at university students and looks at different issues surrounding relationships. It does not aim to give a list of things you can and can't get away with, but instead starts with what God has revealed in the Bible and then looks at how this should be applied in our lives and relationships.

I haven't been to the course myself or read the book, but I've had a look at some of the teaching materials. The course looks at
The Bisexual Lesbian or Gay Students Association (BLOGS) at Edinburgh University complained to the Student Association that the course was "homophobic and discrimatory" because of its teaching on homosexuality. To quote from Pure's literature, that teaching, which is only a small part of the whole course which focuses on the traditional biblical view that sex was intended by God within the life-long commitment of marriage, is:
Homosexuality: The Bible is clear on this. Sexual relations are only legitimate within the context of marriage as God has ordained it – that is, between a man and a woman. Just as those with a heterosexual orientation should not practice sex outside of marriage, the same goes for those who experience homosexual attraction.
Complaints were made to the Students' Association and the University Senate, who then, without discussion with the Christian Union, banned the CU from holding the course on University Property, saying:
The university has a clear commitment to ensuring that our students and staff are treated and treat each other with dignity and respect. It also attaches considerable importance to the values of free speech and open debate. In this case, the university has looked into the matter, in parallel with an enquiry by the Students Association (EUSA), and has decided that the course is contradictory to our Equality and Diversity values. It was decided that it is not appropriate for this course to run on university or EUSA premises.
I find it difficult and alarming that they can't see the dichotomy here. The Christian Union are not allowed to teach their beliefs on God's design for marriage and relationships in the name of "free speech" - yet this is not seen as completely absurd! There is no question of the CU asking for BLOGS meetings to be held somewhere else because they might teach ideas contrary to Christian beliefs. They are not forcing anyone, least of all BLOGS members, to attend this course. Instead these views, which were until very recently accepted as the norm in our society, are being suppressed in the secularists' quest for 'tolerance' - tolerance and the freedoms to speak or act only extended to those who agree with them. Only certain people seem to be allowed freedom of speech, with everyone else having to be silenced.

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.

Psalm 119:9

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  posted at 20:34  

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