29 December 2007

The Road to Emmaus

Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, carrying the spices that they had prepared. When they found the stone rolled away from the entrance, they went in. But they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus, and they did not know what to think. Suddenly two men in shining white clothes stood beside them. The women were afraid and bowed to the ground. But the men said, "Why are you looking in the place of the dead for someone who is alive? Jesus isn't here! He has been raised from death. Remember that while he was still in Galilee, he told you, 'The Son of Man will be handed over to sinners who will nail him to a cross. But three days later he will rise to life.' " Then they remembered what Jesus had said.

Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and some other women were the ones who had gone to the tomb. When they returned, they told the eleven apostles and the others what had happened. The apostles thought it was all nonsense, and they would not believe. But Peter ran to the tomb. And when he stooped down and looked in, he saw only the burial clothes. Then he returned, wondering what had happened.

That same day two of Jesus' disciples were going to the village of Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. As they were talking and thinking about what had happened, Jesus came near and started walking along beside them. But they did not know who he was.

Jesus asked them, "What were you talking about as you walked along?"

The two of them stood there looking sad and gloomy. Then the one named Cleopas asked Jesus, "Are you the only person from Jerusalem who didn't know what was happening there these last few days?"

"What do you mean?" Jesus asked.

They answered: Those things that happened to Jesus from Nazareth. By what he did and said he showed that he was a powerful prophet, who pleased God and all the people. Then the chief priests and our leaders had him arrested and sentenced to die on a cross. We had hoped that he would be the one to set Israel free! But it has already been three days since all this happened. Some women in our group surprised us. They had gone to the tomb early in the morning, but did not find the body of Jesus. They came back, saying that they had seen a vision of angels who told them that he is alive. Some men from our group went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said. But they didn't see Jesus either.

Then Jesus asked the two disciples, "Why can't you understand? How can you be so slow to believe all that the prophets said? Didn't you know that the Messiah would have to suffer before he was given his glory?" Jesus then explained everything written about himself in the Scriptures, beginning with the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets.

When the two of them came near the village where they were going, Jesus seemed to be going farther. They begged him, "Stay with us! It's already late, and the sun is going down." So Jesus went into the house to stay with them. After Jesus sat down to eat, he took some bread. He blessed it and broke it. Then he gave it to them. At once they knew who he was, but he disappeared.

They said to each other, "When he talked with us along the road and explained the Scriptures to us, didn't it warm our hearts?" So they got right up and returned to Jerusalem. The two disciples found the eleven apostles and the others gathered together.
Luke 24:1-33 (bolding mine)

At first glance, these guys seem a bit clueless. But stop and think about it:
  • They'd never seen anything like this before
  • Everyone else expected the same things
  • They were living in the physical world, and subject to the same problem almost everyone who lives here suffers - a tendency to expect physical results
Do you think maybe you suffer from the exact same tendency? I know I do. I pray for healing and feel sad that my cold is still with me - and miss that God's healed me of a years-old hurt that was affecting how I reacted to everyone. I pray for a new job and get upset that God hasn't delivered the one I want, ignoring that he's given me a new ministry. I consistently get confused between the short-lived physical world and the far more important, eternal world. My values get hopelessly mixed up.

So what do we do if we do suffer the same tendencies as those disciples heading for Emmaus?

How about talking to Jesus, and asking for an eye-opener?


Naomi

28 December 2007

Holidays

Christmas has been a good opportunity to slow down, relax, and think a bit.

I hope you're managing something similar. Bless you! :-)


Naomi

20 December 2007

Not Very Feminine?

Do you ever feel as though you're not very feminine? Have you ever been told that this is a problem - either biblically, or relationally, or just because it's not right? Do you think this is right? What is God's idea of femininity?

The Creation

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27


The Job Description
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31:10-31


Women Around Jesus
There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Matthew 27:55-56

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
Luke 8:1-3


I think it's important to note that the bible actually says very little about 'femininity'. I can think of no attributes given to christian women that are not also given to christian men and/or Jesus himself. The inner 'feminine' and 'masculine' attributes we hear today were largely created in the western world during the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution, when the physical differences between men and women became less important (financially) than they had been in previous generations.

Are there cultural standards of masculinity and femininity? Yes, although they're rapidly disintegrating. Are there biblical standards of masculinity and femininity? Perhaps - but these have very little to do with dress code, social etiquette (aka 'acting like a lady') and personality traits.


Naomi

18 December 2007

Recipe - Christmas Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup of brown sugar
250g of margarine (I use Nuttelex)
2 cups of plain flour
1 tsp of baking powder
1/2 cup of chocolate chips (I use dark chocolate - Aldi have some lovely no-dairy dark chocolate chips at the moment, which are as rare as hen's teeth!)
1/2 cup of glace cherries, chopped (red and green for the 'proper' festive touch)
1 tsp of vanilla essence
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of nutmeg
1/2 tsp of cloves (finely ground)


Instructions

Cream the margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add everything else and mix thoroughly. Either roll out to about 1cm thick and cut shapes, or roll into balls and flatten with hands to about 1cm thick. Widely space on a baking tray (greased or covered in baking paper) and bake for 10-15 minutes at 200C (until golden brown on top).

17 December 2007

Art 101 - Tom Roberts

For something a bit different, I thought I'd have a look at an Australian artist. See Wikipedia's article for information about Tom Roberts.

The Big Picture (Opening of the First Parliament)


Mosman Bay

I have a bit of a soft spot for this next painting - it's based on a farm near Brocklesby, very close to where I grew up. I suspect that's the town's only claim to fame!

Shearing the Rams

16 December 2007

My Utmost for His Highest - Dec 15

Apologies for the silence, people. I've been running around like a chook with its head cut off - although that's got little to do with christmas! That's practically sorted.

This entry in My Utmost for His Highest really struck me yesterday:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth —2 Timothy 2:15

If you cannot express yourself well on each of your beliefs, work and study until you can. If you don’t, other people may miss out on the blessings that come from knowing the truth. Strive to re-express a truth of God to yourself clearly and understandably, and God will use that same explanation when you share it with someone else. But you must be willing to go through God’s winepress where the grapes are crushed. You must struggle, experiment, and rehearse your words to express God’s truth clearly. Then the time will come when that very expression will become God’s wine of strength to someone else. But if you are not diligent and say, "I’m not going to study and struggle to express this truth in my own words; I’ll just borrow my words from someone else," then the words will be of no value to you or to others. Try to state to yourself what you believe to be the absolute truth of God, and you will be allowing God the opportunity to pass it on through you to someone else.

Always make it a practice to stir your own mind thoroughly to think through what you have easily believed. Your position is not really yours until you make it yours through suffering and study. The author or speaker from whom you learn the most is not the one who teaches you something you didn’t know before, but the one who helps you take a truth with which you have quietly struggled, give it expression, and speak it clearly and boldly.

11 December 2007

After the Show is Over

I saw a link to this article at Jesus The Radical Pastor. And I thought to myself, "this I gotta pass on."

Sally Morgenthaler writes about the Church and where it's going by using the example of an ordinary-but-not-so-ordinary woman named Laurel. And she raises the question - what traditionally feminine attributes are needed here and now? Have a look. It's well worth the read (and the thinking afterwards).

Laurel’s field of choices and her effectiveness as a result of those choices are conspicuously off the radar in current discussions about women and leadership in the Church. Could it be that women have spent so long trying to climb the ladder inside old church and leadership systems that the very questions they’re asking about gender equality, opportunity, and power are stuck? Perhaps the real questions go more like this: what does it mean to seek biblical [equality] if the Church itself is no longer functioning in biblical ways? What does it mean for women to pursue the full use of their gifts in the Church if western Christianity has lost its missional purpose? What does it mean to hitch ones’ star to the Christian status quo, especially if that status quo is a narcissistic, capitalistic perversion of the Gospel? In summary, what does it really mean for a woman to be released into her potential, to be trusted with a ministry role, or to secure a salaried ministry position only to find that, for all her new-found freedom, authority, and seeming equality, she is only rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?
Read the whole article here - After the Show is Over: The Rise of the Feminine in the Postmodern Turn


Naomi

10 December 2007

Practicing the Presence of God - pt 5

He said that as far as the miseries and sins he heard of daily in the world, he was so far from wondering at them, that, on the contrary, he was surprised there were not more considering the malice sinners were capable of. For his part, he prayed for them. But knowing that God could remedy the mischief they did when He pleased, he gave himself no further trouble.


I find myself partly agreeing with Brother Lawrence, and partly disagreeing vehemently. There's almost a sense of 'leave the world to its own problems' in this quote that I find distasteful. But then, it pays to remember that he was a monk in a sheltered environment, who felt that he was called to a life out of the world.

If that's true - what can we in the world get from this bit of his teachings? It seems to me that he understood two things:
  • Sometimes all you can do is pray for people
  • We can't fix all the world's problems ourselves - our best chance of maximising our effectiveness is to faithfully follow God's leading all our lives.
That's the best we can do, I think, to help people. Pray for ourselves, pray for them, and follow God's path for us - trusting that he'll equip us to deal with whatever he wants us to do, and that he'll get someone else to do what we can't or shouldn't.


Naomi

07 December 2007

Diary of a Broken Heart - pt 6

One week before surgery

I have a better idea of what to expect when it comes to the little things, now.

So, the little things. I won't be able to raise my hands above my head (thank God for wrap-around tops). I'll need a pair of non-slip slippers to wear for walks around the ward as soon as I'm capable. Oh, I wish I could remember it all. I'll try to remember to document as much as possible after the surgery. Right now I'm trying desperately to set up my laptop for use in the hospital - not for typing or internet usage (I think that'd be a bit optimistic) but to play DVDs. In Queensland, individual TVs are available in public hospitals... but they cost. So I'd prefer to take my laptop and some DVDs.


Naomi

04 December 2007

Ethical Christmas Presents

If you're in Australia and looking for well-priced, guilt-free Christmas presents, have a look at these two online stores:



Both offer Fair Trade products which help people not just survive, but to work for themselves.


Naomi

02 December 2007

Recipe - Baby Cake

I call this 'baby cake' because I came up with the recipe for our baby, Eli. He enjoys it!

Ingredients

1 cup of wholemeal flour
1/4 cup of carob powder
1/2 cup of dates, cut in half or quarters
1 ripe banana
hot water

Instructions

Put the dates in a bowl, just cover with hot water. Leave to soak for 5-10 minutes. Add the banana and mash into a pulp. Add the carob powder and flour and mix well. Pour into a small tin (greased or lined with baking paper). Bake at 170C for 20-30 minutes.


Naomi

30 November 2007

Art 101 - Monet

For information about Claude Monet and his life, see Wikipedia's article.

Poppies Blooming


Camille Monet on Her Deathbed



Still-life with Anemones



28 November 2007

Sex Slaves - Documentary

27 November 2007

Diary of a Broken Heart - pt 5

17 days before surgery

Today I got a phone call at work - about 3 hours after I told my work that I had 2 days of work before I had to leave for a few weeks (on the bright side, they knew it was coming). It was the hospital, informing me that I had a pre-admission clinic to attend the next day, and it would probably take most of the day. ACK. So I went back to the HR manager and said, sorry - today's my last day instead. Thankfully, they were gracious.


Naomi

26 November 2007

Marriage Won't Solve It

Whatever the problem, there's a good chance that marriage won't fix it.

Sex-starved? No guarantee that marriage will provide sex on tap. In fact, health issues could cause sex-hiatuses of months or years.

Lonely? Being stuck with someone whose loving feelings have changed to resentment and rage will probably make you feel more lonely.

Incomplete? Two jigsaw puzzles missing pieces don't combine to make one beautiful picture. They make a bigger mess.

Pregnant? Living with someone who's abusive will scar a child far more than having their parents live in different houses.

Whoaaa, I hear you say. Stop! What a ridiculously negative portrait of marriage! Why are you trying to tear down one of God's sacred institutions? What about all those couples who are blissfully happy and in love?

They're not trying to make marriage fix all their problems.

Marriage is a wonderful thing. It was instituted by God. I'm married. I wouldn't swap being married for the world.

BUT.

It's a situation that maturity, wholeness and love make beautiful, and immaturity, vice and laziness can make a living hell.

Life. Face it with courage, humility and a big dose of love, and whatever happens, you'll weather it and triumph. Face it with fear, pride and hatred, and you'll crumble. Marriage is two people's lives... both the highs and lows squared. Two people triumphing or crumbling together... and making their situation worse or better with every action and word.

Get married. You have my blessing (not that you need it). But make sure that you'll actually improve the life of your spouse - and they'll do the same for you.


Naomi

25 November 2007

Introducing the New Testament

Many thanks to the ELCA for producing these videos about the bible.



(apologies for the ads in this - especially the one for the conference two years ago)

24 November 2007

Am I a Christian if I'm Not a Denomination?

More and more frequently, I'm coming across devoted, faithful, spirit-filled Christians who don't affiliate themselves with a denomination, and go to a standard church only occasionally - if at all. And a number of them have a question - can I be a true Christian without official membership in a church?

"Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us."

"Do not stop him," Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

Mark 9:38-41

I find this vignette intriguing. Jesus would have been well within his rights, I think, to request that anyone performing miracles in his name be enrolled as one of his disciples. But, "Don't stop him," said Jesus. The man was healing people using Jesus' power, giving Jesus the credit. That the work was being done seems to have been Jesus' primary concern, not the man's credentials.

Heart Attitude

There's an important point to make here. The man was working in Jesus' name, and doing the work Jesus wanted done. He was not performing miracles to amass money and fame, like Simon:
Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, "This man is the divine power known as the Great Power." They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw...

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit."

Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin."

Acts 8:9-13,18-23

It seems to me that wholehearted service to Jesus is joyfully accepted, while seeking his power or his prestige is not.

Fellowship

I'm fairly sure that God meant for us to receive encouragement, help and correction from our Christian family - the brothers and sisters adopted into his family with us. But in a church full of sinners in a fallen world, life isn't always that simple. Churches can be divided, angry, apathetic, unwelcoming. But then, a 'church' in the times recorded in Acts seems to have been mostly characterised by a group of Christians who met together as often as possible to encourage, help and correct each other. This is the sort of group that it's wise to gather around us, whether it be at home, in a church building on Sunday, or over the internet.


Naomi

23 November 2007

Art 101 - Van Gogh

For information on Van Gogh and his life, see Wikipedia's article.

Self-portrait

Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers

Cafe Terrace at Night
(Interesting side note: apparently this cafe is now named the Cafe Van Gogh)

Portrait of Dr Gachet

Starry Night

White House at Night

The Potato-Eaters



Naomi

22 November 2007

Diary of a Broken Heart - pt 4

21 days before surgery

Today I discovered how to get things moving on my surgery:
  1. Get mild, persistent chest pain
  2. Go to GP for an ECG
  3. Panic GP by mentioning 'chest', 'pain' and 'breathlessness' in the same sentence
  4. Get a free ride to heart-specialty hospital in ambulance (no sirens)
  5. Allow hospital to discover that they've lost your records
  6. Stay overnight because they don't know if your ECG is normal, because they don't have your records
  7. See your cardiologist, mention the surgeon who's supposed to be doing your surgery
  8. Allow hospital to discover that you were listed under the wrong surgeon, for the wrong surgery
  9. Assure apologetic surgeon that next week or the week after will be fine for the surgery
What a day!


Naomi

21 November 2007

Practicing the Presence of God - pt 4

He said we need fidelity in those disruptions in the ebb and flow of prayer when God tries our love to Him. This was the time for a complete act of resignation, whereof one act alone could greatly promote our spiritual advancement.


Now here's an interesting point to consider - Christians have been noticing for centuries that there are times when we can't seem to connect properly with God. Some refer to it as a feeling of God's presence. Some refer to an idea that the message 'got through'. And almost all agree that sometimes it just doesn't seem to.

Brother Lawrence draws the conclusion that we pray anyway, and let God do what He will with those prayers.


Naomi

20 November 2007

My Chocolate, Your Slavery - pt 2

19 November 2007

Getting a Bun in the Oven

This new, multi-part feature is written for women who are trying to conceive - or may try to conceive in the future - or have been around the rollercoaster and remember the ride. It's designed to be educational, but it's also meant to be amusing. Happy reading.

So - you want to have a baby. You’ve thought it all through, weighed up all the available options, and decided that sleepless nights, disgusting smells and very loud, irritating noises would be a fantastic lifestyle choice. Congratulations!

How are your family and friends reacting?

Let me guess - your single, childless friends are torn between looking at you in horror and burbling about bubsy-wubsy-cutesy-pies. Friends who’re already parents are smiling at you with a patronising ‘if only you knew!’ sort of smile. Your parents are either gratified that their decades of ‘when are you going to give me grandchildren?’ nagging is finally paying off, or appalled at the idea of being old enough to be grandparents.

And your partner?

He’s not entirely sure what he’s gotten himself into, but he thinks he’s proud that his little guys will finally get a chance to show off.

What are the odds?


Look, let’s face facts. For some women, it’s as easy as this: sex - orgasm - vomiting - waiting - ow ow ow - baby. But how many of us get such an easy run? For most of us, life just isn’t that simple. In the next article, we'll look into the factors that make conception a breeze or a bust.

18 November 2007

Recipe - Mini Christmas Cakes


These christmas cakes are egg-free, dairy-free, and can be made gluten-free by straight substitution of GF flour. Hence, they're great for making in bulk for gifts when you have a lot of friends and family with allergies and/or intolerances - or when you're a vegan who still wants to give people yummy stuff for christmas.

I'll admit first up that this is a work in progress - 2 christmases so far, and 10-15 cakes each time. I'd suggest halving the quantities and making a couple of test cakes first, just to get it right.

I have some ceramic flat-bottomed noodle bowls about 15cm in diameter and 12-13 cm deep - I find they're perfect for baking these cakes in. It makes a small cake perfect for a gift, and it's quite rich so doesn't seem miserly.

Note: Edited after this year's round of trial cakes!



Ingredients


Dried fruit – approx 2-3 cups *
Water **
2-3 dashes of lemon juice
200g margarine
1.5 cups of brown sugar
2 cups of flour
1 tbsp baking powder
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
1 cup almond meal ***
1/2 cup glace cherries, chopped
water if needed

Instructions

In a largeish bowl, cover the dried fruit with water. Soak overnight (at least).

In a different bowl, beat the sugar, margarine and lemon juice together until light and creamy.

In yet another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, almond meal and spices together.

Add flour-spice mix to the creamed mixture.

Add the soaked fruit. Mix well. You may need to add some water in order to make a thick batter - use leftover water/tea from soaking the fruit if desired.

Line the noodle bowls (or whatever tin/bowl you've decided to use) with baking paper. I use two strips the width of the bottom of the bowl, and make a cross with them... then grease the bits of the side not covered by baking paper. I find that this makes it easy to get the cake out, and doesn't cause crease marks in the cake.

Cook at 150C for 60 to 90 minutes (this will depend in part on the size of your tin/bowl).

Cover with marzipan, then icing. Or just icing. Or leave uniced, with almonds and/or fruit for decoration.


* I go a bit mad with the dried fruit - sultanas, currants, cranberries, goji berries, dates, paw paw, apricot. But a standard dried fruit mix would work fine.

** Or cold, fairly strong tea.

*** Hazelnut meal works well too - or for a cheaper option, try LSA - linseed, sunflower and almond meal. To make in nut-free, use sunflower seed meal instead.

Naomi

17 November 2007

Art 101 - Picasso

I realised today that I can recognise the artists of only a handful of famous paintings. That's pathetic, in this day and age! But it occurred to me that I might not be the only person in this boat. So, welcome to our latest regular feature - Art 101. We'll look at some of the paintings of as many artists as possible, featuring one artist each article. This week - Picasso.

Of course there are too many paintings to actually include in one article - and I'm limited to public domain images, so these are all earlier works.



Evocation (L'enterrement de Casagemas)


Composition avec tĂȘte de mort


Trois Femmes


Pains et compotier aux fruits sur une table


Musiciens aux masques (Three Musicians)


L'aficionado

16 November 2007

Practicing the Presence of God - pt 3

He said we ought to quicken and enliven our faith. It was lamentable we had so little. Instead of taking faith for the rule of their conduct, men amused themselves with trivial devotions which changed daily. He said that faith was sufficient to bring us to a high degree of perfection. We ought to give ourselves up to God with regard both to things temporal and spiritual and seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling of His will. Whether God led us by suffering or by consolation all would be equal to a soul truly resigned.


I think that the first half of this quote only makes sense - practically speaking - when we pay a lot of attention to the second half. How did Brother Lawrence think we should enliven our faith? By giving ourselves up to his leading every second of the day... whatever the consequences.

I'd like to wander off-track and highlight this 'consequences' idea for a minute, because I think it's important. Sometimes bad things can happen to us as a result of following God's will. The path of love for others isn't always easy - as shown by the lives of Jesus and his apostles. Not that something bad happening necessarily proves that we've been following God's will! I've noticed a 'follow God and he'll protect you from all harm' theory springing up amongst newer christians, and I think it's a little misguided - it's missing a word. God will protect us from spiritual harm. Our souls can rest in Him. Our bodies... may take a few beatings.

Back to the point... how do we give ourselves up to God's leading? I think the answer is in that continual conversation with God. When we recognise that we're faced with an option, we can ask God what he thinks.

Will we get a direct answer, though? Well, I'm not sure. This is one area in which Christians seem to differ - a lot. Some, like me, hear God fairly clearly as a thought which is somehow recognisable as God. Some (again, like me) feel an urging in a particular direction when they ask. Some see a bible verse that day, or the day after. Some are given a 'word from God' from another Christian. Some don't seem to hear, see or feel anything at all.

If there's no direct answer, there are still two basic principles - love God, love your neighbour. My general advice is simple. If one of the options goes against either of those principles, discard it. If one of the options seems to follow those principles better than the others, take it.


Naomi

15 November 2007

Biography - Her Words Took Wing

14 November 2007

Lack of Desire

There are a number of reasons a person might lack sexual desire for their spouse. When you consider that sexual desire starts with what happens between your ears and then is greatly influenced by the marriage relationship itself, it is understandable that most of what is going to stall desire will be personal or relational in nature. There are, of course, some physical problems that can affect sexual desire too.

The following list can be used to identify problems or potential problems.


PERSONAL / EMOTIONAL ISSUES

Poor self image, poor sexual self image, inhibitions - Our culture and, sadly, the church have played havoc with how we see ourselves and our sexuality. Feeling bad about how we look or how we might perform sexually can fill some with dread that steals sex drive. Being ashamed of our body, or feeling one part of it is too small or strange looking, is counter productive to sexual desire.
Fear of intimacy - wounds from past relationships can be carried into present ones, making it difficult to desire intimacy and oneness. Men may fear intimacy because they think it's "weak" or unmanly.

Childhood sexual abuse, molestation, rape - In order to dull the pain, fear and shame associated with a previous sexual experience, many victims repress or fight their natural sex drive.

Lack of privacy - living in close quarters with parents or (foster, natural, or step) children. This is more likely to effect women than men.

Guilt from (false or genuine) sexual sin - guilt over masturbation, playing doctor, promiscuity, abortion, premarital sex with your spouse, non-marital sex before you met your spouse, viewing pornography, adultery, etc. can make approaching sex very painful. Growing up in a strict anti-sex household can make people feel guilty about normal and natural sexual thoughts and desires. Some even feel guilty about their desire for their spouse. Still others feel guilt over things they want to do with their spouse; things they themselves believe are wrong or "kinky," or believe their spouse would consider weird or sinful.

Busyness, stress, anxiety - it takes a certain amount of time and relaxation to make sex work. Always being stressed out or having too much to do will eventually wear out your sex drive.

Depression - depression puts the skids on everything in your life, including sex drive.

Unforgivingness, deep grief, bitterness, fear, anger, hate - strong negative emotions steal emotional energy from the rest of your life. These emotions don't even have to be directed toward your spouse to have them affect your sex drive.

Other outlets - Investing large amounts of time into work or being emotionally involved with other people (real or not) can tie up the desire and energy that you need for your spouse. This may sound fairly simplistic, but it represents a host of problems - workaholism, a too busy lifestyle, preferring friends (male or female) over your spouse, an over active fantasy life, adultery, romance novels, pornography, masturbation and other sexual addictions - anything that ties up your time and emotions to the degree that it drains dry what you need to emotionally and physically desire your spouse.


When lack of sexual desire is grounded in a personal or emotional issue, it is helpful to talk it out. Pray and seek out encouraging folk (your spouse, a friend or counselor)who will help you face and deal with the problem in an atmosphere of safety and understanding.

As the problems are faced and dealt with, the natural sex drive will begin to assert itself (or your natural drive can be more correctly directed toward your spouse). You may need to concentrate on your sexuality for awhile until it feels more natural for you.


RELATIONAL ISSUES

Lack of nonsexual intimacy - it's difficult to desire someone that is a stranger to you. Over the long haul of marriage, your sex drive needs something relational to work with (Paul is always saying that the time you spend in nonsexual interaction becomes the building blocks for sexual intimacy).

Lack of sexual intimacy, sexual dysfunctions, frustration, disappointment - repeatedly being rebuffed sexually can emotionally, and eventually physically, stall your sex drive. The same can happen for repeated lack of orgasm, impotence, premature ejaculation, retarded ejaculation, or other disappointments in the bedroom.

Poor sexual technique, lack of knowledge about sexuality - a lack of understanding can cause things to go poorly in the bedroom. This can open the door to repeated disappointment and frustration which can in turn cause a lack of interest. A lack of understanding of gender and personality differences can cause a good deal of friction in and out of the bedroom.

Lack of trust, betrayal, adultery - intimate relationships need a certain level of trust and commitment to operate well. When one spouse has abused the trust of the other, desire for intimacy is diminished.

Lack of respect, abuse, manipulation, selfishness - it is extremely difficult to desire intimacy with someone who does not show genuine love or who consistently diminishes your worth and value in some way.

Boredom - Most of us wouldn't get excited about eating the same thing everyday for years; sex is no different. Fear about what the other would think can keep these feeling from being expressed, and the boredom just grows.


Relational issues are a bit tougher to resolve as they involve two people, rather than one. But if both people are willing to work at it, difficulties can be resolved. Pray over your marriage. Read good marriage books and implement their advice or visit and learn from a happily married couple. Sometimes it is helpful to seek out a counselor to resolve particularly difficult problems.

PHYSICAL ISSUES

Medical conditions - anaemia, high blood pressure, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and hemochromatosis among others. Undiagnosed thyroid disease is suspected by some doctors to be responsible for a significant number of cases of low sex drive.

Medicine, medical treatments and drugs - alcohol, prescription drugs, and street drugs are probably the single most common causes of low sex drive. Chemotherapy, high blood pressure medicine, antidepressants, tranquillisers and other medicines and medical treatments can affect sex drive. It may be possible to correct much of this by changing medications and/or dosages, so let your doctor know about the problems. Alcoholism is a very common sex drive killer in men.

Hormones - a woman's natural hormone cycle gives her periods of greater and lesser sexual desire. Hormones can also affect sexual drive during pregnancy, lactation and at menopause. Low testosterone reduces sex drive in both men and women, but this is actually rare in men.

Exhaustion - being occasionally tired happens to us all, but chronic exhaustion means you need to check your priorities. Eat well and get adequate rest and exercise (cut back or cut out the smoking and drinking). In men exhaustion can impair erection even if the man desires sex; similar impairment of function is believed to occur in women who are too tired.

Painful sex - infections, a poorly healed episiotomy, endometriosis, back problems and other conditions can cause sex to be uncomfortable or painful, making sex undesirable.


For health related problems, see your doctor! Change your lifestyle to take care of yourself and get educated about the physical / technical aspects of sexual intimacy.


Now, y'all, don't use this list to beat each over the head with. :) Take the time to prayerfully look at what you contribute, both positively and negatively, to your marriage. Then look to see how you can help your spouse with what they bring to it also. Think: prayer, forgiveness, encouragement, creative ideas ...


Lori

Used with permission.
Copyright © 2001-2007 Lori J. Byerly
All Rights Reserved
http://www.the-generous-wife.com

13 November 2007

My Chocolate, Your Slavery

Next time you bite into a tasty chocolate bar, spare a thought for those who might have produced it.

12 November 2007

Diary of a Broken Heart - pt 3

15 days before Surgery

I achieved a few things today.

First, I went to the local TAFE to talk about my options for re-starting a course in Youth Work. Then, I called the hospital and maybe – just maybe – got a fast-track to surgery. THEN, I called my doctor's office and made an appointment for tomorrow. Oh, and I looked after an 8-month-old and did a bit of housework, but that's boring.

The nurse I spoke to (on my call to the hospital) was lovely. She was concerned that I sounded out-of-breath (I was, for no good reason). She didn't think that the swelling in my ankles and feet was a good sign (neither did I). She volunteered to speak to my surgeon and let him know the situation, and I started feeling just a bit better. Oh, who am I kidding? I cried. I've been feeling worse and worse, physically, and I've been feeling as though no-one really cares, or believes, or will do anything to help me out. I hate feeling like that. So to have someone not only care, but show concern and try to help get something done... oh, it felt so nice.


Naomi

11 November 2007

Practicing the Presence of God - pt 2

Brother Lawrence related that we should establish ourselves in a sense of God's Presence by continually conversing with Him. It was a shameful thing to quit His conversation to think of trifles and fooleries.

Concept 1: Continually talk to God

Concept 2: Don't stop talking to Him because of silly things that you think he won't approve of. Either keep talking to Him about them, or leave them be.


Get a free online copy of The Practice of the Presence of God from Project Gutenberg


Naomi

09 November 2007

Introducing the Old Testament

This video comes to us thanks to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. It's a 39-minute introduction to the Old Testament - what it is, where it came from, who wrote it, and how to read it. I think it's well worth the time to watch it.

08 November 2007

Facebook, Eat Your Heart Out!

Australia's National Portrait Gallery has launched an exciting new exhibition - Animated. It's an online exhibition of animated self-portraits, and is the first made-for-online exhibition ever produced by the Gallery.

You'll need a broadband connection or a busload of patience to view these self-portraits... but they're well worth the effort to have a look. Softie that I am, I think my favourite is Boyd Blue, by Jo Boag... but I'll see what I think next week!

View the exhibit.


Naomi

07 November 2007

A Recipe for Change

View this inspirational video about how a small action, faithfully carried out, can change the world for the better:

A Recipe for Change

One woman, a chocolate cake and a meal of love.


Naomi

06 November 2007

Sex and the Christian Woman

Sex.

It's something that affects every single one of us. No matter what type of life we've lived, no matter what type of life we live now. But more often than not, we're completely in the dark as to what to think about it, how to think about it, and where to start in talking about it.

Being Christian women, I'd venture to say most of us have heard the following - either direct or implied - from other Christians:

  • Good Christian girls shouldn't think or talk about sex
  • My sex life will be awesome, because I didn't have sex before marriage
  • If I slip up and have sex before marriage, my sex life is ruined
  • Don't talk about it before marriage with your boyfriend/fiance
  • Sex will sort itself out just fine once I'm married
  • Masturbation or touching myself is sin
  • Sex isn't 'all that'
  • Christian women shouldn't have oral sex/anal sex/use toys
  • Men always want sex; nice girls don't
  • 'Kinky' equals perversion or sexual addiction
I'd like to point out right here and now – that all of those statements are myths. Belief in some of them has led to some very disappointed and disillusioned Christians living a half-life when it comes to sexual intimacy with their spouses.

I realise this article and its sequels may shock some people. I know that delving into these topics can cause discomfort. That is perfectly okay, and to be expected - sex is a topic close to our hearts, and questioning our beliefs on such things is often painful.

But the fact is – we need to talk about this. If we are considering getting married, or are already married, then we need to be mature enough to handle the concept of sexuality and sexual expression. If we can talk to our partner/future spouse/spouse about finances, chores or what to do on the weekend – we can also talk about sex.

Sure, there might be some issues to consider that might not have to be considered in a topic like marital finances. But a tough topic does not justify burying our heads in the sand. So over the next few articles, I'll discuss each of those statements in a bit more detail. I'll use the Bible and real-world scenarios to help us along.

The point I'd like to leave this brief discussion with is this:

Sexuality and sexual expression is an integral aspect of our lives, given to us and blessed by God. It is not something to be ignored, ashamed about or to leave floundering in our marriages. This part of our lives and marriages is as important as finances, ministry, goals and children. And as strong Christian women, we should be doing all we can to ensure our sex lives (current or future) are as healthy and vibrant as every other part that makes us 'us'.


Sascha

01 November 2007

Diary of a Broken Heart - pt 2


I've been thinking about the diagnosis (ie, the "you need open heart surgery" bit) and how I felt about it.

Years ago, in a previous pregnancy, I informed medical staff of my history (heart surgery when I was a toddler, only one functioning lung) and complained of excessive tiredness and breathlessness. After a few minor tests, I was told obliquely that I was a hypochondriac. No checking of medical records, as far as I'm aware. So I shrugged, and assumed that they were right.

For the years between that pregnancy and the next, I had times of unexplained fatigue. I'd be energetic one week, ridiculously tired the next. The only explanation I ever got was 'depression', since I was never anaemic. Unsurprisingly (in retrospect), I couldn't find anything to help.

So I got pregnant again, and when the hospital pregnancy clinic labelled me as high-risk, I scoffed. When the heart ultrasound showed that my heart was dangerously enlarged... well, I think I was mostly just relieved. Finally I knew that I hadn't just been a hypochondriac. In fact, the doctor looking after me described me as 'extremely relaxed' and 'possibly too laidback'. When I called her at 36 weeks and said I felt terrible, she told me to come in with an overnight bag immediately.

Wow. I'm NOT a hypochondriac!


Naomi

27 October 2007

Guilt-free Software

For years, I struggled with a basic computer dilemma - fork out hundreds of dollars I couldn't afford, accept illegal copies cheerfully offered by friends, or go without word processing and graphics software? Thank God, there's a better way.

Open Source Software

To be exact, 'open source' software is any program whose source code is available for use by developers. Typically, though, a good open source program is one that hundreds or thousands of people have worked on. Together. Absolutely free of charge.

For a non-developer-type software user, the important points are:

  • It's completely free of charge to use
  • People have worked hard to make it function, so if you can afford to donate your time or money, it will be appreciated
  • However, there are NO guilt-inducing "are you SURE you don't want to donate?" messages

So Where Do I Find It?

Here are information and download links for my two all-time favourite pieces of open source software:

Word Processing - OpenOffice (download it)
Graphics and Photo Editing - GIMP (download it)

In the next article, we'll look at how to accomplish basic photo-editing tasks in GIMP.


Naomi

25 October 2007

Practicing the Presence of God - pt 1

It seems bizarre to 'practice the presence of God' as though we call him into our lives when and where we want him. But we humans seem wired to only see the physical world, by default. God being always with us is often simply a theoretical concept, no matter how much belief and faith we have in it. It's like sitting next to someone on public transport - you can make eye contact and smile (maybe start a conversation), or ignore them with the help of a pair of headphones and a book.

To me, 'practicing the presence of God' is all about learning to acknowledge and converse with a God who is always present and always interested. It's not a new concept, by any means. Brother Lawrence was drawn out on the topic centuries ago, and his ideas are still relevant today. Over the next few weeks, I'll be highlighting what I think were some of his key points in the practice of God's presence.


Naomi

22 October 2007

Diary of a Broken Heart - pt 1


26 Days Before Surgery


My name's Naomi. I'm a christian, a wife, a mum, a writer, and... well, lots else. When I was born, I had life-threatening heart problems. Without surgery, I probably wouldn't be alive today.


I don't remember anything from that surgery or the recovery. But during my last pregnancy, I discovered that I had a leaky heart valve, and half of my heart is getting more and more enlarged. Right now, I'm waiting for open heart surgery to repair the valve.

Why the diary? Because every now and then I sit here and wonder what on earth I can expect from this surgery. I know all the medical stuff. I have an idea of how long it will take me – from a medical point of view! - to heal from the surgery. I expect to feel as though I've been hit by a bus. But I don't know what I'll go through emotionally, or the weird side effects, or what I'll be able to wear in hospital. There's a big black hole of knowledge there. So I've got a couple of hopes. One, that I'll work out exactly what it is I'm needing to know. The other, that others facing the same surgery might be able to read this diary and get an idea of what's facing them.

Naomi

19 October 2007

Not Quite Art

ABC Australia launched a new show last week, and by some miracle, I actually stumbled across the very first show and watched it.

Not Quite Art is a show about the not-so-clean, not-so-ordered art world all around us, outside the galleries and 'cultural precincts'. Where funding is low or non-existent, and art happens almost randomly.

Sound interesting? Read more on the show's website.

Download the entire first episode from the ABC website:
Not Quite Art - Episode 1 (mp4 format)
Not Quite Art - Episode 1 (wmv format)

Or subscribe to the vodcast:
MP4 Vodcast
WMV Vodcast

To see what others are saying about Not Quite Art, including some comments from the presenter, Marcus Westbury:
Larvatus Prodeo group blog

Naomi

23 September 2007

Hey - What's Going On?

I'm going into hospital for heart surgery tomorrow.

As I'm the editor and all-round organiser for this blogzine right now, that means everything will be on hold here for at least a couple of weeks. I suspect I'm being a little optimistic in hoping to be back here that soon... so we'll have to see how we go.

Here's a sneak preview of the offerings we hope to bring to you soon:

  • Am I a Christian if I'm not a Denomination?
  • Sexual Health
  • Guilt-free Software

Naomi

03 September 2007

New Title Graphic, New Poll

Feel free to comment on either via this post (use the comments link under this text).

All opinions appreciated! :-)

29 August 2007

More Than Just Writers

I'm a writer by trade. I work with files that will be printed out. I read lots of books.

The point is, sometimes I get just a little too textcentric (is that a word?). We're not just looking for writers. We're also looking for audio and video content. Graphic content, too - I'm thinking an 'artwork of the month' feature right now.

Getting There - Slowly

We're currently recruiting article writers. If you think you might be interested in contributing, send me an email via the link on the side.

We're also continuing work on the blogzine template. As you can see, most of the pink has gone. (Pink's not really that bad... it's just that I can only take so much before I start thinking Legally Blonde and pampered mini-pooches)

22 August 2007

Watch this space

A blogzine for Christian women will be here soon.

(we'll lose at least some of the pink!)