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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


23 November 2007

Art 101 - Van Gogh

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


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


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!


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.


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!


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


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.


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)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 ...


Used with permission.
Copyright © 2001-2007 Lori J. Byerly
All Rights Reserved

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.


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


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.


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.


06 November 2007

Sex and the Christian Woman


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'.


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!