Wednesday, 30 July 2014

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

Ever since I heard about the International Justice Mission I've been reading their Aussie Facebook page and trawling through both their International and Australian websites.  These people are truly heroes in the developing world.  They are feet-on-the-ground, supporting people who need justice and  support to recover and thrive.

As I was reading their Facebook page this week I discovered that today is "World Day Against Trafficking in Persons".  The statistics for this crime are heartbreaking:  68% of the victims of people trafficking in Africa and the Middle East are children.  Children!  Sixty percent of all victims of people trafficking are women.

These statistics are devastating and infuriating.  It is completely incomprehensible to me, in my very safe corner of the world, that people are experiencing this as their reality.  I just don't even have language or coherent thoughts about how to begin expressing how I feel when I imagine what a woman or a child might endure in such a situation.  And I have a completely uneducated brain on the subject.  I'm about to remedy that - I'm awaiting the arrival of "The Locust Effect" by Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros and "Half the Sky" by Nicholas Kristoff. 

So even though I know almost nothing I am again experiencing heartbreak.  That "break my heart for what breaks Yours" prayer is bursting to the top of my 'urgent' pile again, refusing to be assuaged by a "someone else will take care of it" approach, which would be so easy.

UNODC have some suggestions for people who don't know what to do in a brochure which you can find here.  You could also find ways to support the International Justice Mission who are doing the hard yards to rescue people, get justice for them and help them to recover.  They have suggestions on their website.

If you have social media accounts for Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr you could go here and join the ThunderClap campgain.  It looks easy enough...if you're a social media kind of person.  Not like me!

We can all take a step from where we are now towards rescuing those being trafficked.  How bizarre that all these years after William Wilberforce put a stop to slavery it seems that not a lot has changed.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Book Review: "Interrupted" by Jen Hatmaker

Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith
(revised and expanded)
By Jen Hatmaker

Publisher’s Synopsis:
Interrupted follows the author’s messy journey through life and church and into living on mission. Snatching Jen from the grip of her consumer life, God began asking her questions like, “What is really the point of My Church? What have I really asked of you?” She was far too busy doing church than being church, even as a pastor’s wife, an author of five Christian books, and a committed believer for 26 years. She discovered she had missed the point.

Christ brought Jen and her family to a place of living on mission by asking them tough questions, leading them through Scripture, and walking together with them on the path. Interrupted invites readers to take a similar journey.

What I thought: 
Are you a Christ-follower who feels tired and dry?  Who wonders if there is more to living a life of faith than attending a church that meets your needs?  Yes?  Then Interrupted is the book for you.  Oozing with her unique down-to-earth style, humour and wit Jen will guide you through the dry spell towards a love-first way to live your faith.  This book is about Jen’s journey through the dry, the questions, the heart change and a way to doing life the way Jesus modelled for us.  Our stories will look different, but Jen is the friend who will offer you wise counsel, Biblical principles and a way forward to radical faith.


This revised and expanded edition of Interrupted brings the book from being about one woman’s journey and story to ensuring the message will remain the timeless encouragement it needs to be.  Rather than being organised in the seasons in which this story occurred it is now organised into the phases of the journey.  This edition also begins with an introduction to the new-look version and Jen’s encouragement for those of us beginning our own season of wrestling: “don’t you dare identify with the message but feel alone”.  Even if you’ve already read Interrupted, the introduction to this edition, alone, is worth buying the book again.

Jen Hatmaker is a woman of integrity and one of this generation's faith heroes who will challenge and inspire you to life a different version of Christianity.  As you read Interrupted you will feel like you're hanging out with your best friend whilst being challenged to the very heart of everything you thought you knew about church.  She will give voice and language to your questions and gently guide you, with Biblical authority, through the journey to living a life committed to being poured out for the people outside the walls of the church:  the unsaved, the hopeless, the last, the least and the poor.

Interrupted is not an ‘easy’ book to read.  I cried my way through the entire thing this second time through!  It touched the very nerve of how I was feeling and showed me a different way to live my faith.  I have underlined half the book!  This may well be the most significant, game-changer you will ever lay your hands on!

With thanks to Tyndale Publishing for my review copy.
This review is my own opinion.  I have not received payment, nor been coerced to provide a particular view of this book. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Three Things You Should Never Say to God (there are probably more!)

Have you ever had an experience where you said something to God and He did the exact opposite?  Or He took you seriously?  Or He listened to what you said and not what you meant?

Yeah.  It's something no one warns you about.

So here are some things you should never say to God:
  1. I never want to live in [insert name of place].
    We ended up living in all of the places a certain adult in my family named (I was a child.  It wasn't me).  It turned out pretty well in the end should never say those things if you actually don't want to go somewhere.  I stupidly repeated this error myself, as an adult, and here I live in the very town I didn't want to move to.  And like my parents, we've ended up loving being here.  OK, so maybe this is a prayer worth praying.  The results are surprisingly good.  It won't seem like it at the time though.
  2. I never want to marry [insert name].
    Can't tell you how many people I know who said they would never marry a certain person and then ended up marrying that exact person.  Sense of humour anyone?  Mr Busy assures me he will never marry the girl I adore in his class.  He's doomed.
  3. Break my heart for what breaks Yours.
    Never, never say this out loud to God if what you mean is "give me a special thing to do that is meaningful to me.  And You".
Over the summer I read Jen Hatmaker's "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" and "Interrupted".  That began a bit of a ... I don't know what to call it.  A shift?  A crack?  A dislodging of something quite deep?  I don't know.  But something.  After some really hard work in the past few months and busting through a ridiculously stubborn wall, spiritually, I got to the point where I wanted God to put a passion for something in my heart.  But that's not what I said.  What I said was "break my heart for what breaks Yours".  So, so not smart.  It's not pretty.  It's not easy.  And it hurts when your heart breaks.  Why on earth did I pray that prayer?

Over the past two weeks I've been reading blog posts from a group of women (including Jen Hatmaker) who have just been on a trip to Rwanda, called "Style for Justice" (click on the link for links to each of the stories).  This group of women told heartbreaking stories from Rwanda.  The injustices.  The challenges.  The unspeakable atrocities endured by these people who have lost so much.  And they told stories of hope.  Strength.  Determination.  Faith.

I cried an ocean for the week. 

Then I began reading "Dear Mr Knightly" by Katherine Reay.  More heartbreak as I read about a young woman trying to overcome her coping mechanisms and insecurities developed through years in the foster care system.

More heartbroken oceans of tears.

At one point I just had to put the book down and walk away to have a chat with God.  "What do I do with all this  now that You've broken my heart?  I don't have a 'thing' I'm  passionate about.  I can't even buy Noonday jewellery because they won't ship to Australia...and now I feel guilty because I'm meant to do something about and for the poor, the homeless, the widowed, the orphaned and the oppressed.  What do I do?" I asked.

"I want you to teach", blew quietly across my heart.

Oh.  That's right.  I am passionate about that!

I'm too scared to ask what that will look like.  My heart is for Christian education...I don't think I want to know if that's not my path!!!  Maybe I'll just focus on finishing my degree. Eleven and a half weeks to go.

Just so you know - word your prayers carefully.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Parenting Files: When Little Boys Get Big

When Mr Busy was just a teeny little thing - which is a relative term because all my children were very long,and then tall - he used to spend a lot of time snuggled up on my lap.  When he was around 7 or 8 years old I lamented that one day he wouldn't fit on my lap.  His immediate response was "Don't worry, Mum.  When I don't fit anymore you can sit on my lap".  So, so sweet.

Fast forward a few years and this last baby of mine is at least four inches taller than me and he really no longer fits on my lap.  He refuses to even give his offer a go (and that's just fine with me.  That would be super weird and he might get crushed). 

We now have a more pressing challenge to work out.  How do you hug a tall boy?  He's taken to draping himself over my shoulders, which is somewhat like being overwhelmed by an oversized puppy dog.  I am completely enveloped by this 'thing' that just comes at me from above.  He used to be able to put his head on my chest.  And then my shoulder.  And then he was even with my head.  This being at some lofty height above me isn't working for him anymore.  Or me. 

I think we're going to have to swap to me putting my head on his shoulder.  Before it shoots up into the stratosphere.  And that feels weird too, because he is still the boy who likes to hug his Mum.  Having my head on his shoulder is a shift I'm not sure if I'm ready to embrace.  It means another step towards Mr Busy being all grown up (not just his body!).

I don't think I'll ever be found on his knee - although a generous offer - but we'll have to experiment with hugs.  Because this boy would shrivel up and cease to thrive without them.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Faith Files: Who is our Family?

I was reading Mark 3:22-34 this morning.  In this passage the teachers of the law are indignant.  They began to say horrible things about Jesus.  Things like "He is of Beelzebub" and that he was driving out demons because he was the prince of demons.  I don't know how we jumped from calling the disciples and being in a house so crowded he couldn't even eat.  Jesus' family called him "out of his mind" just for that little event.  That's pretty heavy criticism just for being in a crowded house and preferring people over food.  It's one thing, though, to have your family call you crazy.  It's entirely another to have people say you are Satan incarnate when in fact you are God.  I can't even imagine a deeper, more wounding offense.

Jesus tells these ignorant teachers of the law why he couldn't possibly be Satan.  How he would be defeating himself and bringing down his own house if that was indeed who he was?  He says, in verse 29, that those who blaspheme against the Spirit (ie. those who call God a follower of Satan, or Satan himself) will have committed an eternal sin; one that cannot be forgiven.

When Jesus' mother and brothers finally arrive at the house they send someone to call Jesus out to them.  I always thought this next bit was odd.  I didn't understand what was really going on.  When told his mother and brothers are looking for him Jesus says "who are my mother and my brothers?"  At this point Jesus looks around him at all the people sitting nearby and tells the crowd that it is whoever does the will of God that are his "brother and sister and mother".  I think I get this now.  This offers up a beautiful picture of identity, for me.  I picture family in terms of a little (or sometimes big, as in Dh's case!) huddle of people who would do anything to defend and protect one another.  Jesus gives us that identity when he calls us, those who do God's will, his family.  And Jesus ended up going to the cross for us, his family.

As I travel through Mark I will no doubt come nose-to-nose with the radical side of Jesus.  For now I am wrapped in the knowledge that Jesus calls those who do God's will his family.  I can't imagine a more significant place to stand.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Teaching is about People

The constant theme for my yesterday, all day was this:  Teaching is about people.

One of the "big questions" of my degree has been "what is education for?"  You know, I thought I could answer that question until I took the philosophy subject for my course.  I loved the unit coordinator but that question turned everything I thought I knew upside down in my head.  I have told the UC he has a lot to answer for in the scrambling of my brain!  He is still one of my favourite UC's because who could have bad feelings towards a man who begins every lecture with "I hope you have your cup of tea by your side....".  There, my friends, is a good reason to study online!  A cup of tea and a comfy chair while your brain is turned inside out.

One of my fellow students responded to the question "what is education for?" this week, in reference to one of the readings we could choose from, with the simple and beautiful beginning point that education is about people.  Of course you can go all kinds of ways from that start, but for me that focused in on the important thing.  Education is for the gorgeous, precious little people (they are little in Primary school!) who bound into our classrooms each morning with untethered enthusiasm.  It is for the children who come to school escaping from whatever is going on at home.  It is for the children who need their teacher to be the one person in their life who believes in them and encourages them to be the best person they can be; the person God created them to be.

The VCE Coordinator at Our School took our staff devotions yesterday and she reminded us of the power of our influence.  As Christ's image bearers.  As teachers who are Christ's image bearers.  We have the ability to speak over our students words of Truth and to call out of our students the things we see in them.  Their gifts.  Their talents.  Their perseverance when they have struggled to pass a subject that gives them nothing but trouble.  To call them young men and young women while they are still children because words have the power to build up.  To instill in our children the belief that they will not be difference makers in the future, but that they are difference makers now.  That they can make choices that can change things around them for the good of others.  That they can be children who consider the plight and needs of others and find ways to contribute to justice for the oppressed and care for the downtrodden.

My colleague showed us a clip from TED Talks that had us laughing, and me trying to blink back tears, because "every kid needs a champion".  I loved this presenter's honesty, humour and the truth she spoke about the importance of teachers in the lives of children.

Education is all about people.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A Lot of Book Love

I am doing a unit, this semester, on children's literature.  I had to do a little bit of serious advocacy on my own behalf to convince the course coordinator that a fourth year student should be allowed to do a first year elective.  But if you're been reading here for even a little while you'll know books are my "jam" (thanks for that lingo Lego Movie!).  My children often roll their eyes because I am shameless when it comes to drooling over and fondling beautiful children's books wherever I happen to find them.

So this semester I "have to" read all the books pictured above.  Finally - a unit I can just immerse myself in purely for the fun of it.  Oh, there will be academic essays to be done but it'll be so worth it!

I have actually read a number of this already.  "Clancy the Courageous Cow" (top right corner) was written by a Year 7 student for a school project.  Two of the books are illustrated by Shaun Tan and "The Red Wind" is apparently well loved by our library tech and the girl I want Mr Busy to marry.  I want this beautifully gentle, kind-hearted girl for myself and that's the only legal way it can happen.  Mr Busy insists he will not marry her.  I insist that God scoffs at those statements and that he probably will end up marrying her because that's what happens to people who say "I'm never going to marry -----".  We'll see.  They're only 14 so I guess there's time....

In the meantime lots of book love is going on over here.

What's your favourite children's picture book a) from your childhood and b) to read to your children?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

That Sinking Shoe Mourning

I had a great week last week, cleaning the laundry from top to bottom and clearing out my wardrobe.  Yesterday morning I went looking for my favourite work shoes for my first day back at work (ohhhh the denial Miss Sunshine and I engaged in.  Yr12's are back too and neither of us wanted to begin what will be a crazy-busy term).  I have adored these shoes (pictured above).  They are so comfortable I could wear them all day long, a little bit feminine and just incredibly sturdy when you're dashing after children all day long.  They are the perfect 'teacher shoe', especially when you work in quite a bushy setting.

Yesterday morning my shoes had disappeared.  They were in none of the 'usual' places.  And none of the unusual ones either.  At this point I started to get a sinking feeling.  I threw on another pair of black flats and went off to work.  Dh looked about when we got home and eventually conceded the same result.  They were gone.  Somehow.

And then I remembered.  I wore these shoes three days last week.  On Thursday I cleaned my wardrobe out and hadn't needed these shoes in the following days.  The only possible scenario I can come up with is that these were under the pile of things I had set aside to throw away and they must have been scooped up into the rubbish bag.  The rubbish was collected on Friday morning.

I am devastated.  And cross.  I can't get this style anymore.  Tomorrow I'll have to go find the Sketchers store and see if there is anything close to these ones that have been so perfect.

I am in mourning.

Friday, 11 July 2014

A Delicious Pumpkin, Tomato, Bean & Quinoa Salad

Roast Pumpkin, Tomato & Green Bean Quinoa Salad

This week, between cleaning the laundry and cleaning out/organising my wardrobe, I've been tootling about the internet looking for delicious, satisfying meal ideas for Fast Days.  Organising myself for 5:2 dieting is so much easier when nothing much else is going on!  I have three serves of roasted tomato and red capsicum soup in the freezer ready for going back to work, and I suspect my newest quinoa recipe is going to feature often as well.  Or some variation of it.

If you are a lover of quinoa salads you are simply going to adore this one I found at Create Bake Make.  You will find the recipe for Lauren's Roasted Pumpkin, Tomato and Green Bean Salad here. For once I made the recipe exactly as it is written, and I am in love.  The recipe says this will feed two, and probably if I were sharing it with my hubby that would be true.  But I'll get three serves for lunch without any problem.  Quinoa is surprisingly filling, yet it doesn't leave you feeling heavy.  I love it.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Justice or Mercy...A Christian's Dilemma

My most recent discovery - fake plants.  
Lots of pretty without the risk of death.
I once killed an ivy plant.  It's fake pretty all the way.

It was many years ago when I was first asked to choose whether it was justice or mercy which appealed to me more.  I cannot tell you how long it took me to answer the question!  I was doing a Myers-Briggs personality typing test and an answer was required.  I have since discovered I am not terribly high on the mercy scale (my spiritual gifts assessment survey showed 4 out of a possible 18 points).  I always end up choosing justice, but it is not without a great deal of personal angst that I make that choice.

I value mercy.  Really I do.  Because of Christ's mercy on me I get to live a life free from the bondage of sin and its consequences.  I get to look forward to an eternity in Heaven basking in the brilliance of my Father's love because He showed me compassion and offered up His son instead me.  He continues to show me mercy very single day.  Mercy is super important.  How could it not be?

But justice...  I am a rules girl.  Justice is important.  The Psalms are full of stories about God ensuring the wicked will not always prevail so I know that my incredibly merciful Father is also interested in justice.  I am not naturally inclined to colour outside the rules in life.  It's a personality thing, I know.  When I was small I would do anything to avoid the absolute humiliation of getting into trouble, even for the smallest thing.  That's not to say I didn't get into trouble or do the wrong thing; when I did there was no amount of punishment my parents could impart that would be worse than my own internal punishment and humiliation.  The most rebellious thing I do seems to be deviating from a recipe.  Serious risk-taking behaviour there.

All of this brings me to my most recent justice or mercy dilemma.  Asylum seekers.  These are some of the most vulnerable people on our Earth.  Their lives are in constant danger; they have experienced unspeakable, unimaginable atrocities.  I just want to bundle them up and love them back to a belief in safety.  I simply cannot imagine how they have endured and if it were up to me I would stand at the border of this land I call home and welcome them in.  Indeed I would call them over and tell them there is a safer place for them to be; for their children to grow up without constant fear.  I want to cry every time I think of what these people have gone through and the dangerous journeys they have had to embark upon just to be safe.

But there are those who make mercy difficult.  Those who come illegally.  Those who site seeking asylum as their reason for entry but really just want better employment and financial prospects.  Those who flout the rules we have to get what they want.  These people make it difficult for us to see the real seekers of asylum and they muddy the waters of mercy.
"Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.  Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies."
Hebrews 13:1-3 (NLT)
As Christians we are clearly called to entertain strangers and to 'remember' those being mistreated as if the pain were our own.  When I did a search on the word 'strangers' on Bible Gateway (.com), however, there were plenty of references with an admonishment to be wary of strangers who would pillage the fruits of our labour.

Somewhere there has to be a line...a way forward where we offer mercy, compassion and safe harbour to those in need, and protect ourselves from those who act only out of selfish ambition.  I don't know what the answer is.  I wish I did because there are people who need us to protect them and offer them hope that things can, and will, be better.  People who need us to figure this out now, and stop arguing about how to make it happen.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Book Review: 'Captured by Moonlight' by Christine Lindsay

Captured by Moonlight

By Christine Lindsay 

Publisher's Synopsis: 
After a daring rescue goes awry, the parched north of India grows too hot for nurse Laine Harkness and her friend Eshana. The women flee to the tropical south...and run headlong into their respective pasts.

Laine takes a new nursing position at a plantation in the jungle, only to discover that her former fiancé is the owner...and that Adam has no more to say to her now than he did when he crushed her years ago. Why, then, is she still drawn to him, and to the tiger cub he is raising?

Eshana, captured by her traditional uncle and forced once more into the harsh Hindu customs of mourning, doubts whether freedom will ever again be in her future, much less the forbidden love that had begun to whisper to her. Is faith enough to live on? Or is her Savior calling her home?

Amid cyclones and epidemics, clashing faiths and consequences of the war, will the love of the True Master give hope to these searching hearts? 

What I thought: 
Captured by Moonlight is the second gripping instalment of Christine Lindsay’s “Twilight of the British Raj” series.  This second book follows Eshana’s next season and focuses on Abby’s friend, Laine Harkness, as she escapes from Amritsar and those who seek to punish the British woman who stole one of the temple girls.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Laine better, after meeting her in Shadowed in Silk.  Laine is a complex character whom Lindsay portrays brilliantly.  Her grit and determination are threaded with the colours of old wounds and a delicate tenderness that makes her a diligent, skilled nurse.  She works and fights hard, and cares deeply.  I felt like I was right in the room every time Laine and Adam were together and Laine’s inner turmoil was palpable.

I was particularly taken with Eshana’s journey throughout this book.  I’m not sure I would have endured all she did with such grace and dignity, especially when treated with such disrespect.  Eshana’s circumstances reminded me of the apostle Paul and his willingness to surrender his will to God’s purposes.  I loved the little rays of sunshine that Eshana’s visitor, Ruchi bring to her whilst she is imprisoned.  She infused a sense of brightness and hope that balanced the darkness of those days for Eshana.

As well as beautifully depicted characters this book is awash with mystery, intrigue and life-threatening events.  Christine Lindsay’s ingenious craftsmanship as a storyteller is clearly obvious as she develops her characters as well as the plot lines that had me completely and fully engaged.  There was just no way to extricate myself from this story, even when asleep!  I was desperate to know if the cholera epidemic would be contained, and whether my favourite characters were safe.  I wondered if Laine and Adam would ever be able to heal the wounds between them.  The mystery behind the men living on Adam’s plantation simply had to be resolved!

I am incredibly impatient to read the third and final instalment of this series, Veiled at Midnight, which is scheduled to release in August this year.  If the first two books are any indication Christine Lindsay will again weave her literary excellence and all my remaining questions will be delightfully resolved.

With thanks to Christine Lindsay for my review copy.
This review is entirely my own opinion and not coerced in any way. 

Another New Favourite Thing: Dry Shampoo

Because I have difficult hair...curly, obstinate, frizzy, difficult to tame...I am always on the look out for things that actually tame and manage my curls.  Regularly I get cranky and I grab one of the girls' hair straighteners and boss my hair into complete submission.  If you have difficult hair you know what I'm talking about.  If you look at everyone else's curly hair and wish you had hair like that, I'm sorry, but you have no idea what you're wishing for! 

As I mentioned a few posts back, Coconut Water spray is like the best thing ever for taming difficult hair...and it actually works.  But there is one downside.  I have to wash my hair every 3rd day no matter what, but the 2nd day after washing is a bit ordinary.  For those of you who wash your hair everyday and have smooth, silky hair you won't understand what I'm about to say...I only wash my hair twice a week, usually.  It takes a day or two to settle down after a wash.  I get one day of reasonable-looking hair and then a day of really ordinary.  But the ordinary is worth it not to deal with the difficult any more often than necessary.  I'm loving my Coconut Water!!!

The fix to my new problem, though, is Dry Shampoo!

I have to say I was very skeptical about how such a thing would work but a colleague and my daughter assure me it was easy peasy and brilliant.  You know what?  They were right.  It is truly and completely amazing. 

You spray it on. 
You massage it in. 
Your brush your hair. 

You get at least another day of great-looking hair.  No oily 'ordinary' to be seen.  It looks like you just washed your hair.  I wouldn't want to leave it there more than one day because that stuff is sitting on your scalp but I guess there's no telling what a person will do if dire circumstances.  Regular life is not dire though, so I wash my hair the day after using dry shampoo.

This post was not sponsored by Batiste or any other manufacturer of dry shampoo products.  It is purely based on my own discovery and experience.