Thursday, 31 July 2008

The God of all Comfort

After reading 2 Cor 1:3 the other day, I was greatly comforted by being reminded about who God is; the Father of Compassion and the God of all Comfort. I was left wondering, however, exactly how it is that he comforts us. What is the comfort he gives us? As Paul continues his letter to the Corithians, he answers that question, and again, the answer lies in who God is.

He is the God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9). When Paul and his friends suffered so much that they despaired even of life, they took comfort in knowing that God raises the dead. It would matter not if they lost their lives, for God would raise them to life again. This comfort produced patient endurance in their suffering.

He is the God who delivers (2 Corinthians 1:10). Despite feeling the sentence of death in their hearts, God delivered Paul and his friends from their peril. They were granted life to keep working, to keep preaching, to keep suffering and to keep being comforted. They took comfort in knowing that God is the God who delivers. This also produced patient endurance in suffering.

It is knowing this that Paul can say so confidently, "to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). It was trusting in the same God that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could say,
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O King. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:17-18)

Sometimes God will deliver us from death; like he delivered Daniel from the lions, Peter from prison and Paul from the ambush. Sometimes he will deliver us through death into glorious life; like Stephen, like James the brother of John, and like our Lord himself. Always working through everything for our good and for His glory. This is our comfort.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Independence Day


Today is the 28th anniversary of the establishment of Vanuatu as an independent nation.

Prior to that it was the New Hebrides, a condominium run by a joint French and English administration.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Bethany

Bethany went to pre-school happily today, no tears (see yesterday's post). She also shows no ill-effects from her big bang.

Essence of the Reformation

I referred to Kirsten Birkett's book Essence of the Reformation in this post. You can download an e-version here for a small cost.

one-pot meals

My friend Nicole wrote here about thoughtfully planning her days. She has inspired me. Our most stressful time of the day is not before the meal, like hers, but afterwards, when I am cleaning up and trying to get the children to bed and trying to do it all quickly so that I can make use of the evenings when the generator is on and we have electricity.

It has annoyed me that I seem to spend so much time washing up. I have thought through this before and tried to work cheerfully and to limit the things I attempt to do in the evenings so that I don't become bitter about not being able to do them.

In response to something Nicole mentioned, it has occurred to me to increase my repertoire of one-pot meals and so reduce the amount of washing up. I wonder if you all would be happy to help? If you have any great recipes for one-pot meals and would be happy to share them, please do!!

Monday, 28 July 2008

reformation church history

I've been listening to a series of talks on reformation church history from www.biblicaltraining.org. They've been really interesting and helpful in order to understand my faith and my reformed tradition. If you're interested, but know nothing about the reformation, I would recommend reading Kirsten Birkett's book on the reformation first. It's a really short book and will give you enough pegs on which to hang further information.

chick, chick, chick

We have taken this little chick under our wing. It was driven out by
the other chooks and pecked so severely that it became quite sick. We
all though it was going to die, unable to walk more than a few paces
without falling down. It has taken shelter in a small bush just
outside our front door and Matthew takes much delight in feeding it
each day. This photo was taken when we were trying it out on weet-
bix. The chick wasn't impressed and Matthew decided to eat it himself
(eat the weet-bix, that is, not the chick!)

the God of all Comfort

I went to bed last night feeling very down. I had just prayed. As I prayed I felt that God was far away. I felt that he wasn't interested in my prayers and even if he was, he wouldn't be his will to do what I was asking him to. I felt very small and that my faith was even smaller. This would have been a good time to talk to myself rather than listen to myself but I didn't and I despaired that I would ever be worthy of the name I bear (the name of missionary let alone the name of Christ).

This morning I read these words...
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Compassion and the God of all Comfort..." (2 Corinthians 1:3)


...and I was comforted. He is the Father of Compassion and He does care. How kind he is that even when I was wallowing in self-pity He reached out and helped.

I recognise the misunderstanding of the role of faith in prayer inherent in my thinking above. I heard someone talk at length yesterday from James 5 about the power of prayer resting in our faith, so it is little wonder my thoughts ran in that direction.

Also the "talk to myself rather than listen to myself" is a quote I have read somewhere recently, but I can't remember where.

Found it! It's a quote from Martin Lloyd-Jones that Jean posted, here. Thanks to the commenter below!

praying with Bethany

I have been praying with Bethany each morning before she goes to pre-school. Recently she's been resistant to me doing this, sometimes becoming quite upset if I insist upon it. I have asked her why but she hasn't been able to answer me.

Today I walked to pre-school with her. When we got to the door she burst into tears, flung herself around my neck and begged me to take her home. She said,
"They fight me, Mummy, they fight me. Even though you pray, they fight me."


Is this why she doesn't want me to pray any longer? Is it because she thinks that God hasn't answered her prayers? We prayed that the children would be kind, but they are not.

How do I help her? How do I help when I struggle so much myself?

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

No thanks.

Our fridge was repaired a while ago, but we have only just now organised ourselves to make up (it is powdered) and cool milk so we can have cold milk on our cereal. What a luxury!

Only now Bethany refuses to eat breakfast because she can't stand cold milk.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

my Dad

I just want to be like him...

Friday, 18 July 2008

Goodbye!

We said Goodbye to Mum and Dad today. They spent their holidays with
us here in Vanuatu. We will miss them. Matthew will miss his morning
walks with Grandpa. Bethany will miss having a good excuse to stay
home from pre-school. Sophie will miss doing sums with Granny. I
will miss them too!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

concussion

We’ve had an exhausting afternoon. Bethany was playing on the top bunk with Sophie after lunch when she fell off and hit her head. She immediately began screaming, which was a relief as at least she was conscious but soon afterwards she fell asleep. For the next three hours she slept, awaking occasionally, crying, and then and falling asleep again. She would respond to poking and prodding and had no watery discharge from her nose or ears and no soft patches on her skull. However, when after three hours she still wanted to sleep and was looking pale, I took her to the clinic. The nurse examined her and everything seems fine. She doesn’t appear to have an injury and she isn’t showing any signs of concussion.

It has left me with some questions about concussion. All our medical books tell us what to look for and when to take them to a doctor. But what about when there is no doctor? What about when every Australian health professional that has had a look at the hospital tells you to keep away?

Here are my questions.
Is concussion bad in itself or bad because it is a sign of head injury?
Once concussion is confirmed, what then? What do I do then?

If Bethany had had concussion this afternoon, what should I have done next?

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Pray for the Banks Islands

A cyclone went through the northern islands of Vanuatu earlier this
year. These islands are many, small and remote. The cyclone
destroyed crops. Since then stock in the stores has been used up and
they are now empty. For some reason, there has been no ship arrive
there for the last three months. No supplies delivered and no
transport for the non-edible crop which provides income. Thus there
is little food and no money.

Please pray for these people. Pray that God would provide for their
daily needs. Pray that they would turn to him in their hunger and
they would hunger not just for food but for the word of God.

Pray especially for our friends Esther and Allan Walter. Allan is a
student of Talua. He is currently on his third year, which is a
practical year. He is spending the year teaching at a lay training
centre for the Anglican Church on the island of Sola, in the Banks
islands group. He will probably work there when he finishes at
Talua. They have had to send all their students home because they
cannot feed them. Pray that they would continue to trust God and they
would be encouraged by his faithfulness to them through this difficult
time.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Dramatic Irony

Sophie was reading a story in which Frog and Toad went to the snow. Frog (or Toad, I forget which) was afraid to go sledding but took comfort and courage in the presence of his friend and both went together. Whizzing down the hill, and delighting in his experience Frog exclaimed again and again to his friend about how wonderful it was and how he could not have done it without his friend. Now the reader knows that Toad fell off the sled ages ago and that Frog is actually all alone. When this is revealed to Frog he suddenly can no longer control the sled and careers off here, there and everywhere.

Says Grandpa to Sophie: Now that's dramatic irony.

Says Sophie to Grandpa: No, Grandpa. That's a sled.

Curse

Earlier this year a man's arm was bitten off while he swam the canal between the mainland and a small island. Some say it was a shark, some say it was a swordfish. All are thinking about the curse.

Curses and the work of evil spirits central to the way ni-Vanuatu think about life. If someone is sick, has an accident, or has no children, people look not to the material cause, but to the spiritual cause. It was an evil spirit. Someone worked a curse upon them.

A few months prior to shark incident mentioned above, the community had held special services and prayer in order to lift a curse on the community. The curse had been manifest in various ways; poor harvest, empty nets and sharks in the canal. After the transformation service, nets were full of fish, people were safely swimming the canal and there was hope for a good harvest.

It was believed that the community was under a curse because of the way the community had treated missionaries in the past. In particular (I gather) there is a group of rocks here at Talua upon which people were killed; perhaps some missionaries were killed there or perhaps someone spoke badly about them or to them. Sometimes the curse is linked directly with the curses at the end of Deuteronomy.

The transformation service involved obtaining forgiveness from God so that the curse would be lifted. It also involved the community letting go of 'old ways' of thinking which included fear of evil spirits and sharks and focussing only on Christ. Thus it would be safe to swim the canal.

It is in this context that I want to write about how we ought to think about curse as Christians. There are a whole hodge-podge of ideas here, and I won't address all of them. I want to think about and write short papers on;

A biblical theology of 'curse' and 'blessing'.

Who disobeyed; us or our parents? (about the idea of generational curse)

The real reason for our suffering in Santo.

Sharks: our friends or our enemies?


Which flower is this: good news and bad news

Good news! I finally made it to the library in town (read the story so far here) and I am now a member.

The bad news is that they have no books on the flora of Vanuatu. The one I saw last year when a friend borrowed it is now "lost". It was in the hope of this book that I had kept on returning to the library.

Actually there was a sign in the library asking people to be especially careful with the books as they are mostly donations from libraries overseas and already on their last legs. It is no wonder there was so little on the South Pacific.

So the interruption to the series "Which flower is this?" continues...

Compulsory Unionism...

...took on new meaning last Thursday in Luganville, Santo, where the police were out in force to flag down taxi and transport drivers and direct them to attend the meeting of the transport association being held in Unity Park on the main street.

Champagne Beach

On Saturday, Mum, Dad, the children and I went for a trip up the East
Coast of Santo to Champagne Beach. It is beautiful. We had loads of
fun.

Bethany at the Beach

Monday, 7 July 2008

Flights to Santo

Now that there are two airlines and a number of routes, flying to Santo is a little more confusing than it used to be. Here is some information to make it easier for you:

1. Fly domestic to Brisbane, then Pacific Blue to Vila, then domestic to Santo.
Pacific Blue looks the cheapest on paper, but it works out more expensive now overall because you don't get a discount on the domestic flights in Vanuatu. They are also very strict on excess baggage and don't provide food etc. We stay away from it now because it is an extra flight, more expensive and poorer service. If you live in Brisbane, it might be OK, but the option #2 flight direct to Santo would be preferable.

2. Fly domestic from Sydney to Brisbane, then Air Vanuatu direct to Santo.

TO VANUATU (Lugavnille, Pekoa Airport): SUNDAYS (10am-1:40pm, NF21)

BACK TO AUSTRALIA: MONDAYS (5:45pm-7:45pm, NF21)

This is good for coming to Vanuatu in NSW daylight saving time, but once daylight saving has finished the plane leaves Brisbane too early on Sunday morning so you can't fly out of Sydney on Sunday. You would need to stay in Brisbane Saturday night, so it becomes more expensive.
It may still work when you return to Australia, if you want to go back on a Monday. I'm not sure. This option is slightly cheaper than number 3.

3. Fly from Sydney to Santo (with transit in Vila) on Air Vanuatu.

TO VANUATU (Luganville, Pekoa Airport): MONDAYS 11:50am

BACK TO AUSTRALIA (Sydney): SUNDAYS 2:10pm?

This is by far the easiest to do. You can check in your bags at Sydney and they go all the way through to Santo. The overall time is much less because it is only a very short transit in Vila. Also, you don't have to pay excess baggage again in Vila for the domestic flight because you bags are booked all the way through. They take about $100 off the ticket price because they don't have to do baggage handling in Vila (compared to #4). Overall this seems to be the best option by far, and it is only slightly more expensive than number 2 or similar in price. But it only goes one day each week.

4. Fly from Sydney to Vila on Air Vanuatu, then get a domestic flight to Santo.

This used to be the only option. It is more expensive than the new options (#2 and #3). But the service is more regular so we use it when we need to fly on a different day.

TO VANUATU (Port Vila, Bauerford Airport): Best is Friday 11:50am-3:30pm because you can fly straight through to Santo on a small plane without staying in Vila. Other flights are: Wednesday 8:20pm-11:55pm; Thursday 4:50pm-8:30pm; Saturday 10:20pm-11:55pm; Sunday 8:50pm-12:30pm

BACK TO AUSTRALIA (Sydney): Best is Wednesday 3:30pm-7:20pm, Thursday 12:00pm-3:50pm and Saturday 3:30pm-7:20pm because you can fly out of Santo in the morning and not stay in Vila the night.

Other flights are: Monday 7:00am-10:50am and Friday 7:00am-10:50am

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Ode to our Fridge

Our ice-box it had a gas leak,
Banished outside ‘til only last week.
But now it is fixed,
My opinion’s not mixed:
It’s great that our meat will not reek!



(not technically an ode, I know...)